At the start of this month Insa and I took a trip to Ireland. She had been an au pair for a family in Cork 10 years ago and had been back many times since, but for me it was my first time visiting. The plan was to visit her old host family and then stay in a seaside cottage in the southwest of the country.

We took Ryan air over to Ireland, which apparently is an infamously cheapskate airline, but we didn’t have another reasonable option. (The owner of Ryan air at one point wanted to have standing room only planes to cram more people into them)

We landed in Dublin where we had rented a car to drive down to Cork and the rest of the country. I’m a bit embarrassed by this, but I never learned to drive manual, so Insa had to do all of the driving. She actually has done more driving on the left side of the road in Ireland than she has in Germany or elsewhere.

Driving through the wide open expanses reminded me of Alaska a little bit. The roads are a bit crazy. The speed limit is often set at a speed higher than what might be considered safe and there are often pedestrians or cyclists on the road leaving you little buffer room to maneuver.

When we got into Cork (after a 4 hour drive) I met the host family, who were all lovely, and the girls Insa used to au pair for. They’ve all grown up now and the oldest is almost 20 so they’ve changed a bit from when Insa first met them. I stayed in the room where Insa used to live. Here’s the view out the window:

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While in Cork we made a side trip to the Jameson whiskey distillery for a tour and tasting. Irish whiskey almost died out in the 1960 and has recently made a comeback. Some Irish whiskeys are unique in that they’re triple distilled in single pot stills, which give them a very clean, pure taste. (Personally I’m more a fan of the earthy Scottish whiskeys, but the Irish ones are good too)

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After the distillery we explored a fort outside of Cork.

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One of the points of renting a car to travel Ireland was so we could often make stops and get out to look around. The country is beautiful, so I’m glad we could do that. After Cork we drove to Rossbeigh where our cottage was.

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Some of the roads we drove through looked like they could be enchanted forests

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Eventually we got to the cottage we would be renting. It was a little difficult to find because buildings in Ireland don’t have numbers, they just have names, which I still can’t wrap my head around. It makes finding them incredibly difficult…IMG_1291

 

The cottage was really cozy and had a wonderful view right out onto the bay. Insa and I quickly went down to the water to explore, despite the weather.

We quickly ran into the adorable local wildlife…

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Over the next few days we drove around the country side and explored castles, went on hikes, and had picnics with great views.

 

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There were several ancient ring forts around where we were visiting :

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While climbing around inside the walls of the ring fort I found something!

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It was a geocaching treasure! I found it completely by accident! I opened it up and found lots of notes from other people, many who had also found it by accident. Insa and I wrote a note with our names and date and put it back in its hiding spot.IMG_20160508_141822

We also took a stop by an original famine cottage to see what a cottage would have looked like during the forced famine of Irish peasants. The place was really run down but interesting. The dolls scared the hell out of Insa…

In addition to exploring the country side by car and on foot, we also took a 2 hour horse back riding trek.

On the last day of our trip we visited Ross castle and kayaked around the lake with another couple and a guide. There’s an island monastery on the lake where wild dear live.

Despite being fairly sick at the time, kayaking around the lake was perhaps my favorite. You can see there are some small caves which were fun to paddle through. The guide was also really great and showed us some ancient copper mines and explained the history of the monastery and the castle.

I had a good time exploring Ireland and would be happy to go back sometime in the future.

One thing Insa and I did notice, however, was that a lot of places were super touristy. Insa, who has been there several times over the course of a decade, commented on how the touristy-ness has been a recent development. We did see a LOT of other tourists while in Ireland, most of whom were on buses traveling from stop to stop. I don’t think this is indicative of just Ireland, but we both got the feeling that a lot of places around the world were being turned into “theme park” style attractions for tourists. It was just painfully obvious in Ireland. Insa and I half-joked that eventually there would just be a packaged “Ireland experience” ride where tourists could sit in a single car and fly through Ireland like it was a ride on at an amusement park and see all the “locals and their daily lives”. But like I said, I think that trend is continuing all over the world. I’m happy we had the car though so we could get away from tourist spots and get out into the wilderness.