AFRICA 2014 – The Journal

by Jeff McNeil

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The following is our journal from the trip, re-typed here for those of you interested in reading about our experience.  For more photos from the trip, click here.

The Journal:

12/2/14 – Jeff
This morning I woke up at 3am.

12/3/14 – Amsterdam – 11am – Jenn
We missed our 10:15am flight to JRO by 5 minutes due to a 2 hour take off delay at LAX.  Not thoroughly impressed by KLM airlines but it is what it is.  I was sort of excited about the possibility of a 24hr stay in Amsterdam with hotel.  We could have finally caught the Heineken experience.  But with a connection in Istanbul now, we will save ourselves 20 hours, arriving at 1:40am according to the schedule if everything goes as is now planned.  I am looking forward to flying Turkish Airlines as they boast a great on-board experience.  Also a positive note is that Jeff has a row to himself on this leg and I have an empty seat next to me as well.  And the legs of the flight are 3.5 hours and 7 hours instead of one long 10 hour flight which is nice considering it is daytime and I plan to be awake for the duration.  And hey, we are on the same flight!

Jeff
I was very proud of Jenn for her ability to work through the situation and not worry.  She is a travel pro!  Onward to our next adventure!

12/4/14 – In air to JRO – 1am – Jenn
Turkish Airlines turned out pretty cool – larger seats and more leg room and Jeff and I were the only 2 in our 3 seat row.  I watched a couple movies.  We are both tired and a little worried about the taxi ride but we land in about 20 minutes which is awesome!  It has been a very long trip.  I hope our bed is warm and comfortable at the lodge.

12/4/14 – Arusha – 9:14pm – Jenn
Today was an adventure.  Only 2 hours of sleep left me feeling odd all day but we still had great fun.  On the way to our destination we saw a boy on the hill between 2 banana trees wearing a beautiful traditional outfit.  I wish I had been able to take a photo because that is when it hit me that we are in Africa.  We also saw three beautiful women in traditional garb who would have been picture perfect.  I absolutely love all the bright colors!  At Shanga House we learned about the great recycle project they have.  It is a business that uses glass bottles to make beads and other beautiful items as well as scrap metal for wind chimes and hangings.  They employ many deaf people and other physically challenged and we learned how to communicate in African sign language.  It was interesting to me that “hello” is the same as “thank you” in ASL and “name” is the same for both.  I made a friend who made the beads and got my photo taken with him.  He was very friendly and I thanked him with both hands over my heart – “Asante Sana”.  We walked around and happened upon monkeys holding their darling little babies!!!

Lunch was made by Babu at shanga and was delicious.  On the way back, we stopped at an open air market.  It put me very much outside my comfort zone but was also interesting.  After having beers and feeling VERY tired because of it, the group headed back.  Jeff and I switched rooms, took a little nap, and explored the grounds before dinner.

12/5/14 – Maramboi Tented Lodge – 9:00pm – Jenn
Woke up at 3:30am in Arusha this morning.  After a leisurely wake up, card playing, shower, and walk, we had coffee and spent time speaking with Jeff Lou.  It was very pleasant.  Breakfast was good but sadly Jeff’s bag did not come before we left.  Maybe tomorrow.

The first stop in Arusha was the art gallery.  It was cool but also sort of a tourist trap.  Didn’t buy anything =)

Next was Tarangerie National Park for a boxed lunch before our AWESOME game drive.  We saw:
Zebras
Gazelle and Thompson’s Gazelle
Dik Diks
Ostrich
Elephants
Jackals
Cape Buffalo
Wildebeests
Water Bucks
Giraffes
Tawny Eagles
Yellow Neck Birds
Secretary Birds
Cranes
Warthogs
Mongeese

And the plans we saw were Baobab Trees, Sausage Trees, Acacia Trees and Poisonous Cactus Trees.

Jeff’s favorite sighting was the herds of elephants and giraffes.  After that, we drove 15 minutes to the lodge and had a VERY refreshing shower, delicious dinner, and dessert.  Jeff is very happy here with the thatched roofs and wooden lodge structures.  The tents are spacious and comfortable. Bedtime now.  6am wakeup call tomorrow.

12/6 – Maramboi Tented Lodge – Jeff
This morning Jenn woke me for the great sunrise of pink, orange and gold.  She had already taken a few pictures of the moon setting over the mountain range.  Breakfast fueled our morning game drive which began at 7am.

On the way to the game park we stopped at a small refreshment stand to pick up my long lost luggage.  It was a welcome sight and a kodak moment. I am so happy to have my clothing.

We then entered Tarangerie National Park.  We saw mostly the same animals as yesterday, however there were also a few new one – the Dung Beetle, a small Hydrax (relative of the elephany) and a 2 day old elephant too!  Most of today was spent viewing herd upon herd of elephants.  Over 50 were in sight on one view point!

We saw more Vervet Monkeys – one of which was a mother picking bugs off her little on =)

At 11am we began our trip back to the lodge for lunch.  Along the way I felt grateful we were not in a 30 person bus like some of the game drive companies.

Lunch out by the pool was family style and yummy yummy!  We then retired to the room to change for a 20 minute dip in the pool while watching the animals walk by.  How cool is that!?  At 4:30 we walked outside the lodge for a guided tour on the plains.  It was a good 2 mile walk but unfortunately we did not make it to the flamingos in the distance – we will see them in the other parks Godliving said.  He also talked about the Masai we will visit tomorrow and the over 120 tribes of people within Tanzania.  All od the food including dinner has been fantastic today.  I would so visit this lodge again.

12/7/14 – Ngorogoro Farmhouse – 9pm – Jenn
What a blast today was!  Started off traveling to a Masai village where we were greeted by the chief of over 320 families.  At the home we visited we met one man with his 4 wives and 14 children.  The women took me and the other girls to bead and weave baskets while the men corralled the livestock.  Then we all danced.  after, the women gathered materials to mend the huts which included carrying straw on my head, climbing up the ladder to the roof, and also plastering with manure.  It was great fun and I absolutely adored the children.  This was something I was very much looking forward to.  We even went inside one of the huts and the chief told us all about the customs in their culture such as the multiple wives, child bearing, etc.

We bought some beaded work then headed down the road to an ebony and mahogany carving shop before heading to this beautiful 500 acre farmhouse with its vast vegetable garden.  More dancing during happy hour then a wonderful dinner.

12/8/14 – Serengeti National Park – 8:45pm – Jenn

Drove from Ngorogoro to Serengeti today. It is vast here!  With tons of animals, too.  Jeff was amazed by the great migration of wildebeest as there are animals as  far as the eye can see.  We also went to Olduvai Gorge today to learn about the fossils of homo habilus.  That was pretty interesting because it was the earliest proof of an upright human.

This mobile tented camp we are at is amazing.  Hot food and showers, and a flushing, porcelain toilet.  So far, great!

On the way in today we saw:

Kori Bustards
Zebras
Thompson’s Gazelles
Giraffes
Wildebeests
Baboons
Camels (not native)
Grant’s Gazelles
Hyenas
Hippos
A Monitor Lizzard
Vultures
Reed Bucks
Grey Crowned Cranes
Cape Buffalo
Vervute Monkeys
A Lion
A Cheetah

12/9/14 – Serengeti – 8:45pm – Jenn

Two game drives today.  Jeff took his first 5 gallon shower – luckily he had plenty to spare.  Our first game drive found us lions and cheetahs among other amazing animals.  Godliving is amazing at finding Cheetahs – they are a sight to see.  The pride of lions we saw had a half dozen cubs and two adult males.  They went from the grass by the water up a rock formation to sleep in the shade.  Later, on the same morning drive, we happened upon two more males – loners in the loser club says Godliving.  Apparently the male with more black hair (the older of the two) will later be in charge of a tribe once the current leader is weak enough to be challenged. (*side note, Disney got it wrong about which Lion gets the pack*)  The younger will only mate if the older brother cannot impregnate the females. (*unless Scar couldn’t impregnate the females I guess*).

Zebras were everywhere today and we had to encourage them off the roads in order to get to lunch.  After lunch and R&R with a cool shower for me, we went out for a second drive to find a leopard.  We stopped to look at buffalo and were slowly driving through the woodland when a leopard ran down a tree near the car and into the grass.  We both saw it happen, but the others (and even Godliving) only saw the tail – they are that fast!  That was the only leopard sighting for the drive, but we saw many elephants, giraffes, monkeys, baboons, hyenas, buffalo, and birds along the way.

The stories and information Godliving shares are all intriguing. He is quite the entertainer.  Dinner was delicious and we look forward to more adventure tomorrow.

12/10/14 – Serengeti – 9:15pm – Jenn

We woke up and had delicious breakfast before our game drive.  We saw a leopard almost right away.  Godliving is an amazing spotter and saw it high in a shaded tree.  We got some cool silhouette shots and then it climbed down and came close to the vehicles.  We also saw another in a tree in the distance later in the day and on the evening game drive we were told where another one was but did not see it.  For our Happy Room stop in the morning, we discovered a Rhino information station.  The differences between the white and black rhino include things such as the fact that the black walks with its baby in front of her, the white lets it walk behind her.  We also stopped at the Masai cave paintings but had to look from afar as a lion had been spotted entering the cave shortly before.  We did get out to climb a granite rock.  There is more to that story but I was too busy running around the rock and not listening.

Saw more of everything today:
Birds
Elephants
Zebras
Buffalo
Antelope
Monkeys
Baboons
Etc.

After lunch, and rest, our second game drive showed us beautiful views of the Serengeti and its vistas.  We learned about the environmental differences between here and Tarangerie National Park.  Also, Sampson told us how elephants can detect if they are closely related using DNA.  Because males are pushed out of the herd at 16, when they are 25 and ready to mate, they try to find a herd with a weak bull to challenge for leadership.  Before the male even challenges the bull, since he might not be recognizable by sight, the matriarch meets with him and they put their trunks in each other’s mouths and blow air.  This sends molecules through the bloodstream to the brain, and they can determine how closely related they are.  If this is her son, he is sent away.  Inbreeding is not allowed because the babies would not survive.  These little lessons are such a vital part of the trip.

12/11/14 – Serengeti – 2:20pm – Jenn

Long day today – 4:30am wake up, 5am Boom! Dark ride of 1 hour to the hot air balloon.  We saw elephants and lions along the way and the balloon ride was great too.  The orange sunrise was the most beautiful one I have seen and we did lots of game viewing from above as well.  Champagne afterwards along with the pilot’s story of why champagne is given after flights.  Then a drink in hand for the ride to breakfast. =)  Yummy yummy English breaky as our Canadian pilot called it, and a “loo with a view” on the plains.

Met back up with our group at the visitor’s center and the morning game drive before lunch continued.  Not too much excitement on the ride but we enjoyed the view.  Same after lunch on the afternoon lunch where we did not take any pictures – a nice change of pace to just look around with our eyes.  Dinner and fire time was great – we learned how Godlving met his wife.  Tomorrow – on to the Ngorogoro Crater.

12/12/14 – Ngorogoro Farmhouse – 9pm – Jenn

Black Rhino!!!  Spotted by me and confirmed by Jeff.  We have seen all BIG 5 now! =)

12/13/14 – Ngorogoro Farmhouse – Jenn:

Local Dawa at happy hour = #yummy!  Interesting trip to the government funded school today.  The kids sang and we shared our postcards from home.  They were very excited by them.  The school is run down but they are working hard to make improvements.

After school we went to an Iraqw village and to Baba Dingie’s home for a snack and more dancing.  He also does the music and dance here at the farmhouse along with the coffee tour.  We saw older kids out of school making bricks in this village.  The families seem to have them do this to keep them out of trouble and not so much to make money.  We were dressed up again at Baba Dingie’s and I served everyone maize and beans.  Everyone has been incredibly nice.

In closing – Jeff:

This was the trip of a lifetime but one I would gladly repeat every 10 years or so. =)  I was most impressed by how much fun the tour guides made the trip for us and in complete awe of the number of animals in the Serengeti.  The San Diego Safari Park could never compare.

 

For more photos from the trip, click here.

Hawaii, The BIG Island – Day 1 and 2

by Jenn

Slacking a little on the blog, but hey, our motto this time is “we’re on vacation dammit”  It took me a good 24 hours to figure that out and stop working but I just had a happy hour martini and I’m finally chillin.  Got in yesterday without any problems.  United Air officially rocks our world.  We chose the 3rd to last row for our seats so that we could be across from each other in aisle seats and apparently with a 30%+ empty flight, the flight attendants REALLY wanted the back 3 rows on each side to themselves so… all the “wink wink nudge nudge” do you need someone to man the exit rows (normally a $62 per person upgrade) helped because we ended up in row 21 over the wing with all the free alcoholic beverages a person could want.  4 mimosas and a mai tai later we took naps after watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – and still had 3 more Mai Tais for the road.

The big island is soooooo different from Kauai but it is nice.  Most of yesterday was spent at the Marriott Waikoloa Resort where we are staying till tomorrow.  Today we ventured out on a glass bottom boat tour that I also received for free as an elite member.  It turned into a full fledged dolphin watching extravaganza – there must have been 40 of them!!!

Then we went to Snorkel Bob’s for some rental gear and received a recommendation for 49 Black Sand Beach – a restricted access beach but apparently all we had to do was tell the guard we wanted to snorkel, because in we went and we got to see a ton of fish in the coral for the hour we were in the ocean before my fingers went numb!

Back at the resort we shared a pupu platter and drinks and we are about to head out for a bit more food.

So far so good!  It definitely feels like Hawaii to be all wet haired and salty!

Here are some photos.  Snorkel photos to come, camera is drying out =)

Day 15 Mount Juliet morning and Newbridge Silverware Factory

by Jenn

This morning was a relaxing one at Mount Juliet as we got to sleep in and when up we packed for our trip home.  After walking around the wooded areas of the grounds we finished our time at the lovely estate with lunch at the clubhouse out on the sunny patio enjoying every last bit of the fantastic weather we have had on this vacation. We then left for our stop at the Newbridge Silverware Factory to see the original dress that Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz. It was a small dress for a young Judy.  The showcase also had many other dresses form silver screen starlets of the golden age of movies. Dresses from Gone with the Wind, Sparticus and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was an interesting collection from Hollywood in the suburbs of Dublin.

This evening we went to dinner at Masterson’s Steakhouse and while the food was delicious the service was subpar. It took over 45 minutes for us to get our food. I don’t know if it was the servers fault or if it was that there were too many large parties in the restaurant as well, but the least  she could have done was to inform us and ask if we would like more water or any bread at all.  We didn’t hear from her for 45 minutes after ordering and then as Jenn finished her last bite, the waitress practically pulled the plate out from under her and seemingly shooed us out.  After paying, the manager asked if he could make it up to us by offering an after dinner drink on the house. His efforts went a long way in making the night better, though an apology from her would have been nice.  Again, great food… wait staff service not so great.  We had our drinks out on the terrace and enjoyed the setting sun.

For now we are relaxing watching some tv. Tomorrow is the flight home and while I am sad to leave I am excited to go home.

Here are photos from Newbridge Silverware’s Museum of Style Icons:

Day 14 Waterford and Mount Juliet

by Jenn

This morning we got an early start and headed to the Waterford Crystal factory in… you guessed it, Waterford. The tour was great and showed us all the stages from the blowing the crystal into the mould to the design, cutting and polishing.  It was a great tour and at the end of it we were dropped off into the main gallery and store.  Everything there was so pretty and sparkling. We got a bowl and matching candle holders shipped home. They are very pretty and were some of the style being created on our tour.  Perhaps when they ship it to us we will get one of the ones we saw today. One can hope.

We then got on the road at once to spend as much time here at Mount Juliet as possible. We made it here at 1pm, had a great lunch and then went horseback riding.  The horses were kind old gentlemen and easy to control for the both of us.  Their names are Dave and Prince. We took them for a guided walk around the grounds with one of the instructors.  I had a lot of fun on the ride and I know that Jenn did too. This was followed by a great dinner during sunset from 730 to 915 tonight.

Now for the small complication in our plans, there is a wedding going on today on the grounds. The DJ was going to be in the restaurant directly beneath our presidential suite.  The front desk called to let us know and offered us another suite in the manor at a discounted rate. Since the party is scheduled to go until 130 am we opted for the different room at a reduced rate.  At least we got to be in our presidential room for a bit. And we can still hear the music from one floor up and on the opposite end of the hall, so it is for the best that we moved.  The hotel even offered to pick up our bar tab for dinner.  I am pleased with the extra effort and consideration paid to us. Take a look at some photos from today:

Day 13 – Blarney Castle & Cork

by Jenn

After a delicious meal at the Druid Cottage Jenn and I got on our merry way to the city of Cork in the south of Ireland.  Along the way we stopped at a very well known church in the Gogane Barra park for some photos. This was definitely not something that Rick Steves knows about but well worth the detour.  We followed that up with a stop at a castle on the bay in Castletownshed, obvious huh? Then on to another stone circle like the previous day, but this was bigger with respect to the rocks used to create it.  It was smaller in circumference but the stones could surely be seen as pointing in the directions of the compass.

My most favorite part of the day was our trip to the Blarney Castle, and your guessed it… kissing the blarney stone. It was quite some way up the tower wall and yes it does look and feel that high when you are bent over backwards to kiss it upside-down. After that thrilling experience we walked along the grounds a bit more taking photos and being silly together.  Our innkeeper for the night at Higgins B&B is a wonderful woman named Breeda. She is one of my favorites as host to our evening she took to answering all our questions and gave us a great map of the city restaurants and recommendation for dinner.  On the way back tonight we saw our very first rainbow. Both Jenn and I were excited, cant you tell in the photo? Take a look at some of our other photos that Jenn has pulled together:

Night 12 – Kenmare

by Jenn

Spent time in our room relaxing this afternoon then went out on a walk into town where we stumbled upon a pub with some excellent live and upbeat music.  After our beers, we walked back down the street where it was a most stunning twilight outside.  Got some Chinese take away for a late dinner and are back in the room vegging out watching “The Tourist”.  Good times.

Day 12 – Killarney National Park via Bike

by Jenn

We happily slept in this morning before starting our short, 30km, drive to Kenmare,  Breakfast was a traditional Irish one and tasty as usual.  Because of our taking advantage of good weather in the past few days, we were ahead of schedule so went back to Killarney National Park to see more, this time via Bicycle.

After renting two bikes on the main road, we cycled down the street a ways then into the park for the one way journey around the perimeter of Muckross lake.  Although it rained on us a bit, the sun was mostly shinning and we had stunning views.

After stopping at Dinis Cottage for coffee and cake, we rode past Muckross House to the Abbey and then back toward town to end our journey.  The 15 kilometers did make us a bit sore, but it was a ton of fun.  After that we drove to a few viewpoints, a church and an ancient stone circle on the way to the B&B, a cute one with a comfy bed that I am resting in now.

Here are some photos from our journey today:

 

Day 11 – Forts and Castles

by Jenn

This morning we left Kilorglin to make the grand circle tour of the Ring of Kerry.  The ring is littered with ruins from centuries old stone monuments and gives stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.  Of course the weather was rainier than it has been for us, so we couldn’t see AS much as we would have liked, but we didn’t let it get us down, playing in the rain and warming up with coffee.

The first castle we stopped at was Ballycarbery which had fallen into disrepair after 500 years without an occupant.  The castle had ivy growing on one half of the remaining wall and looked fantastic, photogenically speaking.  The second stone structure we visited was the Stone Age fort of Cahergal which was used from time to time to ward off pesky invaders from stealing livestock.  We then drove just a few more km to take the ferry to Valentia Island.  It was a short ferry, and it felt a little odd moving when we knew the car wasn’t moving.  It caught us by surprise, the attendant said “We don’t wait around and there is no going back”  (insert diabolical laugh here).  On the island there was an opportunity to see some 385 million year old tetrapod footprints.  I was excited to see them Jenn said.  Just call me Ross of this relationship.  I even go to do some pre-historic planking next to them.  That is them near my head in the photo.  One small step for a tetrapod, one giant leap for evolution.

Chocolate and coffee followed shortly after and so did all the buses.  We got stuck behind a basket full of buses as we made the return journey to Killarney this afternoon.  These small roads are not meant for huge tour buses and our little put-put cars to be on the same road.  We are now at our B&B for the night and it is a cute one.  Dinner in town and a nice relaxing night are ahead of us.

Here are today’s photos (first couple are from dinner at the Kilorglin Golf Course last night):

Day 10 – Killarney National Park & Muckross House

by Jenn

This morning we got a later start at 10 am and drove the short distance to Kilarney National Park. We parked at the famous Muckross house, currently undergoing some rebuilding. We took the path along the river up to Torc falls. A small waterfall but lovely none the less. As we continued our 2-3 mile walk we had great views of the middle lake ( three lakes come together in this park at an interesting crossroads).  At Dinis Cottage we had a small piece if pie as we waited for a boat to come pick us up and bring us back to Muckross house. The boatman askersd if we had seen ” the meeting of the waters” we said no assuming we had to get out of the boat to go see them. Instead he turned the boat around and motored us into the center of the three rivers.  It was interesting to see all three different waters converge on one spot.

The remaining 20 minute boat ride was well worth the 14 euro and we enjoyed the insight the boatman had on these lands after working here for 15 years.  Viewing the forest from the water was a different vantage point I am glad Jenn suggested.  Following arrival back at Muckross house we went shopping and then back into town to get our laundry we had dropped off earlier. I wish I could always get my clothes washed, dried and folded by someone else.  (Jenn inserts, “oh wait, you do!”)  We are now at our next B&B relaxing before dinner.

Here are the photos thus far:

Day 9 Part 2 – The Dingle Peninsula

by Jenn

This afternoon once we were settled in the new B&B, Jenn and I went around the Dingle Peninsula.  It says it should take 4 hours and we did it in about 3, with some longer stops for my necessary Ogham stone photo.  We began with some stops at really old stones structures called “beehives” these were circular structures built in 500 BC, that is 2,500 years ago.  They protected the early Irish folk from the harsh winds and kept the food, women & children safe from attackers.  Following that we traveled further along the coast taking pictures of the wonderful blue waters, green hills and perfect sky.  We had to stop at a special spot for me.  That spot was an ogham stone on the hillside that one could say is the western most point in Europe you can walk to.  The stone was used as a mile marker before there were maps.  I was inspired to find the location because I loved a wallpaper for my computer that was taken there.  I did a pretty good job of photos for myself once on the summit of the hill.  On other hills we saw the remnants of potatoes left in the ground from the great famine of the 1850s. It is tragic to think that over 75% of the population in this region died or moved away because there was not enough food to eat.

A bit more driving got us to the Gallarus Oratory.  This structure is water proof & wind proof and built in 1200 AD by monks to celebrate early Christian holidays.  Finally we ended up at a 15th century church that had fallen into disrepair, it was interesting to see some of the old Gaelic headstones mixed in with the newer Christian crosses.  This truly is a land where history is all around.  I find it so wonderful here and hope to come back to trace the McNeil roots when we have better records to search old cemeteries.

We stopped back in the town of Dingle for a few beers and a delicious pizza and are now fit to retire at 10:30pm – late but still the tiniest bit of light outside.  Here is our trip around the peninsula:

Day 9 – Driving to Dingle

by Jenn

Not many stops today so far today – just got into Vantry where we had to be reaccomodated at another b&b due to a family loss.  I much appreciate the fact that the arrangements were made for us and we weren’t left trying to figure it out on our own.  I think the plan is to go drive the peninsula next since we have so much of the day left.  We started this morning by driving down through Limerick and to the small town of Adare.  We walked the town to see the thatched roof cottages and found the McNeil coat of arms inside the heritage shop.  From there we drove to Ballyseede Castle – a small place off the side of the highway where one can stay if you please.  We only took a few photos before heading into the town of Tralee for our 2nd McDonald’s meal. =P  They have better food here than in the states.

Jeff is giving me a massage now to help with all the driving.  Here are the few photos we have taken so far:

Day 8 – Castles, Cliffs, and a Sunset

by Jenn

Yesterday had a relaxing start with a later breakfast before our short trip to Ashford Castle.  The grounds were beautiful and we enjoyed a nice stroll into some hidden garden spaces.  After the castle, we drove to Galway for lunch and dessert before heading to the B&B.

Because we arrived so early, we decided to get a head start on our plans for the next day by driving to the Cliffs of Moher.  We stopped atop the hills of the Buren for a view of the valley and walked to a tomb site which predates Stonehenge and the Pyramids.  Poulnabrone Dolmen is surrounded by the limestone of the buren and it quite a sight to see.

The Cliffs of Moher were a short drive away and although the wind nearly knocked us over, the walk to the top was worth it.  Wind blown and hungry, we drove to a nearby town for another delicious Irish meal and came back to the B&B where unfortunately, the internet was out.

But here are the photos now:

Day 7 Westport and Kylemore Abby

by Jenn

After an hour drive down through county Mayo Jenn and I started our trip in Westport.  We began by looking at St Patrick’s Mountain as well as stopping at a memorial to the Irish potato famine.  Shortly after, we stopped near the side of the road to play in some of the peat bogs here in Ireland.  The bogs are mosses and grasses compacted over years and kept oxygenated and wet naturally to prevent decomposition.  They have found medieval butter and even human mummies completely preserved in these bogs down to their eyelashes and the last meal in their stomachs.  The most fun part about the bog is jumping on the springy, spongy material and shaking the ground of someone else 10 or more feet away.  Don’t jump too hard or you might find yourself 6 inches deep in muddy bog.

After numerous stops on the side of the road to check out the view, some sheep, and a beautiful waterfall, we arrived at  Kylemore Abbey and it’s Victorian walled garden.  The gardens were fantastic and the house looked like something right out of X-men, the movie.  We strolled along the grounds and enjoying the scenery for an hour before heading to Galway to our B & B for the evening.

The Four Winds Lodge also has a beautiful garden of its own.  Jenn enjoyed taking photos of all the flowers and admiring it in entirety from our bedroom window.  Dinner at Lohans was delicious – we continue to be pleased with Irish food.

Tomorrow, yet another castle – but a short day for driving.

Beer count is up to 15. =P

Here are the photos:

Day 6 – Bushmills & Londonderry

by Jenn

This morning we took a brief detour back to Bushmills for some whiskey tasting and great working distillery tour. They make the entire worlds supply in this one factory in Northern Ireland. The 10 year old batch was pretty darn good if you ask me.  I should have tried the honey Bushmills to see if it was like Honey Jack Daniels… yummy stuff

We then headed to the Downhill manor and Mussenden temple where we spent an hour walking the grounds and looking at the lovely countryside.  The temple really is a fantastic place as it is perched on the edge of some of the tallest cliffs in all of Europe.  Following the stroll at the temple we went to Londonderry.  The city is famous for its walled inner city where it withstood multiple invasions throughout the years. It was also a place where some of the most hard fought battles for independence occurred. While it is now a peaceful place, there were large museums to honor the scarifies on both sides during the Irish independence conflict.

Finally we landed in Donegal for our 2nd bed and breakfast. It will be an early night to bed for us as we will have a lot of driving tomorrow to reach Galway by 6pm.

 

Day 5 – Northern Ireland Coast and night photos of Dublin

by Jenn

 

 

The beginning of this post should be from last night when Jenn and I went out for sunset photos of Dublin sights and the river Liffey.  It was a fun night with more traditional Irish songs and food and of course more beer!  The photos were spectacular with Jenn’s great techniques. We had a fun night and turned in early for a good nights sleep… or so we thought.  The other roommates were out so late they didn’t sleep in the room, but grabbed their gear and ran to the airport for a 6am flight.

 

The following morning started with a wrong turn from our cabbie to Avis not Hertz.  We finally got our car and Jenn drove on the left side of the road for the first time, on purpose. It was a nice drive up north to Northern Ireland. Yes it is a separate country, it is a providence of the UK.  On our drive we went to Tolleymore Forest Park and then lunch in a small farming village. The big highlight was when we went to take photos of a fantastically beautiful road called The Dark Hedges.  We and five other groups of people took photos, but only we had a tripod to get in the photos ourselves.  Then we hurried over to the first B&B, Beulah Guest House, in Portrush along the Antrim coast. The inn keeper is a wonderful woman, Rachel.  She gave us a great recommendation for dinner at 55 degrees north.  Dinner hit the spot. After dinner, Jenn and I went to Giants Causeway to see the spectacular hexagonal rock formations found no where else in the world.  Although there was no sunset to see, we did get some pretty shots, I think.

 

Back at the Inn now, it is so nice to feel at home while on vacation.  Looking forward to a delicious home cooked breakfast.  This is the first B & B we have ever stayed – and it’s a great one!

 

Beer count up to 14, go us! =)

 

Here are some photos:

 

 

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