Sitting in Heathrow after a week in Ireland with Carmel and her family. We sayed with her brother Gearoid, his wife Dolores and their kids Darragh, Robbie, and Ellie. It was Gearoid’s and Carmel’s birthdays and they included us like family members for all of the celebrations. I was primarily interested in experiencing Irish culture on this trip, so our situation was perfect.
We arrived in Kilkee after dark, visited with Carmel, met Gearoid and Dolores, and went to bed. The next morning they had fresh scones, brown bread and tea for us. Carmel took us to the cliff walk in Kilkee after breakfast.
It was ‘dull and misty,’ and the cliffs dropped steeply into the frothy sea below. In some places the sea found and exploited a weak part of the cliff wall, hollowing out a massive cave. In other places the stone held fast, yeilding a grassy island encircled by 50-100 foot cliffs.
Carmel took us to a pub and to dinner that evening. I had my first Guinness in Ireland there. As for the claim that it tastes better in Ireland, I will unequivocally concede that it´s better than bottled or canned. As for whether it´s better than the U.S. on tap… well, after 3 or 4, I´d swear it was, but then again, I was 3 or 4 deep by then.
The next day we drove up to the Cliffs of Moher, which tower 700 feet over the ocean. We hopped the safety fence and walked around to the other side of the cliffs. From here we were able to crawl out to the cliff’s edge and peek over it. It was terrifying and exhilerating at the same time. The cliffs definitely rank in the top 10 most beautiful natural wonders that I’ve seen.
From the cliffs we drove to Doolin, where we had lunch. Sara had fish ‘n’ chips and I had Guinness stew. She drank Bulmers [Irish cider], while I asked for a Smithwicks but was served a Guinness. Oh well, no big loss there.
From Doolin we attempted to go to the Burren. I say attempted because we never found the entrance to the national park. Also because, Sara’s head popped off.
(To be fair, overall she did a fantastic job of driving on the opposite side of the road. Aside from nearly sideswiping a parked car 50m from the rental place in Dublin, and turning into the wrong lane once in Kilrush, she drove perfectly. She even managed some menacing roundabouts. ‘Look right. Turn left,’ was our motto.)
The road from Doolin to the Burren was a 1.8-lane road, meaning that when faced with oncoming traffic, one has to negotiate a way past each other while hurtling towards each other at 100km/hr. Hence, Sara´s head popping off.
We gave up and went instead to Milton Malbay, which was hosting a traditional music festival. Each pub in town had a designated corner in which musicians would gather and play together. They would float from pub to pub and song to song, joining in as they saw fit. Sara had another Bulmers. This time I successfully got a Smithwicks.
Afterwards we headed back home to get ready to gou out for Gearoid’s 40th birthday. Some notes on pub culture in Ireland:
- You drink the same thing all night.
So if you start with a Guinness, be prepared to drink 4 more pints of the stuff before the night is up. (Alternately, one might try eating several loaves of bread.) Realizing my mistake, Carmel and her fam were gracious enough to let me switch halfway through.
- Pubs are for beer. Or whiskey.
If you wanted pizza or nachos, you should’ve gone to a restaurant, stupid. Fortunately for us, there was a take away joint across the styreet that served burgers and curry chips. (We hadn’t eaten since lunch).
Our last day in Kilkee, we revisited the cliff walk, then took off down the penninsula. We drove to the end, where we saw a cool lighthouse and more crazy cliffs.
Our evening plans were to cook Carmel a birthday dinner. We’d decided on roasted chicken with fennel. Then we went to Tesco where a gentlemen very politely informed us our chances of winning the lottery were about on par with our chances of finding fennel. We tried to improvise, but for every recipe we came up with, there was some magical ingredient that didn’t seem to exist in Ireland. (The whole thing felt like a premonition for life in Korea.)
We finally settled on ‘Merican style tacos. Taking turns cooking and playing with Carmel’s kids Ciara and Jack, we managed pulled it off. For Darragh and Robbie, it was their first time having ‘Merican style tacos.
The next morning we headed up to Carmel’s one last time for breakfast and goodbyes. The drive to Dublin was much easier the second time around. We spent the evening walking around, enjoying some Bangers and Mash, and pubhopping.
This left one final experience to have. We had to tour either the Jameson distillery or the Guinness brewery. Since Sara and I have both toured numerous breweries, we decided to give the distillery a shot (despite warning from a local that the Guinness tour was markedly superior).
Turns out we should’ve listened to the local. The tour was fine, and I learned about the process of distilling whiskey. However, while it was located at the original location that Jameson distilled his whiskey, the company has since moved its actual opperations to Cork. So no whiskey was actually being distilled where we took our tour. Not as cool.
After the tour, we packed up and headed to the airport.
Destination next: Iceland!