North America, Europe · 9 Days · 17 Moments · March 2017

Ireland 2017: Sagan's first trip abroad.

19 March 2017

Dún Aonghasa Part 2 There were a few other tourists in the fort, but they soon left; leaving is alone in the ancient fort. My imagination flew through the eons, and I could see in my mind the refuge of the walls. Squat huts huddled near the wall around a fire. The thunder of the waves below sang a song of safety, echoing off the stone walls the group had spent so long erecting. Dún Aonghasa is a special place. There is one picture I need to explain. Look at the first picture on the post, a picture of the ground. Notice the white circles... Shells; Millions of years old.
Dún Aonghasa Part 1 We took a magical journey into the past today, hiking up to the ring fort known as Dún Aonghasa. 3000 years ago settlers chose the spot, perched high up on a cliff, to build a life and stone walls to protect it. About 30 families would have lived there, farming and raising cattle within the outer stone wall. Other walls were built in subsequent generations, with the last addition in the 1100's C.E. Small buttresses were added in the 1800's. The site has been in use as a meeting place and refuge even up into the modern era. The hike to the fort seemed like a magical journey, we began to hear unexplained "Booms" like thunder, though there was no storm. The wind became less harsh, and birds flew about. Soon we saw the source of the thunder. A horseshoe shaped cove funneled massive sea swells to the 200 foot high cliffs, and the waves were crashing into the stone of the island with great force! Once in the fort, the views were spectacular!...

18 March 2017

We have made it to our Inis mòr cottage. All of us are pretty much in love with the place. The cottage is cute, and the island has a rugged beauty that is hard to match. There are only 800 people living on the island, and only about 100 vehicles, most of which ferry tourists around the island for €10 per person. Most of the people either fish, raise cattle, or work in tourism... Or a mix of those three things. It is quiet here, the wind sweeping off Galway bay sings a lullaby that had attracted people here for thousands of years. At this moment, life on Inis mór seems very attractive because of its simplicity.
We are at the docks of Rossaveel sitting on a ferry that will soon depart for the island of Inismore. The sea is grey and choppy, the weather bitter and wet. We will spend two days on this little island that most people see as a rushed day trip, arriving on the morning ferry and leaving on the 8:00 evening ferry. We will likely spend today doing laundry, but tomorrow we will venture out onto the island to see it's wonders. Sagan has been in a pretty good mood today. She is a tough little bean; she has not let the weather bother her. Our friend Christelle, who is traveling with us from Paris, has been amazing with Sagan! I think both Cara and I have been really impressed because Christelle has not been around kids that much, but she is a natural!

17 March 2017

Today was a rough day with some bright spots. We went into Galway hoping to see the St Patrick's Day parade, but we ended up missing the whole thing because we all were starving by the time we got parking and dealt with a diaper explosion that Sagan had. The weather was horrible, with rain and mist driven by a harsh wind from the sea. We were disappointed that we had missed the parade, but we decided to try and see the Galway City Museum, about a quarter mile away. Well, as I said the weather was nasty, and we decided that if we went outside with Sagan in the stroller, she would get soaked. So we searched the shopping center we were in for a buggy poncho. €40 later we took a windy walk through Galway's old town, which was neat despite the weather and roving gangs of noisy teenagers. To our dismay, the museum was closed... So we holed up in a nearby cafe and enjoyed got chocolate and tea. Tomorrow we take the ferry to Inismore.
Cara here...This morning I woke up in a castle! We arrived to Cregg Castle around 6:30pm. Our host Alan showed us to our room and gave us a tour of the place. It is still being renovated, lots of rooms are not accessible, but it feels more real than the restored castles I have seen. At one point I heard horse shoes on the drive, it was Alan's neighbor and the neighbor's daughter, they were coming to go for a ride with Alan's friend who is here working with Alan's pony. Christelle, Sagan, and I wandered around the castle after Alan was done with the tour. I mused about what the life of the people living here when it was built might have been like. I imagine this place as a hunting lodge of sorts. It was built in the 1600's, and has had a bit of a tumultuous past, but what castle hasn't. For now it is just me awake, my travel companions are all still fast asleep in a castle!

16 March 2017

We are driving today from Colerain to Galway. The GPS says it should take us four and a half hours... I am betting it will take six to eight. It will be a gorgeous drive though!

15 March 2017

The Giant's Causeway You may be cool, but you'll never be an Irish Giant named Fion McCool, cool. Legend has it that Fion McCool built the Giant's Causeway to spy on the giants of Scotland. Geologically, the hexagonal basalt structures of the Causeway were formed when Lava met the ocean and rapidly cooled. There are many trails to hike here of various difficulties. We took the upper trail out of the visitor's center (red trail), and descended the 163 steps to the seaside. The views on this trail are spectacular, and the wind is harsh and cold. When we arrived at the actual Causeway, we were just as awed by the massive waves crashing on the shore as by the basalt formations. Sagan missed this entire part of our trip because she fell asleep ten minutes into our hike.
Dunluce Castle: part two The castle is now a ruin, but enough of it still stands that I could imagine the place in its prime; white plastered walls shining like a beacon of hope... Or oppression depending on your viewpoint. The thing I learned that I did not know before my visit is that Dunluce Castle hosted a small town at its height. The town ruins are still there but have not been excavated yet save for the main square, where the visitor's center and restrooms are. When I visit a site like this I like to imagine what it would have been like in its prime. At Dunluce Castle it was easy. Almost I could see the guards at the gatehouse, the scurrying house servants rushing to and fro. In the Manor house I could imagine the guilted tapestries and the ornate main board, filled with the best food one could imagine. All this was backdropped by stunning views of the North Atlantic and the rocky Irish coastline. I loved it!
We stopped off at Dunluce Castle today, and I had a great experience! The story of the Castle is dramatic and mostly made up, but the people involved were real and the story reflects political attitudes during the 17 and 1800's. The story goes that an Irish lord with close ties to Scotland married an English woman and moved her out to his land. She hated being so far away from culture, so they built a castle on a small craggy island within stone's throw of the shore. Well, the lady of the manor still hated it, and one day she was hosting a party that was not at all going well, when the servants informed her that dinner would be a little delayed because half the kitchen had fallen into the stormy sea, hundreds of feet below. That's the story... Why the Lord and Lady really left is unknown, and likely to be mired in politics and finances. The next post will be about my visit there...
It's a cold, blustery day by the sea. We are sitting in a rediculously cute cafe, called Panky-doos, in Portrush. It is warm in here, and that seems to be half the draw for the locals, who drink tea and eat toast or Eggs Benedict. Sagan is in a great mood today, it seems! Though, she did have a look about the cold when we got out of the car. The food here is great and the staff are friendly. After our meal we head to Dunluce Castle and then the Giant's Causeway.

14 March 2017

We got up early this morning and went to a local shopping mall in Swords to buy some food for our ride north to the Antrim coast. We bought bread, cheese, drinks, and some kind of ham that was labeled as Black Forest Ham. By lunch time we were on the road, driving on the M1 towards Belfast. We could have stayed on the M1, probably should have... But we didn't. We decided to take an alternate route through the country, which was a gorgeous drive through country that reminded me heavily of the Shire. We stopped for lunch in a little town called Castleblayney, where there is a sad looking manor house known as Hope Castle, pictured in the post. We had a picnic near the lake, which was not sad and run down. We hit the road again, and realized that while our GPS said that the route we were on would only take three hours, in reality it was going to take a lot longer because only locals are crazy enough to actually go 60 Mph around those tight Irish curves. We arrived in Colerain at 6-ish.

13 March 2017

I love Neolithic sites because they are so mysterious; and when I visit one I feel a connection to the people who built and used it. That connection I feel when I stand in a space used by long dead humans is the only magical thing I believe in, but it is only magical because not everyone can feel it. It gives me an appreciation for the ingenuity and intelligence of ancient peoples. Think about it this way. The roof inside Brú na Bóinne is about ten or fifteen feet high, and it has never once leaked a single drop of water. 5000 years ago humans did that. It's incredible! Anyway, if you visit Ireland definitely visit Brú na Bóinne. In the evening we went to the Brazen Head pub, which claims to be Ireland's oldest pub. They have really great food and good music. However they told us that children were not allowed after 9:30... Which was a major kill-joy, but I would still recommend the place!

11 March 2017

We are sitting at gate H-10, waiting for boarding clearance. Sagan has been so good in the airport! She went through a lot of waiting, security, and more waiting without so much as an annoyed noise. I am betting that she falls asleep before we take off once we are on the plane. We are, naturally, worried about the possibility that Sagan might find being on the plane frightening. However we have some plans to deal with that possibility. We plan to have Sagan breastfeed during both take-off and landing. We have read that doing this helps the baby's ears even out in pressure and distracts them from the loudness of the engines. We also have snacks for her, and toys. If for some reason these don't work and she is just totally unhappy, we have baby benadryl that will help her to fall asleep with a tiny dose. But I'm going to be honest, I think Sagan will be adorable and happy for most of the nine hour flight to Oslo. Once in Oslo we have a three hour layover.

11 March 2017

Nine and a half hours is a long time for anyone to be on a plane, but Sagan did not seem to mind it one bit! She slept for close to five hours of the ride to Oslo, Norway! I will say to those who are looking to travel with an infant: if your airline offers a cabin cradle, get it, it was worth the few extra bucks! Mommy and Daddy on the other hand, did not get much sleep. Thus, we were very happy to have a mostly empty plane going from Oslo to Dublin. Sagan slept through the entirety of this flight, and Cara got to stretch out over a row to herself and get some much needed Z's. Arriving in Ireland after so long a time was magical, the plane broke below the clouds over rocky coastline and verdant green fields. Cara and I collected our baggage and rental car, which we had to upgrade... And a few hours later we met Christelle, our good friend. Now we sleep and recover from flying, because tomorrow the real fun begins!
We stopped at the Turkey Creek Service Plaza on the Florida Turnpike to have a stretch and a potty break. Sagan is sleeping soundly and has been since about three minutes after we left the driveway. There are these vending machines that serve bottles of soda, but for about a dollar more than you can get them at the gas station 100 yards away. Cara asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I said "Well there are these vending machines that sell soda for a dollar more than we can get them over there." "Yeah, but we are right here." "Mountain dew." I said. Well played vending machines. Well played.
Finally left the house! Only 6 hours and change later than we wanted. The problem was that we had too much stuff and our rental cars both for our drive to Miami and in Ireland itself are small. So, we repacked everything... Twice... And Sagan was tired, and hungry, and grumpy. We were tired, hungry, and grumpy. But we are on the road now, and by this time tomorrow we will be flying high over the Atlantic Ocean, about three hours from touching down on the Emerald Isle. So excited! It is possible that all this stuff will not fit in our car in Ireland, but that is a bridge for another day.