Monday, August 1, 2011

Let the VistaBreak Begin!! First Stop - Fanore, Ireland...

First off, bear with me, our internet here is super slow so this post was actually supposed to be put up on Sunday - I'll try to update as often as I can but they may be slightly delayed depending onthe daily speed of the internet. 

Yesterday marked the beginning of our 3 week adventure for Josh's VistaBreak.  We headed out of Barcelona around 8AM for our 10:30 flight and overall, the flight was uneventful and blissfully short (as compared to our recent trans-Atlantic flights home).  We landed in Dublin and headed for the car rental place.
Josh in the drivers seat on the "wrong" side of the car!

I will admit, I've been very ambivlent about the driving here in Ireland.  I don't drive stick (don't drive it well at least) which meant relying on Josh to do all the driving.  That's not to say that he's not a good driver but as you saw in my blog entries about France and Italy with Michelle, I'm quite the backseat driver and that's on the "right" side of the road.  Here in Ireland they drive on the "wrong" side which has given me several nightmares before we even left Barcelona!
Getting ready to get on the highway with traffic going the opposite way!  I will say getting out of Dublin Airport, despite the driving on the opposite side of the road, was easier than leaving any other airport I've driven out of!

Thankfully Liam got sick (first time I've ever said that!). Never been so thankful for that one. But he was puking as Josh was searching for the highway so I couldn't focus on him driving on the wrong side of the road. Once we were safely on the highway everything was fine (with the exception of him constantly wandering into the next lane - which of course I had to constantly remind him of...I'm sure he was thrilled :)).

Liam after he got sick... poor kid :(

I've heard about the landscape here and of course, I've seen pictures. But nothing prepared me for the beauty of it when we actually got here. It's my understanding that the highways are relatively new - when Josh was here a little over 10 years ago he says they weren't there but when he got here in July for his cousin's wedding he noticed them right away. So most of our journey was via highway (thank goodness) and all along the highway was fields and fields of lush green farmland with more cows, sheep and horses than I think I've seen in my entire life. Sadly I couldn't get any photos (or any good ones) as we were driving. But just know, it's beautiful!

Around Galway we got off the highway and started to take the MUCH more narrow windy roads along the coastal road around Galway Bay. The home we rented was more on the underside of Galway Bay in a town called Fanore, in northwest County Clare. Fanore is in the Burren, an area that is famous for it's karst landscape. It has both the Atlantic (oh how I've missed you!) and Galway Bay surrounding it. According to wikipedia "The rolling hills of Burren are composed of limestone pavements with crisscrossing cracks known as "grikes", leaving isolated rocks called "clints". The region supports arctic, Mediterranean and alpine plants side-by-side, due to the unusual environment. Burren's many limestone cliffs, particularly the sea-cliffs at Ailladie, are popular with rock-climbers. For cavers, there are a number of charted caves in the area, notably Pollnagollum."

We stopped along the way to Fanore for some lunch. By now it was about 3:30 and we were all starving but unfortunately it was between lunch and dinner so not many places were open. We ended up at Supermac's, the McDonalds of Ireland... They claim to be 100% Irish but the Supermac's have a Papa John's in them which I recall is an American company. But then, I could be wrong on it's origins. Anyways, it wasn't by any chance our ideal but it filled our cranky, hungry bellies and we were back along the way to Fanore.
The boys at Supermac's

It was around this time that the roads became significantly more narrow and windy than what we'd experienced before (before being the highway which was straight and plenty wide).   I plan to take some video of this over the week to share with those of you who have not been to the more rural parts of Ireland. 

This was what Josh was waiting for - it is what he remembers Ireland being like when he was here all those years ago. Roads that technically are one car wide are actually for both directions and are surrounded by tall shrubbery and grass on either side. Many times the branches would rub against the car as we drove by. And yes, I white knuckled it most of the way to Fanore. It was only in the last 20 minutes or so that I realized that Josh had a good handle on things and really I should just trust him. This was a big step for me and admitting it is even harder! Just so you know, these roads are ones that at home in the States you would drive perhaps 30 the speed limit on them is 100 km/hr (or around 60 mph)!!!  Josh has been very "kind" to me and stuck to around 80km/hr even though the locals are right up his butt!  Crazy I know!
My first thatched roof.  Unrealistic as it is, this is what I pictured Ireland to be in my mind.  I know that it's not the case but I was pleased to see a few here and there just the same.  I have no doubt I'll be putting up more pictures of them as I see them.

By now it was raining off and on. A surprise in Ireland, I know! It wasn't til we stopped for lunch that we realized how chilly it was and that perhaps we did not pack as appropriately as we'd thought for this portion of our VistaBreak. It's only in the mid 60s but raw with the rain... I don't know why I thought mid 60s (which I had looked up on the internet so I knew it in advance) and rain would be warmer but I definitely didn't pack enough warm clothes for us. I "suppose" we'll have to go shopping while we are here.

We finally got to our place in Fanore after going along the coastal road for quite a while. The vistas along the coastal road were absolutely stunning but unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the car to get any good shots. And Josh wasn't really willing to stop along the way (and on many of the roads you couldn't for fear of being in an accident!) other than at a castle along the way so I could at least get a picture of that on Galway Bay!

A castle along Galway Bay as we drove along the coastal road.  This was the one stop Josh allowed me as he just wanted to get there already!

Somehow this still doesn't give justice to how narrow these roads are despite the hay truck...

We were slightly further inland that Josh thought we were going to be (about 1 mile) but we are surrounded by mountains and limestone and horses and cows. There are horses that come within maybe 50 feet of the back of our house. Liam and Aidan LOVE that part!  The house itself is gorgeous! Relatively non descript on the outside, the inside is just beautiful.  The house is only 2 years old and you can tell the owners have put a lot of effort and love into this house.  It's one floor living but it feels infinitely bigger than our 2 floor apartment in Barcelona (and I would say is probably at least 200-300 sq ft bigger in actuality).

And I have to say that the people who own this house are about the lovliest people I have ever met.  I've heard about Irish hospitality but they go above and beyond.  Not only was the house immaculate but they left us a ton of information about the area, a bottle of wine, some butter, milk and bread as well as a US/Ireland transformer plug for our electronics.  And when we couldn't figure out how to lock the front door (and yes it was that tricky!), they drove down the 40 minutes from their house to show us how to do it.  They also made a separate trip the next day to bring me a hairdryer that I had forgotten in Barcelona.  Seriously, the nicest people!  Brendan is from Buffalo, NY but his wife, Rita is from here.  Their daughter was born in the US and is a very proud US citizen and didn't like that I said she has a tiny Irish accent now and their son was born here.  They are just the sweetest people and I would love to come back here and spend time with them some day!

Aidan in the living room

Another view of the living room

The kitchen - love it!!

Other side of eat in kitchen

Aidan in Liam's room

Kids bathroom

Aidan's room

Master bedroom

View out the back of our room
View from the side of our room - see the horse??

Hallway with beautiful window at the end

Another view from our room
Liam getting ready to head out
Josh ventured out to find a grocery store and our little town has just one small tiny grocery store along with a post office and a pub.  Today we will attempt to find a larger grocery store in the next town over as Josh spent 80 euros on about 5 things at the little one! 
We decided to go to the one pub in town for dinner.  It was very casual and more open than I expected.  The food was excellent though - Josh had a fish chowder (which Aidan then needed a bowl of as well) and Liam had pizza.  I had a goat cheese wonton salad that was fabulous.  There was a pool table in the room we were in and Aidan was fascinated by it and hadn't played before.  So we decided to teach him.  Not sure if it is the tables in Ireland or just this particular one but Josh went to break not once but twice and the cue ball flew off the table - he claims that the balls are MUCH lighter here than in the States!!  Regardless, Aidan threw a tantrum or two in the process which was annoying but in the end he got in to it and enjoyed it.  I did not enjoy the part where Liam told me that he put a toy in one of the pockets which I could not find... ahh well, so begins our adventures, right?

Aidan learning to play pool

The view in front of the one pub in Fanore - the horses overlooking the water - so beautiful!


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