{ IRELAND! is lovely }

If I were to choose three words to describe Ireland, they would be tranquil, green and friendly. Just as you'd expect (and as Ireland is famous for), the country is filled with sheep, green fields divided by low hedges, old, quaint cottage homes and lovely people who are more than willing to chat and walk with you, stranger or not. As my favorite trip taken to date, this trip incorporated all the top things that I think should be included on a vacation: laid-back, adventurous travel companions;epic scenery (and lots of it); running water and plumbing; and a lack of restrictions on what I was allowed to do. As a bonus, Ireland also included low-impact, high-reward hiking, lovely maritime towns, nightly live music, men herding cows on bicycles, and unseasonably beautiful weather. A number of people we ran into on the trip had come to Ireland planning just to visit, but then ended up staying indefinitely. I can totally see why.

I traveled with a group of 9 other kids from UVU and around Utah Valley. It was kind of a modge podge of a group (co-workers, friends, girlfriends, strangers), but thankfully everyone was awesome, so we had a ton of fun. Here's the group in front of a castle in Carrickfergus -- one of the towns we drove through. We had stopped to look at a castle and collect sea shells. Note: WE are facing the castle in the photo, so really, you can just see the town of Carrickfergus behind us :)
From left: Wuss (aka Scott), Ty, Ali, Nicki, Carrie, Bailey, Mike, Aaron (squatting), Chance and Lissa

Major trip accomplishments:
1. I learned to drive a manual transmission car on the left side of the road, shifting with my left, and I didn't get in an accident.

2. I was able to purchase three meals for less than 3 pounds total (not each, but total) in Belfast, and

3. I located and acquired a set of the cutest vintage napkin rings ever in a second-hand store in Dublin. And, purchasing them at a second hand store means they were actually owned by someone in Ireland before I got them! Even cooler.

The 8-day trip was too long and too full to give a travel log, but the long and short of it was this: During the days, we would drive to destinations in our rental cars and adventure. During the nights, we would find a fun pub local to where we were and listen to/dance to the live Irish music (with the exception of the one night we spent in our ocean-front hostel in Ballycastle -- we were the only residents for the night -- playing cards and eating make-shift camping dinners :) I had crackers with salami and white cheddar). Our trip began in Dublin, then we drove around the northern edge of Ireland along the coastal route (so beautiful), down the Western coast, then straight across back to Dublin. We drove something like 1200 km in all.

Unexpected enjoyment:
Experiencing the pubs was fantastic. Seeing as I'm not a big proponent of drinking, I'm not sure I should enjoy them as much as I did, but believe you me, they make for some good craic (an Irish term used to denote fun and all around good times. Used in sentences like "Oh ya ... That was some good craic!") How can you not love being surrounded by happy people, listening to live Irish flutes and violins and guitars?

I didn't take this video (the video format on my camera doesn't upload to youtube or blogger), but I did go to this pub in Derry and listen to these same musicians. And I'm pretty sure I may have even been standing in the same spot as this video taker, so it should give you a good idea of what it was like there. The video may seem kind of jumly, but it makes my heart smile.

Favorite adventure takent:
As far as adventuring goes, the Cliffs of Moher by far took the cake for coolest thing I experienced in Ireland. They are these colossal, ocean-side cliffs on the West coast of the country. We hiked along them for about 3 miles, and the views never disappointed. Hundreds of feet high, the cliffs range in color from jet black to deep grey, and are freckled and blanketed with vibrant green moss and snowy white seagulls. We hiked out to the Cliffs of Moher coast (I just made that name up for descriptive purposes) from our hostel in Doolin, then took the coast route till we reached the "actual" cliffs visitor center. Funny enough, by the time we reached the touristy Cliffs of Moher, they weren't nearly as enchanting as some of the views from the hike. I think we only stuck around long enough to take one picture before we hitched a ride with some friendly Syrians back to the town of Doolin. Non-traditional parts of our hike included making up an Irish jig song that included the phrases "whale of a tale" and "walked in the muck," eating a lunch of shortbread cookies and grapes while sitting on the side of a grassy hill overlooking the ocean, impersonating leprechauns and laughing like crazy, and making friends with a man named Jack from Poland who took a picture for us.

These are my favorite pictures from the hike:
On our way out to the cliffs. We didn't actually know where we were going, but this friendly wall path looked inviting enough, and thankfully took us where we wanted to go.

Our first view of the cliffs. Ali was holding my hand because I was standing precariously close to the edge.

Me and Ali at my favorite spot on the hike -- it was our second view of the cliffs.

Bailey , Ali and I taking a non-necessary but totally beautiful rest on the tufty grass.

Me, Ali and Bailey. We were car travel buddies (I was the driver, and the other seven members of our group were in a van with Chance as the driver) for the whole trip. Mini black car + Bailey + Ali + Nicki = Most smile-filled travel combination ever. I absolutely adore these ladies.

I hiked up higher to grab a shot of Bailey and Ali looking down.

SIDE NOTE: One thing I really liked about Ireland was that they don't have fences along the edges of cliff hikes. There were times when our trails would be less than a foot away from a 300 foot drop, and no fence. I think it speaks oodles for allowing people to think smart, be alert and take responsibility for their choices, all very good things. It really impressed me.

Favorite old Irishman met:
My favorite old man from Ireland that I met was Reverend John McConnell Auld. He lived in what he deemed a "Traditional Irish cottage" (it was way too awesome to imagine that everyone lived in homes like his) on the rocky sea shore on the Northern coast of Ireland in Ballycastle. We were starting a hike near his home, and after starting up a conversation with him, he informed me that I could park my car anywhere near the beginning of the hike. "You can do whatever you want," he told me. "You're in Ireland." Which is a pretty true statement :) John invited us into his mill-converted home and gave us a tour. Turns out John had lived in Utah at Westminster college before receiving a full-ride scholarship to Princeton and singing with the Princeton choir for US troops during WWII (he showed us all his certificated and medals). He was full of great stories. And his home was full of incredible nic knacks and objects -- porthole sidelights from the Titanic; 1500-year-old flint pieces and canoes from the shores of the Irish coast; 17-century pianos and paneling from a torn-down Irish manner. It was by far the coolest home tour I have ever been on.

Here's John:
Rev. John McConnell Auld. 

Me and John with his certificates from singing to US troops during WWII.

An ancient canoe in one of the corners of John's home. The entire house was equally as cool.

Outside John's home -- he was explaining to us how he had scored that ship bell at an auction on accident.

The seashore in front of John's house.

Overall, the trip was just fantastic, thanks to unparalleled surroundings, great company and lots of laughing. This blogpost is getting too long, so I think I will just end on this picture I took of sheep while we were hiking the Giant's Causeway hike.
Look at how cute their little faces are!! Oh man. Adorable. I don't blame the Irish for having so many of them around -- I would want them around too.

Oh! I lied -- this is the last picture. It's my look alike picture for the photoshopped one below. This is me at the actual Carrick-a-rede bridge :)

Also, in the post below I put together a slideshow of 50 photos out of the 813 I have from the trip. I tried to pick the best ones. Our trip covered 8 cities: Dublin, Drogheda, Belfast, Ballycastle, Derry, Doolin, Galway and Wicklow. And the major sites we saw were Newgrange (part of a tomb complex in Drogheda), The Carrak-a-rede bridge, The Giant's Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher, the Spanish Bridge and Glendaloche.


Club Narwhal said...

OH!!!! SO LOVELY!!!!! this just made my heart beyond happy :)

ps: my word verification is literally "ratiest"

Tiff and Dan said...

how freaking cool! i can't believe i lived in london and never went to ireland. hopefully i'll get there someday. it looks like an amazing place!

Truda said...

Hello - I have known John McConnell Auld since c.mid1950's when I was a yound girl in Adelaide Sth Australia when Con (as we knew him) was the Presbyterian minister at my church in Adelaide. I visited him in Belfast in 1994 & he took me up to his cottage in Pt Bradden & spent the day enjoying his fantastic cottage & little church St Gobbins.
That day is still one of my favourite memories of my trip around Ireland. Connell Auld is one very special man in many people's lives here in Australia.

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact that there are plenty, like myself, who were taught Divinity at RBAI by the "Reverend" who remember him much less fondly indeed!

Anonymous said...

I had John McConnell Auld for Religious instruction in the year 1955 at an Adelaide Boys Technical school. I was astounded to see that he is still in the land of the living. All the boys admired him immensely, he made religion highly interesting. John is a very intelligent man and I knew he would make his mark on the world in some way. His St. Gobban's Church seems to fit in with his overall character. I remember him as a jolly fellow who smoked black cigars, rode a motor bike and he could hold a church full of schoolboys spellbound with his stories. A real good bloke.

Anonymous said...

Connell is my mother's cousin, the one who lives in the US. She is trying to reach him to inform him of a death in the US family. We have been trying the Holywood phone number but there is no answer. Does anyone have the Belfast phone number? Thanks so much. Colette Morrow

Nicki Clark said...

I'm so sorry, Colette. And I'm sorry to hear of the family passing. Sadly I don't have any contact information for John.

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