August 29, 2014

Quintessential Ireland

I've often been asked why I chose the specific cities I chose to visit on my adventure. For some places, there is no reason at all, other than at the moment, it sounded fun. For other places, there's a bit more logic. For Doolin, Ireland it was one well advised recommendation that led me to what was immediately my favorite Irish village.

While on a trip in Germany (an un-blogged adventure, because, as is obvious by my infrequent posts, I'm a dang busy girl) a handy Bus2Alps tour leader told me that if I wanted to go to the Cliffs of Moher, I could not just take any old Paddy-Wagon tour, but rather that I HAD TO go visit the teeny little town of Doolin. He promised me that this nearly non-existant town, would be the quintessential Ireland I was hoping for. 

He did not lie. 

Doolin sits along the coast of County Clare, which in and of itself, is Ireland. Imagine being Hilary Swank in P.S. I love you, walking lost along a desolate Irish road, with sheep roaming around, then all-of-a-sudden, there's a beautiful Gerald Butler in your path. That's County Clare. Well, minus Gerald, but a girl can (day) dream. And with a population just around 500, surely Gerald's beautiful Irish family would live in Doolin, so you'd have to move there to a tiny cottage with cows and sheep and ....well I guess I'm getting a bit off point, but can you blame me?

I arrived (daydreaming) in Doolin, via the once-a-day bus, to find myself left on a street with a cafe, two pubs, and a hand full of hostels/b&b's. I easily enough found my new home, Rainbow Hostel, as the bus dropped me immediately in front of it, and there wasn't much else around to compete for my attention. 

I stayed in a lot of hostels during my travels, and Rainbow was by far my favorite. It's not fancy. It's not luxurious. It is homey. The owners, Mattie & Carmel, are the nicest people you could ever hope to meet and it feels like you're just waltzing into their living room as you walk in the door. I had the best stay; cooking in the kitchen, getting helped to the (not close) grocery store by Carmel, and then dying of cuteness-overload later when I saw the owner-couple walking hand in hand down the street to the pub. I really could not have loved it more. 

After ditching my bags on my bunk, Carmel pointed my growling belly a few doors over to the Doolin CafĂ©, so I could satisfy my necessity for a proper Irish breakfast. 

I was promptly served a whole hoard of food: eggs, wheat & white toast, (canadian-like) bacon, sausage, potatoes, tomatoes, and last but not least, black pudding. Now what is this black pudding you ask? You may not actually want to know, but I'll tell you anyway: it's a combination of pork, oatmeal or barley, and blood. 

I can hear it now. Blood?! Gross!! I'll be honest, I was a bit skeptical on the idea myself, but it was pretty dang tasty. It's has a tangy-salty flavor that properly complimented the potatoes, or even the eggs on toast. I'm a happy camper with some hearty Irish food. 

Post face-stuffing, I wanted to explore the cuteness of Doolin and it's street (singular) but I wasn't really sure where to start. 

Handily, I ducked back into the hostel to grab my camera before beginning to just aimlessly wander, and was steered in the direction of the Doolin Cave, just a two mile jaunt down the road.

As everyone I met pointed out, it was a beautiful day. There's a lot of rain necessary to keep everything so soaked in green, and I was lucky enough to miss it, or so I was told time and time again. 

With the sunshine and the scenery, it was an delightful couple of miles to go. 

I made plenty of friends on my way, as well; and I thought German cows were cute. 

I named this vivacious lady Dolly. 

I made lots of furry, four legged companions, but unfortunately Gerald was still playing hard to get. 

After two miles of the greenest grass I've ever seen, only intermittently broken up by a farm house, I finally turned the corner to the Doolin Cave. 

For an affordable 12 euro ticket, the Doolin Cave gives you a brilliant insight into a natural phenomena. However, before you see it, they encourage a walk around their lush grounds (above the majesty) to enjoy their lush land. 

The property is full of wild flowers, my favorite being these purple dolls that remind me absolutely of Dr. Suess's Horton Hears a Who!

After a lap around the grounds' loop, it was time for the tour and to go down, down, down. 

For anyone who hasn't seen The Descent 2 (yes, the second one, because it's better than the first) you may not understand the visions I had playing in my mind as we plunged deeper and deeper towards the darkness. 

The further we went, the more we had to duck, and quickly realized the necessity of the helmets as we bumped our noggins on cave shards we failed to avoid. This helmet-rock clattering made the visions of these things even more persistent. I don't know, sometimes, why I love scary movies. 

I do, however, know why I ventured to the deepest public-access cave in Ireland. This baby, right here: the stalactite. 

Please enjoy the dozens photos I took, because this thing is so freaking unbelievable. 

It was really impossible to capture the size, even getting it full angle in the shot. How do you show a 23 foot drip from the ceiling?

The stalagmite was a bit more disappointing in comparison, as it never grows, instead perpetually fumbling into a muddy mess. 

Even more shamed, the stalagmite (or lack there of) sits next to a puddle which will reflect all the majesty of the stalactite into a perfect mirror image. 

This is me in this-is-so-cool, don't-I-look-sexy-in-this-helmet mode. 

We were guided into a few other sections of the cave that were also amazing, but no where near as thrilling as the main attraction. 

Emerging into the bright sunshine, having finished the dazzling cave tour, I headed happily back out into the countryside. Ready and set for the walk back to my endearing hostel in the darling Irish town I was currently calling home. 

I made a brief stop at a cemetery on my way back, because you know, why not stop at an awesome crumbling stone cemetery along the Irish coast? I couldn't think of a good reason, and had truthfully been eager to explore the relics since I'd arrived earlier that morning. 

Call me a creep, if you must. 

Animals, greenery, caves, food, cemeteries. It was a good first day in Doolin, and the bliss only continues. 

Yours, Kenna 

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