He writes his blog posts precisely when he means to!
Whew wee it has definitely been a hot minute since our last blog post but to be honest I had a pretty darn good reason for it: VACATION!
In case you didn't know, Event Planners and Photographers rarely get any time off from work (being all self employed and all that) and we forget that sometime we really need to take a break, go on an adventure, and have some serious ME time, although in this case it was me and my fiance time.
Oh yes, you read that correctly, MY FIANCE!!!! *insert high pitched squeal*
This was the vacation of a lifetime, and not only because we got ourselves engaged. Here's a little insider on our fantastic time abroad in Ireland to get you through the rest of the week!
Because I don't want to bore you to tears with my backstory on previously visiting Ireland in college, I'll summarize; this was my second time in Ireland and only second time ever traveling outside of the US. As it turned out, it was my, now, fiance's first time ever outside of the Country and his first time visiting Ireland! With my previous experience and his lack of Irish culture, we decided to road trip it across the entire country rather than taking a guided tour that was strict on timelines and such.
Lucky for us, we had just missed the Hurricane Lorenzo who had passed through literally the day before our flight in to Dublin. Talk about scary! But we arrived safely and on time and began our journey. Apart from the airline losing Mike's luggage (psst that's my fiance!)
From Dublin we journeyed through the Wicklow Mountains and National Park where we hiked to the Sally Gap. Now the Sally Gap is the place where the P.S. I Love You scene where Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank meet was filmed. (Rom Com addicts rejoice!) I gotta tell ya though, it was even prettier in person.
From there we traveled a little further south to the outskirts of Kilkenny, where we stayed in a cozy little cottage on a farm. Their cat was particularly hospitable I might add. And funny enough, we had a hankering for Chinese Food (ridiculous I know) but as it turned out, it was BETTER than anything we had every tried in the States.
We visited downtown Kilkenny, which is one of our favorites because of all the cute little shops, friendly pubs and amazing historical sites all within walking distance of each other. We toured the Kilkenny castle and surrounding grounds before making our way to the Mahone Falls.
Now the Mahon Falls was absolutely breathtaking. Ireland is very hilly but not much in the way of actual mountains like good old Colorado, but what they do have is still amazing.
The Falls were just a short trail away but looked like they were miles from the car park. Once we got to base of the falls it showed just how huge the mountain was, while also showing us some very nice climbing routes. So up, up, up we went climbing and stumbling about until we got to about 75% of the way to the top before the sun began to go down on the other side of the mountain. The view from the "top" was absolutely surreal. This is the kind of view you see in movies or described in fairy tales.
After reluctantly retreating back down the the car park, we made our way to Cork where we checked in to an old Victorian Castle that had been renovated to be an apartment building near the University.
From there we bounced around Cork from one place to another. We ventured to the old Black Rock Castle Observatory which gave a large amount of history behind the harbor's origin. After that we spent better part of six hours at the Blarney Castle. This castle and it's grounds are probably our most favorite. It has been preserved so well over the years and the grounds are never-ending with sights, history and nature. Plus! You get to see what life was like as you crawl up the castle steps and enter each chamber on your way to the top where the famous Blarney Stone is. Once there, you kiss the Blarney Stone for good luck! We could have stayed for much longer if not for our rumbling stomachs. If nothing else you take away from this post, VISIT THE BLARNEY CASTLE.
Anywho, moving on.
We said our goodbyes to Cork and headed down to the very southern tip to a small coastal town called Baltimore. Due to the unlikely and remarkable hurricane that had just passed through, our boating trip was cancelled. But that did not stop us from enjoying the area. We walked from one end to the other in a day. We toured the Dun na Sead Castle, a 13th century stronghold that endured decades of pirate raids and other unfortunate events.
We entered a few art shops and chatted with some locals until we found out there was a beacon on the other side of town at the edge of the harbor: Baltimore Beacon to be exact.
Instead of taking the 10 minute drive, we walked through town and down across the shore, picking up seashells and gawking at the unique botanicals they house, until we finally saw the large tower at the top of the hill. It was very unique in the fact that it had no lighthouse beacon one would suspect, no doors or windows. It was basically a big stone tower with a funny looking antennae.
But the views were amazing of the harbor and then the ocean all around with large cliffs for miles and miles. We climbed down to the rocks below and scouted out the small ecosystems that thrived in their own little micro pools. It was both thrilling with the impending storm headed our way and fascinating. While heading back to the town, we found a small path leading through the hills rather than the paved road back to make it more nature-y.
Needless to say we made do with the beautiful little town of Baltimore and would definitely go back again!
The next day we made the four hour trek up to Doolin, stopping in Limerick half way.
In Limerick we had an hour or two to tour the notorious Bunratty Castle and folk park. This castle was amazing! Though it had been refurbished and most of it was closed off to the public, they made an effort to show how castle life really would have looked like back in it's prime.
The folk park portion of the tour was a little disappointing, as either all of the little shops were closed or they all happened to go to lunch at the exact same time. But we window shopped and bought ourselves a lovely bottle of Bunratty Irish Mead to take home with us. If you've never tried mead before, DO IT, it's amazing and so so tasty. Colorado has some fantastic meaderies if you're ever looking for some, but Irish mead is the way to go!
From our short visit in Limerick we made our way to our BnB in Doolin. This is where the trip gets pretty mushy so brace yourself.
Doolin is notorious for hosting the great and magnificent Cliffs of Moher as seen in the movie Leap Year (and I'm sure a ton of others.) Reaching over 700ft high above the Atlantic Ocean, it's a sight like none other.
Little did I know that my Fiance (boyfriend at the time) had already done some research on a nice little private path away from the tourist area and visitor center that lead right to the edge of one of the cliffs. The wind was ridiculously high and it was bitterly cold, but we made the trek down the path with our hands clutching our hoods and grabbing one another as not to fall down the slippery rocks.
When we, barely, made it to the edge of the cliff, he gave me a little fortune cookie jewelry box that held my beautiful engagement ring! So excited and so wind blown, I hadn't noticed a man with a camera come right up behind us. Scared me half to death!
He had actually hired a photographer in Ireland to capture the proposal!! It was the most romantic and thoughtful proposal I could have ever hoped for! And even with all the wind, the photos came out gorgeous! It was bittersweet because the weather was so bad and we couldn't stand the brutal wind any longer, but we so desperately wanted to stay and relish in the happiness that had transpired.
Please excuse me while I relive it for a moment or two... *swoon* Okay I'm good.
Moving on. We celebrated our engagement at the local Doolin pub and it was perfect. We made a toast to the rest of our lives together over a Guinness and Irish Cider.
The next day we made our way back to the cliffs through the tourist portion of the attraction. We started on the north side, found our little engagement dirt patch, and then made our way further south. Now keep in mind that there are only "fences" (fancy rocks) along two of the cliffs, as they are the steepest, but otherwise there is nothing keeping you from going over the edge the rest of the way if you get too close. The weather was remarkably better than the evening before, so we were in no hurry to leave.
From there we made our way up and around to the beautiful city of Galway. Cue the music!
Here we visited the Claddagh where the Claddagh ring originated from, and made our way to the shopping square where there are tons of Irish shops to sift through and find some treasures. We ended up with a new limestone Celtic Chess set of all things!
After we tootled around the nearby villages and found this gorgeous gem of a ruin: The Ross Errilly Friary.
If you've never been to a friary or an abbey, you probably wouldn't know that they are HUGE. It may not look like much, but this "average abbey" was a maze of hallways, rooms and staircases and we only had access to the first floor!
Stunning and so humbling to see how it's been preserved throughout the ages by a farmer and his family.