Family Trip #18 (& #19)

We are ending our time here in Denmark so we made the call to have one of our last trips be to Ireland.
Day 1:
After a very entertaining flight (drunk passenger talking about his many “conquests” and wealth, although he was sitting in economy on a budget airline), we spent our first full day in Dublin. We took the express bus from the Dublin airport into the downtown area.

Our first stop for the day was EPIC or the Irish Emigration Museum.
We were first handed a passport that we could stamp ourselves at different themes throughout the museum. This was pretty much what the girls did the whole time. They raced around to find that stamp. It was also a very interactive museum. Good for a 9 year old, not great for a 6 year old. So I spent much of my time chasing after the wee one but the Notorious Irish display was a big hit along with the Irish dancing. We learned some very interesting things about Irish culture, its influence on the world and so much more. Highly recommend a visit!

After EPIC, we walked through Dublin. We enjoyed lunch at a vegan diner then crossed the Ha’penny bridge towards the famous Essex Street. We stopped and got ice cream across from the Temple Bar and snapped the obligatory pictures. It was quite crowded as this bar is seen as a must stop for tourists. But we were able to grab seats right outside the ice cream shop.

We then started walking towards a wool shop. We wanted to buy a lap blanket and figured Dublin would have the widest variety. And man, there are a LOT of souvenir/wool shops around. We ventured in and out of many shops but only found a few souvenirs and one blanket. We then walked around Trinity College before heading to a nearby playground for the girls to run out some energy.

After playing at the park, we decided to call it a day in Dublin. We had contemplated checking out the Guinness tour/museum but since it is expensive and neither of us drink it regularly, we decided to skip it. The girls were getting tired of walking, we had a two hour drive to go to the east side of the country and the weather was turning sour.
We hopped on the bus to the Dublin Airport, picked up our rental and headed towards Bunratty.
We stayed in the Bunratty Manor Hotel. An excellent hotel with a pub and restaurant on the first floor. After putting the girls to sleep, we went downstairs to the pub and the husband enjoyed a Guinness.

Day 2:
The next day, we went to the nearby Bunratty Castle.
Bunratty Castle was built in 1425 and was an important stronghold. One can now tour the castle along with the folk park around it. Unfortunately for us, the folk park part was pretty closed down due to COVID and the season. There was no petting zoo, few actors, and no events. We did get to meet and pet two Irish Wolfhounds thanks to a nice policeman. We also saw the baby goats and played in the playground. We participated in a fairy hunt through the northern part of the park. Due to a sisterly spat, we had to separate for heads to cool down but were able to end the tour on a good note.

After Bunratty, we ate at the nearby Creamery Bar.
If you suffer from celiac or gluten intolerance, Ireland is THE place to visit if you want to enjoy local foods at restaurants without the fear of getting sick. Celiac disease is very common in Ireland so most eateries offer gluten free foods and know how to prepare it safely.
Besides the delicious food, we also enjoyed looking at all the American service badges over the bar. We found Iowa State Patrol and other USA departments.

Next, we drove to the Cliffs of Moher. What a sight!

The Cliffs of Moher sit along the Atlantic Ocean. They were formed over 320 million years ago and run 8 miles along the coast of County Clare. The highest spot is near O’Brien’s Tower at 700 feet.

We went and explored the visitors center first. It was a pretty small exhibit and didn’t have a lot of interactive spots for children so we didn’t spend too much time here.

Next, we explored the cliffs. It was extremely windy and we understood why it’s called the Wild Atlantic. The wind was so strong that the crashing waves at the bottom of the cliffs were being sprayed up towards the paved walkway. There were even a few points where we were holding on to each other tightly as the wind was so strong (Claire nearly lost her hat).
We walked from one end to the tower taking lots of pictures and soaking in the view. There was another, unpaved path but we decided with the wind and the warnings posted on the trail, we weren’t going to attempt it.

Next, we headed north towards Galway. On our way there, we stopped at an old abbey I had found on Google Maps. It was called the Corcomroe Cistercian Monastery. It was founded in 1194 but was too poor by the 15th century to keep a fully staffed monastery and was shortened to just a church and graveyard. It was amazing to look at all of the gravestones and how old they were.

By the time we pulled in to Galway, it was time to find some food. I had found a gluten free place that promised fish and chips. Unfortunately, Galway was very busy. We had an incredibly difficult time finding parking and had to drive around multiple times to find a parking spot. I also had to do a quick google search on parking laws in Galway to make sure we were allowed to park where we did. The little restaurant was packed when we arrived. Luckily for us, it was a first come, first serve (no reservations) and a table had just opened up right near the window, so we were able to grab a seat and order. Guys, this food was sssoo good. The husband and I literally still talk about it. If you are ever in Galway, check out Hooked.
We then found our hostel and after some parking issues, we settled down for the night. I really wanted to walk around Galway but it was rainy, we were tired and I decided it wasn’t worth the fight.

Day 3:

We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hostel and started driving north. Our next stop was Glencar Waterfall in County Leitrim. The drive became very scenic the farther north we went and after two hours of driving, we turned onto a tiny road that lead us to Glencar.
Glencar Waterfall is a very kid friendly waterfall. It’s a short hike from the parking lot and includes public toilets, a playground and cafe. We could also see other waterfalls from the road. Pretty neat!

We then started driving north again towards Slieve League. But first, we had to pull over and admire Benbulbin.
Benbulbin is a flat-topped formation in County Sligo. While the husband and I would have loved to hike it, we decided not to push our luck with the girls. We also had a lot of driving to do that day so we settled on a picture.

After some winding roads and a quick stop to pay access to the upper car park, we arrived at Slieve League. While not as famous as the Cliffs of Moher, Slieve League is home to the second highest sea cliffs in Ireland and some of the highest in Europe. It must be gaining popularity though as there was a vending truck parked on top and many tour buses coming and going in the tiny parking lot.
Two of us had some shaky knees as there are very few barriers in place and a trail close to the edge. Luckily for us, the wind was much calmer than the day before. After summoning up our courage, we walked the trail overlooking the cliffs. What a view!

We soaked in some sunshine then loaded back up in our car to head towards Letterkenny for supper. We may have also decided to stop in Letterkenny due to a certain Canadian show on a certain streaming network. No, we did not find any Puppers. But we did find another fish and chips place with gluten free options. It had more options the girls liked like chicken nuggets with fries. A win!
We spent the night outside of Derry before our adventure into Northern Ireland the next day.

Day 4:

Day four was to be another long day so we got up early to enjoy a real Irish breakfast in the hotel.
Once we crossed the border, we headed toward Dunluce Castle.
Dunluce Castle was built in the 13th century and was believed to have operated until 1690. The north wall has collapsed into the sea. It was also a film location in the Game of Thrones series as the House Greyjoy.
There was a new overlook just west of the castle so we stopped there to take a few pictures of the sea, castle and neighboring town.

We also stopped at the castle but after hearing the groans of “NOT another castle!” we decided to move onto the Giant’s Causeway instead.
You may be familiar with the Giant’s Causeway. It is a geological area of hexagonal basalt columns that may have been created 50-60 million years ago after volcanic activity. The cooling of the lava led to the hexagonal like columns. Or you can believe the legend: an Irish giant and Scottish giant decided to fight so the Irish giant created the causeway to Scotland. Upon his arrival, Fionn, the Irish giant, realizes that Benandonner, the Scottish giant, was bigger than him. He then fled to his home where his wife disguised him as a baby. When Benandonner arrived, he saw the “baby” and assumed that the “baby’s” father must be larger than himself. Benandonner ran home to Scotland destroying the causeway to prevent himself from being chased down.
The Giant’s Causeway is free to everyone BUT not if you park at and explore the visitors center. We bit the bullet and decided to park as close as we could and tour the visitors center.
The visitors center included a video about the giants legend, artwork from Susanna Drury and the history/creation of the Giant’s Causeway. It is pretty small so we moved quickly through it before heading to the rock formations.
We noticed a few tour groups and I zeroed in on their logos, Cedar Rapids. Then I noticed the Cedar Rapids Kernels hats and Hawkeye gear. Here we were all the way in Ireland seeing fellow Iowans.
Many of them were scattered all around the Giant’s Causeway taking in the waves and the formations. We also took a few pictures, climbed up and down the rocks and tried not to get blown away.

We then jumped in the car and started heading south towards Belfast. We didn’t have a plan for lunch so this one time we decided to let the girls choose and of course, they wanted McDonalds.
So after some confusing streets, a bit of yelling and Happy Meals, we were back on our way to Belfast to visit the Titanic Museum.
The Titanic was built in Belfast by the White Star Line. This museum covers the history of the company in Belfast, the shipyard life, the building of the Olympic ships (including Titanic) and the Titanic and that fateful night of the sinking. There is even a little ride that carries you through the levels of the Titanic and the type of work that was done to build it.
We did pretty good 3/4 of the way through the museum. The kids had a little map and they were tasked with finding each person on the map and answering a question. Since they had been locked in a car for so long though, they really seemed ready to run so the husband and I weren’t able to absorb as much history as we would have liked.
When we got to the part of the museum that discussed the sinking, we had a girl with a big heart who just couldn’t take it. She became very upset and we had to leave the exhibit. You never know what will stick with children.
The girls and I instead went to see a tiny exhibit about marine and coastal life. When Dad joined us, we skipped the video of the deep sea exploration of Titanic and went to the gift shop before we drove back to Dublin to what we thought was the end of our time in Ireland.

Day 5:
Day 5 was suppose to be an easy day. Get on the bus, go through security, get on plane and arrive home. It was the day before St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and lots of people were arriving at the airport in their green ready to party in Dublin. So we got to the airport and waited….and waited….and waited. Our flight was delayed and we were told it was a computer issue. Then three hours after our take off time, our flight was canceled. A handful of people had already gotten on the airplane and they had to get off.
Now this was my first experience with a canceled flight. OMG. I do not wish it on anyone. It was so confusing. We were told to go to one place then moved to another place. We were told that our flight was to be the next day and a hotel was being booked for us. At that point, we split up. The family went to get our checked baggage while I waited for the hotel representing the airline to arrive and book us a room. Happily, I was probably the second person in line and was able to get a room.
Due to St. Patrick’s Day, our hotel was outside of Dublin. We were guaranteed “free” meals and transportation to the airport in the morning.
So we spent the rest of the day lounging in the hotel room, eating during mealtimes and walking to a nearby store.
The next day, we got to the airport with no issues. We made it through security and even onto the plane this time. Unfortunately, we were again delayed by some passengers apparently checking in but not actually getting on the plane. So their bags had to be removed from the cargo and we had to wait for this. The pilot joked that they were likely in the bars celebrating the holiday and he may have been correct, the airport bars were full! Happily, the rest of the travel had no hiccups and we made it back to Denmark albeit one day later than planned.

Easter Break:
For our final European vacation, I decided to make it easy. We made the executive decision to do an all-inclusive/resort style trip this time. We wanted to relax and chill on the beach. We didn’t want to run around and hop from hotel to hotel. So we looked around and decided on Mallorca.
Mallorca is a Spanish island in the Mediterranean. It is part of the Balearic Islands and is known for it’s resorts and tourist culture.
So I really don’t have much to share about our travels there. I would compare it to Mexico resorts like in Cancun except 90% of the tourists spoke German. We had wristbands indicating our half-board status. We spent time on the beach, kids club and the pool. On our last day, we rented bikes and checked out one of the famous coves in Mallorca while also finding ice cream. It was quite an adventure involving a flat tire, a thorn in a hand and dodging other tourists. BUT it was relaxing 75% of the time which is what we wanted.