Days 5 & 6 – Cork

We left Galway on the morning of day 5 and hopped on the train to Cork, we had to transfer trains in Limerick. I am going to miss the beauty of Galway but there is so much more to see. One day I will come back and once more look out off the edge of a cliff and see the world in a new way. The train ride to Cork went smoothly and the Irish countryside is absolutely gorgeous.

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We arrived in Cork in the early afternoon and luckily our hotel was under ten minutes from the train station. We stayed at The Metropole which is a beautiful building, comfortable rooms, and an extremely nice staff. We decided to take a bit of a nap, it’s surprising how tired you get sitting on a train and lugging your suitcase around with you. We woke up and went on a search for food. Walking through Cork City was lovely. It is so very different from Galway and Dublin. You really see a meld of old, new, and natural beauty throughout this city. There are monuments, old buildings, and the river running through the city really makes it something special.
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We ate dinner at a place called The Brick Lane. I had the ribs which were absolutely delicious, my goodness fall off the bone yumminess. We then explored the city some more and followed our ears to an outside patio that had some live music. It was very pretty with hanging lights above. I can’t remember the name but it was across the street from the old courthouse. We then ended the night at The Crane Lane Theatre which is on Cork’s list of historic pubs to enjoy some drinks, live music, and a bit of dancing. It was a lovely first night in the city.

On Day 6 we ventured to Blarney Castle. We took a bus from the bus station in Cork, return fare for students was 7 euro. It was a lovely ride sitting on the top of a double decker bus enjoying the scenery. The ride went by quickly and then we were in Blarney village, a really adorable small town. We walked up to the castle and purchased our tickets and then went exploring. The castle is absolutely fantastic and the grounds are gorgeous! It was a bit rainy when we were there, I can only imagine how lovely it would be to walk through the grounds on a nice sunny day. If it is nice weather you will want to stay all day so definitely take some time to enjoy the grounds. The castle took my breath away. I am a sucker for history and castles so it was a dream to get to walk through it at our leisure. It is tricky getting up the stairs, the steps are small, the stone can be slippery, and the stairs are curved so take your time and be careful. When you get to the top you can choose to kiss the stone, which of course we did. You have to lay on your back and arch yourself down, they hold you and there are bars to grab onto so it’s safe but definitely not for someone who is afraid of heights (Mom you would have been freaking out). I adored Blarney.

We caught the bus back to Cork City, we had to wait quite a while, they were either really delayed or a bus didn’t come, but we got back to the city and got some fish & chips at a place called Lennox. This was recommended on trip adviser. The food was really good but not as good as the place in Galway. Thus far Galway is definitely winning our fish & chips rankings. This was our last day in Cork so we took the afternoon/evening to explore the other parts of the city we wanted to see. We walked to the College Univeristy which was fantastic, seriously this trip is making me want to apply to one of these schools. We then went to St Anne’s Church to see the Shandon Bells, we only saw it from the outside but it is a lovely old church. Then we went back to the hotel. We had a light dinner in the bar at The Metropole, and then we stayed in and had a girls night. A bottle of wine and The Holiday to get us ready for the next leg of our trip.

We are currently on the train to Dublin to catch a ferry over to Holyhead and then travel to Bath. Day 7 is pretty much a travel day, we are going to enjoy the scenery and hopefully not miss any of our connecting trains.

Much love,

~Sara D’Agostino

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Day 4 – Galway (The Aran Islands)

I have no idea how to even begin this blog post because I have no words. I cannot convey the beauty and wonder that I witnessed today in seeing nature meet man-made ancient architecture. So I will start at the beginning and see how it goes.

We woke up early to shower and partake in breakfast. Larry served us pancakes this morning which were delicious. We also had toast and jam. I have no idea what type of jam we had but it was bursting with wonderful flavour. We had to wake up so early because we needed to catch a plane to Inis Mor (the largest of the Aran Islands). We had decided on the plane for two reasons, the time we saved and the price wasn’t bad. We grabbed a bus from the city centre, which was included in the price we paid for the flight, which took us to the airport and then we got on the plane and presto we were on the Island. The plane was the smallest I have ever been in but I highly recommend this method to get as much time on the Island as you can.

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The plane seats 10 people including the pilot

Once we got to the Island we took a bus into the main village and walked around for a bit. We decided on getting on one of the hop on, hop off bus tours that take you around the Island. This was the best decision for us. (If you are up for it you can also rent a bicycle and cycle around the Island, I personally can’t ride a bike so that option was out.) Our tour guide was absolutely amazing! His name is Bertie Mullen and his bus says Discover Aran Tours. There is a sign on the bus and on his card saying he is the number 1 tour guide, at first we thought that was just words but after experiencing his style I would have to say it was absolute truth. He had just the right amount of information, humour, and personal anecdotes to make the experience something very special.

He took us to many different parts of the Island. Enjoy some of the pictures I took throughout the day:

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An old castle on the Island, weddings are still held here. If you want to have an Irish wedding look into the Aran Islands.
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A Beautiful meld of green and blue
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SEALS! We were far away but you can see them in this shot.

 

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Panoramic view of one of the beaches
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The Seven Churches, so names because there were 7 Romans on the Island when they were built. This historic site is still a functioning cemetery. It was a quite, thoughtful exploration which I hope conveyed my respect.
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This donkey loves Bertie, it was really adorable.
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See the lighthouse in the distance

I have a tun more pictures from the tour but the real beauty came with our last stop, Dun Aonghasa. On the 300 ft cliff side overlooking the Atlantic you will find this historic fort. It was a bit of a hike up and there is a small admission fee but my God it was worth it. We were very lucky with the amazing weather we had for this excursion. The pictures do not do it justice, not even a modicum, but here are some anyway.

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Panoramic from inside the first wall of the fort
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Panoramic from the edge inside the second wall of the fort
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The edge of the cliff
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Proof that we were there, thank you fellow traveler for taking the photo

I could have stayed up there all day. It was awe-inspiring. Seeing the power of nature and the impact of humankind. You could see clear to the mountains on the mainland. The colours were vibrant and wonderful. The sun was warmth and light and idyllic. We sat there, soaking in the energy of this wondrous place. If you ever get the opportunity to sit on the edge of a cliff and contemplate the world do not pass it up. It was an experience unlike anything I have encountered before. I have no words.

I wish that we could have stayed longer but we needed to catch the bus back into town to make sure we made our flight. We made it back to the main village with time to spare so we had a pint by the water. It was a perfect way to end our time on the Island and a great opportunity to soak in the experience we just had.

I would love to end this blog here but the day was not yet over. We relaxed at the B&B for a bit and then we went for dinner. We got a chance to explore a bit of the city while we were deciding on a restaurant and I am certain that Gallway is the city of music. There was live performances on the street everywhere you looked and they were all fantastic. I wish I had pictures but I was having some phone difficulties and low battery.

We ended up having dinner at a place called The Front Door Pub, we were intrigued by the Whiskey Bar. We ended up having their featured whiskey, a ten year old single-malt called Gallway Bay, which was lovely. It took a while but it was our first whiskey in Ireland! Another thing accomplished. I also had the Shepard’s Pie which was delicious! I definitely recommend this meal at this establishment. I couldn’t resist taking this picture:

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The Front Door’s Shepard’s Pie

We ended our night once more at The Spanish Arch for some live music and a pint. Once again the place was packed and the music was fantastic! If you are in Gallway don’t miss out on this place.

That’s all for now. We are currently en route to Cork, our last Irish City before heading to the UK.

Until next time!

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Taking in the wonder

Much love,

~Sara D’Agostino

Day 3 – Dublin/Galway

We started the day in Dublin, checked out of our hotel after breakfast, left our bags in the luggage lock and made our way to the last few things we wanted to do. I had to pick up a final souvenir for my Dad (I’m not saying what it is because that would ruin the surprise) and then we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This place was absolutely breathtaking. They have historical exhibits inside, an interactive portion, and a lot of Jonathan Swift Information. If you are in Dublin I definitely recommend going.

 

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Hey look I learned how to use captions)
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The Lady’s Chapel at St. Patrick’s which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary

Once we were done inside the Cathedral we explored the park which has a plaque near where the well would have been when St Patrick did his first Baptism in Ireland. We looked everywhere for the plaque and were just about to give up and suddenly there it was. It is literally right by where we entered and I have no idea how it took us so long to find it!

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The plaque that took forever to find!

We picked up some wraps on our way to the hotel from O’Briens (not the same as the pub from yesterday) which were absolutely delicious and just what we needed before heading over to the train station.

There was a direct bus from right outside our hotel to Heuston Station where we had to catch the train to Galway which was super convenient (Bus 145 and it was 2.70 Euro for the trip). We decided on buying a Eurrail Pass for Ireland for this trip as we are travelling between three far off cities of the country. We had some help from a gentleman in an information vest on where to find the ticket counter to activate the passes, but there was no line up and everything was so much smoother and faster than I personally expected. After they were activated we literally just got on the train that we wanted. SUPER EASY! Just for the ease of using it I would recommend the train passes. The train ride was fantastic, super comfortable, right on time, and going through the Irish Country was breathtaking! (The pictures do it no justice.)

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Train Pictures are hard

It was extremely difficult to get a good picture from a moving train. To anyone who has successfully accomplished this I bow to your prowess!

We got to Galway and walked to the B&B  (Dun Romain on Beach Court) we had booked. It was a longer walk than we expected because Google didn’t know that there was a short cut to get to the house quicker but it gave us a nice taste of how beautiful this city is. Once we checked in and dropped off our bags we went back out and took some pictures before heading over to the restaurant that the Owner of the B&B, Larry, said had the best Fish & Chips. Just take a look at a little slice of the beauty of Galway.

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This is a monument to the famine that is right by our B&B

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Larry was right about the Fish & Chips, they were absolutely delicious. The restaurant is called Mc Donaugh’s. They have two sides of the establishment, if you want the fried fish & chips, which we obviously did, you go up to the counter and order but they also have a sit down restaurant with more grilled options. They have been around since 1902 for good reason, definitely worth going to if you are in Galway.

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McDonagh’s, best fish & chips! 
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Look at the deliciousness in this picture!

They don’t have a bar there but they told us to order at the pub next door and you could bring the beer into the restaurant (at least for the fried side) so that’s what we did. Once we were done eating we went to the pub next door, The Spanish Arch. They has live music which was absolutely fantastic and completely Irish. It was the exact pub experience we have been looking for. The place was packed! The band finished at 9:30 pm and the pub emptied quite quickly. They end the live music early as it also functions as a hotel and people want to sleep. I loved the vibe of this place. It was just exactly what we needed. There was also a Football match on so it made the experience even better!

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We walked back to the B&B after and called it a night. We have an early start in the morning. We are exploring the Aran Islands!

~Sara D’Agostino

Day 2 – Dublin

Our first stop on our second day in Dublin was St. Trinity’s College. I wanted to see the old library (it’s on the list of must see libraries) and I dragged Mel along, she did enjoy it though so I don’t feel too bad. We got to see the Book of Kells as well, which was very interesting, I enjoyed the exhibit they had set up before you got to the room and the Book of Kells was very cool to see but it was a bit crowded around the actual book. But after you go up to the library and I was in absolute heaven! This was my place, I felt at home. There are two floors full of books (the pictures do not do it justice at all) and there are historical busts along the perimeter and display cabinets of books and works of art. It was an absolutely amazing experience.

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Afterwards we explored a bit of the campus which made me want to pursue another degree just so I could apply here.

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Our next stop was the Museum of Archaeology, which was a very short walk from Trinity College. Mel and I took Archaeology together in Grade 12 so it would have been a pity to miss this opportunity to experience these exhibits together. Admission is free for this museum and the exhibits are very informative and intriguing. If you are in Dublin I definitely recommend this museum. They had a section devoted to Kings and Sacrifice in which there are a few preserved bodies that were found in bogs, it was a bit intense to see so many especially as they all met violent ends. I don’t have many pictures from the museum but here’s a long boat:

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I really enjoyed getting a more thorough background about the archaeological aspects of these find through these exhibits. If you have ever been remotely interested in archaeology (and seriously who hasn’t) definitely take a few hours to go through the museum.

We then were quite hungry (we hadn’t eaten since breakfast at the hotel) and made our way to Temple Bar. You definitely have to go here if you are in Dublin. The food was great, the vibe is fantastic, and they had live music. Speaking of which while we were there the band played “Galway Girl”, I cannot believe how many P.S. I Love You aspects have popped up completely naturally so far on this trip. I mean seriously, it’s day 2!

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We went back to the hotel for a bit of a relax and then headed out to The Brazen Head which claims to be the oldest pub in Dublin. They have a street sign displaying the distances between cities around the world from their location which I really loved.

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They also had a weather predicting stone which I didn’t get a picture of but you can kind of see in the background above. The write up about it had me chuckling quite heartily. They also had live music which was very enjoyable. The band played a few country songs which made Mel both confused and thrilled (she’s a country fan). They do close earlier as they also function as a hotel so if you do go word of warning they close at 11:30 p.m. As it was dying down a bit we went over to M. O’Briens which is owned by the same people and also happened to be right by our hotel. They had a live band playing and they were very up beat and fun. They have two rooms, a more chilled out one and then the one with the live music. It was a very cool little pub.

And so ended day 2 of our Ireland/England adventure. I am not a photographer so my pictures aren’t the greatest.

I wanted to add Day 3 here but it is taking forever to transfer the pictures over so that’s all for now.

Best Wishes,
~Sara D’Agostino

Day 1 – Dublin

We arrived at Dublin International Airport at approximately 7:15 a.m. (Dublin Time). Needless to say we were tired. Our flight went really well, it was a smaller plane than I personally expected but tickets were affordable. We flew WestJet from Toronto with a slight layover in St John’s.

Once we landed we took a taxi to our hotel. It was an expensive ride but at that point we just wanted a few hours to sleep and the quickest, easiest way to the hotel was via taxi. Our driver was very friendly and told a few quite entertaining jokes. I am terrible with relating these types of stories but ask me next time you see me and I will do my best with the delivery. We got to the hotel simply wanting to check into our room and sleep but they didn’t have the type of room available. The wonderful woman at the front desk however said their was an executive room available if we wanted to upgrade our reservation. Yes, this meant more money but the suite includes complimentary breakfast plus free pop and water. Honestly, it was the best decision even for just the few hours of immediate sleep that we received.

When we woke up, our first thought was food. We exited the hotel towards the city centre and cut through St. Steven’s Green to get to Dawson Street, which the front desk at the hotel said had many different restaurants. First of all, I love St. Steven’s Green. There are flowers, we saw a meditation circle, fountains, statures, playgrounds, gazebos, bridges, basically everything.

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When we got to Dawson St. (after a bit of searching) we ended up in a nice pub called Bruxelle’s and ordered our first Irish Fish & Chips and Beer. DELICIOUS!

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We also got some of the best spring rolls we had ever eaten. Seriously, they were perfection! Perfectly crunchy and oh so yummy! If you ever go to this place I highly recommend the spring rolls.

Our next stop was The Guinness Storehouse, which was a bit of a walk, but we got to see a bunch of Dublin which was so nice! Such as these hanging umbrellas, I am sorry I don’t remember where this was as we stumbled upon it while following Siri to The Storehouse.

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We then made it to our destination and it honestly took far less time than I thought it would.

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The price of admission was quite a bit, but they give you a free pint and it’s honestly worth it just for the view from the Gravity Bar on the top floor. A 360 degree view of the city! BREATHTAKING! It was quite crowded while we were there but I managed to get a few lovely pictures.

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I am also now certified to pour the perfect pint of Guinness which was a lot of fun. I don’t have a picture of me pouring my pint because the shadow of the tap was on my face (short people problems) but I got a photo of Mel doing it! PROOF!

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I also found my new favourite quote on the advertising floor of the Storehouse. Check it out and tell me it isn’t the best, I dare you!

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Also it was located with a statue of a fish riding a bicycle, crazy but true!

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Also located on this floor was this wonderful installation. As a theatre kid it reminds me of Wicked…anyone else see it?

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When we finished up we walked back to the hotel for a bit of a break. We were quite hungry by this point and in our search for something quick we found a small pizza place on a side street. It was fantastic pizza. I don’t know which street we were on but the place was called Credo. I recommend it if you are in the mood for some take away pizza.

We ended the day at Whalen’s for some live music and dancing. For those of you who don’t immediately know this place was featured in P.S. I Love You. We were dancing in the same room that Gerard Butler sang Galway Girl! We met two very nice Irish men and danced the night away. I don’t have any pictures but a good time was definitely had.

We went back to the hotel and so ends day 1! I am writing this on day 2 and I seriously need some sleep so day 1 is all I can give you for now. Hope it was a good read. I have never blogged like this before so hopefully I will get better as the trip goes on.

Best Wishes!

~Sara D’Agostino

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Departure Day

I have just fully woken up and I cannot contain my excitement! Today one of my best friends and I depart for our two week trip to Ireland and England. My bags are packed and I am ready and raring to go! I am going to try my hand at travel blogging while I am away so there will hopefully be more blog posts during the trip, but I may be distracted by seeing … tasting … experiencing the 7 cities we are visiting.

Heads up on our destinations. We start in Dublin then go to Galway and Cork. We will be crossing on the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead and immediately travelling to Bath, then Oxford, we are staying in Guildford and doing some day trips, and then we end the adventure in Merry Old London!

Also have I mentioned we have tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! I am stoked! I hope I don’t spontaneously combust from all this bent up energy and adrenaline!

Until next time!

~Sara D’Agostino