After 2 months on the go, this was bound to happen. One of us was going to fall victim to an illness of some sort. That is why I, Jess, will be writing the blog on Ireland because my dear Gary landed himself a rather nasty cough (also known as Man Flu).
If you'd like to hear about the hotels we stayed at and what their rooms offered, just ask Gaz. He'll be able to give very detailed descriptions.
The capital was our first stop in Ireland. We had been informed by several people that the Irish are so helpful with their directions that you end up more confused than you started. This happened as soon as we arrived as we needed to know where our bus departed. From the directions we were given, you would have thought we wanted directions to Timbuctoo and couple this with the strong Irish accent, we were best to follow blind Freddie. Alas, we made it to our accommodation thanks to a very friendly and helpful driver.
Dublin gave us a real taste of all things typically Irish -pubs, Guinness, hurling, dancing and of course, some Mrs Brown's Boys. The Guinness Storehouse was the first thing we conquered and Gary's cough wasn't 'quite so bad' that day. Coincidence? This brewery was something else. We had visited a few breweries throughout our travels, however they just couldn't live up to Guinness. 7 storeys of interactive fun, pour your own pint, drink, eat, read - they had it all. Needless to say, we spent at least 3 hours at the brewery and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
That night, we took ourselves off to see the Riverdance 20th Anniversary show at the Gaiety Theatre. Expectations were high as Gary's Mum, Mary Ann, was a two time Irish Dancing Australian Champion in the 60's. She had told us that Riverdance was wonderful, however coming from a former Irish dancing champion, we were expecting the absolute best.
A little luck was thrown our way when we were given seats front and centre on the ground floor. We had booked our seats that morning and were happy with the nosebleeds, however in a mix-up were given these amazing seats! The show was nothing short of incredible. The music, costumes and beautiful backdrops set the atmosphere for the fast paced and impeccably timed dancing of the cast. We were completely blown away and felt so fortunate to have seen Irish dancing at its best on home turf.
The following day saw us roam around Dublin visiting markets, the old areas of town and Temple Bar. With its narrow cobble stone streets, Temple Bar is an area in Dublin on the River Liffey that has maintained its medieval appearance. The Temple Bar Pub is also one of the highlights of Dublin - large, with low wooden ceilings and iron light fittings. Our Dublin experience was revisited that night when we went to the movies to see Mrs Brown's Boys 'D' Movie' as it was shot on location in Dublin. T'was fecken funny.
After a 4 hour bus ride, we arrived in Galway. Gaz was not any better so our time in Galway was spent wandering the streets, enjoying their cafes and jewellers (we liked them so much that we decided on a ring!). Gary went to the doctors and was prescribed some medication, one of which made him so tired that he slept for hours.
So with this extra time on my hands, I decided to finally have my hair done. You must understand that this was a BIG deal. I have been going to the same hairdresser, Suze, for almost 10 years - not once have I seen another hairdresser in this period as I would rather live with disgusting regrowth then commit such a crime. Before I left, Suze gave me her card with the colour and quantities that she uses in my hair and reassured me that all would be okay if I showed them the card.
I had already booked an appointment with a lady who understood exactly what was written on the card, however, she did not inform me that she was not going to be there! A young foreign girl tried really hard to understand but I had lost confidence and was out of there quicker than Italy at the World Cup!
I was nervous, but decided to see if any other hairdressers were available that afternoon. The next hairdresser was SCARY! I walked in, showed him the card, he looked at it and said "Sit down". He proceeded to tie little buns all over my head and by this stage I had convinced myself I was going to walk out of this hairdresser looking like Cameron Ling. I pretended my phone rang, told him I needed to leave but I would be back in the morning (yeah right, we were leaving at 7am). He aggressively told me in his mean, Eastern European accent "You must pay for colour" - the coloured he had already mixed. Smiling brightly, I gave him 10euros and told him I'd see him in the morning - NOT!
Third time lucky. I found a salon full of women having their hair done by hairdressers with lovely hair themselves. Heaven. I went home with a happy, newly coloured head.
This, my friends, was Galway.
Ahh, Kilkenny. Castles, flowers, pubs, antique shops, friendly people. There was not much to dislike about Kilkenny. Gary was starting to feel a little better and this meant that we could tackle the castle on day one. This was the most relaxed castle we had visited yet - free access to the gardens, a 10 minute video on the history and photography was allowed!
That night, we ate at a rather large Irish pub with an Irish folk group. The food was delicious and the entertainment was even better. Gary, however, had his mind fixed on a dessert that we had seen during the day and as soon as the group had finished playing, he was out the door to get his hands on this dessert. Feeling much better ey?
Our accommodation was another memorable part of our time in Kilkenny. It was a 'bed and breakfast' and upon arrival we were greeted by an elderly lady who kindly showed us to our room. It was a house with several double rooms with en-suites, all decorated 'Nanna-style' - floral bed spread, 80's pink silk lamps and pretty pictures of lovely gardens. We were served a cooked breakfast each morning in her dining room, played with her dogs and were made to feel very comfortable.
Smiles all round as we left Kilkenny.
Jessica's time in Waterford: History, crystal, chocolate.
Gary' time in Waterford: Cough continuously and search all of Waterford for best coverage of World Cup Final.
Our final destination in Ireland and it was 'blarney' good (please excuse the pun). We made our way to Blarney Castle to 'kiss' the Blarney stone. Well, I did. Gary chickened out. For those of you who aren't aware, kissing the Blarney stone is said to never leave you without words - now re-read what I just said, 'never leave you without words'. Gary and I are the LAST people who need to be planting a big one on this stone. Nevertheless, I wanted to do it as, according to the loud yank standing in line, it is "one of Discovery Channels must-do things before you die". You don't need to kiss the stone either love.
Blarney Castle was a piece of history that we both thoroughly enjoyed. It was the third castle built on its site - the one you can visit today was built in 1446 by Dermott McCarthy, King of Munster (wherever that is).
Walking through the bare bones of this building leads you to the very top where you wait for your turn to pash this stone. I have to admit, I felt a little ill at the thought of putting my lips where all these people before me have put theirs. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger right? With the old guy helping me lean back to the stone (he was in his element according to Gaz), I pressed my lips against the surprisingly cold surface. To be honest, I don't think it's had any effect on my ability to talk.
How could we POSSIBLY go through Ireland and Gary not visit a distillery? He took himself off for the day to the Jameson distillery just outside of Cork and had himself a marvellous time - I know this because he came back with some interesting souvenirs, including whiskey chocolate as a gift for me. Why ruin chocolate?
Ireland, you are beautiful. We will be back in a healthier state to see you properly, but for now, it's on to Malta and we both can't wait.
Next stop: Malta