Lauren’s Visit and a Whirlwind Tour of Ireland

It seems like a month ago since I greeted Lauren at the Dublin Airport, yet her trip just flew by. We realized that the week we spent together is the longest we have ever had just the two of us! From Dublin, Lauren drove our rental car to Galway. Having hardly slept the night before, suffering from a bit of jet lag, and driving on the other side of the car/road, she did remarkably well! We were both surprised to find that the real difficulty in driving in the UK is being on the other side of the car, making it difficult to monitor where the car was in space. However, by the end of the week, she was a complete natural, whipping around the many roundabouts with ease. En route to Galway, Lauren got to see the warm Irish sun over beautiful pastureland. However, when we arrived in Galway, it began to rain. However, we were able to check into our Airbnb room early and take a nap. Our host was a lady named Rosemary who is half American and earning her PhD in American comedic literature. That evening, once the rain stopped, we walked around the city and enjoyed dinner in an old pub.

The next morning, we headed south to the iconic Cliffs of Moher, which some say inspired The Princess Bride’s Cliffs of Insanity. Along the way, we stopped at a castle. We had good weather, and enjoyed the climb along the ridge. Lauren was surprised to discover my new adventurousness and asked me to refrain from walking so close to the edge 🙂 On the drive back, we stopped for curry in the city and returned back to the flat to watch a movie.

Saturday morning, we had lovely sunshine for our trip to the Galway market. We passed a fishmonger, bakers, jewelers, woodworkers, potters and more artisans. Leaving about midday, we drove northwest toward Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey. Along the way, we stopped at another castle. We had not realized that it was closed for the winter. However, as we walked up to it, I caught a cheeky notion to go inside anyway even though the doors were closed. So…yes, I broke into a castle. Not really. I just scaled the wall. It was so green and deserted and beautiful. I believe it is the prettiest place I’ve ever seen. The pictures don’t do it justice.

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We then hopped back in the car and made it to the Abbey and then a couple miles beyond, to the park. Connemara has a barren beauty that was just breathtaking in the afternoon sun. Lauren and I ascended the highest peak in the park, and enjoyed a warm sunset as we climbed down. Thankfully, we only encountered rain at the bottom.

From there, we had the arduous drive north through Sligo and then through Donegal to Derry. Lauren was a trooper, as she had to drive for nearly 6 hours that day. Thankfully, we were able to stop off in Sligo for dinner and coffee and then continue north. We decided to get coffee at McDonalds, and because it was late and we were loopy, we decided to speak like Southern belles while ordering. However, when we ordered two cappuccinos, we were told that the machine could only make black coffee. So, we had to consult over what to do (of course, still in our accents). So I order plain coffee with some tubs of milk, and Lauren asked for a little bit of ice cream in her coffee. Well, they practically gave her a milk shake! So, she had to ask for another coffee too. It was quite humorous.

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We finally arrived in Derry about midnight. Thankfully, we didn’t have to get to church until 10:30 the next morning, so we were able to sleep in a bit. Church was lovely, and I really enjoying introducing Lauren to my friends at Cornerstone. Everyone was very thrilled to meet her, and kept asking which of us were older (which made Lauren happy) 🙂 From there, we went to Primrose for brunch with Dori and Diana. I took Lauren around the walls after brunch and then we popped in several charity shops and did some grocery shopping. Then, we drove over the bridge to Rachel Smyth’s home for dinner and tea and a lovely time with her family. The next morning, we headed North along the coast toward Coleraine to see Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Old Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. The hiking at the first two locations was fabulous, and the Castle was really neat. However, when we arrived at the Distillery, we had just missed the last tour by 10 minutes. At least we snapped a couple of photos! We ended the day with coffee and traybakes at Koko’s in Portrush, with a lovely view of the sea and beach in front of us.

Tuesday, we headed an hour west to Glenveagh National Park and hiked around the lake and grounds of Glenveagh Castle. It is absolutely stunning out there! Glen Veagh means “Glen of the Birches” in Irish.

In the early afternoon, we arrived back in Derry, where Lauren got to experience the fabulous Guildhall tour by Derry’s best guide, Gerry! He does a fabulous job tracing the history of the city from 550 AD to the present, using the brilliant stained glass windows of the city hall building as visuals. After that, Lauren and I met Krystyn for dinner at Fitzroy’s. We had a really fun time laughing over travel stories. Then, Lauren and I went to see “The Theory of Everything” at the cinema. That was quite the enjoyable day. Wednesday morning, we drove to Belfast and met up with Fiona Mercer, my friend from Magee’s Christian Union, and Stuart Balmer, a friend from Belfast who studied abroad at Grove City last year. We had brunch together at Maggie May’s and then saw CS Lewis’ childhood home, Little Lea. We also visited Queens Library, the City Hall, the Victoria Sq lookout dome. Before driving on to Dublin, we ended the day at Established Coffee in the cute Cathedral Quarter of Belfast.

Once in Dublin, Lauren and I dropped off the car at the airport and took the bus to our flat in the Temple Bar district of the city. We had a lovely en suite room with large windows overlooking the street. In the morning (which was exceptionally sunny), we walked to Trinity College, then on to The Fumbally for lunch. This place had been recommended to us by the owner of Established Coffee. Boy were we glad we went! The lunch was so fresh and flavorful. From there, we continued on toward the Guinness Brewery, where we enjoyed learning about the beer brewing process. Then, we learned how to pour a perfect pint, which we enjoyed drinking at the Gravity Bar, which had a fabulous 360 degree view of the city. Afterwards, we went to the Dublin Castle and walked around the beautiful city

 

It was hard to watch Lauren go on Friday morning, but her visit was so wonderfully refreshing. I am so thankful to her for coming out to see me!

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