Day 39 - A long day of traveling

We left our lovely cottage and Louisburgh behind around 9:30 AM.  We all talked about what our favorite part of Ireland was.  For me, it was petting the sheep.  For the hubby, it was Croagh Patrick.  For Kian, it was Clare Island.  And of course, for Hannah, it was Sam the dog!  

The drive to Dublin airport, which is 173 miles (279 km) away, was very smooth.  We ate lunch on the way and my brilliant husband (no sarcasm this time :)) had the wonderful idea of just reserving a taxi online to pick us up at the Beauvais airport [More on this later].

We returned our darling Skoda at Europcar, and said farewell to driving on the "wrong" side of the road for now.  In total, we drove 1,549 miles (2,493 km) in Ireland, not too shabby.  Thankfully, after a little complaining, we were able to get a refund on the GPS that came with the rental car, because at no point during the vacation was the GPS even remotely useful, since the maps don't have most of the roads!  If you find yourself traveling to Ireland, a word of advice, just skip the GPS.  There aren't too many roads, and the signs are pretty good, so an old fashioned map will do the job just fine.  

A shuttle brought us to the terminal around 3:30 PM.  The check-in process for Ryanair at Dublin airport is much, much smoother than at Stansted airport in the UK.  They also didn't hassle us over 2 extra kilograms in our luggage. Hurray! 

We had lots and lots of time, so we decided to take the kids to the McDonalds play area before going through security.  Since it was neither lunch nor dinner time for us, I was grateful the kids could play there without us having to buy any food.

The kids played for a while as I uploaded a ton of pictures for the last 5 days of blog posts.  The internet at Dublin airport is mighty speedy! 

After playing in the little obstacle course for a while and helping Hannah through a variety of up and downs, Kian joined us at the table to play a little bit on the Nintendo 3DS. 

Kian playing the 3DS

Kian playing the 3DS

Hannah was happy playing with a balloon she had found.

Hannah and her yellow balloon that she left for "other kids" after we left the play area

Hannah and her yellow balloon that she left for "other kids" after we left the play area

We went through security and ate dinner at Burger King.  During dinner, we were entertained by our silly Hannah making up and singing a France song that went something like this: France France, Francie France.... well, just listen for yourself :)

Our flight was supposed to be at 7:30 but it was delayed 1 hour.  We all stayed in good spirits.. playing, chatting, and recharging all our devices for the next leg of the journey. 

Hannah feeding baby ginger while we waited to board

Hannah feeding baby ginger while we waited to board

Eventually we all boarded and were on our way. The flight was quick and smooth and before we knew it we had landed at Beauvais airport. 

Beauvais airport is a very tiny airport. At terminal 1 (I think there are 2 terminals there), you walk off the plane, and into the doors where a line of people is formed to get passports checked/stamped. Immediately behind passport control is where you pick up your luggage and you walk out of the door.

Remember I mentioned my husband's brilliance earlier on? Thank goodness there was a taxi driver waiting outside holding our name on a piece of paper, because at this airport there is no line up of buses or taxis. It is true that you can take a shuttle for 17 euros per adult from Beauvais to Paris, 20-25 mins after your flight lands, but that shuttle takes you to Porte Maillot in Paris.  From there you will need to take a taxi or some other form of transportation to your hotel unless you have a hotel within walking distance. 

Either way, since it was 11:00 PM, and the hotel we had booked wasn't in central Paris, but rather near where we will be picking up our next car, I was extremely grateful for the kind taxi driver who picked us up and gave us giant bottle of water. 

The drive to our hotel took about 1 hour, and we were all in bed shortly after midnight. 

It is definitely worth mentioning that despite the long, long day, the kids kept it together the entire time, we heard no whining or crying or fussing. At bedtime I was probably more cranky than them! 

Bonne Nuit ... Zzzzzz

Day 38 - Packing and Good-byes

The morning began with lots of packing. We dragged out our eBag and Eagle Creek packing cubes and got busy rolling clothes :) 

It surprisingly took a lot less time and energy than we thought it would. 

Packing in progress

Packing in progress

In the afternoon, we headed over to Mike and Andrea's house to say farewell and to thank them for their warm hospitality, and we were treated to a delicious shrimp appetizer.

Shrimp Appetizer ... Mmm Mmm...the sauce was so delicious

Shrimp Appetizer ... Mmm Mmm...the sauce was so delicious

It is really amazing when you end up meeting people so far away from home and feel like you have known them for ages.  We were sad to say goodbye, but thankful for all the technology that will keep us connected and future travels that could reunite us. 

From Left to Right: Baby Ginger, Hannah, Kian, Baby, Ciara, and Roisin

From Left to Right: Baby Ginger, Hannah, Kian, Baby, Ciara, and Roisin

Richard and Veronica, the owners of the farm and the cottage, had kindly invited us over for dinner.  When we arrived at the house, once again we felt like family. We all started talking and the kids all had a great time talking, running outside, and playing with Sam (have I mentioned how much our kids love Sam?)

Our first course consisted of fresh and extremely scrumptious oysters still in their salty water. Mmmmmm.....Mmmmmm!

I am not sure if the most amazing thing about the dinner was the oysters, our delicious entree, or the fact that both Kian and Hannah tried salmon for the first time and loved it so much they kept asking for more! 

After dinner, Caroline played a bit accordion for us (which was awesome) and both Caroline and Richard (Jr.) sang a couple of songs. They are both very good and talented kids. We will definitely miss the entire family and Sam very much. 

From left to right: Richard (Jr), Hannah, Kian, Sam, and Caroline

From left to right: Richard (Jr), Hannah, Kian, Sam, and Caroline

Thanks again to Richard, Veronica, and the whole family for making us feel so at home this past month.  We are so fortunate to have found such a wonderful house in such a wonderful little town.  It was a really wonderful experience for us all, one we will never forget (well, maybe Hannah will, but thats what the pictures are for!).

And again, thanks to technology, we will keep in touch, and who knows maybe one day we will meet again.

Tomorrow morning we will head out to Dublin to catch our flight to France. We will have two slightly crazy and hectic days before we settle down in Nimes.

Adventure awaits...

Day 37 - Museum of Country Life

About a week ago, someone we met happened to recommend the Museum of Country Life to us.  We knew the drive was about an hour, so we had it put it off.  Today, since we had no other plans, we decided to venture out to Turlough Park to check out the museum.

Turlough Park House build in 1865 - Once home to the Fitzgerald family who at one point owned 8500 acres of land in the county of Mayo

Turlough Park House build in 1865 - Once home to the Fitzgerald family who at one point owned 8500 acres of land in the county of Mayo

This is a wonderful spot to visit as a family, especially with younger children, and the best part is it's free for the adults and children.  We learned a lot about the Irish history, and the kids had a great time.  There are lots of items that are left out, and the you are encouraged to check them out up close and personal with a sign that says: "Please Touch".

Kian and Hannah posing with an Irish family in the attire they wore long ago.

Kian and Hannah posing with an Irish family in the attire they wore long ago.

Kian and I in some Irish clothing we were encouraged to try on by all the signs :)

Kian and I in some Irish clothing we were encouraged to try on by all the signs :)

The museum focuses a lot on the country life in Ireland, before and after the famine. There are a variety of different sections, such as: professions, agricultural tools, and basket weaving techniques.

I found the description for the school master most interesting:

"The master was the most respected man in the town, feared alike but his pupils and their parents.  His appearance in the noisiest streets brought immediate silence.  Most of his pupils came from very poor families and he was determined to make something of them whether they liked it or not. He knew what was good for them and even if it meant teaching by terror, they got it."

I also liked a few "fact" posters around the museum which talked about summer months, and how the poor would generally suffer in July, as the stored food would run out but the new crops were not quiet ready yet for harvest.  Makes you think about how much we take for granted! 

There was a special exhibition about the police force in Ireland on the basement floor.  They had some gear and outfits on display, and they had a section for taking mug shots and doing finger prints. It was actually a fairly crowded section and we had to wait a bit, but we had Kian write his name on the little blackboards they had and do a mug shot.  The numbers for the height though didn't seem quite right, but it was all silly nonetheless.

Kian's mug shot

Kian's mug shot

The museum grounds are also very beautiful and lots of fun for the kids. There are few sculptures around and many gorgeous flowers.

Kian trying to slurp up the lake with the straw - "The installation of the straw sculpture is intended to highlight the current issue of water charges and water equality in Ireland. The placement of the straw in the lake should remind people where their water comes from and how much of it is left". -Paul O'Driscoll (Artist and Musician in Mayo)

Kian trying to slurp up the lake with the straw - "The installation of the straw sculpture is intended to highlight the current issue of water charges and water equality in Ireland. The placement of the straw in the lake should remind people where their water comes from and how much of it is left". -Paul O'Driscoll (Artist and Musician in Mayo)

After the museum, we stopped in Westport on our way home and had dinner at a pizza restaurant, followed by dessert at the Maple Moose, a cute little place worth a visit.

This was our last day of sightseeing in Ireland. Tomorrow we will have to start packing and saying goodbye to the good friends we have made here. 

Day 36 - Kickball

Four important things were accomplished on this Monday. 

1. The kids had fun swimming in the pool
2. We had a delicious lunch and dessert at The Creel (our favorite restaurant in Westport)
3. I was able to upload quite a few pictures and catch up a bit on blog posts (Thanks Creel!)
4. Kian learned how to play kickball

Spicy lamb naan pizza - It was scrumptious 

Spicy lamb naan pizza - It was scrumptious 

Little swimmers loving their delicious chocolate cake and milk

Little swimmers loving their delicious chocolate cake and milk

Hannah watching "Dora Saves the Mermaids" for the 10 billionth time :) as I type up a new post

Hannah watching "Dora Saves the Mermaids" for the 10 billionth time :) as I type up a new post

One of the things we really love about The Creel, aside from it's amazing variety of food with great quality, is the atmosphere.  It is very relaxed and airy.  They have some normal tables with chairs,  and they also have some couches with coffee tables, which makes it a really great spot to just hang out.  Check it out if you are ever in the Westport area.

After a while, the laptop battery was totally drained, and the kids were stuffed with chocolate cake, so we packed up our bags and headed home.  I started working on dinner while Kian and Daddy started playing kickball.  Hannah was just walking around saying she wants strawberries, and she refused to believe me when I repeatedly answered we don't have any! 

She did eventually compromise and took a strawberry yogurt instead.

I joined the kickball game while dinner was cooking in the oven.  Hannah also joined the game after a while, but was having a hard time grasping the rules.  Kian was great at holding her hand and running her from base to base, and then acting as her shield if we tried to throw the ball at her in between bases :)

We all had a great time outside, and it was a bit after 8 PM when we came back inside and ate our dinner. Time flies when you are having fun :)

Baked marinated chicken thighs, baked potato, and a side salad

Baked marinated chicken thighs, baked potato, and a side salad

After dinner, the kids decided to make us bead bracelets to match theirs. 

Working hard at making bead bracelets

Working hard at making bead bracelets

We are now all in possession of matching bead bracelets. Hurray!

Day 35 - Laaaazy Sunday

We woke up to a gorgeous sky, and thought we would head out to either Old Head or one of the beaches near us.  We planned to avoid driving by Croagh Patrick (which is on the way to Westport) since it was Reek Sunday and lots of people would be coming to the mountain for the pilgrimage. Then I opened the door and realized...brrrr....it was really much cooler than it seemed from the inside. 

And that is how our barely any plans turned into no plans.

Gorgeous view of the sky and ocean from the kitchen door

Gorgeous view of the sky and ocean from the kitchen door

We lounged around the house for quite a while. I tried to upload a few pictures for the blog, which involves searching outside for a wifi signal from the main house, but the internet was not cooperating and so I abandoned that task to return to lounging about :)

We got a bit bored by early afternoon and went outside again. It was still chilly and windy, so my hubby's grand idea was to teach the kids how to drive a stick shift car : ) We have a huge "drive way", and there was no other car there, so they learned to start the car in the 1st gear, turn, and reverse a tiny bit.

Meanwhile, I was trying to check us in to our flight on Thursday.  The kids were having fun in the car, and I jumped out of my skin when Hannah honked the horn! :) 

We came back inside to continue the lazy theme.  I made some peppermint tea and cut up a fruit cake. Everyone had a snack, and we decided to have a family movie afternoon.

Afternoon snack

Afternoon snack

Toy Story 2 was the pick of the day.

Family movie afternoon - Toy Story 2

Family movie afternoon - Toy Story 2

I made a quick dinner (couldn't be too extravagant or it would ruin the lazy mode) as the movie was wrapping up. 

Penne pasta with sauce and garlic bread

Penne pasta with sauce and garlic bread

After dinner, everyone had enough cabin fever to get out and walk around the backyard for a bit. It was chilly, but the sun was casting some nice big shadows, so we started playing shadow tag and warmed up.

The kids had a blast being silly together and tackling each other.

Sibling love at its best :)

Sibling love at its best :)

Hannah, of course, had to say good night to Sam before we could come inside and get ready for bed.

Hannah and Sam

Hannah and Sam

Lazy Sundays are the best!

Day 34 - Little Friends & Persian Food

After breakfast, Hannah wanted to earn her keep and wash the dishes, and hey there is no reason to say no to a happy child who wants to wash the dishes (mostly utensils)!  Yes she got plenty wet, but she did actually wash the spoons and put them on the drying rack.

Hannah washing breakfast's dishes

Hannah washing breakfast's dishes

Our main plan for the day was to go back to Andrea and Mike's house and make a Persian dinner, khoresh bademjan (eggplant stew over rice) for everyone.  After a few around-the-house chores and preparing the eggplants in the oven, I put all the ingredients needed for our dinner in the car and we all headed to the Killeen playground for a bit before heading over to their house.

Once we got to their house, the two little girls went off to make trouble.  It's so cute how friendly they are.  Kian started playing with some of his toys, and Andrea and I started making dinner.

Ciara & Hannah giggling =D

Ciara & Hannah giggling =D

Ciara & Hannah drawing

Ciara & Hannah drawing

Kian was a little bored again, but honestly he was too busy earning tomatoes in Turbo on the iPad to even notice.

We were all busy chatting and cooking and chatting some more, and so we did not take too many pictures. 

We all ate dinner, had dessert, and chatted some more!

Eggplant stew & white rice

Eggplant stew & white rice

We ended up staying way past the kids' bedtime, but when you are in good company it's always hard to leave :)

Day 33 - The Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage

When we were first driving from Dublin to our farm house, we couldn't help but notice this very tall, perfectly cone shaped mountain about 15 minutes before arriving to Louisburgh.  We had asked the family who own the farm house what the name of the mountain was, and they told us that it is Croagh Patrick, a very famous mountain, and they explained some of the history.  This coming Sunday, the last sunday in July, is the annual Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage, in which over 25,000 pilgrims descend on the nearby town of Murrisk and climb to the top of of the mountain.  We've been wanting to climb the mountain since we first got here, but we didn't really want to do it when it's so busy, so we decided to hike the mountain today since the weather was nice and warm.  

For those wanting to know more about the history, as it's really rather interesting, here's an article from this months edition of "Ireland's Own" on the history and tradition of the Croagh Patrick pilgrimage.  

If you don't have time to read it, or find it hard to read from these pictures, here are some of the highlights:

  • The tradition of the pilgrimage stretches back over 5,000 years
  • It was on the summit of the mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days, and is where he is rumored to have driven out all the snakes in Ireland (though no snakes were ever known to exist in Ireland, and the story is believed to be related to Christianity driving out the pagans)
  • Over 25,000 pilgrims come to visit annually on the last Sunday in July.  Some venture up with bare feet, and traditionally they are supposed to start in the middle of the night..though both of these traditions are now recommended against for safety reasons
  • There is a modern chapel on the summit where mass is celebrated and confessions are held
  • There are said to be 365 small islands, one for every day of the year, in Clew Bay (which the mountain overlooks)

Today apparently is also a pretty popular day for climbing the mountain, according to the magazine it is known as "Garland Friday", and is when nearby residents typically do the pilgrimage.  I guess that makes sense for us, since we are officially nearby residents, at least for a little bit longer :)

We drove into town, parked at the local car park, and began our trip.  We were greeted early on by some signs explaining the pilgrimage and a statue of Saint Patrick.

With the mountain in the distance, we set off!

The hikers with Croagh Patrick towering above

The hikers with Croagh Patrick towering above

Even with pictures, it's hard to see how difficult of a hike this is. To get to the peak, you have to first climb a long, windy path all the way up a first mountain, before looping around and going the rest of the way up the main Croagh Patrick peak.  It is a very rocky and steep path in parts, and we witnessed quite a few spills.

Try to follow the dirt path and you can see the way up

Try to follow the dirt path and you can see the way up

The way up was a loooong process, especially with two little kids.  There were a lot of people on the path, going in both directions, which made the atmosphere fun and full of energy, but occasionally difficult to navigate.  

We were glad we packed our little first aid kit, not for our own family thankfully, but early on there was a woman who had fallen and cut open her knee, and we were able to provide Neosporin and bandaids to our fellow hiker. Thankfully that was the worst of the injuries we saw. 

On a side note, one of our new friends, Mike (Ciara's dad) is on the mountain rescue squad. They have to deal with a lot of injuries on the mountain, especially on the Sunday pilgrimage, and to get injured people down they either have to airlift them via helicopter (if the weather is good), or more likely (when the weather is bad) need to have about 6 to people carry them down on a stretcher.

As we continued our climb, we started to realize we were not going to make it all the way to the top.  Both kids were doing all their own walking, and they were getting very tired, especially Hannah.  We set a goal to make it to the top of the first mountain, where it flattens out before looping around and continuing to the main mountain.  At long last, we made it to our goal, and were rewarded with spectacular views of Clew Bay.  In all, it took about 2 hours, with multiple short rests and a small lunch break on the way.

As high as we made it.  Clew Bay is below, with some of the 365 islands visible.

As high as we made it.  Clew Bay is below, with some of the 365 islands visible.

The way down was much faster, but not much easier.  Since it was so rocky, it meant lots of slipping and sliding.  Most of the falls we witnessed were people on the way down, so we were being very careful.  We held both kids hands the whole way, and while Kian was able to keep his balance and had a lot of fun, Hannah was a bit wobbly and had to be carried in some parts.

At long last, we made it to the bottom.  The kids were great troopers and deserved a rest :)

Little hikers, big mountain

Little hikers, big mountain

And were well rewarded with ice cream from the welcome center!

Hannah finishing Kian's ice cream and her own

Hannah finishing Kian's ice cream and her own

After finishing the hike, we made our way over to Andrea's house for another playdate with Ciara and Roisin, and met their dad Mike.  They have a very nice house with lots of fun toys and a dog, including some of the same awesome Ikea toys our kids have, so the kids were all having a blast and didn't want to leave.  Hannah and Ciara were especially good together, and went off playing together like little girls do.  

Hannah and Ciara seemed offended to have their playtime intruded on with a picture

Hannah and Ciara seemed offended to have their playtime intruded on with a picture

We all had so much fun, we setup more plans with them for dinner tomorrow at their house! We're going to make Persian food, yum :)

After leaving, we went to a local restaurant in Louisburgh, called A. Gaffney.  This restaurant is owned by the family of the people we met at Carrowmore beach the other day, and so they had recommended it to us.  It was a nice restaurant with very yummy seafood, and was a great way to end this fun and action packed day.