The last leg of our Europe trip in January was spent in Ireland. Brad and I stayed in the Temple Bar district. Our hotel was actually above an apparently very popular TGI Friday's, which I found hilarious. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed Dublin. The lively Temple Bar streets were entertaining on certain nights, as there was more than enough people watching to do. But overall, Dublin was uninspiring to me. Though I must admit that we didn't spend much time exploring the city - we mostly embarked on excursions to the countryside via Paddywagon Tours. The first of which was to the Ring of Kerry and Dingle. We awoke before dawn, navigated the now quiet streets in the early morning darkness, and waited at the meeting place to be picked up by our guide. Killarney National Park was our first stop. We had just twenty minutes to wander off the bus into the woods, but I was pleasantly delighted by what we discovered. The forest had a mystical feel to it. Everything, everything, everything was green. The trees were covered in vines and moss. Torc Waterfall reminded me a bit of the waterfalls that can be found back home, hiking through the White Mountains. I imagine it's the kind of place where fairytales are set. The only disappointment is that we did not have more time there.
We then moved on to Muckross House and gardens, a 19th century estate with an expanse of fields, gardens, and woods to explore. Red Deer tracks littered the sodden grounds.
Now, I've heard about the wild Irish sea, but never actually seen it. But finally getting to experience it in person, I understand where the reputation comes from. The beach in Dingle was raw, with far reaching waves on one side and dried winter brush on the other. The beach was sparsely populated, but a few surfers peppered the water here and there. It felt like a place where you go to wash yourself clean. Not necessarily in the ocean, but just by the very nature of the beach itself. A place that is so vast and grand that you can feel yourself taking a new kind of breath as you step out onto the sand. After a short twenty minutes, we hopped back onto the bus, drove along the Atlantic coast for a while, and then turned inland back towards Dublin.