Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Shop Small

November 30th is Small Business Saturday

Shop Small and support small businesses. ⁣

I’m running sales this week in all of my stores ranging from 10%-60% off & free shipping.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Travel Sketchbook

I've been to Lovely Ireland six times and I've written quite a lot about my trips. So I thought I'd do something different this time and I'd share my travel sketchbook from my most recent trip this past summer. I made the sketch above while on the plane. It is a fairly accurate map of Ireland. Well, at least it is according to me!

This sketch is of Hook Head, the oldest operational lighthouse in the world. You can learn more about the Hook Lighthouse in my post, Wexford, Ireland.

I ran out of black paint while trying to sketch the Doolin Cave so I had to improvise with some colored pencils. The drawing on the left is of my husband standing in the tunnel to the cave wearing his hardhat. The drawing on the right is illustrating my little self pointing at the Great Stalactite. To read more about the Doolin Cave click here: Doolin Cave.

This is a quick little sketch of the Cliffs of Moher but no painting, photos, or videos could ever do it justice. It really needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Click here to find out more: Cliffs of Moher.

And last but not least, an experience I will never forget. This is my depiction of the very turbulent and nauseating boat ride to the Aran Islands. You can read all about it here: Aran Islands.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Aran Islands

The Aran Islands are a group of islands with a population of just 1,200 people located off the west coast of Ireland. There are 3 islands named Inishmore (Inis Mór), Inishmaan (Inis Meáin), and Inisheer (Inis Oírr).

My husband grew up in Ireland but had never been to the Aran Islands. It was a place that he talked about visiting for a long time. He spoke about it as being authentically Irish because of its culture and because it's part of the Gaeltacht. The Gaeltacht refers to the regions in Ireland where the Irish language is the primary language spoken.

View of Cliffs of Moher from the Doolin ferry port

To get to the Aran Islands you have to book a ferry from Doolin or Galway. We watched the weather reports daily and booked our ferry for the only day that week when rain was not expected. We paid a little bit extra for the combo trip which would take us to Inishmore and then around the Cliffs of Moher on the return trip. We couldn't have asked for better weather as we had nothing but rain, wind, and fog all week. There was a beautiful clear view of the Cliffs of Moher from the ferry port. It was a great day for a boat trip. I love boat trips and I was excited.

Doolin Ferry

The brochure showed luxurious looking boats that looked like miniature cruise ships. Most of the tourists going to the Aran Islands via the Doolin Ferry that morning got on those boats. For some reason, a small group of us were told to wait in line for a different boat. The wind picked up and the sea looked very rough. My husband and I started to get very nervous when the boat that showed up to transport us to the Aran Islands looked like an old fishing trawler. He kept saying that our boat did not look like the boat in the brochure but assured me that it would only be a 20-minute trip. 

Our ride to the Aran Islands

Once we took off, the boat began violently rocking side to side and bobbing up and down. We were sitting inside and it soon got very hot. Within 15-minutes of leaving, a little girl got sick and we were all trapped inside with the heat and the smell and the violent rocking. All 75 passengers began to simultaneously get sick. Everyone ran for the sick bags and the outer deck.
It was a nightmare. 

A travel sketch that I made depicting our experience

I kept telling myself that it would be over in 20 minutes. Except it wasn't. The trip lasted over an hour. We all crowded onto the bow of the boat for fresh air so by the time we arrived in Inishmore everyone was soaking wet, shivering, and nauseous. 

Horse and buggy

There are a few transportation options for exploring the island. You can rent a bike which at that particular time was out of the question since we were still feeling very ill. You can also take a horse and buggy tour but sitting at the back-end of a horse was also not appealing after what we had just endured. There were also a few vans driving around that offered rides for a fare. 

Before we decided on moving again, we found a café where we could sit, drink tea, and warm up on the solid ground. The family with the little girl that started the vomit-palooza on the boat were seated next to us at the café. They were all still feeling sick except, of course, for the little girl who was now in a happy mood. 

Before we could decide on what to do for the rest of the day, my husband had to call the office at the ferry port. While on the boat he realized that he forgot to buy a parking ticket for the car and that we'd return to Doolin to most likely find our rental car had been towed. The woman in the office spoke to the Harbor Master who located our car and paid for a parking ticket for us. We couldn't believe how nice they were. The day was starting to look better. 

Most of the passengers from the fancy-looking cruise ships seemed to be completely fine and immediately took off on their rented bikes. We took our time recuperating and walked around visiting the local shops. Inishmore is the largest of the three islands but being that the island is only 12 square miles and home to about 800 people, there is only a need for a few shops. One of them includes Aran Sweater Market, home of the world-famous Aran sweater. There is also only one grocery store on Inishmore. We went there in search of Dramamine or any kind of seasickness medication only to discover that there is nowhere on the island that sells it. The only things we could find to help with nausea were ginger beer and some candied ginger. We had only arrived and I was already dreading the trip home.

When we finally started to feel a little better we decided to rent bikes and ride around the island. The island is very hilly but the bikes were hybrids and very easy to ride. 

We rode up and down rolling green hills. 

We saw many stone walls, 
the remains of old churches and houses,

gravestones, and ancient Celtic cemeteries.

We were surrounded by views of wild landscapes

and the ocean.

The island also had beaches

and many thatched cottages.

It's no wonder Inishmore is famous for its Irish culture.

From this vantage point, we could see the other islands.

When we finally made it to the other side of the island, we found out why the other passengers rushed off their boats to rent bikes. If we wanted to climb up to Dún Aonghasa, we wouldn't make it back in time to catch the ferry back to Doolin. Dún Aonghasa is a prehistoric fort that archaeologists believe was built sometime around 1100 BC. The 14-acre site sits on a 300-foot cliff which has spectacular views, or so I'm told. The climb up to the fort was packed with people. It would've taken at least an hour to climb up, tour the site, and climb back down. We were so disappointed when we realized we had only one hour left to cycle back to the ferry.

View of the Cliffs of Moher from the ferry

If you want to take a trip to the Aran Islands, my advice would be to spend a little extra money on the combo trip to see the Cliffs of Moher on the return trip to Doolin. The downside of this is that you have to go on the little fishing trawler packed with seasick passengers. However, if you take medication for seasickness beforehand and start cycling to the other side of the island as soon as you get off the boat then you should have plenty of time to make it up to Dún Aonghasa.

View of the Cliffs of Moher from the ferry

We were put back on the dreaded fishing trawler for the trip home but we made a short stop at one of the other islands to switch to the more luxurious boat before heading to the cliffs. 

View of the Cliffs of Moher from the ferry

We had a much smoother and more comfortable ride on the new boat and not one person got sick! We had visited the Cliffs of Moher the day before (read my post: Cliffs of Moher) and while the views are sensational from both vantage points, we were able to see far more of the cliffs from the perspective of the ocean. I don't know if it was worth turning green on a boat for the first time in my life or having to miss experiencing Dún Aonghasa but if you take my advice and plan accordingly then the combo trip will definitely be worth the extra money.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Cliffs of Moher

This was my sixth trip to Ireland but my first time visiting County Clare. I've been all over the world and I can safely say that the west coast of Ireland is one of the most jaw-dropping parts of the planet that I've seen. It's rough and rugged while being stunningly beautiful at the same time.

We stayed in the quaint little seaside town of Lahinch. While the town might be tiny, its reputation is huge. 

Lahinch Golf Club
The Lahinch Golf Club is a links golf course. It was rated one of the finest golf courses in Ireland and is one of the top 100 courses in Britain and Ireland. It recently hosted the Dubai Irish Open 2019.

Lahinch Surf School

Lahinch is also known as the surfing capital of Ireland. Aileen's is a wave located at the base of the Cliffs of Moher that draws world-class surfers.
Dozens of surfers try to catch the last waves of the day

In certain conditions, the wave can reach 60 feet and has been compared to some of the biggest waves in the world such as Jaws in my former home of Maui.

Surfers Only
Aileen's has been featured in the movies Sea Fever and Wave Riders.

Lahinch and the Cliffs of Moher are located on The Wild Atlantic Way, a tourism trail that spans the west coast of Ireland, and parts of the north and south coasts.

The 1,700-mile (2,700-km) driving route is the largest coastal tourist route in the world, passing through 9 counties and 3 provinces.

It starts in County Donegal on the Inishowen peninsula and ends in Kinsale, County Cork.

The Cliffs of Moher are just a short 15-minute drive from Lahinch. This worked out very well for us because we had all-day rain and fog that resulted in zero visibility. Once the skies cleared, we were able to jump in the car and see the cliffs before it got dark. 

The Cliffs are in the UNESCO Global Geopark; a special region with outstanding geology. They are also part of The Burren, which I wrote about in a previous post on the Doolin Cave. To recap, The Burren is a region of geological interest primarily located in Co. Clare. The landscape is dominated by limestone karsts with underground drainage systems that form caves. The word Burren or Boireann in Irish means, "great rock." 

The Cliffs of Moher's highest point is 702 feet (214 meters) and they span 5 miles (8 kilometers).

O'Brien's Tower
O'Brien's Tower was built in 1835 by Cornelius O'Brien as a viewing point for tourists. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower and on a clear day, enjoy views of 5 counties.

The Cliffs of Moher is also a Special Protected Area under the EU Birds Directive of 1979. It is home to Ireland's largest mainland seabird nesting colony including Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Coughs, Peregrine Falcons and more. Other wildlife you may see are cows, wild goats, dolphins, seals, shark, and whales.

The eco-friendly visitor center, with its grass roof, is set into the hillside so as to not detract from the natural beauty of this scenic location. This cave-like structure reminded me of Hobbiton from the book, The Hobbit.

The visitor center is 2 floors and houses 2 cafés, 2 gift shops, restrooms, a first aid room, baggage store, reception area & ticketing desks, an ATM, accommodation booking & information points, and a museum.

The Cliffs Exhibition is located on the ground floor of the visitor center and is fully wheelchair accessible. 

It tells the story of the Cliffs of Moher through the themes of ocean, rock, nature, and man.

There is a theater that plays a short movie called the "Ledge Experience" which through the use of 3 large angled screens, gives you a birds-eye view of the cliffs. I didn't feel like sitting down to watch a movie but my husband dragged me into the theater and I wound up loving it! There is also another 10-minute movie called "The Clare Journey" located in the center of the main exhibition space.

Unfortunately, some of the high-tech interactives were not working. For example, in one area visitors can select a photo of the cliffs as a backdrop and then have their picture taken to create a digital postcard to email to a friend. None of the touch screens were working and the camera wasn't working either. Sometimes, high-tech means high maintenance and I always find it very disappointing when technology doesn't work.

There were also some cute interactives for children. Since the adult interactives weren't working, we played with the kids' exhibits instead and learned about the birdlife in the area.

You can't go wrong with a good old-fashioned tangible museum display. It's always good to have a mix of high-tech and low-tech so that there's a back-up when something breaks. 

The exhibition is self-guided and takes between 25-45 minutes. The museum and entire visitor center are included with your admission fee to The Cliffs.

If you are planning a trip to the west of Ireland then the Cliffs of Moher should be #1 on your list. 
It is a phenomenal experience that should not be missed.