I am under a spell.
An Irish spell.
For those of you who don’t know, on my Papa’s (grandfather) side, my family is from Ireland. Everyone in the family has some hardcore Irish features, both in looks and personality. I somewhat recently did the Ancestry DNA test and it came back as me being 29% Irish/Scottish/Welsh. To be honest, I was surprised the number was not higher! It also estimated that my ancestors are from the Connacht area.
Anyhoo, that side of my family has been discussing a huge trip to Ireland since I was in middle school, possibly before that. It took long enough, but the decision was made to go on the trip.
At first, we weren’t sure if I was going to be able to go. It really wasn’t that big of a deal because I knew that one day, I would make it over to the Emerald Isle. About one year before the trip, I started looking at airline flights and decided to go for it. How cool would it be for us as a family to go on this trip? By us, I mean my mom, step-dad, brother, Papa, aunt, uncle, and cousin.
In January, I cashed in my American Airlines miles and got business class tickets to and from Dublin. The best part about all of this? We decided to not tell Papa that I was going.
I won’t lie, it has been the longest six months of my life not telling him. It is so hard to keep secrets from the man who keeps our family so close!
Finally the day came and I made the long trek over to Dublin. Nobody had spilled the beans so I successfully pulled off the surprise by walking up to my Papa in the airport and asking, “What are you doing here?!”
The look on his face was priceless. He immediately gave me a hug and we set off to get the rental car, which ended up being a van that we named The Marshmallow.
My step-dad was the pilot of The Marshmallow and after a few wrong turns in Dublin, we set off to Portumna, which is where we were staying. Portumna is an adorable town with a lot of history, pubs, churches, a castle, and even a lake.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous! It was in the sixties (Fahrenheit) for the entire week and it rained nearly every day. It was a cool rain that didn’t last long and it made everything smell good and the green just stuck out even more. I actually posted on my Instagram story about it raining during the night and how much I loved hearing the rain on the roof. One of my Instagram followers whom I believe lives in Ireland responded to it and said, “welcome to the Irish summer!” If this happens all summer, then I would like to live here, please.
Our first full day was spent hanging out around Portumna. We saw the castle and spent a lot of our time there. The castle was gorgeous and is still being renovated and worked on. It was actually destroyed by a fire! The castle also had a huge garden with so many different types of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Also on the castle grounds was a cafe where I had the best chai tea I have ever tasted.
Portumna Castle and Grounds
That night, the adults minus Papa went to a local pub where we had seen a sign for live music. My mom REALLY wanted to sit at a pub, drink Irish drinks, and listen to traditional music. Unfortunately, the live music was not there during the time we were there but we still had our drinks! I drank a Guinness and it is true what they say, it is much better over there than in the States.
My uncle decided to embarrass us by trying to grab his Guinness from the bar before it was ready. Pouring Guinness is like a science, which I will cover in the next post because I learned how to pour it while I was in Dublin! Anyways, he had the entire pub laughing at him. I honestly thought the bartender was going to smack him!
The next day, we did something that I have been dying to do since I learned about it.
First, I have a question. Do I seem more eloquent? That is probably impossible to answer given this is my first post in over a week but what I did was supposed to give me the gift of eloquence.
THAT’S RIGHT PEOPLE, I KISSED THE BLARNEY STONE!
Blarney Castle also has a lot more going on than just hiking up to the stone and kissing it. There are tons of gardens and nature trails plus anyone over the age of eight can tour the Blarney House. You will notice that I did not get any photos inside of the house. This is because people still live in it! Naturally, they ask that we do not take photos of the inside of their home.
The house is quite old however it was gorgeous on the inside. Our tour guide provided so much interesting history about the area, the people who built the castle and the house, and the house itself. Other than kissing the stone, the house tour was my favorite thing from that day.
After the house tour, we went into the castle and climbed the stairs to the top to kiss the stone. Those stairs were honestly a little scary at some points! We were also on a spiral staircase for God knows how long and I wish I could have taken a decent photo of it because it was crazy.
The views from the top of the castle were stunning. It truly is no wonder why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. I don’t think I have ever seen so much green and I lived in Northern California during my childhood (like the mountains, not the valley).
After kissing the Blarney Stone, we were getting pretty hungry and grumpy. My mom and I had one more mission to accomplish. In one of the gardens on the grounds, the Poison Garden, there were a couple of plants from Harry Potter. We are both huge Harry Potter nerds so we absolutely had to find the Wolfsbane and Mandrake. Thankfully we did!
The Blarney Castle, House, and Gardens
The following day, we spent forever in the car and went to Connemara National Park. It was definitely beautiful but due to a few restrictions, our group could not do any of the hikes so we felt as if that was a wasted trip. At least my brother and cousin enjoyed the playground!
Thankfully, on the way to the park, we spotted the Kylemore Abbey. We decided to go back there and I am thankful that we did because it was absolutely stunning! It was on the edge of a lake and we got to go inside to learn more about it. The abbey used to be a school but after awhile, it shut down (I believe it was mainly because of a fire). Now the nuns at the abbey make chocolate and body care products! Let me tell you, the chocolate was amazing.
The grounds was full of history and there was even a small cathedral there. There was a graveyard next to the cathedral with some of the headstones being from the 1800s and the most recent one being from 2013!
My mom said on the way back to Portumna that something about that place felt absolutely magical and I would have to agree with her on that one.
Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey
All of the photos in this post are just a fraction of the photos that I took. I posted a lot of photos on my Instagram, too, especially while I was there!
I am sure that by now, you can see why I have fallen in love with Ireland. I never found a single thing that I disliked there.
The magic will continue in the next post, part two, because I cannot simply fit all of my experiences into a single post!
Stay tuned for more.