What two kids from the pacific northwest learned from the Emerald Isle.

Ever since we’ve been home, I’ve been trying to think of a way to condense three months of life changing events and experiences into one simple blog post. The post needed to convey how much we have learned, how we have changed, how we have come to feel about the country that we called home for a few months, and how touched we are by our Irish hosts who brought us into their homes and their lives.

I’ve decided that’s impossible. After a few weeks now of regaling people with stories from our trip, some touching, some hilarious, some stressful, I’ve realized that no matter how many stories we tell or how in-depth we get, the experiences we had are our own and we will never be able to fully explain to others how the trip has changed us. And that’s just fine. We know we’ve changed for the better, from our outlook on organics and sustainability to simply understanding that each person lives their lives in very different ways. Our goals for this life have evolved and changed all together and we are both on a more direct path to happiness than I think we could have ever hoped for.

Jacob and I will never forget the people we’ve met; the late night conversations with strangers in pubs; the long windy walks along the coastline; riding bikes past farm, after farm, after farm; the awkward smiles and head nods to the more heavily accented Irish when we had absolutely no idea what they were talking about; Irish cheese; drinking tea with the smell of peat in the air; the indulgence that is double cream; hot Irish scones. The list really goes on and on.

I don’t know if Jacob and I will ever have the chance to take three months from our busy lives here in the U.S. to go live in another country and experience a completely different life again. It truly was a once in a life-time experience and while not every minute was peaches and cream, we wouldn’t change it for the world.

I guess simply put, from now on, whenever we hear the occasional Irish accent, whether in a movie or on the street, I know we’ll both pause for a moment and transport ourselves back to that beautiful Emerald Isle.

We hope you’ve enjoyed following our adventures and we appreciate all of your support along the way. Goodbye until our next adventure, hopefully it’s not too long.

Madeline and Jacob

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Almost There


I had a bit of a shock just a minute ago when I realized this will be the second to last blog post about our journey. It’s funny, we’ve been home about a week now but having the blog end makes the whole trip ending seem more real. But before signing off with our final thoughts of this whole experience, here is just a bit about the last few stops of our trip: Kilkenny, Donegal, and Kinsale.

Donegal was a lovely little town with some great shops and a great castle that we toured:

Donegal Castle: 

I thought these two models of how Donegal Castle has changed over the centuries were really interesting and show how the focus shifted from security to comfort: 

Kilkenny was another medieval village with a lot of character. It also had another great castle.

Kilkenny Castle: 

The grounds of the castle are now a great park. There’s also a small little cemetery and right outside of the cemetery fence was this little marker:

We continued from Kilkenny to Kinsale which is a small coastal village. It’s known as the gourmet food center of Ireland.We stayed at this great B&B called Tierney’s Guesthouse. Our room was the window right in the center:

Like many Irish towns, Kinsale has medieval roots and you can still see that in it’s tiny narrow streets.

We decided to go on a walk to this big fort…. we never made it but we did see some fun things along the way: 

Low tide: 

Well, that brings us almost to the end… check back soon for our final goodbyes.

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Being Dubliners

Jacob and I have officially landed back in the U.S. of A. and are enjoying every minute of catching up with friends and family and taking in the salty Pacific Ocean air. Unfortunately, I was a slacker and still have a few blogs left to document the end of our travels. As great as it was to sip a Guinness and work on blogs in pubs, it feels just as good to be sipping on a nice hot latte at 14th Street Coffee in Astoria reminiscing about our travels.

After leaving Blacksod, Jacob and I circled around the Republic of Ireland, heading North to Donegal, East to Dublin, South to Kilkenny, West to Kinsale and then finally back North a bit to Cork where we finally flew out for home. I’ve decided to skip Donegal for now and jump to our three days in Dublin. I enjoyed Dublin much more than I expected actually. It’s a lively city with lots to see and things do to. The museums are incredible and many of them are totally free which was great for us on a budget. The city has a great blend of modern spice mixed with intriguing history and traditional culture. Plus, there are some great places to eat.

So finally, here are some photos of us trying to be “Dubliners.” (Note: I actually did read Joyce’s  “Dubliners” while on our travels… but I’m pretty sure 95 percent of it went over my head).  Don’t worry, we’re almost to the end people!

One of my favorite stops in Dublin was at the Natural History Museum. It was like stepping back in time to when stuffing animals for science was the norm. It was awesome!  They had every kind of animal you could imagine in there, even some that are now extinct, and many of them had been stuffed or preserved over 100 years ago! The museum has changed little since it opened in the mid-1800s and that’s what makes it so unique.

Pretty different looking razor clams than the kind we have here in the PNW.

And just a friendly reminder that slugs live basically everywhere:

Jacob gawking at the extinct Giant Irish Deer: 

We took a short break from dead things to walk around the campus of Trinity College, one of the most prestigious colleges in Ireland.

Now back to more dead things… One of my “must do’s” while in Ireland was to go see some bog bodies at the National History Museum. Basically bog bodies are human bodies that have been preserved in bogs for thousands of years. Bogs are really unique systems and are great at preserving things… like bog butter! The bog bodies turned out to be even cooler and stranger than expected. They look like weird art projects and the hair is so well preserved on some of them that it looks like a wig.

We took another break from dead things to check out the Guinness Brewery. Definitely one of the more touristy things we did on the trip but still a lot of fun. After walking through a long exhibit about the history of Guinness and the tricks to making the famous stout, you end up in the Gravity Bar that has 360 degree views of the city to gawk at while you drink a pint of… you guessed it, Guinness. 

After our pints we headed to the Ireland Film Center to catch the French film “Nobody Else But You” that was a part of their French Film Festival. It was great and I would highly recommend it!

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The final installment of the Blacksod blogs

This is the final post of our stay at Blacksod. I said I had taken a lot of photos in our two weeks stay… I wasn’t lying. Jacob and I have just three days left on our three month journey. We are in lovely Kinsale at the moment and will be headed to Cork tomorrow.

Anyway, while at Leim Siar B&B Hannah was lovely enough to teach me how to make traditional Irish brown bread and Irish scones. For those of you who know me know that I am an avid baker. These two great treats are definitely being added to my repertoire:

I’ve mentioned before that Jacob and went on many walks while there. Here are some photos of a walk we took out to this lovely beach: 

I found this perfectly white stone which Jacob thought looked like a kidney. Here he is demonstrating: 

These little sandpipers were so fun to watch. I love how they scurry towards and away from the waves as fast as possible to feed:

Jacob with some smelly kelp: 

There was great surf out in the area. Poor Jacob just had to admire the waves though…

On another walk, Jacob and I went out to this holy well: 

On our last day when Hannah was taking us to the bus stop, we made some quick last minute photo stops to capture just a few more lovely scenes of Belmullet Peninsula: 

Thanks again to our hosts Hannah and Gerry. While it wasn’t a planned stop on our trip, we are so glad that we were able to spend some time in the lovely area you call home. We will definitely be back one day to explore again.

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Blacksod Part II

As promised, here is Blacksod part II. We went out to Blacksod a few weeks back to help tend the garden and polytunnel at Leim Siar B&B. Jacob and I whipped the garden into shape and got it ready for winter. Here are a few before pictures of the tunnel:

And the after shots once we tidied up and did some serious pruning on the tomatoes. Even though it was already mid-November, we decided to prune the tomatoes anyway rather than rip them out to see if we could get the green ones to ripen, and sure enough, a number of them had started to turn red a few days before we left:

I didn’t get the before pics, but here’s one of the nicely weeded garden with a few remaining carrots and parsnips:

Our host Hannah had been working on a school paper about the lumper potato, which was the main strain of potato back during the potato famine. Here’s an example of the lumper:

The area around where we were living was completely gorgeous. Jacob and I took many walks in the evening to explore the area:

There was a graveyard close by. Part of it is newer while the other part on the hill is very old and is set around the ruins of an old church from the 15th century: 

As I’ve said before, the graveyards in Ireland fascinate me. I love exploring and photographing them. 

Jacob and I now have just 6 days left on our journey. I think there is about one more Blacksod post coming up and then Donegal and Dublin. It’s going to be a feat to get all of this posted before we land back in the U.S. Stay tuned!

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Blacksod part one

Jacob and I had the pleasure of spending the past few weeks in one of the prettiest areas of ireland we’ve seen thus far. We’ve been living and working in the garden at Leim Siar bed and breakfast which is located in Blacksod on the Belmullet Peninsula in County Mayo. If you google map it, you will see that it is more of an island than a peninsula and it juts out of the west side of Ireland. Because you’re basically as far West as you can get in Ireland, people say “Next stop, America!”

While this area is pretty darn rural, it is extremely rich in history and Irish culture, as well as beautiful beaches and scenery. The area is an Irish speaking area which means most road signage is in Irish and many people speak Irish on a daily basis. Our host Hannah tried to teach Jacob and I a little, which I absolutely loved. While I won’t be having a conversation in Irish any time soon, I can say the important things like, “Thank you”, “Good morning”, “Goodnight”, “Cup of tea with milk”, “Cheers” and the most important of all, “butter.”

Even though we were pretty far out there without a car, Hannah showed us around quite a bit and we’re so thankful to her for that and introducing us to some of the great locals in the area. One of the things we loved most about our short stay in Blacksod was all of the great people we got to meet.

I took A LOT of photos during our two weeks out there so I’m going to break up the Blacksod photos into a few different blogs:

Out at the tip of the peninsula there is a lighthouse. An interesting factoid is that the weather forecast that put D-Day into motion was actually sent from Blacksod Bay. 

During one walk to a nearby beach, Jacob and I met a puppy friend who ended up being a nearby neighbor’s dog. 

Up the road from the b&B, at the top of a hill, there is a stone circle sculpture. While it’s not a “real” stone circle, it’s still pretty cool and the view from up there is gorgeous. You can see the ocean on three sides.

Jacob working on his breakdancing moves: 

A good pile of legendary Irish turf: 

In Belmullet Town, about 30 minutes from the b&b, there is a great pub called McDonnell’s. The owner was incredibly kind to Jacob and I and we always found some interesting people to talk to every time we went in. There is a great collection of photos on the walls and I managed to snag a picture of this one. There are some definite personalities captured in these snapshots:

Jacob enjoying the roaring open coal fire. You can’t get much cozier than that:

A few more photos of the beautiful scenery:

Jacob and I are on our last 9 days of travel before flying back home. We’ve been in Donegal the last few nights and are heading to the big city of Dublin today! I will posting more frequently these last few days to try and get everything posted before the end of our trip.

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On the road again

This posting of this particular blog is especially appropriate… I’m currently sitting in an Irish pub in the small town of Belmullet in County Mayo watching the big football (soccer) match of the Republic of Ireland vs. Estonia… all while drinking a nice pint of Smithwick’s, an Irish Ale. Pretty dang appropriate if you ask me.

Anyway, the area we are currently living is extremely gorgeous. I’ve taken many photos of our walks to nearby beaches and graveyards over the past week and will be posting those soon. First however, I have a few photos of our quick 24 hour stop in Sligo Town. We left Bantry in the morning and took a bus to Galway where we spent the night and left the next afternoon for Sligo Town.

A statue in Bantry: 

Even the Irish have jumped on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy Galway:

This hilarious street musician we’ve seen every time we’ve been in Galway… he always has different cutouts: 

In Sligo Town we stayed in this swank place where we got a great deal on a room called the Glasshouse. We had an incredible view of the river that runs through town: 

We spent the next day walking around town and seeing the sites. Sligo Town is fairly small but has some great cathedrals and old sites to see: 

Coming up next will be photos of Leim Siar B&B we are currently living at and the garden we are tending. We only have about two weeks left in our trip before we head state side but there is still so much more to share!

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