Five years ago two culture-shocked 'kids' who didn't speak a word of Spanish walked into a Spanish school in Xela, Guatemala and were immediately approached by Ed, one half of Around the world in 2 years
(possibly drawn by a need for male comraderie as Al was the only other male at the school at the time). Irishman Ed and his German girlfriend Yvonne were great company during our time in Xela and then onwards through Honduras, Ecuador and Bolivia where we finally parted ways. We spent Christmas with them on Utila, did many of the afternoon activities with them in Xela, visited many an Irish pub and shared tips by email the whole of our travels.
We hadn't seen them since we went for sushi in La Paz ('sushi in La Paz?' you may ask, but it was actually pretty good despite being more than 3,000 metres above sea level in a landlocked country) so it was a treat getting invited to their wedding in Ireland and we were thrilled we were able to make it. It brought back all kinds of memories of fire works, mojitos, Irish pubs and visiting the infamous jail in La Paz (Moments of Insanity
) which they had set up for
us after having been the day before. All we had to do was pretend that one of the inmates was our cousin, give them what was a whole day's budget for us at the time and they let us in the prison...but that's a whole different story.
As we had a new car, and Al loves a bit of a roadtrip we decided we would drive to Ireland for a long weekend, and possibly fit in a little sightseeing around Ed and Yvonne's wedding which was just outside Dublin. When we made this plan we hadn't realised it would take us quite so long to drive to Ireland but off we headed after work on a Wednesday, driving to Holyhead in Wales (5 1/2 Hours) before getting the ferry across to Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary!) the following morning. After an easy 2hr voyage through the grey and mist we decided that prior to joining the bride in the evening we would visit Glendalough in Country Wicklow.
Despite being incredibly popular with visitors, Glendalough wasn't very busy and we spent a few hours walking around the Upper Lake. It was originally settled by St Kevin, a hermit priest
who built a monastery in the valley and there are ruins of the monastery and other sites dotted around Glendalough. The history of the area make it interesting but the reason for visiting is the scenery. The valley is complete with lakes, cliffs and waterfalls; and on driving out of Glendalough we drove through Wicklow National Park, and despite having some run-ins with some sheep on the road (according to a conversation at the wedding, Wicklow sheep are reknowned for their unpredictability) it was lovely countryside to drive around. From there we visited the Bog of Allen, more because of the name than our desire to see a bog before heading to Leixlip in preparation for the wedding the next day.
Later in the evening we met up with Yvonne, Ed's sister and Yvonne's family and friends for some drinks. The more sensible folk went to bed leaving Yvonne, Emer and the two of us. After having 'one more for the road' about 5 times we finally decided it would be a good idea to let the bride get some beauty sleep before her wedding.
Feeling a little tired ourselves, the next day we didn't do anything until
swapping hotels to the wedding venue which was just up the road from our current hotel. I had a bit of a 'wardrobe malfunction' in which my zip broke and I ended up having to wear a fairly casual dress that I had worn the whole day beforehand.
The wedding itself was a lovely affair, the Irish really know how to have a good time and to include everyone. And boy did they have a good time - we were early to bed at around 2pm and everyone else (bride and groom included) were up to the wee hours of the morning. The bride looked beautiful, the speeches were great (only Ed would bring up his new wife's WWII German/Japanese heritage during his wedding speech) as was the band and we had some great chats with many of the other guests during the evening. We'll definitely be back to visit Ed and Yvonne soon, but it was fantastic to be part of their big day!
The following morning we decided to drive across the country to Galway. On arrival we found a B&B and had a few hours sleep before we even tried to find out what Galway
The Upper Lake
had to offer. After the much needed sleep (we don't know how Ed and Yvonne were still standing) we walked through the streets, starting our exploration around Eyre Square and Shop Street, stopping and watching the many street performers. We had a nice meal in the centre, complete with Guinness and Baileys of course before watching a comedy gig. We had just happened to come across the comedian in the square and for €2.50 each it seemed like a good way to spend an evening. We saw the gig at the Roisin Dubh, which is well known for it's live music and gigs, and although the comedian wasn't amazing it was good to get involved in the Galway Arts Festival.
The next morning we got up bright and early ready to head west to see Connemara before visiting the Cliffs of Moher. This changed a little after Al's (yes, it was Al not I) mishap of putting petrol in our deisel car. So we had to wait for someone to come and remove the unleaded petrol before we could continue on our way. For this reason our visit to Connemara was very brief and we decided to see the
Cliffs of Moher before travelling back east before our lunchtime ferry the following day.
Connemara looked as if it would have been beautiful but our schedule didn't permit further exploration and we made our way south through some beautiful countryside, stone-walled fields, lush green grass and sheep, to the Cliffs of Moher. Despite the numbers of tourists the Cliffs are definitely worth a visit. Their scale isn't obvious in photos and there is nothing quite like standing on the edge looking over a 200m cliff and the waves hitting the shore far below.
We spent some time walking along the cliff tops trying not to be blown over the edge. Copying a large number of tourists, we climbed over the sign that said 'Danger' and walked along the cliff edge where you leave the majority of the other visitors behind and have a better view without the walls that impinge on them closer to the visitors centre.
From the cliffs we decided that we would head towards Limerick and see how far we managed to get. We ended up driving all the way to our ferry port Dun Laoghaire, with the idea of having an easier journey
back through Wales to London the following day.
We had one last dinner in Ireland by the harbour in Dun Laoghaire before taking the ferry back through the fog and driving the 5 hours to get us home ready and unwilling to go back to work the following day.
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