On our last day in Ireland we started in Kinsale (at a reeeeally nice B&B), and made our way down the coast to Mizer point. It was beautiful but all of the little picturesque villages were closed as it was Sunday, so that was a little disappointing. We found “Dec’s diner” in Skibbereen. The train museum in Skibbereen was open, but not as cool as it sounded. We saw a random sign for an “open farm” so we followed it off the main road, on a crazy little dirt road to a cute little farm. They charged us a small fee and we got to see all their animals including a brand spanking new baby lamb, adorable goats, ducklings being raised by a chicken who hatched them and we even sampled “goat ice cream”, which was much better than any other goat product I have sampled. We drove out to Mizer point to see the view and then almost ran out of gas as we headed back for the airport to fly on out.
Overall we LOVED Ireland. The people were incredibly nice (the first B&B we stayed at, the lady gave Jonah a birthday card with 10 Euro in it because we had said he was almost 4! Crazy!), the country was beautiful. If we could do it again I would drive less (stay in one area, like just the Connemara or Kerry or Kinsale area) and try to interact with more locals.
I am sure most of you have heard of the grand tourist attraction: the Blarney castle, and it’s famous stone that everyone must kiss in order to gain the gift of gab. What I didn’t realize about the blarney stone though is that it is really high up. For some reason I always thought it was at the base of the castle, close to the ground. BUt it’s a ways up there and you have to hang your body out there to kiss it. Granted, it’s pretty safe these days with all the iron bars and the grumpy old man that holds on to you.
The Rock of Cashel was Nick’s favorite stop on our trip. The oldest part of the castle isa tower built in 1100, un-mortared stones placed perfectly together like a puzzle. This castle is on a hill that can see far and wide in all directions and was easy to defend.
Ah, the beautiful cliffs of Moher. The subject of my nightmares ever since I booked tickets to Ireland. So many people have died at the cliffs, falling or jumping off. I had nightmares of Jonah running right off. When we arrived at the cliffs you better believe Jonah was not EVER at ANY moment without a hand wrapped tightly around his wrist. There is a visitor center and a nice big wall along the main part of the cliffs, but I was still very vigilant to keep a hand on him. So much so that his little hand was turning white and almost purple at times, lol. Did I mention how much the cliffs terrify me??? It is always really windy at the cliffs (which is sometimes how people fall off), but they day we were there they had just had gail storm winds the night before, so it was really really windy. But they were beautiful!
When we arrived back at our B&B for the night, our hostess (who we had gotten off to a bad start with, by forgetting to mention CHILDREN in our reservation, ooops) warmed up a bit and told us a story about the cliffs…and her son, when he was about 10…FALLING OFF THE CLIFFS!!!!!!! He was one of very few people who have survived a fall. He landed on a ledge a ways down and they were able to rescue him by helicopter. She said when she first saw his body she just thought he was going to be brain dead. But he woke up and said something intelligible to her and then went into a coma for several months. But because he had woken up and spoken to her, she knew he would be alright. Crazy! I think I would have moved somewhere far away from those dang cliffs.
Four and a half days in Paris just isn’t enough. You could spend a lot longer than that and still have things left to do!
For our last day we decided to pop in to the Orsay museum (we had heard it was better than the Louvre…I’d say they are about on par). Lot’s of famous impressionist artwork in a big old train station.
The food in Paris was wonderful. Very expensive, but oh so good. We loved stopping in to every little bakery and pastry shop and trying lot’s of different cheeses. Nick and I both fell in love with Macarons and had to eat them multiple times. Oh and the baguettes and all the random cheeses…so much good food.
Below is a photo from the inside of the Saint Chappele. It was built to house what is thought to be Christ’s actual crown of thorns. It is a very small church made almost completely of stained glass. The glass tells the story of Christ’s life. The window right over the alter depicts the story of the crown of thorns. This picture just cannot do justice to the way the sunlight came through those windows…
Amd what trip to Paris would be complete without a trip up the Montemarte hill to see the church (or mostly the view of all of Paris from the church) and catch a show at the Moulin Rouge (kidding, we just walked by, lol).
Budapest has this really random claim to fame that I never would have guessed. They have the oldest metro on the European continent (the only one older is in London). It is so old that it was originally horse and carts that would go through the tunnels. The trains that run on this line must be the original trains or close to it, they are super retro. And they sing a little diddy at each stop which is fun.
We have been trying to do more for Jonah on our trips so in Budapest we went to the circus. They spoke in Hungarian but we got the jist.
Langos are a delicacy in Budapest…basically the most fatty thing you can eat. Fry bread with sour cream, garlic and cheese. It was tasty but a bit much.
We have found lot’s of fancy buildings around Europe that were built for various world fairs. The one in the photo above is an example. Below is a statue of “anonymous” who wrote Hungary’s history down.
Szechenyi bath house. The number one thing to do in Budapest according to all the guidebooks is take a dip at one of their many Turkish style baths. (Pretty much a hot springs spa).
(Above) Old abandonned Parisian style “mall” with original wood and glass in it, super pretty and neat old phone booths. (Below) Market hall place similar to the Boqueria in Barcelona.
Cool church (above). Fisherman’s bastion (below) apparently this is where they used to sell fish. Not sure why it’s such a cool looking building just for fish….
We found super cheap tickets to fly to Budapest (gotta love Ryanair). So we decided to check it out over a weekend. Hungary is more of an Eastern European country, but they have tried very hard to be more western, so it’s a good mix of both really. The country was occupied by Nazi Germany for a little while until the Soviets came in and “liberated” them. They have several monuments to the Soviets, but it didn’t take long to realize that the soviet reign was not so good either. The monuments are still there, and are controversial, it’s very interesting to think about.
Above, a monument to the soviet liberators. Below, the opera house, their attempt to be more westernized. They wanted one just like the one in Austria.
Montenegro is not a country I have ever even heard of, but it was our last stop on our cruise. The medieval town of Kotor.
There is a castle up on the hill that we decided to hike to. It was so hot outside and the hike was much harder than we anticipated, by the time we made it to the top we were soaking wet (sweat), but the view was of course amazing. (This is the view of the castle from the town, see it up on the right?)
And we found a cute little church behind the castle.
Overall we very much enjoyed our cruise. We had dinner each night with another military family stationed up in Germany. The food was plentiful on the ship, there were lot’s of activities and entertainment including a pool, we had a great time. After a week of being on the ship though, we were ready to be home.
I was super excited for our stop in Athens, Greece. But it turned out to be super disappointing. We had about four hours at each port and for Athens, that just was not long enough. It is a huge city and it took up half our time just getting around. We decided to try out the hop on hop off bus. We rode it to the Acropolis, wandered around there and then had just enough time to hop back on the bus and finish the loop back to the port without getting off again.
The Acropolis was pretty amazing though. I wish it wasn’t missing so many pieces from all the looters and raiders, but it’s amazing how much is still left really, considering how old it is. So much stinking history…I need to do some research so that I know more about it. Lot’s of stories started here.