Wow. It's been over a month since I've returned to the states, and I've yet to update (and complete) my travel blog. My apologies.
I spent the last week of my adventures in Ireland with my nephew Ben. It was amazing and so incredibly fun. I knew it was going to be a good week as soon as I stepped off the bus from the airport. With a map in my hand, I was trying--unsuccessfully--to find my hostel when an Irish guy (Declan) came up to me and asked, "Do you know where we are?" I replied, "No idea," to which Declan said, "I didn't think you did. Let's go to this pub over here and look at your map together. I'll buy you a pint." AWESOME! Declan was the man. He bought me some Guinness (so much better in Ireland), and he gave me some suggestions for my week in the country.
The next day, I met up with Ben at the airport, and we toured Dublin for a bit, which included the Guinness Factory. Dublin was definitely fun, but Ben and I were really excited to see the rest of the country, so we rented a car for five days, which was a blast. Ben is too young to drive in Ireland, so I did all the driving, which was fine. It was my first time driving on the lefthand side of the road, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. I got used to it pretty quickly, except for two things: First, I'm so used to lining myself up with the lefthand side of the lane, so there were several close calls when our side mirrors nearly scraped against walls, cars, cows, etc. The other tricky bit was remembering that the gear shift is on the left, not the right. It's second nature for me to put the car in park using my right hand. There were many times that I would find myself reaching for something with my right hand but not remembering what I wanted to do, and if I didn't remember, then I wouldn't put the car in park. Oops. Luckily, there were no car issues, except for one flat tire, which I'll come back to later...
Basically, our week consisted of driving around Ireland, exploring, and playing like 7-year-old boys. Whenever Ben and I saw an abandoned castle or church, we would stop and check it out. The best was Blarney Castle, which not only has the Blarney Stone, but also lots of caves and even a giant tire swing.
We also searched for leprechauns... I went to the Blarney Castle five years ago, and while I was there, I found a cave and walked inside, while repeating, "Leprechaun! Leprechaun!" As soon as I get deep enough in the cave and could only see pitch black in front of me, a deep voice from within the cave said, "Who goes there?!" Needless to say, I freaked out a bit and quickly ran back into the light. We didn't find any leprechauns in Blarney, but we think a leprechaun lived in one of the abandoned castles we visited. After we had played around for a bit in the castle, we got back in the car and drove back on the road, but before we knew it, we had a flat tire. Our theory is that a xenophobic leprechaun slashed our tires while we were climbing up the turrets. Luckily, Ben's a pro, and it didn't take us long to put the spare on and then buy a new tire.
Ben and I ended up driving to Cork, Killarney, Dingle, Galway, and then back to Dublin. We spent quite a bit of time on the Ring of Kerry (on the Kerry Peninsula) and the Dingle Peninsula. It was so incredibly green, with stunning hills, mountains, cliffs, and beaches. Every night, we'd find a pub and have a pint or two. The Guinness was delicious, the countryside was beautiful, and the people were wonderful. We're definitely going back.