Distilleries, Breweries and Pubs

I’d like to strongly think that that title right there can be closely compared with the idea of planes, trains and automobiles, seeing as how just like them, distilleries, breweries and pubs seem to get the majority of people where they need to go. So to speak.

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Dingle Peninsula

Haha, Dingle.

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Of all the peninsulas I’ve ever been too Dingle was the nicest. And when I say all, I mean the only one. (Still first on the list, technically)

If you really wanted to you could probably take 2 or 3 days to drive the whole thing, there is literally a different unbelievable view every minute. We made a day trip out of it, stopping at a few different places along the way.

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We took a quick pitter in the little town of Dingle for lunch. I was in Ireland for 2 weeks, and in all honestly I probably ate fish and chips 10 different times. Fuck was it ever good. Mushy peas, ah.

This is where the day trip gets all sorts of wicked. A few of us got it in our minds early in the trip that we wanted to go horseback riding on the Dingle peninsula. So, that we did.

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That’s Tayto, the stallion of a steed that I got to bond with for an hour. That guy was more interested in eating the bushes on the way to the beach than staying in a straight line. Great gallop on him though.

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Definitely a very cool experience that’s for sure.

It’s tough to put the whole peninsula into words. I feel that pictures tell the story a little better. Well, maybe a lot better. So here’s a few.

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Ill put it this way: if you’re making a trip to Ireland, the Dingle Peninsula has got to be on the list of places to go. Definitely worth it. The views are some of the of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. There are countless spots along the route were you could spend hours at.

It’s a little bit of a dodgy drive too. The roads are real narrow, and, well, directly along the edge of the cliffs and mountain sides. To add on top of that, you’ve got the tour buses. Imagine those lunatics. You can’t be driving a bus in a place like that. Jeepers.

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Giant’s Causeway

Giant’s have been the forefront of many mythological stories dating back, well, as far as you want to go, really.

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Giant’s. Just think about one for a second. However your brain depicts your own image of what you think a giant would look like. Got an idea? Good. Great. Grand.

Now picture him building that causeway. Crazy right?

The Giant’s Causeway lies at the base of basalt cliffs along the coast in Northern Ireland. There are roughly 40,000 massive, black basalt columns, which were formed 50-60 million years ago over a number of different volcanic activities. The majority of the columns are hexagonal, however there are many that range from three to eight sides, ranging from a few feet tall to 40 feet. Just a giant (no pun intended) geometric puzzle.

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So, you say 50-60 million years ago? Volcanic eruptions essentially formed this ’causeway’. Ya right. Snooze.

Legend has it that the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much larger than him. Fionns wife, Una, disguises Fionn as a baby. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that the babys father must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow.

Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns which were formed as part of the same lava flow, on the Scottish isle of Staffa.

Now, there are a few different versions of how the story ended, but Ill leave that up to your own imagination.

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Its tough to put my finger on the right word to describe this day.

There was a lot more going on that I expected when we arrived. The day we went just happened to be the day that the National Trust was celebrating something, so there were people everywhere. The Bonus? It was free. The not-so-bonus? Busloads of tourists. I mean, lets be realistic here. Im sorry you 6 or 7 Asian tourists, but can you really not comprehend that sitting down directly on top of one of the most photographed areas in all of the United Kingdom to have a picnic just isn’t smart? Get the fuck heck out of the way.

Some peoples kids, eh?

I would have loved to go during the evening, where no tourists are in the way. That would have been ideal.

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All in all this place was phenomenal. I could have stood there all day (one reason being waiting for that perfect photo. As soon as every tourist finally gets out of the photo, another walks in. Almost impossible to get a photo with no one in it) and just stared down at the columns. It still doesnt make sense to me that they are the way that they are.

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Im pretty positive that the Causeway finalized seeing all three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland. Bam, chalk another up. The third was Newgrange. Thats next.

Scenic Saturdays: Carrick-a-Rede

So, you’re touring Ireland, and hear about a rope bridge that suspends from the cliffs on the coastline out to an island with views that you may only think could be found on the internet or in magazines. What do you do? You go and do it.

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The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland. It is a 70 foot long bridge, 100 feet above the water. It took about 10 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the bridge, however the entire walk there is along the coast line. There is definitely no shortage whatsoever of breathtaking views.

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Over the last 350 years the bridge was used by salmon fishermen, taking various shapes and designs over the years, with it now no longer being in use for any reason other than a tourist attraction. When it was in the peak of operation they were catching upwards of 300 salmon a day. Teach a man to fish, right?

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An Irish Wedding

Hiatus. Over.

Getting hitched. Taking the plunge. The beginning of the end. The ol’ ball and chain. Tying the knot…literally. There are an abundance of difference wedding phrases you could use, however they all mean the same – unless their first dance was to Another One Bites the Dust.

My brother and his fiancé way back when decided they wanted to have a destination wedding in Ireland. Ya. Ireland. Our family has roots there (but, I mean, whose family doesnt?) so it had some significant meaning. We actually went and visited where my Nana was born and lived up until she was about 6 years old just outside of Belfast. Pretty cool.

The rest of the fam endured a 7.5 hour flight from Toronto to Dublin, while I patiently waited on my hour flight from London. We somehow even managed to land at the exact same time. Perfect. We then rented our cars and wound our way south to Killarney, where the magic was to happen. I think in a past post about Skellig Michael I gave the insight into our first journey driving on the opposite side of the road. If you missed it and dont know what im talking about, check it out.

Leading up to the wedding I had some conversations with random people who had traveled to Ireland before, and every person I talked to each said that Killarney was one of the most beautiful areas in Ireland. And oh snap were they right. Great. Good choice folks. We got to Killarney on the Saturday, with the Wedding day being on Tuesday.

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Here’s a mental sweat for you. As I just mentioned, the wedding was on a Tuesday, and how I also just mentioned about a previous post about Skellig Michael. To mesh all of that together, who climbs a 715 foot mountain 12km into the ocean off of the southern coast of Ireland, comprised entirely of stone steps the whole way to the top where there is a monastery from the 6th century, where people easily suffer from vertigo and there has been multiple deaths? The day before the wedding? We do. Not your typical pre-wedding activities. I dont think we would have done it any other way though.

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I had never really been that close to the center of a wedding before. I mean, my sister had a wedding when I was in high school. But, who am I kidding, that was more or less just a big divorce party. A hell of a divorce party at that. (Right Kate?) There were only 10 of us in total, 6 from our family, and 4 from Alecias.

They got married at The Cahernane House Hotel . A 17th century luxury house hotel. It was really cool actually, really old. So many ghosts probably.

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Of course the men had to hit the links on wedding day. It wasnt the best golf course, but the fact that it had the mountains in the backdrop and it was in Ireland, fuck, it didnt matter. It was a hell of a time. The wedding photographer actually met us on the golf course, snapped a couple pictures to put in the stop motion video he was making of the wedding day.

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We got back to the hotel and started getting ready. Poppin’ bottles.

What happened next? Party I mean marriage time. Ill rewind your minds a little here and take you back to the beginning of this post when I listed off slang wedding terminology. All except for tying the knot. They had gotten who was essentially an Irish monk to perform the ceremony. Oddly enough, the phrase tying the knot comes from an old Irish tradition that symbolizes the bond of marriage the same way that the exchanging of rings does in most ceremonies today. At the point in the ceremony where the bond between husband and wife is signified, a brightly colored rope is wound around their joined hands as a symbol of their agreement to spend the rest of their lives together. I had never actually seen or even heard of this being done before. I learned something new that day.

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Everything about the day was perfect though. The people Pat and Alecia had hired to make sure everything ran smoothly did their job. Everything went off without a hitch. After the ceremony we all hopped in horse drawn carriages that took us through Killarney National Park to Muckross Abbey, where the wedding photographer got a lot of cool pictures.

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All in all it was a perfect wedding day, and I could not be happier for Pat and Alecia, who are now living in Switzerland.

One last thing. The wedding photographer. This guy was unbelievable. If, I ever get married, no matter where it is, I’d happily fly this guy over to do the photography. Not only was he unbelievably creative in his photos, but he made an amazing stop-motion video of the entire day. Check it out below.

Also check out his website, http://mementophotography.ie/

Scenic Saturdays: The Dark Hedges

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This is one of the most photographed natural phenomena in all of Northern Ireland. It’s essentially an avenue in the middle of nowhere. The trees were planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century, meant as a beautiful landscape feature to impress guests. Two centuries later, they’ve grown into what a lot of people refer to as The Dark Hedges.

And I’ll be damned, two centuries later they still impress, that’s for sure. We visited at around 5 o’clock, about 10 minutes prior to a bus load of tourists. Perfect timing. One thing I have found is that it is very, very rattling to try and take that perfect photo with tourists everywhere.

You definitely get the feeling that come dusk or later into the evening, the stretch of hedges can become quite, well, eery. I read a few things online about ghosts.

Scenic Saturdays: Goats

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Goats. Bah. One week in Ireland now and I think I’ve probably seen a good 10 times more goats than I had in my previous 23 years of existence.

Quite ballsy fellows they are. They literally have no fear. The majority of the time you see them they’re perched hundreds of feet up the side of a mountain, or on a steep incline as close as they possibly can be to the edge of a cliff. There are always those two or three that manage to sneak out of whatever fenced in enclosure they were in, taking over the roads like its their own personal pathway to freedom.

The other thing is the cheese is absolutely amazing. Some of the best I have ever had. With this many goats and cows its no wonder why. I think my family has single handedly ate enough Brie to feed a small town.

Puffins Here Puffins There

This is going to be my first of many posts over the next few weeks. We have only been here for 6 days and done and seen enough to write a shit ton of posts. I may have to trim down a few things. But probably not, everything needs to be shared.

We flew into Dublin on Saturday, I saw the fam for the first time in a few months, we picked up the two rental cars and we were off on a three hour trek southwest to Killarney for my brother Patty and his fiancĂ© Alecia’s wedding. Bam. Now, first things first: this was everyone else’s first experience driving on the left side of the road. What a treat that first drive was. Patty, Alecia and my sister, Da Bethany (Elizabeth, but somehow she has gained that prestigious nickname over the last few years) were in a separate car, and I’m fairly certain their first three hours went better than ours. I agree, sitting shotgun is the easiest route, however having your father having his first experience driving, and your mother having her first experience backseat driving, we had some real experiences. For the most part it was mainly focusing on staying to the left, which is more difficult than you may think, however our Nissan had about 5 minutes of complete chaos. We went from taking a wrong turn into a 30 minute detour, to taking another wrong turn (the result of Kevo using his own personal GPS instead of the actual GPS), sideswiping the left side of the car on some hedges, running over a duck (Kevo may have a different account of the play by play, however there weren’t even any cars coming the opposite way, so driving on the left side of the road really sends some panic into you when a tough situation arises. So it seems), and then, since having taken a wrong turn, we had to turn around and drive passed the duck. So, to sum it all up, there weren’t very many words spoken in the half hour after that chaotic situation. But other than that? Relatively smooth. Welcome to Ireland folks!

Since I got that quick story time out of the way, this first blog post about my Ireland trip is solely about Skellig Michael. This is an island some 12km off the southwest coast that was inhabited by Monks during around the 7th century. UNESCO classified it as a World Heritage Site. Which is pretty cool. How many of you have been to a World Heritage Site? For those of you who have, wicked, for those of you who haven’t, it’s definitely something I think you have to add to your bucket list. This island was fucking awesome. I apologise (no I don’t) for the F bomb, whenever I drop those I usually cross them out, yet it is the best way for me to get the full point across. It really was incredible.

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We had to take about a 45 minute boat ride out to the island, which was not for the weak stomach. A few people had a rough go. I had a hell of a time. But once we arrived any queezines was put on hold staring at the marvel of the island. The island had 3 separate stair cases around it, each built to gain easier access to the top depending on if there was bad weather. There were, what they called, beehive huts at the top, meant for anywhere from 10-15 monks.

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The absolute most astonishing part of the island to me were the staircases. We were only allowed access to one, being the easiest of the three. However, there were some odd 600 steps to the top. The kicker? Each step is original, and were hand put together with stones. I’m not talking a cut-out of a step and then a flat rock put in, I’m talking uneven, loose, old stones that are held up by smaller stones underneath. I honestly just cannot even imagine the hard work and time that went into building each one of these steps. It’s not like there were machines or a hundred people to help. There were 10-15 sets of hands. Well done monks, well done.

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The staircases were definitely not something you wanted to rush up, seeing as how they were quite steep, and we were going quite high, you could easily suffer from vertigo, which a fair amount of people did and do. A nice lady decided that half way up was the proper time to share with us that two Americans died there last year. Perfect. However they weren’t following the rules, and lets be honest, they were American. (Being Canadian I apologise if you’re American and reading this.)

The coolest thing though, in my mind, were the Puffins. Apparently there were anywhere from 6 to 7 thousand of them when we were there, which was the height of their mating season. They. Were. Everywhere. It’s quite astonishing that I was only pooped on once. A few others weren’t as lucky. Suckers. A nice guy told us that we came at the best possible time, because this is the time of year when there are thousands. He had been there multiple times before and never seen them like that. They honestly were some of the coolest and funniest little birds I’ve ever seen.

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The views from the top were incredible. We really lucked out with a sunny and hot day (seeing as how it is Ireland).

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I held true to the fact that Scotland was going to be tough to beat it terms of places to visit, however it really hasn’t even compared to here. I mean, I did only go to one city in Scotland, and I definitely plan on going back to see tons more, yet Killarney and the southwest coast of Ireland sets the bar very, very, very high.

Scenic Saturdays: The London Eye

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The London Eye. I’ve been over here for a few months and still haven’t been on it. As cool as it is, I just can’t afford the 10-15 pound price tag. One day.

The cool thing about it is that when it was originally erected, it wasn’t actually meant to be permanent. But after the immediate popularity and the added tourist feature to an already unbelievable London, it became a solidified feature of the city.

I realise I’m supposed to release a weekly Scenic Saturday on the actual Saturday, however my Saturday yesterday was spent flying to Ireland and driving through the country to Killarney for Pat and Alecia’s wedding, and to see the fam for the first time in a few months. So, I don’t feel bad or apologise for being late. Just kidding, well, sort of, but not really.