The Phrase YOLO, A Chicken Dinner, and the Irish Mafia: A Trip to Ireland
A Trip to Ireland with a Hint of Nonsense
Oh how I miss traveling!
With St. Patty's day just around the corner(don't forget to wear your green), my mind keeps wondering back to early 2019 when my friend, Miriah, and I decided to plan a vacation together. We hadn't seen each other in over four years, since completing our internship and going separate ways.
After several conversations and months of planning ended up with us traveling to Iceland for a week, then hopping on a short plane ride over to Ireland for another.
Iceland had left us exhausted(that's a story for another time), but we were still ready to experience Ireland!
After a quick flight from Iceland to Ireland, we grabbed our rental car given to us from a very nice but heavily accented lady at the rental counter. Miriah was scared to drive but I had mentioned beforehand I would take the wheel.
Except we had forgotten about one tiny detail. I would be under the influence of Dramaine, a antihistamine used to prevent and treat nausea, vomiting, and dizziness caused by motion sickness, after our short flight. So learning to drive on the other side of the road while drugged up was quiet an experience. It wasn't a quick trip either as we drove 3 hours to our very first stop, Northern Ireland.
Once in Northern Ireland, we tossed our stuff into the hotel room and jumped back onto the winding roads so small our side mirrors could touch either side. We decided to hit Ballycastle where a small hike down to the coast line lead to a rickety bridge. Of course I had to walk over it!
From there we went North again to find the popular Giants Causeway. We slowly climbed our way up the towering rock formations each stone a perfect step to look out to sea.
After a long day of adventuring, we meandered back to the hotel. We had chosen this particular hotel due the famous road leading up to it. The Dark Hedges was a magical place we spent the rest of the evening gazing at the gnarled branches reaching towards the sky. Even though the day was long what we had encountered was beautiful!
Our stay in Northern Ireland was a short lived but before we left we backtracked towards Belfast for our first, of many castle stops. It's been a dream of mine to see a castle in person so when we parked outside of the Carrickfergus Castle I was stoked!
It was everything I ever dreamed as we went from room to room. The walls had held sturdy since 1177 when it was original built as a headquarters after John de Courcy conquered Ulster where he ruled until 1204.
Large cannons filled the courtyard peering out to sea. Chains and metal doorways kept enemies at bay while also keeping anyone inside safe.
After walking the place for some time, I stumbled upon a magical room. Slated windows arched with brick filled the space. There, guards could release their drawn weapons to shoot enemies trying to come from the sea. It was incredible!
We stayed there gawking at the beauty for quite some time.
I was sad to leave but our next destination was also as magical. The Belfast Castle sat at the top of a windy forested road hidden from the city below. Unlike the Carrickfergus, it is still in use for banquets, functions, and weddings.
Before stepping in, we first wandered the Castle Cat Gardens. The aroma of flowers was delightful and refreshing. The architecture of the castle was elegant compared to the Carrickfergus Castle.
We quickly glanced inside as a banquet was taking place during our visit. The downstairs held a restaurant and chocolate shop for visitors. We snacked once we got back in the car as it was going to be a journey to our next destination. Several hours of driving, across all of Ireland, found us upgraded to a new room and free dessert at the hotel restaurant.
Now, day 3, we have agreed was the best day in Ireland. It was by far the most action filled day which began bright and early. Sadly, we left our comfy upgraded beds behind and weaved in and out of the foggy hills. Our first stop was the Cliffs of Moher.
When we arrived, we realized the cliffs weren't something you could just walk up too. Instead, it was a historical site you had to buy tickets to witness. We didn't have time to waste as our boat we were supposed to be getting on was leaving soon. Instead, I illegally parked in an area for campers and we snuck our way past the guard rails and over to the cliffs. Even though foggy, the fresh breeze felt refreshing as we watched the waves.
We couldn't stay long as we had to purchase our tickets to board the boat. I remember driving in and out of the hills when suddenly a castle appeared. I seriously couldn't have pull over fast enough as we came upon Doonagore Castle. It was as if the fairytale of Rapunzel letting down her hair had come true. I quickly snapped a few photos and we were off again, this time making it to the pier without further distractions.
We hopped on the boat to sail to the Aran Islands located just off the coast. Straight away we jumped on a horse carriage ride to tour the island after docking. The roads were a tight squeeze and lands were divided with rock walls. The local dogs roamed freely around the island.
We took a gander at an abandoned ship then made our way back to town. Our guide asked if we wanted to be dropped off at the runes located at the highest point of the hill. We agreed because we didn't want to climb our way back up the hill on foot. Glad we did because we enjoyed to runes to ourselves while everyone else explored the town below. At the base of the runes, we spotted a tiny house where someone was running an eatery from their kitchen. We ordered brunch and made friends with the house cat and some local dogs waiting to get their scraps. We spent a few hours on the island and made our sailed our way back to Ireland.
The day was not over yet, as we were to drive to Dromoland Castle. Pulling in was something out of a movie. The lands consisted of surrounding woods and a beautiful pond. We had arrived early so we decided to head inside to wait. I asked to go to the bathroom as I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The inside of the castle was gorgeous! Decked out in old furnishing and fabrics I couldn't believe my eyes. I later found out it cost 1k a night to stay there. Phew!
The reason for our visit was not to see the castle but to experience falconry. We meet with our guide and our hawk Bomber. We walked the grounds as Bomber soared and showed us his tricks. We even meet with the other hawks and newest members of the family which included two new barn owlets.
We had such a blast and didn't want to leave but before we did we stumbled upon a secret garden hidden from the main part of the castle. I don't know if anything could scream Alice and Wonderland more than this!
As we were nearing the end of our vacation some of our plans changed. We woke to the cancellation of our boat ride to the Skellig Islands where Star Wars: The Last Jedi was filmed. It was a bummer but at the same time it was nice to sleep in for once.
Instead, we drove to our other destination for the day, Blarney Castle. The surrounding grounds were beautiful and the castle stood tall amongst the surrounding trees. I, of course, had to kiss the popular Blarney Stone and climbed my way up to the top. Once you started the climb, you could not turn around as the stairs were to narrow and the line of people kept you pushing forward.
Finally, at the top, a guide helped as I arched my back a leaned as far as possible. A little smooch and I along with thousands before me kissed the stone.
We walked the castle grounds enjoying the fresh air. But we had to get back on the road again. We were to be meeting a friend.
A friend? Why, yes! During our internship another intern, named Aoife, who originated from Ireland, was now living in Corks where she trained dogs to help the disabled. So of course we had to say hi to her!
We walked to a cozy restaurant where we ate pizza, drank some beer, and caught up on the past four years. It was a lovely time! The walk back to the hotel wasn't as fun when it decided to downpour leaving us soaked to the bone by the time we got back.
We were on our way again, this time to see the Rock of Cashel. This castle, I have to admit was hauntingly beautiful. I'm not sure if it was the gloomy weather that made me feel heavy or the gravestones in the courtyard that heightened the features of the doom and gloom, but something was quite different from the rest of the castles we had visited on the trip.
At one point the winds were so bad in the courtyard and the ravens circling above gave me goosebumps. Something felt eerily wrong and I had to make my way back inside.
We didn't stay as long as we had the others as we went on our way in hopes to find something to eat. Between Iceland and Ireland we had hardly had a full meal as the "grocery stores" were little markets hardly filled with snacks we could bring on the road. Surprisingly, we found a large grocery store as we past through one town. At this point, we would be leaving the next day, and didn't feel the need to buy food as we would just have to leave it behind.
Instead, we spotted a restaurant next door called YOLO. We found it funny and decided to head in. The place was quite with groups of people casually sitting in the booths watch the large aquarium centered in the room.
We were quiet as the entire trip was finally catching up to us. I noticed a boy when we first arrived head to the back door labeled office but he had not returned. I assumed he was still back there when he arrived several minutes later through the front door suspiciously looking around as he carried a bag bulging at the seams to the office. I remember thinking to myself how odd it was because he had done the exact same thing when we had arrived.
That's when another family walked in behind him and a little boy went to admire the fish. One of the owners of the shop went to greet him, pointing out the fish and laughing at how they were swimming. That's when I remembered the conversation Miriah and I had several days prior about the Irish Mafia running businesses to cover up secret operations behind the scenes.
A slow look around the room I realized the people sitting causally in the booths weren't eating but instead looking at us. As I looked on, I came to notice the two men running the joint were brothers with their younger sister, the waitress, running our food.
The boy, once again, emerged from the front door entrance suspiciously looking around and made his way to the back. Finally, I looked at the aquarium again. A staple in every known mafia/mob movie which gets shot up in every action sequence.
I leaned forward and whispered, "Miriah, I think we are in a mafia restaurant." I hoped no one from the surrounding tables could hear me.
She slowly looks around not trying to draw attention. "I don't know."
"It's called YOLO, Miriah. You Only Live Once. They probably say it as they kill whoever wronged them," I said with wide eyes, "and look at the aquarium. It's the staple piece to every mafia movie in existence."
She takes in the surroundings again realization coming into her eyes. "What should we do?! Should we leave?"
"No. We have to be causal. Plus, I'm starving!" I whispered under my breath. "I also don't want to hear them say to me You Only Live Once as they push me off a dock with my feet tied to cement blocks!" I trailed off as our food arrived.
Boy, am I glad we stayed. As I looked down, I saw the most delicious plate of food. Half a chicken with mash potatoes and gray. I took a bite. Holy cow was it amazing! I wasn't sure if it was because we had hardly gotten a real meal the entire trip or because the food was homemade, but it was one of the best meals I have ever had.
Now every time I eat chicken and mash potatoes I think about only living once and the Irish Mafia.
To end the trip, we made a few last stops starting with the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. It was seven stories of history you could walk through and participate in several interactive experiences. The top floor consist of the Gravity Bar where you could get one free Guinness drink.
Not going to lie, it was 11am so I took one sip, of which I hated, and put the drink down and left. The bar itself was very cool but beer just isn't my drink.
We left and went straight to the Trinity Library. It was so strange to see how such an amazing piece of art, as I like to call it, was found inside such a normal looking building. Even though hundreds of people were in the library it was silent other than the clicking of cameras.
With that, our trip came to a close. We dropped off the rental which somehow I didn't manage to crash or even get a scratch on. Then we made our way back to Iceland for our connecting flight.
If you are ever thinking of going to Ireland I highly recommend it! We had such a fun time and I am so glad we were able to experience it while we had the chance. I hope here in the next year or two to travel again. Australia, here I come!
If you've been to Ireland before, let me know in the comments what you liked most about it! Or let me know where you would like to travel next!