Right after finishing my final, I caught a bus to Waterford to meet up with my aunt, uncle, and grandma. We traveled the southern part of Ireland, going through Waterford, Cork, Dingle, Tralee (well, just to spend the night), and ending back in Limerick before they took off to Dublin to fly back home to Seattle.
Spoiled. There’s not really much more that I can say. We spent the night in the Waterford Castle and I had the Glin Room all to myself. The day we arrived, after settling and wandering around the Castle grounds, we had afternoon tea in the Castle. We had unlimited tea (and coffee, but I don’t like coffee) refills. They then brought out a white onion soup which was tasty! Finally, they brought out a three tiered tray with mini scones, mini sandwiches, and mini desserts. It was so cute and everything was delicious!
The next morning we got complimentary breakfast in the conservatory, again super tasty! There was a buffet, but you could also order off the hot menu, so I got a little bit of both. I love eggs benedict, so that’s what I went for. After breakfast, we went wandering some more around the Castle grounds before checking out and touring the Waterford Crystal factory.
The Waterford Crystal museum was cool. We had a guided tour through the factory, learning about the process to make various types of crystal creations. First stop was the “Blowing Room,” where they worked with molten crystal like one would blown glass. Next was the “Quality Room,” where the crystal is checked for air bubbles, inconsistencies, and chips. The “Marking Room” followed. I think I might enjoy working there (well, at least for a little and then the monotony would get to me). This is where you draw on the crystal with markets so those etching and carving the crystals know where to cut. Speaking of which, the “Cutting Room” was next. It was cool to see the detail they put into making every Waterford Crystal piece as perfect as possible. The final room had the etching and engraving which took someone with a keen eye for detail.
We then took off for Cork.
As we walked through town to find a place to eat dinner, we stumbled upon Boojum, a Mexican restaurant that I was informed by an Irish friend was one of the best Mexican places in Ireland (they do not have the best Mexican food here… especially when I am used to authentic Mexican food back home). I’ve been craving Mexican food since arriving in Ireland; it’s one of my favorite types of food, so it’s been difficult being deprived of it here. So, I told my relatives I was eating at Boojum and they were welcome to join. We all walked it; it’s sent up very similarly to Chipotle where you pick you type of dish, beans, meat, and extras. Unfortunately, they were out of beans, so I didn’t get the full experience, but it was actually quite delicious! I approve! This definitely is going to satisfy my craving until I can get authentic Mexican food back in the States.
The next morning we explored the Butter Museum before driving off too Dingle.
Arriving in Dingle Wednesday after taking the scenic route through Killarney and pointing out peaks I’ve hiked, we wandered around town and got Murphy’s Ice Cream before finding dinner. As my mom says, “eat dessert first; life is uncertain.” I had to sample many of the flavors: Brown bread, which she handed me with the black currant sorbet so it was like bread and jam; honeycomb caramel; blissful butterscotch; and Kieran’s cookies. Every single one of the flavors was delicious! Now how do I choose??? They had a few “specials,” which were basically sundaes. I ended up getting the Nutty Crunchy Peanut special. This consisted of honeycomb caramel, blissful butterscotch, peanuts, caramel sauce, and homemade cream. It was tasty and came in the cutest bowl!
As many of you know, I LOVE Molly Moon’s Ice Cream in Seattle, WA. Murphy’s Ice Cream is claimed to be the best ice cream in Ireland, so of course I had to compare them. Typically I use a mint ice cream of sorts for comparison purposes because Scout Mint is my favorite flavor at Molly Moon’s, but alas, there was no mint option here. The areas in which I critiqued consisted of: flavor, consistency, amount of ice cream for price, cone quality, bowl quality, and local ingredients.
Here’s how they compare:
Murphy’s Ice cream had really good flavor; it was very prominent and tasted exactly like the flavor you ordered. It was also not overpoweringly sweet, but still had the sweet taste. — Murphy’s wins
It was a little soft. I felt like I had to continuously eat it rather than enjoy it at a slower pace otherwise it would melt into ice cream soup (don’t get me wrong, I do love ice cream soup, but only when I purposely have it). Molly Moon’s has nice, firmer (but not too firm) ice cream that I can eat on a hot Seattle summer day without worry of ice cream soup. — Molly Moon’s wins
Amount of ice cream for price –
You get a little bit more for roughly the same price at Molly Moon’s Ice Cream than at Murphy’s Ice Cream — Molly Moon’s wins
Cone quality –
Unfortunately I did not get a chance to try a cone, so I can’t compare here…
Bowl quality –
I love the artwork for both places. But, Murphy’s has a cute wooden cover for on the bowl making it extra cute and boosting their presentation. Molly Moon’s keeps it simple with a blue or white bowl and then their logo, which is also nice — Murphy wins.
Local ingredients –
Murphy’s goes with very local ingredients, getting cream straight from a local Dingle farm. They even say on their website, “We’re so fussy, we even make our own sea salt from Dingle sea water and distill Dingle rain to make our sorbets.” Molly Moon’s also goes with as local of ingredients as possible, beginning with getting ingredients from farms in Washington. They say, “if it’s not grown bountifully in the Pacific Northwest, like chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and tea, we work with local companies like Theo Chocolate and Stumptown Coffee to buy organic, fair-trade for life ingredients.” — Murphy’s wins (but not by much)
So, based on these evaluations, Murphy’s Ice Cream is better than Molly Moon’s. Although, I love mint and Molly Moon’s has Scout Mint ice cream, where as Murphy’s doesn’t always have a minty ice cream, With that, I’m going to have to say Molly Moon’s ice cream is still my favorite, but Murphy’s was quite amazing and I highly recommend everyone try it if they have the opportunity!
The next day we drove the Wild Atlantic Way loop around the Dingle Peninsula. We began with hiking up to the Eask Tower. My uncle is definitely not an outdoorsy person (there are bugs in the outdoors…), but that’s okay. As we hiked backed down, he said to me, “hiking can be fun!” Woah! That was an exciting moment. He went on a hike and enjoyed it. I think it helped that it was perfect weather (I got sunburnt in Ireland…) and we had sweeping views of Skellig Island, The Blasket Islands, Mt. Brandon, and Carrauntoohil; it was amazingly clear!
Next stop was a spur of the moment Fairy Fort where there were also sheep you could pet and feed. My uncle LOVES animals, so he was like a little kid when petting and feeding the sheep. This made his day. I remember at the beginning of the semester talking to one of my Irish friends how they find it so funny how excited foreigners get about sheep! I felt quite Irish this weekend because after having been here for four months, much of what tourists freak out about, I find super normal now and strange that they are so excited.
Continuing on the drive, we stopped at The Stonehouse (a building made entirely out of stone; even the roof) for lunch — this is where I got sunburnt. We sat outside and the sun ended up roasting only half of my face, making for an even more impressive burn with raccoon eyes from my sunglasses. The food was delicious! Talking to the waiter, he asked where we were from. I told him Seattle, WA, but that I had been studying at UL since January. “Oh. Limerick scares me. I’ve been living here at the bottom of a mountain for 8 years. I can’t do people anymore.” Looking around at the 12ish other people sitting outside eating, he said, “even this is took many.” He then proceed to ask me about the hikes I had done here. I told him and then he told me I had to do Mt. Brandon, or even just Mt. Eagle. They are supposedly the best hikes in Ireland. I have heard amazing things about Mt. Brandon from friends at school, but unfortunately I will not be able to hike it during this trip. But, that is just even more of an excuse to come back!
We then explored the Dunbeg Fort, Beehive Huts, and admired the clear views along the Slea Head!
Once returning to Dingle from our drive, we ate dinner and took off for Tralee.
We spend the night in a hotel. That’s it. It was just to break up the drive back to Limerick.
We arrive at King Johns Castle and to our surprise, a group out of Adare Manor was there with a petting zoo, falconry, and archery. Let me just put out there the fact I am not an animal person. But, I saw the bunnies and had to hold one for my friend back home; she is obsessed with bunnies. So, I went over an asked the man if I could hold one. He promptly plopped one in my arms. Not too much later, he brings a chick over and sets it on my lap while I’m holding the bunny. I wasn’t so sure about that… but the chick sat there and didn’t really do much so I was fine.
After the castle, we drove to University of Limerick, where I showed them around campus and my village flat. We said our goodbyes and they drove off toward Dublin before flying home.
The rest of the semester
I have just under one month before flying back home to the States. On Thursday I am flying to Florence, Italy to visit my friends Zoe and Annika, then to Scotland to adventure in the Highlands with Tailor before coming back to Limerick where I will meet up with my mom. My mom and I will travel for a couple weeks around the UK and Ireland before packing up my room and flying back to Seattle. This has been the best four months of my life and it’s bittersweet seeing it come to an end. But, what I do know, is that I’ve made lasting friendships and memories. I will definitely be back to Ireland!