After a very long flight via Istanbul, we eventually arrived in Amsterdam. We went to check in for our flight to Cork that was scheduled to leave at 20:30. Much to our disgust and disbelief it had left without us at 9:30 in the morning and no one at Aer Lingus thought to notify us when they decided to cancel the second Cork flight of the day, a few months earlier. Due to it being the only flight to Cork we couldn’t take another that day so we had to book one for the next morning. Not having calculated extra accommodation costs into our budget, we spent the night sleeping like bergies on Amsterdam’s airport floor. One would have thought that someone might have taken the initiative to design soft seats for South African plebian passengers to sit/sleep on?? Nope- none in Amsterdam Schiphol. Just the warmth of the cold, hard, tiled floor or stainless steel single seats.
We were ever so grateful when we got onto the plane and could sit on something a tad bit softer! After a delayed flight to Cork with Aer Lingus (which is not to uncommon for the Irish Airways company) we eventually arrived to a friendly welcome in Cork by my Aunt and Uncle. We were ravishingly hungry, tired and we stank like weary travellers. They very kindly treated us to a warm Irish breakfast at the airport and we even got to taste black pudding. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Who thinks they will like eating dried blood? But it kinda tasted like boerewors.
After breakfast we left for Cobh (pronounced “Cove”) and drove around a bit before going to the Heritage Centre. Here we learnt about the potato famine, Irish emigrants and the Titanic. (Cobh was the last place the Titanic picked up passengers before it set on its way to New York, and was the single most important port of emigration seeing 2.5 million emigrants leave through its gates between 1850 & 1950). The Irish apparently love literature- so be prepared to read a lot when in this museum! :)
The UK’s weather is a bit too grey and depressing, so one can understand that the Irish reverted to painting things colourfully in an attempt to brighten the mood. My aunt told us an interesting story which helped shed some more light as to why all the doors were different colours. In the days when the town was named Cove, the Queen Victoria arrived in the town for a visit. It was such a big occasion that they named the town Queenstown in order to commemorate this event. When the Queens husband died, she asked all her subjects to sympathise with her by painting their doors black as a sign of mourning. In true Irish style, they refused and rebelled by painting the doors and walls bright, colourful reds, oranges, blues, purples etc.
Afterwards we went to St Colmans Cathedral which was decadently decorated and gloriously beautiful,but ironic. A cathedral built to seat hundreds now only hosts a small handful of people, and most of them are tourists who just enter to get a few snapshots before leaving. The saga between the Catholics and Protestants is an on going one – so most people tip toe around the conversation of religion.
Afterwards we headed off to Blarney Castle to go kiss the famous Blarney stone. Why I don’t know- but apparently its a must do when you are in the area! So we can officially say, “Been there, done that, kissed the rock!” The walk on the estate was exquisite though! It felt like we were in the movies or in an episode of Downton Abbey. The green grass, trees and castle were all just too beautiful to take in.
Said a silent prayer and wished that one day I can do a styled shoot there!!
After frolicking around on the estate for quite some time we drove through to Ballymacarbry via Clonmel, to where my aunt and uncle stay. It is such a beautiful drive and although we were still tired and smelly from all the travelling- our hearts were incredibly happy!
When my parents went over to visit in 2011, my dad and uncle took a photo in this exact wheat field where we are standing in this photo.
Having had a refreshing shower, delicious meal and good dinner conversation- Kim and I were starting to feel half human again. We were so lucky and blessed with the weather! In the last six years Ireland has not had a summer like this, and the time we came to visit we got to enjoy pleasantly warm days of 25 degrees with ample sunshine! When I asked my aunt what we can bring from South Africa for them, she just said; “Sunshine!”. So We’ll claim that we brought all the good weather! :) We had supper in their garden most evenings, enjoying every bit of sunshine we could absorb.
Aunt Mimi and Uncle Phillip spoilt us rotten and we were so blessed to get to see a glimpse into their life over there. Family is a real gift and we had a great time catching up on all sorts of things before heading to bed. When Kim and I eventually fell into bed exhausted- we spent the first few moments giggling and laughing like idiots because we were so grateful for a soft, comfy and warm bed! Dorkish, I know… but when you haven’t slept much in the last 52 hours, and the only place you and your best friend did sleep was on a floor or plane, then heaven comes to earth the moment you get into a clean, fresh bed. #itsthesmallthings!
My Aunt goes for morning walks through the farmlands, and took us with each time she went. Oh my goodness, it is so freaking beautiful! My heart was in such a happy place!
On one of these morning walks we went through the tiny village of Ballymacarbry and came across a house with the most amazing garden. This garden belongs to Nellie Morris- a sweet Irish lady who invited us in to have a look at the rest. It was exquisite! Honestly one of the most beautiful gardens with so many different types of interesting flowers. I’m not even a flower person and I was in awe!
Her husband Larry sadly was diagnosed with cancer in February, so it’s been a tough time of chemo therapy and recovery. However they were incredibly kind and hospitable and invited us in for tea! They are such lovely folk and we had a great time chatting to them. In conversation it came up that they have five sons and there is a 12 year gap between the 4th and the last one. We explained to them that we called that a “laatlammetjie” in South Africa, when Larry very wittily remarked that in Ireland they call it a “surprise!” We laughed so much! Such fond memories we have of a very special tea with true Irish folk!
We took a drive down to Dungarvan the one day. Which is the seaside town and administrative centre of County Waterford. The Irish were capitalising on the summer weather and everyone, in all shapes, sizes and lack of tans, were on the beach! There was a a cold breeze and it was semi overcast. This would render a good Cape Town beach rather empty, but not in Ireland! The beaches were packed!
We had a phenomenal stay in the Irish countryside and wished we could have stayed longer, but we had to move on to Dublin. I don’t remember much of the bus trip to Dublin from Clonmel, as I was passed out like a narcoleptic rat. One of my best parts of the bus trip (before I fell asleep) was listening to some Mumford and Sons and the Boondock Saints theme song as we were driving through the Irish countryside- it made it feel like we were in a movie. Anyhow! We greeted Aunt Mimi on the bus before we set out into the chaotic city of Dublin.
We walked Dublin flat and saw the Guiness factory, St Patricks cathedral, Dublin castle, Trinity College and without knowing it the famous Temple Bar. We weren’t all that impressed with the city, but this I think was just because we had come from the most phenomenal time in the countryside, and being a farm girl, that appealed more to my heart!
The city did however redeem itself once we returned at night to the Temple Bar area. Ireland is well known for its pub culture and we spent the evening strolling through the streets and walking into the various pubs. They have great live music and we got spoilt for choice with the different genres we got to listen to. We even saw some traditional Irish dancing and later regretted not joining in and learning some of the moves. It looked like so much fun! We left for the airport at some ridiculous time in the morning, and our airbnb host, David, was kind enough to drop us off! I don’t know if I would have woken up at 3 a.m. in the morning to take 2 plebs to the airport- but he did and we are forever grateful! We caught our plane to Frankfurt, Germany for our next leg of the adventure!
Travelling tips for Ireland:
1. South Africans need a Shengen visa for the Republic of Ireland, which is in the South. Northern Ireland is a different story though- you’ll need a UK visa for this.
2. Take Irish music with you and listen to it while you drive through the countryside…you’ll remember how you felt, what you saw and experienced each time you listen to those songs again.
3. Find some locals and talk to them. The Irish are friendly, open people who make you feel welcome straight away. Their accent is also the best to listen to!
4. Go for a walk in the countryside- you will be a new person when you return!
5. Have a Guinness at a pub.
6. Take comfortable walking shoes and warm clothes. Even in Summer the weather can turn cold quickly.
7. Try some black pudding- it’s not that bad! ;)
8. Find out about the places you are going to visit. Stop and appreciate the culture and history.
9. Need accommodation in Europe but don’t want to stay in a hostel or hotel? Use Airbnb! Its a fantastic sight that helps you look for private accommodation at really cheap prices.
10. Take lots of pictures!