Not too long ago I had the pleasure of getting to travel to the wonderful country of Ireland with my dad in an adventure that will not soon be forgot. Our tenure on the Emerald Isle lasted a little more than one week with lots of different stops in varying regions across the country. If I were to describe my experience in full, it would lead to a novel-sized collection of words so for the sake of brevity & to cover as much material as I can without sounding like I am rambling on I am going to cover each section of our trip with particular highlights and memories that stand out to me still even a few months removed from this incredible journey.
My father and I arrived in the city of Dublin on a Friday with our primary business in Ireland occurring the following day as we were invited guests to a wedding. Once we had gotten checked in to the Double Tree along the River Liffey, we made our way into the town. Our first stop, since we both were hungry and naturally wanted to get rid of our jet lag, was to the one and only Temple Bar of which the local district draws its name. This was where I had my first official Irish pint of Guinness, freshly brewed and wonderful in its frothy, dark splendor and it would by far not be my last pint on this outing.
Later on my dad and I toured around the city on foot taking in the beauty of the city, the architecture, and its people. We walked by the Dublin Spire, had coffee and tea in an old rail car, and despite not being able to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College had an enjoyable afternoon marveling at many other things an out-of-towner would not expect to find such as flowing murals across many of the city's alleyways and random strangers to engage in conversation. Believe you me when I say this, as Americans my father & I got asked more about #45 than anything else! Once evening had arrived we met up with a couple of my dad's colleagues Guisseppe and Andrew where they took us to one of the local breweries and treated us to a full tray of 12 pints varying from crisp reds to stout darks.
Early the next day I decided to fly my drone over the River Liffey to capture the sunrise. As I walked along the banks close to the Ha'Penny Bridge I could not help but notice how incredible it was to be experiencing this river sunrise with the gulls flying around and the smell of the ocean coming off the gentle breeze. Seconds later I sent my own bird into the sky and captured life and warmth entering the sleeping town. I still felt like I must have been in a dream of my own as the colors of the morning began to spread across the sky. The dream feeling felt even more real when not too long after the sunrise we went and ate a traditional Irish breakfast with kippers at O'Neil's Pub. I believe it is this feeling of warmth, being comfortable, and a tinge of magic which summarizes my memories of Dublin.
After leaving the city of Dublin, dad & I took a trip along the Irish countryside to go to the wedding in a small town called Trim. The venue was at St. Patrick's Cathedral, & we arrived about an hour and a half before the ceremony. Funny thing was, however, that in this small farming town there were two St. Patrick's Cathedrals and we had actually arrived at the wrong location! Fortunately we realized our error and were able to arrive at the true location in time for the wedding nuptials. I was even able to gather some shots of the area with my camera, as well as getting to fly my drone above Trim castle for an excellent view of the countryside.
After the wedding we had about a 30 minute drive south to the location of the reception which was at Barberstown Castle. My father and I had a room booked for the evening, so fortunately there would not be two intoxicated Americans lost on the lonely Irish countryside after dark, which allowed us to really get to experience the true scope of an Irish wedding! We were served a five course meal in the dining hall of the castle at tables as long as football (American, that is) fields. We ate lamb, shepherd's pie, creme broule, and drank beer and ales which were the castle's own unique brew using the same recipe's for over 700 years. The bride and groom even cut the cake using a thick broadsword, and we were able to enjoy the horse races on television which were happening not too far from where we were. Irish jockeys are madmen I tell you!
Before the night was over there was plenty of good conversation to be had, new friends made, and, of course copious amounts of alcohol consumed. I am surprised I am able to recall in full detail many of the people I talked to considering this was probable the most, and longest I had drank in a single night since my 21st birthday some years ago. It was enlightening talking to the Irish about their ways of life and opinions on the world and how we all, in the end, want the same basic things for our societies; security, good-jobs, and ultimately enjoy this world and its peoples in ways which enhance our collective human experience. I talked with the bride's mother & found that many places I had been to in the southern United States, including the French Quarter and the Crossroads (where legend has it blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil) were among some of her dream destinations. I remember trying to get my friend Andrew to go over to talk to a beautiful girl he wanted to try and dance with. And yes, ultimately politics came up, both American & Irish, and yes all around the world they all still suck. What this wedding experience taught me is that no matter where you are on this planet, we as human beings are all the same.
The Cliffs of Moher & The Burren
With our official business behind us, now had come the time to let loose & explore the great country of Ireland. My father & I left Barberstown Castle on our way westward towards our next excursions. We arrived in Limerick in the middle of the afternoon on our 3rd day, and took a few hours to rest before heading out. Limerick was to be our jumping off point for other sites within close reach as well as another location of one of my dad's company offices, where we were to have dinner with some of his coworkers the following evening.
We moved our travels to the Cliffs of Moher a day up from our previous schedule due to the rainy forecast for the next several days, and I was certainly glad we did. Though our drive to the cliffs was very wet, on narrow roads where several times we thought we were going to die in our Skota, we arrived at the perfect time as the clouds began to clear. I was ecstatic. This was one of the places I looked most forward to visiting in Ireland and it did not disappoint. With camera and tripod in town, we made our way towards the edge.
If I could use one word to describe the cliffs it would be "raw." There have been a few instances in my travels where I felt completely humbled as a human being, and of my own mortality. The feelings I experienced at the edge of the Cliffs of Moher were both of terror and bewilderment. At the top you could feel the strong wind gusts whipping against you at almost 20 mph, and looking down several hundred feet below at the powerful Atlantic waves whipping against the giant rock towers I had to wonder if one wrong step or gust would take me over the edge. I wish I could describe this in a way those of you reading this can accurately understand, but the Cliffs of Moher are something best left experienced in person in order to truly appreciate their massive scope. My dad even found himself surprised at this natural wonder. I had been hyping up the cliffs months before our trip, and they not only lived up to it, but they superseded them in glorious splendor.
We watched the waves below smash in torrents against the rock crevices and felt the winds of a distant gale pushing and pulling us small humans in all directions. From the cliff edges there were hundreds of thousands of birds darting between their nests and the ocean. A local guide told me that this area provided a unique nesting habitat for numerous species of birds, and was therefore a protected natural area where they could live their lives unharmed. I took a few shots of the landscape around the cliffs, and then zoomed in to the water down below. At one point, I straddled the edge of the path to look straight down at the ocean. I was both in awe and scarred to death. Never before in my life had I seen the incredible energy of the seas so apparent. One wrong slip of my fingers and my camera could have gone over the edge, never to be seen again....
From the cliffs we took a trip about an hour and a half northeast to a region of Ireland called the Burren. Along the way we saw many old abandoned homes and businesses, and vast hillside country farms. I recalled, at this time a conversation I had with a person back in Dublin that the Irish countrysides were lose their population to the larger cities. Just like many areas I had been to in my travels throughout the U.S. the lure of better jobs, more entertainment, and accessibility to people and goods had driven a lot of the younger generations into the ever growing metropolitan areas of places like Dublin and Galway.
Our destination in the Burren was an ancient burial site called the Poulnabrone dolmen. The dolmen was an ancient Neolithic age stone arrangement centered in a karst, stony landscape. It had begun to sprinkle at this time so dad stayed in the car while I gathered my camera gear. I first flew my drone above the site and took in a full bird's eye view of the incredible karst landscape surrounding the burial grounds. After landing the Phantom, I walked up to the railing surrounding the tomb. This was the oldest man-made structure I had ever laid eyes on, and I could only im