The Travel Bug

I’ve been back since April… I’m writing this in July.
Better late than never, right?

 

Togo, Africa 2011 – Jacki, Sarah, Katie & myself
 
It was early this March when the opportunity arose to travel to Ireland with two of my friends, Katie and Sarah. The bond I share with these friends is so very unique. Along with one other friend, Jacki, the four of us traveled to Togo, Africa in 2011 to encounter the Togolese culture and spread the gospel and love of Christ. Since Africa, so much has happened. Jacki has gotten married and moved to the bay area, Katie has started her teaching career, and Sarah & I have graduated high school and began our part time jobs. Somewhere along the way, the travel bug bit us. Since then, our itch to explore the world has become undeniable. Through the business and changes of life, we have sustained the unbreakable bond we share and have made taking trips together a tradition.
First out-of-the-country-trip (since Africa): Donegal, Ireland!
Why Ireland? Sarah had the incredible opportunity to practically move to Ireland for a several weeks and spend time with all her family out there. Katie and I got to tag along for a week and help Sarah get settled in. We saw as much of the country as possible in six days, spending most days traveling and sight-seeing all day. There were countless times on this trip in which I would mentally kind of pull myself out of the moment. I would stop, step back, just dwell in the fact that I was IN Ireland, in such a beautiful, irreplaceable moment. Always saying to myself, “Look at where I am right now. This is life right now.” Our trip was beyond incredible. It will be impossible to squeeze every detail into a blog while giving this beautiful country the appropriate depiction that it deserves, but here goes nothing.

We stayed with Sarah’s granny in her home. She is a sweet, giving lady who offered the best tea and hospitality ever. Sarah’s entire family, cousins, aunts, and uncles, were so incredibly welcoming to us. Offering us home-cooked meals, a place to stay, and everything possible to make us feel at home. They woke up early to drive us to things we wanted to see from driving 4 hours to pick us up at Dublin airport to driving 5 hours to take us to northern Ireland/the UK to see some of the most gorgeous places in the country.  Staying and interacting with such wonderful people was by far what made this trip so incredible.

 

The town of Donegal was busy enough to be lively and fun, but small enough to run into someone you knew at the ice cream shop. Buildings and houses are colorful and stacked up next to each other making you feel even closer to everyone in Donegal town.

 

 Donegal Town, Ireland

 

 
Granny’s House – Donegal, Ireland
 
 
While in Ireland, we knew there were several things we wanted to do and places we wanted to see. We started off our first day by taking things easy. Our day consisted of a drive through the Bluestack Mountains, a range of giant, open fields with grazing sheep and cattle. I was awestruck by how vibrantly GREEN everything was and how full of color this entire country was. We wandered through the mountains and its many roads and somehow ended up lost at one point! We left there and visited one of the many castles in Ireland. To us, it was something very rare and extremely fascinating. However, castles in Ireland are like Starbucks’ in America… they are on every corner! At night, we walked down by the bank where we took in the amazing sunset…still trying to fully grasp the fact that we were in such a beautiful country and so far far away from home.

 

Bluestack Mountiains, Donegal, Ireland

 

 

Our third day was absolutely INCREDIBLE, and possibly my favorite day. It was a full, jam-packed day in which we spent much of it traveling to see these incredible places. We started by taking a 45 minute drive of to the cliffs of Slieve League with Sarah’s two awesome cousins. The drive was gorgeous- twisting through mountains and up windy roads up to nearly the top of Western Europe’s tallest cliffs. The car can of course, only take you so far before you have to park and HIKE the rest of the way up to the top. So in knee-high boots and snow jackets on (being from California, 50 degrees outside is a lot colder to us then to the Irish) we made our way up the steep cliffs, and upon completing the hike, we found waiting for us the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slieve League Cliffs, Ireland
We must have sat at the top for at least half an hour – just taking pictures, taking it all in. This was
one of those many moments I stopped and took it all in. “Look at where we are right now.” I would tell Katie and Sarah in astonishment. We couldn’t have been more in awe.
Later that day, we made a 30 minute trip up the road to go horseback riding. Just a little side note, horseback riding by the beach is a number on my bucket list. I have always wanted to do it in a cool place, but when Sarah’s family suggested for us to go in Ireland, I practically sky-rocketed with excitement. My crazy reaction was appropriate as, little did I know, this would be one of the coolest things I had ever done – ever.

 

 

We rode our horses through wide, open, vibrant green fields, down by creeks with grass that would swallow up the better half of our horses’ body, and finally, down by the beautiful ocean. The wind was blowing, we were laughing, and again, simply in awe of the amazing creation surrounding us and the means we were experiencing it through… on horses! This day was incredible and by far, one I will never forget.
Just when I thought this trip couldn’t get any better… it did. The next day we were up early to make the two and a half hour drive up into Northern Ireland to see two of the country’s most well-known landmarks. Giant’s Causeway & Carrick Bridge. This day was again, by far one of the most incredible ones I’ve ever lived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland
 
Giants Causeway is the fourth natural wonder of the United Kingdom and has been declared a World Heritage Site. The Causeway consists of many different stepping stones that make the image of a staircase lowering from the land down into the water. Perfectly in place as one giant staircase, its hard to believe this place that was shaped by the hand of God over thousands of years. There is a trail that leads up into the cliffs of Giant’s Causeway that can only take hikers so far until it the train becomes too thin and too dangerous to continue. The pictures above are from the stones, up through the cliffs, and to the furthest point of the trail. They don’t do the beauty of this magnificent place any justice. This place has God’s artistic, glorious hand print all over it.
After we explored all of Giants Causeway, we made our way to the Carrick-O dow’d bridge in Northern Ireland. This was one of the most exciting parts of this day. We began by walking down a trail, leading down some cliffs..
 and up to this exciting, slightly terrifying sight:
We gathered up our guts and got in line to cross. And boy, what an adventure this was!

 

 

 

From the other side of the Carrick Bridge

Again, this is another sight of which pictures cannot encompass all the beauty there was to be seen in person. But what a thrill it was to cross the bridge in the blowing wind, over 100 feet above water! Something I will for sure never forget. After, we spent some time soaking in the view around us by (causally) dangling our feet off the edge of the island we had crossed onto. Again, having one of those, “look at where we are right now” moments.

 

 

 

What a truly incredible day this was for the three of us.
Our 5th day in Ireland was a laid back one. It was our last day in the city before we were to make the 5 hour bus ride back to Dublin and fly home. We spent the day walking around the towne of Donegal, gathering up souvenirs and some last minute explorations of the city’s cool spots – A.K.A. more castles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures from a walk by the banks of Donegal towne during sunset. 
 
The next morning we were up early to begin our journey to Dublin, where we would spend one last day before heading back to America.  Just a little back story…we had flown into Dublin just a week prior to this, and had planned on going straight from the airport to sight-seeing the world famous Trinity College Library of Dublin that very same day. However, the library was closed that day. Sarah’s family had been SO generous to pay for us to have a hotel room in Dublin for our last night in Ireland so that we could go back and see everything that we didn’t get to see that first day. After a five hour bus ride, we arrived in Dublin.
This day was one for the books. Too much to explain for the blog but in short:
Our taxi driver informed us there was two days out of the whole year that most attractions in Dublin closed. Good Friday & Christmas Eve… It just so happened to be Good Friday. And thus, we were told most everything we came to see would be closed.
Then,
We arrived 6 hours earlier than hotel check-in was.
We took a bus in the wrong direction.
Got off at the wrong bus stop.
Found the FIRST Starbucks of our whole trip in Ireland.
Decided to go see the outside of Trinity College Library even though it was to be closed off to tourists.
ARRIVED AND FOUND IT WAS OPEN!
Went in and saw…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trinity College Library – Dublin, Ireland
 
Our last night in Dublin was spent devouring a whole pizza… after discovering there was Domino’s in Ireland (what?), eating Irish ice cream, way too much candy, and weird Irish movies on our hotel TV.

 

 

Exploring Dublin, Ireland
 
 
Even upon finishing this extremely long blog post, I still feel like there are so many things I left out. This trip was a lifetime of culture-clashing, laughter, and adventure crammed in one very, much too short week. Though there is no way to squish all of these memories in this post, but they are all jam-packed in my heart where I hold them dearly.  I will cherish these sweet pictures and memories behind them. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to explore such an amazing country with two of my soul sisters (just missing Jacki!).  I definitely was bit by the travel bug in Ireland, and I know Katie and Sarah were too. I cannot wait to see where this “bite” will send us itching to explore next.

 

 

Xo,
Toni

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