Ringing in 2011 with the Kiwis! (And a man from Bristol)

Yesterday was New Years Eve day! Hooray! And we got to experience 2011 before a lot of other people, one of the very first New Years’ in the world!

We started the day off by feeding some crazy ducks and birds by Josh and Louise’s. We even saw an infamous Pukeko! They look like tiny little dinosaurs.

Then we went to the beach by Josh and Louise’s house. We drank some beers, swam in the ocean (which was so warm, by the way!) and played rugby and a hybrid kiwi-american version of 4 person cricket. Matt and I couldn’t figure out how to bowl (pitch) the ball without bending our arms like a baseball throw. It was pretty fun and isn’t as confusing as one could be led to believe. I couldn’t exactly master how to throw a rugby ball either, but one thing at a time! One guy on the beach said there was a shark in the waves, but we didn’t see anything. Louise and I get to say we swam with the sharks though, and the boys can make no such claim because they didn’t even swim in the water! (chickens…)

After some cleaning up, we prepared for our New Year’s Eve celebration! We went over to a friend of Josh and Louise’s house and ate some food, started drinking there, and watched everyone play a GIGANTIC Jenga game. They had some delicious food to eat and everyone there was super nice. They had hired a bus to take everyone (about 40 or 50 people) to a boat on the harbor for New Years. When we got on the boat we had some more drinks, and danced the night away until 12:00am, when we watched the fireworks the shot off around the bay. We had tons and tons of fun on that boat. 🙂

This morning, the first day of 2011, we all slept in late and were a little worse for the wear. Josh and Louise had some friends and family over for a BBQ and they made some yummy burgers and sausages. We got to eat some NZ ice cream (hokey pokey and goody goody gumdrops), and I’m really enjoying the Lemon and Paeroa soda they have over here. I’m going to have to figure out how to get some of it when we’re at home!

For tomorrow, the plan is to go to a rugby tournament. They’ll have drinks, music and food all day long, and we’ve never seen an actual rugby game, and even though this is just “7’s” which is a shorter and quicker match, it should be really cool to see. It’s bed early tonight I think! Cheers!

Monday, What Happened to Tuesday?, Wednesday & Thursday

So! We made it to New Zealand, as you could probably tell from our cryptic facebook posts. We left LAX at 10:00pm on Monday December 27th, after a traffic-filled drive up from San Diego, and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand at around 7:30am Wednesday December 29th. Our flight didn’t seem too long, because it was a red eye, we got a bit a sleep and watched some movies. I wouldn’t say that the flight was exactly quick, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as we had thought it would be. The airplane was actually quite nice, and had adequate leg room. Our new neck pillows and some homeopathic sleep remedies helped as well. 🙂  Josh and Louise were there to greet us at the airport, and it is weird to be the ones being driven around for once!

So we missed out on Tuesday (hopefully Tuesday treated you all well in the US), and after landing Josh and Louise took us for some coffee and along the way to their home, which is like 3 hours away from the Auckland airport, we stopped for lunch at a little train station cafe. They have a train that operates there still as well. The weather was gorgeous and sunny, and as we were trying to figure out the calculations between Celsius and Fahrenheit, a man tried to explain his own calculation to figure it out, but ended up just confusing us even more.

We had some sandwiches and I got to see if my credit card would really work over here (it did). And then we continued along to Josh and Louise’s house. We finally got to meet the infamous Winston, and also met Louise’s dad.

Josh and Louise showed us the beaches right by their house, and drove us up to Mt. Maunganui which is close too. There are a lot more people here this time of year, because it’s peak season in the summer and right around New Years. We weren’t really feeling too much jet lag but we still went to bed pretty early after watching Taken at their house.

This morning, Thursday morning, we woke up late and had some fun shopping around where there live; the boys to the electronics store, and the girls to the clothing stores! Later in the evening we went to De Bier Haus and had some drinks and played pool, then to one of Josh and Louise’s favorite restaurants, The Flying Burrito Brothers. They made pretty authentic Mexican food, and we should know. 🙂 After dinner we all went to see Little Fockers at the theater in Tauranga.

Tomorrow being New Year’s Eve day, we’re going to have a ice picnic on the beach, and then go on a boat in the harbor for the Eve!  That’s all for now! -Alana

Test Post Before New Zealand

I just set up a new blog real quick before we get on our plane to New Zealand. It’s nothing fancy but we’ll write about what we’re up to and post pictures along the way. This is just a quick test post to make sure that it’s syncing up with Facebook and everything’s working alright.

Right now we’re in LA at Cambria’s house. My parent’s drove us up here and we ate lunch at Cambria’s restaurant, The Daily Grill. Our plane leaves at 10pm tonight and we’re just killing time watching the movie The Beach. We’ll probably head to the airport in about an hour. (I’m not looking forward to the 13 hour flight)

Hopefully everything’s working ok. Check back here often if you’re interested in what we’re up to.

See ya,

Connemara and Kylemore Abbey

Sorry for the lack of pictures on the previous post, and on this post. The internet here for some reason doesn’t want to let us upload anything, so we’ll do a make-up couple of posts with what we’ve missed as soon as we can get a more stable connection! Now, on to our trip!:

We woke up this morning at our bed and breakfast where we ate breakfast, and then we were picked up by the Galway Tour Company for our bus tour of Connemara. We had decided earlier that we would like a break from all of our driving, so it was very nice to be able to just sit back and relax and have someone else brave the Irish roads.

When we got on the bus we had to sit all the way in the back, because it was full by the time we got to transfer on from the pickup bus to the actual tour bus. The tour guide was very funny and knowledgeable. Connemara is a beautiful spot in the West of Ireland. It is mostly a national park, but there are many small villages throughout that are very traditional.

Our first stop was the ruins of Ross Errily Friary which was built around 1350. It is now in ruins but is still used as a burial ground for local residents. 

The bus then took us to the town of Cong, which is most famous because the movie “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne was filmed there. (We saw “the Quiet Man Bridge” later on our tour, as it was a little ways away from the town, and on our way back to Galway). 

The tour took us through rural farmland and we got to see many ruins of houses from the famine. We learned a lot of history about the famine in Ireland, which caused the great emigration from the country. Evidently, the potatoes just wouldn’t grow in the ground anymore due to a fungus that turned them black. You can still see where the old farmers sowed the potatoes in the ground because the hillsides are still striped in different shades of green. There are also strange horizontal stacked stone walls which divide hills from top to bottom. These are called “famine walls” because when the famine hit the poor villagers would go to the wealthy landowners to beg for food, and the landowners didn’t want to give them anything for free, so they set them to work building walls for no purpose. 

This is also the same land that is used by all the farmers in the area as a communal sheep grazing ground. Everyone’s sheep just roam free in this area because all the land is considered communal. The only way to tell apart the sheep is because of the coloring on their wool. The farmers here get grants from the government to run their farms. We got to see a lot of baby sheep right along the road as there are no fences keeping them in.

The main highlight of the tour is Kylemore Abbey. We have some awesome pictures of it, but you’ll just have to wait for that. It used to be a castle that a wealthy man built for his wife after having honeymooned in the area. It is now used as an Abbey and a school, but we learned the school will be closing in a matter on months. It is a really beautiful structure on the side of a large lake. The nuns in the Abbey actually make their own soap and chocolate, which are available for purchase. This is also where we stopped for lunch. Since the Abbey has been bought by private developers they are making the spot into a crowded tourist trap, with a visitor center, cafeteria and shops. There is also an Abbey garden, which I think they said was 6 acres of land. There were definitely some spectacular views at the Abbey, and it was interesting to tour the first couple floors of the Abbey, as they had it set up with furnishings from when it was first built.

The tour bus took us on our route home after the abbey, and we saw more sheep and farmlands. We learned about how the Irish people used the bog moss to heat their houses. People still do that to this day, and we got to see where they cut it from the ground and lay it out to dry. We also drove by some spots where someone had tried to burn the bush and the fire had gotten out of control and caused almost 5 million Euros in damage to the land. The fires are still not under control, and I guess the firemen are working to put it out. 

After our tour ended back in Galway city centre, we got to explore the city a bit. We found an awesome cheap chain store called Dunnes, which has great prices (even for being in Euros!) We wandered around for a bit and then walked back to our B&B which was a farther than we expected, but overall not a bad walk. The weather was good today so it wasn’t bad walking back.

Tomorrow will be our last full day here, so we’re planning to drive cross country back to our Dublin to see some tombs, and possibly battle ground.


Alana & Matt

Dingle and The Cliffs of Moher

Today saw the most driving out of all of our days here in Ireland. We woke up at 7:30, ate our breakfast, and packed up to leave Killarney. We decided that we were going to do another ring called the Dingle Ring. We were told it was easier to drive than the ring of Kerry and was more scenic.

Since Alana drove the Ring of Kerry, Matt agreed to do the the ring around the Dingle peninsula. As it turns out, the ring around Dingle is much narrower and comes much closer to cliff edges the the ring of Kerry did. We survived it and we were definitely glad we made the trek. We saw the absolute best views that we’ve seen in Ireland so far.

The Dingle peninsula is a part of Ireland where Gaelic is still the primary language. It’s very cool but it gets very interesting when trying to read street signs.

From there we decided we would make the three hour journey up to the Cliffs of Moher. We plugged in the directions in our Tom-Tom and were very surprised when it lead us on to a drive-on ferry. We didn’t know any better way to get there so we rode the ferry from one peninsula to another.

We exited the ferry and drove along the western shoreline for a couple of hours. The scenery was amazing. We even stumbled on a spot that attracted surfers. I didn’t even know they surfed in Ireland… But we saw it today.

We eventually ended up in the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs were absolutely amazing. They drop off vertically over 650 feet above the Atlantic ocean and you can basically walk right up to the edge of them. It was loaded with other tourists so we didn’t stay too long. We snapped a ton of pictures and headed out.

We drove about another hour and a half north to a B&B in Galway. The views along this drive were absolutely amazing as well. We really felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere in the Irish Country side. The roads were windy and the views traded off between miles of pristine beaches and endless seas of green farmland.

We checked in at our B&B and relaxed in our room for a bit before deciding it was time for dinner. At this time it was about 9:30pm. We walked down the street to learn that almost all of the local eateries close up at 9:00. We ended up buying sandwiches and Smithwick’s in a local gas station and headed back to our room to eat. It’s been a long day but the views from today were absolutely awesome and will definitely stand out as a highlight from the trip.

Unfortunately, the B&B we are in now has very spotty internet. It doesn’t stay live for long enough for me to upload pictures. Once I get to a solid connection again, I’ll make sure to upload double the pictures.

Tomorrow we’re taking a bus tour of the local scenery around the mid-west portion of Ireland. We’ll finally get a break from driving.

For now, we’re calling it a night.

Matt & Alana