Friday, July 12, 2024

Ireland Day 4: Navigating North

We hit the road at 9:00 am on Day Four with a long travel day ahead. Originally, we had planned to stop in Galway, and wished we had more time to venture out to Connemera, but we had too far to go and were still pretty jet lagged, so we skipped both places. 

We aimed ourselves for the Belleek Wood, outside Ballina, known for a hike with fairy houses. The woods were lush and green, with a full canopy of trees overhead and moss underfoot. It was the perfect atmosphere for fairy spotting!

After our enjoyable hike, we picked up veggie burgers and ate on the nearby sandy beach in Enniscrone. Adventure Girl played in the sand, making a train. :)

Back on the road, we made our way through Donegal and circled the coast. We liked Donegal from what we saw of it and would be interested in spending some time there in the future. For now, it was just a grocery stop. 

We pulled into Teelin at 5:30 pm and unloaded. The sky was clear and bright, inviting us to go check out the Slieve League Cliffs before settling in for the night. Never knowing when Ireland's weather was going to turn, we decided we'd better make the most of it. We were unsure if we were in for a quick stroll from a viewpoint, or a true hike, but we just went for it!

It turns out there is a parking lot at the entrance and you hike up a road for about 40 minutes to reach the viewing platform. In the evening, it seems that the workers leave their posts and people move the gate to drive up. Unsure of what to do, and always the rule followers, we parked and started to hike. The views were so breath-taking and the evening so perfect, we were not disappointed. It felt great to move after being in the car all day. 

Being avid hikers, we weren't too turned off by the incline. The windy road allowed views to unfold for us as we went. Sheep grazing alongside the path provided entertainment and many photo opportunities when we needed a quick break. 

At the top, you reach the edge of the cliff and can see down into the basin below and the highest point of the Slieve League Cliffs. These are the sixth-highest seacliffs in the world. They stretch straight-down into the deep water below. We knew we just had to get another look at them, again from the water, so we booked a boat tour for the next day...

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Ireland Day 3: The Cliffs by Water

We awoke late, still jet lagged and sluggish. We've travelled enough to know first-hand that exercsie and sunlight will help you adjust. So we hit the laneway for a walk right from our doorstep.

It was recommended to us to get out on the water at some point during our time in Ireland. We looked into ferry options to go to the closeby Aran islands but decided to book a Cliffs of Moher boat tour because that was what we really wanted to see.

In the afternoon, we left the Doolin Pier and jetted across the waves towards the cliffs at a rapid pace. We were surprised that there was no announcement, no welcoming, no safety tips about not letting your children goof around at the top of a flight of stairs as the boat speeds over large swells, just hop on and off we go (not even a tout of the ferry horn as we pulled out of the dock, much to Adventure Girl's relief). Is this the equivalent to an Irish hello?

The views from the water were spectacular. We found a special little corner of the boat that faced the front where we could really take in the swells our boat was competing against. Adveture Girl did great, relishing in the sways without the faintest hint of seasickness. (woot woot)

Once we reached the furthest point of the cliffs, the crew turned on the mic and shared some half-audible information with us. We saw the archway, the Harry Potter cave, and the huge rock formations in the water. We were also told that the cliffs played the role of the Cliffs of Insanity from the beloved film, The Princess Bride, but no specific spot was given its due credit.

Having some distance so as to see the cliffs as a solid expanse as well as looking up at them intensified their majesty in our opinion. Making the expense well worth it for us.

Back on land, we were thirsting for more so we walked to the edge of the outcropping and had a snack looking back at the layers of cliffs in the distance. We opted not to take a dip in the seaweed baths (yes, this is a thing to sit in a barrel and cover yourself in seaweed) but instead chose to scamper up and down the rocks to visit some tide pools. It was an excellent second day on the Emerald Isle.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Ireland Days 1-2: Cliffs of Moher

We're back! It feels so good to don a backpack and hit the road again! The plan for this journey is: a week in Ireland and Northern Ireland exploring the west and north coasts, a week in Swansea, Wales, where Erin's grandmother was from, and a few days in Edinburgh, Scotland, where we will fly directly back to Calgary. 

It was a long trip to get here. We did an overnight flight from Calgary to Dublin. Then, we navigated the throes of picking up a rental car (why does it always take forever and cost more than estimated???). We hit the yummy take-away restaurant Erin had found ahead of time, which was directly across the street from a sprawling park and interesting playground. Next, we stopped to pick up groceries, then Craig turned our car west and headed out of the city. Four hours later, we pulled in to the tiny coastal town, Doolin, known for being nestled at the base of the Cliffs of Moher. Exhausted, we tucked in for a 14 hour sleep to recover from our all-nighter and jet lag.

The next morning, we awoke to the quietness of the countryside. The occassional gull could be heard in the distance, along wtih the chirping of some birds. In the distance, the view of the waves crashing along the cliff's edge was calming and inviting. Rain fell in short spurts, musically dancing along our roof and skylight-lit flat.

We headed off around lunch time to find the car park for the Cliffs of Moher. Although the trailhead begins in Doolin town, it was too far for us to consider walking with Adventure Girl. We coughed up the absurd price to park then joined the throngs of people heading towards the walkway. 

The views from the top of the cliffs were spectacular. The cliffs undulate along the water, with each bay offering new vistas to behold. There are several viewoints where you can take in the panorama, but otherwise the path is narrow, with an electric fence on one side, and hoards of tourists on the other so it is not the most relaxing of walks.

The wind was so strong it felt like it could blow us right off our feet. The clouds came and went just as quickly, sometimes smattering us with large raindrops. We left feeling sated with our experience and tired from our hike + jet lag combo. 

We wanted to take advantage of the jet lag and enjoy going to a pub late enough to hear some live music so we strolled down the lane to the local pub on the main street. We were able to secure a table out front and ordered the most Irish things on the menu: Irish beef stew and lamb shank. They were hearty and delcious and Adventure Girl loved the fresh brown bread that accompanied them!  

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Costa Rica & Texas Day 19: Austin

We flew in to Austin, Texas in the evening. We had a little two-floor loft-style bachelor pad rental. We had some delicious take out and headed to bed quickly. 

In the morning, we packed up all our stuff and had a couple of hours to wander Austin before our flight out. We really liked the feel of the place. Despite the chilly weather (3 degrees), there were patios open for breakfast and a funky music vibe. We hopped on a bus and easily navigated our way to the city centre.

 We had grabbed coffee and pastries at 1886 Cafe and got a taste for Texas portions at Voodoo Doughnuts. Before long, we were headed to the airport by bus. Austin prooved to be a great stepping stone to help us acclimatize. We were experiencing an 85 degree drop in weather between Liberia (35 degrees) and Calgary (-49 degrees)!

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Costa Rica Days 15-18: Arenal Attractions

We left the coast behind and headed inland towards the Arenal Vocano. The drive estimated to be about four and a half hours so we departed early with lots of snacks and high spirits. 

Erin picked out a lunch spot that promised gluten-free and vegan desserts most of the way through the drive, along the narrow hairpin turn filled mountain route we had selected. Things were going smoothly and we hit the 15 minute warning that we were approaching the restaurant so we started gathering our things and putting on shoes. Moments later, we were brought to a stop by a line of cars on the road ahead of us. 

We were stuck for about 15 minutes before we saw someone walk by. We asked them if they knew the situation and they informed us that a bus and truck had collided. It was anticipated to take hours for the road to be cleared. Word started to spread and cars began turning around. We joined in and had to retrace our steps all the way back to the previous town. We had just lost two hours. 

It was dinnertime when we pulled in to our next rental property, in the town of La Fortuna, close to Arenal and all its attractions. Our accommodation was a rustic a-frame cabin. Super cute...but, definitely rustic. There were many windows with only a large mesh screen and we began to have a bit of a panic about mosquitoes. Some spots in the house didn't have a screen at all, only a big gap between the logs. we plugged these with towels as the wooden beams seemed like perfect bat habitat.

Craig and Erin looked at each other, a little down-and-out, but too exhausted to make a Plan B. They kept their reservations quiet and Adventure Girl settled right in to picking a room and making it her home. In the end, the property was fine; it just led to a couple of sleepless nights with all the trucks decelerating into town at the end of the property's road. 

The view from our window (volcano in behind)

During the two days that followed; however, we made the most of our location and the amazing weather that continued for us. We were fortunate to get unobstructed views of the volcano on both days and we spent some time in the surrounding jungle. 

We went on another hike with hanging bridges (these ones looked much more up-to-standard than our wobbly, more adventurous ones in Quepos!). We were treated to spottings of a pit viper camoflagued on the trunk of a tree (at a safe distance!), a sloth, and....a troupe of Spider Monkeys!!! That's four for four of Costa Rica's monkey species for us! Woohoo!

Not only did we see them, but we were lucky enough to get a great viewing! They swung from tree to tree and even climbed up and down a vine directly above us. We found a little offshoot trail where there was no one else around and enjoyed every minute of it. 

At the end of another hike in the jungle, we caught a glimpse of a new mammal crossing the road. After some research, we discovered that it was a tayra. We also saw many, many coati on and beside the road. 

Our time in Costa Rica ended with an uneventful drive back to Liberia and a very smooth experience at the car rental place and airport. One more stop was ahead before this trip would come to a close.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Costa Rica Days 11-14: Manuel Antonio Part Two: Hanging Around

Outside of Manuel Antonio Park, we had lots of fun, too. We ate at several spectacular restaurants with incredible views of the ocean, coastline, and jungle in between. Most notable was La Luna, where we went for a sunset dinner after our first day in the park. We'd highly recommend a stop here! We had checked out the menu online and thought the photos looked nice. When we arrived, we were a bit surprised by just how fancy it was (like, a golf cart picks you up from the parking lot and drives you up to the resort fancy). The meal was oustanding, complete with a complimentary bread plate (they brought grilled zucchini with a balsamic drizzle for Erin), and a homemade passionfruit sorbet palate cleanser. Yum! And the views? Well, we think they speak for themselves. 

Photo courtesy of Adventure Girl :)

There was another amazing moment when a group of scarlett macaws flew by, only this time, we were actually above them, looking down on their spectacular colours.      

We also had some fun at the public beach, and lots of time by the pool at our place.            

Building a sand taxi

Our typical homemade dinner: taco bowl

We considered going zip lining but Adventure Girl had her hesitations and we knew from experience that you have to be ready to step off that platform or else it could be a pretty unsuccessful outing! 

Instead, we opted for something that's more difficult to change your mind on at the last moment: parasailing! We had watched many people take off and land, while we were lounging on the public beach. It looked so smooth and relaxing, and Adventure Girl was game! So we signed up for a sunset ride and before we knew it, we were getting strapped into the wet harnesses. 

We were given a quick run-down on the steps: walk quickly forwards, hold up the bar, then drop our hands to the straps and sit back. It all happened so fast - one moment we were standing on the beach; the next, we were flying up, up, up! 

Craig had paraglided a few times previously and he was right in his description - it was more like floating than flying because it was so effortless. It almost felt like we were sitting on a couch in front of a green screen, it was so relaxing and surreal!

We flew along the coast of the National Park, where we got to see the three beaches clearly, and the spots where we'd seen the capuchins, then the three troupes of monkeys earlier that day. We floated above a V of pelicans, and watched our own shadow dance along the treetops. We filmed the whole experience on our go-pro and will be re-watching it many times, for sure. 

Then, we prepared ourselves for the landing, which didn't end up being all too stressful. Lots of frantic unclipping of carabiners but all heads stayed above water. Note that our go-pro footage is way more harrowing because it was strapped to Craig's chest which did go under water! 

The next moment we were on the back of a jet ski, hanging on, being shuttled back to shore. 

It was an incredibly expensive 15 minutes but such an amazing experience. And, Adventure Girl? She was joyful throughout and immediately wanted to go again, quoting that the take off and landing (ie: the most thrilling parts) were her favourite! 

2024 sure has been off to an exhilerating start!

To follow along with Adventure Girl's recount of Costa Rica, visit: