BrandonoBrien.com

Brandon O'Brien

Travel and Adventure Journal

I wanted a place to journal all my travels and adventures around the world. I always enjoy going back and reflecting on my past travels and getting to relive them through my words and photos.

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A New Country - Scotland

A New Country - Scotland

Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 12:00 AM in 2013 Europe

Day 17

Today was a long day of traveling. I started in Galway, Ireland this morning and jumped on a bus to Dublin Airport at 9:45am. I got to the airport about 5 hours before my flight but wasn't able to check in until 2 hours ahead of time. I ended up spending the entire time reading another mystery novel I picked up from the hostel.

I finally got checked into the flight and headed toward the gate area. When it finally came time to board I saw that I was going to be on a really small prop plane. The flight was fine but it was definitely one of the noisiest commercial flights I've been on. Everything inside the aircraft was shaking around.

When I landed I had a couple hours before Eric showed up so I just hung out at the Edinburgh airport. Eric's flight got in a little earlier than expected so we jumped on the bus to the city center and checked into our hotel (the Royal British).

Both of us were pretty hungry so we set out to find some food. It was pretty late already and most of the restaurants had closed down for the night. We ended up finding a place that had a pretty wide variety of food and I got a calzone (I had been craving italian for the last few nights). By now it was after 11 and pretty much all the pubs had their last call so we just came back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we're going to check out the Edinburgh castle and walk the Royal Mile. There will be some amazing photos tomorrow so stay tuned!

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Tags: daily journal, scotland, edinburgh

Posted from: Scotland

A Lazy Day in Galway

A Lazy Day in Galway

Friday, July 12, 2013 @ 8:26 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 16

Last night Chris and I ended up finishing the whole bottle of Southern Comfort. Fortunately I was drinking a lot of water so I woke up feeling pretty good. Chris took off this afternoon for a different hostel and then he'll head back to the states tomorrow.

After breakfast I got my book and went out to the river and read in the shade. About an hour later I finished the book and walked around the city a little more before deciding to get lunch. I got a chicken baguette and ate by the River Corrib and the Spanish Arch. It was another beautiful day although it was a little cooler.

After lunch I came back to the hostel and worked for a while before deciding to go see the new Superman movie. I enjoyed the movie. I thought it was much better than the last remake of Superman.

I ate some dinner and have been working on editing and uploading some of my photos to IndePrinted. I want to print off some of my best shots from the trip when I get home and hang them in my place.

I'm going to head out in a bit and grab a pint of Guinness. I figure I'll have one last glass before heading to Scotland tomorrow!

Teaser photos:

Drinking some cider by the river
Drinking some cider by the river

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Tags: daily journal, ireland, galway,

Posted from: Ireland

A Day at the Beach... In Ireland?

A Day at the Beach... In Ireland?

Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 5:24 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 15

It was another beautiful day in Galway so I decided I'd take advantage of this freak weather and head to the Salthill beach (about a 3 mile walk away). I ate a quick breakfast and got an early (in Irish standards) start to the beach and arrived around 10:30. I lathered on the sun screen and then walked about knee deep into the frigid North Atlantic waters of Galway Bay. The cold water really helps cool you down!

I didn't really like leaving my back with wallet and phone and camera sitting on the beach so I went back to it and ended up reading on the beach for a while. After I got nice and hot again I moved into the shade and read some more. It was relaxing not really having a schedule and just relaxing around the beach.

I had some lunch and then decided to get in the water again. This time I got up to my waist and was sufficiently cool down enough to stay out for a while longer. I read in the sun some more then went back to the shade. I walked down to a pier where people dive off into the ocean. I saw a few people do it but no one was doing any cool flips or anything so I ventured back into the shade.

When I was in the shade reading I overheard a young couple talking to some police about how all their stuff got jacked when they were in the ocean by the pier. I'm glad my instincts were right about not leaving my stuff exposed for too long (even though I was keeping an eye on it while I was in the water).

By about 4:00 I was ready to head back and shower. I made the hot walk back and enjoyed washing all the sweat, sunscreen and salt off me. I'll probably stay here tonight. Chris messaged me on facebook saying he bought a bottle of Southern Comfort and some cokes so we'll just chill here and drink for a while. That's what we ended up doing last night too.

One of my bunkmates is volunteering at a film festival in town and was talking about some of the showings. I might go do that tomorrow since the weather is looking like it might rain. There are some schedule books laying around the hostel so I'll give them a look over and see if there's anything that looks interesting.

Teaser photos:

On the way to Salthill
On the way to Salthill
Salthill Promenade
Salthill Promenade
People dive off the pier at the back of the photo
People dive off the pier at the back of the photo
Galway Bay with mountains in background
Galway Bay with mountains in background

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Tags: daily journal, ireland, galway

Posted from: Ireland

Heading up the Coast - Doolin to Galway

Heading up the Coast - Doolin to Galway

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 @ 8:53 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 14

Last night I ended up finding a book at the hostel called the Moscow Vector so I've been reading that lately. It's a pretty good mystery book about Russians developing a super virus that can target individuals. I'll try to finish it over the next day or two and then swap it out for something else at my current hostel.

My bus for Galway left this afternoon and went through some of the Burren through some extremely curvy and steep roads. I'm still amazed how these buses are able to navigate some of these roads. No bus breakdowns this trip and I made it to Galway around 1:45pm.

I ate a sandwich and apple in Eyre park and then went to the Sleepzone hostel to check in. People are out and about everywhere since the weather has been so nice (although the humidity is really getting to me). All of the Irish and Europeans are walking around completely burnt to a crisp. It's pretty funny seeing how they're not used to the sun what-so-ever.

After checking into the hostel I walked around the town a bit through some nice canal areas and busy shopping/cafe areas. The heat was starting to get to me again so I came back to the hostel for a bit. I met up with Chris (the guy from Tennessee I originally met in Kilkenny) and we chatted for a bit.

I needed to get some food for dinner so I went to a Lidl for the first time. It's basically an Aldi and this was the first time I was able to go shopping without feeling like I was getting completely ripped off. For dinner I got some Irish sausages, peppers, onions and bread and cooked it up. I also had some wine (out of a coffee mug) with dinner which was a nice change from beer.

Since then I've just been taking it easy waiting for it to cool down so I can head out again to try and find some music or entertainment of some kind.

Teaser photos:

Along the River Corrib
Along the River Corrib
Bridge over River Corrib
Bridge over River Corrib
Spanish Arch and Blind Arch - Part of the original town wall
Spanish Arch and Blind Arch - Part of the original town wall
Cool patterns someone made on the river bank
Cool patterns someone made on the river bank

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Tags: daily journal, ireland, galway

Posted from: Ireland

Living out of a Backpack: Things I've Learned and More Observations

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 @ 4:58 PM in 2013 Europe

It's only been 2 weeks into my journey but I feel like I'm learning a lot about the art of traveling lightly.

Things I've Learned:

  • Bring a small flashlight or have a cellphone that can help light up dark hostel bedrooms. (Don't be the guy that turns the light on at 3am when everyone else is asleep)
  • If you go grocery shopping in Ireland, make sure you have your bags. It's something I've been doing in the States for years, but here you must bring your own bags or else you get charged 20 cents per plastic bag you need.
  • Make sure you have a pen close by. You always need to write something down or fill out paperwork when going through customs or crossing borders.
  • When you're walking around a city and find a tourist information booth or a map of sights in the city, take a photo of it so you can refer to it later. It makes searching out sights much easier.
  • The first Wednesday of every month in Ireland gets you free admission into all Heritage Ireland sights.
  • I haven't used my Platypus drink tube in conjunction with my day pack and water bottle. I had good intentions to use it but it's just not as practical as I thought.

In addition to the above things I've learned I also have some more observations.

Random Observations
  • Aero candy bars are pretty tasty (and I don't even eat candy hardly at all). I'm not sure if they're available in the States.
  • For some reason women of all ages here seem to think dying their hair an almost neon red looks good.
  • Not a single clock on any of the Bus Eireann buses has been even remotely correct.
  • All of the hostels I've stayed at so far use powdered instant coffee.
  • Bus Eireann lets you do amazing things on their website as far as finding schedules and booking tickets (you even save 5% if you book online). The downside is you still need to print the confirmation page and give it to the number. They have no clue how to handle looking at a phone screen to read the confirmation number and type it into their console.
  • In Ireland, so far buses have been cheaper forms of travel than trains

Tags: tips, observations

Posted from: Ireland

The Early Bird Gets The Worm!

The Early Bird Gets The Worm!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 @ 4:19 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 13

I woke up at 6:00 this morning in an effort to hike to the Cliffs of Moher so I could see them in the morning light and have breakfast with quite a view. Unfortunately the sun wasn't really playing nice and since there wasn't a cloud in the sky it was casting some pretty harsh shadows on the cliffs. The views were still incredible and there wasn't another soul out there. The freshness of the mornings always makes walking through nature so much nicer.

I made the 8km (plus a few extra) to the O'Brien's Tower - the highest point along the cliffs - and had the entire viewing spots and surrounding areas to myself. By now the sun had already been up for a few hours and the temperature and humidity was really starting to crank up. I stayed in the shade of the tower for a little while before starting my journey back.

On the way back I made sure to stop at some of the overviews and take in the views and sounds. I still had only seen 4 people in the 3 hours I'd been out hiking around so I could take my time watching the views without any interruptions. I made sure to take as many mental pictures as I could.

By the time it reached 10:00 it was getting to be uncomfortably hot. I was drenched in sweat and there isn't any shade on the exposed cliffs. I picked up my pace and by about 10:30 I finally started to see some more walkers making their way to the cliffs. I'm not quite sure any of them knew what kind of heat to expect but I'm glad I wasn't starting when they did.

I came back to the hotel where it was nice and cool and did a few hours of work and also made some changes to my blog (check out the Maps page. I added a new heatmap that shows where I've been staying each night). I also had a chance to do laundry for the first time! I was in desperate need of it and it felt great to have all of my clothes clean again.

Afterwards I changed and had the intentions of walking around a little bit but after about 10 minutes I decided I had enough of the sun and heat for the day and came back. I stopped in a local cheese/meat/wine/jam shop and sampled some of their treats and bought a bottle of cider that looked good. I'll crack it open tonight with dinner and see how it is.

I also bought my bus ticket to Galway so I'll be heading up there tomorrow. I'll stay there 3 nights then head to Dublin early Saturday morning so I can catch my flight to Edinburgh later in the day.

The Cliffs of Moher has been a great experience. Aside from the intense heat and sun, the views were amazing. I think I'd rather it be this way than cloudy and foggy though. It definitely let me see a lot more of the cliffs than most people get to experience in typical Irish weather.

Teaser photos:

Cliffs from some rocks
Cliffs from some rocks
More Cliffs of Moher
More Cliffs of Moher
Who dat?
Who dat?
O'Brien's Tower
O'Brien's Tower

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Tags: daily journal, ireland, doolin

Posted from: Ireland

Can It Get Any More Beautiful? The Cliffs of Moher

Can It Get Any More Beautiful? The Cliffs of Moher

Monday, July 8, 2013 @ 9:43 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 12

Today was a good day. It started off with a complimentary mini Irish breakfast that was included in my hotel cost. I took a couple croissants to snack on later as well. It was amazingly hot and humid here today so instead of sweating like crazy walking around Limerick I just relaxed in the hotel until I needed to leave for the bus station.

I stopped and got a few apples on my way to the station and was already starting to break a sweat. Not a cloud in the sky, 80% humidity and about 80 degrees. For a country that's been in the 60's and cloudy the entire time I've been here... this is hot!

The bus ride was going fine until the bus driver pulled over for a few minutes unexpectedly. He called in that there was some kind of issue with the gas pedal not working. He did a few things and we started moving again. About 5 minutes later we pulled over again and he said another bus is on the way and it should be there in about 10-15 minutes.

It was like sitting in an oven on the bus so most of us got off and waited outside in the shade where there was a nice breeze. I ended up talking to 4 sisters and their mom who were from Arizona and were finishing up a 4 week European trip. We agreed that dry heat is much better than heat and humidity.

The new bus came and we carried on. The hostel I'm staying at is in a tiny town called Doolin. The nearest grocery store is 3.5km away (more on that later). Doolin was the last stop so it was just me and a girl named Amy (also from the states) so we got checked into the hostel. I was looking forward to doing a hike along the cliffs so after putting my bags away I came out to ask about it. Amy was also looking to do the same hike so we set out together.

The hike started at the hostel and followed the coast for several miles up to the actual Cliffs of Moher visitor area. There were so many scenic viewpoints along the way it was amazing. The cliffs started gradually climbing and we had some good elevation gains. The highest cliffs we got to were somewhere around 700 feet worth of sheer drops above the ocean. We stopped at a spot where several other tourists were and took some photos hanging over the edge of the cliff.

By now it was around 5pm and the sun was still blazing down fiery doom from above. We set back and needed to get to the grocery store to get stuff for dinner. It took about an hour and a half to get back to the hostel and then we thought the grocery was just up the street (I remembered seeing it from the bus on the way in). Turns out it was 3.5km away and after hiking in the full sun for over 4 hours, that hike seemed to last forever.

Finally made it there and I got some food for dinner tonight, all three meals tomorrow and breakfast and lunch the following day. I made sure I wasn't going to need to do that hike again for any food. I also got an ice cream bar to help cool me down.

I got back to the hostel and ended up making some pasta and slamming a bunch of water. The wifi here is a bit spotty so it's taking forever to upload the photos from today. I desperately need to take a shower to get all the sweat and sunscreen off from the hike today and my clothes are in some major need of laundry. Fortunately they offer free laundry here so I'm going to take advantage of that sometime before I leave.

Everyone said to visit the Cliffs of Moher and all of the websites and travel blogs mentioned it as well. The photos and videos looked amazing but I have to say that being there and standing on the edge of a 700 foot drop into the ocean, you can't capture that kind of stuff on any medium except your memory.

Teaser photos:

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher
Chillin' on the side of a cliff
Chillin' on the side of a cliff
Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

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Tags: daily journal, ireland, doolin

Posted from: Ireland

Another Travel Day - Dingle to Limerick

Another Travel Day - Dingle to Limerick

Sunday, July 7, 2013 @ 9:09 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 11

I woke up to an absolutely beautiful day in Dingle. The sun broke the clouds and fog and it was a warm sunny day. It's the kind of day I wish I had yesterday when I was touring around. A bit of a shame that I wasn't going to be there another day to do a cycle tour or something.

Today was my departure day though. I got on a bus to Tralee at 12:20pm and then got a connection to Limerick. More beautiful views on the bus rides. I got to Limerick around 4:00pm and the city was totally dead. Only a few stores were open so I came and check into my hotel (yes, hotel. There weren't even any hostels in town). I watched a Hurling match with Dublin vs. Galway for the finals. Dublin ended up winning. Hurling is definitely an interesting sport. It reminded me of a mix of soccer and lacrosse.

By now I was getting hungry so I went out and found a Turkish place and had a doner kebab which was really tasty. I walked around a little more and nothing new had opened up so I bought a cider and came back to the hotel. I'm just enjoying not having people coming and going and having some time to unwind by myself.

Tomorrow I'll jump on a train and head to Doolin where I'll stay at a hostel for two nights. While I'm there I'll be walking along the Cliffs of Moher... 700 foot cliffs that drop straight into the ocean. They're supposed to be very picturesque and breathtaking. I would have headed straight to Doolin today but because it's Sunday all of the bus schedules were different and there wasn't a connection there.

Teaser photos:

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Tags: daily journal, ireland, dingle, limerick

Posted from: Ireland

The Blasket Islands - Stunningly Beautiful

The Blasket Islands - Stunningly Beautiful

Saturday, July 6, 2013 @ 7:46 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 10

Today was the best day of the trip so far. I was talking to some people in the hostel last night and one of the girls mentioned a Blasket Island tour they did yesterday. For 30 euros you get an hour long boat ride to the Blasket Islands, three hours on the island and then an hour boat ride back.

The Blasket Islands were abandoned in 1953 when the Irish government declared they could no longer keep the inhabitants safe. Everyone was moved to the mainland but some settled in Massachusetts. The ruins on the island now are in the foreground of some absolutely stunning backdrops.

I got to the Dingle Bay Charters office around 9:30 to buy my ticket for the 11:00 departure. I thought the weather would be like yesterday (sunny and warm) so I had shorts on. Fortunately I packed my long pants which I would need later on. After walking around the harbor for a bit I got on the boat. It was cloudy and the seas were rough. I didn't have high hopes for the day and was a bit disappointed I dropped 30 euros for this.

As we got closer to the island it seemed like the weather started to get better and better. We passed some amazing views of the coast on the ride out to the island and then we made our way to the island itself. There's only a very small little dock there so we had to get on a dinghy which took us onto the island itself.

From the boat you can see the ruins of the old settlement but as soon as you get on the island you can walk up to and through all the ruins. There are still a few people there who tend to some sheep and donkeys (male only) but you still have free range to explore wherever you want.

The first thing I did was I climbed up as high as I could before getting into the wind and clouds and ate lunch. The views were stunning. After that I walked down and through the ruins and then headed to the NE side of the island where there was a beach and some sheep grazing. There were also about a dozen seals swimming at the beach. A few crazy people donned swimsuits and got in the frigid water. I was not one of them.

Apparently you can camp on the island too because there were a few tents set up. It would be a great place to camp for the night since you'd be completely isolated after the last ferry left during the day until the next one arrived the following morning. It might be something to look into if I make it back over here.

We had 3 hours to spend on the island so I hiked around enjoying the views. Unfortunately my camera battery died about half way through my time on the island. Not bad considering I've been using it without recharging it for 10 days now. I spent a lot of time simply watching the ocean and mountains and enjoying the views. It was almost time for us to get back to the boat so I headed back to the ruins and waited for the dinghy to show up.

The ride back to town was a lot calmer than the way to the island. We got to see the local dolphin (Fungie) when we pulled into the harbor and everyone was excited. I guess they don't get to see too many dolphins up here, lol.

When we got back to town I came back to the hostel and started working to figure out my plan for the next few days until I meet Eric in Edinburgh. Since Dingle is so far removed from everything, trying to make a good plan was tough. I gave up and went to go eat some amazing seafood chowder at a restaurant aptly named Chowder.

I think my plan is going to be as follows: Tomorrow (Sunday) take a bus to Limerick and spend the night there. Monday, catch a bus to Doolin where I'll stay for 2 nights enjoying some peace and quiet with the Cliffs of Moher. Next, I'll head up to Galway for 2 nights and then go to Dublin for a night before catching a flight to Edinburgh on the 13th.

Teaser photos:

Heading to Blasket Islands
Heading to Blasket Islands
Wool storage
Wool storage
North east side of Blasket Island
North east side of Blasket Island
Windy!
Windy!

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Tags: daily journal, ireland, dingle, blasket islands

Posted from: Ireland

Buses. A lot of buses

Buses. A lot of buses

Friday, July 5, 2013 @ 10:10 PM in 2013 Europe

Day 9

I spent pretty much the entire day today (10:30am-7:30pm) on buses or in bus stations. I had to take a bus from Kilkenny to Cork, then from Cork to Tralee and finally from Tralee to Dingle. The views along the way were absolutely amazing. The Dingle Peninsula is absolutely gorgeous with mountains, sheep grazing areas and farms. These are the kinds of landscapes you see when you see photos of Ireland. Green as far as the eye can see.

I finally made it to Dingle and checked into the Hideout Hostel then set about finding some food. I had fish-n-chips #2 and was still let down a bit unfortunately. I'm not sure what the deal is. The guy even battered and fried everything in front of me. It was just lacking some kind of flavor.

After that I came back to the hostel and did an hour or so of work. Now I'm going to head out and see if I can find some live music. It is Friday night after all! Also, 10:00pm is "early" in Ireland I've noticed for Friday night's. I'm not used to this...

Teaser photos:

On my way to Tralee
On my way to Tralee
Random view from the bus
Random view from the bus
Random view from the bus
Random view from the bus

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Tags: daily journal, ireland, kilkenny, dingle

Posted from: Ireland

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