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A Lazy Day in Galway

Friday, July 12, 2013 @ 08:26 pm from Ireland Ireland
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!

A Day at the Beach... In Ireland?

Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 05:24 pm from Ireland Ireland
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.
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On the way to Salthill
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Salthill Promenade
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People dive off the pier at the back of the photo
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Galway Bay with mountains in background

Heading up the Coast - Doolin to Galway

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 @ 08:53 pm from Ireland Ireland
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.
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Along the River Corrib
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Bridge over River Corrib
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Spanish Arch and Blind Arch - Part of the original town wall
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Cool patterns someone made on the river bank

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 @ 04:58 pm from Ireland Ireland
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

The Early Bird Gets The Worm!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 @ 04:19 pm from Ireland Ireland
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.
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Cliffs from some rocks
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More Cliffs of Moher
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Who dat?
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O'Brien's Tower

Can It Get Any More Beautiful? The Cliffs of Moher

Monday, July 8, 2013 @ 09:43 pm from Ireland Ireland
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.
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Cliffs of Moher
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Chillin' on the side of a cliff
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Cliffs of Moher
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Cliffs of Moher

Another Travel Day - Dingle to Limerick

Sunday, July 7, 2013 @ 09:09 pm from Ireland Ireland
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.

No photos from today since Limerick was dead and I didn't take any moving photos from the bus.

The Blasket Islands - Stunningly Beautiful

Saturday, July 6, 2013 @ 07:46 pm from Ireland Ireland
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.
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Heading to Blasket Islands
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Wool storage
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North east side of Blasket Island
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Windy!

Buses. A lot of buses

Friday, July 5, 2013 @ 10:10 pm from Ireland Ireland
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...
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On my way to Tralee
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Random view from the bus
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Random view from the bus

Nore Valley Walk

Thursday, July 4, 2013 @ 04:37 pm from Ireland Ireland
Day 8

Last night walked around and couldn't find anything worth listening to as far as live music was concerned so I came back to the hostel. I started talking to some of my bunkmates and it turns out two of the girls were from Australia and were a month into their year long backpacking trip. We met up with a couple other people from the hostel and went out in search of music again. We ended up finding a Trad band with some Irish dancers at a pub and watched them for a while. Afterwards I came back and went to bed. I knew today was going to be a long day of hiking so I wanted to get a good night's sleep.

Yesterday I was at the tourist office and found a map of all the hiking trails around Kilkenny. There was an 11km (6.8mi) hike (one-way) that started about 2 miles from the hostel. The trail is called the Nore Valley Walk and follows the River Nore down to Bennettsbridge. Along the way there were old abandoned mills and quarries used to mine all the limestone found in Kilkenny.

The map showed a way to cross over to the trail from my side of the river but it ended up being a little less clear than I had expected. I ended up doing an extra mile or so backtracking and navigating over a huge bridge. There were some nice views of the valley from the top of the bridge though.

The weather on the hike today was great. There were some clouds but it was mixed with long spots of sunshine. I didn't need a jacket today either and was actually getting a little warm in my hiking pants.

After the first part of the trail where I had an issue finding it, the trail was very well marked and went through a lot of fields and grazing land for cattle. I saw a heron and some swans hanging out in the river too. It took me about 2.5 hours to make it to Bennettsbridge from the time I left Kilkenny. I was able to get through the entire Mumford and Sons Babel album and the entire M83 Hurry Up We're Waiting album on the way there. I wasn't really walking too fast and was stopping to take photos too. The bridge in Bennettsbridge looks nice so I stopped there for a few photos.

I had packed a sandwich so I hiked into town and ate in a park. On the way out of town I was craving something else so I stopped into a local convenience store and bought an Aero mint candy bar. Not being someone who eats much sweets, it was pretty good!

The way back ended up being about 30 minutes faster. I guess I had upped my pace and was full and re-energized from lunch. After I got back to town I made my way back to the hotel to give my feet a rest. All in all I think I did about 15 or so miles today. My legs feel pretty good... probably from all the walking I've been doing over the last week.

Tonight I'll head out again to try to find some music and probably have another pint. There won't be any fireworks here tonight for the 4th. Maybe I'll run into another American or two I can say happy 4th to! I've still got to figure out what I want to do about dinner. I had some spicy cajun red bean stew last night at a pub and it ended up being really good! Tomorrow I get on a bus and head to the Dingle Peninsula for a couple of nights.
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Commissioned Graffiti
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Detour along a road
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Me along the trail
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Bennett's Bridge in Bennettsbridge
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View of the Seville cathedral from La Banda Rooftop Hostel. #seville #spain #europetrip2013
Manometer. How much of a man are you? At the Sv. Norbert monastery brewery. #prague #europetrip2013
Not a bad view for the morning run. #europetrip2013
Thanks for ruining a great photo op, Gran Tourismo. The Puente Nuevo in Ronda Spain. #europetrip2013
Scottish Highlands. #europetrip2013
Blasket Island. #europetrip2013
Bristol Temple Meads train station. #bristol #europetrip2013
Fall colors and palm trees. Works for me! #sevilla #europetrip2013
More cool lights. Plaza del Salvador in Seville. #sevilla #europetrip2013
More chalk cliffs. #europetrip2013

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Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.

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