Jacob’s First (Irish) Birthday

On Friday we celebrated a very special day: little Jacob’s first birthday! We love our little snuggle bear and can’t imagine our lives without him.

Before we moved to Ireland we had a celebration for him in Washington with our friends and family.  It was wonderful to celebrate with all of our loved ones in person–even if it was a full month before his actual birthday.


On Friday we had a fun start to Jacob’s real birthday. After a french toast breakfast we let Jacob open the birthday present that David had picked out for him. It’s a little stuffed cow and Jacob is in love with it. He literally squeals with delight and starts excitedly kicking his feet every time he sees it. He may even love the little cow enough to quit stealing David’s Mimi.


Then the REALLY exciting part of our day started. After present-time we headed out to the Department of Family and Social Services to get our PPS Numbers (kind of like Irish Social Security Numbers). We were actually one of the first ones in line before the offices even opened, so we got processed in about an hour. It could have been much, much worse. The boys were troopers and did a great job hanging out (mostly) patiently while we filled out paperwork and waited our turn to go over our applications. The most exciting part of the morning was when David had to go potty…only there was no toilet at the Department of Family and Social Services. I literally ran through downtown Cork trying to find a public restroom that was open at 9 AM. Since there were no fast food joints or gas stations to pop into we ended up going into the Court House…where all of the toilets were locked…but I managed to pop a loose door open anyway. Desperate times, people. Take that, bathroom-less city.

After our fun morning getting PPS numbers, it was time to start the real birthday adventures. We dropped Jon off at work then headed out to the zoo that we just bought memberships to. We had lots of fun eating our picnic lunch and watching the animals.


Jacob and David both loved playing at the zoo’s playgrounds…until an epic downpour sent us running for our car.


That night we celebrated Jacob’s birthday with some yummy cake (so yummy that Mommy has already eaten most of it. Shhh…don’t tell Jacob!).


Since Daddy didn’t get to go to the zoo with us on Friday, we decided to have one more special outing as a family on Saturday. We went to a local pool during “family swim”–there were lots of fun blow up toys and even some floating basketball hoops to play with. The best part about swimming in Ireland, though, is the fashion. Any time you swim in a public pool here you are required to wear a swim cap. As you can see, they’re adorable. And they fit 2-year olds properly. That’s important.


It was a wonderful birthday for a wonderful little boy. Happy first birthday, sweet Jacob! We love you!


Getting Established

One of my favorite–and most dreaded–parts about moving somewhere new is getting established in my new home–getting past the unpacking and the millions of phone calls to set everything up and finally starting to settle in to this place and find my place in it. It is my favorite part of the move because getting “established” allows me to feel like I belong here and I’m not just some lost tourist. It’s my least favorite part because it’s hard. I’m actually a pretty shy and introverted person so it takes a bit of courage for me to step out there and get involved. It can also take some time and patience to discover what opportunities and resources are available and to break into a new social circle. Thankfully, Ireland has been kind to me. This week I’ve had some exciting breakthroughs in the “getting established” department.

Yesterday I took the boys to our local library so we could get library cards and check out some new books (the 4 books I carried with us on the airplane are getting sooooo BORING).

Each of the boys got his own library card that he can use to check out 10 books at a time from the children’s department. The boys’ cards were free, but I decided to also buy myself a card for 15 Euro because I know I’ll use it. I went ahead and checked out a few books on Irish history from the vast selection of books on that matter (I think about 20% of the library is devoted to books on Irish history)–figured it would be good to know a bit about what I’m getting myself into here. I also signed David up for the library summer reading program. If he reads 15 books he gets a shiny “gold” medal. He’s already 2 books away from his prize (could be due to the fact that we checked out 10 books on soccer…er…football…from the library yesterday).

This morning we did something that got us legally established here in Ireland: we registered our visas at the garda (police) station.


As you can tell from David’s expression, it was an exciting venture. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. We were the first ones in line when the immigration office opened and they got us processed in about 10 minutes. Jon and I both have special visitor/worker permit cards that we have to carry with us at all times just in case somebody suspects we’ve outstayed our welcome.

After I dropped Jon off at work I headed out to Fota to meet up with a mum’s group (how cute is that…mum?!) from our church. Every Wednesday they go to this place called Go Safari to hang out. It’s an indoor play area for kids with food and drinks–perfect for hanging out while the kids run around and burn off some of their boundless energy.


I had a great time getting to know the 6 other ladies and their sweet little kids. They gave me some good tips on where to shop for the cheapest nappies (diapers) and who to contact for babysitting. Cha-ching! David and Jacob both loved playing in the ball pit–so much so that I couldn’t even get a photo of the 3 of us together before one of them would try to squirm away to jump in the balls again:


On Friday we will be going to get our PPS Numbers (kind of like Irish Social Security Numbers). After we have our PPS numbers we can set up our local bank account–something we’re really looking forward to since we’ve been racking up enough foreign transaction fees on our credit cards to purchase a small car. Unless you’re in Ireland. In which case, enough to rent a car for a month. Or maybe just buy a week’s worth of groceries. Oy…

Experiencing Cork City

Jon has become quite the coffee connoisseur over the last couple of years, and item one on his agenda has been to find a quality espresso machine that he can use over here. He’s done months of research on the types of machines that are available so he was just itching to get out to a store and buy one. We decided that this weekend would be “find Jon’s dream machine weekend”. We set out early Saturday morning to downtown Cork where we had a number of recommendations for specialty coffee and kitchen shops to look in.

It soon became quite obvious, however, that this quest was not going to end well. Most stores had no espresso machines whatsoever, and the ones that did carry espresso machines were very high end and out of our comfort zone, budget-wise (we really don’t need to spend over $2,000 on an espresso machine that he can use for two years, do we?). We abandoned our goal of bringing home Jon’s espresso-baby and turned our attention to something more positive.

Since we were already downtown, we decided to make a day of it and do a little sight-seeing. We bought delicious snacks and drinks from a chocolate shop and ate them in this little park:


Then we crossed the River Lee that runs right through the middle of Cork City:


We walked up a large hill to Shandon where the famous “Four-Faced Liar” clock stands at the top of St. Anne’s Cathedral:


When we got back to downtown Cork they had set up a huge street festival for the Street Performance World Championship. They had some really neat street performers for us to watch:


The boys enjoyed watching the live performances:


There were also lots of fun activities for the kids to do. David’s favorite? The soccer game where he won a bag of candy every time he scored a goal!


After we’d had our fill of street fair fun (and maybe a bit too much sun) we went to pick up our NEW CAR!


I’m super-excited about this new car because it’s an automatic–no more trying to figure out a manual while driving on the opposite side of the (narrow) roads. It was quite the journey to actually get this car. After many days of calling car companies we came to the conclusion that there was really only one way we could get a car here. We are doing a long-term rental on the car because they don’t do leases here in Ireland and we don’t qualify for insurance to buy a car. We had hoped to get two cars, but long-term rental is VERY expensive (our car rental costs almost as much as our house each month!). So, for the time being, we will share the one car. One benefit to having a rental is that we can technically change out the car we have every 28 days if we need to. If this car doesn’t end up working well for us, we only have to keep it for 28 days and then we can try something different. We are also going to buy Jon a bike so he can can commute by bike whenever he’s able. Just one more change that we’ll have to adapt to!

One more change that we’ve been thinking and praying a lot about for…well…as long as we’ve know that we’d be moving to Ireland…is the church community we would join here. Getting plugged in to a Jesus-loving, gospel-preaching church is our first priority, but–as with many things with this move–we discovered that would be easier said than done. There are very few evangelical Christian churches in Ireland. In fact, our city (the 2nd largest city in the Republic of Ireland) only has about a dozen. A few months back we heard about a church here called Calvary Cork from a friend of mine who knows the pastor. We decided to check it out today.

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From the moment we walked in the doors we were blown-away blessed. It’s a small church (50-75 people were there today), but one of the most welcoming I’ve ever been to. Everyone was very friendly and they made us feel right at home. David was able to play in the creche (childcare) during the service (Jacob could have gone, too, if he wasn’t such a cry-baby). David had tons of fun coloring, eating snacks, hearing a short Bible story and playing with lots of sweet little Irish girls (his first response when we picked him up was, “I’m girl crazy!”).

The sermon was great (at least the parts of it I could hear from the baby cry room!). One of the best parts if the whole service, however, was the music. One of the first songs they played was “Grace Alone”, a song written by Dustin Kensrue from our church in Seattle, Mars Hill. We sang this song all the time “back home”–it was so neat to hear this song halfway around the world and worship with these new brothers and sisters who I’ve just met. Really, really cool.

We also had two of our other more petty prayers answered at church this morning. Jon got a great recommendation for a new coffee place that sounds a lot like Philz (his favorite coffee place EVER). And for me: I got invited to a mommy playgroup that meets every Wednesday not too far from our house. I’m really excited to meet some new friends and get to know the people I’ll be living with for the next 2 years!

All in all, it was a great weekend experiencing our new home city. And it really is starting to feel a bit like home.


Inchydoney Beach

Ireland is currently experiencing the hottest summer they’ve had in 15 years. It’s been near 80 degrees since we got here–definitely warm by Seattle standards, and unheard of by Irish standards. We decided to take advantage of the sunshine today and skip out on our responsibilities (i.e. setting up utilities and looking for a car) so we could go to the beach. Seems reasonable to me.

The lady who owns the house we’re staying in recommended place called Inchydoney Beach. It’s about an hour outside if Cork in the west side of the county on the Atlantic Ocean. Driving up to the beach was breathtaking!


Seeing as every Irish person went to the beach today, it was quite busy at the beach. We snagged the last empty parking space and walked down to the sand.

After we dropped off our stuff, it was time to play! This was the first time 75% of our family had been in the Atlantic Ocean.


David had fun playing in the waves.


Beautiful place, beautiful day, beautiful boys.


On our way back to Cork we drove through some cute little towns…


…and almost got run off the road by this tractor:


Until later, friends!


Our First Day In Ireland

Today was our first full day in Ireland. We slept in and then spent the rest of the day exploring.

We started by going to a Vodafone store in town and signing up for new cell phone plans. Priorities, people! We now have (local) calling/texting capability as well as Internet access.

After getting our phones taken care of we drove up to our new house. We can’t move in until Monday, but I still wanted to see where it was.

Here is the outside of the house–it’s a middle unit in a 4-unit townhouse:


There is a nice grassy field across the street from our house in the middle of our neighborhood. David and Bota will have so much fun playing here!


We walked down the block to Garryduff Sports Center, the sports complex that our yard backs up to. They have soccer fields, tennis courts, and even a small golf course:


After walking around our neighborhood for a while, we decided to go check out the walking path that leads to Jon’s office.


It was a nice walk that took us over the water, past a small castle, and through the woods.


We went in to Cypress and saw Jon’s new office.


On our walk back from Cypress we stopped by the Mahon Point Shopping Center to look around.


We got smoothies and let the boys play in the shopping center play area. I can see myself spending many rainy days here!


We ate dinner at our rental house then had some playtime out in the courtyard.


It’s already the boys’ bedtime here–good thing, because we’re all tired from our busy day!

Final Housing Search!

One of our "potentials" in Cork

One of our “potentials” in Cork

This morning Jon woke up at 4:45 AM to catch a flight to Ireland for his third–and final–housing search. Unfortunately, 12 hours later, he is still…sitting at the airport. His flight got delayed…then delayed…then delayed…until he eventually changed to a new flight plan altogether. He will now be leaving Seattle at about 6:00 this evening, flying through the night to London, and then on to Cork. This is an unfortunate beginning to the trip, but hopefully it’s not a sign of disappointments to come!

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks researching housing online, making spreadsheets, and plotting potential houses on maps. In the end, though, we will be at the mercy of the quick-moving Cork rental market. Houses go very quickly there, so hopefully the right house is available for us at the right time. Jon will have less than 4 days to set up a bank account, see houses, make a decision and sign a lease. We are planning on moving July 6th, so we are really hoping we can find something that will be available in the next week or two.  It’s a lot to accomplish, but we know that God has the right place already picked out for us!

As soon as he signs a lease I’ll update here with some photos. Crazy that by the end of this week we’ll have our very own house in Ireland!

Our Trip To Ireland

We just got back from an AMAZING week in Ireland! I seriously feel like I spent the whole week walking around with my jaw hanging open–I was just in such awe of the beauty and the history surrounding me in that magical place. And, lucky for you, dear reader, this blog is about to get a whole lot better. You see, while we were there we made a trek to the Blarney Stone–the fabled stone that gives the “gift of gab” to whoever kisses it. I managed to kiss the dang thing (see Day 6, below, for more details), so we’ll see how witty and wry my writing has become since that fateful day.

If you’ve been to Ireland before, you know what an incredible place it is. If you haven’t been, I’m sure you’ll be booking your flight by the time you’re done reading this post. I hope I can do it justice here!

Day 1: Traveling To Ireland With A Baby
Jacob did amazingly well traveling. We were fortunate to get a row with an extra seat for the long flight across the Atlantic, so we were able to bring his car seat on the plane with us. He fell asleep during take-off and took enough naps during the flight that I was able to watch a couple of movies and read my “airplane magazines” (the high-caliber celebrity magazines that I really only ever read above 10,000 feet). Our route to Ireland was a bit of the hop-hop-hop variety: we went from Seattle to Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Cork, Ireland. Our 2 hour layover in Amsterdam turned into 5 hours because they had just gotten some unexpected snow and had to clear the runways. While we were waiting, I treated myself to healthy breakfast at the airport Starbucks (those Dutch sure know how to properly use whipped cream!).

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0002Jacob had fun looking out the windows with me. We watched huge snow plows blow past us clearing the way for all of the pretty blue Dutch airplanes.

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After about 22 hours of travel we made it to our hotel room. It was a nice, spacious room in a 250 year old hotel. They had even set up a “by cot” (a crib) for us before we arrived.

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After a quick nap we went out to get some dinner. We found a great pub with delicious steaks and boisterous “trad” music (traditional Irish music). Then it was time for bed. Jacob was a thoughtful baby and let me sleep for almost 13 hours (with a few wake-ups for feedings, of course).

Day 2: The Cliffs of Moher
Every person we know who’s been to Ireland and every guidebook that’s ever been written insisted that we visit the Cliffs of Moher on the western coast of Ireland. We decided to take a clue and used our first full day there to drive out and see what all the fuss was about. The cliffs are–well–cliffs. Really big, tall, intimidating cliffs that jut right out of the ocean. They really are incredible.

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We spent a few hours walking the paths that line the cliffs so we could see every incredible angle.

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From what I hear, the weather at the Cliffs of Moher can be pretty treacherous, even in the middle of the summer. We lucked out with a relatively mild day, rolling fog, and even a few sunbreaks. The cliffs truly were as beautiful as all the hype made them out to be.

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After our glorious afternoon at the cliffs, we were feeling adventurous. Perhaps a bit too adventurous for sleep-deprived, jet-lagged, over-zealous tourists.  We decided that we weren’t done exploring yet and wanted to take a scenic route home. So, instead of driving straight back to our hotel (which was still two and a half hours away by the most direct route, mind you) we hopped on a ferry.

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By the time we had crossed the water and started looking for our scenic drive home, the sun was setting. We decided to ditch our plans for the 4 hour scenic drive along the water (what WERE we thinking?!) and find a quick route back to the city. This is when we learned that there are no quick drives back to the city when you are in the middle of the Irish countryside. It’s also when we learned that Irish country roads are actually small dirt paths that were built for horses, not Toyotas, and that on-coming traffic will barrel you off the path-road if you don’t scoot yourself out of the way quick enough. We also learned that it gets very, very dark in the middle of nowhere with no streetlights, stars, or settlements to help guide you. Did I mention that you also drive on the left in Ireland and that none of the street signs actually match up with the road names on a map? Let’s just leave this story here: it was a long drive, a terrifying drive, and one that we will never, ever do again. Lesson learned.

Day 3: Exploring City Cork
Jon was in Ireland for work, so he had to spend the next several days in meetings. I decided to spend my first solo-day exploring the city we were in. Cork is the second largest city in Ireland, but that’s a bit deceiving. It’s only 1/10th the size of the largest city, Dublin, and has a population of roughly 100,000 Corkians (Corkites? Corkies?). Jacob was my little travel buddy, and he was a great little companion to take along on all of my adventures. We started by walking through downtown to look at all of the cute shops.

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While we were walking around we found the English Market, an indoor public market that began in 1788. They had lots of traditional Irish foods, including the largest selection of butchers that I’ve ever seen in one spot.

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Next, we crossed the river and climbed a hill to St. Anne’s Cathedral. You can see St. Anne’s Cathedral from anywhere in the city, and she is famous for her bells and her clocks. There are four clocks on the top of the cathedral, one pointing in each direction. The clocks have the nickname of the “Four-Faced Liar” because each clock tells a different time, all the time, except on the hour when they somehow sync up to tell the correct time.

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You’re able to climb to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower and they actually let you ring the huge church bells (called The Bells of Shandon). They even have music sheets so you can play your favorite song for the whole city to hear.

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After Jacob and I perfected “Happy Birthday” (I’m sure to the great annoyance of the church’s neighbors), we donned these fancy headphones for our climb to the top of the tower. You literally climb on top of the bells to get to the top of the tower, so ear protection was necessary (the bells ring every 15 minutes on their own, plus any obnoxious tourist can start ringing “Happy Birthday” whenever they feel like it).

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Once we got to the top, though, the view was totally worth it. Cork really is a beautiful city!

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The next part of our adventure involved walking back across the river to the other side of the city.

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We went to a massive old church (and by old, I mean that there’s been a church here since the early 7th century) called St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. It was a beautiful building with a lot of history.

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After St. Fin Barre’s we hopped in the car and drove about about a mile outside of the city center to the Cork City Gaol (Jail). It was the city’s jail from 1823-1924 and held all of the most notorious crooks and criminals from those days. Plus, it was another impressive structure.

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They had jail cells open that you could go inside and see what it would have been like to be a prisoner in those days: cold, cramped, and quiet–they didn’t allow any talking or noise whatsoever. The guards even wore special pads on their shoes so thew wouldn’t make any sound as they walked the hallways. It was a beautiful, disturbing place (or maybe just beautifully disturbing).

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Day 4: The Rock of Cashel
After another good night’s sleep we woke up and hit the road for a little town an hour north of Cork called Cashel. Our destination was the Rock of Cashel: an ancient castle on the top of a massive stone extrusion. Wikipedia explains “The Rock” pretty well: “According to local mythology, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil’s Bit, a mountain 20 miles (30 km) north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock’s landing inCashel.[1] Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.” How cool is that?!

We drove about an hour and a half north of Cork to get to The Rock. It was fascinating to see such a piece of history firsthand.

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We spent some time walking around the grounds and exploring until our fingers and toes were about to fall off due to the frigid winds that were blowing through the area. Honestly, I don’t know how we managed to walk into Siberia. Siberia or not, though, it was really, REALLY cool to see it (no pun intended).

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Upon returning to our car I realized that our parking was good all day, so we decided to stay in Cashel town to explore some more. I’m so glad we decided to stay because the town itself was one of the most charming places I’ve ever been. We’d be walking down the road and all of a sudden I’d look up to see…a castle.

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This castle was called Kearney Castle and now it’s a hotel and restaurant on Main Street. How crazy is that?!

We also found this little museum that explored the history of Cashel and the surrounding areas. It was technically closed for the winter, but the curator happened to be there doing some spring cleaning. He decided to let me in–for free–and spent the next 2 hours showing me every artifact in the museum and telling me fascinating stories about his precious collection. It was an incredible museum and I am so grateful to this man for taking time out of his day to show me so much.

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Day 5: Titanic Museum in Cobh
For my final solo day I decided to drive to a little town called Cobh that is about 15 minutes outside of the city. Years ago Cobh was called Queenstown, and it was the final port of call for the most-infamous of all ships: Titanic.

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I have always been fascinated by all things “Titanic” so I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to see this piece of the ship’s history first-hand. There is a great little museum in Cobh called the Experience Titanic Museum. The museum itself is housed in the old White Star Lines ticket office where the passengers would have actually boarded the ship. When you get to the museum you are given a boarding ticket with the name of an actual passenger who boarded Titanic in Queenstown (Cobh). At the end of the museum they have kiosks where you can learn more about your passenger and whether the survived or perished on that fatal night (I’m pleased to report that my passenger did survive. Unfortunately, Jacob’s passenger–a 15 year old boy–died). It was moving to learn more about the ship from a more personal perspective.

After the museum we walked around the town of Cobh. As with all towns in Ireland, Cobh has a rich history. This is the town where they brought the survivors of the Lusitania–the British ocean liner that was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1915 thus beginning the world’s involvement in World War I. Cobh is a beautiful little fishing town with pristine waterfront parks and lots of cute shops lining main street. I would love to come back here on a warm summer day and just spend all day exploring.

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On our way back to the hotel I had to stop in a park to nurse Jacob. While we were sitting there in our car I got a wonderful surprise–a huge double rainbow that stretched across the horizon. I looked for leprechauns and even poked around the car to see if anyone forgot their pot of gold, but to no avail.

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Day 6: Blarney Castle and kissing the Blarney Stone
Jon got the afternoon off this day so we wanted to do something special together after his busy week of work. Blarney Castle (which houses the infamous Blarney Stone) is just outside of Cork City. We decided to spend our day exploring the castle and its grounds (which are beautiful, it turns out). The castle originally dates from around the year 1200.

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As you walk up the narrow spiral staircase to the top of the castle you can poke into all of the rooms and imagine what it would have been like to live in such a formidable place. It was quite impressive to see all that they were able to build into a massive stone structure.

When you finally reach the top of the castle, you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

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You are also greeted with the opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone. The Blarney Stone is said to give the “gift of gab” to anyone who kisses it. Basically, kissing this rock is supposed to give you eloquent speech, wit, and wisdom (which is probably why it’s been a favorite destination for politicians and world leaders for centuries). This is what the rock looks like (it’s the long gray stone at the bottom of the black bars):

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And this is how you kiss it:

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You have to grip the black support bars and lean over backward over the battlements to get to the rock that’s underneath the ledge. Oh, and you’re about 100 feet in the air. It’s a bit exhilarating to hang upside down from such a height!

After exploring the castle we spent a good amount of time exploring the gardens, stables, towers, and trails that encompass the grounds. I have to say, Blarney Castle was probably my favorite excursion of the whole trip!

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Day 7: Kinsale and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery
We began our final day in Ireland in a little waterfront town called Kinsale.

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0305Kinsale is known as a foodie capital with great restaurants on every corner. Unfortunately, we got there pretty early before things were really up and going. Double-unfortnuately, we were there in the middle of February–the non-tourist season–so a lot of things were simply shut down for the winter. We did enjoy walking around the town to see all of the brightly colored buildings, and we had a delicious lunch of crepes before we headed out.

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On our way out of town we stopped at an old military fort called Charles Fort. It was a key player in the Spanish War of the early 1600’s. We decided not to go inside the fort for the tour, but it was really neat to see the structure (and the view, oh the view from up there!).

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We drove from Kinsale straight up to Middleton, home of the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.

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We went on a tour of the old distillery (the new, more modern production happens next door). We learned a lot about the whiskey-making process and even got to sample the finished product.

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We called it quits early on our last day because we needed to get back to our hotel and pack so we’d be ready for our 3 AM wake-up call the next morning.

The next day was travel day again. We were sad to leave, but also excited to get back home and see our little David who didn’t get to accompany us on this trip. We ended up having a very smooth, uneventful trip back to the states. Jacob was a trooper (as always) and slept for about 7 hours on the plane. I think traveling with a peaceful 6-month old is about as good as it gets!

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We had an incredible time in Ireland and truly loved every bit of it that we saw. The country was beautiful, the people were friendly (seriously, some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life), the food was good, and the sights were amazing. I can’t wait to go back and see all of the places we missed on this trip!