Dingle

In July we took a spur of the moment weekend trip to the Dingle Peninsula, and it ended up being our favorite weekend trip in Ireland. We’d love to go back and spend more time there some day.

It was a bit long of a drive for a weekend trip, but every moment of the weekend was magical, from driving through the rolling, verdant hills lined with rock walls, to exploring the colorful and welcoming town of Dingle itself, with its many pubs playing trad music every night of the week.

On our drive there, we stopped to pay homage (and pick up snacks for the drive) to a leader we miss dearly in these days of The Oompa Loompa Who Shall not be Named, at the nearly famous Barrack Obama Plaza- a gas station near the village of Moneygall, where Obama’s third great Grandfather lived before he emigrated to the US.

Our next stop was Inch Beach, where I did something we didn’t think was a thing in Ireland- surf. The water was warm and pleasant, and despite the torrential downpour that started halfway through the surfing session, it was a surreal experience that I’d love to do again someday. Sitting on a surfboard, surrounded by a beautiful landscape with the salty sea beneath me and warm rain falling from above, was one of those moments where you feel completely alive.

After an afternoon of surfing, we continued on to Dingle. We checked into our AirBnb, meandered through the town’s narrow streets, explored shops and art galleries, had dinner at a Pizza Jazz Bar, and ended the night pub hopping. Like speed dating for pub music, we sampled everything from traditional Irish music played on instruments we’d never seen before to more modern music, eventually settling at a pub that had a bit of everything where the energy was pulsating.

The next day we drove around the Dingle Peninsula along a route called the Wild Atlantic Way. We were driving down a very narrow road, winding through rugged coastline and rolling hills rich with farmland and ancient historical sights. We drove through the breathtaking Slea Head, wishing we had more time to see sights such as Michael Skellig, The Blasket Islands, and Dunmore Head (the westernmost point in Europe). It was a stunning drive nonetheless, even if it left us wanting more. Besides discovering that Dingle is our favorite place in Ireland thus far, we learned that 12 hours of driving is far too much for a day and half trip. 🙂

-Neal

Neal’s Birthday Trip to Wales

I wanted to surprise Neal with a trip for his birthday weekend. Previous birthday celebrations have consisted of camping trips or soccer games (Timbers, Sounders, or even better, Timbers v. Sounders. RCTID). This birthday was going to be monumentally different due to our relocation and I wanted to blend a little tradition with the excitement of visiting a new country. A quick online search of upcoming events gave me the answer I had been searching for. The professional soccer teams Manchester United and AC Milan were to play in Cardiff, Wales on Neal’s birthday. It was perfect. We had never talked about traveling to Wales before, so I knew it would be a true surprise and golden opportunity to explore a nearby country.

After a hour flight, we had landed in Wales’ capital city, Cardiff. We lucked out with our AirBnB location, a happening neighborhood called Pontcanna. While wandering, we stumbled upon two different food cart markets where local folks and their dogs were enjoying the evening. We tried local brews and liquid nitrogen-made ice cream. Dinner was at a funky pizza joint that we would have never found if it wasn’t for the internet. Its location was almost hidden down a gravel path with absolutely no signage. It reminded us so much of home, Portland, OR. No wonder we were loving it.

Neal’s birthday was a soccer filled day. Prior to the evening’s much anticipated professional match, we got to see the finale of the 2019 World Homeless Cup. Soccer teams from all over the world had come to Cardiff to compete, and it was absolutely free to attend. I had previously watched a documentary on the yearly event, and it was awesome to witness in person. We also got to explore Cardiff’s green spaces and charming city center, known for shopping arcades, prior to the big game. The professional match did not disappoint, ending in penalty kicks.

The last full day was spent exploring Cardiff Castle, located right in the city center. We really took our time there and enjoyed it much more than we expected. As we headed back towards the AirBnB, we heard some sort of local sports game happening and I was determined to see if we could watch. It happened to be a cricket match, and they let us in the stadium for free. I’m really enjoying learning about new sports that I’ve had zero introduction to previously. Cricket is complicated, but the crowd was going wild and it was really enjoyable to watch.

I think this trip was a win. -Shelby

Galway and the Cliffs of Moher

Our first trip outside of Dublin was to the West Coast of Ireland, where we explored Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, and Burren National Park.

We had been in London for the work week- Neal making his first of many work trips there, Shelby sightseeing, going to plays, taking walking tours, and becoming an expert at navigating the London tube system. We landed back in Dublin Friday night, packed our bags, and took a taxi to pick up our rental car first thing Saturday morning. We were both nervous about driving on the left side of the road, but it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, and we got comfortable with it quickly. We hit the road and drove straight to Galway.

Galway is a beautiful city surrounded by water with a sweet Old Town area packed full with restaurants, cafes, street performers, and quirky shops. We were only there for a few hours, but plan on going back for a weekend to explore.

After Galway we drove to the city of Quin, where we stayed at the only Airbnb around that would accept our pup. Quin is a tiny town with a single pub, a single restaurant, and an ancient destroyed abbey. Our host made us a traditional Irish breakfast in the morning, then we drove to the cliffs.

It’s hard to describe the Cliffs of Moher, but a few words that come to mind are gorgeous, stunning, vast, and breath-taking. We walked along the cliffs, soaking in the views and waiting while people pet and took pictures of Luna (she was a hit). It can be stressful traveling with a dog, but having total strangers surround you and talk to you about your dog is a unique experience to connect with people.

After the Cliffs, we drove through Burren National Park, a 10 square mile limestone plateau with hundreds of historic and early Christian sites. We started with lunch and Guinness at a pub in Kilfenora and ended in the town of Kinvarra . We stopped at Caherconnell ring fort, one of many ring or “fairy” forts around Ireland that were used to protect livestock and houses of noble families during the Bronze Age, and at the Poulnabrone Dolmen, also known as a “druids’ atar”, built 5,000 years ago to serve as a grave chamber.

After this, it was back to Dublin!

-Neal

Hiking from Bray to Greystones

Our first hike in Ireland set a high bar. We rode the train from our stop in Sandymount to Bray, a small coastal village in County Wicklow, where we were able to walk to the head of a trail that led us south to another village called Greystones. The trail hugged the coastline between the two villages, taking us through rugged, beautiful scenery with ocean views. Finding the train station in Greystones wasn’t easy, so we whipped out our phones with our new Irish data plans and used Google Maps to show us, and about 30 German school children with a lone parent chaperone that were also lost, the way there. If this is even a small taste of what Ireland has to offer in terms of hiking, we’re going to feel right at home.

-Neal

County Wicklow

We’ve arrived in Dublin! (about two months ago)

I should have written this one as soon as the plane landed in Dublin to really document how we were feeling. The purpose of this blog is to update family and friends, but also to remember this time in life. I’m enjoying reflecting back to the beginning of June when we arrived. Big picture: we love it here in Ireland.

Of course, Neal and I spent the first week feeling awkward and uncomfortable in our new surroundings. It was an odd feeling to be in a new country, but not be tourists. Instead, we were setting up bank accounts, signing up for cell phone plans, and learning the public transport systems. It took a while to get used to cars driving on the left side of the road, but I was quick to learn that pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. We’ve adopted a new motto while learning how to live in this new country, “It’s good to be challenged”.

I realize how much I had taken for granted while living in Oregon, mostly the familiarity of knowing how to do things. Things that would have been easy to accomplish in the States are all day projects in Dublin. Mostly because we don’t have a car, an Irish Amazon Prime account, or a Costco.

During the first weeks, even communicating with Irish people felt like a challenge. Although English is spoken all around us, it’s amazing how thick accents and colloquial sayings have left me misunderstanding the context of many conversations. People are very friendly here and with time, their accents are getting easier for me to decipher. I am so thankful we landed in such a welcoming environment. I recognize this experience could be so much more of a challenge.

So, we are settling in nicely. Neal had joined a crossfit gym within days of arriving, and it only took a month before he decided to buy a bike. A sure sign that Neal is happy and comfortable here. He really enjoys his workplace, which includes shorter days and a quicker commute. I do miss my career and the fulfillment of being an oncology nurse. Sadly, I’m not pursuing nursing here because I won’t have my Irish nursing license prior to us moving to a different country. Stay tuned for more updates on that. Soon, I’ll be starting French language classes (to help prepare for the next country we are moving to), volunteering at a local hospital, and hopefully finding more to help me feel “fulfilled” between family members visiting.

We do love Ireland and it is striking the difference in our quality of living here. In Oregon, Neal and I barely saw each other because of our conflicting work schedules. Here in Dublin, most evenings include dinner followed by family walks along the beach! Every Thursday, I meet up with Neal to have lunch together. We did this in college when we were dating, and haven’t been able to do it since. It is so nice. We are truly savoring this while we have it.

Neal has been so patiently waiting for me to finish this long intro post. Now, he can finally post about the fun adventures we’ve been having. Thanks for your patience, Babe!

-Shelby

Leaving Portland and Feeling the Love

Preparing to move abroad has helped us realize how good we have it here in Portland. Beloved friends and family are close by. We feel so comfortable in our home and love our sweet neighborhood. Even our favorite Super Torta burritos are only a short walk away, and it really doesn’t get much better than that.

The love and support has been pouring in as we prepare for this adventure. Thank you friends and family, coworkers and neighbors. It’s not easy to leave this life behind and travel to Ireland where we don’t have an established community. Of course we are excited for the thrill and travel adventures, but we are also really going to miss it here.

The entire month of May was filled with visiting family in AZ and OR, a birthday trip to enjoy our beautiful coast, last days at work, celebrating one year of marriage, surprise visits and parties, even a karaoke night. SO MUCH LOVE. Now we just take some deep breaths and welcome the challenges ahead. -Shelby

Visit trip to Dublin

We decided to cram in a last minute visit trip to Dublin before submitting our visa applications, at which point we wouldn’t be able to visit the country until they were approved- and we were being quoted a 14 week turnaround. A visit trip made sense, and we’re thankful we did it. The trip was great, although not without its hiccups.

Flying there we had a layover in San Francisco. The weather in SF was horrendous – strong winds, heavy rain, and low visibility. We ended up getting delayed for about four hours leaving Portland, then after a mad dash across the SF airport to catch our connection to Dublin, we showed up at the gate not even 20 minutes after everyone boarded. Early enough to where we could see the plane sitting there within a stone’s throw, but just late enough to where they wouldn’t open the gates to let us board. My work ended up getting us a hotel close to the airport and we took a Lyft into South San Francisco for some Mexican food. I can’t visit the Bay Area without hitting up a local taqueria, of course.

We caught a late afternoon/ early evening flight to Dublin the next day and were so thankful when we finally landed. Right off the bat I was struck by the number of folks in the airport with tech company swag. A Google shirt here, Facebook and Indeed backpacks there… it felt a bit like we had never left San Francisco. We caught the bus to our hotel, cleaned up, then hit up a cafe for some locally sourced Irish caffeine prior to the first of two tours we’d have with our relocation agent that trip. I still don’t understand why drip coffee isn’t a thing in Europe, and you have to order dinky little espresso shots or a fancy cappuccino to get your coffee fix, but I digress. We had a great tour with our relocation agent, but we were exhausted from traveling. I took one picture that entire day, and it was a shot of Enya’s castle in the neighborhood of Dalkey. From her driveway. In the backseat of a car. We’re off to a good start. We actually enjoyed the neighborhood and it’s number 1 on our list of neighborhoods to live in around Dublin. We could be neighbors with a celebrity!

The rest of the trip- all three whole days of it- was enjoyable and we got a good taste of what to expect from life in Dublin. We did a historic walking tour, learning about the fascinating history of Dublin and Ireland, explored Trinity college and saw the Book of Kells, learned about the history of Irish emigration at EPIC in the CHQ building, coincidentally right across the street from what will be my new office, partook in pub culture at The Hairy Lemon and The Brazen Head, drinking Guinness and eating fish and chips, and wandered around the city. Shelby and I are casual planners. We like to have an idea of what we’re going to do when we travel to a city, but we often get the most out of starting in an interesting neighborhood and just wandering. We’ve stumbled onto hidden parks in London, side-street flea markets in Paris, and into seemingly private (but actually public) courtyards in the heart of Amsterdam. We wandered the streets of Dublin, through jam packed shopping promenades littered with street performers, through parks with historical monuments commemorating Easter Rising, and through Temple Bar, with it’s famous pubs. We left Dublin feeling confident that we could adapt to life there. Irish people are kind, warm, easy to talk to, and will call it as it is. There’s an apparent love of the outdoors and nature, and the rain doesn’t get anyone down or slow down the pace of life in any way. Coming from Portland, and more broadly Cascadia, we’ll fit right in.

A few of the sights walking the streets of Dublin.

Trinity College and the Long Library after the Book of Kells.

Finally some picture of us.