05.05.2015 - 13.05.2015 12 °C
Well, its been awhile since I have gotten around to putting together a post about our travels. It's not that we haven't had much to write about, but rather I just haven't had time to prioritize this in with everything else that has been going on. Let me take some to time to catch everyone up on a little bit of what we have been up to.
After getting back from the Shamrocker all Ireland tour, we settled back in with our friends Colette and Alan in Dublin. Priority number one was to square away a Workaway opportunity that would hopefully start around May 1. We had some success with this after hearing back from Ian and Trish who own/operate a hostel as well as a Bed and Breakfast in Wicklow, Ireland. The dates didn't quite line up with a starting May 1st but the reviews were incredible from everyone that had been there, so we gladly accepted and would start May 13. This meant we had some spare time on our hands that we hadn't anticipated on our initial planning so the next thing to do was to figure out what the heck we wanted to do with ourselves during that time. We new we wanted to hang in Ireland and get to see some more of it, particularly places we hadn't stopped at during our other tour. We looked up a couple of cool towns near Wicklow that we thought might be fun to explore, with one being Waterford and the other being Wexford (not all towns in Ireland start with "W" I promise). As we had been having such good luck with AirBnB, we searched out places through it again and we were able to find one place in each town that intrigued us, so all we had to do was choose one. This decision was left up to chance, luck, fate or whatever you want to call it, but at the end of the day we flipped a coin and with that we were off to Wexford. Before leaving our friends in Dublin we had one last night out with them and their friends at a local pub on a Sunday evening. It was a bank holiday weekend so everyone had Monday off work and just as we do in Canada, they make sure to make the most of an extra day to be hungover! The evening seemed harmless enough, with me wavering back and forth on even bothering to go, but eventually kicking myself in the butt to get on out for some fun. It was just Colette, Alan, some friends from their cycling club and Sherry and I, which I thought was a pretty calm gathering. Calm....this night was anything but calm! Several pints of guinness, dancing, singing and heaps of laughs later, we got back to our apartment quite well off and ready for bed! This story may seem quite normal and really not noteworthy in this type of blog, which I would agree with. The reason I bring it forward though is to let you know about Cathal Miller, who is one of Colette and Alan's friends from the cycle club we met that night. Cathal was born without his right arm from the elbow down, but that did not stop him from competing in 2 paralympic games and even being selected as the flag bearer for Ireland in the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 games. Cathal is one of those people who has an infectious spirit about him and who does everything possible to ensure the people around him feel welcome and are having a good time. On this particular evening he went above and beyond to spend time getting to know Sherry and I which was incredible, but it was a separate event that hit the sweet spot for me that evening. A family was sitting at the table next to us and with them was their young son who happens to have down syndrome. The family recognized Cathal from his paralympic days and noticing this he made his way over to the table and spent almost 30 minutes just chatting with their boy and the family. The boy was grinning from ear to ear and the family was as well. The encounter was beyond heartwarming. As many would consider their good dead to be done, Cathal, who had come back to the table and had been carrying on with all of us for some time, took notice that the young boy was leaving, and again he stopped what he was doing, made his way over to the family and shared another few heartfelt moments with them. As simple and perhaps natural his gestures may have seemed, Cathal certainly made a difference in that young boys life that night. Cathal is one of those people that make you want to be a better person just by simply being around them and seeing how selfless they go about their lives. What a great send off from Dublin that night was. It was just another reminder that things that may seem simple and routine in life and can get pushed aside as the perceived return seems minimal or negligent, just might turn out to be that motivating moment you have been searching for everywhere else and not finding it. Catchal is yet another reminder also that when it comes to travelling it is not necessarily the places you see or things you do that will make your trip. Often times it is the people you meet that have the most profound affect on the outcome.
With bags packed, we jumped on a train and made our way to Wexford to meet Kathy and Declan who would be our hosts for the next 7 days. The train was relatively cheap as we booked far enough in advance (30 euros each - 3 hour journey), but traveller beware, the closer you get to your departure date the more you can expect to pay. In general the train is quite expensive in Ireland, so if you have time in your travels, the bus is much more economical (Bus Eireann). Wexford is located along the Irish Sea and is south of Dublin. When we rolled into Wexford the weather was a bit rainy, which meant a rainy walk ahead of us to our apartment, but then we heard a voice calling our names and their was Kathy (our host) with a big smile on her face and most importantly, a vehicle to drive us to her place. This is was extremely kind and unexpected. It certainly pays to take the time to communicate your travel plans to your hosts if you are using AirBnB! As with all of our other experiences with AirBnB to date, this would turn out to be another great one. With no real plans for our time in Wexford (as is the case with most of our destinations) we just set out to explore the town and see what popped up. During our stay we were fortunate to spend time hiking with Kathy and Declan as they would always let us know if they were heading out and ask us if we would like to join. This allowed us to get to places such as Tintern Abby. Tintern is a monastic settlement which is very much still in tact today, with its last resident leaving in the mid 1900's. Tintern has beautifully maintained grounds, with lush green hiking trails (depending on season) filled with the aroma of wild garlic, that take you back to the days when Tintern would have been a vibrant society. On the same afternoon we visited Tintern with Kathy and Declan we also stopped at the Dunbrody House which is an upscale country hotel owned by Kevin Dundon and his wife Catherine. Kevin is a world famous chef who also has a cooking school that operates on this property, as well as a recently opened pub (converted horse barn) which we ate lunch at and sampled a couple of pints.
Another worth while venture we stumbled on while in Wexford was the Jeep tour we took with Hook Head Safaris (http://www.hookheadsafaris.com/testimonials.htm). The tour itself was 4 hours long and was guided the whole way, with lots of great detail about the area. The highlight for the tour, as its name suggests, is Hook Head Lighthouse, which is the oldest operating lighthouse in the world (mid 12th century). On a nice day (remember this is Ireland after all) the views are spectacular as the waves crash against the shore and the winds power you away from the shoreline. It is well worth the visit and Hook Head Safaris is a great way to get the job done if you don't have your own transportation.
Aside from touring around the town which is very beautiful on its own, taking in the shops on the Quays, or just chilling out in the harbour front, one other attraction I took in while there was some fishing out on the Irish Sea! Never having fished in the sea before I had been seeking out an opportunity to do so since starting our travels. After chatting to a nice lady in the local bait/tackle shop I had a list of contact numbers to try and get my trip organized. Turns out there are no boats that leave directly from Wexford so I would need to make the short bus trip down the coast (30 mins) to Kilmore Quays - no bother. I exchanged a few phone calls with Seamus and without an interpreter on hand to verify for me, I was pretty sure I had a trip booked for Saturday. Seamus was back and forth on the weather but eventually he settled on going and I made my way to the docks early Saturday morning with Sherry coming along to tour the sites of Kilmore Quays. As it turns out there is really isn't much to Kilmore Quays. It is really nice and there are a couple great restaurants for seafood, but two hours is plenty of time to tour around. Before taking off on the boat I sat in the harbour and chatted with Seamus as we waited for the rest of the guys to show up. I did a bit better understanding him in person than over the phone but I think there were still a few things that slipped by me in our conversation. Once I got settled onto the boat, it was off to sea with 6 other Irish lads who were out to fill up their freezers with Cod, Pollock and whatever else might be tempted by their bait. As for me, I just wanted to catch some fish, so when we started landing fish I just tossed mine into the closest pail beside me, which seemed to go over well with the other fella's. The day turned out to be sunny and warm, with calm waters and a veteran captain giving us every opportunity to land plenty of fish. There were points in time when I would be reeling in two or three fish at once! To say this was an incredible experience, would be an understatement. I love fishing and this was fishing at its best. We ended up spending almost 5 hours out on the water and when I asked the captain how much I owed he figured 50 euros would be lots considering I didn't keep any fish! This totally made up for the overpriced and underwhelming experience I had with the fishing charter in Queenstown, New Zealand. As I said goodbye to my boat mates, I realized I had a couple hours to burn before the bus rolled through, so it was off to Saltee's chipper for possibly the best fish and chips of my life and a delicious locally brewed pint of Amber Ale.
A flip of a coin did not disappoint as we had an incredible time in Wexford. It is one of those towns/areas that has something for everyone. It has the relaxed quaintness and welcoming vibe of a small town, while offering plenty of things for visitors to see and do. We spent 7 days there, which might be a bit excessive as a 4 day stay might be closer to the right number to really enjoy all it has to offer. When you are looking into Wexford make sure you research its surrounding area as places like Tintern Abby and Hook Head Lighthouse are just a short drive away. Next stop Wicklow, Ireland to begin our Workaway adventures!
Shayne and Sherry