Sunday, May 30, 2010

Song of the Week!!

I know this weeks song is a little over due and I apologize!! This week has an absolute clear winner of the song of the week. It's "Who says you can't go home" by Bon Jovi! I've actually had this song picked out for quite sometime, and I've been listening to it all week long! The one line that says "Been all around the world and as a matter of fact there's only one place left I want to go... Who says you can't go home?"



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abzbVFuxigg

I'm really excited to come home. I've really enjoyed being over here in Scotland, but I don't think I'll be moving here permanently!!! Nice place to visit, but home is home!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Song of the Week!

Now I was really trying to figure out what song I wanted to pick for this week, and no matter what songs I listened to none of them fit... except for "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus. I think that I might have already had this song as my song of the week so I was trying to pick a different one... But my week has been all about climbing stuff!! I've walked and hiked so much this week, and this song has been playing in my mind throughout my hiking... so I had just HAD to choose this song!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG2zyeVRcbs

I've always liked this song. I feel like I kind of listen to it a little bit too much now, but then again I'm starting to feel like that with a lot of my music. I tend to over play songs!! But enjoy!! I hope everyones having a good week.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Scotland Tour :)

So this weekend I went on a two day tour of Scotland. I really had intended on going on a 3 day tour of Scotland which included the Isle of Sky, but it was already booked. I'm kind of sad too, because my tour guide kept going on and on about how he loved it, and it was his favorite part of Scotland. But I don't think that I'll be traveling too much more while I'm here. For one I'm kind of burned out of traveling and I'm running low on money!! Eep! So I'm pretty sure that this is my last trip!! But enjoy!!

This was our first stop on the tour right outside of Edinburgh. Which is pronounced Edenbar in case anyone was wondering. I've gotten a lot of grief based on my pronouciation!! Scottish people really don't like it pronounced wrong! On my tour there were two guys that were thinking about becoming tour guides, and then my guide that were from Scotland... so they were all like no no... this is how it's pronounced. And the one guy kept having me repeat it until I got it right haha. So I thought I'd share in case you ever go there!

Do you see this MASSIVE bridge?? Holey moley!! I guess they didn't want THAT one to fall down so they really reinforced it. Apparently, while they were taking designs for this bridge... one of the candidates that applied to design the bridge had designed a different bridge in Scotland. There was a huge storm... one that Scotland had never seen before and has never had since... and his bridge collapsed killing all of the people on the train that was crossing it. The man's last name was Boutch. So that is where you get the term a "Botch Job" from him, because they say he didn't do his job well enough and the bridge collapsed.

My tour guide was excellent. I really liked him. He talked quite a bit, but it was never boring and it didn't feel like he was just trying to fill up the time like my last guide. All of his stories had a point, and most of them connected and built upon each other which was really enjoyable, but it makes re-telling the stories pretty challenging, because if you forget one part of the story it messes up the rest!! But I'll try :) Anyways, back to this bridge. My guide told us that when he was younger his older brothers told him that this bridge was a roller coaster, and when he was 11 he was with his friends and finally had a chance to go on it. He was like I was so excited and telling everyone that we were going to get to go on the roller coaster, and then I felt stupid when it just went straight across the track. But if you look in this picture you can see how it does look like a roller coaster!! It reminds me of the dragster a little bit. It's like the front part where the train takes off from before it goes up the hill.


This is the city of Dunkeld, and it is the smallest city in Scotland with a population of around 1,000 people. The reason why it has to be considered a city is because any area with a cathedral in it, by Scottish law has to be a city. Why is the cathedral built here?? Well it's one of those long stories that are hard to completely remember. I was extremely excited on this tour because my tour guide talked a lot about the Picts, St. Maragret, and St. Columba... and I had just gotten done talking my Celtic Scotland class, and of course I learned all about them in it. So I understood what my guide was talking about which made me really excited. Back in the day the vikings attacked Scotland, and people had to move to different places. This place just so happened to be one of the places people moved to, and that is why the cathedral is built here.



This is the back of the church. One part of the church was built later than the other. Do you know which half?? If you said the back of the church... you're wrong. While that part does lie in ruins today it was actually built after the front of the cathedral was.




It had a beautiful view surrounding it though. It was very peaceful and relaxing place. The cathedral itself wasn't that spectacular but it was still a nice setting... with the river flowing and it was a bright sun shiney day. We got really lucky, and had pretty decent weather all weekend.


Here is Ossian's Hall. It was built in Queen Victoria's time to inspire artists, writers, and poets. Queen Victoria said that she thought this was the most beautiful place on earth, and if you know anything about Queen Victoria you'll know that she has a reputation of being picky and hard to please. So I was quite excited to see this spot. You have to walk into the door here, and then you open another door and you walk inside a little chamber.

The chamber has pieces of artwork on all sides of it.





And then it has a balcony with a view of a waterfall. While you're in the room you can hear the water crashing down from the waterfall into the river below. It was a very pretty place indeed. I enjoyed the view, and you can see that the people on my tour went straight out to take pictures of the view.


Here is a bird's eye view of the waterfalls from the balcony. We walked around the area and this balcony was the best view that you could get of the waterfalls.


Here I am on the balcony. I don't know why, but I feel like I've seen a picture of myself looking exactly like this before... haha

This whole area used to not have trees until a man decided that he wanted to plant a whole bunch of them. Instead of having his man walk up the dangerous cliff areas to plant the trees he got a cannon, filled it with seeds, and shot it off into the distance... and hoped that the seeds would spread out and grow. Amazingly they did!!


Here are the first Highland Coos that we experienced. And no that was not a typo. They don't call them cows. They call them coos! Back in the day all highland coos used to be black, but brown ones are much more common today. People liked the brown color, and breed them in order to get the color. Apparently, highland coos are very delicious to eat, because their fur keeps them warm in the winter... so they aren't very fatty.
They are big too!! And do you notice how this guy was on the opposite side of the fench as the other ones?? I was like... oh my gosh! How awesome! Perfect opportunity to get a good picture with me next to him!! I was like ... ohh he's eating, I'm sure if I walk up to him he won't even notice me... WRONG! He did! And he chased horns first! I was like baaah!! And I ran away from him, and he went back to eating. He actually had a friend with him on this side of the fence that was laying down, and there was a guy that was creeping up really slowly to the one that was sleeping. You could tell that he was going to touch him, and he was a bit nervous about it. So he's inching over in a crouched position so that he could spring and run away quickly if he needed to... and this was after the one had chased me for just walking by it, so I'm standing a safe distance away watching him, thinking "Ah haha... Idiot." And sure enough he touches this cow and it jumps up faster than I could imagine, and starts running after the guy. After a few minutes the cow just kind of grunted and laid back down, but his friends were all making fun of him... it was pretty funny. Much more entertaining than actually going inside the castle we stopped to look at.

Yeah here I am... this is my nervous "hurry up and take the picture" look. I kept looking behind me to make sure he wasn't coming after me!!


Here we are walking back down the trail, and I was like oh crap... Why does he have to be eating right THERE! So we're tip toeing around on the other side of the grass, and he looks up... and charges at us horns first. So we took off screaming like little girls to our bus. I'm pretty sure my tour guide was laughing at us when we got back on too. After that we sat in the bus and we were watching other people walk by, and this hyper little boy was running around... and I was like uh oh... this isn't going to be good. It's a good thing the kid could run, because that cow wasn't having him being by him.

This is an ancient burial ground from around 3000 BC. It was built by the druids. I never really knew much about the druids. Apparently, they were the wise educated men that gave advice on all matters. They picked this spot because it has energy lines, and it can work as a calendar as well as a burial ground. It's shadows tell when summer has restarted. Now this spot is on one energy line, compared to Stone Hedge that is one three. But isn't it amazing how people found these spots so long ago? How would they know where to build these places?? In the exact position that the sun would land correctly to give you a calendar. It's amazing really. They say that people were more in touch with nature back then, and that they understood things about the Earth that we don't know anymore. That with all of our progress and technology we've forgotten how to communicate with the Earth. And I really feel like there is some truth to this, because you see it so much throughout history. Native American's had spiritual relations with animals and rocks and trees... and somehow these people found these natural energy lines... it makes me think of an ancient type of magic, and I won't lie my mind thought of Narnia quite a few times. It just made me wonder what the world was like back then, and I thought it was fascinating.


Here is the opening to the burial ground that you can walk inside of. This is the opening where the sun came inside of and cast shadows.


This leads me to Culloden Battle Ground which was the most important battle in Scottish history. Now this is where all of the stories I've heard start to intertwine and it makes it hard to really explain the significance of this battle. In Scotland there are two groups of people known as the Highlanders and the Lowlanders. The highlanders are traditionally whiskey drinking, kelt wearing, bag pipe playing stereotypical Scottish people that you think of. What we consider Scottish today is based off the culture and ways of the highlanders. Throughout their history Scotland has tried to fight off England for their independence many times. And the highlanders were extremely tough people that knew the hills of Scotland well, and were very brave good fighters. Our tour guide was really great. When he told us stories about battles he reenacted them and yelled and got really into it. I feel like it's such a good story, and I feel like it's a daunting task for me to try to retell it by writing it down, but I shall try! The highlanders had beat the English on a couple of occasions, because they used all of the advantages. They normally fought on high ground, and they were fierce people that wanted to destroy their enemy. However, they were rarely organized, because they were all in clans, and the clan chiefs rarely saw eye to eye and they couldn't agree on many things so they had conflicts.


Highlanders usually liked to attack running down hill and plowing down their enemy, but unfortunately their leader in this battle wasn't too good. There had been a prophecy that a way of life would die forever on a place that was very similar to where this battle was going to be held. So going into the battle the men had this in their minds. It seemed like everything went against the Scots in this battle. They didn't have their usual advantages, and by this time the English troops were well trained and knew their fighting techniques and had learned how to fight them better. The night before the battle the Scots walked 7 miles to try to ambush their enemies in the night, but they didn't make it there until the early morning and lost the element of surprise... so they had to march back the 7 miles to their battle positions. So when the battle started they were exhausted, hungry, and it was raining sleet right into their eyes. They ended up losing the battle, and many men were killed. Afterwards the English marched into the surrounding areas and killed some 20,000 woman, children, and other people that weren't fit for battle. Kilts, bag pipes, the gaelic language, and whiskey were outlawed. Many highlanders fled Scotland and moved to America or Australia, and only recently has those laws been uplifted. There aren't too many highlanders left in Scotland, and more of the Scottish culture is upheld and remembered in other countries than their own because of this.
If you look here you can see the grave stones of entire clans that were wiped out. This battle signaled the end of the clan system. After this battles clans were no more. My guide talked about how these Scottish immigrants influenced all of our lives throughout the world. He mentioned how a group of 7 highlanders moved to America during the civil war and fought for the south. At the end of the war they established a new clan. When a highlander chief wanted to alert his army that they were going to war he would build a cross, put blood on the tips of it, and lit it on fire. Sound familar?? Any guesses on what clan these Scottish men started?? If you said the KKK or the Ku Klux Klan you are correct. Originally it was never meant to become what it actually did become. It was meant to be a family and support system that evolved for the worse, but the highlanders kept parts of their traditions in the clan... which included the burning cross.
Here is a memorial for all of the men that died on the battle field that day. My guide pointed out that this circular stone fixture was built over 5000 years after the ancient burial ground that I showed you before, but it just shows how far men have come, and how far they haven't come after all those years... they still used a circular stone structure to honor their dead.


On a lighter note... here I am at.... LOCHNESS!! :) I was very excited to come here and see what it was all about! Lochness translates to lake of the penisula. Lochness is actually a HUGE body of water, and 7 rivers flow into it! My guide said that there are about 6 million tons of water inside of the loch, which is more water than all the rivers and lakes in England. Which is enough water alone to provide Scotland with fresh water for 30 years if it was to stop raining today.

Here is my tour guide, David, in his kilt! :)


Here are the crazy people that swam in Lochness! I thought about doing it, but only for about... a second haha. It was 45 degrees out that day!!! And that was supposed to be consider summer!! Do you have any idea how FREEZING cold that water was!! Yikes! I was NOT going to jump in haha. The two guys in the picture were actually applying to be tour guides, and David was supposed to give a review of them... I'm pretty sure they only jumped in for that reason haha. Our tour guide also told us this funny story about an American guy that seemed like he was a tough guy, and kept saying that he was in the army. But when it got time to jump into the loch he was like... No I don't want to, and David was like I thought you were Mr. Tough Guy US Army Man... and the guy was like well actually I'm just in transportation. So a few weeks later I guess the guy had a guy on his tour that was a jarhead, and very much into the army, and took orders really well. He was always like, "Thankyou David, sir" and things like that. I guess David told him the story about the other guy, and this guy was like "Well I'm in the infantry, sir! I will redeem my country!" And I guess he jumped into Lochness and wouldn't come out! He was like I must redeem my country, and David was like... you did you did... you can come out now, and the guy was like... maybe in five more minutes. Eventually he came out and almost had hypothermia. My question: Why did they have to be American?? Way to give us a good name guys!


Here is just the shore. Unfortunately we did not see Nessie aka the Lochness Monster. Our guide told us about some different hoaxes that have involved the Lochness Monster, but the origins are quite interesting. In the old days, before Christanity, most Scottish people were Pagans. Pagans celebrate the earth and the goddess. I didn't know that St. Columba was the first person that supposively witnessed the Lochness monster. It was interesting hearing a different perspective on the Saints life. In my class they talk about how he was a wonderful man that came and brought Christanity to the Scots. My tour guide's perspective was a bit different. He said that Columba was a prince from Ireland that lost a war very badly and that was an outcast from his country so he jumped on a ship and happened to land in Iona. He was so ashamed of how many men died on his battlefield that he decided he would make reprimands by converting people to Christanity, or changing them from their culture to a new one. Which the books I've read on Columba DO mention he was from Ireland, and that he DID lose a battle... it was just interesting in the different way it was presented. Anyways, I have read Columba's life and have discussed it in class. The book about his miracles and things that he had done was written over 100 years after his death by one of his decendents that was trying to get credibility through his connection at the time. If you read through the stories you'll see that some of them just seem far fetched, and like it was written 100 years later! It seemed like the man read up on what happened during Columba's time, and when he was writing Columba's life he wrote down all of the correct "predictions" Columba had made during his life. I didn't realize that in 560 AD Columba was on the shores of Lochness when a giant monster came out of the lake, and grabbed one of Columba's ministers. Promptly Columba said "Be gone, evil creature... the power of lord commands you" and then the monster in Lochness was banished into the depths of the loch... not to be seen again for a milenia. The Scottish people at the time were very superstitious and they believed in evil sea creatures. Hearing that this Christian man had banished one strengthened their belief that Christainity was a good religion to follow, and many Pagans converted because of it.


(Rocky Scottish Beach) While hearing that story significantly decreased my belief in the Lochness monster being real... there are a few other stories that make me wonder. Lochness is a very dark loch and there is virtually no visibility to go scuba diving in it. Therefore, no one has been able to properly dive and search the loch. Also, sending down investigating devices like the one that was used to discover Titanic isn't really all that helpful, beause in the Atlantic Ocean the device has 20 feet of visibility in Lochness it only has 5. However, there was a group of boats that got together and used sonar technology and scanned the loch. They found an unidentifiable object in the loch that was over 145 feet long. They have no idea what it could be, and they don't really have any way of finding out. Could it be the Lochness Monster?? It is a possiblity. My guide says that he is glad that they can't prove it or disprove it, because it still gives the place a misitic air of wonder, but it doesn't attract too many people so the area still has it's natural charm.

Here is the home of Steve who is an Englishman who dreamed about living on Lochness and meeting Nessie someday. So he got an old library book mobile and parked it on the banks here. He has now lived here for 18 years, and makes a living by selling Nessie figurines.

I tell ya we hiked up a lot of hills during this trip!! One that seemed pretty long was the walk through the forest to see the view of Lochness. We kept walking uphill and uphill and uphill... I thought we'd never get to the top! Just when I rounded a corner I saw another path leading uphill again!!! I was so out of breath by the time I got to the top.

Here is the view above the trees.


And here I am!! Wearing my Supergirl shirt!! I felt like Supergirl!! When we got down to the bottom a guy happened to throw up at the end. He was saying he wasn't sure why... but I had a sneaking feeling it could have been from the walking so far uphill!! I had the song "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus in my mind the whole time. It ain't about how fast I get there, it aint about what's waiting on the other side... it's the climb! Hahaha! That was my motivation to get to the top.


This is the highest point in the UK, and it very rarely can be seen because it is usually covered by clouds/fog! Yippee for beautiful weather on our tour! Our tour guide said that he's only seen the top like 6 or 7 times in his 9 years of guiding.

Here I am at one of the other castle we stopped at for a few minutes. :)

You can see the pretty Scottish landscape behind me. It was really pretty, and all parts of Scotland are different. The highlands are the postcard traditional view of Scotland.



This is where Hagrid's Hut was filmed in the Harry Potter movies. :) It's not there anymore, because people were coming by and ripping pieces off of it for souvenirs.


Here is my tour guide and I.

And here is Hamish! He is a friendly hairy coo! Hamish means James in Gaelic by the way, and it is a pretty popular Scottish name. Anyways people usually stop and feed Hamish a lot so he came up to us and was very friendly. However, before we got off the bus David told us some more stories... about Americans.... A few years ago you used to be able to go right up Hamish, but a few years back an American guy got hurt and tried to sue the people that own him. At the time there were 11 signs up that said "Please do not try to grab Hamish by the horns. He does not like it." What did the guy do?? He grabbed him by the horns and got rammed by one of them. The judge said that it was the guys own fault, but made the owners put up an extra fence so other people don't get hurt. My tour guide said a few years back he had an.... American girl on his tour, and he was sitting on bus and he watched as she tried to grab Hamish by the horns, and he rammed her as well, and his horn hit her right in the jaw. David said it was one of those times where he felt his heart jump up into his mouth, and he ran out with the first aid kit, and was like what are you doing!? Didn't I just tell you the story about the other guy that got hurt from grabbing him... and I guess she just laughed it off and was like ohh I wasn't really listening. So he pointed at me and goes "Hey you, American girl! Don't do anything stupid!"
And I was like Ha. Ha. Yeah right! Do you SEE those horns!!! No way I'm going to grab them!! But after he said that I felt a little shy. The Aussie girl I was with was petting him and stuff, but I didn't want to... because I was afraid I'd be one of the stupid American's that probably would end up getting biten or something... But actually highland coos front teeth are worn down so they aren't supposed to be able to really bite you, but still... you never know.
But isn't he cute?? In that you're a 1 ton weighing, drooling hairy cow type of way?? I just liked him because he was a LOT friendly then the other highland coos I've come across. Still pretty smelly though!
Here's a side view!
Here is the bottom of the William Wallace monument. The story of William Wallace is another one of those stories that I'll try to get right!! After Scotland had been beaten so badly they needed someone to rise up as hero and led them against the English. William Wallace just so happened to be that man. He inspired people and got them passionate about getting rid of the English. He was known as a freedom fighter, but he was captured and killed by the English very brutually. However, William Wallace inspired Robert the Bruce who eventually became the king of Scotland. Before Robert the Bruce became king though he killed one of his competitors in a church, and therefore the church did not like him. Robert the Bruce led Scotland onto victory of defeating the English and Scotland was allowed their own king. However, it wasn't until many years later that the Pope recognized him as king. On his deathbed he said that his one regret was that he could not make a plirgrimage to the Vatican, and he wanted his heart to be buried there. So 700 of his best knights took his heart in box and rode off to the Vatican. Along the way the encountered numerous of their enemies and they didn't know if they should give up their mission and turn home... or die in honor. The man leading the charge held up the box with Robert the Bruce's heart in it, and said "Lead us old Braveheart" And that is where the saying Braveheart comes from. It is not actually William Wallace like the movie says it is... it is actually Robert the Bruce.
As you might be able to tell this was another one of my great hikes! Eek! It was quite a walk to get up to the top of this monument as well! The view was nice though, and it was better than sitting at the bottom for the whole time.
Here is the top of the monument. It almost made me think of the Washington monument in the US. I know that they are quite different, but maybe it was the shape? I'm not sure. It just made me think of it.
Here I am in the entrance.
Now I have ONE more story for you and then I will be done! :) This is a story about Rob Roy McGregor who borrowed 1000 pounds from a rich man so that he could start up his own business. He fully intended on paying the man back, but his money ended up getting stolen from him. He went back to the man that loaned him the money and told him what happened and the man didn't believe him, and thought that he'd just hide the money somewhere and didn't want to pay him back, and wanted to have him arrested for not paying him back. Well Rob Roy escaped, and his wife ended up getting killed as being an accomplice to his escape. After that Rob Roy claimed vengance against the land owner and would often steal his money and give it to the poor. One story about how he helped people was he heard that an old widow was going to be kicked out of her land because she couldn't pay her rent. So he was talking to her and gave her the money she needed. When the man came to evict her she gave him the money and he went off... then Rob came up to him and robbed him and took the money back. So he continued this cycle and helped people. Does this sound familar at all?? To an English hero called Robin Hood?? Robin Hood was actually based off of William Wallace who happened to have a side kick name John of Little and Rob Roy McGregor.

But yes overall my tour was really excellent. I learned a lot, and had a lot of fun. My tour guide was excellent and the people in my group were a little bit older and they weren't partiers. A couple of the guys didn't even drink so it was really good. I liked being with a little bit older of a crowd versus the Ireland tour that I did. It was a nice change and it was a very pleasant trip and I'm glad that I got to do it. It really would have been a shame if I'd have lived in Scotland for these past couple of months and never had the chance to learn some history and visit a few places like Lochness! Hope you enjoyed my tour of Scotland!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Song of the Week!

So this week's song was a pretty hard choice. There wasn't really a song that stuck out to me. This week has been a very good week. I hung out with Jessie, her brother, and Nathan quite a bit. We played a lot of cards and had fun. It was a nice change, and it was much better than just sitting in my room like a knucklehead!! Haha. Apparently we have all been just chilling in our own rooms relaxing for the past week or so. I think it's because everyone is so tired, and everyone is worn out from traveling around and just needed some alone time. It was refreshing to be with everyone again though.

So after a lot of debate I finally choose the song "Summer's coming" by Clint Black. This is an older song, and when it first came out I was dating Mike... and it always made me super happy whenever it came on... and as a matter of fact it still does!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWib4bjIFMs

I know that everyone back home is probably enjoying summer right now!! But here it still feels like a cold rainy spring :( I'm super excited to get to come home and experience summer. I've been day dreaming about all the things I'll get to do once I get home!! Yippee!! I love summer. The only downfall of summer... is that there aren't any snowmen decorations hehehe.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ireland

I know that it has taken me a long time to get the update about Ireland up, and I apologize!! I just didn't feel like uploading my pictures, and then loading them onto here!! But now that I have I shall continue on with my talk about Ireland! Or shall I say Southern Ireland, because I went on a three day tour of Southern Ireland which was really fun!


After Dublin this was our first stop. I liked this tour, because it seemed like we were never in the bus for very long. We stopped a lot and saw things.



There isn't a whole lot to say about this place except that it's an old castle that is under construction.


It looks pretty in the pictures though so I decided to include it in.





This is a picture of St. Patrick. St. Patrick was originally an Englishmen, but he was captured by the Irish as a slave. He ended up escaping back to England, but then he had a dream that told him that he had to go back to Ireland to bring Christianity to the Irish people.




This is the Rock of Cashel or St. Patricks Rock. It is said that St. Patrick was chasing the devil across the cave, and the devil pulled a chunk of rock out of the nearby mountains and threw it at St. Patrick. St. Patrick avoided it, and it landed on top of the cave. I know that this story sounds pretty unlikely doesn't it?? It's how a lot of stories my tour guide told us about sounded. It seemed like every place we went had numerous stories behind its origins and half of them didn't really make all that much sense. My tour guide really really liked to talk. Chris (who I'll introduce you to in a few more pictures) and I were kind of making fun of the tour guide at the end of the tour. He told a bunch of lame jokes as well... and you could tell that he thought they were hilarious. I'll tell you these jokes at the appropriate times throughout the blog.




Here we are going down into the cave!! Now the OTHER story about how the cave was discovered sounds a little bit more legitimate than the other story. In 1813 there was a man mining the limestone rock above the caves entrance, and he dropped one of his tools. He wasn't a rich man, and he really couldn't afford to lose the tool so he moved some rocks around to get his tool back, and he stumbled upon the entrance of the cave.




We went 200 ft. down into the cave. I wasn't able to take many pictures inside of the cave because my camera was flashing that it was low on batteries and we were heading to Bilarney Castle next, and I really wanted to be able to take pictures there!! So I limited my pictures in the cave. There were four other American girls on the tour, and at one point in the cave there is a section of the cave that looks like a natural stage, and the acoustics in the room are apparently very good, and they hold charity concerts in there and everything. So our guide told all of the American girls to sing a song. He was like I'm sure that you all know your national anthem. And it was so embarrassing the one girl actually didn't know it, and she was like we can't sing that... and we stood their awkwardly for a while trying to figure out a song until finally the one girl started singing it. And I think only she and I knew all the words to it... and they all stopped before the ending and walked off... it was very awkward and embarrassing. Way to disprove American stereotypes on that one.



Our tour guide that took us through the caves was very good. You could tell that he was very passionate about the caves. He pointed out all kinds of shapes that you can make out in the rock formations. Unfortunately they didn't come out very well in this picture, and it was very hard for me to take notes in the caves because we were constantly on the move and there wasn't an surface to use to write on. Tours of the caves have been going on since 1831, and lights weren't put into the caves until 1972!! At one point our guide turned off all of the lights in the cave, and it was so completely utterly pitch black that I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. I literally put my hand directly in front of my eyes... my palm was touching my nose, and I still couldn't see my fingers. Our guide let us sit in the complete silence and darkness for just long enough to where it was getting kind of creepy and uncomfortable... and then he lite a lighter and told us that before 1972 people toured the caves using candle light! Trust me in that thick of darkness the little light doesn't make a huge difference. Coming down the stairs to get into the cave wasn't nearly as bad as getting out of it. The steps were incredibly steep, and it was hard getting out. You really needed to use the railing but the railing was disgusting!! It looked like it was covered with a thick layer of rust, but upon touching it it felt very slimy and disgusting. It was a horrible feeling, because I didn't know if I could make it out without using the railing, but touching it was repulsive. It looked like something out of the Titanic after it had been in the ocean for a couple decades. Bleh!! Not pleasant at all!! As soon as I got out I was shaking my hands going ewww I really need to wash my hands!!



Here is Bilarney Castle where the Bilarney Stone is!! You have to climb ALL the way to the TOP of the Castle to be able to kiss the stone. Now the kissing the Bilarney Stone is on the international list of 99 things you need to do before you die. The legend goes that once you kiss the stone you will have the gift of gab, or the ability to twist words or the truth to meet your own needs. Now when I was picturing this stone I was thinking of Stone Hedge. Something huge, decorated, and special... Imagine my surprise when I made it up to the top of the castle and was actually able to bend down and see the stone. It was a stone used to make the castle. In fairness it wasn't the same color as the rest of the castle... it looked like it was marble, and it was in the shape of a regular building stone.


At the top they don't allow you to take pictures of the actual stone, because they take pictures and sell them theirself. But this is from the outside of the castle. The stone is just on the opposite side there.



This is where you kiss the stone! My friend Chris and I ran to the stone first, and we got very lucky. We didn't have to wait in a line to kiss the stone, and we were able to get some pictures and stuff. By the time we left the top of the castle there was a line about 20 people deep waiting to kiss the stone. What you do is sit down on this mat, and there is a man there that helps you lean back. You grab onto the bars there and you lean back and kiss the stone. Of course I put on my lip gloss first so that I made an imprint in the stone hehehe. The stone is just below the mat. It's too bad that you can't see it at all, and they didn't sell postcards of it or anything. In the pictures that they take for you... you actually block the whole stone. The pictures they took of me didn't look good at all, and they were expensive so I didn't bother getting one. It was cool to say that I made it to the top of the castle and got to kiss the stone though. :)


Here you can see the line and the man at the top helping people.



Now when I said that it was an accomplishment that I made it to the top to kiss the stone I'm not kidding!! It was NOT easy getting up to the top. These are the stairs on the way down, and they are actually a lot better than the stairs that lead up to the tower. The steps are extremely small and steep, and it seems like the tower continuously gets narrower and narrower and narrower... there was a point that I was getting claustrophobic and I didn't think that i was going to be able to fit through if it got anymore narrower. I normally don't get claustrophobic, but it really felt like the walls were closing in on you, because with every turn and every step it felt like the walls were getting closer and closer. And while the railing in this picture is metal on the way up it is a rope that you have to use to pull yourself up. I was not the biggest fan, and I was so thankful when I finally made it to the top. We passed a couple of older ladies that were going to try to make it up to the top and we wished them luck, because I really don't feel like that climb is one that would be easy for an older person. It's one of those things that if you want to do it I'd suggest doing it when your younger. However, I don't think that it was as many steps as St. Paul's Cathedral in London. But I know that Chris and I both had sore calves the next day!



This is the view to the ground from the castle.


This is a room on the next floor of the castle. The castle had several floors.


Here is another view. After what it took to get up there we weren't too excited about heading straight back down so we stayed up there taking pictures for a few minutes. Chris took a lot more than I did because I worried about my camera dying.... which it never did by the way. I took quite a few more pictures that day, and it never died.


Here I am!! After hanging around the top for a while Chris and I went exploring the castle. When we were done we had quite a bit of free time so we went exploring the grounds.





There were a lot of trails that you could follow at Bilarney, but we had to go off the regular path and enter a new one through this little doorway. It made me think of the story "pay the toller" I was looking for a troll or something somewhere to make us pay for crossing!! Can you see how small the entrance is?? Chris had to bend way down to make it through. Me... I'm a shorty. I could have probably made it through standing up regularly, but it was so close I bent down anyways.




So instead of the paved path around people we went off into the woods to find the witches area of the castle. At first I didn't know how much fun we would have just walking around looking at old ruins, but we had sooo much fun. It was one of those places that was an adventure and we started making up stories and running around to all of the different parts of the witches area.


As you can see it was very pretty, and it was a bright sunshiny day!! The skies were blue, and it was very nice out.




Oh considering that I've talked about Chris so much already I should probably show you him!! Here he is!! I ran around with him quite a bit during the three day trip, and we cooked dinner together every night. On our exploration trip of the woods the only people that we ran into were the ones that took this picture for us. They were a couple from Florida on their 30th wedding anniversary. So on we went!!



And we came to the wishing steps. There we 30 steps all together, and the story says that if you can close your eyes and walk up the stairs and then back down them backwards without any help from anyone else while only thinking of a wish... that your wish will come true. Apparently an old witch was forced to grant wishes to anyone that was able to complete the feat. Chris and I were thinking about doing it, but then when we saw the stairs we changed our mind. They didn't look very safe, and as you get closer to the top they change sizes and steepness... and they were slippery. So it didn't feel like a good idea to us.



I wonder if it would actually work though. At first we really thought that it was complete nonsense, but after what happened to us next... we weren't too sure that we didn't believe in the witch anymore...



This is the witches kitchen, and I was too scared to go into it first!! I made Chris go in first haha!! And basically while we were there... we were like wooow... nice kitchen, and we kind of made fun of it. Notice how bright this picture is... that is because the sky was bright blue and the sun was shining. Well we walked out and we were laughing and it started down pouring. Not the normal drizzle that you get in Ireland/Scotland... because it drizzling happens a lot, but an actual hard rain very rarely happens. And if it does... it doesn't last long at all. It poured the entire time we were in the witches forest, and then as soon as we stepped off of the forest trail and back onto the regular path the rain stopped, and the skies were blue and the sun was shinning once again...





Now this was the creepy part! We were walking around the different areas of the witches dwelling adn we were coming up to the witches stone. Chris and I were laughing about how the witch must have gotten upset because we'd made fun of her kitchen... so she'd started the rain. Well as we were walking up to the stone I stopped Chris and pointed at the witches stone. There was this old dirty woman standing in front of it putting a feathered doll onto the stone. And Chris and I looked at each other, and we were like... omg.. it's her!! She looked up at us, and then walked off in the woods somewhere. So we ran over to the stone, and looked at all of the stuff that people had put ontop of it. Oddly there were alot of American nickles on top of it. Don't ask me why! So we were like I wonder why it's calld the "Witches Stone" and we made up all kinds of stories about maybe thats where the witch performed witchcraft and what not... but then I stepped back, and I was like woah it looks like a witch! Oh. Haha!! I guess that's why it's called the witches stone. Can you see it?? There is the eye, the long witch nose, and a curved up mouth.






This is the druids circle. Supposively if you stand in the middle of it evil can't touch you. So of course we stood in the middle of it. We think it's a lie, because the rain did not stop!!! There was also a sacrificial alter at the end of the path. We put Chris on it, and said that he was a sacrifice to stop the rain. Then we walked out of the woods onto the regular path and the rain stopped!! So we weren't exactly sure if it was Chris's sacrifice, or if we were just beyond the witches power that made the rain stop. Concidence?? I think not. But it was a great time, and by the end we kind of wished that we would have tried to the wishing steps, because after all we SAW the witch!!!



This was later on. We stopped for a little while to take pictures and walk around.


Ahhh remember how I would tell you about the stupid jokes my guide made? Well we stopped to take pictures here at the beehive huts. They are 1500 years old, and the white maryters used to live there. They are called white maryters because they didn't die for their cause they only lived in seclusion and exile. Well after we were here our guide said "Yep the people lived in Beehive huts to honor the St. of Bees... they always buzzed about how she was sweet as honey. Har har har... We actually had two guides on our trip, and we realized that it was probably because one of them were in training. There was a guy and a girl. The girl seemed to be just observing more so, and she seemed to have a pretty good feel for the group, so we thought that the guy that was telling the bad jokes was teh one in training. Turns out SHE was actually the one in training and he was actually the director of the company. We were shocked.


I know my poses are lame!! I can't help it!! I'm not used to this many pictures being taken of just me! It's hard to come up with clever poses haha.


Here is a better view of all the beehive huts.



Here are a couple that was on our tour group.



Our guide told us so many stories along the way, and some of them were cool... but it was hard to write them down because I could never even come CLOSE to guessing how the places are spelled!! I liked this story so I asked what this beach was called. Ready for it?? Welcome to Caolmhdhianeal Beach! Yep. That is how it's spelled. I think. Haha. It's pronounced Cue Me Nall. If that helps. Anyways!! It is said that if you step onto the beach and put your feet into the water part of your soul stays on the beach, and before you can go to heaven you have to come back and get it.



Yep. I did it. And it was SO incredibly cold!! It wasn't a very hot day to begin with and it never gets hotter than 70 degrees in Ireland as it is (20 C) so you can imagine how dog gone cold this water was!! I ran into it, squeeled, stayed long enough to take the picture, and ran out of the water!! I thought my feet were gonna freeze!! Then I had to walk up to the top to put my shoes back on!! The sand did NOT want to come off. It really stuck to my feet, and it was hard work getting all the sand off.




See that mountain/hill! I climbed to the top of it!



And trust me if you saw the path you'd understand how great of an accomplishment that was!! It was not the easiest trail to follow. I actually fell once and got all dirty. I almost twisted my ankle, but lucky I'm smart enough to just fall down instead!!



This place is called Cloverhead and it is the most Western Point in Europe. Iceland is techincally on the American tectontic plate so it wasn't considered Europe haha.



But yes here I am at the VERY top of it! Yippee!! I was thinking about the Miley Cyrus song "The Climb" while I was making my way to the top haha!! "Ain't about how fast I get there, ain't about what's waiting on the other side... It's the climb!" :) I was secretly excited about it.


Here is everyone walking back down. Our guide told us yet another fabulous joke... He was saying that every year the farmers had to take all of their sheep up to the top of the mountain to meet the rams up their so that they would have baby lambs in the spring. He was like you might wonder why they just don't bring the rams down insead of taking all the sheep up. Apparently the rams can't perform properly out of their natural environment, and there would be ramifications to that. Har... Har... Har...


Here is Fungie the performing dolphin. Apparently years ago a fisherman was helped by a dolphin. The dolphin helped him bring his nets back into his boat, and then the dolphin started doing tricks and performing for the fisherman. After that the dolphin would swim up to all boats in the area and perform for them. They thought that Fungie might have escaped from an aquarium where they are taught tricks. Dolphins are usually very social creatures, and I know this from Sea World. Usually they hate being alone, but Fungie doesn't hang out with other dolphins. He is the solitary dolphin. The people even tried to bring in "friends" for him, but he didn't show any interest in them. Apparently there are boat tours in the city to see Fungie, and they guarentee that Fungie will perform for you on your boat tour or you get your money back.



This is the plaque to Fungie. My tour guide says that he's a little bit skeptical, and he thinks that they are actually on Fungie 2 or 3 now... but it's still pretty cool. This city was very cool. We only stopped here for a little while, but they had an ice cream store with all kinds of crazy flavors. Ohh I can't believe I haven't mentioned it before, because this is HUGE in Ireland. Guiness! The Irish love Guiness because it's an Irish beer company, and Guiness is EVERYWHERE in Ireland. The icecream shop that we visited even had Guiness flavored ice cream! They also had sea salt ice cream which was surprisingly wasn't too bad if you paired it with honey ice cream, because they offset each other nice. I got a honeycomb cone. It had little pieces of honeycomb in it. It was very yummy.


I'm not sure what it is about Scotland, but it seems to be just SO much cheaper than any other countries around the world. There is a pound store in Scotland, but it's close neighbor Ireland has the 2 Euro store. And basically that pretty much sets the setting for prices in Ireland. About twice what you would pay in Scotland. And trust me the exchange rate doesn't make that much difference. I think for 100 Pounds you get like 108 Euros. So it was expensive in Ireland, and that is why Chris and I made our own food. It was sooo much cheaper that way!!



Now this is something that you don't see everyday. There were about 30 or 40 tractors beeping their horns in this city just driving down the road. They were charity tractors raising awareness for their cause by driving all around Ireland, and I just so happened to be in a city they were in!


I thought this was a very pretty picture. I'm not 100% sure which city this is... but I know it's in Irleand!! And it's not Dublin or Kilarney! Which reminds me Irish is taught in school in Ireland, and there are about 50,000 people that speak it as their first language in Ireland. However, there are about another million people that are fluent in Irish, and another million that have a working knowledge of the language and can hold a conversation. My tour guide was very passionate about Ireland, and their customs and traditions. Ready for another joke?? Currently Belfast is the largest city in Ireland (which happens to be where the Titanic was built) but my guide said that Dublin was catching up to it pretty quickly, and he was sure that it would eventually over take Belfast. You know why?? Because it keeps Dublin and Dublin and Dublin. Har... har... har...


Here we are on the last day of the tour! At the Cliffs of Moher! I was really excited to see the Cliffs of Moher. Why you ask?? Is it because they could possibly be one of the new natural wonders of the world?? Well... yeah... And the fact that the 6th Harry Potter movie shot a part of the movie here helps too!!



For the Harry Potter fans reading my blog does this area look familar?? I can't be 100% sure because I haven't seen the 6th movie in a while, but I'm pretty sure this is the rock that is in the movie, and this is where they go into Voldemorts cave! Woohoo!!



It was god awful cold at these cliffs!! Whew! I was bundled up, and the wind was ripping through the area so it was hard to get a good picture with me in it!! My hair was blowing like crazy. Whenever the wind let up for a second I was like Chris! Quick before it picks up again!! It was almost too cold to enjoy the area sadly.



It was very pretty and exciting though. I was happy to see the cliffs, and we went all the way to the top of the viewing area. Which is all outside mind you.

Here I am again! Bravely abandoning my gloves in this picture!! You can see the big wall that is behind me. Apparently people come to the cliffs to commit suicide a lot so they had to build the walls. Even worse though, apparently a lot of tourists die here because they try to go around the walls to get a better picture. Yes. Let's climb over the protective wall so that it's not in our picture. Maybe they would have made the wall closer to the edge haha there is quite a bit of land on the other side of the wall. There is enough to walk around on and to jump over and be safe... so I can see why people might get the idea that climbing over the wall would be a good idea. After my tour guide told us that story though... I figured I'd just keep the wall in the picture! Haha

Here you go. You can see how much space is on the other side of the wall in this picture.

Here is up at the top top.


Extreme danger from an unstablity?? You don't say. I would have never guessed! Glad to see that they have a good wall up here??? Why have the GREAT wall towards the bottom, but then at the top they have this rickety thing?? I have no idea... There must be logic behind it. My guess would be that this is where people die at the most though.


This is the new tourist facility that they made a few years ago. When you walk in you come into this room that is full of tvs that show different views of the cliffs and the areas.


They have a walk through area where you can learn more about the cliffs.



This is the dinning area.



They have this little help yourself area, and then they have a make your own salad station and a grill.


This is the path that leads up to the cliffs, or down to the service station whichever you prefer.


Here is the side entrance from the cliffs to easily get in. I thought this was a great idea, because then I didn't have to walk all the way down to the front! And I was freezing so I was very thankful!

Here is the entrance.


Here are the Barren Rocks. Years and years ago the tectonic plates shifted and lifted the limestone up frm the center of the eart ontop the top of the surface. You can see in this picture how the limestone is mixed in with the grass. It was a pretty interesting place. This was in Claire County and it's on Irelands west cost and it's the most dangerous shore in Ireland. The land is apparently very fertile though, and people are encouraged to let their animals graze in the area to keep the grass down.


This pub has a "funny" story behind it. Do you remember me mentioning King Charles the first of England during my post about the changing of the guard in London?? King Charles the first was charged with treason and was to have his head chopped off. (His son was King Charles the second, and he was the king that the guards were established for). Anyways, the Englishmen that sentenced the king decided that an Englishmen couldn't kill their own king. Ireland and England have a very bloody and enstrangled past. The Irish really hate the English basically, and throughout our tour my guide told us alot about some of the bad things the English have done to the Irish over the years. Anyways, when this king was going to be executed they decided to let an Irishman kill him. The Irish were very excited about this, and to win the chance to do it was like winning the lottery to them. The man that was selected got the land that this pub was built on as his compensation for doing the deed. He built the pub, and if you look in the top window above the you can see the re-enaction of the kings execution. Sorry that its not too good of a picture. But I have a feeling that this pub might have done quite well when it was first built...



Here is my tour group! This tour group was a lot different than my cosmos tour. They were a lot younger, and more about partying. I felt like I was one of the oldest people on the tour. Most were 18 or 19. But it was still cool to get to go over Ireland, and my guide was very knowledgable... so it was good. I just think that I might prefer Cosmos like tours for longer tours. The hostels we stayed in were great though very modern and nice. So no complaints really. I just would like to be with an older crowd. :)