Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ireland in a Blizzard - part 1

Since we had just visited my motherland (Italy), we thought it only appropriate that our next trip should be Brian's motherland (Ireland.) We scored a great travelzoo deal that included a weeks stay in a 5 star villa in Limerick at the famous Adare Manor, rental car, and roundtrip airfare from JFK for only $750! The only catch was that it left at the end of November, but both my research and some Irish friends assured us the weather in Ireland is mild year round and we should have no issues...

The week of our trip, a deep freeze descended upon all of Europe. It hit Ireland particularly hard, forecasting the first major snowstorm they have seen in 40 years! Dublin was hit the hardest and was in a state of emergency, practically shut down. Luckily, our flight was landing in Shannon, and it went off without a hitch. We arrived to Adare also without issue, but did notice the area seemed rather deserted. The Irish must have been avoiding the cold!

Adare Manor Ireland
We arrived to Adare Manor in our ski jackets...

The next morning, we work up to a sheet off ice covering the entire area. Since it never usually gets this cold, there seemed to be no sand or salt to address the issue and everywhere was really slippery. The blizzard raged on in Dublin and the north half of Ireland, so we decided to make our way south to County Waterford to see the crystals being made in action. The lack of ice melting capabilities became all the more apparent as both sidewalk and street was covered in snow turned ice, and there was no one out walking on it except us. We toured the factory which was really interesting, then made a quick stop in a pub for lunch. Then we had to hurry back to Adare, as driving at night on a one way road full of black ice, on the left side of the road, was not something we were trying to do on the first full night of the trip!

one lane road ireland
Treacherous road to County Waterford

waterford crystal ireland

waterford crystal ireland
They had some beautiful stuff at the crystal factory!

The next day we headed south again, this time to Cork to see the Blarney castle. The drive down the still icy one lane road took us almost two hours, and we arrived to a deserted parking lot. "How awesome is it to have the place to ourselves and the weather isn't even that bad" I said to Brian. And no sooner than I finished that sentence, the snow starts falling heavily upon us. Now, anyone that knows me, knows that I would not go all the way to the Blarney Castle and not kiss the Blarney stone.

So, we walked through the snowstorm about 10 minutes to the castle, ignoring the warnings from employees that the castle would soon shut down due to the inclement weather, and started climbing the treacherous iced over and slippery stairs to the top. We were literally the only people there other than the employee charged with assisting people in bending backwards to kiss the stone. He looked freezing and miserable, and told us to be careful but also hurry up as they were closing as soon as we were done. I sat down, leaned back, grabbing the two black bars with both hands and gave the stone a big kiss, whilst the man held my legs to keep me from falling through the gap. Of course, Brian missed the picture, so the worker was kind enough to let me kiss it a second time for the cameras!
blarney castle ireland
Blarney Castle, in a snowstorm

kissing the blarney stone, ireland
Kissing the Blarney stone - check!
blarney castle ireland
Blarney Castle grounds - snow covered
Brian declined the opportunity to kiss it, and the workers told us to exit the castle as they were going to close. By now the snow was coming down heavily, and we started to worry about driving in these conditions. We made the decision to stop for lunch and do a little shopping in hopes it would clear up. This worked, as the snow died down enough for us to safely make it back to adare. Since we got back early, we went to a local pub in walking distance to where we were staying, and this time a few more people were out as they had traditional irish music playing!

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