Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 7 & 8

[There’s not really a day 6… unless you want to hear about the longest travel day ever. I’ll spare you.]

…From the Land of the Rising Sun to the Land of the Lucky!

We arrived in Galway late on the 16th after the longest travel day of our lives. This includes a flight from Tokyo to London, followed by another flight from London to Ireland and then a two hour drive from Dublin to Galway. To say we were exhausted was an understatement. We arrived at the g Hotel around midnight and crashed. The g is a boutique hotel in Galway as there are no major name hotels Todd could’ve booked with points there. It was cool but the dirty carpet in our room deterred me a little… Galway is a cool city though, so I let that slide. 

Since we arrived in Galway so late at night, it was dark and hard to see any of the city while pulling up to the hotel. We saw a Petmania and a movie theater… so I figured Galway was like Plano, a suburban Irish city. In the light of day though, the town took on a whole different look. Very quaint and cute and along water, so a fishing town. There were daffodils growing wildly along the roads, which only added to its charm. We woke up on the 17th ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland but we opted for Galway, as opposed to Dublin, wanting to bypass any craziness and drunkenness in the streets. 

It was pouring rain in Galway on St Pat’s Day but we figured that was the norm in Ireland anyway so we trekked it out to the parade route with a huge golf umbrella and our rain gear. Before we left on this trip, I checked the weather and it was supposed to rain in Ireland every day we were there… Luckily we live by the outlets so I was able to run to the North Face outlet and pick up a rain trench at 60% off. Best money I’ve spent in awhile! I definitely needed it! Anywho, the parade was quaint like the town. Lots of youngsters marching as part of their club football (soccer) and hurling teams. They start them young there! There were more daffodils on the roads as well as a carousel along the parade route, with pubs flanking the streets on both sides. When the parade ended, we ducked into a pub nearby to dry off and have beers. It was everything I imagined in my head and hoped it would be! Your typical Irish pub but actually in Ireland with Irish music playing in the background. We went to another pub and then made our way back to the hotel to meet our friends, Tessa and Anthony who were meeting us in Ireland for the remainder of the trip. Anthony is Todd’s boss/friend and Tessa is his wife and our realtor who became a good friend. We ventured out and spent the evening listening to live music and trying to find a pub with seats for all. I got to hear an Irish band play Galway Girl in a Galway pub and my day was made. It was pretty crowded in the evening so we eventually ate and ended up going back to get some sleep. I did notice they like Papa John’s in Ireland… interesting. Lots of them around. 
The next day we woke up, did some shopping and I found Nick a newsboy cap and mini rugby jersey that was baby-size. We also found the jewelry store where the claddaugh ring got its start (Google claddaugh). Exciting stuff. 

Todd and I headed out from there to make our way to Ashford Castle in Cong (that’s the name of the town it’s in) and split up from T&A, who were heading to Dublin a day ahead of us as they had already spent time at the castle before meeting us in Galway. We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way out of Galway to get fountain sodas because again, McDonald’s is the only GD place outside of the US you can get a fountain soda with ice. ***Sidebar – I’m so proud to be an American… in the land where you can get a 44oz fountain Coke Zero with lots of ice almost anywhere. God bless the USA! (first world problems)*** Anyway, the only reason the part of this story is important is first to declare my love for fountain sodas and then also to mention this is when Todd clipped the car on a curb because they drive on the left (wrong) side of the road in Ireland and Americans have to deal with that in rentals. We put the donut on and proceeded onto Ashford Castle, navigating on tiny, narrow, two-lane country roads. At least the scenery was beautiful. More daffodils, sheep, stone walls and green land as far as the eye could see. They don’t call this the Emerald Isle for nothing. Despite the rain, this is probably one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s all relative but I enjoy the country, and Ireland definitely lived up to all my expectations and more. 

Ashford Castle was the bomb.com (yep, just wrote that). We pulled up and immediately felt sadness that we were only staying one night but excitement to tour the grounds. We checked in and the staff took us on a brief tour and explained the activities they have on site. In the lobby we noticed several raincoats and pairs of wellies/Hunter boots for guests use while doing various activities. We checked in, checked out our room and immediately went back up front to borrow bikes so that we could ride around the grounds. We also borrowed some boots and raincoats but that’s really because I love wearing colorful Hunter boots. 

Bike riding was short-lived as we made it five minutes when Todd’s chain came off his bike. Todd must’ve been cursed that day because first the car and then this? But it was fine and we just walked the grounds after that. It was cold and rainy so we followed our walk with a trip to the castle’s bar. Todd had beer and I had afternoon tea. It was lovely. 

The next day we woke up, got ready, ate and then made our way to the activity area for archery. Hopefully no one’s thinking what dorks they as for doing activities (not that I care), but it’s the norm to take part in activities at this place just because they all sound awesome! We really needed more than a day there to enjoy everything but archery was fun. The instructor gave us a quick lesson and we did some challenges… in which I beat Todd. I’m a quick study. I asked the guy if archery was popular there and he said it was on the uptick due to The Hunger Games. Shocker. Next time we visit I want to pack in clay shooting, horseback riding and the school of falconry. Yep… sounds straight out of Harry Potter or something but really exists. 

Ashford was awesome… no, magical. 

So that sums up the first leg of Ireland. I’ll post about Dublin so this breaks things up a bit. 

Rental car… driving on the wrong side

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

Ashford Castle

Archery… when I beat Todd. 


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