Reflective Meandering

Thoughts on faith, people, politics, travel, and transition.

Ireland, a Most Colorful Country

We did it! We got married; and, we went to Ireland for our honeymoon!

Ireland is so beautiful and the hubs did a great job planning our honeymoon and driving me all around the country to see the gorgeous landscapes and historic castles. I just enjoyed the ride.

(Who knew the English, Spaniards, and Vikings all wanted to take over Ireland at some point, and who knew the lineage of Vikings in Ireland are identified by their red hair and a long second toe!?! Well, the last bit may have been made-up by our tour guide at the Dublin Castle, but it’s fun to think about being a Viking.)

We literally travelled all over the little country, the hubs driving the whole time. He was so glad that we didn’t get a stick-shift car, and we recommend, do not gift a stick-shift car. We really thought about it a lot, especially considering most of the packages include manual, not automatic, cars. However, we weighed the pros and cons: I couldn’t drive a manual, limiting our driving options, we knew that Ireland was a hilly country, and we figured that learning to drive on the wrong side of the road and on the wrong side of the car were enough transitions without also learning to switch gears with the wrong hand. Turns out, we made the right decision. I never had to drive (though that’s certainly something to consider for those who want to enjoy the pub scene a bit more than we did); however, the hubs got tired of putting the car in park and drive with his left hand – I did help with that – so, switching gears would’ve gotten exhausting for him. Without having to switch gears, he ABSOLUTELY LOVED driving us around Ireland, particularly along Conor Pass (check it out!).

Two things helped with that love of the drive: first, we got a diesel car; and, second, we got wifi. The diesel cost extra, yes, but we drove around for hours, It was so nice to not have to worry about filling the gas tank every day. We spoke to some other folks at the Bed and Breakfasts we stayed at who warned us to fill up before arriving at small towns and before it got too late, but we only used about a tank and a half of gas our whole time in Ireland, if that.

We always use our iphones for gps state-side. We had planned on an add-on of gps upon arrival because there was no navigation included in our package and we’d heard horror stories about poor directions in Ireland. Well, instead of the gps, we decided to go for the wifi in order to use the maps systems we’re familiar with. We asked the Hertz guy a number of times whether we’d have wifi throughout the country. He confirmed that they had good coverage. And, we did. We lost coverage a few times, but once the maps system has uploaded the route, it’s cool. That said, the directions system didn’t work like it does here. While the route was uploaded, most of the time we had to refresh to get our location, rather than having the tracking like we do here. Even so, we think the wifi was the best option. We would use the wifi and our iphones for navigation to and from each of our destinations, but the great thing about the wifi is that it’s so small it fit in the hubs back pocket or our backpack. So, even when we were walking around a town, we’d take the wifi in case we were curious about a restaurant and wanted to check Yelp or we didn’t know what a term meant and needed to look it up. It was so worth the $7 or so a day.

That said, we did also think the signage was pretty great. There were multiple signs with the cities we were driving to, and that told us how many kilometers we were from the city, just like in the states. We even came upon a few touristy signs that caught our interests, like some signs for a chocolatier that we visited and from which we purchased little white chocolate lambs. Yum!

Speaking of driving around all day, the days are so long in Ireland’s summer. One night the hubs and I discussed whether it ever gets dark in Ireland in the summer. It was so bright, even at midnight, which is really nice when you’re touring around at night wanting to see views. HOWEVER, everything closes early. Everything. Coming from the states, our appetites had jet lag. Our entire week there, we ate both lunch and dinner late. Twice we almost missed dinner, having to check at a few restaurants to find one serving food after 10pm. Whoops! Thus, be sure to keep an eye on the time to avoid missing out on important things, like food! Of course, Pubs are open later for drinks, if you’d like to make a meal of Guinness.

We had some favorite spots along our tour: The Dublin Castle, not so much for the outside, but the inside was GORGEOUS and the tour was very informative. Sky Road, outside of Clifden, Ireland, provided a drive with very pretty views and a few places to stop along the route that were breath-taking. I loved all of the wildflowers along our drive in Clifden and throughout the country. I also LOVED the Kylemore Abbey, one of my favorite spots-it was beautiful and so were the gardens. The Cliffs of Moher are a no-brainer, with water so blue, cliffs so high, and grass so green, it’s one super touristy spot that we didn’t want to miss, though we did avoid the Blarney Stone and the likes. Conor Pass was an exhilarating drive (it’s one lane!) with pretty views, in fact, the whole Dingle Peninsula offered beautiful drives with sights of the bluest water that I thought could only be found in the Caribbean. Last, Kinsale was a super cute little town with it’s own little castle and a few forts to explore as well. We had a chocolate cake here that was to-die-for; I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant for you. Sorry!

One little warning for you: I was experiencing high glucose levels, but couldn’t figure out why. But, the day before we left I noticed some little dots on my hands. They looked like ant bites. A few days after returning, they were all over my hands and had spread to my elbows. I did a ton of web-surfing and eventually wen to the doctor to have him confirm what I suspected – I had scabies. Apparently, scabies isn’t so rare in Europe, especially the more rural regions. The Castle that we stayed in had a parrot, I don’t know why, but of the four places we stayed, that’s where I believe I contracted it, based on the timing of the appearance and all. The hubs never had any symptoms. I’m not sure I would’ve either, pre-diabetes, but now I’m immune-compromised and my body has a hard time fighting off infections and mites. All that to say, wash your hands regularly, particularly if you stay in any farmhouses or other places with animals, as the mites generally don’t live for more than 2 days without a host. And, if you contract scabies like I did, wash your clothes and linens and get an over-the-counter 1% permethrin lice cream, use it like a lotion, from the neck down, and leave it on your body for eight hours (over night). Do that twice, a week between the applications, and you’ll be good as new.

Overall, it was a wonderful honeymoon and I enjoyed the adventure, exploring with the new hubs. I hope you enjoy Ireland, too!


















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The Travel Bug Bit for Bolivia

When the travel bug bites you or your spouse, it’s hard to do anything until you’ve satisfied your or his/her craving for another culture. Even within a single country there are such diverse cultures, demographically, food-wise, climate-wise, and other-wise. It’s exciting to see and experience new things with your significant other. While the travel bug doesn’t bite me much, I love seeing the delight in my man’s eyes as he experiences something new, or introduces me to something new.

This past year, my man got bit by the burning desire to visit Bolivia. I’ve been out of the country before, but I was nervous about our trip to Bolivia. There was so much more to do to prepare, and in some ways, we missed the mark with our preparations.

There are tons of websites that give you checklists for things to do before you leave for Bolivia, I’m not going to reiterate those here, but here are a few things that those websites don’t tell you to do or bring:

We were primarily in the altiplano, i.e. the part of the country that’s too high for trees to grow indigenously. The weather there is pretty volatile, the early mornings and late evenings were very cold. This was in Bolivia’s summer, mind you. However, at the peak of the day, it was perfect—dry, warm, and sunny. (Leaving the United States during the winter, I totally spaced on the need to take sunscreen, but you’ve been warned!) Because of the changes in temperature, it’s a good idea to pack so that you can dress in layers. While I wore a winter coat in the mornings and evenings, during mid-day, I would often shed down to a tank top with jeans.

A bunch of people told me to take toilet paper. I started our time in Bolivia carting toilet paper around with me everywhere, but after I’d been in the country for about four days, and every bathroom having had toilet paper available, I stopped carrying the roll. Thank the Lord I had tissues. We had charqui at lunch on about day four and it did not agree with me. For the first time on the trip, I was in need of a public bathroom and it did not have toilet paper. Lesson.Learned. That said, you need to try charque, even if you do pay for it later.

As far as money is concerned, I had no concerns. I had about $100 in cash, which is the minimum with which I normally travel and then I have an international credit card that I generally use overseas. Not in Bolivia. Most of the places do not take credit cards, even the local travel agencies accepted cash only. Because things are fairly inexpensive, I had plenty of cash, but the problem with my cash is that they weren’t crisp bills. Even the currency exchange locations wanted crisp new bills so I advise you to get crisp new dollar bills from the bank. On that note, taking U.S. currency is largely disfavored so, be sure to exchange a sufficient amount for the duration of your stay.

Explore! Our trip was only 10 days and to really tour, you need longer than that, but in our short time, we visited three Departments within Bolivia: La Paz, Cochabamba, and Oruro. They were all beautiful in their own unique ways.

La Paz and Oruro are both extremely high in elevation. Oruro seemed most rural to me. There’s a new statue of the Virgin Mary in the city and from there, you can see for miles and miles, mostly of rural land that is still occupied by indigenous people groups. There is so much history in Bolivia! Some of the places with a lot of history and culture in La Paz are Lago Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, Copacabana, which ports on the lake, and Isla del Sol, the Island of the Son where the Incan ruins date back to the 15th Century AD and there are still no paved roads and cars. We hiked to the top of the island and boy were we breathless on the way up.

Regarding breathlessness, no part of the trip was as bad as the first steps off of the plane in La Paz. Right when I stepped out of the jet way and into the airport I felt incredibly weak and short of breath. Truly, it takes about 24 hours for that feeling to dissipate a bit. Those who tell you to drink coca tea know what they’re talking about it. Do it; drink the coca tea. I also brought a small canister of oxygen infused with grapefruit, which helped me feel more energized and helped with the anxiety I felt from not being able to breathe. In addition, we took the online advice of taking ginkgo biloba, probiotics, and before we even landed in Bolivia, while still on the plane, we took ibuprofen to avoid a headache. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We’re believers and many folks were praying for our safety and acclimatization. I believe God kept us safe and feeling well, but we certainly did our part in planning, too.

If you have the time, it’s wise to acclimatize by going somewhere at or just below 10,000 feet for your first 24 hours. The department of Cochabamba would be an excellent spot for this. I believe it’s about 8,000 feet in elevation and feels and looks tropical in the summer; while the higher elevations were dry and brown, Cochabamba was warm and green. In addition, it’s fairly well developed so it’s easier to find restaurants that can accommodate the North American stomach. (However, you should still avoid the ice and other water that’s not boiled if you’re a gringo.)

Bolivia is such a diverse country in terms of climate, geography, and culture. If you have the change, you should visit!

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