but first, we wanted to spend a few days on our own, just the two of us, to celebrate our anniversary. there were so many places to choose from... and i remember that when we went to luxembourg, i was really disappointed that we ended up staying in luxembourg city -- it just seemed like a big commercial center to me, when really all i wanted to see were castles and vineyards and stuff. i didn't think i'd enjoy a big city like cork or dublin if i was going to ireland, based on that experience in luxembourg city. so, lesson learned, we decided to stay in a little village with a castle: blarney.
we stayed in a really cozy hotel right on the village green, in the center of the village, directly across from the bus stop (easy!). on the other side of the green was blarney castle, literally a 2-minute walk from our hotel. (our room is the one right above the street sign, the fourth from the left, and this is the view we had from our room.) the entire ground floor of the muskerry arms hotel is a really cozy pub, with very friendly bartenders and several beers on tap (including coors lite -- who knew?!). (ps, anyone interested in visiting blarney, i would definitely recommend this hotel -- amazing breakfast, incredible staff, free wi-fi, beautiful rooms. seriously. we loved it!) it seemed like the hotel guests and village residents alike would hang out in this pub, since it was i think probably the largest pub in the area. one night that we were there, they had live music (located directly underneath our room, and it kept us up until 1:00 a.m., but it's hard to complain about live music in ireland so we got over it). spruitje had been quiet up until that point, but as soon as the music started up, she started to do a little jig in my belly. even adam could feel it when he put his hands on me! it was soooo fun! but then after a little while she settled down again -- it was the end of the day and i assume she was probably pretty tired from all the activity we had been up to.
we spent one day exploring blarney castle and the sacred druid rock garden located on the castle grounds. blarney castle originally dates back to sometime in the 1200's i believe, but was destroyed at some point and rebuilt in 1446. it was the castle that the cheiftain of munster lived in. (munster is the southwest portion of ireland, which is now divided up into several counties including cork and kerry and probably something else too...) at the top of the castle is the blarney stone, which people lined up for, for their chance to kiss it. kissing the blarney stone is said to give one the gift of eloquence. (there was a sign up in the castle explaining the difference between blarney and baloney: baloney is telling a 50 year old woman that she looks 18. blarney is asking a woman how old she is because you want to know at what age women are the most beautiful.) you can see everyone lining up in this picture, and we are all at the very top of the castle. in order to kiss the blarney stone, you lay on your back, hold onto a couple of iron bars, and pull yourself backwards over this sizeable hole in the floor (a sheer drop down to the ground beneath!), and kiss the stone. there is a man there to hold you, but it didn't look very safe anyway! i decided to pass on this activity, given my "condition" (uncomfortable, dangerous, and probably impossible for a pregnant lady to get herself into that position!), but i was fine with it because the views from the top of the castle were breathtaking and worth the hike up there anyway. (and besides, i heard that the irish go up there and pee on the stone at night, and i didn't want potty breath. nast!)
notice at the top of the castle the hole in the roof... that is where the blarney stone is located, the large hole over which you need to twist your body upside down in order to kiss the stone! scary!
after the blarney stone and the castle, we wandered over to the "rock close," an ancient druid rock garden which was probably used for sacred gatherings and rituals and merriment and who knows what else... it was BEAUTIFUL. it looked like something out of some mystical celtic painting, like on a tarot card or something. just lovely. trees with knotted roots, stones with ivy and moss and ferns growing out of them, large altar stones with "cups" carved into them, and a lovely path through the forest that we were able to explore for a short walk. though i wasn't able to kiss the blarney stone, i was able to do the "wishing steps." they are a set of steps, through a small cave, ancient and uneven, which you can walk on to make a wish. but the trick is to walk up and down the steps, backwards and with your eyes closed, in order for your wish to come true. so that's what i did, and adam guided me along the way, telling me how many more steps i had to go, or to duck my head, or whatever. very helpful! but honestly, once i was in the steps, focusing on my wish, i really didn't hear much else... i was really concentrating on my wish and trying not to slip, and everything else was just background noise.
after the rock close, we had a relaxing picnic on the green pasture beneath the castle, and we napped in the sunshine and ate irish brown soda bread and yogurt and fruit and juice and scones and... i don't think any chocolate this time (that's a first!). we were so worn out by the end of our walkabout that we pretty much took it easy the rest of the afternoon, taking a nap and hanging out in the pub downstairs.
on our way out of town, we met this cat who seemed to always be sitting on the same bench, no matter what time of day you walked by. so we sat on the bench too to wait for our bus, and this friendly kitty was nice enough to let us pet her. she was enjoying my scratches so much that she started to climb onto my lap, but with my big belly in the way there wasn't enough room for her, so she kept on going and made her way onto adam's lap! how fun! we named her "blarney." (how original.)