Okay so last summer my mom and I talked about possibly taking a vacation together for the Thanksgiving holidays and we let it settle and figure its way through her brain. And I asked her where she’s always always wanted to go to which her response was “Ireland”. So I said Let’s do it! What better time than when you have a daughter that’s travelled a lot internationally and I can basically plan the whole trip and drive and guide you! It was mid-August and we decided.. YES lets do it.
So we booked it!
My mom was a bit nervous as she’s never been outside of the country. AND she also broke her foot the year before and it still wasn’t completely up to par for a lot of walking. I tried my best to help her nerves and before we knew it we were off to Ireland.
BTW this was my first time flying United overseas and I’ve never felt so fucking cramped on an airplane in my LIFE. lawd. So needless to say I didn’t get much sleep. We showed up at the airport tired, groggy, hungry, cranky and now I had to figure out where to buy a sim card and also where to hail a cab.
Seatbelt extenders for the **fat* win. Also it kind of makes me giggle how super secret they hand the extender to you all wrapped up and it’s like they want to slide it hand to hand with nothing being seen. I mean— I get it to some extent but there’s also nothing ashamed about needing an extension for a seatbelt they already make too damn smol.
I had downloaded an app called “mytaxi” but the location it said we needed to go to was a bit hard to understand. I found a little SPAR shop and asked for a sim card. I still LOL at this because the guy took what looked like a 200 year old tin box from under the counter with a piece of paper taped on top that said “sim cards” and cracked it open and asked which one I wanted. My mom just stood there kerfuffled because she was like IS THIS DRUGZ OMG
It wasn’t. And we found our way to the taxi after lots and lots of circling around.
When we arrived we dropped our bags off at our airbnb and walked up the street to a cute little hipster type breakfast joint. They had delicious pressed juices and house baked goods and everything was so freaking cute and we were surrounded by people with cute accents and it was just a lovely way to start off the trip. I ordered some sort of hash dish and I ate away at it. There was a small type sausage in it and I was like OMG this is so delicious and gave my mom a piece to try. She decided to open it up with a fork and SURPRISE it was blood sausage aka black pudding aka GROSS. I mean, it wasn’t literally gross. Just figuratively gross and I was sooo weird after that about it. Needless to say I picked around it after that.
Not only was I now on vacation with my mom that I have formed a new-ish close relationship with but I also was going to get to meet up with my BFF YVONNE later that night! Omg so excite. She got a cheap ticket from the Netherlands and came to hang out with us that weekend. What a treat.
We went out for dinner and drinks and I got to see my mom drink TWO WHOLE BEERS for the first time in my life. haha
So this weekend we galloped (idk lol) around the city of Dublin doing all of the touristy things. From taking a double decker hop on hop off bus tour, to the Trinity college library, to eating soda bread and irish stew, to going to pubs and churches and omg ALL of the things. It was so great to have two of my favorite people at my side.
Monday morning my Ma and I got a car rental to head out on our sightseeing adventure around Ireland. Okay so I remember sitting in the driver seat of the car (on the right side) and saying to myself “you can do this you can do this” and “just remember left side of the road. LEFT SIDE”. Y’all with my anxiety I was a bit of a mess. Luckily the road signs in Ireland are SUPER efficient and easy to read and use. Everything has arrows painted on the pavement and signage and 10/10 was very impressed. Especially coming from somewhere like Louisiana where you basically just have to know where you are going otherwise you’ll get lost because of the lack of signs.
We set off in a small SUV and our first stop was a Gatehouse Lodge on a property in Killoscully, County Tipperary, Ireland. It’s about two hours Southwest of Dublin and most of the driving would be done on major highways. Relatively easy. Whew. Then on the last 30-40 min of our drive things drastically changed. We got off the interstate and the roads got progressively smaller and smaller and SMALLER. To where if there was a person walking on the road in some places they had to TURN TO THE SIDE SO WE COULD PASS. All roads are lined with these thick hedges so you can’t really get off the road. Also keep in mind that everyone drives approximately 800mph on these roads. AND it’s farmland so you’re apt to come upon a tractor or two. It was so terrifying. But instead of letting it get the best of me I said to myself—- OKAY BISH. YOU BOSSED UP AND BIKED YOUR WAY THROUGH THE NETHERLANDS AND AMSTERDAM CITY CENTER AS A DUTCHIE SO JUST DO THAT HERE. And I did. I owned that shit. I think my mom almost died from the shock of it all though. hahahah
Okay so. We arrived at the airbnb which had a beautiful iron gate that opened up for you (slowly as it’s old AF) and turned in to meet the host at the Gatehouse. A lot of older fancy homes in Ireland have a Gatehouse because as the name might say—- they needed someone to open the gate/tend to any visitors/etc back in the day. And this place had renovated it to be a BEAUTIFUL airbnb. The host was lovely and wonderful and a ceramic artist. And she comes from a family of painters, printmakers, etc. And a lot of them live right there on the property! All of the buildings on the expansive property were renovated to be living and working spaces. The stables turned into two homes for her immediate family members. And then the main house lodging her own. They gave us full access to walk around the grounds and it included woods, trails, a small creek, and also a “Ladies Walk” and a “Gentlemans Walk” around the main house.
AND WE GOT TO DO THESE WALKS WITH THE TWO DOGGOS THAT LIVE ON THE PROPERTY. What a dream. Especially since the second I left home I missed my babies.
This property was amazing. I cant even begin to explain how much I loved it. The lodge was immaculate with gorgeous furnishings, artwork, a cozy fire, art books, TWO soaking tubs, and all of the dishes were ceramics they had made themselves. They left us eggs from their chickens and homemade jam and bread fresh from the bakery. Honestly I still daydream about it there and if I ever go back to Ireland you better believe I will go back.
During the time we stayed here we went to the Cliffs of Moher, ate many meals at Gooser’s bar and restaurant in a local town called Killaloe (to which I ate the best meal of my life) , enjoyed the fire at the lodge, did some international shopping, and saw our first castle of the trip- Bunratty Castle.
On the last morning at the lovely gatelodge I went out for a solo hike down to the creekbed. It was misting and super cold, as it seemed to always be in Ireland. I stoked a fire and had some breakfast and coffee before heading out. The sun had come up shortly before. Little birdies were out and about. There’s something really magical with being in a super green forest when it’s raining. In Louisiana I never ever get that, but in Portland it was a constant staple in my life. To just turn your head up towards the sky and FEEL the cold, the wet, the air, the everything. I took the zigzag trail down, in my bedazzled off-brand crocs nonetheless. When I reached the bottom I heard a deer bounce away through the bushes. I could see a pasture on the other side of the river where lil sheeps were eating grass the day before. And of course, I had to photograph some nudes.
By this time I felt like a pro at driving thanks to all of the small country ass roads. And now we were off again. We originally wanted to go to more things in the South but we were just so exhausted that we decided it would be nicer to enjoy the lodge instead of driving nonstop.
Especially since the next two days would mostly be driving days.
It was Thanksgiving and we said goodbye to our home away from home. Next stop Northern Ireland. Which is actually the UK. And we were heading to the Giant’s Causeway so that means the very tippy top of Ireland. We were going to spend the night at The Giant’s Causeway Hotel. I chose this location to stay because 1) it’s a gorgeous ancient hotel that was actually built by a woman and 2) it was a stones throw from the Giant’s Causeway which is the one place I HAD to get a nood self portrait on. I had done some research about this place beforehand, asking friends who had been there how it is—- and apparently it’s one of the most popular spots in Ireland. So I was going to have to get up super early to shoot there.
On our way there though, was another spot I needed to see and shoot at. And it just so happened that we would be passing through that area around sunset— which means that I could possibly shoot a nude. This story is actually one of my favorites throughout the whole trip. The location is The Dark Hedges which is a filming location for Game of Thrones. Apparently after doing some reading it’s also haunted AF by a “Grey Lady” lol. In Game of Thrones this was the filming of the Kings Road. It’s the part where Arya has escaped King’s Landing disguised as a boy and traveling North with a crusade of people to join the nights watch. Arya has always had a special connection to me throughout the show so this was also a bit of a feelings moment.
We showed up and almost no one was there! Just a few people trickling out. So I set up my tripod, got everything ready, and then as I was taking off my clothes my Ma was the lookout and A BUS FULL OF LIKE 30 PEOPLE SHOWED UP. Like oh ok. AND they wanted to take photos with the hedges without me in their frame so I had to pick up everything and move behind them. I stood there in the freezing cold with just a dress on begrudgingly looking at them. (It was like 40 degrees y’all. lol)
They apologized so I was nice, and then finally they left and I set up again. Then a fucking car shows up. Not only does it not park in the designated area for cars it drives down and parks directly in the middle of the hedges which just so happens to be behind me. I say FUCK IT AND THEM. I’ll photoshop them out and they can just see my bare ass. IDGAF. So I do my shooting. It’s amazing. It’s cold. It’s muddy. My mom also almost falls into the ditch and I save her and we are DYING laughing and I tell her “Only with me would you get this kind of adventure. lol”
Then there’s no one there and I’m like omg. It’s dark now and I kind of want to do a photo of me in the middle of the road. So I unpack everything, set up my tripod, etc etc. I throw my dress off and take a few pics with my mom standing by my tripod looking out for cars. CAR COMING! RUN! My mom grabs my tripod and I dart across the road in my barefeet, naked as all hell, and jump into the ditch and crouch down. (Still naked y’all). My mom screams at the car and they stop and say “What????” And she says “Oh, nothing just don’t hit my backpack” and they were like KBYEEEEEEE. DEAD hahahaha
I got some great photos and also when my mom grabbed my tripod it kept taking photographs so theres a series of images that goes through the whole experience. hahahah (which you can see above)
Anyways, at the hotel. We had a lovely experience there eating Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant in house. The rooms were cozy and the bathrooms were nice with showers that were powered through regular water pressure (???) because most places we had been had little electric pumps that you pressed a button and it came on. Also side note: everywhere we stayed barely had any plug in’s. You were lucky to get one in each room.
We woke up around 6:30 am and did NOT want to get out of the cozy bed but my ma got up and forced me to get up and we set out to walk to the causeway. We had to walk about a mile or so from the hotel to the causeway. The causeway consists of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns as the result of a volcanic eruption a billion years ago. (lol)
Columnar basalt is legit my favorite kind of rock structure so I was in heaven here. There were two other people there with us…. I THINK IT WAS THE COUPLE AT THE HEDGES THAT PARKED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD H8THEM.
But I found a somewhat secluded area and trekked off across the rocks to find the perfect spot while my mom took watch. Of course I’m wearing my bedazzled crocs while doing this and I slip a bunch of times. As I go to set up my situation I realize I left my intervalometer in my other bag. This thingamabob is crucial for things to go easily because it’s a remote you can customize all of the settings and just hook it up and press start and it takes all the photos. SO, in the freezing cold, windy, sea, muddy, government owned land I now had an obstacle. I had to use a 10 second timer. That means that each photo I took I had to press the button and run and pose. here’s the outcome. I am pleased.
After this area we were heading back down to Dublin area. It was our last weekend in Ireland and we planned on doing some more sightseeing. We saw the Dunluce Castle—- amazing. Lots of sheeps being cute and sheepish. Lots of tiny little towns. We were still somewhat exhausted so we made our way back down to Dublin rather quickly as the sun was setting around 5pm.
The airbnb we stayed at this time was a 100+ year old farmers cottage house. It had been fully renovated and was super cute. I got to sleep in the attic space that made me feel like I was heading to Hogwarts the next day.
There was a ton of stuff to do and see in this area because it’s one of the most ancient areas in Ireland. We went to a nearby town and saw the Trim Castle where parts of Braveheart was filmed. Super cool, huge castle, that’s undergone a lot of different ownerships, and major restorations.
Next UP: Slane Castle
At this point I was like OMG ok another castle I’m kind of castle’d out. And as we drove in the POSH ass gates behind a Porsche and a Land Rover I was like rolleyes lol . But nonetheless we went inside and bought tour tickets. The last tour of the day. There’s a very long history which you can find here. But when we started the tour they said absolutely no photos or videos inside. Ok weird. and we went in a room to watch a short video by the current owner of the castle. UM OK SLANE CASTLE WAS A MAJOR CONCERT VENUE IN THE 80’S IN IRELAND. The guy told us in the video that we were sitting in the room where he first met Mick Jagger. Okay okay so there’s a lot of privilege and such that is present with the people that own this castle because they are basically royalty— but it was not what I was expecting. We got to see rooms where King George stayed and later in the 80’s where David Bowie stayed. The Rolling Stones, U2, Prince, performed-stayed- and hung out at this badass castle. It was definitely a cool experience. Since the days were so short at this time of year we had limited time we could do things.
Then it was Saturday evening and I really wanted to go out with some friends from the internet in Dublin. I hadn’t really experienced the ‘night life’ of Ireland and I had some people willing to guide me. So I drove into their house just outside of Dublin. I pulled up at the little gatehouse and it was cold and I could see the soft glow through the windows. It looked like a little hobbit cottage. So cozy and inviting. My friends were there making dinner for me complete with large glasses of Guiness. It was a vegan dinner experience of stuffed and roasted butternut squash and colcannon (mash&kale) and vegan gravy and I WISH I had a photo of it because it was so delicious and beautiful. I also wish I had a photo of the cottage, a photo of the dog there AND a photo with my friends lol. But alas I do not. Sometimes the experience is worth so much more. We took a bus into Dublin and went to a new bar that had opened that had a DJ playing. It was a lovely little spot that felt like a similar spot that would be in Portland complete with body positive murals on the walls. I really wish I would have written down the artist. ** le sigh*
I ended up staying in Dublin, which once I decided that I realized that the DUMB DOOR on the airbnb my ma was staying in was locked from the OUTSIDE. and the owners had only given us one set of keys. Luckily it was going to be our last day there and we were exhausted so we didn’t plan on doing a whole lot. BUT GAH what a thing to tell your mom you’re staying at a friends house and then realize she’s locked in. I mean I guess that’s a true Irish lock-in??? I’m the worst. Or really those airbnb people are the worst.
SO THE FINALE!!!!
Final day in Ireland and we decided to go see the Newgrange monument. I wasn’t SUPER excited about it before going because 1) I didn’t know much about it and 2) I was over being a tourist at this point.
It was another cold rainy day. We were both exhausted and grumpy from the lock in situation. We signed up for a tour and begrudgingly got on the bus to the monument.
Guess what? That shit was amazing.
The structure is a 5,200 year old tomb. Yes, that’s right. IT’S LIKE FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME. Older than the pyramids. Older than Stonehenge and way older than jeebus. It’s a HUGE mound consisting of layered rock and soil surrounded by an outer circle of rocks that have inscriptions and carvings on. For such a huge structure there is such a small space to occupy inside. Theres a tiny entrance where you have to duck down and even someone as short as me (5’3’’) had to duck down to make it through. Also squeezing my big bum through was no easy feat. Then we were led to a room that was about 15 feet or so high and maybe 10 feet in diameter of walking space. It didn’t feel cold. It didn’t have a smell. It was eerily quiet. You could feel the sheer power of this structure just by existing inside of it. The rocks held together by nothing but gravity and science, forming a spiral above us and leading to the point in the center. Carvings and graffiti littered the walls. Our tour guide talked about the winter solstice that happens here every year. About how it’s a celebration. Even though it’s the darkest time of the year in the middle of winter thousands of people gather here to celebrate every year. It’s a celebration that even though things are dark and hard— there will always be light. Every single year at the same time the light flows into this human made rock cavern even though it seems IMPOSSIBLE. Even though it’s hard to believe it still happens. The days get longer. The light gets brighter and we are on another journey around the sun. It made me feel so small and humbled and when she turned off the lights inside I felt my eyes well up with tears. In that moment I felt free like everything I ever worried about was a moot point. Also I wish I could bottle that shit up for myself amiright?
Okay well if you’re still here and reading thank you. If you’re not I hex you forever.
Best trip EVER.