Ireland, Wales, England & Germany: 9/10 – 9/16

(Ireland) Killarney >>> (Wales) Fishguard >>> (England) London >>> (Germany) Berlin
9/10 –  Day 5 of Campervanning in Ireland: Ring of Kerry, Skellig Ring, Torc Waterfall, and Killarney
9/11 –  Day 6 of Campervanning in Ireland: Sheep Dog Demonstration, Waterford Crystal Factory, and Ferry to Wales
9/12 –  Day 7 of Campervanning: Explore Wales, Pembrokeshire National Park, Newport
9/13 – Rest and Planning Day in London
9/14 – Flight to Berlin and reunited with Costa Rica Friends
9/15 – Explore Berlin Sights 
9/16 – Berlin Zoo, Little Jamaica

9/10
Ring of Kerry, Skellig Ring, Torc Waterfall, and Killarney
+ Decided to make a nice hot lunch in the campsite kitchen before we got on the road today. So we boiled some water and ate our ramen that we had been toting around for a while. Both of the packets were written in Spanish so who knows how long we had been carrying them around in our emergency food supply stash! LOL
+ After eating lunch and watching a replay of last week’s FSU game vs. Ole Miss, we got on the road to drive the rest of the Ring of Kerry!
+ The drive definitely did not disappoint! We followed the loop around the Kerry peninsula until we came to a smaller scenic loop adjacent to the Kerry. This one is called the Skellig Ring and is named for the rugged offshore islands. It goes right along the coast and provided some amazing views of green farmland and picturesque houses right near these sheer cliffs and choppy waves.
+ We had planned to visit Skellig Michael while we were here but unfortunately the sea conditions were too rough to make the trip out there. Not only is Skellig Michael beautiful and interesting with the remains of an ancient monastery, but we found out it is also the filming location for the last scene in the most recent Star Wars movie!
+ Since we couldn’t set foot on the island this time, we did the next best thing and went to the Skellig Visitor Centre. It had a lot of interesting displays about the island and even a movie they showed about the history of the Monks who defended the island from the many different Viking attacks over the years.
+ Another stop that we made was at a park with a hiking path out to the edge of a cliff. From here, we had incredible views of the Cliffs of Kerry as well as Skellig Michael. The cliffs and surrounding rocks and were breathtaking and we admired them for about 15 minutes while trying not to get blown away from the almost hurricane force winds.
+ Back in our camper van, we finished driving the Skellig ring and around every turn we had more and more fantastic views. Eventually we joined back up with the Ring of Kerry and the scenery consisted of more coastal views with sweeping cliffs and farmland. As we moved away from the coast and farther north towards Killarney, the scenery gradually changed to mountain views and forests.
+ Towards the end of the ring, we entered the Killarney National Park. One of the pulloffs we took advantage of was called “Ladies View” and we had the overlook all to ourselves. It provided great views over about 5 different lakes and many of the different mountains in the park.
+ A few more miles down the road we stopped at Torc Waterfall. Here, we did a hiking loop for about 35 minutes and walked through forests that were so lush and beautiful! You could definitely understand why tales of fairies and leprechauns were created with such a magical setting as this. We really enjoyed it and could see ourselves coming back to hike this area in the future.
+ As it was getting dark soon, we decided to not visit the Muck Ross house and instead admired the large pack of deer right outside the gates! There were probably 50+ deer hanging out, some with very large antlers!
+ Right after sunset, we went to Ross Castle. It’s just outside of Killarney and even though it was officially closed, you could still walk around inside it and get views over the lake.
+ From there, we headed into Killarney and walked through the town. This place was definitely a tourist destination and party town with lots of high priced food and crazy groups of bachelorette parties walking around!
+ For dinner, we decided on a Thai/chinese/Indian restaurant. We both chose Thai dishes we had never tried before and really liked them!
+ After dinner we stopped by Burger King to use their wifi before returning to our campervan. While there, we witnessed many drunk people stumble in and out, some creating bigger disturbances than others.
+ For our camping spot that night, we decided to drive back into Killarney National Park to be close to the Sheep farm for tomorrow morning’s SheepDog demonstration.
+ On the drive through the park, we passed a humongous deer with very large antlers in the bushes RIGHT next to the road. We drove slowly after that as the deer didn’t even seem to mind us being so close! Corey later saw a badger scurrying across the road. (We’ve seen lots of badger roadkill but this was the first live one)!
+ We pulled over along the ring of Kerry and camped right next to Upper Lake. Pitch black and super quiet! In the morning, the view was excellent (one of the perks of campervanning)!
9/11
Sheep Dog Demonstration, Waterford Crystal Factory, and Ferry to Wales
+ Woke up and drove down the road 15min to Kissane Sheep Farm. Watched the farmer expertly call to his dogs as they followed his every command. Even with the wind howling (so much so that we tourists could barely hear the farmer) the dogs were reacting and following everything from about 100 yards away! The dogs rounded the sheep up a few times and then brought them into the corral. This farm had exclusively Scottish blackface rams which were interesting to look at.
+ After releasing the sheep to run around the mountainside again, we all moved inside out of the cold. The farmer brought in a sheep by the horns and showed us how they shear the sheep. It was a very quick process! And we saw how dirty the sheep get! I’m glad they clean that wool before making sweaters and things!
+ Stopped just a bit down the road at Ladies View cafe for some coffee and a scone. This overlook and cafe is named for the “pleasure expressed by the Queen Victoria’s Ladies in waiting on their visit to this spot in 1861”. It was a lovely stop.
+ “Corey loves football and would marry it if he could.” says Liz. (All this because he read some football game recaps in the cafe instead of admiring the view. He missed some games while being the best Chauffeur ever!)
+ Originally, we thought we’d have some extra time on our hands today with the only thing on the agenda being a drive to the port that night. But while re-reading some of our travel notes, we remembered we wanted to see the Waterford Crystal Factory. So with just enough time to make it before the last tour, we drove almost 4 hours to Waterford. There were multiple unexpected road closures and detours which lengthened the drive but luckily we made it just in time for the tour!
+ One thing we did notice during our long drive was Ireland’s county pride! Most houses fly the flag of their county proudly and you can see the change in colors as soon as you cross a county line!
+ Our Waterford Crystal factory tour took about 60 minutes. We watched as they turned the red hot lumps of raw glass into beautiful handcrafted shapes. We got to see a lot of the most famous and more elaborate things that they have created. Some examples are the Times Square ball in New York and the NCAA Championship trophies shaped like footballs and basketballs.
+ When we exited, we discovered that the Waterford Harvest festival was taking place throughout the town center. It was actually in it’s last hour on the last day of this 3 day festival. We made the most of our limited time and walked around checking out some of the different stores and food vendors. We even got a delicious kebab burrito! The decorations were funny and consisted of oversized everyday objects like a giant fork, table, and chairs.
+ After walking through most of the city, we got back in the van and drove the remaining few hours to the port.
+ Despite arriving over an hour before the boat left we were still the very last car to board the ship because of the line that they put our van in. So while we waited for over an hour, we updated some of the blog and hung out.
+ Once we boarded, we realized that no one had even checked our passport or photo ID to get on or off the ship! And they never searched our van! So crazy!
+ During the 4 hour ferry crossing to Wales, we explored the ship and then hung out and watched “Secret Life of Pets” (Liz was so excited to finally get to this movie!) and the show “Ballers” to distract us from the very wavy motions of the boat.
+ Once we arrived in Wales (at nearly 1am) we drove into Pembrokeshire National Park and found a little spot to camp for the night. Along the way, we saw a big badger snuffling around looking for food.
+ It was very windy all night long and continually shook the van back and forth as if someone was actually rocking it!
9/12
Explore Wales, Pembrokeshire National Park, Newport
+ It was very rainy, windy, and foggy this morning so we decided to sleep in a little longer.
+ We wanted to tour the coast today so we drove deeper into Pembrokeshire N.P. and stopped at visitor center to get a map and info on the best places to go. After talking to the visitor center, we actually decided to head the other way back out towards the southern coast to try and see some seals!
+ Drove though some tiny towns and even tinier roads until we reached St. Davids. Then we drove through the picturesque town out all the way out to the coast.
+ We decided to hike part of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk. The whole trail is 168 miles but we only walked about 3 miles round trip. Along the way we saw lots of snails, slugs, and only after lots of searching… multiple seals!
+ One young seal hung around the cliff where we were watching him and posed for pictures and videos. He seemed genuinely interested in us (probably hoping we would feed him or thought we might go fishing which would provide an opportunity for him to steal our catch!). Either way, it was adorable.
+ On the way back we watched a Peregrine falcon hover and look for prey. It could somehow hover in the exact same spot without any effort for minutes on end before diving down to catch it’s prey! It didn’t seem too worried about us since it hovered at about our waist level only 15 feet away or so).
+ Afterwards we hopped back in the van to continue on our way towards London. We stopped for dinner at Nandos in Newport (city just past Cardiff) and had to park in a parking garage. The garage was relatively cheap and very well lit so we decided to use the light and space to clean out the van and pack up our bags. We turned on some music and had a fun time packing everything up.
+ After dinner, it was another few hours of driving straight to the London hotel we’d be staying at for the next 2 nights. We had used some of our credit card points to book the room and have a nice place to sleep after sleeping in a van for 2 weeks! We got in pretty late (around midnight) and after checking in, Corey returned the van to the Spaceship office and then jogged the 2 miles back home. After some nice long (+hot) showers which felt great, we called it a night.
9/13
Rest and Planning Day in London
+Today was a rest day with no sightseeing planned so we slept in and enjoyed the comfy king sized bed.
+ Most of the day was spent doing computer stuff and catching up on work we’d neglected over the past 2 weeks. Liz worked on organizing the pictures and Corey worked on onward travel stuff.
+ Today might be the strangest eating day we’ve had in all of our travels. We had a lot of leftover food we had bought for the camper van and didn’t want to just throw it away, plus it would save money from eating out in London again. So over the course of the day, we cooked a couple packets of ramen, heated 2 cans of beans, and boiled pasta– all with only the electric kettle provided in the hotel room. That’s it! It was American ingenuity at it’s finest! We also ate a lot of our snacks like chocolate, chips, cookies, and cheese and washed it down with the Irish beers we needed to finish before the flight!
+ We ended up going to bed way too late and had to force ourselves to try and sleep before our early rise the next day.
9/14
Flight to Berlin and reunited with our Costa Rica Friends!
+ Got up after only about 1.5 hours sleep and grabbed our bags to catch the airport shuttle bus. Then rode that for about 40 minutes to the terminal we needed.
+ We were very excited to be flying to Germany today because not only were we going to see a country that had been near the top of our “must visit” list, but we’d also be reuniting with our friends Marius and Laura! We’d all met for the first time almost exactly 6 months ago in Costa Rica, and then proceeded to travel around together for about 10 days and had a great time!
+ Unfortunately after checking our bags and passing through Security, we found out our flight was delayed over an hour until 8:16am. Man, it would’ve been nice to sleep that extra hour!
+ We eventually boarded the plane but didn’t actually take off for another hour until 9:20 or so due to the maintenance crew fixing one of the landing lights. On the flight, we watched some more episodes of Ballers and then some episodes of Parks and Recreation. We probably should’ve done some work on the blog and pictures, but we were feeling lazy and just wanted to relax.
+ When the wheels finally touched down in Deutschland, we were fully expecting to get a bus to the apartment we’d be staying in but Marius surprised us and picked us up right outside the baggage claim area! It was a very nice surprise and we hopped in his Volkswagon and picked up seemingly right where we left off 6 months ago!
+ When we got into town, we grabbed our stuff to walk to the apartment and then Laura spotted us along the way and came over to greet us! Now we were all back together again. Hooray!
+ After dropping our stuff in the apartment we were renting (from Laura’s friend), we headed down to a sidewalk restaurant nearby to eat some lunch. It was an Italian place and we had some delicious pizzas that were pretty big for only about 6 euros. So far Germany was much cheaper than the UK!
+ After lunch, we went back upstairs and had ourselves a nice long nap! We’d only intended to sleep for about 2 hours, but us being us we slept for 4 before finally waking up. Now it was almost dark so after coming up with a gameplan for the rest of the night, we headed out walking to an area Marius knew about to grab some dinner.
+ We ate doner kebabs and fries at a cool place in the middle of a popular area. Again, pretty cheap with big portions. Corey could definitely live here and be happy!
+ To cap off the night we found a little store that sold alcohol and provided tables right outside to sit down and drink it. This type of store is called a “Späti” which is short for Spätkauf which literally translates to “late buy”. Spätis are a big part of the culture in Berlin and great for our budget too!
So we all sat around drinking and laughing and trying different German beers and wines until we were all feeling the effects and decided it was time to walk back. Back at the apartment we had another beer or two and then went to sleep.
9/15
Explore Berlin Sights
+ Today was going to be a big sight seeing day all around Berlin. But first we had ourselves a nice big German breakfast. Marius had gone to the store before we even woke up and bought a bunch of bread, cheese, and meat! So we made ourselves a bunch of delicious sandwiches and even had enough leftovers to pack some to go!
+ We all headed out on foot to see Berlin and for the next 7 hours or so we hit up pretty much all the major sights! We visited the Berlin Wall and the nearby museum where we learned all about it’s history and the different events that took place around the world during that time (including the Cuban Missile Crisis).
+ We also visited the DDR Museum, which is a very hands-on/interactive museum about East Berlin and what life was like when there were two seperate Germanys. It was interesting but not the best museum since it was a little outdated and only featured signs to read as opposed to other methods of communication.
+ Besides those 2 stops, we saw lots of other famous sights like Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate, as well as the Berliner Dom and a few cathedrals. The city was very interesting and offered so many historic places to see and learn about!
+ Having walked probably 10 miles and worked up an appetite, we caught a train to Kreuzburg and went to a Mexican restaurant that our private German tour guides knew about. The food was really good and the burritos were so large that Corey got to help Liz and Laura finish off theirs! That’s always a win-win!
+ On the walk back to the train station, we stopped at another Späti and had a few beers outside the shop while we repeated the previous night’s events, although this time with much less beer.
+ From there we caught the train back to the apartment and everybody went to sleep, exhausted from the full day of exploring.
9/16
Berlin Zoo and Little Jamaica
+ This time Laura was the one who woke up early and snuck off to the store to buy bread and meat for breakfast. Although by the time we woke up and ate, it was more like Brunch! It still tasted just as delicious though.
+ We were going to visit the Berlin Zoo today and Marius wanted to come with, but Laura did not. So she set off to walk through the city and the 3 of us headed to the zoo. It was much larger than we’d anticipated and it took us almost 4 hours to explore the whole thing! We were all very impressed with the zoo as it had a lot of different types of animals (many we’d never seen before) and the enclosures were very nicely done. One thing we noticed over and over was how much more open and accessible the animal enclosures were to guests than in the U.S. Many of the different enclosures could’ve been reached by simply stepping over the very small fence or stepping over a small ditch. In the U.S. they would never have it like this because people or children could purposely or accidentally go into the enclosures at any time which might lead to a really bad situation!
+ After the Zoo, we took a train over to a historic Imbiss (diner-type food stand) that had been open since 1930 in this exact spot. Marius said this was the best Currywurst in the city! We each ordered one along with some fries and German beer and had a feast while watching a peaceful protest take place right next to us about Police brutality in Berlin. Liz enjoyed the Currywurst but Corey was not impressed. He likes spicy sausages better.
+ It was already later than originally planned so we hopped back on the train to head over to meet Laura. On her afternoon walk, she’d found a Jamaican microcosm complete with riverside bar and food stands and had been hanging out here for the past few hours. After a little bit of confusion trying to find her, we all grabbed a beer and sat down in the cool backyard-type area of the bar and met her new friend, Marcel. He was from Dusseldorf and hung out with us for the next few hours as we sampled different German beers and listened to the Jamaican jams. When we’d all had our fill we said goodbye and took the train back to the apartment.
+ Laura was a bit gassed so she passed out but Marius stayed up with us and we watched the movie EuroTrip! A perfect movie for our current trip and Corey hadn’t seen it in over 10 years, while Marius and Liz had never seen it. We had a few new beers and lots of good laughs throughout the movie until Corey passed out at the end and we all went to bed shortly afterwards.
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