Hello, my little lightbulbs!
I hope that your week is going well! How are you feeling today? How present have you been today? How much time have you spent in the moment, not thinking of the past or worrying about the future? Do you feel checked into or checked out of your body right now? If checked out, what can you do to check back in?
I was feeling quite checked out recently or burnt out, or both. Still struggling with that hamster on a wheel feeling that I spoke about in my last post, I felt like all I was doing was working and recovering from working – leaving me on a very autopilot routine which wasn’t very thrilling or life-affirming. In accordance with my reflections and aspirations for 2023, I concocted a plan to help – a trip!
Solo travelling has become a surefire way to emotional freedom and an opportunity for destressing, so I knew this would be a good idea. That said, after a couple of traumatic trips, I was feeling a little nervous about the whole thing. With half term coming up, I set myself a deadline to plan something and got to it. My ideas spanned from Athens to nothing to a cabin in the Peak District to Ireland. I chose Ireland because it was a short flight, it was affordable, I hadn’t been there before, and the countryside looked beautiful. After that decision was made, it didn’t take long for me to book flights, accommodation and a hire car. I would be landing in Dublin, driving to Galway for two nights and then staying just outside of Dublin for my last night.
Monday 13th February
I jumped out of bed in the early hours of Monday morning (thank you mum for the wake-up call as I had indeed fallen back asleep). I had a short amount of time to throw some clothes and SPF on before my prebooked Uber arrived. The Uber did arrive, and then broke down outside my house, meaning I had to find another driver. Luckily, I did – Jakub came to my rescue and put my nerves about riding in a taxi/Uber at ease. He was really lovely and I had a peaceful drive across to John Lennon Airport.
After the flight, I sleepily ambled around the airport looking for the car rental place and eventually (after guidance from a kind mini-bus driver) found it. It wasn’t long until I had plonked my bags in the boot and was sat pressing buttons in the new Micra I’d be driving for the next few days. When I eventually got the controls down, I set off – straight onto a massive motorway! To my momentous relief, it wasn’t long at all until I was cruising along country roads with very little traffic.
After 3 ½ hours, as I avoided the M50 tolls for a more scenic route, I arrived at my hotel in Galway and was allowed to check in early. I stumbled into the room, dumped my bags, made a brew and had a well-earned nap.
Waking up feeling refreshed, it didn’t take long for me to get out and head towards Galway. The walk took 45 minutes and was pretty straightforward. In Galway, I found (as usual) a fantastic little Vegan cafe (Greens & Co.), then wandered around for a bit, headed out to the beach, then to the cathedral, and bought some dice at Dungeons and Donuts before heading back to the hotel.
I loved Galway. The streets were bustling but not claustrophobic and compact enough to allow you to explore without feeling fatigued. Artwork coloured the walls, canals swam between the streets and tinny and breathy songs of tin whistles and accordions from various street performers rolled into each other. Galway felt like a city where people were happy to be there. After a few hours of exploring, I headed back to the hotel at sunset, grabbed a speedy shower and sauntered down to the hotel restaurant with my book (I’d been trying to read Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi for months but never allowed myself the time!)
The pasta dish I ordered was just what I needed after a long day – a decent portion with a sauce full of flavour and cherry tomatoes that were tiny grenades of sweetness. I finished off with some Guinness because when in Ireland, right? After that, it was up to the room, a bit of Netflix and then bed.
Tuesday 14th February
A slight lie-in till 8.30am was met with contentment rather than chaos and guilt. It was a strange feeling as I’m usually battering myself about the head if I sleep in past 7.30. But, as there was no pressure and only a relatively loose plan for the day, I woke up slowly, had a brew and got ready at a good pace- being sure to do my skincare routine.
I started with a 20-minute drive to a small bay, that was supposed to be an abbey but I put the wrong place in the map!
Then, I stopped in a cosy, welcoming cafe in a village on the way to the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs themselves were about an hour away from there and I got there for about 11am. At first, the walk was quite cramped. It was busy and the path itself was narrow to avoid walkers getting too close to the edge. After a while, the path widened out and a lot of the visitors stopped walking. I, however, being an amazing hiker, decided to walk to Hag’s Head for a longer walk and it definitely paid off. The views kept on giving and it was a great opportunity to clear my mind. For the first time in a long time, the mental to-do list went quiet and I was able to just listen to my footsteps and make random tunes in my head.
There was one aspect of the walk which I was not a fan of and that was the brown flies. Whenever the path was walled off from the wind, a horde of fast-flying and very heavy brown flies would rush across, smacking you full in the face and ears. The first time I was caught out, I had one fly into my ear, into my eye and had one crash into my forehead. I was also convinced that they were horse flies and would land on me, suck me dry of blood and then leave me with a patchwork of itchy blots. In retrospect, they were not horseflies, and I was being a baby. When it came to the next walled part, I was ready. I had my sunglasses on, my coat pulled over my nose with my hood up and my hands cowering inside the sleeves. Even under my flawless protective suit, the bellowing thuds were absolutely terrifying.
After surviving the attack and walking back to the visitor centre, I had a bit of food before heading back to the hotel. On the way, getting close to sunset, I stopped off at Kilmacduagh Abbey (the place I had tried to get to at the start of the day). I was the only person around and it was deadly quiet. It didn’t take long before I got scared; certain that a crow flying in my peripheral vision was a cloaked figure skulking around the ancient gravestones. This fear was exacerbated by a looming round tower with black windows emitting an echoing caw. Loving this feeling of terror, I continued to wander around until I found some cows. It took a little time to build trust but then they eventually came over and let me stroke them. One of them liked the head strokes too much and nearly crushed my hand against the gate.
The golden sky was my cue to leave so I said goodbyes and got back to the car. Rumbling, my stomach told me I had one more stop before the hotel so I had a look at nearby restaurants and found an Indian place nearby. It was quiet inside and the waiter had to double-check that I was eating alone on Valentine’s Day which made me smile. The food was good and well-needed. When I got home I called some friends and went to bed.
Wednesday 15th February
Another later-than-expected start but, again, no worry. I cleared the room with the methodical accuracy of one who was once a hotel cleaner and was out by 9am. I drove into Athenry listening to the Fields of Athenry, buzzing, and parked up on the hunt for breakfast.
I quickly found The Nook, a small creperie in the town that lived up to its glowing Google reviews. The owner was vibrant, full of life and good humour – making me glad I decided to eat in, despite my initial fears as there was only one of the four seats inside unoccupied. I stayed longer than initially planned, chatting with some other patrons about crime thrillers, Magic Mike and the life of a teacher who had come to Athenry from Ukraine. Wednesday morning was an unexpected, but necessary, reminder that humanity exists in the cracks of life – no matter how busy your life may seem.
My planned mooch of the day, Wicklow Nature Reserve, was 3 ½ hours from Galway so I made some calls to friends and family on the way, between listening to music. It was nice to spend substantial time catching up with people, giving them support and updating them on what I was up to. The drive felt much faster than I expected it would – helped a lot by the breathtaking views, quiet roads and lovely digital company. Parked and fed with chips from a food truck, I set out on what was meant to be a four-hour hike! I did it in under three – full brag. This walk is one of the best that I’ve ever done, including the treks in Japan. It offered so much – breathtaking views, lakes, rocky valleys, waterfalls, WILD DEER LITERALLY ON THE TRAIL and Twilight-like forests! I had a nice little cry on this walk and was reminded of how beautiful nature is.
Back to the car and it was an hour to the townhouse I was staying at in Dublin. I was exhausted when I got there and so ordered a pizza, walked to collect it and then ate while watching Netflix. The townhouse accommodation wasn’t the best, but it did the job – even if I did need to eat my brownie dessert like Bruce Bogtrotter because there were no teaspoons on the tea tray.
On the morning of my departure, I packed up, threw on some clothes and drove through the centre of a larger-than-expected Dublin during rush hour, to the airport; dropped the car; scurried through security; and spent the remaining time in Ireland listening to music and drinking green tea. Oh, and I finished my book too!
Overall, this trip was a well-needed refresh that gave me more than I’d hoped for. It was the spiritual equivalent of taking your bra (or a tight pair of jeans) off after a long day and I’m still feeling the benefits of it now, almost a month later.
I’d love to know about a trip where you felt fully rested. Where did you go and what did you do, or not do? If you can’t think of one, it’s time to get visualising and planning. Where would you go to fully switch off? How long would you go for and when would you go? What would your ideal accommodation be? Would you plan activities, freestyle or simply enjoy the relaxation of a space other than your own?
Let me know in the comments!
One thought on “Ireland: February 2023 ”
Another lovely blog Jess the pictures were breathtaking
I’d go to a spa with lovely country side view from the hot tub & have lots of TLC & pampering
Do face to face guided meditation with other like minded people & totally immerse myself in the surrounding views
Love you lots Jess xxxx