Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ireland 2015: 6th Birthday in a Castle

May 24th was our second day at Ashford Castle and the day that we celebrated Helen Grace’s 6th birthday (albeit a day early).
We started out the morning with pulling HG out of bed at 9 a.m., and she was happy to hear pancakes (which ended up being more like crepes) were waiting on her at breakfast (which she and I rolled up to with wet hair). After a delicious breakfast upstairs at the Lodge with a beautiful view of the lake, we headed off to our packed day of adventures.
First, falconry class! The center is home to over 20 hawks, probably 10 falcons, and an owl. Did you know that the falcon is the fastest animal alive and can fly over 200 mph?! We got a tour of their sleeping area and learned how they weigh each bird every morning to make sure they feed them juuuust enough that they’ll still be hungry enough to come back to the teacher/walker while on an excursion with visitors. Their favorite snack? An intact chick (which our guide readily pulled out of her pocket within one second’s warning of ‘Are you squeamish?’). John and Granddaddy officially participated in the walk, and the rest of us tagged along. They were able to carry a hawk on their hand, raise their arm to send it off, and ask it to come back with a little meat in their hand. Amazing experience! At the end, HG asked our teacher if she could hold one, and the teacher gladly let her. The bird flailed a bit during handover, and our brave girl just held still and powered through that much action so close to her face until it settled down. I would never have made it! We were so impressed.
After our falconry class, we followed HG around as she explored the wonderfully intricate gardens (including a secret one that you found through a tunnel) and made it back to the castle in time for lunch in the castle’s drawing room. The staff surprised her with singing and bringing her a birthday cake!
Then, we headed to the equestrian center for a riding lesson for HG. I don’t think they really knew that she had taken lessons before, so they held the horse pretty close. They soon realized that she knew what she was doing and complimented her on her posture and how she controlled the horse. Proud mama moment! They took her on a bit of a trail ride and then let her trot around the ring.
We then set off on some trails of our own to find HG a cave (which was a bust) and then the Guinness Tower (which was really cool;  a grand tower, alone by itself in the middle of the woods). By that time, we were starving and headed toward Cong, the nearby village, to find some dinner. What an amazing day of exploring new adventures and celebrating our favorite six year old!

Wake up, sleepyhead. This is after both John and I had taken a shower, throw open the drapes, and turned on the tv.2015-05-24 04.20.02 - CopyBreakfast with a view at the Lodge2015-05-24 05.43.48 - CopyCF6C9547 - CopyCF6C9333CF6C9340Listing of the birds’ daily weightsCF6C9351John got the one bird that you couldn’t look in the eye. Talk about some pressure!CF6C9357CF6C9359CF6C9375CF6C9383HG is a little excited as we set off for our walk.CF6C9387CF6C9392CF6C9397CF6C9411CF6C9431CF6C9448CF6C9453Now we head into the woods with the birds…CF6C9467CF6C9478CF6C9492Watch out, HG- DUCK!CF6C9504CF6C9507CF6C9511CF6C9523

CF6C9559CF6C9583CF6C9573Granddaddy was being bad by walking out on this fallen, spiky tree, hanging over a big ditch…CF6C9606CF6C9614CF6C9618CF6C9617Photographers being photographers…2015-05-24 12.51.19She found the secret garden2015-05-24 12.52.27 HDRCF6C9639IMG_15482015-05-24 12.54.42And we rounded a corner and saw THIS- a castle!!!2015-05-24 13.03.53 HDR2015-05-24 17.11.21CF6C9678CF6C9681We found this piece of the fort wall with a turret and thought how cool it was that you could walk all the way into the wall for a good long ways…CF6C9689CF6C9696…and then John looks up and sees a BAT!!!! hanging from the ceiling! Spiffer and I ran away like we were on fire!CF6C9698CF6C97022015-05-24 13.10.59 HDR2015-05-24 13.11.292015-05-24 13.14.482015-05-24 13.14.57Exploring the castle on our way to lunch2015-05-24 13.18.572015-05-24 13.19.062015-05-24 13.23.36The drawing room (which only sounds appropriate if you say it in your most snooty British/Irish accent)CF6C97332015-05-24 14.29.40CF6C97412015-05-24 18.36.16P1070068Happy Birthday, Helen Grace!!!2015-05-24 14.35.36CF6C9750

Now we headed to the equestrian center for HG’s lessonCF6C9775CF6C9786CF6C9799

GD had the idea to take the horse some sugar cubes from our lunch. BIG HIT.CF6C9817On the hunt for a caveCF6C9824And we stumbled onto the Guinness TowerCF6C9853CF6C9873CF6C9876And on the way back to the castle, we explored this gateCF6C9934CF6C99162015-05-24 16.55.27From the top of the gate2015-05-24 16.57.42CF6C9917CF6C9922Getting a kick out of locking in SpifferCF6C9933And then we headed back to the castle to be American tourists on the lawn…CF6C9946CF6C99482015-05-24 17.07.33CF6C9976CF6C9978CF6C9981CF6C99852015-05-24 17.12.282015-05-24 17.15.41CF6C0002CF6C99952015-05-24 18.02.33 HDRWalking back to the Lodge before dinnerCF6C0026CF6C0030

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