Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wicklow Mountains of Dublin

Natural beauty can be found in so many places. To say that it exists in only a few small areas would be absurd, and in the country of Ireland…it can be found in the masses. Dublin is a prime example, or maybe more so, the city of Wicklow.

Taking a tour through the Wicklow Mountains, we were given a little slice of Heaven. First, our tour guide, Stephen, made the experience well worth our while. Second, although Galway remains my favorite for sightseeing and countryside beauty, Wicklow remains second best.

In fact, I’m going to let you see for yourselves….
The "Guniness" Lake. It sits on the Guniness Family property.
This is the bridge featured in "P.S. I Love You" where Gerard Butler meets Hilary Swank for the first time.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Birds of Prey

I’m not a huge bird lover. It’s not that I don’t like them, but I’m more partial to cats and dogs. That is, until we visited a bird of prey sanctuary in Galway. Opting to take a tour to the Cliffs of Moher, we traveled through The Burren area, which lies in Northern County Clare and Southern Galway. One of the stops on our tour was to visit the Birds of Prey Sanctuary and Educational Centre.
Now, I’ve been through other educational/animal attractions (i.e. zoos) and I love them, but I have to admit, I wasn’t too excited about this particular stop off. Getting off the bus, we entered the sanctuary to see various birds awaiting our eager eyes…or at least some eager eyes. It was quite chilly outside so, getting indoors was nice and pleasant.
Rounding the corner of this outdoor sanctuary, I was shocked at the beauty of these gorgeous creatures. Hawks, owls, vultures, and other exotic birds stood behind these cages just watching and waiting. Screeches from various owls could be heard throughout the enclosure and I quickly found myself grabbing for my video camera. Turning it on, I was enamored with each individual bird.
Coming up on a snow white owl, I looked at my mom and remarked, “It’s Hedwig!” Laughing at the hilarity of my comment, I couldn’t help but wish that it was coming home with me. Sitting on the ground, it sat there with its eyes closed and looking content.
Vultures splayed their wings for us and owls played peek-a-boo as we struggled to get them to look at us, only to take the camera away from the readied position before they turn quickly enough as if to say “Ha Ha, I don’t think so, tourist!”
Before entering the sanctuary, we were told that we would be watching an owl demonstration. After seeing all of these gorgeous birds, I quickly made my way out to the demonstration area and took a seat in the first row of wooden bleacher s. Out walked the “bird whisperer” as I like to refer to him. After giving his speech about the owls in their enclosure and how they go about training and raising them, he yelled for Jenny.
Suddenly, this white owl (not Hedwig, unfortunately) came flying out of a cage and onto his arm. Prepped with food, she was eager to eat. Go figure, an animal influenced to do tricks with the usage of food.
Telling us a bit more about Jenny and her specific breed, we learned that she is in fact, blind to objects up close. Using her beak, she sought out the food in his hand. Soon enough, he asked for volunteers to see who would like to hold her. After a few people, I threw up my hand and found myself in front of a crowd and suited up with a large brown glove on my left hand. With one quick call, Jenny flew from the short wooden stump onto my hand. There I stood, an owl sitting perched on my hand…something I can now officially check off my bucket list.
My mom eventually decided to volunteer after me persuading her to do so, saying, “When are you ever going to get to hold an owl?” Taking my advice, she too, invited Jenny to take a seat on her covered hand. However, by the time my mom held her, she was tiring from all the excitement. Opting to fly back to her cage, we applauded Jenny for her time, as well as the trainer.
Leaving the bird of prey sanctuary, I felt I had a new appreciation for birds. Excited that I had actually held an owl, I felt appreciative of the fact that we stopped at this hidden tourist gem. It is stop offs like these that create some of the greatest memories from a trip such as this one.