After months of online research (and I thank all those wonderful people in cyber space who write their experiences on TripAdvisor http://www.tripadvisor.com/ and other similar sites) we have arrived.
Our journey started in Geneva, Switzerland just a forty-five minute drive from where we are living now in Chamonix, France. We packed light so we could save money and move through the airport quickly which meant no checked bags and adhering to the airlines regulations; our carry on bag had to also include our purse, laptop and anything else we thought necessary. Our first challenge: pack for a week with kids, who we know will be visiting a lovely castle where “smart attire” is requested for dinner, sandy wet beaches, long hikes in the boggy hillsides and nights out on the town in Galway and of course the whim of mother nature. Yes, this will all to fit into a 10kg bag with dimensions smaller than my king sized pillow at home. Oh and I forgot to mention my husband’s professional photo kit (which if weighed would be more than all our total allowances). Luckily he was wearing his mega-pack and the airlines never even asked him to fit it into those little metal fit stations they have. If you are wondering how he did this send me a message and I’ll give you the secrets (OK, they aren’t really secret.)
We had a smooth landing which lead to our rental car pick up and then drum roll… first time driving on the right, on the left. Then we noticed how much room the passenger seat was given over the drivers seat and no it’s not because my husband is taller than me. Later I was glad to know I had a bit more room when we realized our little rental car was more like a matchbox toy car, when I leaned on the side panel it would bend easily, this being much different than the safe Volvo that we are use to driving. But hey, we’re on vacation and far from the statistical 1 mile from home accident rate…we’ll be fine.
A short drive from the airport along lush green farmland dotted with traditional Irish houses we easily found our accommodations for the evening and arrived at the Dromoland Castle in County Clare. I chose the Castle for many reasons, history, grounds, reviews, but the real selling point was its one night room special including dinner for adults and a full Irish breakfast for all of us, and they provided a family room to boot.
The children’s delight when they first viewed the castle was well worth the extra research online. A quote from my oldest daughters journal entry went something like this: ” We stayed in a castle called the Dromoland its history states that the King and Queen of Ireland use to live here…the place is grand with so much to do. We ate like Kings and Queens!” And that almost sums it up. However, I would be leaving out my favorite part if I ended it here.
The falconry walk was something I will remember always. I wanted my family to experience something new, and for those of us who live in the United States, usually we do not have the opportunity to visit many castles. I also hoped to add a learning element for the kids since we are supplementing their schooling with home school during our 7 month trip. The walk was fantastic, our knowledgeable guide was happy to answer our questions, and we learned so much history about the raptors and the local area. If you haven’t experienced this I would highly recommend it.
This was Hannah’s first time having a hawk land on her protected arm.
We learned that the falconers have to keep the raptors a little bit hungry when working with them. They are intelligent birds and will only work for food.
Pure joy showing through.
This was Eva’s first time holding the young hawk.
If you look closely at the photo above, we learned that the hawk will always choose the highest point and if your camera man’s elbow is higher than your left arm then guess where he’ll land?
Here he is coming in for a landing.