Travel

An American Girl In Ireland: Cool Things to Do in Cong

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Hi, readers! Sorry for the stretch of time between this post and the last. Between my annual writing conference, work, book planning and graduation season, June has been a pretty crazy month. Now I’m back and super excited to share one of my favorite excursions in Ireland you need to check out: Cong.

Straddling Co. Mayo and Co. Galway, I think the village of Cong is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets. Home to only 60 residents, it may seem like a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of place. However, this tiny town is actually a piece of Hollywood history. It has made a name for itself as the filming location of the 1952 film The Quiet Man. Starring legends Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, this love story between a retired American boxer Sean Thornton and a feisty Irish woman Mary Kate Danaher has been a beloved classic for generations. While I’m not as into the film as my mom and my grandparents, I’m the first to admit that my time in Cong is one of my favorite memories from my trip to Ireland. It is a really cool place to experience with a an authentic Irish charm you will fall with.

Whether The Quiet Man is your favorite film, you love Hollywood history, or you are just looking for something unique to do, here are a few things to check out on your visit to Cong.

Visit The Quiet Man Museum.

Immerse yourself in movie magic with a visit to The Quiet Man Museum. The museum itself is a replica of the cottage Sean Thornton buys in the film. (The actual cottage from the film is in ruins, but if you are feeling adventurous, you may be able to find someone who can give you directions to where it stood.) Inside, you’ll find a beautiful recreation of the cottage’s interior along with a collection of movie memorabilia. You can even snap a few pictures in reproductions of Sean and Mary Kate’s costumes. I also highly recommend taking the guided walking tour offered by the museum. Not only do you get behind-the-scenes stories and to see filming locations you may have missed, you get to enjoy a truly lovely walk through the town of Cong.

Click here for hours and ticket prices.

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Hit the museum gift shop.

Okay, pretty much every attraction has a gift shop. However, this one is my personal favorite. After you’ve finished exploring the museum, head upstairs to check out the a wide array of Quiet Man themed products perfect for you or the film fan back home. In addition to tea towels, posters, and postcards, there is an official line of Quiet Man jeff caps and scarves John Wayne would be proud to wear and a beautiful collection of vintage-style jewelry inspired that will help you channel your inner Maureen O’Hara.(My mom and I bought both.) It is a one stop shop for all things The Quiet Man.

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Pose with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

Just how much does Cong embrace its Hollywood past? Enough to erect a bronze statue to John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the middle of town. After your tour and trip to the museum, be sure to snap a pic posing next to one of Ireland’s most famous film couples. Grab onto O’Hara’s hand or wrap your arms around Wayne’s waist. (Let’s face it, ladies. John Wayne is still a heartthrob even when he’s made out of bronze.) Traveling with your significant other? Have him literally sweep you off your feet for a sweet shot.

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Stand in two places at once.

Have you ever wanted to be in two places at once? Just steps from The Quiet Man museum, you’ll find a simple bridge that runs over the River Cong, the dividing point between Co. Mayo and Co. Galway. Not only is this the perfect place for some really great pictures, straddling the line between two different counties is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere else.

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An American Girl in Ireland: Surviving the Flight

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Flying sucks.

There is no other way to put it. No one likes being forced into long lines and to go through only to then be crammed like sardines in a metal cylinder suspended thousands of set in the air. All the the horror stories of on-board brawls, structural failures, and people getting sucked out windows we are constantly bombarded with on the nightly news don’t to much to help calm shaky pre-flight nerves. (Also, the landing gear. Can someone please tell me who decided to make that thing sound like a chuck of the plane is falling off? Actually, everything about landing is the worst. The only bright side is you are back on the ground.)

International flights are their own circle of flying hell. Really is there anything worse than an international flight? They take all the sucky parts of flying, stretch them out for hours on end, and usually seem to be dead set on making you endure the worst sleeping experience of your life as most are overnight flights. (Seriously, why do most international flights from the U.S. have to leave at night?)

However, while flying may be the least appealing unavoidable part of your vacation, it doesn’t have to be absolutely miserable experience. With a few simple tricks, getting there doesn’t have to be a total nightmare.

Here are few things you can do to make this necessary travel evil suck a lot less.

Go for comfy clothes.

There are hundreds of articles out there about cute chic flying outfits. (Back in college, I even wrote one of them.) However, as I’ve gotten more travel experience under my belt, I’ve come to the conclusion that an international flight is one of the few times where comfort outweighs cute. After all, you are going to be sitting in a tiny seat for hours on end. Go for light layers, stretchy fabrics, and shoes that are easy to slide on and off. My go-to outfit for flying consists of basic black leggings, a long tee, a hoodie or oversized flannel button-down shirt, and my (knockoff) Ugg boots. (Okay, it’s still a pretty cute pretty cute outfit.)

Don’t go sockless.

While it may seem so simple to rock a pair of flip-flops for those security check points, I really urge you to pick slip-on footwear you can wear socks with. After all, those airport floors are pretty disgusting. I’m also a big fan of closed-toed shoes. Between rolling luggage bags, strollers, and wheelchairs, there are just too many ways to put your toes in peril.

Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are a must.

No matter what airlines say, planes are germ havens. Help prevent picking up illnesses by packing some disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer into your carry on. Make sure to wipe down the tray, touchscreen t.v., safety buckle and the belt itself. (These tend to be the places that the most flyers touch but are often overlooked when planes are cleaned.) Use the hand sanitizers after every trip to the bathroom and at the end of your TSA check.

Pick up a bottle of water at the airport.

It is important to stay hydrated on an international flight. While paying $4.00 for a bottle of water at the airport may seem like a total waste of money, I really urge you to so. You won’t have to rely on the flight attendant every time you get thirsty and the cap will help prevent nasty spills. Plus, swallowing water during takeoff and landing can help equalize ear pressure and ease discomfort.

Don’t forget your own snacks.

Let’s face it. Airplane food stinks. The portions are tiny, and the taste is bland at best. Prevent hangry feelings by tossing a few snacks in your carry on bag. Stick with things that are easy to eat and are nonperishable. I’m a big fan of Cliff bars, mini bags of pretzels, granola bars, and Goldfish crackers. Be sure to avoid peanuts and peanut products due to allergy concerns. (If you have time, pick up a light sandwich or salad at the airport preflight. This helps if you need something more substantial.)

Treat yourself to something new.

Remember when you were little, and your mom would surprise you with a new toy or game right before or during the flight? You can do the same thing for yourself now that your all grown up. Whether it’s new book, an blank journal and fun pens, or a freshly downloaded movie on your iPad or a new album on your iPod/iPhone, having something new to look forward to can make the thought of being stuck on a plane for hours just a bit more bearable. Hey, you’re never too old for treats even if you’re getting them for yourself.

Pack your own headphones.

Many airlines will provide you with a set of earbuds for the in-flight entertainment systems. However, there is nothing like watching a summer blockbuster or random television episodes with the comfort of your own. Pick up a hard-shell case to prevent them getting damaged in transit. (Still take the free headphones if your allowed though. It never hurts to have an emergency back up pair, and they are, you know, free.)

Try to sleep (or at least get some quiet time) during your night flight.

Night flights are inevitable when flying from the U.S. to Europe, and, in my opinion, the absolute worst part of international travel. As hard as it may seem, you should try to get some semblance of sleep, if only to be able to semi-fiction during day one of your trip. Pack an eye mask, a pair of earplugs, and something to snuggle under. The goal is try and get as comfortable as you can in your very uncomfortable seat. (Popping a Benadryl may help to some extent, but it really depends on your body chemistry if works.) Still not able to sleep? Put on a mellow playlist, slip on you eye mask, and just sit still with your eyes closed. Sometimes, just resting your eyes can work wonders for your next-day energy levels until you get a chance to crash.

An American Girl in Ireland: Things to Do Before You Leave

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Your passport is up to date. You’ve sorted out your mail pick up. Your pets have their babysitter. Your plants have a designated waterer. The suitcases are packed and weighed. Your boarding passes are in your hand. You’re all ready for your big trip, right?

While you may think you’ve dotted all your Is and crossed all your Ts, there are a few things that every traveller should have on their checklist, but are often overlooked.

Here are a few important things you should do before heading to the airport.

Make copies of important documents.

Make two copies of all important documents like passports, driver’s licenses/photo IDs, and medical insurance cards, as well as confirmations for things like hotel reservations and car rentals. Keep one copy in your carry on and another in a safe location at home that someone you trust can easily access. This way, if an issue arises or something gets lost or stolen, you have two backups you can utilize.

Notify your bank and credit card companies.

In a world where identity theft is a real threat, some banks and credit card companies will freeze your card if they see charges outside the country. Prevent this by notifying your bank and any any credit card companies that you will be out of the country and for how long you will be gone. Add on an additional few days past your date of return just in case you have issues with your flight and get stuck.

Swing by the pharmacy.

Okay, no one wants to think about sickness or injury putting a damper on a highly-anticipated vacation, but I have seen it happen, leaving those affected scrambling. Hit up your local Walgreens or Rite-Aid, and pick up a few things to create a small first-aid kit. Hey, it never hurts to be prepared.

Things to get include:

  • Tylenol/Advil
  • Imodium
  • Decongestants
  • Bandaids
  • First-aid ointment (like Neosporin)
  • Pads/tampons

Boost that immune system.

Want an added way to prevent getting sick before or during your trip? Increase your odds staying healthy by boosting your immune system with either elderberry or Airborne a few days before your flight. Be sure to pack some with you for your return flight home.

Write up your souvenir list.

Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory and Lorelai come back from their European trip and realize they forgot to get something for diner owner Luke? Learn from their mistake and write up a list of everyone you want to buy something for. Carry it in your purse, so you don’t leave anyone out. (Bonus points for creating budget for each person, so you don’t break the bank.)

Order your attraction tickets ahead of time.

If you know the exact dates of when you be in certain locations, save time by order all attraction tickets online ahead of time. You’ll be able to skip general admission lines and get to the fun a whole lot quicker.

Pack some American cash.

I’m a cash girl through and through. I would much rather pay for things with tangible money over using a plastic card. (Strange for a girl in her late twenties, I know!) Plus, there are some places that won’t take a debt/credit card, and an ATM may not always be easily accessible in these situations. (Also, no one likes those pesky service fees.) I picked up a good portion of my euros before I even stepped on the plane, but I had concerns I would run out. I made sure to some U.S. dollars in my bag in case I needed to do a quick exchange to replenish my euro stash. If you go this route, I recommend taking about $300.00 and storing it in a safe place like the inside pocket of your suitcase. Be sure to check the exchange rate before you leave as you may need to increase how much you bring based on the currency rate fluctuation.