Monday, August 19, 2013

A Few Hikes in Ireland (The Burren, Inishmore, Connemara)

We just got back from a week-long vacation in Ireland. It was great! We spent most of our time in Western and Northwest Ireland. Unlike most of our vacations, where we hit up museums, churches, and cultural sites in cities, this was a more nature-oriented trip, as I think is common in Ireland. We wanted to do some hikes, but were having trouble finding enough information about them online.

So, for future visitors to Ireland, I thought I'd recap  the hikes we went on with a bit more information. Good luck!

The Burren (Ballyvaughan Wood Loop)

Distance: 8 km
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1:26, but we were running for a fair bit...
More information: here and here

Our first 'hike' was actually a run. We needed to run 9 miles as part of half marathon training, and we thought we'd do two loops around this 8km route to get us there. It's "Easy," right? Well, that turned out to not really work. The first ~15 minutes of this hike are though some interesting, but tough woodlands and rocky fields. Good hike. Lots of farmland that you pass through, and some times it was almost tough finding our way, but we did it. Go to Monk's restaurant afterwards!

View The Burren in a larger map

Inis Oirr Island Hike

Distance: 4.73 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1:44
More information: here, and the ferry

We took a ferry to the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inis Oirr, and while there we did this nice hike. I can highly recommend it! We saw lots of great views of the island, some livestock, and we even had a nice picnic at the rustic castle tower on top of the island. 

View Inis Oirr Hike in a larger map

The Connemara (Diamond Hill Hike)

Difficulty: Medium
Time: 2:22
More information: here and here

A short distance from the Connemara National Park visitor center is a hike to the top of Diamond Hill. In fact, there are a few hikes around the hill, but we took the one that went to the top. It was a nice, strenuous climb for me, although some of us didn't like the views from steep heights! The scenery makes one think of the Scottish Highlands. We took the hike pretty seriously, but there were plenty of families with small children doing it (in fact, it was a little crowded) so probably just about anyone could make it to the top. 

View Diamond Hill Hike in a larger map

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Buying a SIM Card in Ireland (from the Dublin airport)

I recently got back from a one week vacation in Ireland. It was amazing. We mostly went to the west and northwest of Ireland (Galway, Sligo, Donegal, Derry). And we had a car, so it was easy to get around and see whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to. I highly recommend it!

I also highly recommend buying a SIM card at the airport. It was really easy and we took full advantage of it.

Buying a SIM card allows you to:

  • Call hotels & restaurants in Ireland
  • Check your email, etc. at the many places where WiFi is spotty or non-existent
  • And my favorite, allows you to use your phone's GPS to navigate while driving. This was a huge help for us, as driving is a great way to get around Ireland, and it's much less expensive than renting a GPS unit from the rental place. 

First, as always, you need to make sure your phone is unlocked. If you've been with your carrier for a while, they'll usually do this for you with no problems when you call them up and tell them you are visiting another country. Or you can be like me and buy an unlocked phone like the Nexus 4.

In the Dublin airport, there are at least two places to buy a SIM card.

  • Terminal 2: This is the International terminal, where you probably arrived from. Once you exit the baggage claim there is a convenience store (Spar, I believe) where they sell many things including SIM cards from several different vendors. While the prices were good (€20-30) I couldn't figure out whether and how much data my money would get me, and I cared much more about data than calls/texts. The employee I asked, though friendly, was not helpful. 
  • Terminal 1: This is the budget terminal. If you took Ryanair you probably arrived here, otherwise you may have to walk. On the ground floor is a small store that sells nothing but SIM cards. This is, I believe, the place to go. The employee was quite knowledgable. There we purchased a Vodaphone SIM for €20. For that price, we got 250MB of data, which was good enough for our one week entire trip, checking email, Facebook, and daily use for navigational purposes. 
Good luck!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to find out when your T-Mobile contract is expiring?

Sometimes you want to know when your T-Mobile contract is expiring, either because you want a new phone, want to switch providers, or just because you think they screwed up. And if you asks this completely reasonable question to T-Mobile, they will tell you that you need to call them up to learn this information, and also, "Is there anything wrong? Why are you curious?" Annoying.

To find out when you contract ends do the following:

  • Go to
  • Go to the "My Account" section and log in.
  • Look for "My account activity" and select "More account activity" and go back far enough in history to find the most recent "Change in contract" event. Expanding this event will tell you what date you contract was extended to. 
  • (The list only keeps 24 months of activity, but if there were no "Change in contract" events during this time, you almost certainly have finished your contract.)