What can I say about our trip to Ireland? It was an absolute BLAST and the idea came out of thin air. My husband and I love to travel and love dreaming of traveling abroad. One random morning, before we’d even gotten out of bed, we ended up talking about taking a small random trip somewhere before the end of the year. And so we started the normal routine: New York, LA, San Francisco, DC, Chicago. It quickly excalated to Mexico, Bahamas, an Alaskan cruise and then of course we moved to world wide travel. Paris, Amsterdam, Japan, China, Greece…all countries which are on our current bucket list. This conversation continued as I grabbed my phone and scrolled down through the getaways section of Groupon app. Without skipping a beat, I showed my husband a lovely little trip to Ireland that was on promotion, clicked to the company’s website and found and even better deal. We booked our flight the following day.
Because we wanted to keep the trip small and within a very tight budget, we decided on a 5 day and 4 night trip. We also wanted to enjoy a Ireland without having to worry about following a strict travel itinerary. And this is how we made the most out of our trip:
Day T – 1 Took a red eye flight from PDX to JFK. We had a 12 hour layover (just in case of a delay). We stored our luggage and took the subway into the city and walked around for a few hours. For those who don’t know, my husband lived in New York until his teens and I’ve lived in Massachusetts, so we’ve done most of the major New York things and just wanted to enjoy the city as much as we could for the short time we had. We hit two major places in New York City: the Rockefeller Center to see the famous christmas tree and Lombardi’s Pizza – the first pizzeria in the United States(yes, I am a pizza addict). Bucket list scratch off: check.
What did we realized from this short trip in NYC? New Yorkers are still obsessed with Dunkin Donuts (which we definitely ate as a pizza pre-gamer) and New Yorkers must be in the absolute best shape of their lives having to climb up and down so many steps to get in and out of the subway. I swear I saw people twice my size running circles around me while I huffed and puffed out of the subway. I’m sure this is a clear sign that I really do need to get back in shape, but that’s for a later discussion.
So we caught our flight on Air Lingus which is exciting all in itself. I mean, catching a plane with a three leaf clover logo is pretty damn exciting.
Day 1 We landed in Dublin in the wee morning & attempted to drive on the wrong side of the road. Unfortunately for us, our navigation system wasn’t working and we ended up FREAKING OUT trying to figure out both how to drive on the wrong side of the road and how to find our hotel once our navigation told us we had arrived when we so obviously had not. When we finally did find our hotel, we checked in early and took an extremely long nap to make up for the bad sleep we had. We woke up a few hours before sunset(our bad) and headed out to the city center of Dublin. We walked down Grafton Street which is famous for it’s outdoor shopping. We marveled at the amazing Christmas decorations, ate the most authentic Irish meal at a local restaurant and headed out to the Pub district.
So enter the Temple Bar: If you read anything about Dublin, you will hear about the Temple Bar. It was in our radar from the get go, it was ridiculously busy and absolutely worth it. The atmosphere that radiates from this pub is sensational. We later learned that this atmosphere radiates all over the city as we ventured to other pubs in the area. Live music, dancing, crowds singing along and clapping is the norm in this cheerful city. So we drank beer, sang along and enjoyed our first merry night in this great country.
Day 2: This is when we got out sh*t together. We got up somewhat early. We completely eradicated the thought of taking a road trip out of the city due to our previous night of fright and picked up a taxi instead. We visited Trinity College, another major hub of Dublin. As an art nerd, I dragged my husband in to see the great Book of Kells which is an absolutely exquisite work of art and craftsmanship. Although we couldn’t photograph the Book of Kells, we were able to take some shots on their amazing library. The smell of old books and history in between the pages was absolutely palpable. After the library, we headed out to visit the National Museum of Dublin at my husband’s request. He’s a history buff and so of course, we had to learn as much as we could about the great Vikings.
Day 03: We woke up early and headed to Dublin Castle. We got lost in the city and found our way back around. We ended up catching a tour at the castle that took us to the castle chapel and underground where we could see the original castle walls which was a pretty awesome highlight. Note: I had the absolute BEST HOT CHOCOLATE ever in the castle cafe. So if you go, do yourself a favor and order a hot chocolate. After the castle, we headed to St. Patrick’s cathedral. Again, I am an art nerd and I have this obsession with cathedrals and churches in general. We also picked up a nice celtic cross for our collection (p.s. we have a collection of crosses).Day 4: We woke up ridiculously early to catch a bus out of the city. We drove past so many lovely landscapes of open green fields. We found our way to the great Blarney Castle, up some very steep steps to the tower of castle. We passed the living quarters, dungeons, murder holes (true story) and reached the very top where *gasp* the mythical Blarney stone resides. And what happened next can only be described with a sequences of photos. I laid down, and scooted past the edge of a broken wall of the castle. I leaned as far back as I could while a gaping hole on the floor exposed my imminent death if it weren’t for the dear stranger who I entrusted with my life to hold me while I leaned far enough back to kiss the ever majestical Blarney Stone. And so, I, Susie Moreno, have been endowed with the gift of eloquence. Bucket list scratch off friends! And with my newly endowed gift, I marveled at the view from the very top of the Blarney castle tower. From then, we traveled to yet another wonderful castle in Ireland. The Rock of Cashel captivated us by it’s beautiful landscape and mystical structures.
On our way back, we took the scenic route and drove by some of Ireland’s smaller towns, all of them filled with so much history of their own. We made our way back to Dublin and ended the night at the oldest pub in Ireland: Brazen Head which happens to be one of our most memorable experiences in Ireland.
Day 5: There are a few things you can’t not do when you travel to Ireland. So on our last day there we headed to the Guinness Brewery to uncover Ireland’s most cherished beer. The storehouse itself is massive! You follow floor after floor into the history of the dark brew, from how it started, how it’s created, how they distribute it, market it, the testing phases and then you end your self paced tour with a a very intricate demonstration on how to correctly pour and drink a pint of Guinness, because folks, there is a right and wrong way to do it. And so, after we became certified Guinness experts we found ourselves in dry stout heaven. So does a Guinness taste differently than in the States? The simple answer is YES. Yes, it absolutely does. Regardless of who you talk to, the staff at Guinness, taxi drivers, bartenders, any locals, Guinness does not travel well regardless of the distance. I’ll go so far to say that we met an Irish local who explained that he would NEVER drink a Guinness outside Ireland. Foodie Note: Please make sure to try the beef stew in the dining hall. My husband assures me that it is absolutely the best beef stew in the world.After a long day at the Guinness Storehouse, we found our way to Kilmainham Gaol. It’s a spooky former prison that held 140 public hangings, many of which included social and political leaders during the English rebellion. This jail housed men, women and children convicted of crimes that ranged from murder to petty theft without any sort of segregation, heating, windows, or proper sanitation. Simply put, this place was scary and ridiculously instrumental to Irish history.
We ended the day with one last night at yet another local Irish pub to celebrate with more live music. So what was it like? Ireland is defined by the spirit of its’ people and that is the absolutely best part of Ireland. Yes I loved visiting the sights, especially the castles outside of the Dublin, but the experience you have by sitting down at a local Irish pub is something my husband and I bring up every single time. The laughter, cheer and overwhelming love of their music and dance is something we will remember forever.
So to end it: I’ll add a few of my *awesome* iPhone photos detailing a little more of our trip with a couple of tips should you decide taking a trip to Ireland.
- Drink Beer – Guinness to be exact. Never EVER order a cocktail. They will automatically realize you are a tourist and more than likely, you’ll have to mix the drink yourself.
- Favorite Pub Spots: Temple Bar for the atmosphere but expect a big crowd; Brazen Head is also well know for the atmosphere but for goodness sake try the food (I had THE BEST BURGER here).
- Be ready to join in the fun and sign and clap with the live music. Songs you should be familiar with: Galway Girl, Whiskey in the Jar & The Wild Rover are the bare minimum. Buy them on iTunes now! You will be thankful to know them, even when you visit Irish pubs here in the States.
- Talk to the locals – They love to talk and will open up easily. This country has some of the most lively and friendliest people I have ever met!
- We stayed in Dublin for our entire trip but we found a way to travel outside the city. The country is small enough where you can pretty much take a day trip to every edge of the country. So, if you don’t want to drive find a day tour or two. But be weary of sunrise and sunset, because daylight can be shorter there than what you are accustomed to.
Sláinte for now! Until the next blog post.