Ireland Day 8: Trip Home and FInal Thoughts

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Here’s the view out of our hotel window this morning. Ireland kept the great weather going, even on the day we left.

Everything went exceptionally smoothly, again today. We walked about 15 minutes to the airport bus stop. We got to the airport way early (on purpose), there was no line at the United counter. Customs and Immigration were done at the Dublin Airport. We were able to use our Global Entry status to quickly get through both. The technology being used these days is impressive. At Immigration, they showed us pictures of the bags we checked to make sure they were ours. Bags only get placed on the plane after you have been processed by Immigration.

We filed for our VAT refund, which was partially automated by a VAT card that some of the stores used. Some stores still had paper receipts, so we filed for those as well. We did some duty free shopping, and then went to our gate. The plane was mostly full and left on time. I watched Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks, Delivery Man and American Hustle.

Since we had already cleared customs and immigration, we came into Dulles like a domestic flight. We got to skip the people mover and just went straight to baggage. Got our bags, got on a shuttle back to the hotel where our car was and picked up Colby by 5:00. And driving on the right side came naturally again!

So what did we think of Ireland? I can only speak for me. First, visiting English speaking countries is not as “foreign” an experience. Like going to Canada or the UK, there’s no problem communicating, which makes things easier but takes away some of the mystery and challenge.

The highlights of the trip sightseeing wise were the Waterford factory, Charles Fort and Trinity College. The green all around was awesome, a constant everywhere we went. And we didn’t even have to experience rain to get the green. One full week in Ireland and only one passing shower is better than we could possibly have expected.

But the trip wasn’t so much about the specific places we visited. I realized on the last day, that the most meaningful part of the trip was understanding the Irish experience. The impact of suppression of language, culture and religion makes the Irish experience somewhat similar to Jews, although we went into diaspora, the Irish stayed put and suffered in their own country. Americans of Irish descent are so numerous, it is good to know what their ancestors’ experience was and what drove them to emigrate. 

This has to be one of the smoothest trips we have done. Every bit of Ellen’s planning worked perfectly, from the trip plan to the hotels. The worst thing that happened on the trip was I didn’t bring the right electrical adaptors, and we fixed that easily on our first day in Dublin. So Ellen’s travel expertise proved itself invaluable again.

I also want to thank Lisa Byrne for offering itinerary advice, and logistical tips like neighborhoods to visit in Dublin and where to get our SIM cards. Having an Irishwoman’s help was great.

We leave for Poland in just 72 days. Can’t wait!


Ireland Day 7: Double-speed in Dublin

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Today was our only full day in Dublin and our last day before flying home. It might be Good Friday, but we were still going to use every minute to explore.

First stop was the campus of Trinity College. Founded in 1592, that’s all. Tours and the library didn’t start until later in the day, so we just did our own little stroll around campus.Image

I don’t think I’ve yet said that it was another gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky, 50°F, just a little wind. We certainly lucked out with the weather.

We then walked over to Dublin Castle. I remarked to Ellen today that Ireland has been different from most European countries we have visited, in that there was no royalty, no palaces and pomp. Ireland is a relatively new nation, with invaders having written most of the history. The castle was closed for the holiday, so we couldn’t go inside, but we enjoyed walking around the grounds and to the garden behind.

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There was one more church to visit, Christ Church Cathedral, which dates back to the 11th century. We don’t have anything like this back in the States, right?

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We stopped at Bobo’s Burgers for lunch. Mostly because Ellen liked the name. Plus, easy to have a burger without a bun for Passover.

Now, back to Trinity College. We took a walking tour this time, narrated by a student. We found the history of the college interesting, but mostly wanted to see the long room. Also in the old library is the Book of Kells, a book with 4 gospels that dates back to 800. But the long room was the highlight.

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We crossed the River Liffey to get another view of the spire. So different today versus yesterday, right?

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Our final stop on the way home was the Victorian Park, Saint Stephen’s Green. We had walked past it several times, but never entered. All cities need green, open space.

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We had left the hotel this morning with a request to make a dinner reservation at the hotel’s restaurant. We got back to the hotel at 6:30pm and found that they were full. But the concierge had made a reservation for us at another restaurant, just a 10 minute walk away. So we had a delightful meal at the Pig’s Ear. We shared the Earl Grey tea cured & smoked salmon as our appetizer. Ellen had the organic Scottish Salmon and I had the beef cheek. And no one in the restaurant (or in Dublin) had alcohol with their meal. Yet everyone survived!

Tomorrow, we navigate getting to the airport, getting our VAT refund, going through customs and immigration here in Dublin and then flying home. I’ll do one more post with my thoughts for the trip when we get home

I hope you’ve enjoyed traveling along with us. If you could, like this post on Facebook, Twitter or WordPress (all 3 if you’d like), just to let me know you were reading along. Marketers always want to get feedback.

 

 

 

 


Ireland Day 6: Back to Dublin

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Today was the day to drive back to Dublin, ditch the car, and become urban explorers again.

We drove the 2 hours or so from Galway to Dublin this morning. Am proud to report that driving on the right side of the car and the left side of the road is now complete, error free (except Ellen will tell you I hit a few curbs). It got easier each day, after a couple of weeks I’m sure it becomes second nature. Car rental math: we drove 848 kilometers on 42.3 liters of diesel fuel. That translates to 47mpg, not bad for a non-hybrid vehicle. The US could use more diesel cars. Also, gas at €1.47/liter translates to $7.72/gallon, which would encourage everyone to be more fuel efficient!

We dropped the car off at Hertz and took a cab back to The Merrion Hotel, the same one we stayed at Saturday night. Our cab driver was an interesting woman, she chatted with us about our travels and the upcoming Good Friday holiday. She told us there won’t be any alcohol sales tomorrow, but that won’t be a problem because the Irish don’t drink as much as they are reputed to. Hmmm.

We had not really explored Dublin before, so we wanted to start with a walking tour. We followed RIck Steves tour up O’Connell Street. As you can tell, the sky was not as clear as the last few days, but there was no rain either. Here is the €5 million spire that we understand Dubliners are not especially keen about.Image

Lot’s of statues along O’Connell Street, honoring those who had helped gain Irish independence. Image

Near the end of our walking tour, we happened past the Ambassador Theatre, and saw that the Art of the Brick exhibit was in town. Ellen was aware of Nathan Sawaya’s work, I wasn’t. We were able to get tickets immediately and I was so glad we went in! Some just amazing works of Lego art.

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We found that there is an exhibit of Art of the Brick in New York, go see it if you can!

We next wanted to go tour the Old Jameson Distillery. Neither of us are big whiskey drinkers, and I can’t drink whiskey during Passover, but even so, it seemed like fun. The whiskey is now distilled in Cork, but the old distillery is kind of like a museum. We learned how they make the whiskey, Ellen had a sample at the end, and we bought a couple of small bottles for when we get back. I think I’m going to wait until our Waterford tumblers arrive, it seems fitting.

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We found dinner in the Temple Bar district at Toscana. Ellen has a risotto dish, I had a caprese salad and grilled chicken. We shared chocolate gelato and then walked back to our hotel.

It was a full day, even with getting back to Dublin at noon. We’ll make the most of tomorrow, our last day of sightseeing.


Ireland Day 5: Limerick and Galway

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It was time to leave Kilkenny and drive to Galway today. We still had sunshine, 3 days in a row! On the west coast of Ireland, they get measurable rain 225 days a year, 150 days on the east. We got a brief shower on Saturday when we arrived, and it’s been dry ever since. SO lucky!

We decided to stop in Limerick as about the halfway point between Kilkenny and Gallery. We thought seeing a castle dating back to 1200 was worthwhile. 

Driving, by the way, has gotten easier. It doesn’t require quite the constant intense concentration that it did originally. I still am thinking through every turn. But more so, Ireland is full of roundabouts, which are easier enough to stay on the correct side, but still work to merge and then get off at the right exit.

King John’s Castle is right on the River Shannon in Limerick. The visitor’s center had recently been updated, and there were all sorts of interactive displays. There were of course the tried and true displays, too.Image

The castle told much of the history of Ireland from 1100-1700. Not a lot good to be said about the English, and their constant attempts to rule Ireland. A text to my Irish friend, Lisa Byrne, that I understood now why the Irish don’t like the English generated the reply, “Ummm yeah!!!”

Climbing the tower provided a great view of Limerick and the river. Image

Next we stopped at St. Mary’s Cathedral. In daily use 1168. That is just mind blowing.ImageImage

We grabbed a grocery store lunch and jumped into the car. We arrived in Galway just after 3. Our home in Galway tonight is a b&b, the Petra House. A great room, walking distance from town for just €80. Hard to beat! Walking into town, we enjoyed the pedestrian streets, the shops, the people. We walked into the St. Nicholas Church and down to the Spanish Arch.Image

We had called to make a reservation at Ard Bia, but they didn’t have one. We by coincidence walked right by it, stopped in, and they said they could seat us if we took no more than 1 hour 20 minutes to eat. We took them up on it! We shared a duck dish and salmon, loving every bite. We strolled through town on the way back to our b&b, enjoying the sights and sounds.


Ireland Day 4: Ring of Kerry

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The sunshine just has all the Irish speechless. A waitress today said sunshine is like gold here, so rare. Having 2 days in a row, we know we are very lucky.

Today’s plan was the Ring of Kerry. It is a 100 mile route in western Ireland full of beautiful scenery. We could have driven it, but it would have meant I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate much of the scenery unless we stopped constantly. So instead, we took the hotel concierge’s advice and took the Deros bus tour of the ring. We left at 10:30 and got back just after 5. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole day.

The vistas were beautiful, made that much more so by the bright sunshine. What you can’t see is a fierce wind that often made holding the camera still difficult. But that is not a complaint, will take the sunshine anytime. Here are a number of views along the ring.

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In Kerry, we found out that Charlie Chaplin owned a house and used to visit frequently. Here’s his statue.Image

It was a great tour, made better by the tour guide/busdriver, the weather and the ability to be a passenger. It was a great decision to take the bus tour.

Shortly after we got back, we headed out to dinner. From TripAdvisor, Ellen had picked Bricin Restaurant. Ellen had a bixty, a potato pancake with a chicken filling. She loved it! With Passover having started, I stayed with meat and potatoes, a steak with potatoes and vegetables.

We wanted to hear some music, so found a pub with live music. We went to the Fáilte Killarney Bar and heard some pop music and traditional, yet modern, Irish music. The pub was full, old and young, couples and clusters of men and women. We enjoyed the music and the people watching.

 


Ireland Day 3: Kilkenny to Killarney in Glorious Sunshine

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The locals could not even lie about today. When we’d chat and say we hear the weather is always like this, they’d shake their head or laugh and look away, not even able to pretend it is always sunny with a brilliant blue sky. Whatever the frequency, we were glad to have sunshine today.

After breakfast at the Pembroke Hotel in Kilkenny, we were back in the car and heading to Waterford. This trip for the first time, we are using my cellphone and the fantastic app Waze for our navigation. It has been perfect so far this trip. The driving on the lefthand side is starting to come a little more naturally, but it does require tremendous concentration, as you can’t take any turn or exit for granted, you have to think about where you should be.

We got to Waterford just after 10, and got on a 10:50 tour. We’ve had tours of glassworks before, but this was pretty amazing. I love the classwork Waterford cut glass, and to see it done by the experts was so impressive.ImageImage

They had some great examples, like this Coke bottle…Image

And this 9/11 tribute:

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We bought several items, for us and as gifts, in the store, this was our big splurge for the trip. We are shipping the items home, well worth the €30 shipping fee.

We walked through the town briefly, and then grabbed lunch at the supermarket. That is one of our favorite things to do, fruit, cheese, bread, meat and bottled water, and we were happy.

We looked for a destination to stop between Waterford and Kilkenny, and chose Kinsale. We stopped at Charles Fort and the combination of the view and the weather was spectacular. I’ll let the images speak for themselves.ImageImageImage

We could have really stayed at the fort all day.

But instead, we drove into Kinsale and got coffee and hot chocolate and sat by the water. Finally, it was time to drive the 1.5 hours to Killarney. We are staying 2 nights at the Killarney Park Hotel, upscale and comfortable. We walked into town for dinner, eating at Cronin’s. Ellen had lamb, I had lasagna. And beer. With Passover starting tonight (I keep to ET for start and stop hours), it was my last chance for a Guinness this trip. After dinner we walked through the town, listening to the Irish music coming out of the pubs. Tomorrow night, we may try to take advantage of that.


Ireland Day 2: Left Hand Driving & Kilkenny

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We slept decently for the first night away. We were out by about 8am looking for breakfast. A gentleman on the street greeted us immediately with “You’re up too early. Dublin doesn’t get up until 10!” And he was closed to right! We found a Spar convenience store that was open, and got hot drinks and pastries.

The Hertz “city centre” location is not really in city centre, so we needed to take a cab about 10 minutes to pick up the car. We have a VW Golf diesel, very similar to what we had in Norway. I found that driving on the “wrong” side wasn’t difficult, but you always had to be thinking, you can’t for a minute rely on instinct. It’s a stick shift, which I like driving, but it adds shifting with your left hand to the equation. But why not?

We drove about an hour and a half south to Kilkenny. We are staying at the Pembroke Hotel Kilkenny, barely a stones throw from the castle. Our room wasn’t ready, so we just grabbed our cameras and headed to the castle. Built in the 12th century,  Kilkenny Castle served as the home of lords for over 600 years. We took the self-guided tour, and in the end, were ready to build ourselves our own castle.

We walked through town, which was absolutely adorable.Image

We headed to Cafe Sol, a restaurant Ellen saw in Frommer’s. A cute bistro, we made this the meal of the day, because we were pubbing in the evening. So I had salmon, and Ellen had the pasta special. Back on the streets, we wondered in and out of shops and made our way to St. Canice’s Cathedral. It is famous for it’s round tower.

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This church has the history of Kilkenny for centuries on its walls and floors. Was a wonderful history lesson. We stopped for afternoon tea and coffee and sat outside people watching. When we were done, we walked back to the hotel. In passing close to the castle, we took the picture at the top of this page, the sky was not blue at all when we first went past!

We checked into the hotel and then pretty much were gone again. This time we were off to Kyteler’s Pub for food, drink and music. If a place has been in business since 1324, you have to see it for yourself. We went downstairs at first for a drink. That was where the young folk were with the loud music and singing along. The Irish band was covering a lot of rock hits, from Pink Floyd to Fleetwood Mac. Almost felt like a scene out of The Commitments with the audience singing and enjoying the music. Image

We enjoyed a Kilkenny red ale and a Bulmers while watching the band, then went upstairs to eat. Ellen had Irish stew, I had a Guinness and fish and chips, and we listened to a traditional Irish trio as we ate. Image

We enjoyed the pub for what we were looking for. Kilkenny turned out to be a delightful town that easily took up the day. Walking the streets and exploring allowed us to immerse ourselves in Ireland. There weren’t many tourists here, so we felt we were getting a pretty authentic experience.

We’ve already bought admission tickets to Waterford for tomorrow, it will be the first thing on the agenda!

 


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