With the approach of the year mark since I have stepped foot on Irish soil I wanted to pay it tribute with an official post! I will give you guys a bit of a run down of hot spots, as well as my favorite parts of the country and its people. There is also an honorable mention to Amsterdam, as we spent a day there on our trip. Maybe it’s my Irish roots or maybe it’s the “craic”, but I am counting the days ’til I get back there. Here’s a taste of why you need to add it to your list too…
*I do not own the rights to the map image*
June 15, 2017
I had been to Ireland back in Spring of 2014, with my brothers, because my older brother spent many years studying/living in Limerick, but for this trip I went with my mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and her then fiance’, now hubby, and Mike.
Ahh…to be back on a plane with a special destination. First stop, Cleveland–>Dublin, IRE!
June 16, 2017
We arrived in Dublin at 5 AM, after a 7 hour flight, and were greeted by a brisk 57 degrees. For this trip we wanted to see as much as we could with as many stops as we could, so we decided the best means of travel would be by car, so upon arrival in Ireland we rented a car and literally buckled up for the ride. Ireland follows the rules of the opposite side of the road, and the driver is on the opposite side of the car, so it can make the trip rather eventful at times. Another important note is the roads are extremely narrow, especially the more out in the country that you go, which we were a lot of the time, so the guy at the rental company literally told us not to worry about any marks or scratches that we put on the car, because they actually expect it! I would say, if you are planning to travel by car, make sure that you have a driver that is comfortable with those changes, drive slow, and build extra time into your schedule for slower routes, one lane roads, or sheep crossing, yes, we saw it. Our first stop was Northern Ireland, a place I did not explore when I went with my brothers back in Spring of ’14. From the Dublin Airport, it is about a two-hour drive to Belfast, our first stop.
I am a die hard Titanic fan, I love everything about it; the history, the mystery, and of course, the James Cameron movie. I mean, who hasn’t asked someone to paint you like one of their French girls? So, when we decided that we were going to add Northern Ireland to the agenda, I knew that I wanted to make a stop at the Titanic Experience. The museum was opened in 2012, and is actually built on the site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard where the RMS Titanic was actually built, back in 1909! It was such a beautiful and eerie feeling to be able to stand and look at the very spot where the ship was built so many years ago. The museum houses many items from on board the ship, as well as opportunities for a proper high tea, video footage, memorabilia, and walls and walls of information, telling the story of the Titanic from its origin to its sinking.
After the Titanic Experience, we drove an hour west to Dark Hedges Road in Ballymoney, United Kingdom. This road is lined with 200-year old twist Birch Trees. Most people know this spot best from Game of Thrones, which I have never seen before in my life, woops! To be fair, I don’t think anyone in my family cared about that reference either, we just saw photos of this road online and were immediately taken with it, and it was definitely worth going off the beaten path!
Another hour in the car and we completed our tour of Northern Ireland at The Giant’s Causeway. This is a must-see, if you are willing to drive to the tippy top of the country, you will not be disappointed. Legend has it that centuries ago there lived a gentle giant, named Finn MacCool who wanted to build a rock pathway to Scotland to settle a contest of strength with a rival Scottish giant named Benandonner. Geologically, this spot is the result of excessive volcanic activity, whatever the cause, it’s beauty is un-matched.
After spending a few hours there, we started our descent to Galway, stopping off at the Harbour, Portrush, in County Antrim, at a quaint Wine Bar, named Ramore’s . I loved this little spot; right on the water, boats lined up in the bay, old bars, a real locals spot, I imagine. I highly suggest the Bang Bang chicken, the Tirimisu, and of course a big old glass of red.
5 hours later…we reached our first Airbnb in Galway.
June 17, 2017
Galway, Galway, Galway. Officially, one of my favorite spots in the entire world. When we woke up that morning, we headed over to Shop Street for a day of shopping, good food, and even better Jameson.
Our first stop was King’s Head Pub for Fish and chips, Clam Chowder, and my first Smithwick’s of the trip.
Next on our tour was The Quay’s, a bar brought over from Wales piece by piece in the 1800’s, so it has a lot of elements of a church, including gables, a pipe organ, stained glass windows, and floors.
*Find your new favorite pub on the Galway City Pub Guide*
There is something so magical about Galway, there’s energy, and live music playing in the Street, throngs of people, and delicious smelling food, plus, it’s by the water, so as you walk off Shop Street you can find lots of people having picnics and taking naps by Galway Bay.
The food tour continued that night at Dough Bros Pizza, check out this review in the Irish Times here; Irish Times Review. We got the goat cheese and arugula pie and, oh my! I love the vibe in there, they encourage you to turn off your phones (after you tag them on Insta, of course) and focus on sharing food and conversation. See a list of their other “rules” below-
And what goes better with pizza than ice cream? So, of course we had to stop at Murphy’s on our way back to the car.
June 18, 2017
The next morning, our last morning in Galway, we woke up and headed into town for breakfast at Maxwell’s and a stop at TkMaxx, their version of TjMaxx.
Back in the car we went for the 2 hour drive to The Cliffs of Moher. The crazy thing about our trip was how sunny it was (the entire time!). Locals said it hadn’t been that consecutively sunny in years, so we saw a lot of burnt Irish people on our trip, haha In all seriousness, it was so beautiful everyday, I didn’t have to use my rain boots once, which if you’ve ever been to Ireland, or really ever even heard of Ireland, you know that’s a bit unheard of. It’s like saying it never rains in Seattle…
On our way to the Cliffs, we took a quick stop in The Burren, in Co. Clare to take in the views.
On the South side of the Cliffs is Obrien’s Tower and on the North side is a foot path that has cows on one side and the literal edge of the cliffs on the other (beware of a stiff breeze). To see the sun glittering off the Atlantic at the foot of the Cliffs was an awe-inspiring view to say the least.
After spending the day at the cliffs we drove the 1.5 hours to our next stop, Limerick.
After getting acclimated to our new Airbnb, we headed into Limerick City Centre for dinner at Hamptons. Chowder, yet again, go figure.
June 19, 2017
A peculator full of coffee later and we were back on the road for a 1.5 hour drive to Cork to Kiss the Blarney Stone.
After returning to Limerick, we headed over to my friend Amy’s house for dinner and to meet her parents, who were an absolute delight. I love spending time with locals, I think it so adds to the experience and it was an added bonus that we knew Amy ahead of time, thanks to my brother introducing us all those years ago.
June 20, 2017
3 am led to 5 am and we were boarding our 1.5 hour flight to Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Once we arrived at our destination, we were a bit shocked to find that our “hotel” was actually one large, non air-conditioned room, with multiple single beds on the top floor of a walk-up downtown hostel. Not the worst experience possible, but pretty bad when you’re not anticipating it and you are tired and hot to begin with. Top floor+no air conditioning+90 degrees does not equal the most pleasant evening.
Once we put our luggage down, we literally ran to make our reservation time at the Van Gogh Museum, while taking in the views on foot.
After the museum, we had lunch by the canal and took in the people, the language, and the smell of legalized weed, yikes. I will say, Amsterdam is a lot more progressive and promiscuous than some of the other places that I have been before. Not really my scene, but the architecture is stunning and I am always happy to cross another country off of my list.
That night we did a canal tour, which I highly suggest, there is something about seeing a city by water transportation that is so magical.
After the tour we stopped by the Red Light District and sampled Nutella and strawberry covered waffles and cappuccinos.
Necessary parts of Amsterdam? Waffles, Stroopwafles, time on the Amstel River to check out the architecture, and a bike ride if you can squeeze it in.
Other interesting facts about Amsterdam:
1.) Weed is legal.
2.) The prostitutes in the Red Light District are actually protected by the police.
3.) English is their second language, so almost everyone speaks it.
4.) They drive on the same side of the car/road as we do here in the US.
5.) No two houses are the same.
6.) There are almost as many bikes as there are people in the city, over 600,000!
June 21, 2017
Our last day in Europe before heading home, we headed from Amsterdam back to Dublin. It was the Summer Solstice, and the magic of spending the longest day of the year in Dublin did not escape me. After resting at our Airbnb, my mother-in-law, Patti, and I went out to explore the city on foot while the other 4 went to the Jameson Tour.
A lot of the sights that I saw took me back to my first trip to Ireland with my brothers, back in 2014. We walked the O’Connell Ha’Penny Bridges over the River Liffey, shopped, chatted up the locals, and headed over to Temple Bar to meet up with everyone else (fun fact, the Ha’Penny Bridge is the oldest wrought iron bridge in the world). I am a huge fan of PS I Love You and even though my Irish friends say that it doesn’t show the real Ireland, I’m still a major fan-girl, so when I went in 2014, we stopped in to the bar and I asked for the exact booth that Hilary Swank, Gina Gershon, and Lisa Kudrow sat in, so that I could sit in it! The bartender loved my excitement so much he even took me backstage to see the exact spot that “Gerry” performed. I may have died a little. And while last year’s trip may not have been exactly as thrilling, it was still nostalgic and sweet to hear local musicians play “Galway Girl” with pure joy.
After a day spent in the city centre, we ended the night at Murray’s Bar on Upper O’Connell street for a night of live music and traditional Irish dancing.
Fun facts and phrases from Ireland:
1.) They don’t tip the wait staff, they make a much higher flat rate, so everyone is nice and helpful, it’s not uncommon to have 3 or 4 servers serve your table in one meal.
2.)The sun sets much later here; we would walk outside of the pub at 10 PM to practically broad daylight every night. Granted, we went in June, at the height of the Summer Solstice, but still.
3.) Brilliant!- This is a phrase you will hear constantly, it’s an exclamation, a description, or the end of a sentence. “That music was brilliant!”
4.) Grand!-see above.
5.) No bother-no worries, no problem.
6.) Take away- to go-“Is this take away today?”
7.) Shite-you already know.
8.) Craic “crack”- basically describing a good time- “Her craic was good.” “The craic at that pub was grand.”
I hope that I have convinced you of the joys and magic of Ireland, or Europe in general, but if you’re still not convinced, I would simply say, the people. The people make the trip worth it. If you have ever doubted humanity, walk down the street in Ireland and talk to the locals, there is such a brightness and genuine interest in what you’re doing, how you’re doing, and maybe most importantly, what you’re drinking.
Ireland, you have a piece of my heart, it’s true. Til next time…
“May you go everywhere and wear it all.”