Ireland 2011 – Part 1

June 26th, 2011

My laptop is finally connected to the internet! This means I can sit on the couch and be lazy while still posting blogs. Yay!

I promised a post about our trip, so here we go. We spent ten days in Ireland for our first anniversary/late honeymoon, because we’re awesome, and as such we needed to have an awesome first anniversary.

Our first stop was actually Connecticut to see some friends for a couple days. We didn’t get to spend as much time there as I wanted because I was trying to minimize the time I took off from my new job, but it was still awesome. And it was only fitting since they surprised us and were actually able to make it out for our wedding last year, which was amazing. We’ve never been to Connecticut before so it was a new experience, and I realized just how lucky we are to have such wonderful friends.

We were incredibly spoiled in Connecticut, with homemade food, good restaurants, fantastic ice cream, farm fresh cider, and a trip to the aquarium to see adorable animals. My one real regret is that I was so tired the first night that I couldn’t eat much of the delicious ribs that were made for us, and I have been wanting them ever since. Maybe next time we see them I can convince her to make them again.

The one thing we left with was the plan to come back for a real trip sometime in the future and get to spend some real time with them and see the east coast.

From there we flew to Ireland. We flew out of La Guardia, which was an interesting experience. I saw the skyline of NYC for the first time ever, which was pretty cool. Someday I would like to actually visit the city too.

Our trip from New York to Dublin took us to Philadelphia and Brussels too. We were less than impressed with the Brussels airport. In what was to become a very annoying theme, we had to get off our plane walk all the way around and come back to the other gates through more security, which meant any drinks we might have bought at the last airport were confiscated. Super annoying. We learned not to buy more than we could drink in a sitting. The worst part was that the security lady had to have known she was dealing with people coming straight from another plane, but she still treated me like I was trying to sneak my bottle of water through.

Oh and can I just say, I got patted down twice. Yes, twice. I hate being touched by strangers, Kevin was the one with the hat and the laptop and all the extra stuff and I’m the one who got pulled aside, once in Brussels and once in Dublin on our way back. Blech.

In Dublin we managed, after some trial and error, to get some money out of an ATM and find a bus into the city that would take us reasonably close to our hotel. And by reasonably close I mean we still had to haul our bags across multiple city blocks, and being the genius I am, I forgot to look up directions, so we also got lost. So multiple city blocks turned into some more city blocks, and we were tired and our bags were heavy.

Once we finally found it, our first hotel was decent. It was clean, it had a restaurant, it wasn’t a bad location. It was a little farther out from a lot of the tourist places like Trinity, but not horribly so and we could still walk everywhere, which was good since we didn’t get the rental car until the day we left Dublin.

After taking a little nap that lasted longer than intended, and showering we were finally ready to venture out into the city just in time for dinner. We walked almost to O’Connell street, which is a main strip in Dublin, and found a pub to have our first Irish meal at. K had his first Guinness ever and surprise surprise, actually really liked it. This from a man who had yet to find a beer he liked.  We were a bit confused by the service, a problem that would plague us the entire trip. It seems the in order to actually get a table, order and especially pay the bill you have to be somewhat aggressive, which we are most definitely not. We managed in the end, after spending much more time in the pub than we would have originally. Quite pleased with ourselves for our first adventure we went back to the hotel for the night.

The next day we spent exploring Dublin. That is, once I managed to get Kevin out of bed, we spent the afternoon exploring Dublin. This included Trinity College and the Book of Kells. It really is quite impressive to see, and even though I’ve been there twice before I enjoyed it. The amount of work and attention to detail is insane. They had some history of medicine display set up through the library which included the skeleton of a very large man, and lots of notes and devices from medicine a couple hundred years ago. It was interesting but also a bit creepy.

After that we wandered through the visitor center and St. Stephens Green, a large park in the middle of the city. It’s quite pretty with wide walkways, lots of trees, fountains and statues, and a pond. After that we walked through the Temple Bar area on our way back to the hotel.

The next day was the beginning of our big adventure out of the city. We walked across town to pick up the rental car, which I can honestly say was the biggest stress-er for both of us. K, because he had to drive in a foreign country on the other side of the road on the other side of the car, and me because I’ve never rented a car before and honestly had no idea how it worked. We got the car just fine though, so I was good. Then came the big moment of getting back to the hotel for our bags and leaving town.

I think K may have wanted to kill me at some point during that day for making him drive. Getting through Dublin was super stressful in part because it was the first time behind the wheel of a foreign car and in part because drivers in Dublin are not very nice and the roads are kind of confusing. We got honked at a couple times, and I stared down a very angry guy who was flipping us off (luckily K didn’t see him, or find out about him until a couple days later). Looking back on it, it’s hilarious but at the time it was tense. We made it to the hotel though and after a bit of getting lost even managed to make it out of Dublin.

Our first stop of the day was Newgrange, which is a portal tomb that dates back 5300 years. I had never been there before and K really wanted to see it (in his words “I like old things”). After some intense driving on the tiny roads of Ireland which involved some close calls with the edge of the road and tree branches, we made it out there. K was not too happy and it was good to get out of the car.

We made it in time to get a tour of both Newgrange, the famous one, and Knowth, slightly less famous but perhaps more impressive. There is a third one, Dowth, but it’s still being excavated. The funniest part was that we were the youngest people on the tour of Knowth by at least ten years, and that’s only because there was a couple there in their thirties, otherwise we would have been the youngest by probably closer to 30 years. We do old people things on vacation apparently, nerds that we are.

Knowth has the largest collection of rock art from that time period than anywhere else in Europe, so that was pretty cool to see. Both tombs have passages that lead in to central chambers were it is believed they did rituals. The really cool thing is that both are set up so that at certain times of the year, Soltices and Equinoxes, the sun shines straight down the passages into the central chambers for a few minutes for only a few days. Otherwise it is completely pitch black in there. It’s really amazing. At Newgrange we actually got to go into the central chamber and see a demonstration of what it would be like. Apparently you can get into a lottery to be chosen to join a small group of people who can be there for the real thing and you just have to cross your fingers that the weather is nice.

After Newgrange we got back in the car for the drive across the country to the Galway area and our hotel. K was not too pleased to be back in the drivers seat but he did it like a hero anyway. This drive was actually a blessing in disguise though. We got super lost because we ran into construction in two places that routed us onto different roads than we had planned. I had the foresight to actually look up the route we needed to take and then the Irish road construction was like “I don’t think so” and we ended up in the middle of ….somewhere I’m sure. We had a map that the rental place had given us, but we ended up in a blank spot on the map. Not even kidding. We were passing towns that weren’t listed on the map, and driving roads that weren’t shown. It was a true adventure and managed to get K more comfortable with the driving since were on tiny rural Irish roads and there weren’t a lot of other cars around. We actually had a pretty awesome time being completely lost.

Eventually we found our way out to meet up with our intended route and the rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. We did manage to pass our hotel in a small town called Claregalway, and have to turn around but it was worth it. We both liked this hotel the best of all them on the trip and they had a fantastic pub downstairs with delicious food. We were there for three nights, using it as our base for our adventures in the area and our trip really started to be fun.

Well I’m going to stop there for now, since this post is actually turning into a small book and I’m only half way through the trip. When I have some time, I will write up part two and let you know how the rest of the trip was.

Here are some photos from our trip to give you a sneak peak at what’s coming.

DublinKnowthNewgrangeAran IslandsAran IslandsCliffs of Moher
Cliffs of MoherBallyseedeBallyseede DrivewayConnors PassDingle PeninsulaKillarney National Park
Blarney CastleBlarney CastleBlarney StoneBlarney CastleBlarney Castle GroundsBlarney Castle


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