LOCATION: Dublin, Ireland
The one place I’ve always wanted to go my entire life has been Ireland. I can’t pinpoint what it is about the place, but something called to me. While I’m a firm believer in doing what you want the most immediately, timing was always off for this trip until now. When you find a $700 deal through Aer Lingus out of DC, there is just no way you can pass that up. So, I grabbed my friend and her husband and decided to go. We decided to stay in hostels the entire trip (highly recommended as you meet so many people). For 9 days, we had to pack light.
I’m impressed with how much I was able to bring in just a camping back pack. By far my lightest traveling for a semi cold weather trip! There is a lot of pressure on a trip when it’s the place you’ve always wanted to be. I was almost scared that it would disappoint me so I tried to not have any expectations on the area. Man, was I blown away by just how amazing the country is!
Monday May 11: We arrived to the city super early (6am) and found that there is nothing open so we sat around for a while until stuff slowly came to life. For a large touristy town, most things were only open from 9-10am till 5-6pm. We stayed in the Temple Bar area of town, which I highly recommend. It really immerses you into the small pub atmosphere that Ireland is known for. The streets were narrow and cobblestone.
However, outside the pub area the city was much like any other with wide streets and heavy, insane traffic. Not quite what I had in mind for Dublin, but still met my dream. The traffic was downright scary though. Cars were willing to hit you and often drove up onto the sidewalks at times. Bicycles were a death trap as well and did not mind the walkers one bit. It was like a miniature New York City traffic mind trap. We started our day with the good ol’ Molly Malone statue. She recently moved due to road construction, so we searched for her quite a bit, but found her in front of a church, tucked in a corner.
Molly Malone is an essential figure for Ireland and is a popular drinking song. Molly lived in the 17th century and was a fishmonger/hawker by day and a part time prostitute by night. While there is no real evidence that she was real, the song lives heavily in the pub world. Rumor has it, grabbing her breasts will give you good luck. So, grab we did.
Funny enough, after I grabbed her chest, I looked in her wheelbarrow and found two coach earrings. My luck was already happening!! We had amazing weather for the entire trip too and I like to think that starting it off by touching her lucky breasts made it happen. From there, we grabbed a hop on hop off bus tour to take us around town. I recommend this because the city is a lot of walking and has very confusing streets and street signs that you can’t read. The bus tour helps in getting you to the location in the best way possible.
We saw Christ Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, both you have to pay to get into. We also stopped off at the Guinness Brewery. You can read about that experience HERE: Drink a Guinness in Ireland. After getting a beer, we headed to the Kilmainham Gaol Jail. For only 4 euros, you can have a tour of the jail.
The jail was somewhat small and they wouldn’t give you access to all the areas that they show online. I’m not sure why some places were closed off, but we weren’t allowed to go into the bill hall like I wanted to.
You also couldn’t go into the cells like other historical jails I’ve been to. The jail was famous for housing the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising men. The men were executed in the courtyard, where small grave site memorials now laid. I took a picture of one of them and spotted orbs.
Was I being haunted already? More ghost stories to tell later on the trip when I go to Scotland. For only 4 Euros, the jail was worth the visit. However, if pressed for time I would definitely skip this part as it was not nearly as amazing as going to Alcatraz or the Eastern State Penitentiary. After walking around all day we rewarded ourselves with a traditional Irish feast at Quay’s Restaurant. Upon entering, we were greeted by our waiter. He asked Lori what she wanted and she said “water” to which he then asked, “what can I do for you?” Confused by the language barrier, Lori proceeded to ask for water again and again the waiter said the same thing.
This went on a bit until the waiter looked down and saw his name tag was missing and replaced it. His name was Water (pronounced vaul-ter). This seemed funny to us and even more so that we decided to come back to this same restaurant three more times on our trip. Hey, it was good, and we are creatures of habit. Plus, Water was our waiter each and every time. Quay’s offered up an amazing spread of Irish goodness too.
We had Irish beef stew, lamb stew, AMAZING fish and chips, cottage pie and a baileys crumble and ice cream dessert. Hence the reason we kept going back! After filling up we headed to Temple Bar, one of the most famous bars in Dublin since 1840. They played some Irish music, but mostly acoustic American.
The drinks were expensive (around 10 euros a piece) but the atmosphere makes it worth it to try at least once while in the city. I had my first whiskey sour there, and became hooked. As the night got later, the drunker people got and the Irish singing started to come out. I always thought Irish people singing drinking songs was a stereotype, but nope! They sang SO many songs. This singing continued until about 3am while I was trying to sleep. How do they even know that many songs to sing while drunk?? I was definitely tired for sure, and it was all due to singing drunk Irishmen. Not many can say that I guess.
Tuesday May 12: Today we left for our Cliffs of Moher tour. You can read about that experience HERE: See the Cliffs of Moher. The countryside of Ireland was gorgeous and so green.
Every now and then patches of yellow flowers popped up and really brought the scenery to life. Our driver for the tour also sang a bunch of Irish songs while on the 7 hour tour. Seriously, how do they know this many? I think I can only come up with the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Ring Around the Rosey for childhood songs. On the way to the cliffs we stopped off at Corcomroe Abbey, which is an early 13th century Cistercian monastery located in Burren.
The Abbey was gothic and almost tranquil with some crumbling stones and some stones only dated around the 1950’s and looked practically new. There was one raised tomb that had cracked. The skull of the body inside had fallen off and if you placed your camera low enough with a flash you could capture it.
I was a little scared about what part of the skull you would see (horror movies will do that to ya) but was relieved to see it was just the top portion of the head. After the Cliffs of Moher tour, we headed BACK to Quay’s for fish and chips. Ireland seriously has the best ones ever. We also celebrated with Irish Flag shots, also called tri color shots.
However, we learned that “shots” is more an American thing. Also, never never never ask for an Irish Car Bomb, or any drink mixed with Guinness in Ireland. They consider it extremely offensive. Thankfully we knew that before going. After dinner, we headed back to the Temple Bar area for drinks where we met some crazy locals. One thing we were noticing about Ireland (and later in Scotland) was that no matter how much we had to drink, never once did any of us feel tipsy, drunk, or hung over the next day. Does Ireland put something different in their drinks? We felt hydrated the entire time no matter how hard we tried to get a little buzzed.
However, the locals found it easy to get drunk. How did they do it? Do we need to sing for it to happen? A few of the locals talked to us and we couldn’t understand a word they said. Their Irish accent was just way too strong. We did learn that “have a craic” means to have some fun. One new word down! It was also fun to hear that the Irish couldn’t pronounce the TH sound. So Three was Tree and Third was Turd. I loved it!
Wednesday May 13: Today, we had a full day tour to Blarney Castle. You can read about that experience HERE: Kiss the Blarney Stone. On the way to the castle we stopped off at the cutest city ever, the city of Cobh, which was once known as Queenstown.
Cobh is the largest cruise and port terminal in Ireland and the town is full of color along a coastal backdrop. It was very quaint and cute. Cobh is also known for being the final port of call for the Titanic in 1912. I suggest coming to this city and walking around if possible.
Thursday May 14-16: We headed to Scotland. You can read about that experience HERE: Go to Scotland.
Sunday May 17: After an early flight back to Dublin, we used this day to walk along Grafton Street for souvenir shopping. We also headed to the Old Jameson Distillery, you can read about that experience HERE: Go to the Old Jameson Distillery. We went back to Quay’s for more fish and chips (I said they were good) and an Irish coffee, which turned out WAY better than I ever thought it would be.
From there, we headed to an Irish hostel pub crawl. While we went to some decent bars, the pub crawl wasn’t nearly as good as the Scottish one we went on. Dublin thrives on being relatively cash only unlike most large cities.
This made the establishments not as good when they refused to let you use your card. So, we ended our trip at Oliver St. John Gogarty where there was amazing Irish music playing and the locals taught us how to Irish dance. No better way to end the dream vacation than that. Ireland is exactly what I wanted it to be, and I received a bonus of falling in love with Scotland as well. I will be back, over and over and over.
*Thank you Lori and Ryan for accompanying me on this adventure.
Would I do this again? In a heartbeat. I love everything about Ireland.
How to do this:
Bring lots and lots and lots of cash. Ireland does used credit cards, but we ran into several places, mostly bars, that refused to use a card. CASH is key. They also hate to split checks, so be prepared to split bills amongst your friends instead.
Aer Lingus provides fairly cheap tickets to Dublin www.aerlingus.com
Aircoach provided cheap transportation from the airport to city center for about 7 Euros. www.aircoach.ie
A taxi from city center to the airport is about 20-23 euros
Barnacles Temple Bar Hostel: Perfect location and great prices. Really great hostel to stay in. www.barnacles.ie
Restaurants and Bars
Quay’s Restaurant: Great Irish food. www.quaysrestaurant.com
Oliver St. John Gogarty: awesome Irish Bar www.gogarty.ie
Temple Bar: Pricey, but famous and you have to try it at least once www.thetemplebarpub.com
Guinness: Buy tickets in advanced online for a speedy entrance. The storehouse is located at http://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/Index.aspx and tickets are 24 Euros.
Blarney Castle Tour: We used Paddy Wagon tours to go, but you can drive there on your own. The tour group was $56 and was an all day excursion. http://www.paddywagontours.com/BLARNEY-Day-Tour-From-DUBLIN
Cliffs of Moher Tour: Paddy Wagon offered a great tour to the Cliffs! It is $44 and is an all day excursion. http://www.paddywagontours.com/CLIFFS-OF-MOHER-Day-Tour-From-DUBLIN
Jameson Distillery: Located off Bow Street in Dublin. Tickets are 14 Euros and include a free drink. Buy ahead of time as the tour times sell out very fast. https://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/us/tours/oldjamesondistillery
Kilmainham Gaol Jail: 4 euros to tour. www.heritageireland.ie