I finally made it to Friday; the day I had been waiting for since November when my Fiance, Wesley, surprised me with a week long trip of my choice. In the excitement we left the city super early to get to JFK and made it with over an hour to spare. Thankfully, out of NY's airport's JFK is in my opinion the best of the worst and actually has a nice wine bar called Vino Volo. We found ourselves a nice little corner table and enjoyed a couple of wine tastings to start off our trip. (They were even nice enough to give us the information for the wine we liked).
Truthfully, we should have tried to go to sleep as soon as we got on the airplane to avoid jet lag, but naturally Frozen was playing and we couldn't resist. I suppose a bit of jet lag is inevitable anyway and completely worth it for Frozen.
Our second leg of the trip was only an hour after we transferred at 6am from UK's Birmingham airport. It was a fairly nice airport for all intents and purposes and had a cute little courtyard mall type area. We sat next to a guy on the flight who gave us our first taste of the Irish. He was a lot of fun, very chatty with his thick accent, and happy to share his rather opinionated advice with us. He did share Cadbury chocolate with us so he's a winner in my book.
When we arrived at Dublin Airport we automatically knew this trip was going to be relaxing when we went through customs. That is... that there were virtually none. I may regret writing this when Ireland customs decides to read my journal, but they slightly glanced at our passports, stamped them, and in mere minutes we were on our way.
We quickly found the bus and hopped on. The driver was fairly difficult to understand (see very HEAVY Irish accent) so we moved ourselves to the front of the bus like it was the first day of elementary school. He asked everyone where they were headed and after a few tries we explained to him what our instructions on our airbnb reservation said. To this he exasperatedly shook his head at the confused looking Americans and said it wasn't on his route. Luckily he took pity on us and offered to drop us off anyway.
When we got off we headed down a sort of winding dirt path. After attempting one wrong neighborhood we made our first discovery about Ireland; there are no such thing as street signs. We eventually were lead to a park with a nice walking path around it. I found myself very thankfully I had brought Wesley along because my directional skills were failing me. He was able to figure out the street somehow and we guessed which house by looking at the few surrounding houses that had house numbers.
We met the airbnb host who showed us around the space which was nothing too exciting, but all we needed was a place to sleep anyway. I can say one thing for certain though. He most definitely never tested any of the directions he gave us.
Once we made it to Dublin (about a 20-30 min. trip) the first thing on our agenda was grabbing a beer (it is Ireland after all). We found a random pub by the waterway and waited to meet up with our friend from the states, Chantelle. We were starving so we quickly moved onto the food portion of our evening.
We wandered through Temple Square which was packed with rambunctious (slightly drunk) people. We took note and kept searching for food. We didn't make it very far past Temple Bar before we found Quays Irish Restaurant.
I had a cider and really good fish and chips, Wesley had mussels and a beer. The food was pretty nice, but the place was kind of uptight so we didn't spend too much extra time lingering.
Unfortunately we were all so starving we didn't manage to get pictures of our food before we scarfed it down.
We are tourists. That being said I hate tourists. However, for this one occasion I made an exception and decided to join the rest of the tourists from all over the world that came to Dublin to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day.
Temple Square (since there was no chance in getting into the overflowing bar anyway) was an obvious choice. The square right outside the bar was essentially one giant party with live music, people screaming, and lots and lots of beer. We felt really out of place because we didn't have any green on so we ran to one of the tourist shops and bought a few things, grabbed a few drinks at a shop and joined the party.
So much fun...
Had a blast, but could barely keep my eyes open because of the jet lag I had due to my inability to take my eyes off the screen from Frozen on the airplane. We called it an early night and left @JaciClair to enjoy the rest of the night for us and headed back on the train, which was yet another time I was glad I keep Wesley around because I fell asleep and would have missed our stop.
I woke up ready to go, finally over my jet lag. We got up and headed straight into the city center again by train.
We were warned not to walk to the Guinness Factory from the train station since it is not known to be the safest area. Being our typical selves we decided not to follow the advice and walked anyway. While the walk was much less touristy and I wouldn't necessarily want to walk around at night, I was really glad we got the fresh air and I would definitely take the walk again.
Back to the adventures... when we got to the Guinness Factory we took a look at the line that wrapped around the building and almost turned around right then. We knew it would be busy since it was the day before Saint Patrick's Day, but I wasn't quite prepared for that. Luckily I realized that since I had thought ahead and bought student tickets online we were able to skip the entire line. Best move of the trip.
The first few levels were okay, but I think it would have been much more interesting to see parts of how the beer is actually made rather than simulations.
When we made it to the forth floor we waited in line and made silk screen posters. Even though I was initially very weary of going to the Guinness Factory during such a touristy time they had a ton of extra activities and free things to do because of the occasion.
On the fifth floor we took a Guinness pouring class. Basically, you have to angle the glass at a 45 degree angle then straighten it out as you fill the glass. Once it gets to the top of the crest you have to let the beer settle for two minutes then top it off by pushing the spout forward because it lets less gas into the drink. I won the perfect pint poured so I felt pretty good beating all the men. On this floor there were also delicious food tastings with salmon and cream cheese on Guinness brown bread. My favorite part of the whole factory was a room off to the side on this level. I think normally it's just more bars, but instead they had musicians playing and bar stools set up where we could just hang out and listen to the music. The band we heard most translated popular songs into Gaelic.
The next floor had a quail egg tasting which I was not the biggest fan of, but hey I tried it.
We ended our trip up on the Gravity bar where you can see some of the best views.
As much as I am afraid of tourist traps sometimes I'm glad I got trapped in this one. I definitely did not expect to have so much fun.
We heard there was a concert so we ventured in that direction, but sadly no concert.
On the way we ran into a fountain that had been dyed green and was overflowing with bubbles, people singing in multiple languages, and a ton of street performers. We got a lot of craziness and a lot of adventure.
The night was so alive in the city. Everyone seemed happy to be there and ready to enjoy the night.
After wandering for a bit (one of my favorite things to do when I get to a new city) we walked down to Kilkenny castle. It was only 2.50 euros with a student ID which I realized right before we paid (Wesley said this was the best clutch move after the Guiness tickets).
The views from the castle were fantastic. There was more live music being played outside on the lawn which we stopped and listened to on our way out.
In Kinsale we decided to stay at the Carlton Hotel.
Getting there was quite interesting. The hotel is nestled far back into the woods kind of off the bath, but it was really cute. It is low season so there aren't too many people making it a quiet place to spend the night.
I'd definitely stay at the Carlton again. Friendly staff, good rates, restaurant and bar, gorgeous views, and of course a pool.
The hotel we stayed at offered a complimentary breakfast at the restaurant included in the stay. The food was delicious. There were so many options. They had everything from a cold buffet of fruit, meat, and cheeses to a full service made to order breakfast. We indulged in both.
The view was equally as good as the food.
After we ate we took in the air outside and snapped a few pictures before we hit the road again.
On the way to Dingle the road trip was beautiful. The drive was all along the coast.
We wanted to find a place for a picnic and we saw a cute beach area to stop. It was an amazing view, but turned out not to be a good place for a picnic. It was so windy, but definitely worth the stop anyway.
Adventures don't always go as you plan anyway. Sometimes they turn out better.
We stayed in one of the B&B's called Harbour Lodge. Our room was on the second level facing the harbor.
Once we were settled in we decided to find a real place for our picnic and walked down to the harbor by the town area. Our picnic was a success.
The rest of the town was pretty sleepy *mostly since it is a tourist destination and not tourist season. We walked around a had a drink at one of the pubs and met some good company. When you're traveling far away from home you realize what a small world it is when you run into people with mutual friends.
We walked around the town and came across a nice little church up the hill. There were fun little shops. One called the little cheese shop that was a tiny one room, very stinky cheese place. Very cute, but we were a little cheesed out after the picnic.
Someone recommended a restaurant called the Boat House. I picked a table by the window so we could still see the water. The whole outside house was made of giant windows.
The restaurant was definitely more on the pricey side, but completely worth the money. Everything was really fresh and seasoned well.
Wesley and I shared a giant platter that came with two cups of seafood chowder, fish and chips, calamari, bread and crab claws. The crab claws win my taste buds.
I finished the meal with a cappuccino and enjoyed more views.
After doing so much driving we both really wanted to do something active. We heard that the area had some good hiking trails so we asked for some advice from a few locals. We ended up finding a place to hike called Conar's Pass.
Unfortunately the weather was not exactly on our side. The wind was really blowing and the fog obstructed the view a lot. We decided to give it a shot anyway. The wind was blowing so hard I kept moving all over the place every time I took a step. I am not exaggerating when I say I thought I might blow away.
There were sheep all over the hill too so we kept stepping in "mud". We were laughing so hard the whole way up it didn't matter.
We decided to find a place to have a drink and listen to some music before calling it a night. We found a place called Cruises. It was definitely a tourist bar, but just about the only place with anything going on.
We ended up talking to a few locals and enjoyed some really good music. More people kept coming in. The band was great. At one point they sang softly and the entire room got quiet to watch and listen.
Along the trip the roads were all winding. At some points they were one way with a mountain on one side and a cliff on the other. Wesley just kept honking the horn around the corner and I just kept hoping no cars were coming the other direction.
We got a bit turned around direction wise so we kind of wandered for a bit and came across another beach.
What can I say other than Ireland is a windy, beautiful country.
You know that scene in Harry Potter where they go to Voldemort's place of his Horcrux where he tortured people when he was young. (I'm a bit of a Harry Potter nerd)... That is just like the Cliff's of Moher.
Except the Cliff's of Moher are absolutely breathtaking and I'd have to say it's definitely on my top coolest places I've ever been. The waves come crashing upward from so far below it defies gravity. You definitely don't want to lean to far over the edge.
My last day in Ireland. The weather was very rainy, but I wanted to make the most of it.
We hadn't planned to go to the Jameson House at all, but since the weather was so bad wandering wasn't the most fun thing to do and the Jameson Factory seemed like fun.
The inside where you wait was really pretty. The building had glass ceilings in spots and exposed wooden beams. There was even a restaurant area off to the side where you could try the different cocktails if you wanted.
The tour itself got a less than stellar score from me.
After having so much fun at the Guinness Factory I expected more, but ended up not laughing at their stuffed animal cat and dummies set up on display.
I would probably skip the Jameson tour if I return to Ireland, but it was very informative if you are looking for something along those lines.