Hey there! We took a trip to Dublin, Ireland and thought I would share some of the beauty and goodness! Before I dive in – a little disclaimer: I’m not going to get into a bunch of history and specific info about this beautiful country and city, as you can research that on your own. All of my comments and observations are mine alone, and any tidbits I share about our trip are things I learned from the locals or the various tours we took, and are bits that I found interesting. (I did link to Wikipedia on certain key words if you want a quick history lesson).
Am I Irish? Nope. Not one fraction. My husband and girls are, but even that isn’t why we chose Ireland as our first international vacation. The main reason? They speak English, it was a relatively easy flight (other than getting stranded en route home in Toronto because of a blizzard – but that’s not Ireland’s fault!), and it was super inexpensive. I love architecture and history (and beer and whiskey) and thought this would be an awesome first experience for us. The other two main questions I got a lot before we left were: “What’s the deal on just heading on a trip like this?” (We’ve been traveling to Mexico and Vegas for years, and the deviation surprised those inside of our inner circle – more on this in a minute). The other question was “Are you going to bring your ‘good’ camera?” Nope on that too. These photos (when I remembered to take them) are all from my iPhone. I purposely wanted to be ‘present’ in my vacation and not worried about that perfect shot all the time, and lugging it around.
So back to the reason we even took this vacation: Last summer, while enjoying a beverage with one our adult children, who happens to be very well world-traveled on her own, starting diving into our vacation habits. She brazenly informed us that we take lazy vacations (i.e. going to the same places over and over again and laying comatose on a beach chair for days on end). While she wasn’t wrong, we tried to explain that we have differing vacation expectations than she does, and walking around to 13 countries in four weeks didn’t sound relaxing to us at all. Most of the time, our idea of vacation = relaxing. When we know the resort well, and know what is in front of us, we can immediately shut our brains down and get right to it. A few weeks later this conversation really stuck with me and I decided to start poking around online and was immediately amazed at how affordable and easy overseas travel appeared to be. With a bit more research – I hit the button and booked our trip. When people ask “just how affordable is it”…. let me say this: We’ve spent the weekend in the Twin Cities and spent more money than we did spending five days in Ireland.
I generally am a research nut. I will research and refer to Trip Adviser for EVERYTHING before we go anywhere. ANYWHERE. Yes, I did that here too, but mainly on our hotel and a few other small items. On purpose, I tried to know as little as possible, other than my base knowledge of Ireland, in general, before we left. Case in point: Temple Bar. I thought Temple Bar was a ‘bar’….. Temple Bar is actually a neighborhood of Dublin, and considered to be fairly touristy (by the locals) and also the most historic area. Both are true. Tiny, cobble stoned streets at every turn, and a pub to wet-your-whistle inside every door. This was right up our alley. Temple Bar, is named aptly after a man named Sir William Temple who had the funds and sense to purchase all of the land surrounding the River Liffey back in the early 1700’s. The river, used to transport goods to the city, had a large sand bar where the sailors would bank their boats, and then visit the merchants to relax and sell their goods. When Sir William Temple acquired enough of the surrounding land, it was aptly renamed ‘Temple Bar’.
We spent the bulk of our time in and around this area as we booked a hotel right in the heart of it all. We wanted to be in the middle of all the fun and action and have easy access by walking. While we did utilize the transit system a few times, most of our site seeing was done on foot.
Again, not going to get into the specific history of all of Ireland, but what we mostly took away from our time was the locals are very, very proud of their history, and don’t shy away from the bad and the good. We took two walking tours (one a basic city tour, and the other was Trinity College and the Trinity College Library where they house the Book of Kells) and learned a whole bunch. Dublin is a large college town, and houses four large universities; Trinity College being the largest with enrollment at about 17,000 students. Side note: An American’s tuition would be about €3000 (or approx. $3400) per year. Aside from the tour guides, where they are supposed to be nice to the tourists, we were pleasantly surprised at how kind the locals were. Everywhere we went, the locals are happy, proud of their country, and eager to learn about us, who we are and why we chose to visit. I might dare say, they give ‘Minnesota Nice’ a run for our money. The streets and establishments are CLEAN. I would estimate there is a receptacle for your trash, recycling, and food waste at least twice on every block. Speaking of recycling, Ireland is extremely cautious of single serve plastics and other areas of waste, and have very little of it. Everywhere you look people are walking and biking, and most of the mass transit was electric. Well, except for the random horse-drawn carriage you would find whirling around.
One of the main city attractions is the Book of Kells inside of Trinity College. The book is comprised of the four original gospels of Mark, Mathew, John, and Luke. There is absolutely no photography allowed, but we were able to photograph the Long Library where the book is housed. In addition to their heritage, the Irish are very proud of their beer and whiskey. Guinness and Jameson are responsible for a lot of the reconstruction of Dublin after their many conflicts. We never made it to the Jameson facility but Guinness was amazing. The city is fairly evenly divided between Catholics and Protestants – and each of these famous brands strongly supports one or the other. Back in the early days, this was a wicked war. The results of these two family’s efforts are lots of amazing churches and castles, which we saw at almost every turn. I’ve included some of my favorites in my photos, and probably the prettiest one was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is in my lead photo at the top. Additionally, all of their public spaces and museums are free to enter. FREE. It’s such a different culture where they look to share their culture, history, and artifacts to everyone.
We were told (often) how lucky we were to strike gold on the weather. Ireland is typically a grey and wet terrain. We lucked out and had some sun every day, and one full day of completely blue skies. Temps in the mid-50’s is the norm for this time of year, but we were at about 60 our entire trip. Flowers and trees were blooming and it was fun to experience springtime for a few days.
Finally, one of the most striking things about Dublin was how ancient old it was, and ultra modern, all in a colorful backdrop – all at the same time. There is a pretty stark divide in the city where old meets new and we did take a day to wander over to the ‘new’ part of town. Some beautiful, modern architecture, bridges and artwork is all around. The city itself has taken a pretty public stance against famine, and have lots of art and monuments around with some profound stories. This message was clear in the old and new. Vibrant colorful doors and murals are everywhere in this city, no matter if in the old or new parts.
We did venture outside of Dublin one day to visit the Cliffs of Moher and the City of Galway. I can’t even describe the cliffs other than they have to be one of the most beautiful natural things I’ve ever seen. Just wow. The wind was something I’ve never experienced before, but a buttoning of the hatches on our outer layers took care of this problem. The City of Galway is a little fishing town north of the cliffs on the seaside. We drove on a very windy and steep roadway, and crossed the Berm, which is a long, stretch of land where the ocean fell to the ice age, and now is a vast space of grey and rock as far as the eye can see. I’m certain we saw at least 20 castles along the way, and each had an interesting story. Some were well preserved, and some were shuttered to just a couple of walls. The engineering and man-power that went into building these structures is mind boggling.
Yep. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a fan of beer. All kinds. This was a highlight for me, as every turn you take there is a street full of quaint pubs to duck into. I’m not a fan of American Guinness, but it’s pretty much all I drank over there. It’s 100% different and oh, so yummy. As far as the food goes – fish. I made it my mission to eat fish every chance I could. Jim was all about seeking out the various kinds of sausage – and no matter which route you went, you were served a heaping pile of potatoes in some form or another.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, thanks! I’ve included some of my favorite ‘experience’ photos below. I’ll reiterate that I tried to not make photography a priority and live in the moment of the vacation as much as possible. Hopefully you will get a little bit of a glimpse into the beautiful country of Ireland, from my viewpoint! If you have any specific questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask. Enjoy!