Ireland Trip Report

Old May 12th, 2017, 07:45 AM
  #1  
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Ireland Trip Report

We spent 10 days in Ireland, April 26-May 4, making Dublin our home base. My DH did not want to drive on the left side of the road and I don't drive manual transmission, so we opted to not rent a car and do day trips to see parts of the country outside of Dublin. As I used these forums to plan my vacation, I wanted to give back and share my experiences.

Just for background, we are a couple in our mid 50's celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary in Ireland. This is our 4th trip to Europe, but first to Ireland.

Day 1-2

We flew United Airlines LAX-EWR-DUB and arrived in Dublin at 8:00 a.m. Luggage and passport control were both very efficient and it was only minutes later that we were leaving the terminal. We stepped outside into the 40 degree day. I had pre-purchased tickets for the Airlink 747 bus and there was good signage to get us to the stop. We were able to exchange the online vouchers for our RT tickets and within 10 minutes we were on our way to central Dublin.

We got off the bus at Lower O'Connell Street and had a short walk to our hotel, Arlington Hotel O'Connell Bridge. This is a basic 3 star hotel, but the location could not be beat. We were able to walk to almost everything, only having to take the city bus once. Based on the online reviews, I requested a room on an upper floor at the back of the hotel. The room and bathroom were large by European standards. We had a full size tub/shower with lots of counter space. We had a king size bed, a chair and table, two nightstands, a dresser/desk, tea pot with tea and instant coffee, etc. You do need to use your room key in the slot for power (like most European hotels). The room could have used more outlets, so I would recommend bringing a power strip.

The hotel has luggage storage so we were able to drop off our bags and head out to see the city. First order of business was finding breakfast so we crossed the Ha' Penny bridge and walked to the Temple Bar district for breakfast at Elephant and Castle. We were seated immediately and DH ordered eggs, sausage, toast, potatoes and coffee and I had avocado toast with a poached egg and coffee. Tab was about 20 euros.

After breakfast we walked to Dame Street to catch the Dublin Sightseeing Bus. I had bought 48 hour tickets for the On/Off bus thinking that it would be a great start to the trip even if we were tired from the flight. There was a representative from the tour line at the stop to assist us. There is a red and blue route. The difference is the red route takes you to Phoenix Park and the blue line goes further north in the city to Glavesin Cemetery.

We jumped on the blue line and got seats outside on the top. The day was grey, but clear. We drove past St Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church, Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol, and other sites we had plans to see later in the week. We stayed on the bus until we got to Glavesin where we walked through the cemetery until we got to the entrance for the Botanic Gardens.

The gardens are the perfect cure for 12 hours on a plane. They are magnificent! There are gorgeous flowers, beautiful trees, amazing scenery for as far as the eye can see. It was peaceful and so empty that we felt like we were the only people there. The gardens are free and definitely worth a visit. We stopped in the visitor center for a cappuccino and they also sell sandwiches, cakes, and other snacks. We finished touring the garden and then explored the cemetery on our way back to the bus stop.

We got back on the bus and jumped off at O'Connell Street and walked through the Henry Street pedestrian zone until we got to the Jameson Distillery. This is not a working distillery but we decided to do the tour. The tour consists of an audiovisual presentation followed by a tasting where you compare Jameson to a scotch and an American whiskey. As I'm not a whiskey drinker, I did not like any of them. After the tour you head to the lobby where you can use your ticket to get either a straight Jameson or a Jameson/ginger ale cocktail.

By this time we were feeling exhausted from the trip so we walked back to our hotel and got checked in and took time to fully unpack and shower off the trip. We headed out to find dinner and ended up at the Woolen Mills restaurant. We had a great first dinner - Hake with roasted red peppers and potatoes for me and lamb steak with asparagus and potatoes for DH. Dinner for two with drinks and tip was about 50 euros.

One of the things I wanted to see on this trip was the statues in Dublin that have been given funny nicknames. One of these is right outside the restaurant. There is a statue of two women with their shopping and it is known as 'the hags with the bags'.

We headed back to the hotel and we were asleep within minutes of hitting the very comfortable bed.

Walking for the day - 6.2 miles.
lkeade is offline  
Old May 12th, 2017, 07:57 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
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Thanks for sharing - looking forward to the next 9 days! (Just the right amount of details and reasons behind decisions for me.)
vickiebypass is offline  
Old May 12th, 2017, 01:46 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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Please keep going. I am really enjoying your report!

I am so glad that you went to the Botanic Gardens! I rarely read about any of the Ireland travelers going there. When I lived just outside of Dublin, it was one of my favorite places to go. For two years I got to see them in their glory throughout the seasons.
irishface is offline  
Old May 12th, 2017, 03:21 PM
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Thursday

We were up way too early and we were out of the hotel by 7:00. We walked to the ATM and then had breakfast at McDonald’s as it was too early for restaurants to be open (two coffees, one blueberry muffin, one egg mcmuffin 8 euros). Most restaurants outside of hotels do not start serving breakfast until 9 a.m.

Our first tour of the day was not until 9:45 but we wanted to make sure we got there in time. We found the correct bus stop across the river from the hotel and waited for either the 79 or 79 A bus to Kilmainham Gaol. The public buses only accept coins and only exact change. Hearing this we went running into a store to get change and we were told by a bus employee not to stress, if tourists don’t have the change, the bus driver will wait for them to get it. The driver even let us off at a non-scheduled stop to help get to where we were going.

We were so early that we took a walk through the grounds of the Museum of Fine Arts where we saw the formal gardens (gorgeous) and play with some police dogs in training. It was so cold that we walked back to the Lime Tree Café across from the jail and had a cappuccino and then checked out the Hilton Hotel next door as an excuse to be inside.

They finally opened the jail at 9:15 and they let us go in and sit in the old courtroom while waiting for our tour. A tour employee, who we had chatted with about photography in the jail, offered me the opportunity to go with him to a walkway above the courtroom to get some overhead shots.

Our tour started right at 9:45 and we got a history lesson on the 1916 Easter Uprising and the prisoners that were held in the jail. We toured both the solitary and main jails before ending the tour in the execution yard. The tour was excellent - it was informative but depressing.

We walked to the Guinness Storehouse and went in to do the self-guided tour. We tried to do the tour but the crowds were so ridiculous (two tour buses arrived just ahead of us) that we decided to just go to the Gravity Bar at the top of the building and get our glass of Guinness. It was mobbed up there so there were no seats so we got our drinks and stood by the window and took in the view until two seats opened up. It was just so crowded and unpleasant up there that we ended up leaving. For us, it was a total waste of money, but tickets had been pre-purchased.

We walked toward Christ Church looking for food and ended up having lunch at Riddler’s Cafe where DH had fish and chips and I ordered the duck wrap (about 30 euro with one beer). I loved the bathroom decorated with Far Side cartoons.

After lunch we walked to Christ Church to check out the amazing architecture and then caught the On/Off bus to finish the tour from yesterday.

This time we took the Red Line and while we saw much of what we saw the prior day, we did get to take a short ride through Phoenix Park and ended the tour where we started on Dame St. We did see the second statue I was looking for, “The floozie in the Jacuzzi”. We wandered through the Temple Bar area and stopped at Starbucks to get our bearings and warm up. Realizing we were close, we walked to Il Vicoletto, an Italian restaurant on Crow St, and made dinner reservations for our anniversary and then headed back to the hotel to relax.

Tonight, we had dinner reservations at the Boxy House in Temple Bar. I had looked at the menu so many times online that I knew exactly what I was getting before I stepped foot in the restaurant. I ordered the stew sampler which was smaller portions of Irish stew, Beef and Guinness Stew, and Dublin Coddle with three types of bread. DH got the Shepherd’s Pie. I liked all three stews but loved the Coddle so I gave DH my Irish stew as he was having dinner envy. Our waiter, Mike, was wonderful and entertaining and made the evening even more fun. Dinner for two with wine - €60.

Back to the hotel for another early night.

Total walking - 8.3 miles
lkeade is offline  
Old May 15th, 2017, 11:19 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2012
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I am enjoying your report - I leave next week for Dublin and am curious about your trip, as I am also not driving while there.
auntie_raine is offline  
Old May 15th, 2017, 12:06 PM
  #6  
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Glad you are enjoying them! I'll get more added today.
lkeade is offline  
Old May 15th, 2017, 02:06 PM
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Friday
Today was our first of three Paddywagon bus tours. We debated about booking all the tours with different companies in case one was not good, or gambling on one. We decided on Paddywagon based on the reviews and the itineraries.

We had to be at the Paddywagon office at 7:30 for our tour so we were out of the hotel early and we went looking for food. Nothing was open at this hour so we found a SPAR convenience store where they sell fresh baked good and most have an Insomnia coffee shop inside. We got two croissants and two café Americano and we sat on a bench outside and ate our breakfast. (€8). At exactly 7:30, our guide, Lee, led us to the bus and we got on the way.

Lee was an excellent guide and prepared us for what we were going to see at each stop and told us stories about Ireland. He played some music to supplement the stories and explained the stories behind the songs.

Our first stop was just a few minutes comfort break. Our next stop was as Dunguaire Castle for a photo op. We got back in the bus and headed up into the hills to see the penny walls as we headed to the mini cliffs and the Burren. Here we had another 20 minute stops for photos and exploration. We made a lunch stop in Doolin where there was a carvery (cafeteria style restaurant in a pub), fish and chips shop, or a sandwich shop. We chose the carvery and had plenty of time for lunch before checking out the shops. We both had the Salmon/Hake dish which came with mashed potatoes and vegies. With my water and his Guinness it came to 30 euros.

After lunch we piled back in the bus and headed to the highlight of the tour, the Cliffs of Moher. There are no pictures or words that due the cliffs justice. The site is phenomenal. We spent an hour walking along the cliffs before heading back to the visitor center and the shops. Total tour stop was 1.5 hours.

Our final stop of the tour was at Bunratty Castle and the Blarney Woolen Mills store. We bought a scarf for our son and DH bought a shirt. Prices were no different at the tourist spots than what we found in Dublin. Finally, we got back on the bus and we were ready to head back to Dublin.
We got back to Dublin a little before 8 p.m. completely exhausted and completely satisfied with the tour.

We walked back toward the hotel and stopped for dinner at Bobo’s Burgers. We got seated immediately but within minutes they were turning people away as the restaurant was full. We had very good burgers (Greek lamb burger for me, bacon cheeseburger for DH – 35 euros for burgers, fries, beer) and then headed back to the hotel and went right to sleep.

Walking – 5.9 miles

Saturday

We had another tour planned for today so we were up early. We went to SPAR to get croissants for breakfast, but their coffee was not ready yet so we popped into McDonald’s for coffee. We stopped for pictures at the Millennial Spire (“the stiletto in the ghetto”) and the James Joyce Statue (“The prick with the stick”). We took our food and walked up to Parnell Square where we sat and had breakfast.

We walked back to the AIB bank building where we picked up the bus for the Mary Gibbons Newgrange tour. We drove about an hour north of Dublin as Mary gave us the history of Ireland and explained what we were going to see. No tour buses are allowed up to Newgrange, you must take one of their shuttles. They sell out tickets on some days so by going on the Mary Gibbons organized tour you are guaranteed entry.

When we made it to the Newgrange visitors center where we saw a film about Newgrange and then given our time for the tour. We were broken into three groups so DH and I had an hour to explore the visitor’s center and make the walk to where the shuttles would take us up to the site. We had time to take pictures of the outside of Newgrange and then we were allowed it. I’m 5’ 1” so you know the ceilings are low when I have to duck to get in. Once inside they explained about what they knew about Newgrange – it’s older than the pyramids, there were human remains found inside, and at sunrise on the winter’s solstice a light shines directly into the main chamber. They used lights to simulate what can be seen during the solstice. We made our way back outside and had time to walk around the structure before the buses took us back to the visitor center and we got back on the bus.

From Newgrange we headed to the Hill of Tara where we saw a film about the Battle of the Boyne and the kings of Ireland. We then had time to walk out to the hill. By this time the temperatures had dropped and the winds were strong. We made it out to the hill, took a few pictures, and turned around and went back to the shop and then got settled on the bus. It drizzled for about two minutes which was the only rain we experienced in our time in Ireland.

We made the drive back to Dublin and we got off the bus on the south side of the Liffey. It was cold out and we were hungry so we ducked into Foley’s Pub and ordered wings and duck spring rolls and I got a Bailey’s and coffee for me and DH had a Woodford. We watched some rugby and the server explained the rules of the game.

After our snack we walked to Merrion Square so I could see the Oscar Wilde statue (nicknames not appropriate for this forum) and then walked back to the hotel to warm up and relax.

Our next walk was to the Brazen Head Pub, the oldest pub in Dublin and one of the oldest in Ireland. The place was extremely crowded but we were able to get some seats outside. DH got a Smithwick’s and we sat and talked to some gentlemen from Amsterdam until it was time to go upstairs for the dinner show, “Food, Folklore, and Fairies.”

There are communal tables and we were seated at a table with a couple from Britain and four groups from the states. For both starters and mains there are 3-4 items to choose from. For starters DH got the salad with chicken strips and I had the fish cake with spicy marinara. We both ordered the Irish stew for our main course. For dessert we ordered one chocolate cake and one apple pie. The food was surprisingly good for a dinner show.

The show started with the story teller discussing the potato famine and then we had our starters. She came back and spoke of the fairies and then the main courses were served. During the mains two musicians came out to entertain us. During dessert we heard stories of the leprechauns. This was an excellent show and a great way to spend the evening. We enjoyed the entertainment and talking to the people at our table.

After a great evening we made the walk back to the hotel and were soon asleep.

Walking – 8.0 miles
lkeade is offline  
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