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Live From Ireland: 17 Day Trip Report (Self Drive)

Live From Ireland: 17 Day Trip Report (Self Drive)

Jul 6th, 2012, 07:11 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 521
Live From Ireland: 17 Day Trip Report (Self Drive)

I wanted to thank everyone in advance for all of their help planning our trip. It was a bit last minute for us (i.e., only 3 months planning as opposed to the usual 12 months) so we'll see how it goes.

I am planning on doing live reporting each evening, since we have internet in each accommodation.

So a little background on us:

Me - 34 yr old female. Psychology professor and avid traveler. I LOVE castles, architecture, impressionist/post-impressionist art, and history. I am 50% Irish with great grandparents coming over to Canada from Ireland. Also an avid runner who is looking forward to running in Ireland!

Husband - 45 yr old male. Disabled and not able to walk long distances. Is a homebody and not really interested in history. Likes scenery and nature though. He is maybe 25% Irish, but his family has been in the US since the 1700s.

What we are not: Nature lovers. We don't hike, bike, camp, etc. We don't really drink.

Background on our trip:

Not knowing if we'll return to Ireland (so many other places in the world to visit) we wanted to maximize our time, so we booked 17 days (including travel). We are planning on a full counterclockwise tour of the island.

My plan for this report: I'll tell you what we planned on doing that day and what we actually did. Will try to give information on spending (meals, etc.), gas mileage, etc. Things that I found very helpful.

So let's get started:

10:04 AM Friday July 6th

I am sitting at home watching a last episode of Rick Steves Ireland. How fortuitous that my DVR recorded all his Irish episodes this week. I know many people are anti-Rick Steves, but I do love the show. It gets me all excited about where I am going

We'll be departing for the airport in 30 minutes. We are flying DFW-ORD (3 hour layover)- DUB (arrive 8 AM Saturday).

We are flying American since that is our hub and we have lots of miles. But we did pay for this trip...so we're back in coach Next trip will be first class using miles!

We pack light. We each have a carryon rollerboard and a backpack. We packed 8 days worth of clothing and we'll do laundry halfway through. Based on recent threads I packed long pants, short sleeve shirts, a rain jacket, and a fleece jacket. One extra pair of shoes. I also packed running clothes....I can't wait to run in 50 degree weather!

Hmmmm, what else can I tell you? Well, our overall plan is 1 day in Dublin, then pick up our car and head out. We'll return to the US on July 23. We booked a car through Easy Tour Ireland, so I will make sure to post on that too.

Please let me know if you have questions as we go, or any suggestions!
twiggers is offline  
Jul 6th, 2012, 08:33 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 34
Oh, I'm anxious to hear how your car rental turns out! I have booked with Easy Tour Ireland also and was pleased--so far--but know that the REAL THING is the REAL TEST! Have a great trip!
MarilynT1435 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2012, 11:53 AM
Join Date: Mar 2011
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Safe journey.
Tony2phones is offline  
Jul 6th, 2012, 12:45 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 487
Looking forward to your trip report!
njsusan is offline  
Jul 6th, 2012, 02:10 PM
Join Date: Mar 2012
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Hi Twiggers

Following with interest, as we've got the same number of days to plan.

Have fun!
sugarmaple is online now  
Jul 6th, 2012, 03:40 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 2,627

This is going to be fun to follow along.

I envy those cool temperatures - so v-hot in so much of the US including the St. Louis area.

Have a great time.

SandyBrit is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 10:06 AM
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Quick update from last night:

Uneventful flight to Chicago and clear weather! Looks like we'll be getting out on time tonight.

I am one of those worriers who starts checking weather reports 10 days out!

We were moved up from row 22 to row 17. Too bad it wasn't up to row 1

The plan for arrival is to grab a taxi to the hotel and drop off bags and then in to a HOHO bus.

I'll update more tomorrow after arrival
twiggers is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 10:07 AM
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Just checking quickly with a brief update and the more later tonight:

When we got on the plane we realized we hit the lotto (and should play the Powerball) because row 17 is the crew rest! This means that we had seats that full reclined and were just like a business seat....but at coach prices! We did pay $49 each for preferred seats, so maybe that is why we got chosen. I was actually able to get about 2-3 hours of sleep. DH didn't get any (as usual - even in first class he can't sleep, but put him on a train and he'll pass right out).

We landed about 20 minutes late and then the long immigration line. It took about 15-20 minutes to make it through that. Goodness, that Ireland passport stamp is huge, and green (of course!).

We planned on taking a taxi into Dublin. No point renting a car for an extra day and dealing with Dublin traffic and parking. Our taxi driver was a hoot! He told us a few really good jokes that had us laughing. It just felt so quintessentially Irish (or at least based on what I've read). We were at our hotel by 9:30 AM and the cost was 31.90 euro (we didn't hit traffic either). This was all the way to the Merrion Hotel, which is near Merrion Square.

Hotel wasn't ready yet (of course). DH camped out in their lobby and I ran out while I still had some energy.

Oh, weather note: It is amazing!!!! Sunny day and really warm. My jeans were too much. Hopefully this continues....although others have said it has been really rainy lately. So who knows!

My Dublin To-Do List:

Trinity/Book of Kells

Christ Church

St. Patrick's

National Museum

Merrion Square

St. Stephen's

Grafton Street

Temple Bar

I started out by heading to Trinity since it was close by and it was outdoors. I walked over, about 10 minutes, and was there by 9:50 and the first tour was 10:15. So I just wandered a bit in the college square and snapped pics. Paid for the tour (10 euro). The tour lasted 30 minutes and was led by a student. It was a nice overview of the college. As a college professor I absolutely LOVE visiting college campuses (my favorite is my alma mater - Notre Dame, followed by Oxford....if ND wasn't my alma mater then it would be Oxford LOL).

They leave you right at the Book of Kells entrance. There was a bit of a line, about 10 minutes (it was twice as long when I left). Went through the exhibition, which was quite interesting and then to the Books. They were pretty neat to look at (yes, I just used the word neat to describe 1200 year old books - I am a nerd). Hard to believe someone was capable of creating such a beautiful piece of history so long ago. Even more amazing that they have survived.

Then walked to the Long Room. OMG. As a bibliophile, professor, and self-proclaimed nerd I was in heaven. Yes, I am the person that literally sniffs new textbooks. I wish they had a air freshener that was book scented. This room was amazing! The smell! And the books on display! Wowsa! I think I liked this more than the Book of Kells.

Back out of Trinity and I decided t head back to the hotel to see if we could check in. I decided to walked down Grafton. It was only 11 AM, but it was starting to pick up with street performers. Popped into a few stores, but I'm not in Ireland to shop so I quickly lost interest. To be honest, I wasn't super impressed....just seemed like most other pedestrian shopping streets in Europe.

Back to the hotel...and yes! They let DH check in early. Snuck into the room and he was past out, so I joined him for a 2 hour nap.

Alarm set.....will check into tonight with more.
twiggers is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 01:08 PM
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Picking up where I left off...

Woke up at 2 PM and had a shower. Gosh, that little nap was exactly what I needed!

A quick note about the hotel: We are staying at the Merrion. I snagged a really good deal on Expedia. This hotel is really highly rated here on Tripadvisor and I can see why. The staff is amazingly helpful and our room is fantastic. We originally booked a queen room, but we ended up with a king room with a garden view. The room is big even by American standards! The bathroom has a nice shower and a separate bathtub. The bed is really comfortable too. I would HIGHLY recommend the hotel as it is close to everything.


OK, back to the touring. After the shower I decided I would head over to the National Museum. OK, I have to say that I am not really into visiting natural history museums, at least in the US. I find them incredibly boring, but that is likely because the US history is well....not really that much history (relatively young country).

This museum? Well, I am now a natural history convert. I will give it a try in other countries now. This museum was VERY well organized and a lot of details. It basically starts from the mesolithic area all the way to medieval Ireland. Lots of good information about the way humans lived across history. The treasure room was really cool. But the really cool room was the one that had the different remains of buried men. Amazing!! The medieval area upstairs was also really interesting....and things that I was a little more familiar with.

I ended up spending just over an hour here and I visited every room except for ancient Egypt. I felt that was more than enough time for me. I was starting to get a little bored toward the end. Nonetheless, I feel like I have a much better appreciation for the history of Ireland. I think that it will come in handy over the next two weeks.

After this I decided to head over to St. Patrick's. It was about a 15 minute walk from the museum. Everyone was out in St. Patrick's park enjoying the warm weather! It was nice to see. St. Patrick's was impressive from the outside. I mean, I've seen some great looking churches in Europe, but this was still nice to look at. I am a sucker for Romanesque/Gothic churches. Paid to get in and it was OK. Grabbed a few souvenirs at the shop.

Decided to then walk over to Christ Church. About a 5 minute walk (if that). Outside wasn't really that impressive, but I decided to go in. Well, turns out it was time for Evensong. So let me back up....I am not religious. But I LOVE churches. All the money in the community gets funneled into churches, so they are often the most beautiful structures and have great art inside. I have only been to one other service and it was in Rome and I didn't understand it (I ran in to escape the heat and rest my weary feet).

I wanted to see the interior of Christ Church, so I went in to Evensong. No clue what to expect LOL I was able to snap some pictures and wander around a bit before the service started. The service lasted about an hour. It was sort of awe inspiring the first 5 minutes....to think that others attended similar services 1000 years ago! After that I was a little bored....and it ended after 45 minutes.

I thought about catching a cab back, but I walked. It is such a beautiful day! Took about 20-25 minutes to get back to the hotel. Went down Grafton, which was really hopping now (5:30ish).

Back to the hotel. Picked up hubby and we cabbed it over to Temple Bar (7.10). Wandered for a little bit and just plopped into a restaurant for a quick bite (burger, fries, soda, bottled water, fried mushrooms - 15.99). Cabbed it back (9.50).

Now we're just vegging out. A little tired, but it is still so bright outside! Our cab driver from this morning is picking us up at 9 AM to take us to the airport to get our car and then we head to Belfast.

I am enjoying Dublin, but I am excited (and a little nervous) to get out on the roads tomorrow!

So, did I get to see everything I wanted? Almost. I am just missing the two parks. I am hoping to run tomorrow morning (depending on how hard I sleep), so I will do a loop through St. Stephens and then over to Merrion Square. But, if I sleep in I won't be crushed.

Some people said my Dublin day was too packed. I disagree....it was the right pace for me. I didn't feel rushed at all!

Oh, and I skipped the HOHO bus because I would rather walk around a city. I only had the bus down because of DH, but he ended up sleeping the day away.

More tomorrow!
twiggers is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 02:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 1,139
We will be in Ireland in September.

Looking forward to following along with your trip report. Yes you did have a full first day. But I say keep going while you can.
aussie_10 is offline  
Jul 7th, 2012, 04:04 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
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Glad you arrived to such nice weather. What is the cost of a really good deal on your hotel which sounds very nice?

Looking forward to more.

SandyBrit is offline  
Jul 8th, 2012, 05:18 AM
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Thanks Aussie!

Sandy: We paid $200 USD for the Merrion, which seemed really inexpensive for a 5* in the city centre. Every other hotel I looked at was mid-200s or $300+. Peak travel times are so hard on the wallet!
twiggers is offline  
Jul 8th, 2012, 05:18 AM
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Day 2: Dublin to Belfast

Woke up this morning around 7 AM after a fitful night of sleep (DH was having some diabetes problems and woke me up at 2 AM to help him). Decided to go for a run! It was very overcast, but no rain.

I wanted to run St. Stephen's and Merrion Square, but sadly, both of them were closed. Kind of silly for a park to be closed Especially for morning joggers. I did run around the outside though....stopped and took tons of pictures of the colorful doors everywhere! It was fun trying to find new colors The smell of some type of flower around St. Stephen's was just divine.

Back to hotel to shower and pack up. We had scheduled our taxi driver from yesterday to pick us up at 9 AM and get us to the airport. He was right on time and had a great conversation about the economy (depressing conversation, but interesting insights from another country who is struggling). Fare this time was 30 euro with zero traffic. He dropped us right off at the lot so we didn't have to mess with the shuttle buses.

Our car rental was Hertz. Very efficient. No line up at approximately 9:30 AM. We booked our car through Easy Tour Ireland. He confirmed our rate of 342 euro all inclusive of Super CDW for 15 days. We added on the extra driver for 9 euro per day. I also confirmed on the contract where it said "Nll" for the charge for super CDW. I asked if we needed to look over the car and he said "No, you have full coverage."

We were given a brand spanking new Suzuki Alto. We were hoping for a 2 door car due to DH's height/weight. But we have a clown car now LOL It's so tiny! It is so tiny that our luggage will NOT fit in the back and we only have 2 rollerboards (carry-on size). We put our duffle bag and backpack in the trunk (Boot) and the rollerboards in the backseat. The car only has 200 km on it to start (let's remember that number for when I do our grand total of mileage at the end).

We plugged in our GPS and off we went. DH drove first, got us right on the M1 with no problems. Came up to a toll booth and I knew our car had etoll, but I wasn't 100% sure. So we went to the cash lane. The car in front goes through and then DH sees green and starts to drive. The toll booth lady is chasing him, and I'm yelling because the arm is coming down. Thankfully he braked in time, but was flustered and couldn't throw it into reverse. So I jumped out and gave her the 1.80 euro.

Getting a little hungry....we keep seeing towns, but no idea if they are 5 minutes off the road or 1 hour. We finally see a service plaza and pull in there. Just grabbed a diet sprite (my drink of choice) for 1.80 euro (ouch!) and lunch at Burger King for 11.35 euro (2 burgers, fries, 1 drink).

DH then says it is my turn. I hit the M1 and am doing fine. A little weird having the stick shift on the left, but I'm managing. Until we hit Belfast. Trouble #1: Our GPS isn't working. For some reason the car charge isn't working. DH is now getting flustered. I see the Titanic cranes and know we have gone too far. I turn around and head back to the city center and try to pull over so I can get my phone turned on and use the GPS (I did pay for international data).

Trouble 2: I am driving way too far to the left and am getting a little flustered because DH is right angry at the GPS. Apparently I almost hit the curb and he's cursing. He's so worried about mucking up the tires and having to pay (since super CDW doesn't cover tires). I'm more than frazzled now and DH demands to drive.

I will say - I have poor vision in one eye and have pretty bad depth perception. So this, coupled with his frustration over the GPS, and me getting used to being on the left of the road/right of the car, and Belfast traffic/roads was enough.

I managed to get the phone GPS working and navigated us to our hotel/B&B, Tara Lodge. Parking is free on the street and behind the hotel. We managed to snag one spot behind the hotel and I don't think we're leaving it!!! And I'll have DH get us out of the city tomorrow AM.

We've got to figure out this GPS issue though. I paid $60 for the UK/Ireland maps and I don't want to waste it. It seems that it is the actual car charge, looks like the little pin at the end is missing and I think it's been missing since day 1, or it's sitting in the box back home. We may try to look for an electronics store and buy a new one, and possibly buy the Ordnance Map (which we should have done anyway).

OK, back to the day. We arrived at Tara Lodge around 12:15 PM. So it took maybe 2.5 hours to drive from Dublin to Belfast, including getting lost and stopping for food. Not too shabby, but then it's all M roads. 120 kpm until we hit N. Ireland and then it was 60 mph.

OK, why is it MPH? But yet everything else is on the metric system?

Our room wasn't ready, but the receptionist at the desk was great. We just chatted and chatted! I love her accent....she's from Newcastle. We walked down to Titanic Ave. and found an ATM to get some pounds. Withdrew 200, which should be enough.

Another oddity - I collect money from the countries I visit. Preferably bills (although I need Euro coins from each country, since those are different). The ATM spit out Bank of Ireland, Bank of England, and Ulster pounds. But only 20's. I need 5s (or fivers as the store clerk called them). I did get a Bank of Ireland fiver, but still need to hunt down an Ulster fiver (I have a 20 saved just in case, but that's worth a lot of money!).

Our room was ready around 1 PM and we were upgraded to a deluxe room because that was all that was ready. Here's a funny - this couple comes in to check in and says "Where's the bar?" Well, there is no bar because it is a lodge. Oh boy, was he ticked off! He cancelled the rest of his stay, but paid for tonight because it was too late to cancel. Yet there are a ton of bars right on Titanic.

Room is pretty standard. It's a good size with a queen bed (cozy for DH and I since we are used to a king). Flat screen TV and free wifi. Bathroom is clean with a tub/shower combo. The free parking and top rating on Tripadvisor is what drew us in. I think we paid 78 pounds.

Now we're just hanging out. I booked a tour with Paddy Campbell for a 4 PM pickup. I can't wait to go around and see Belfast. I am really interested in the neighborhoods and learning more about them. Not much is open today, but that is enough for me. The cost is 30 pounds for 90 minutes, but maybe we'll extend it. We'll see how DH is doing.

I'll update more later.

Oh wait! So let me tell you about this couple I met yesterday. But first, I never understand travelers who want everything to be just like home. Guess what? It's not home and sometimes that is a really, really good thing. If I wanted home, I would just stay there. Anyhow, on the Trinity tour yesterday I got to talking to a bunch of Americans. This one couple from Oklahoma had been here for 2 weeks. Apparently they were on a tour and then were spending time in Dublin. First they complained about the weather (um, hello it's Ireland. Did you DO any research?), then they complained that the hotel didn't have AC (um, open a window) and wouldn't provide a fan (really?). Then they complained about the driving in Dublin (why on earth would you rent a car and drive it to Dublin?). It was nothing but complain, complain, complain. As someone living in America (I'm Canadian) I was embarrassed.

More tonight!
twiggers is offline  
Jul 8th, 2012, 05:28 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
Enjoying your "as you go" report! The sweet smell of flowers around the parks may have been linden trees. Their flower is sweet and probably blooming about now. I love that smell!
irishface is offline  
Jul 8th, 2012, 07:07 AM
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I am so loving your style of reporting which includes the ups and downs. Hope you get the GPS sorted.

You are providing so much helpful information. Carry on please.

SandyBrit is offline  
Jul 8th, 2012, 09:44 AM
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Irish - It was a white flower. I snapped a pic and am planning on throwing it up on Facebook for friends to identify. It was such a fragrant scent.

Sandy: Thank you! I am glad that you are enjoying the report. It is so nice to have free wifi every night so that I can update while things are still fresh in my head.
twiggers is offline  
Jul 8th, 2012, 09:44 AM
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Picking up where we left off.

My plan for Belfast was simply to visit the Falls/Shankhill neighborhoods. I didn't really have an interest in Titanic or anything. Plus it's Sunday, so I knew a lot would be closed (i.e., City Hall).

We booked a tour with Paddy Campbell and I had reconfirmed yesterday. We just sort of vegged out at the hotel in the afternoon and we were picked up promptly at 4 PM by Steven.

He explained that he had another pick-up at 5:30 PM, so we would have to stick with the 60-90 minute tour. He started by explaining some of the political history and then we were off. We arrived in Shankhill first after a short drive. The British flags were flying in front of every house and they were also preparing for the 12th. There was a massive stack of pallets. Apparently they will be lighting it on fire and burning an Irish flag on the 12th. The driver drove us past all of the murals and stopped and explained. I was hopping side to side in the car snapping pictures.

We then drove to the Peace Wall. Once again, simply amazing for me. I don't know, I have always been particularly fascinated by political/religious history....I was actually a history minor in college. Anyhow, I learned a lot of new facts about the wall and it was really striking just to be standing there.

We then drove into the Falls neighborhood. Strikingly different. Cleaner, the houses were more modern (apparently because they were burned down in the 60s). Less nationalism where we drove through (i.e., no Ireland flags). We stopped at one memorial.

My husband asked if he was Protestant or Catholic and he told us to guess. Hubby guessed Protestant and I guessed Catholic. I had picked up on a few words he used when discussing the Protestants, he would say "those people" which is a bit of a derogatory term (in a sense) and he also spent more time talking about the "brainwashing" on the Protestant side. However, he also talked about how things are changing.

My husband didn't want to go, but he said he really, really enjoyed it. That's a lot coming from him because he really doesn't like history, etc. He thinks it is really boring.

The tour was 30 pounds, but we gave him 40 pounds.

We then walked down to Botanic and had dinner at Carlitos. Oh wow...the pizza was so yummy!!! Pizza, appetizer, and a bottle of still water came to 15.50 pounds. Not too shabby.

Now we're back at the hotel vegging out. We need to get to bed at a decent time so that we can fully get on Europe time.

Oh, the hotel: Tara Lodge

The receptionist was so nice and friendly! Got upgraded to a deluxe room which is spacious. Not as big as last night's, but still spacious for a European hotel. Haven't slept yet, so I can't say anything about the bed yet (or the shower). It does include breakfast, so I am looking forward to that! I want to try some black pudding

The plan for tomorrow is to drive up to Carrickfergus, then over to the causeway and dunluce. We are overnighting in Derry tomorrow.

Today was a highlight for me....this was something I have wanted to see for a long, long time.
twiggers is offline  
Jul 9th, 2012, 09:09 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 34
Wow! You must be enjoying the "luck of the Irish" with all your upgrades! Or is that Texas charm coming through??? Either way, that's wonderful for you! Glad to hear the car rental went well also. Anxious to hear more!
MarilynT1435 is offline  
Jul 9th, 2012, 04:06 PM
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 9,171
I love your report! The Long Room was better than the Book of Kells. I loved it. Did you see the Bog man? I enjoyed the National Museum also and loved Christ Church. Did you see the cat chasing the rat they found in the church organ pipes?
I love your energy and love of history. Your guide in Belfast reminds me of the one Anthony Bourdain had during his visit. Sorry about the car! I would be stressed but you will like that little tiny car in those smaller villages.
flpab is offline  
Jul 9th, 2012, 09:49 PM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,289
Enjoying the report, Twiggers. Hopefully you'll get the GPS sorted out as that will help with the nerves. It's normal to clean the curbs on the left the first few times, particularly on the narrow (not M) roads.
indy_dad is offline  

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