I have been planning to travel the enchanting Ireland since long. Had heard a lot of things about beauty and serenity of famous places in Ireland from friends, so wanted to experience it myself. Finally it came to reality when I could arrange this 10 days of Ireland tour. I am so excited to share my experiences!
The Delta flight to Ireland was comfortable and fun. We watched a few movies, napped and drank a little too. Since we left at night and were not landing until 10:00 a.m. Dublin time, our plan was to continue through the day in Dublin until a decent bedtime so we could avoid jet lag and get the most out of our trip. My view from the sky was breathtaking as we landed in Dublin airport. I was ready for an adventure in this green paradise never to be forgotten.
Our first day in Dublin was busy, hectic and full of culture. Of course, we had to go to our first Irish pub, followed by a visit to the Jameson factory and concluding with Dublin Castle and the sites of this beautiful, fun city. All along the streets, we saw people rushing to and from work and then there were the tourists who strolled along and went to different bars and were taking pictures of all the busy, historic sites. We walked most of the time and saw Dublin Castle, all the pubs on the main strip and we enjoyed the Irish singing and dancing in many of the bars and street corners. In Dublin and throughout Ireland, I enjoyed sand art that was spectacular, to say the least. These artists portrayed their subject in actual size (if not bigger) and with exceptional detail.
The Temple Bar is one of the most talked about bars in Dublin. It is very difficult to get into so we quickly got a beer and fought the crowds while taking in the sounds and scents of Ireland.
Dublin, a busy city like any other big city, has a distinct flavor of happy residents, busy workers, and interested tourists. There were many beers to explore during our visits to various bars throughout our stay in Ireland. My favorite of all was in Galway, the Galway hooker, which I kept many souvenir coasters of.
My visit to the Jameson Distillery in Dublin spurred on my new favorite drink in Ireland, locally called a “Jamie and Ginger”, namely Jameson, Ginger Ale and a touch of lime juice. I was instantly hooked and continue to enjoy this drink at home. At the end of the tour, they make you sample different whiskeys, bourbon, scotch and of course, Irish whiskey. After our visit, I still preferred Jameson to all of them, especially added to an Irish Coffee.
My favorite Irish Coffee was at an old tavern in Galway. The secret ingredient of brown sugar made it delectable and memorable. Now, I add brown sugar to the bottom of the cup before I pour in the Irish Whiskey and coffee so it melts right in. Delicious!!!
Our second day in Ireland brought us to Waterford. Of course, our first stop was the Waterford Crystal factory. I was astounded by the workers and the detail and care they took in creating each piece of Waterford Crystal. All the ones that are not perfect are put into a bin, broken down into crystal and used again. We saw crystal Super Bowl footballs, baby grand pianos, a 911 tribute, wine glasses, Hershey kisses and so much more. One of my favorites is below, a grandfather clock selling for $150,000.
I just couldn’t afford it that day. Maybe I can buy it on my next trip after winning the lottery. In addition to the culture and art galleries in the streets of Waterford, the view of the water was magnificent both day and night.
Cliffs of Moher
You cannot visit Ireland without visiting the infamous Cliffs of Moher. It is depicted as gloomy, breathtaking and haunting all at the same time. This is of course is created quite nicely with Ireland’s misty weather which was apparent most of the month of August when we traveled there. Bad hair days were not uncommon in Ireland and honestly, just gave me one less thing to think about as I took in all the splendor and beauty of this beautiful country. Standing atop and looking out at the Cliffs of Moher was a memory implanted in my brain forever.
If you are looking for a quaint town with water views, then you must visit Kinsale. Hilly mountainsides overlooking the beautiful green-blue water, the town of Kinsale is host to restaurants, cafes and one of my favorite kind of place –bookstores. The Poet’s Corner, in particular, was my favorite. A cozy little café with small tables where you can enjoy a tea and a scone while flipping through one of your favorite novels was a quaint rest stop in the middle of our trip to Kinsale. At the Poet’s Corner, you can also bring your used books to exchange for another. The Irish Authors screamed off each shelf and wooed you to take a look. This is a reader’s paradise.
Food in Ireland
As a Greek/Italian traveling into unknown territory, the food in Ireland was quite different. Breakfast, which is usually my favorite vacation meal, was my least favorite in Ireland. Along with runny scrambled eggs, they offered blood pudding (Irish people love this) and baked beans (for breakfast?). I did enjoy the plentitude of nova salmon with my bagels and cream cheese.
For lunch, we often just stopped for a quick cappuccino and a scone. Yes, tea is the preferred drink but I can’t resist cappuccino anywhere. I loved every single scone I tried in Ireland – from raspberry to plain to chocolate- I enjoyed every one with warm butter and jam.
Dinner was basic. Most places offered steak and salmon, which was my go-to menu on most days. We were recommended to this tavern in Dublin called the Brazen Head to have what people called “the best burger”. Well, they are right. On our last night in Dublin, we went to the Brazen Head and had just that—a memorable burger even until today. The Brazen Head is the oldest tavern in Ireland where famous authors, including James Joyce, frequented and wrote some of their best works. Upstairs in the tavern, you can visit the room where they wrote with many historical prints and newspaper articles framing the room which was left almost as it was back in their day. Quite an extraordinary place!!
After our last day in Dublin, we had another two days to explore. We discovered this fishing village close to Dublin called Howth. Driving along the shore to reach our destination, we found this place wall filled with old country charm and village quaintness. We walked around, saw all the historical parts, had some ice cream in a small café and met some incredible people, including a beautiful Golden Retriever which I shared my ice cream with. One of the townspeople recommended that we eat Dublin prawns on our last night in Ireland.
These were large shrimplike fish which tasted very similar to lobster. Lobster is one of my all-time favorite foods so of course, I could not resist. We walked along the shore for most of the day and went back that night to enjoy some fine wine and scrumptious Dublin prawns. Exquisite is the only word I can use to describe this spectacular place.
The places I described above, are only a small part of our wonderful trip to Ireland. We spent 10 days, drove over 1200 miles and saw most of this beautiful country. We visited castles and even the Blarney Stone, we walked along the shore in Galway, we met many travelers and countrymen, and we enjoyed every minute of this beautiful country.
I hope that you too will get to visit the Emerald Isle. We rented our own car, which was tricky at times, but well worth the sightseeing and exploring. This was my first trip to Europe and it completely exceeded my expectations. After I visit a few more countries there, I hope to return to Ireland.