Our trip to Ireland began on a Friday. The last time we’d gone on a vacation together, just the two of us and not to see family, was twenty-one years earlier, on our honeymoon. Not only was this to be a nice vacation, it was a long overdue opportunity to fully enjoy each other’s company without distraction. We were full of hope and cheer as we began our journey.
The flight from Chicago to Dublin is an overnighter, and because the trip east is with the rotation of the earth, it is a short night. We did our best to sleep on the airplane, but still started our day in Dublin at 10 o’clock in the morning with a rental car and several hours before the check-in at our first hotel. We rubbed our eyes and made the most of our day.
Day 1: Dublin, Tired.
We found a car park near our hotel, and close to Trinity College and the Temple Bar area, and set out on foot. A short walk across O’Connell Bridget put us where the action was. It was nearly noon by the time we reached Fleet Street, and we decided to start with the obligatory stop at the Hard Rock Cafe Dublin for veggie burgers and chips (a.k.a. french fries). The Hard Rock in Dublin hasn’t got much in the way of memorabilia. I expected to see some U2, Van Morrison, and Thin Lizzy. There was one Cranberries item. This Hard Rock is more t-shirt sales than anything. We picked up a couple of souvenirs on the way out and roamed the vibrant city of Dublin. Trinity College
Soon, we found ourselves at the gates of Trinity College, and went in to explore. The campus is old and the buildings are grand, though showing signs of wear.
The gem of Trinity College is the Library and the Book of Kells, which is an ancient copy of the Christian Gospels beautifully copied by hand. If you care about this book, buy tickets ahead of time for the first available time and when they let you in, make a beeline for the book. When we were there, a gaggle of mouth breathers was jostling for position around the glass case which holds the book. It was nearly impossible to see. But we got to look at it for several seconds before we moved on. Also, no photography of the book is allowed.
Far more impressive than the book, is the Library. [photos below] I was in awe. I’d seen photos, but they can’t capture the immensity of the space. It was absolutely the most beautiful man-made place I’ve been, and I could have spent a couple of hours just walking around and marveling. The Library at Trinity College is one of the must-see places in Ireland.
In the center of the Library is the Brian Boru Harp, which is the model for the insignia of Ireland. It’s an artifact worth looking at.
Conveniently, our hotel had valet parking. We could walk to the hotel easily, but getting there by car was a different thing entirely. Driving in Dublin is interesting, by which I mean it’s a giant pain. We later learned that there are no right turns in Dublin, which would have been helpful to know on that first day. Google Maps wasn’t in on that secret either and kept driving us in circles giving directions we couldn’t follow. Once we switched to Apple Maps, we were able to get there quickly.
We stayed at the Wynn’s Hotel on Abbey Street. It was a nice, old hotel. Our suite was reminiscent of the nicest room at your grandma’s house. Not very modern, but comfortable and clean. We would stay there again.
After a couple of hours rest, we went out walking again, this time in search of food. There are tons of restaurants in Dublin and we randomly chose The Arlington Bar and Restaurant, mostly because it was open to the street and the weather was very nice.
Despite being tired, we couldn’t resist a walk over Ha’penny Bridge and back along the river to our hotel for some long overdue sleep.
Day 2: Dublin to Kinsale
We met our first full day in Ireland rested and hungry. This is when we were introduced to the “Full Irish Breakfast”, which is sausage, Irish rashers (if bacon is Clark Kent, Irish rashers are Superman), black pudding and white pudding (both meat), mushrooms, tomato, and a fried egg. Add plenty of coffee and a scone to that and you’re good to go for the day. I don’t think we had lunch the entire trip. We had a lot of driving to do to get to Kinsale, with a couple of stops planned along the way. The road out of Dublin was essentially a divided freeway, and it was easy driving. Once we got off the main roads, driving in Ireland became more of a two hands on the wheel, pray, and don’t blink kind of thing.
Our first stop for the day was Avoca Handweavers, a mill that has been in operation since 1723. What you’ll find at Avoca is lot of wool blankets and scarves, plus a smattering of other things like sweaters and other miscellany. The blankets are mostly beautifully dyed wool. We picked up a some really nice blankets and a couple of sweaters. Like many places of this sort in Ireland, they will ship your purchases for you. We did this, and our stuff was waiting for us when we arrived home.
From Avoca we drove down to Waterford to visit the House of Waterford Crystal. While they do offer tours, we were on a tight schedule that day and spent our time browsing the showroom. The crystal is amazing – and expensive. We splurged a little and bought a set of wine glasses, which we had shipped home.
It was drizzling when we left House of Waterford Crystal, but that didn’t slow us down. We walked across the street to find a geocache and then on down the street past a monument commemorating the marriage of Strongbow and Aoife, and on to Reginald’s Tower.
After Waterford, we headed on down past Cork to the town of Kinsale. We arrived at the Trident Hotel to discover that we, the “Lucky Rileys”, had been upgraded from a Junior Suite to the Luxury Master Suite, complete with a large balcony overlooking the harbor. For the rest of the trip, we referred to ourselves as the “Lucky Rileys”.
Dinner that night was at “Fishyfishy”, which is a popular – wait for it – seafood restaurant that is listed in all the travel guides, and came highly recommended by the hotel staff who were kind enough to phone in a reservation for us. The restaurant was packed, and the food was excellent. Anita had lobster and I had a blackened tuna steak. After dinner, we walked around winding streets the town. While it was late, and most of the shops were closed, the pubs were lively, with both organized music and the singing of patrons spilling into the streets.
We really liked Kinsale, although we know that being upgraded to the Master Suite at the hotel probably bumped our overall experience from a 9 to a 10.
...work in progress. More to come...