June 15, 2013 § 2 Comments
It’s been awhile since I posted an outfit. And this was an outfit I intended to post at the end of April! Oh well. I did wear it exactly the same way (but with sandals) on Tuesday this week so does that count for anything?
Oh and remember how I said my next trip was Seattle? I totally lied. I didn’t mean to. I actually discovered that the Southwest Airfare sale which allowed us to book Seattle for cheap plus our extra frequent flyer points (not even close to enough for a real flight anywhere) were more than enough to get to Denver & back. So I booked a long weekend at the end of August to Denver to visit my mother for a few days. Too bad her drive to DIA to pick me up is almost the same length of time as my flight from Omaha! But it will be wonderful to see my family and the Colorado mountains in summer.
I thought about going a month later but like my mother said “you’ve seen it in fall and the tourists all act like they haven’t whether they have or not.” Too true and it makes driving and getting around difficult. Aspens are beautiful in the fall. But at least that means I can hit my favorite candy store and bring back some stuff.
Dark wash skinny jeans: Torrid (February 2013)
Short-sleeved White button down tunic: Lane Bryant (January 2011)
Black & White striped cardigan: Lane Bryant (March 2013)
Black wedges: Payless (April 2013)
Bubble pearl necklace: Kohl’s (April 2013)
June 11, 2013 § 4 Comments
I also finished up two photobooks (just a bit ago today actually) – one for New York City and the other for Ireland. These hold the stories, the legends, the information, etc along with all of the photos. This Smashbook was basically for the scraps of the trip.
And that’s that. No more Ireland talk. At least until I go back anyway.
But I already have my next trip in the works:
ALong with my in-laws we are going in late October to visit my sister-in-law, her husband and their twin boys for their first birthday. And since we are using up frequent flyer points for Southwest I also priced out the flights (I’m actually hoping over to the website to buy them after this gets posted) as well as the times for the flights. What that means is we can either have a 4 hour layover in Las Vegas or Denver or we can split up the layover (and get better times for flights as a result) and delay coming home for 27 hours. A whole 24 hours in Vegas and it saves us about $50 in airfare (I know the hotel room & cab fares will eat up the extra and then some but that is so not the point). And all I have to do is get groped in security an extra time? Yes please!
June 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The good, the bad and the ugly all in one place. If you are ever planning on a trip to Ireland start here. If you are just curious to see what I thought start here as well. If you don’t care, well then come back another day!
Tour Company: Sceptre Tours via Groupon
I made none of the arrangements with the company. I gave my Groupon number to my mother and she did everything from there. But I do know they were easy to work with and sent frequent emails/phone calls when something changed in our itinerary (like our flight leaving early, etc). I did not like their documents website though. It would crash frequently and took me many hours to download all the documents and vouchers we would need on the trip. Although I think that was the only drawback to the company.
Hotel: Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, Enniskerry
This hotel is what came with the vacation package we had purchased. We would never have stayed in a place like this on our own. Nor would we have stayed in the same hotel all week. I don’t recommend that at all. It made for a difficult time driving as we always had to be back to sleep in our beds there (no point wasting money on another room across the country when a 2 hour drive would get us back to the hotel). That being said I did love the stay. If I had to do it over again I would stay in Dublin first, no car, then get a car and drive to wherever I was going. And finally end up here the last day or two of the trip, driving straight to the airport to leave afterwards. It would be very relaxing & elegant after a whirlwind vacation.
- The distance to Powerscourt, Glendalough, the Wicklow Mountains could not be beat. All of it was right there so none of it took up a full day. Loved that part of it. Made for amazing views as well. Never got sick of seeing it.
- All of the food severed in all of the restaurants was amazingly good, especially the breakfast buffet. I may have thought the fish and chips takeaway in Belfast was better than that at the hotel but the hotel’s version was still wonderful compared to most fish and chips in the States.
- The entire facility was very posh with luxurious accommodations. The beds were lovely European feather tops with a feather duvet. Everything was thought out in advance including the minibar (which held the only Pepsi I saw in the entire freaking country!) as well the complimentary items.
- Beautiful grounds and rooms. I have never seen a more stunning hotel. And every night I went to the spa – with kid free swim times I might add – I was reminded of how fantastic the place was. Even if you don’t stay here use the spa if you’re in the neighborhood as they allow walk-ins. You will not regret it.
- Free wi-fi throughout the property. Can’t say that about most hotels anywhere, especially in Europe so I hear. And it was a strong signal too. I never had any issues with Facetime for example.
- The marble bathroom. Enough said.
- It was far from everything. An hour to the airport and an hour by DART into Dublin (well 40 minutes from Bray once you get on the train – a 15 minute drive from the hotel). Which means at the end of a long day of sight seeing you can’t just get back to the hotel easily.
- There is transportation available but really you will need to have a rental car. It’s honestly the only way to get around easily.
- Expensive. And everything on site was expensive. Much more than I would ever pay to stay somewhere. I am cheap.
- Food was limited menu-wise unless you eat at Gordon Ramsey. I had tried everything I wanted to try after 3 meals. And the menu in the Pub and Sugar Loaf Lounge is exactly the same.
- The hotel and their people were way too eager and way too happy to help you. We came back one afternoon and were greeted by no less than 5 – FIVE – people at the front asking how our day was. I had no choice but to roll my eyes.
- Very very international and not at all “Irish”. I don’t think I spoke to one person with an Irish accent in the entire joint. Maybe in the pub. I think. I’m not sure. Everyone else was from South Africa or France or Italy.
- They are not “Green” at all. Every day there were new towels and new sheets and duvet cover on the bed. I wasn’t impressed. And if you try to get them to service only part of the room it confused them. On 2 occasions we tried to get only the tea and coffee refilled as we had used it all up. That took like 20 minutes and we had to repeat our request for nothing else 3 times.
Car: Dan Dooley Rentals – Nissan Micra
- Not a bad rental company or vehicle. They had a van that picked us up at the airport terminal and dropped us off at our car. We did pay for the extra insurance charge though. And thank god we did! We lost a hubcap somewhere on the way to the Giant’s Causeway. We also scratched the paint with all the brush and narrow roads. If you go to Ireland just get it. Worth the expense I assure you. And I am not one to get it here in the US.
- We took the car into Northern Ireland with no issue. And we did inquire about taking it to England and/or Wales or Scotland via the ferry but nixed that idea early. We were going to Ireland we were going to see Ireland. I’ll have to figure out a way to talk my husband into visiting England. Especially Leeds…I have a childhood friend who lives there now and I definitely should go see her… Anyway they were cool with us going to England if we had wanted to.
- If you return the car empty they charge you €100. We paid anywhere between €1.30 and €1.60 in Ireland and about £1.30 in Northern Ireland. Basically the €100 was a ripoff. Especially when we tried to find a gas station on the way to the airport. Nothing. Nada. So even though it was basically full at the hotel we were just a bit short on gas by the time we got to the airport. No partial refunds which means we paid the €100. For about 1/4 of a tank. Whatever you can do to get gas before turning the car in do so.
Driving Tips & Routes
Since we stayed in one place for the entire week some of this is skewed. Again I don’t recommend doing that especially if you aren’t used to driving an hour or two to get where you need to be in your everyday life. Since both my mother and I live in places that call for a long bit of driving before getting anywhere we were used to it. But it might drive someone else mad.
- STAY ON THE LEFT!! Our rental car had stickers all over the place, which helped, but just remember this. It was disorienting at first but after 10/15 minutes in the car each day it seemed normal. Honestly. Not hard or difficult nor scary for anyone used to the right side of the road. My mother did say her natural instinct was to pull to the right to get out-of-the-way and she had to remind herself to go left.
- Even if you are scared to drive there just rent a car and do it. We saw so very much that public transportation won’t touch. It wasn’t much different from driving here (the mechanics I mean besides staying on the left) but be careful of Irish drivers! They are AWFUL drivers – never use turning signals, park where they feel like it, go the speed the sign says even if conditions don’t call for it, etc.
- Do not drive in Dublin. I repeat DO NOT DRIVE IN DUBLIN. Don’t even bother with a car and just pick one up when you are leaving Dublin for other areas. Remember the Irish are terrible drivers. Now let’s magnify that with busy crowded city traffic. Just don’t. You will get frustrated and/or hit someone. Besides Dublin is completely walkable. I found it more walkable than even New York. It’s easy and the city center is small.
- I used AA Ireland’s route planner for figuring out times, distances, directions, etc. I won’t go so far as to say it was 100% accurate (nothing ever is) but it worked exactly as well as Google Directions or even AAA here in the States (important because Google Directions did not work well in Ireland). It gave me nearly exact times & directions for getting everywhere except the Cliffs of Moher. It was right until Galway but by the time you get on the narrow, rock & hedge walled road and drive less than a lot of others you lose time. It is definitely time sensitive for locals. I would add at least 15 to 30 minutes to that section from Kinvara to Doolin.
- Yes you can drive to Northern Ireland, hit the Giant’s Causeway by lunch, Belfast by dinner and get back to Dublin in plenty of time. It wasn’t even a long awful day (that would be the Cliffs of Moher). You can bother with the train and/or a guided tour from Dublin if you feel like it but really just rent a car and drive it. We did it in less time than with a guided tour I might add and got to see exactly what we wanted to (if we hadn’t given up in Belfast). Though staying a night in Belfast would be icing on the cake.
- Driving everywhere wasn’t awful. We are used to it and got to see parts of Ireland that we would not have if we stuck to just one part of the country (like seeing bogs for example). But then again I love driving to visit somewhere new. You get to stop at local places, you see the countryside change before your eyes. It is an adventure for me. Don’t be afraid of it.
- You have to pay for parking everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Even the grocery store. Nothing has a dedicated free lot as far as I could tell. Maybe gas stations. And some hotels, but most certainly not all hotels. And the parking machines only take coins so make sure you have enough €1 & €2 coins on you before you park.
Getting Around Dublin
I strongly recommend mTrip not just for Dublin but any city you visit on any trip anywhere.
This is an offline (no wifi, no cell data!) GPS tourist app. The brilliance lies in the fact that it tells you which direction you are pointed in, where to go and gives you directions. Further it gives overviews of places and popular tourist spots along with their hours and any other information you need to visit. This thing saved my butt in Dublin. Best $5 I spent! I fully intend to use it in other cities I visit in the future.
Food & Restaurants
- Gordon Ramsey Powerscourt – only ever had breakfast there but the food was divine! Expensive but divine. I definitely recommend it.
- Avoca Cafe at Powerscourt Estate – awesome food and the best scone I had all week. Expensive though.
- Any place a local is eating at – I grew up in a tourist location (mountains outside Denver) so I know this well. If locals eat there it is because it is good, cheap and worth the effort. No different anywhere else. That is how we found the amazing fish & chips takeaway place in Belfast. The place got super super busy while we were there. Best I have ever had.
- If you want coffee, plain, hot & black, outside the USA you have to order it Americano. Just do it, they will ask you all confused if you don’t. So save yourself some time & effort. And they will ask if you want coffee or tea with everything you order. EVERYTHING. Either get used to it or order it when you are buying.
- Everything is expensive because VAT tax (23%) has been already been added in. So unlike in the USA with taxes on top of everything else the tax is included in the price. That €4 Americano coffee is only €4. And yes that was the going rate for both coffee and tea there with tea being a tad cheaper (around €3 most of the time).
- Tip 10%. I know I know but that is standard. No need to go overboard since wait staff get a living wage unlike in the USA.
- You will have to ask for the check. Just remember that.
- Buy cheap chocolate bars while there to bring back for people! The deserts and candy aren’t as sweet as here so most people in the States just love trying them. And I loved having access to the good chocolate!
Sites Visited & Seen
These are only my opinions and hence the classification for me. That’s also why I didn’t list anyplace I didn’t go. Take it all with a heaping handful of salt water.
- Giant’s Causeway – I have been in love with this place since I was a kid. I am still in love with it. Stunning and amazing. And despite some of the BS reviews on the web it was a shorter drive time than getting to the Cliffs of Moher and it was on major roadways. Totally totally worth it.
- Kilomainham Gaol – what a great way to really get familiar with a very sad part of Irish history. Especially since a lot of it directly related to my very existence and why my family came to the USA.
- The Hop-on Hop-off Red buses – made sight seeing a breeze and the guides were mostly funny!
- The Burren – nothing but a Martian landscape as far as the eye could see. Never seen anything like it anywhere.
- Glendalough – go when the crowds have disappeared at the end of the day. Being there pretty much by yourself made the place come alive magically. So very cool to see.
Sorta Worth It:
- The National Museum of Ireland Archaeology – great artifacts, amazing mummies, etc. Loved seeing the Tara Brooch for example. But quite a lot of it was repetitious. Lots of very simple gold jewelry for example so you don’t need long to see this place.
- Book of Kells & Old Library – not worth it for the Book of Kells but definitely for the library itself. Amazing manuscripts all around. Very long wait though so get there when they first open for the day or don’t bother!
- Guinness Storehouse – basically an astronomically expensive pint of Guinness that tasted the same as everywhere else in Ireland. A brewery tour is a brewery tour. But the view of Dublin can not be beat. Only go when it is not busy though or you wasted your time.
- Dunluce Castle – if you’re in the neighborhood. Wish we could have toured but it was freezing and there is no roof!
- Belfast – totally different from Dublin. Too bad we didn’t spend much time here.
- Powerscourt Gardens & the Wicklow Moutains – beautiful! But not really worth it if you have to go out of your way to get here.
Not Really Worth It:
- Cliffs of Moher – I’m glad I saw them (just like I am glad I went to the Grand Canyon) but I wasn’t blown away by them.
- Dunguaire Castle Bangquet in Kinvara – I did this because my mother wanted to but honestly the food was mediocre. The entertainment was great but the rest of it didn’t make the experience.
- Galway – to be fair I probably didn’t give it a chance but we drove for about 30 minutes and never found the docks. Mostly we nearly got lost. Could have been us I guess but we were following the signs.
- Temple Bar – lots of drinking, lots of drunks, lots of loud people, lots of people. I was over it very quickly.
- Grafton Street – see Temple Bar above. All of that applies here too except with shopping bags.
And as for photos of everything make sure to check out my iPhone photostream, my camera photostream, my YouTube channel and my mother’s photostream. As well as my posts:
Part 1 – Arrival & Glendalough
Part 2 – Northern Ireland & Giant’s Causeway
Part 3 – Dublin Day 1
Part 4 – Dublin Day 2
Part 5 – Powerscourt Estate
Part 6 – Cliffs of Moher & Dunguaire Castle
May 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This is really long as it is our longest day in Ireland combined with coming home.
Got up very early, long drive ahead of us. Ate a breakfast of grocery pastries and tea (our room came with a tea and coffee drawer complete with several types of instant coffee and tea, cups and saucers and an electric tea kettle). We were in the car before 8 am.
Now I am going to say something controversial. I wasn’t impressed with Ireland. At least the interior of the island and the thousands of shades of green.
I know, I know. But see here is the thing – it looks like Iowa. Those of you who consider the center part of the USA “flyover” country have no idea what it looks like on the ground. And Nebraska looks nothing like Iowa. But with family and friends all throughout Iowa as well many many visits throughout time I am very familiar with this gorgeous state. It is identical to Ireland. I see now why so very many Irish settled in this part of the country. Including my family lines.
See? Any Iowans out there care to back me up? Beautiful regardless. Just extremely familiar to me and my mother.
Some other photos I took during the day of the countryside (not on the way there):
Again all pretty similar.
Hard to see but this is a bog.
I am also sharing something I didn’t think I ever would. I am sharing my last name. Ok not my current, married, last name but my pre-marriage (I vomit a little whenever someone says “maiden” name). My last name isn’t Irish (in this line I actually descend from Germans over 250 years ago through Maryland and Pennsylvania). But there is a town in Ireland with the last name – Enfield. It was on the way to the Cliffs from Dublin so of course we got off the roadway to take photos.
Just a little town in Ireland. But I am happy I stopped.
Originally we were going to hit Galway first then do the Cliffs. Instead we decided to do the Cliffs first. It was a much longer drive than we anticipated.
This is just as you get to the outskirts of the Burren. It is called Gragan.
But to get to the Cliffs of Moher you have have to drive on the scariest road I have ever encountered in my life!!! And I am from Colorado where they have roads with only one side and a cliff on the other! No these were narrow with no shoulder and thick brush and rock walls on either side.
The speed limit was 100KPH (about 60 MPH)! And we encountered a number of people who thought that was a MINIMUM along with buses going about that fast. *Runs away in fear* This was frightening!
Granted finally getting the Cliffs of Moher was worth it.
Once we arrived at the Visitor’s Center we explored the center a bit then headed out to the Cliffs. Did not hike much but it reminded me of the Grand Canyon. Something you have seen so many photos of, are so familiar with, that the whole thing just seems…fake. I dunno, it’s hard to describe. But I felt the same there as I did at the Grand Canyon last year. Beautiful but eh I am over it.
After we got our fill and took as many photos as possible (way more than I posted here) we walked back to the Visitor’s Center and got something to eat in the cafe. It was probably the worst food we had the entire time. Prepackaged.
Then went shopping in the most complete gift shop I had seen so far. Bought a small bodhrain (traditional drum) with decorations among many other touristy things. I have since discovered it drives my husband nuts. So win-win!
Once we decided we had enough we headed out to the car and drove a different route through the center part of the Burren back to Kinvara and Galway.
Of course we drove the long way through (plenty of time). And drove past Leamaneh Castle on the way to the Poulnabrone Dolmen.
The dolmen is a portal tomb dating from approximately 4200 BCE to 2900 BCE.
And it is in the middle of, well not nothing, but it is very barren. Beautiful, but barren. Never seen anything like it. Is it any wonder that the Hunger hit this area hardest? I can directly trace one of my family lines to this area of Ireland as result of the Hunger. That held powerful sway while I was standing there. I will freely admit it.
Anyway from there we drove up to Galway and basically discovered that this city is extremely confusing! Once upon a time there were several villages around Galway but it is now all Galway. Just made for confusing driving. Ultimately we never found the docks, were afraid we would get too lost and decided to just drive back to Kinvara and wait for the start of dinner.
We took a round about way back into Kinvara and waited outside Dunguaire Castle until it was time to head in for our castle banquet dinner.
I walked all around the outside of the castle (TINY!) while waiting. Only a 5 minute walk. My mother had no idea I had even done it until I mentioned it to her the next day. Small castle. Spent a chunk of time waiting in the yard. Beautiful evening.
Then once the doors opened we were given a glass of mead while we waited in the main area (was cellar once upon a time according to the signs) for everyone to arrive and for the show to get started.
This is a painting near the entrance that shows the castle as it was in 1568.
They did a little rhyming welcome speech (in polyester Renessaince garb of course) and then headed up 2 flights of stairs to a hall lined with tables setup with our first course and pitchers of alcohol (best thing ever!). From there it was a bit of showmanship, in rhyme, alternating with courses.
Salad with smoked salmon and soda bread; leek and potato soup; chicken with mushroom sauce, carrots, green beans, and potatoes; and apple pie with whipped cream for dessert
Once we got to dessert the main show began with lots of poetry and song focused on Galway and County Clare and Ireland. It was beautiful and informative. Too bad I was surrounded by Americans and Canadians! Oh and no video allowed just photos.
After that was complete they opened the gift shop up for a bit. I bought yet another necklace (I had 5 now). A few more photos and then back to the car just as the sun was setting.
Seriously some of my favorite photos of my entire trip.
We drove back to Enniskerry in the dark and got back to the hotel about 10:45 pm (a 2 3/4 hr drive). So there was bit of Facetime with my husband and then updating of Facebook and onto bed.
The next morning (Tuesday May 7) was our day going home. Or at least back to the States. I took a shower, got dressed, packed up. Then went and had one last Irish breakfast at Gordon Ramsey.
I look at this picture and sigh now. So good. My mom then made a quick run over to Avoca/Powerscourt Gardens to pick up a few things she had decided she wanted after all (like Bewley’s coffee which she now has used all up and will be finding a source Stateside). In the mean time I went through everything to make sure nothing was forgotten.
We drove to the airport (about an hour away), dropped off the car, checked into our flight and went through Irish security. Much like ours honestly. Though anyone with trainers could go through without taking off their shoes. We waited on the other side where the main shopping area is. Last few bits of souvenirs so I spent nearly every Euro dime I had left (except for a few I had set aside previously for my scrapbook). This was all that was left after I plugged the remainder into a vending machine.
Not too shabby! I gave them to my mom to pass out to nephews, little cousins, etc.
From there we went through Customs. Dublin is very unique as far as European airports are concerned as they have a US Customs office on site and you go through Customs before going to your gate. Thus when you arrive it is just like a domestic flight. If you fly from Europe to the USA at all this is supposed to save you oodles of time. Never having it done it any other way I have no idea. I do know I had ZERO people in front of me the entire time, from filling out my form to sitting down at my gate. It takes me longer to go through security at the Omaha airport (and that is 10 minutes, max).
So we head down 1 escalator to another floor, complete our Customs forms and head on through. I was concerned about this as well but even as a newbie it was easy. A rather bored woman asked me what food I was bringing back (since I had that checked on the form), just tea and commercially packaged candy. She asked me if I was traveling with anyone, where I was headed and then asked me to confirm that the suitcase on the screen (my checked piece) was mine. Once I did that I was free to go.
I then waited in a hall beyond for a minute, decided it wasn’t worth it standing in the middle of an empty hall so I proceeded to head to our gate. That involved going through security again, this time it was counted as US security. Basically they x-ray everything including your shoes but there is no metal detectors. Down another hall and there was the gate. I settled in, finished off my Euros in the vending machine and waited.
I waited a really long time for my mother! Turns out she told them she had seeds and Customs went through everything and took them. She had no idea they were banned and I had no idea either since I have 2 black thumbs and would never, didn’t actually, buy things I would have to plant. I must have ignored that part on the website. But I knew how much alcohol I could bring back without paying a duty!
Speaking of alcohol since I was waiting for our fight I wandered over to the one place I could buy anything anywhere near these gates. All the gates in this area go to the USA since it is past US Customs and as a result there is nothing here, just a tiny cafe with a crappy limited pre-packaged selection and a kiosk to buy last minute souvenirs like keychains. But the kiosk also has an entire wall of liquor. On that wall I found a couple of different things I could buy and bring home and settled on a bottle of mead, the same mead we had had the night before in Kinvara. I love mead but it is hard to get in the US. I had no idea how I was going to get it home from NYC (my clothes were in compression cubes and that bag was PACKED tight) but I ultimately decided to just wing it and figure it out in NYC.
Eventually my mother showed up. We waited. The flight got delayed 45 minutes due to a mechanical issue with our plane and we were moved to another gate & plane. Got loaded up and took off about 4 pm. Honestly the flight back sucked worst than the flight there. I was literally trapped by the guy in front of me. I could not get out. The flight attendant had to tell him to put his seat up so I could eat once they brought food around. Hated it. Still worth it but hated it completely.
Oh and the food was better going to Dublin than coming home. Sorry Ireland. Just how it is. I did get a scone and tea on the way back though. How delightful!
We arrived at JFK in NYC at exactly 6 pm. Stopped at an ATM to get cash and then picked up our bags. Took a cab to the hotel, which was right next to LaGuardia. Ordered pizza to be delivered for dinner. It was just ok. I didn’t expect much honestly. Watched some TV, called my husband and went to bed about 9 pm Eastern time (our bodies thinking it is 2 am).
Woke up at 3 am naturally. Sigh. And repacked everything. We took the hotel shuttle (aka a guy with a minivan) to the airport at 4 am. Checked into our flights, checked our suitcases. But nothing was open in the airport yet except for one place. So bought a crappy bagel and some coffee, which I spilled everywhere. It was then time to say goodbye to my mother. My flight left at 6 am and my mother’s was an hour after that. I flew on 2 mostly empty flights (the middle seat was empty both legs), first to St. Louis where I got in an hour early. That means I had tons of time to get Dunkin Donuts. I love Dunkin and Omaha just acquired their first Dunkin after 19 years of being absent here. Opened 2 weeks ago.
Anyhow then flew from St. Louis to home. One great thing I love about Omaha is that picking up your checked suitcase is easy peasy – I was off my flight, with my bag, waiting for my husband within 15 minutes of landing.
And that’s that. The jetlag coming home was way way worse than going. I have no idea why. It took me about a week to be normal again. Argh.
Only 1 part left – I am going to review every service used, every place gone (in short form) and basically sum up the trip for anyone else thinking of going to Ireland. Oh I guess 2 parts. I’ll share my scrapbook with you as well since it is complete except for a few food photos. My next project is to create a proper photobook. And that means going through about 3,000 photos. Argh.
May 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I had planned this day with 3 itineraries depending on what we had done, wanted to do, felt up for, etc. One option was driving to Waterford and doing the Crystal Factory tour stopping in either Cashel or Kilkenny on the way back. The second was Brú na Bóinne and the burial mounds there that date to 4000 BCE. The third option is what we ended up doing since my mother’s back was not up for the rest of it. Besides it was nice having a bit of a lazy day in the middle of a busy vacation.
So woke up late and puttered around.
Then drove over to Powerscourt Gardens, mostly because shopping was going to be involved and we were planning on going to Enniskerry immediately afterwards. But we could have walked as it was less than 5 minutes from the hotel. I think the drive took longer than it would have to walk.
Our hotel is on the top part of this map so you can get a sense of just how close they are. Too many trees to see the gardens properly from the hotel though.
Immediately went into the Gardens and did most of the 1 hour walk (which is actually around 45 minutes).
The backside of the estate house and the very clever patios with small rocks on their sides for paving.
View from behind the estate through the Italian Garden into Triton Lake (but really it is a large pond).
The Japanese Garden which lays adjacent to Triton Lake on the left side when facing it as above.
Once you curve around the backside of the lake you have 2 choices the Rhododendron Walk or the shortcut which cuts right by the Pets’ Cemetery. This is where they buried the family pets from when this was the estate of the Wingfield & Slazenger families. The largest private pet cemetery in Ireland they say.
From there it was the Mermaid Pond
And the walled Victorian garden, the finest example in Europe so they say.
If you want to take your own “tour” Google Streetview has been all around the Gardens. Very very cool. And it looked just like that! It might help you place some of my photos in context.
After we were done gawking at the plants we tucked into Brunch in the cafe within the estate house. The actual house burned to the shell in 1974 but in 1996 it was opened as a shopping center. Basically lots of little rooms that blend together.
First, food, then shopping.
I don’t even remember what sandwich I had. I know I liked it. I think there was ham or panchetta involved.
There was WiFi in the cafe so I took that moment to post to Facebook saying how much I was going to miss a country that offered tea (& coffee but I drank tea exclusively there) with every meal. How true that has been! Why don’t they do that here? I love tea.
Oh and the scones! This one was the best I had all trip but the scones were perfect. Not any different really than my recipe but loads better than what most Americans think are scones and those that are available commercially here. The trick is you barely incorporate the dough. It’s not bread. It should be treated like pie dough.
From there I wandered throughout trying to find things to buy and bring home. This is Avoca and there were lots and lots of wool items available to buy. But I couldn’t decide on what to get nor could I decide on if I had enough room in my luggage to bring back something like a wool bucket purse or wool throw. I could have had it shipped home though (option at the register). But I never could make up my mind on what I wanted. I think checking out the foodstuffs was my favorite. But I – clearly – love good food. And I wanted to see what they had that I knew we had at home. And yes, some of this you can get easily here.
Ultimately I bought tea and candy. The same stuff I bought everywhere. And some postcards. I figured when I decided I would just buy it online. And actually the rates online are the same as in store but shipping is €10 higher than at the register. Not enough to be an issue IMO.
Trust me when I tell you that they have lovely items that are definitely worth the money.
Anyhow from there we drove to Enniskerry and discovered that the town was PACKED. Not just a little packed either. The kind of packed that involves double parking on streets only wide enough for 2 1/2 cars. So we made a U-turn and headed back to the hotel instead. Too bad too as there was an antiques store we really wanted to check out even if we bought nothing to bring home.
At the hotel my mother took a nap and I explored the hotel getting photos of everything that I had missed. This was my last chance to do so.
The Great Sugar Loaf Mountain with the helicopter pad on the left side
Gigantic chess set – the King came up to my waist
The labyrinth – all good hotels have some version of this it seems, yes? I never did find the path out. Gave up after 10/15 minutes or so. The harp is actually a fountain and the building beyond is the entrances to the underground ballrooms. The lobby of the hotel is on level 4, the restaurants are on level 3, the spa on the first level. Just beyond the labyrinth is this:
A secret garden! It seems that this can be included in ballroom rentals as well as there is a bar outfitted on the far right side.
The emergency exit signs in all the buildings in Ireland. The arrow changes direction depending on which direction you need to go, like pointing down for down a flight of stairs, etc. And yes this is just happens to be in the hall right outside our room on the 2nd floor (ground level with the gardens).
Around mid-afternoon we loaded up and drove to Bray to find a grocery store. The idea was to explore (love going into grocery stores in other parts of the USA – in Ireland I was spellbound!) as well as buy some prepackaged, precooked meals for dinner and breakfast the next morning.
Better milk jugs than what we have. I buy a line of milk from a local dairy farm here that packages in bottles with this same shape, just glass. Wish they used plastic as each glass bottle costs a $1.50 deposit (get it back when you bring back the bottle). It fits much better in my fridge so I can imagine that these are fantastic to have.
Eggs on the shelf on the right side. I knew this about Europe before going there but still thought it was cool to see. Cheese and yogurt on the left side.
So much tea and coffee! Not unusual though compared to a lot of groceries in the US – we have just as much. Just very different lines.
Curries on the left and the “Mexican/Tex-Mex” food selection there on the right. Hmmm. I wonder if the Irish know what they are missing out on?! I never did see a better selection than this in any place we went into. Nor did I see Mexican or Tex-Mex in a restaurant. But then again I wasn’t really looking either. Makes me a touch sad for them selection wise.
The previously mentioned curries. Do not have selection like that here.
There is a “Fridge Pack” of beans in the middle. Not used to that. But I don’t really like beans either. I pretty much like Boston Baked Beans and refried beans. That’s it.
The first shock at the grocery was paying for parking – a Euro for an hour! And then discovering that they had nothing pre-cooked or pre-made! How inconvenient and I don’t mean just for us. The few things they had would have had to been heated. We had no way to do that. So we bought a few bits and pieces (like breakfast for the next morning and more candy!) then headed back to the hotel to get dinner in the Sugar Loaf Lounge. Aside from breakfast we never ate in Gordon Ramsey. Probably should have this night.
This was some sort of mushroom soup with truffle oil I believe. I can’t find it on the menus online and I can’t remember what it was exactly. But it was good!
Fish and chips. The Belfast takeaway was better. Much better. And I hate peas so the mushy peas were gross.
Yes those are gold flakes on top. This was some beautiful chocolate mousse thing that the waitress recommended. Loved it.
After dinner I went swimming for the very last time in that amazing pool. Then it was a bit of TV and finally bed. Somewhere in all that I Facetimed my husband a few times as well since he wasn’t doing much on a Sunday.
Up next: The Cliffs of Moher, The Burren and dinner in a castle – our last actual day in Ireland.
May 25, 2013 § 2 Comments
I’m going to interrupt my Ireland posts for just a moment (new one tomorrow FYI) to say happy anniversary to my husband.
It’s been one year.
I can’t believe it’s been one year already. Though of course it has. My sister-in-law was pregnant at the wedding and now has 7 month old twin boys.
Granted being in Las Vegas right now would be awesome. I think we will just have to make due. Since I had to work today we are going out to dinner tonight to a finer steakhouse. I thought about taking today off ages ago but the trip to Ireland and then a 50th anniversary party as soon as I came back made me feel guilty about having another day off so soon (and besides I drained my PTO down past where I like to keep it, not anywhere near empty, but I would like to have a bigger cushion).
Besides I know us, we wouldn’t do anything grandiose anyhow. Matter of fact we aren’t even exchanging cards (I feel guilty throwing them away but honestly they are just preprinted sentiment and my husband isn’t one to write a love letter in one) or exchanging presents (I made him promise in the future that the only gifts we give each other involve experiences and travelling).
And yes, getting married on Geek Pride Day was totally intentional! I only wish I had had a towel at my wedding like a childhood friend of mine did (she got married a year ago today as well – so happy anniversary to her!).
Here’s to many more years to come!!
May 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Did not make the same mistake again for Day 2 in Dublin and was up by 8. This allowed us to have breakfast at Gordon Ramsey again.
And since we knew exactly where to go the drive into Bray was much much easier. And it was Saturday morning so no one was out and about. We rode the DART to Pearse Station in Dublin, around 40 minutes or so. From there it was a quick walk to Trinity College. I really wanted to get there by 9:30 when the Book of Kells exhibit opens. Got there just after 10 am however. Look at the line ahead of us.
Now check out the line after we left at about 11:15 or so.
Yup. Get there early or don’t bother. Seriously.
Anyhow back to the exhibit. You wait in line to enter and pay a cashier. €9 per person I might add!
From there you are shepherded through a one-way, no exit, exhibit with massive blown up photos of the Books. There are actually 4 total, 1 for each of the Gospels of the New Testament. No photos are allowed so you’ll just have to trust me when I say for a girl that loves the written word as much as I do, loves history as much as I do and was looking forward to nothing else in Dublin so much as this that I was unimpressed. I wanted to be impressed, I tried. But honestly they had other books in their collection on display that were more interesting and older! I think it is because they have only 2 books on display at any given time, one turned to a written page and one turned to a graphic page. You see more in photos of the books various pages. And that doesn’t include the massive herd of people around the display case.
My vote? Not worth it for the book. But it is worth a visit for the Old Library’s Long Room! Now that I was impressed with. A book lover’s dream!
Once you are done with the Book of Kells there is a staircase in the same black room. You have to go up the stairs to exit. At the top you encounter the Long Room. Do you recognize it? That’s right I geeked out not just visiting an awesome library but I was visiting on May the Fourth. Star Wars Day! And this library, in a digitized form, bears a striking resemblance to the Jedi Archives used in Episode II. Lucas says it wasn’t but I, like a lot of people, don’t believe it and never have. It’s the library.
This is not only massive but beautiful. I could take pictures here but with no flash and honestly for as bright as it was my pictures turned out poorly. I am not sure why but I had trouble both with my camera and my iPhone. My mother’s didn’t turn out at all. I am still going to share!
Down the center of the room are display cases filled with old books and manuscripts. All of which proved more interesting than the Book of Kells.
Off to the side is an non-descript display case containing this:
It is Ireland’s oldest and finest harp and their national symbol. Often called the Brian Boru harp though it dates to a time much after him. It could not be captured in pictures adequately but this is stunning.
After seeing everything I wanted to I went down a flight of stairs in the center of the room that pops you out into the shop. So of course I spent a bunch of money on things like postcards of the items I had just seen (I knew my pictures were bad) as well as jewelry and the like.
From there we walked to the next Hop-on Hop-off stop and waited for the next bus. We ended up getting the best guide EVER! Their buses have either prerecorded audio (for those that need another language besides English) or live tour audio. He was a live guide and so everything was said with his unique spin. I have no idea what his name was, nor did I take any video and I should have! He called everyone a Dipstick. At some of their better stops they have guys selling tickets for the bus. At one such stop he was trying to get the attention of the guy working the stop. He called Tommy several times very loudly then muttered “Tommy, you dipstick!” Bad drivers, and there are loads of them in Ireland as everyone follows way too damn close, were all dipsticks that needed to get out of his way. He called Dublin “Doob-linn”. A few others I met did too but his was noticeable. A blonde woman got on on one stop and he called her blondie. When she got off a few stops later he said something like bye-bye blondie and then under his breathe (as much as you can when you have a microphone strapped to your mouth) “probably peroxide but what do I know?”. He was a total hoot! I was sad getting off but each trip around is about 1 hour and 15 minutes and we were burning daylight oil.
So reluctantly we got off at the Guinness Storehouse. This was basically a very expensive brewery tour. Very expensive! With a 10% discount from our Hop-on Hop-off tickets it was €31 for 2 people! Even with a free pint on each ticket that is insane! All self-guided so you go in, get a bit of an introduction of Guinness and check out the original 9,000 year lease for the property embedded in the floor.
Video of the waterfall inside emphasizing how important water is to the beer, you do walk under the waterfall before walking around it and over it to get to the second floor:
Then you walk through, one way, a 7 story open air structure. Each floor is something different about Guinness and it’s history. I am scared of heights, did I mention that? By the time I got to the top I was terrified!
From the advertisement section. Why yes, yes it is.
But look at that view from Gravity Bar!!!
There is a bar where they teach you how to pour a proper pint but it is loud enough that you can learn without actually doing it. And besides the line was insane. I decided to just go to the top for mine. And I took video of of it too.
It was crowded but the views were stunning! A proper pint of Guinness at Guinness Storehouse with this view? Beats having a Guinness in Temple Bar right? Besides we already knew we were going to do dinner at the hotel pub that night. And while it is a hotel pub my experience is that hotel bars aren’t that much different than normal bars so I figured I was good with the two combined.
There was a group of guys singing as well, just because. The video sound sucks a bit but give it a shot, hopefully you can hear them ok.
Oh and did I mention it was crowded?
I loved this place. Still not sure it was worth the €31 but eh. Oh and I should add nearly everywhere I ordered a Guinness the price was about the same, €5, give or take. Even here if I wanted to buy another one beyond my freebie.
Once done with my pint I headed down via elevator (that was scary as hell since it was all glass down 7 stories but quick) and did some massive shopping in the gift shop. I brought home some whole grain mustard infused with Guinness that just totally rocks. They had just loads of different things. I picked up an ink pen with a bottle opener in the side for instance.
From there we were both tired and decided it was time to head back, slowly, to the hotel. So we caught the next Hop-on Hop-off to St Stephen’s Green. Incidentally I strongly recommend the red Hop-on Hop-off bus (there is red and green, different companies). We got 2 days worth of transportation for about $23 a person plus some great sites and tour guides. Whenever I go anywhere in the future I will definitely look up these buses to see if I can get such a great opportunity again.
From the bus: Georgian Square
From the bus: Christchurch Cathedral
The Viking Splash Tour “Bus” which hits the Viking highlights. Check out the horns!
St. Stephen’s Green
We walked through the park a bit to get to Grafton Street. Of course since it was Saturday it was packed with people. Dublin in general was packed. That wears you down quickly. At least me, an introvert.
We walked up Grafton Street with the idea to do some shopping. But my mother was done spending money and not really in the mood. All the people there killed any I had left.
Breakfast had tided us over but due to Bewley’s Oriental Café being right there on Grafton St I wanted to go in. Bewley’s is a major tea company and sold much of the tea I ended up bringing home. We couldn’t even really get across the street to visit nevermind how packed it was inside. So we ended up just walking by.
Lots of street performers of course.
The Tart with the Cart otherwise known as Molly Malone.
Walked the length of Grafton, oogled major stores I have desperately wanted to go in but walked to Tara Station to take the DART train back to Bray.
These two were so funny! Total strangers sat down next to each other on the DART and started chatting like old friends. They talked about all sorts of stuff including politics, taxes, etc. Very amusing to listen to for about 30 minutes or so before they both got off.
We arrived back at the hotel around 4:45-ish or so. After a bit of relaxing, Facetiming with my husband (he was having breakfast) and the like we had dinner in the hotel pub (this meal was part of our package so this was pre-planned). It was a busy weekend for the hotel staff though. Several weddings and parties going on and the pub is right next to the ballrooms which made for a string of wedding guests coming in, just like any hotel wedding.
And yes this Guinness tasted exactly the same as the Guinness I had earlier in the day. My summation is that all Guinness tastes exactly the same if poured properly.
After dinner I went swimming in that beautiful beautiful pool again. Then it was some TV and bed.