Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Journey to Our Home Land - Ireland (well kind of)

Ireland - May 1 - 5, 2013 

Americans always associate ourselves - first as Americans (sorry South America) but second by where our family heritage comes from. It is a pretty interesting observation because most other places in the world - don't. And pretty much because if you are from there, you have hundreds of years of family who also are from there.

For Chris and I - it is Ireland (along with some other countries - on both sides but save those for later travels).

Besides seeing where at one point our relatives once lived, Ireland is a country we have both been talking about visiting for some time. If you ever speak with anyone who has visited, you would be hard pressed to hear anything negative about it - which when it comes to traveling and peoples opinions - it is pretty hard to come by a place everyone seems to love.

As soon we land - we get it. We arrive in Dublin and take the bus to the city center. Dublin is clean, beautiful and charming. To celebrate our arrival - we head straight to the bar which is supposed to have one of best (if not the best) pours in town: Bowe's (Located at 31 Fleet Street).

And we don't stop there: Next stop Palace Bar (also known for a good pour) for a shot of Jameson and another Guinness. This bar is more my style but both worth the trip.

Sláinte (Cheers in Gaelic)
(Note: The sign of a good pour, pull from the tap and then let it sit before serving)

To finish off our first night - we head to a new trendy restaurant called Rustic Stone. The chef there is making a name for himself in Dublin - we highly recommend the dining experience to anyone visiting Ireland.

May 2, 2013 - Tour Dublin then Head to Galway via Train

My favorite author of all time is Maeve Binchy. She was an Irish author introduced to me by my mom. I have read every single one of her books - and in love to say the least. This trip for me is the chance to complete my collection with her last book she wrote before her passing - in the country she so eloquently writes about. One of our first stops is to a book store to purchase A Week in Winter. 

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

We continue walking around Dublin to see the sites: St. Stephen's Green (an extremely beautiful park in the middle of Dublin - a good place to bring a book or just wander around), Trinity College (a beautiful college campus), Grafton Street (a must see - part of the charm), College Bar area (this is where we stayed), the River Liffey and all the charming details that make Dublin so brilliant. We stop for a quick bite to eat - then make our way on foot to the train station (note: we did not do the Guinness Factory but the thing is huge - it is near the train station.)

St. Stephen's Green
Bridge in St. Stephen's Green

Trinity College
The River Liffey
When deciding to head to Ireland - the easy part is choosing the country, the hard part is deciding what to see and do. For us, we decided on the west coast for this trip (besides the fact we flew into Dublin). The train system in Ireland is very easy and a nice way to get around. A lot of locals recommended the bus as a cheaper option - since we don't really like other people's driving skills (and on the wrong side of the road - and after a fun night drinking) - we opt for the train. Whether you take the train or the bus, it drops you off in the center of Galway.

For us, our journey doesn't stop there, we take a quick tour of the park in the center of Galway then make our way to Budget to pick up our car rental. Interestingly enough, that morning I read a sign that says, "When was the last time you have done something, you've never done before." Well, today - having Chris drive left hand stick shift on the wrong side (left side) of very narrow roads in the Irish country side. For being the world's worst back seat driver, I think I was too nervous to even comment on anything so we just laughed when we stalled out or when looking at the passing cars and thinking no way are we both fitting. But, Chris did an amazing job navigating the roads and driving left hand stick.

Spanish Point in Miltown Malbay
As we made our way to Spanish Point in Miltown Malbay we passed some beautiful and quaint Irish villages. As we arrive to our cute hotel Bellbridge House Hotel in County Clare (which didn't seem to have an address besides Spanish Point - good thing we live in the 21st century and could do a street view to know what it would look like), it is still light out. We check in and get settled and then head to Barrtra's for dinner at the recommendation of the hotel, to our surprise it was 9:00pm and didn't even know because it looked like 7:00pm out. Dinner was AMAZING to say the least! For anyone visiting Miltown Malbay or Lahinch - it is a must! We highly recommend the Surprise Menu which is as advertised, a surprise 3 course dining experience.We loved it so much we went two nights in a row and consider it one of the best dinning experiences we've ever had. Click here for our review and others of the restaurant.  

Romantic table for two with our name
The tastiest little crab claws every in butter and garlic
Smoked Salmon
Homemade Dessert for Two
May 3, 2013 - Cliffs of Moher, Drive along the West Coast (R477) and The Burren

Ireland is a country full of beauty and breathtaking sites. It is just as we have imagined it would be. Today is extremely winding but not stopping us from getting out. We stop in Lehinch for some coffee (Irish for me) and a walk on the beach. We laugh at the guys actually trying to play golf today. We then make our way to the Cliffs of Moher. Breathtaking. While the site itself is a little touristy - walk past were everyone is and you have your own stunning views.

Cliffs of Moher
We hop in the car and continue up one of the world's prettiest roads R477 - Atlantic Ocean to your left and the Burren to your right (we were headed North). Wild horses along the coast, ocean breeze - a good time to stop and take it all in.

Our little car - The Burren

The Burren - leading up to the ocean

Wild Horses

Wild Horse along the road

The road takes you into a little town called Ballyvaughan overlooking Galway Bay in North Clare. We stop into Monk's for seafood chowder. Pretty clear where New England Clam Chowder comes from.

We decide for the ride back to stop into small towns rather than take the R477 route back. Along the road you notice old cemeteries along the road. It is worth stopping and walking around one if you have the chance.

Cemetery along the road R479

May 4, 2013 - Doolin Caves and Galway

Before we make our way back to Galway, we detour into Doolin for the Doolin Cave. We were told to go at 10:00am when they open to get the first tour of the caves and it was perfect because we had a private tour which was pretty awesome. It is known for the longest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere.
Doolin Lovers

And because we were the only ones there, I was able to touch the clay which is a few million years old and carve in: KH + CH as well as walk through the river to see where it ends. Making history. One interesting fact we learned was Ireland used to be tropical - they actually have a fossil of coral in the wall. The history of the place is pretty fascinating as well - worth a visit - and you get to wear cool hard helmets.

We wrap up there and make our way to Galway. We don't have a hotel in mind here and didn't realize it was a holiday weekend for Ireland so lots of places were full. Luckily, we found Jury Inn Hotel had one room left so we took it. Galway is very much a city for us. It reminds us a lot of P-Town, Mass. Tons of restaurants, art, cute shops and a community feel to it (and one the water). We recommend just walking to see it all: Spanish Arch, Eyre Square, Galway Cathedral, Claddagh Park, Bay of Galway and more. For the best fish and chips in all of Ireland - be sure to visit: McDonagh's. Huge portions but delicious.

May 5, 2013 - That's all she wrote

We take the early morning train back to Dublin. From the train station, we catch the bus to the airport. We choose the top level front row for a nice tour of Dublin before we make our way to the airport and head back to Wroclaw. 

Travelers Note: 

Our Trip Adviser review of the Rustic Stone

Our Trip Adviser review of Barrtra


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