“Don’t listen to what they say, go see” ~ Chinese Proverb
Whenever I think back to my family’s trip to Ireland, it brings a swell of love and excitement in my heart. And a yearning to return. Ireland welcomed us with open arms, warm locals, and believe it or not, sunny skies.
What do I love about Ireland? Let me count all the things – the people, the scones, the green grass, the rolling hills, the stone walls, the sheep, the wild coast, the history, the ruins, the castles, the B&Bs, the pubs, the other visitors that we met, the chocolate, the ice cream cones that every shop seems to sell, everything, all of it.
It all started with a sort of medical reason. My college-aged son needed a procedure done on his eye that was not covered by insurance and was about half the price in Dublin as here in the states. So we decided to take the amount we would save on the procedure, and spend that amount on traveling to Ireland. What a deal!
We needed to be in the country for a little over two weeks, due to a follow-up visit with the eye doctor, so we ended up in Ireland for about 17 days. In preparation for our trip, after booking our tickets on Aer Lingus, I did a ton of research on TripAdvisor. I read a lot of advice on the message boards about the must-see places to visit, how long it takes to see everything, and the types of places to stay. It seemed like staying in bed and breakfasts was the best bet, so that is where we tried to stay at each stop, when possible. In America, staying in a bed and breakfast is usually more expensive than staying in a hotel, but in Ireland, happily, the opposite is true.
We made plans to traipse around Ireland in a general clockwise direction, beginning in the eastern side and ending in Galway, with a visit to the Dublin eye doctor near the beginning and at the end of our journey. It was a real struggle for me to not over-plan. I tend to want to cram as much as I can into our journey, while my husband, who has a stressful job, likes to enjoy a lot of relaxing along the way. So, keeping that in mind, we did not attempt to see any of Northern Ireland, or really anything north of Galway in Ireland. We also weren’t really able to visit the area of Cork, which had some really cool stuff to experience. I guess we will have to work those places into our next sojourn!
Packing for Ireland
Since I knew we would be doing a whole bunch of walking, and because in Ireland it usually rains a lot, and because it can be chilly in May, I tried to get us prepared for those conditions. I searched out comfortable rain-repellent or rain-resistant, easy-to-pack pants for all of us, waterproof walking/hiking shoes, light, packable raincoats, and tops and warm but light fleece jackets that we could layer and re-use. The goal was to fit everything we needed for two and a half weeks in our suitcases, without over-packing or over-stuffing.
In the process, I found the absolute best walking shoes for me. They are so comfortable – like instantly comfortable – and waterproof and a color I love. They are from Ahnu, and i can’t say enough good things about them. The soles are made by Vibram. They have held up very well – from our two and a half weeks of miles of walking around Ireland, to a week and a half of hiking trails in Utah and Arizona, to just every day use. I usually wear them when it is raining here at home, too. My husband and son got Merrell hiking shoes for the Ireland trip and they have done very well for them, also.
After getting some unsolicited advice from an avid hiker that we should avoid packing jeans, we found some light, easily packable water-resistant pants from Eddie Bauer. Thankfully, they were running a 40% off of everything sale at the time, and it wasn’t too hard on the wallet. We wanted to be able to wash some of our clothes in a sink or something if we didn’t have access to a washer and dryer and have them dry out pretty fast. I’m happy to report that it wasn’t really necessary, as we either had a washer and dryer available nearby or used a service to wash our clothes. Most towns around Ireland have something like that available. You drop your bag of dirty clothes off and a few hours later they are folded and ready for you to pick up. Very helpful!
For our tops, we tried to stick with things that we could easily layer on and off, including some fleece zip-ups that we purchased – Columbia brand for me and Eddie Bauer for the guys, and a light rain coats. I did quite a bit of research on rain coats and found some Marmot brand for the guys that had good ratings, yet didn’t cost hundreds of dollars. I think theirs were right around $100 a piece. With all the preparation for rainy Ireland, it ended up only raining for one full day and one half day – we were so happy about that!
Our Travel Plan and First Day
After landing in Dublin early in the morning, and getting our rental car along with a portable wifi device to power the GPS app on our mobile phone (Google maps), the plan was to head to the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens in Enniskerry and explore, then head to our first B&B. You know what they say about the best laid plans. Ha! The night before our flight to Ireland, my husband got an awful stomach bug and couldn’t leave the same day with us. When my son and I got our stick shift rental car without him, that’s when everything got very challenging.
First of all, my husband was supposed to drive, and I was going to navigate because I knew exactly where we were heading. Without him there, the roles shifted, and I became the driver of the left-handed stick shift, and my uninformed son became the navigator. Two strikes. Wait! I forgot to mention that we were driving on the left side of the road! Yikes! Three strikes!
I was a little freaked out by the stick shift. It worked differently than any I had ever driven because you had to push down to shift it into reverse. Well, I didn’t realize that, so I avoided the far left gear, thinking that was reverse. Every time I thought I was putting it in first, it was actually in third.
Then, I asked my son to put “Powerscourt” into the GPS so we could get to our first destination. But since he didn’t understand that we were going to Powerscourt Estate & Gardens, and I didn’t know that there was something else named Powerscourt in downtown Dublin, we ended up heading to an entirely wrong destination. In Dublin. Through freakishly narrow streets. On the wrong side of the road. In rush hour traffic. With lots of college students crossing the streets in front of us. Lots of stop and go traffic. And I couldn’t get it into first. So we kept stalling. Stalling at red lights. Stalling at stop signs. Stalling when we slowed down for the down town, rush hour, college student pedestrian traffic. It was a nightmare. A nightmare. I though I would die of stress. Oh, and I forgot to mention that when you are new to driving on the left side of the road and you are new to driving from the right hand side of the car, your perception is all thrown off and you keep hitting curbs with your left front tire. And you come dangerously close to any object on the left side of the car – other cars, car mirrors, stone walls, etc. Can you see it? Can you feel my stress?
When we finally figured out the mistake with the GPS and got the correct place lined up, we were able to begin heading out of the city and into the country side. And even though I still didn’t have the whole stick shift thing worked out, at least we weren’t stopping every few minutes for a red light or a stop sign and stalling out. Whew!
When we finally rolled into the parking lot at Powerscourt, my son and I were both SO relieved! I don’t think I have ever been so happy to get out of the car! But we were here. We had to wait a few minutes for the place to open and we were hungry after our long flight so we headed straight for their little cafe. And I purchased my first Irish scone with cream and jam (along with hot tea). When I took my first bite I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Oh. My. Goodness. Why don’t we serve this deliciousness in the USA? What is wrong with us? (We do serve scones here, but not the same!)
After refreshing our bodies and souls we walked around the magnificent gardens of Powerscourt. Unfortunately, we were in somewhat of a daze as we walked around, fueled by lack of sleep, so I am sure we didn’t enjoy it as much as we would have if we were fully awake. It was lovely.
After touring the gardens, we were so ready to find our B&B, that we tanked the other item on the agenda, which was visiting Glendalough, a beautiful valley with a Early Medieval monastic settlement. I’m sorry we missed it, but sometimes you can only do so much, plus it meant more driving. So, it was on to Lawcus Farm Guesthouse!
When we finally dragged our weary bodies to our B&B, we were so glad to take a short nap, find a pub for some dinner and then head to bed for the night. We absolutely loved our stay at our first Irish B&B. I will highlight this lovely lodging place in greater detail in my next post.
Before our trip to Ireland, I had read somewhere that when you travel, and the unexpected or challenging happens (and they inevitably will), just go with the flow, relax, and don’t get upset. So, with that mindset, all of the first day’s challenges didn’t get us down. We were in Ireland! I was so happy to be here. After all the planning and preparing, we were here, and looking forward to our future adventures.
Please come back for my next post about our Kilkenny adventures. Until next time, happy traveling!