Ireland Road Trip
If you follow me Instagram, I’m sure you’ve gathered that I went to Ireland a few weeks ago with a friend. Ireland was the perfect place to go for a girl’s trip! It was scenic, the people spoke English (ish), there was live music in all of the pubs, the people (for the most part) were exceptionally kind, the accommodations were decently affordable, and the citizens of Ireland love to have a good time. If you are planning your own trip to Ireland, you might also want to check out our original ambitious itinerary. This post will be a bit of information plus a little story telling with a 9-minute video at the end because I couldn't upload all of the photos that I wanted without freezing your computer.
The jet lag was no joke. We left New York at 10:30 pm, and had a 6.5-hour flight, but due to the time difference we arrived in Dublin at 10:00 am. I did not sleep on the plane, and thus the dependency on extreme amounts of caffeine began. We checked into our hotel, the Fleet Street Hotel, which was very close to the Temple Bar scene, which was nice but at night it was VERY noisy. I think a man was kicking a trash bag of aluminum cans down the street at 3:00 am for an hour straight.
In Dublin, we checked out Trinity College, The Old Library (Book of Kells), walked down Grafton street, the Dublin Castle, toured the Guinness Factory and went out that evening in the Temple Bar area. We were told by the locals that the Temple Bar area is super touristy, crowded, and expensive. The cool thing about a "touristy" spot in Ireland, is that it's not a gaggle of Americans in sneakers wearing their backpacks backward. It's instead, a total multi-cultural experience. We were surrounded by people from all over the world, no one speaking English well, but yet everyone singing along to the live Irish band as they sang, Johnny Be Good and various other random 90's and early 00's tracks (what?!). It was a real 'We are the World' moment set to the melodious voice of Fergie Ferg.
RENTING A CAR
The next morning we took a bus for 6 Euro back to the airport to pick up our rental car. The rental car pick up took quite a bit longer than we had anticipated. We were waiting for our car for almost an hour, and then learned that they had somehow lost it? Yes, that's a question, not a statement. I still don't understand. They upgraded us to an Audi for making us wait, which ended up being horrible because it had snazzy fuel conservation features that shut off the engine every time you stopped. This plus the newness of driving a stick with the wrong hand and driving on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road was all a bit too much. We thought it best to pay for the upgrade to get an automatic. I didn't drive at all because I know the limits of my own spatial awareness. BE WARNED: there are minimal automatic cars to rent, so you pay several hundred dollars (Euros) more for one, but for us it was worth it.
Now that you have your car, prepare yourself to drive on the narrowest roads, the steepest cliffs, and through approximately one thousand round-abouts, while your passenger screams every 25 seconds, "You're too close to the edge!!!" You're welcome, Gwen. You're welcome.
Drive to Northern Ireland. Just do it. It was a little over 2 hours "out of the way," but it was SO worth it. Northern Ireland is part of the U.K., so it was interesting to see the streets lined with flags, and the switch in the residents' accents. Giant's Causeway was so breathtaking. We arrived much later than we had originally planned, but we were able to soak up several hours traipsing around the extremely plush green fields and spinning in circles like fraulein Maria. We left close to sunset, which was around 9:30, and were famished. Luckily, we had received a nearby dinner recommendation, Harry's Shack, that was right on a beach. Unfortunately, we spent a few too many moments frolicking near the water and being mocked by teenager's speaking in their best American accents, and the Shack closed their grill. The kind cooks and manager, however, threw together a salad and some fish and chips, with a few coffees to get us through the remaining two-hour late night drive to Sligo.
We arrived in Sligo at about 1:00 am, and checked into our hotel the, Glasshouse Hotel. We woke up and realized that our room overlooked a little river, a lovely surprise. The next morning we walked to Kate's Kitchen for coffee and pastries, and then walked around the town a bit. We checked out the Sligo Abbey Ruins and then drove around to a few scenic spots before heading to Galway. Sligo was cold and rainy that day, so it was a quick visit. There were several more outdoorsy things that we had wanted to do there, but we headed to Galway instead due to the weather.
We happened to be in Galway for “the races.” Which we learned are similar to the Kentucky Derby. All of Ireland was in Galway that weekend, and they were dressed to the nine’s in their fanciest dresses and fascinators and European fitted suits. I wore stained brown booties that I had considered throwing out last winter but didn't, because I’m a fancy lady. Galway was our first AirB&B experience of the trip. We stayed at a girl's apartment, where her roommate was also presently living This fact was unbeknownst to me at the time of booking, and was still a surprise at the time of our arrival. Surprise #2 was that we did not have access to a functional shower. We were in Galway for two nights, on the first night the water would not come out of the showerhead, but it was warm. So we took bucket baths. The second night, the water came out of the showerhead but was freezing cold. So we took ice baths.
The local radio stations all spoke of the races, and their conversations centered almost entirely on how young single men should and shouldn't approach young single women. A total pheromone fest. "Young" is a relative term. I learned that first marriages occur much later in life, like around mid-30's (this is partially due to the fact that divorce only relatively recently became an acceptable practice).
So, it should go without saying, that if you are a single lady or have a group of single lady friends, go to Galway during the races. Or maybe don't go if you are easily overwhelmed by gaggles and gaggles of well-dressed men drinking on the streets and playing bravado games like, "let's watch to see how long this lad can hold onto this slippery pull-up bar." You can wander freely from bar-to-bar with drinks in hand. The security guards at the entrances are there to check to make sure you aren't bringing glass in the street. They are NOT standing there to check your ID, and they WILL laugh at you.
On our second day, we booked a round trip to the Aran Islands. I believe it was about 20 Euro for a round trip bus and ferry ride. We just walked into a tourist reservation spot on the square. While on the island we rented bikes and rode to Dun Aonghasa, which I HIGHLY recommend. I also bought my husband a traditional Aran Sweater on the island. The Aran Islands made for a pretty long day, but the bus and ferry ride were beautiful and scenic. There was much more to see and explore in Galway, I would definitely go back.
CLIFFS OF MOHER AND County KERRY
You'll see in the video that I lost my mind on the Cliffs of Moher. Laughing is my go-to reaction for most things in life. Naturally, I laugh when things are funny, but what constitutes "funny" is very broad for me. I laugh at really inappropriate times like when things are awkward and especially when conditions are miserable. This includes walking directly into hurricane winds on a steep and treacherous cliff while wearing the most inappropriate footwear and watching the expression on my friend's face become more and more visibly miserable as the soaking winds whipped her hair, her summer shoes, and her white pants while others passed by in full rain resistant hiking garb.
After we made it back to the car, we took a Ferry to County Kerry, which neither of us had done before. Make sure you have cash!
Driving through Kerry felt like we were driving through a dream. We arrived late, at the Moan Laur B&B, but the host was fantastic. She called the local restaurant (one of two local restaurants) to let them know we’d be heading their way so they'd wait for us before turning off the grills. She was a fantastic host and cooked us a delicious warm breakfast the following morning. We drank from a french press while chatting with a french woman who was on holiday with her two children. She spoke of her 10-year-old's obsession with posting selfies on Instagram. Selfies cross the cultural divide.
Dingle/Ring of Kerry
After breakfast, we drove to Dingle, an adorable coastal town. It had super cute shops and restaurants so we walked around a bit and stopped for some ice cream. We kicked around seeing the Dingle Dolphin but opted not to. From Dingle, we drove to the Dunlop gap.
Story Time. She might kill me, but I'm sharing this story anyways. My two favorite moments from this trip will probably make you question my sanity. The windy miserable Cliffs of Moher was one. This is the second.
The wind was once again blowing extremely hard. We were walking on a narrow roadway that only local traffic was allowed to travel and were surrounded on every side by the greenest mountains, horses and sheep grazing the fields, and a river running through it all. I felt a child-like urge to run and jump into the sky and let the wind carry my body. I landed several meters from where I jumped, giggled with glee, and jumped several times more. My friend watched for nearly a minute from a distance with type-A reservation. Finally, she mentally talked herself Into joining in on the fun. She took a running leap into the air and WAS IMMEDIATELY HIT BY A CAR. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that SHE hit the car. Either way, the moment she leaped sideways there was a loud and shocking thud of a body bumping hard into a side door. The car was going extremely slow, so I knew the only thing hurt was her pride. Before I could even ask if she was ok, I burst out laughing and couldn't stop. The car stopped twice before pulling away as she hid her face, mortified wanting only for them to leave. She said, "I'm fine! I'm so sorry! Please go, I'm fine!" I doubled over as tears sprang from my eyes when the car stopped once more, asking again if she was certain that she was ok. She eventually joined me and laughed. If that isn't some horrible metaphor for life, I don't know what is. Look before you leap, I suppose.
We stayed at another spot that we booked through Air B&B. A shared apartment with a married couple. This one was very clean and lovely. It was probably about a mile from the city, but we took a cab, because, you guessed it, it started to rain. Our cab driver recommended a few places for dinner and drinks, and we ended up at two establishments that I would also definitely recommend, The Oliver Plunkett and The Secret Garden. Prior to coming to Cork, we learned from other Irish folks that the people in Cork, believe that Cork is the best city on earth. I must admit, I really liked it as well. The next morning we ate at The Old English Market, a bustling little fresh market with fresh restaurants. The city is small and quaint, with unique little shops and alleyways where even more restaurants and bars are tucked, and the people we met that evening were the best yet.
Back To Dublin
Our last night was spent in Dublin, a 2-3 hour drive from Cork, and I was definitely starting to feel the cycle of zero sleep, excessive amounts of coffee by day followed by cider at night with zero intensive exercise in-between. I was able to pull it together after a brief nap for our last night out. We dined at the very chic and delicious, Sophie’s and then grabbed a pint at Whelan's, which is apparently where this scene occurred:
The night ended quietly, and we woke early the next morning for our flight home!
A few expressions that consistently caught us off guard:
· “How’s the craic?” (Pronounced: crack)
· “You Alright?”
· “Oh, Fook Off” (f*ck off)
How’s the craic? When asked “how’s the crack” I responded, “I’m sorry?” To which they repeated, “How’s the crack?” To which I said, “No, I heard you. I just don’t understand what it is you’re asking me. What kind of vibe am I putting off? I’m assuming “crack” means something extremely different for you than it does me?” Turns out. It does.
How’s the craic, or what’s the craic... meaning: what's good, what’s fun, what’s happening, how’s it going, how are you.
YouAlright? When ordering at a restaurant or pub, the bartender or waitress would greet you by asking, “You Alright?” To which we would consistently respond, “Yes!” but before we could then say, “but I’d like to order a .....” The waitress/bartender would walk away.
“Are you alright?” or “You alright?” was almost always asked in a tone that I would use if I were to approach an elderly woman who appeared distraught on a city sidewalk, so it was always our knee-jerk reaction to respond with a confident and reassuring, “Yes!” As if to say, “I’m ok! I’m not distraught or upset!” To which they would take to mean, “I would not like to order anything. I am to this pub for the air, and that's all.” This happened So. Many. Times.
Fook Off. To be fair, sometimes this was said in response to a sarcastic comment; however most often it went something like this:
Irish Person (usually in a pub): “Where ya’s from?”
Me, “Originally, Missouri, Currently I live in Washington DC...America.”
Irish Person: “Ooooh Fook Off!”
Me: (slightly startled) “Umm... “
Irish Person: “You here for holiday, then?”
Irish Person: “Why would you come to Ireland for your holiday?”
Me: “Ireland is amazing!
Irish Person: “Oooh Fook Off!
Later I learned that it’s not a big deal to tell someone to fook off, or at least it’s more casual than it is here... or maybe all of Ireland was fooking with me?
What's that? You haven't heard enough about my Ireland vacation, and now you want the visuals to match? Ok, fine but only if you insist. Now gather around my projector and let me show you movies of my vacation like people were forced to do in the good ol' days. If you watch this entire video, you are probably one of three relatives:
One Last Thing:
Things that will make you seem like a cliche American girl in Ireland:
Requesting Galway Girl
Mentioning P.S. I Love You
Requesting Ho Hey!
Check. Check. Check.
I think my job here is done.
I was asked about what I did for hair tools with the European Outlets. I had good look with these three purchases below:
And of course, my favorite dry shampoo to keep my locks fresh and oil-free between washes.