Ireland, Days 1–3: Dublin

We started our Ireland trip with a long weekend in Dublin, and the very first thing we did on Saturday morning was buy suncream from the Boots near our B&B. Why would one do that in Ireland you ask? Well, this:

Ha'Penny Birdge lantern
Ha’Penny Bridge lantern

The above photo shows one of the lanterns on the Ha’penny Bridge. And behind it? Nothing but blue sky! And the weather continued to be like that for the entire time we were in Dublin. Or at least until we were walking back from the pub on Monday night, which is good enough for me.

Once we were all suncreamed up, we walked on towards town where the first touristy thing we came across was St. Stephen’s Green. We saw swans with cygnets! And also ducks, seagulls and a very cute little girl feeding all the birds (even the pigeons). Then we discovered that the waterfall that’s drawn on the map was a lie, so we went and looked for the statue of The Fates instead, and found out that it had been a gift to the city of Dublin from Germany.

St Stephen's Green
St Stephen’s Green
The Fates
The Fates

Next came shopping because the other female in the group had forgotten to bring a hat out with her and the sun was HOT! We visited TK Maxx first and I looked at sunglasses while she looked at hats, but neither of us found anything. Next stop was Claire’s, where I actually found a pair of sunglasses that suited me (miracle!!) and my friend purchased a fabulous straw hat with cat ears!! Then we stopped by a fancy dress/joke shop, where we had our first encounter with horses heads. We did not buy Charlie at that point though.

Once the girly shopping type stuff was done, we headed towards the river and then on to Leo Burdock’s – Dublin’s oldest fish and chip shop. We arrived at just the right time – there was no queue when we got there and a huge one by the time we left! It being such a gorgeous day, we took our food across the road and ate it on the grass round the back of Christchurch Cathedral, watched by a very well behaved seagull. After he’d let us take several photos of him and not attempted to steal any of our food, we rewarded him with fish. Then we walked into the grounds of the cathedral, where there was a stall selling fudge of various kinds. Jan and I got four varieties: Chocolate, chocolate orange, honeycomb and rum & raisin. Yum, yum!!

Yum yum!
Nom, nom, nom!

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around looking at various things, failing to see Dublin castle because it’s closed to the public while Ireland is hosting the EU presidency, hanging round in a cute little garden near the castle, sneakily using the facilities at the Chester Beatty Library and going inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral before ending up back at the joke shop where we decided we did want a horses head after all.

Inside St Patrick's Cathedral
Inside St Patrick’s Cathedral

Next on the agenda was a cocktail at a bar called Dandelion. The drinks came in plastic glasses and while mine tasted okay it was so weak you could barely tell there was alcohol in it. If you want to drink cocktails, don’t bother with this place! Following our unimpressive cocktails, we went off in search of food, which we found at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen. I quite enjoyed my avocado and bacon beefburger – at least it had a decent amount of bacon in it! Other members of the group were less impressed with their choices though.

Avocado and bacon burger
Avocado and bacon burger

The food thing out of the way, it was time for a few drinks in a real Irish pub… and for some fun with Charlie the horse.

Charlie stole my hat!
Charlie stole my hat!

And thus concludes day one.

The next day was Trinity College day. We decided to pay 10 euros for the tour plus Book of Kells, rather than 9 for just the book. The tour was interesting and out tour guide (David) was pretty cool. The exhibition on the Book of Kells was quite informative, but the book itself was precisely as underwhelming as our Lonely Planet had warned us it would be – with all the many people crowding around it, there simply wasn’t time to get a proper look at  all the detail on the pages. However, the Long Library which you go through to get from the Book to the exit was AMAZING! So many old books… it was like I’d died and gone to heaven!

Lovely, lovely books!
Lovely, lovely books!

It being Sunday, we wanted to look for a roast dinner, but in the end we didn’t actually find one. We went to a pubcalled Slattery’s where I did have some very nice roast chicken, but it came with chips, which is just not the same thing at all. We also spent quite some time persuading a couple of the boys that it’s perfectly okay to order a soft drink in a pub!

Food done, we walked through the shopping area for a bit and finally came to O’Connell Street and the famous Spire of Dublin (officially the Monument of Light for reasons I am unable to fathom).

The Spire of Dublin
The Spire of Dublin

Again, note the blueness of the sky! We couldn’t have had better weather in Dublin if we’d programmed it ourselves!

The next stop was the Garden of Remembrance, where we watched some local kids climb the statue and then scram when the Garda (Irish police) turned up. Very entertaining! Shortly after that, we were asked to leave because the place was closing, so we went and had ourselves a nice cup of tea instead. Charlie was ready for a cuppa too after all that walking!

Aah... a nice cup of tea!
Aah… a nice cup of tea!

Once everyone was refreshed, we walked back down to the river to take photos of more bridges and check out the Famine Memorial.

A very good question to ask of a bridge...
A very good question to ask of a bridge…
The River Liffey and the Harp Bridge (officially Samuel Beckett Bridge)
The River Liffey and the Harp Bridge (officially Samuel Beckett Bridge)
Famine Memorial in the evning sun
Famine Memorial in the evening sun

We finished the day at another pub, where I chose to drink Swedish cider rather than Irish beer and where we discovered an interesting flavour of crisps.

Very Irish crisps!
Very Irish crisps!

Sadly, the taste was rather disappointing. I’ve no idea what shamrock should taste like, but these just tasted like plain old sour cream flavour to me.

On our third and final day in Dublin, the group split up with three of us getting up early to go to Kilmainham Gaol while the other three had a lie in before going shopping. I was with the Kilmainham Gaol group, as I had wanted to go there the last time Jan and I were in Dublin but didn’t get the chance. Both the museum and the guided tour were very informative and at times I found myself almost feeling ashamed to be British –for example after hearing about how James Connolly, one of the ringleaders of the 1916 uprising, who was unable to stand to be executed and was instead tied to a chair to be shot. No wonder so many Irish people hate us!

The "New" east wing of KIlmainham Gaol
The “new” east wing of KIlmainham Gaol

The serious business of the jail done, it was off to the park opposite where we discovered signs with various animals on. There was a sheep, a hedgehog, a squirrel, a cat and this fox:

Foxy!
Foxy!

We then needed change for the bus back in to town (if anyone is going to Dublin be warned: buses are generally correct change only and no notes are allowed – the only exception is the airport express!). We popped into Spar to see if we could buy something and discovered this:

It's a chocolate bar... with crisps in it?!
It’s a chocolate bar… with crisps in it?!

Yes, that really is a chocolate bar with pieces of cheese and onion crisps in. Surprisingly it worked quite well, although I wouldn’t want to eat a whole bar!

Back in town we met up with the others and the two girls went for a hair cut (something I have yet to bring myself to do in Germany). Freshly cut and blow dried, we headed to the café next door where the boys were waiting and had a sandwich before heading on to our next activity: a tour of the Old Jameson Distillery. For all those who are thinking of doing the tour… don’t bother!! It’s basically a giant advert for Jameson’s and a total tourist trap!! However, the hot whiskey cocktails we had in the bar afterwards were incredibly tasty, so you could always pop along just for that!

Jameson's Irish coffee
Jameson’s Irish coffee

Whiskey drinking done, we walked back to the town centre to spend out last evening eating and drinking at O’Neill’s bar on Suffolk Street. I may not have got my Sunday dinner the day before, but the carvery at this place more than made up for it!! I had turkey and ham with all the trimmings and I also got to try some of my friend’s lamb, which was amazing!! The food was so good that nobody even thought about taking photos until every last bite of all six meals had been demolished. I’m feeling hungry all over again just typing this!!

And that was the end of our trip to Dublin. Next up: ROAD TRIP!!

Ireland – My Favourite Things

I will be providing you with a map of the route we took in Ireland as soon as I figure out how, but for now here are some of my personal favourite things from the trip.

1. Irish friendliness. Anything you’ve heard about how friendly Irish people are is 100% true!! In fact, we only encountered one unfriendly Irish person throughout our entire two-week stay (at the Cliffs of Moher, in case you were wondering). Just to give one example of the extreme friendliness and determination to help: On the final day of our initial stay in Dublin, I went with Jan and another member of the group to Kilmainham Gaol (very interesting by the way, and well worth a visit). The bus driver not only announced our stop (Irish – and UK – buses don’t do this automatically), but asked us to wait a few minutes before getting off so he could direct us to the jail. Another passenger who was waiting to get off then interrupted to say he works just opposite and would be happy to show us the way. Not only did he then deliver us right to the entrance, but he also pointed out a park opposite (actually the grounds of an art gallery) where we might like to go for a walk after our tour. All together now: Awwww!

The "New" east wing of KIlmainham Gaol - we were told it's been used in various films/TV series so some of you may recognise it
The “New” east wing of KIlmainham Gaol – we were told it’s been used in various films/TV series so some of you may recognise it

2. Being able to order a cup of tea with milk without either being looked at like I’ve just grown an extra head or – even worse – being brought coffee creamer instead!

3. Buying a horse head on our very first day in Dublin, naming it Charlie (because that way it could be either male or female) and proceeding to take photos of each other wearing it all over Ireland.

Charlie in a field
Charlie in a field

4. The full Irish breakfast at the B&B we stayed at in Dublin (Waterloo Lodge… highly recommended!). And bumping into the butcher on our way out on the first day! No Tesco Everyday Value sausages at that place…

5. The amazing carvery meal we ate at a place called O’Neill’s in Dublin. I have no photo to share with you because I had inhaled it before the idea of photos even occurred to me…

6. Kilkenny. All of it. The highlights being: i) The cute kitty we discovered hanging around the graveyard of St. Canice’s Cathedral. I’m not usually a cat person, but this kitten was soo soft! ii) Blaa Blaa Blaa sandwiches… and the lovely ladies who worked there. iii) The sweet shop next door to the sandwich place, where I discovered Jedward chocolate bars and also bought a bag of the most delicious cherry boiled sweets. iv) Going for a few drinks with an English girl who worked at the hostel we stayed in and playing “I have never”. Fun!

Blaa Blaa Blaa

7. The ruins of Kells Priory, located just outside the village of Kells in County Kilkenny. Basically a giant adventure playground for adults! You have to brave a lot of sheep droppings to get there, but once you do it’s well worth it. My photos do not do it justice at all… this thing must have been absolutely huge when it was in one piece!!

Part of Kells Priory
Part of Kells Priory
More of Kells Priory
More of Kells Priory

8. This bridge over the River Barrow in the village of Leighlinbridge. I took sooo many photos of it! The walk along the river was pretty nice as well.

Google tells me this is a valerian stone bridge, and Wikipedia adds that it's from the 14th century and thought to be one of the oldest functioning bridges in Europe
Google tells me this is a valerian stone bridge, and Wikipedia adds that it’s from the 14th century and thought to be one of the oldest functioning bridges in Europe

9. The tour we took of the Rock of Cashel – our guide was so enthusiastic and informative! I can’t remember half of what he said now, but at the time it was very interesting! I do remember that the reason the monks who lived there eventually abandoned the rock was the weather… and I can well believe it given the wind on the day we were there!

Part of the Rock of Cashel (can anyone else see the face on the left-hand side?)
Part of the Rock of Cashel (can anyone else see the face on the left-hand side?)

10. Taking photos of the sunset at Ladies View on the Ring of Kerry. Although the part where we got eaten alive by midgees was much less fun!

My friend admiring the sunset at Ladies View
My friend admiring the sunset at Ladies View

11. The adorable thatched cottages in Adare.

One of the thatched cottages in the village of Adare
One of the thatched cottages in the village of Adare

12. Seeing a puffin at the Cliffs of Moher. Unfortunately it was too fast to photograph, so here’s a picture of the cliffs themselves. Also, we were told The Princess Bride was filmed there, so I now need to watch that film again and see if I recognise anything!

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

13. The pies we ate in Galway! If you ever find yourself there, you must go to a place called The Pie Maker!! I was able to try three savoury pies (pork sausage in veal gravy pie, roast beef pie and chorizo, mozzerella and pesto pie) as well as one sweet one – the rubarb and ginger. All four were delicious! And at only €9 for a savoury pie, gravy and mushy peas (or pie, salad and wedges) it’s an absolute bargain, too! A photo will follow once I request it from my friend (my camera’s battery had run out at this point). **Edited to add: PIE!!**

Pie, glorious pie!
Pie, glorious pie!

14. This adorable puppy who we met at the top of Diamond Hill in the Connemara National Park.

Gorgeous puppy!
Gorgeous puppy!

15. The cute little cafe in Dublin that Jan and I stopped at to write postcards shortly before we left for our flight home. The cake I ate there was nice enough, but nothing special, but the cafe itself was adorable… and also cheap!

Cafe Oya... I loved the wall decorations!
Cafe Oya… I loved the wall decorations!

And there you have it… my 15 favourite things from our trip. More Ireland posts will follow shortly…