Ireland, The Emerald Isle. What a beautiful Country!
My family and I recently took a trip from the US to Ireland. It was everything we had imagined and more.
First things first...some Ireland Travel Tips
I have an iPhone through Verizon. It didn't work, but I knew it wasn't going to. I have an iPad with a SIM card so on day 1 we went to Vodafone and for $29.99 Euros, they sold me an EU SIM card with a 5GB data plan. Not a bad deal and it came in very handy. I did find that their cell service isn't as fast as ours, but it got us through. WIFI at hotels, cafe's, etc. usually run about $20 Euro for 24 hours. Some places have it free, but we found that more places charge for WIFI than not.
Don't convert your cash at the Exchange place in baggage claim when arriving at the Dublin airport. Go through the doors just past baggage claim and there's an ATM. When you pull cash from the ATM, it'll dispense Euro's and there are no service fees. Your bank however, may charge a fee. The withdrawal will reflect in your account at that days exchange rate. A cab ride to Dublin will be about $25 Euro's, or there's a bus you can take that's much cheaper.
Keep enough cash on you to cover entrance fees. I found it odd that places like Blarney Castle, Cliff's of Mohar, various Abbey's, and various Castle's will only accept cash payment for entrance fees. Every gift shop that we saw did accept credit cards. Yes, swipe credit cards do work, the place of business just has to use a different machine. Every hotel we stayed at took major credit cards, and almost every restaurant we ate at took credit cards even though we paid with cash.
When taking a cab, ask if the driver is local. Until a few years ago, Ireland had a law that cab drivers had to be from Ireland in order to take the job. Now, anyone from any country can be a cab driver as long as they pass a test. I have a feeling one of our drivers didn't take his own test. We were going to the Shelbourne Hotel (where the Irish drafted their Constitution) and he couldn't find the place. I had to tell him where it was, he couldn't follow my directions and finally said "I think it's best that you get out of the cab".
If you're heading back to the US from Dublin, you'll need to get to the airport 2 hours early. You have to stand in line for your boarding passes, then through security, then through US Customs, then through TSA. We arrived 2 hours early and by the time we got to our gate we had about 10 or 15 minutes before they started to board the plane.
Enough of the travel tips. On with the trip!
The industry I work in affords me the opportunity to meet people from around the world. I had to travel to Germany back in September of 2009 for business. We did our fair share of touring while there. : ) I met a colleague (Craig) who was born and raised in Ireland and was a tour guide in his Country for a period of time. He told me if we ever wanted to go, he'd go with us and be our personal tour guide. Well, we took him up on his offer.
My wife and I got to Dublin early Tuesday morning, grabbed our bags, and caught a cab to our hotel. Our room wasn't ready when we checked in so we freshened up a bit in the hotel restroom, gave the bellman our bags and headed off to sight see. What an awesome city Dublin is. The capital of Ireland, pubs on every corner, parks, eateries, shops, and best of all, friendly people. You can seriously talk to almost anyone there. They love hearing an American accent as much as we love hearing their accent. We had a busy day, which kept us awake. We wanted to get use the time change as quickly as possible. We started a regimen of 5 hour energy drinks in the early afternoon and Tylenol pm at night time. It took about 2 days before we were able to sleep all night.
Craig, our friend and tour guide, arrived on Wednesday around 11am. He met us at the hotel, dropped off his bags, and immediately took us for a pint at several of his favorite watering holes. I'm not a big fan of Guinness, but when in Rome I thought I'd give it a try. It's absolutely delicious. We met a guy from California at the Brazen Head Pub (oldest pub in Ireland) who worked for Guinness. He said the oldest keg of Guinness in Ireland is not more than 10 days old. However, the kegs in the US are around 45 days old. Hence the difference in taste. It definitely goes down smooth over there and EVERY bartender knows how to pour the perfect pint. We continued our pub crawl through Dublin and had a great day. Eating, drinking, laughing, and preparing for the rest of the family to arrive the next day.
My dad, my brother, my sister-in-law, my niece, and my brother's best friend arrived Thursday morning. My brother rented a van for all of us to use during our tour of the Country. We were finding different write ups online that vans are smaller over there so we prepared and brought bungee cords in case we had to tie suitcases to the roof. The van was fine. It seated 8 of us comfortably and had plenty of room in the back for our luggage. We used http://www.cartrawler.com/ to find the vehicle we needed. They did a fantastic job. The single van was a little more expensive than 2 cars, but in the end, it was much easier having 1 vehicle vs. 2. The van was about 2 meters high so parking in garages was a bit tricky, but we managed. We did have to park in a disabled parking spot one night in Galway. We talked to the parking attendant and they were perfectly fine with it as they had plenty of other disabled spots open. We gave them our hotel/room information so if something came up they could reach us. Because the van was a bit larger than most cars there, it was a little tricky navigating the roads, but my brother lives in England and he did all the driving so it wasn't really an issue.
We headed out Saturday morning for Galway and did plenty of sightseeing along the way. Clonmacnoise, Kilbeggan Distillery, and a nice little eatery. The next day we headed to Cork. On the way we saw Dunguaire Castle, had lunch in Doolin before going to the The Cliff's of Mohar. The day after, up to Kilkenny via beautiful countryside. On the way to Kilkenny we stopped off at Blarney Castle. The line to kiss the stone was about a 2 hour wait. We opted to walk the grounds for 2 hours instead. What a GREAT decision! While in Kilkenny, we toured the Kilkenny Castle, and St. Canice's Cathedral. Then finally, Waterford. On the way to Waterford we drove Magic Road and climbed up to the waterfalls at Mahon Falls. The next day, we headed to Dublin and stopped off in Glendalough. Absolutely beautiful! We hiked through the park and saw lots of scenery including waterfalls, lakes, mountains, the oldest gate in Ireland as well as the oldest Celtic Cross in Ireland. After leaving Glendalough, we passed the Wicklow mountains and stopped off in the seaside town of Bray. We walked around for a bit, had a pint, then on to Dublin for our last night in Ireland.
It all went too quick. We had such a great time and got to see tons of places. I'd do it again in a heartbeat and probably stay longer.
Pictures of the trip can be seen in album 1 and album 2 on my facebook page. All pics in these 2 albums were taken using only my iPhone 4. I did this to see if I really need to take a pocket cam. I try to stay as lean as possible when I pack.