Monday, September 1, 2014

Our Irish Holiday: Part I

Hello America and Happy Labor Day!

Ryan and I landed back in Boston yesterday afternoon from our AMAZING holiday in Ireland! After journaling for the past week and sorting through 843 pictures (we may have gotten a little picture happy) yesterday, I am so excited to document and share our journeys with you all!

Day 1: Last Saturday night, Ryan and I got on to a plane in Boston around 9 p.m. with pillows and blankets in hand, ready for our overnight flight to Dublin. After a rough night's "sleep" on board, we hopped off the plane at 8:30 a.m. Ireland time, ready to hit the town!

Our first stop was to Dan Dooley rental car desk to pick up our sweet ride for the week! We ended up with a Renault Clio which was actually much nicer than we were expecting. Although it was a stick shift (meaning I couldn't drive even if I wanted to...), the car came equipped with a navigation center in the console which saved our butts more than a few times on those crazy Irish roads! 

In our new car, we began our trek into the city center of Dublin towards our hotel to park and unload our luggage. We were staying at the Morrison Hilton Hotel across from the River Liffy. Since it was still pretty early in the day, we couldn't get into our hotel room yet, so the front desk held our luggage while we walked across the street to the Mochaland Cafe for breakfast, where we enjoyed our first (of many) european coffee. Those guys over there do coffee so SO well- I can't even describe it!

After breakfast, we were able to check in so we decided to unload in the room and get freshened up from our overnight flight before heading back out into Dublin. Since there was a lot we wanted to see in a small period of time and the city seemed to be pretty spread out, we decided the best way to explore would be to purchase a ticket for the hop on-hop off bus that had regular stops all over the city. The buses were double-decker also, which led to pretty nice views just from the seats when we didn't feel like getting off and walking around.

Our first stop was Cathal Bruga Street, a pretty touristy street in the city center. We decided to go into Carroll's, their tourist gift shop, to pick up some Dublin-related souvenirs. Afterwards, we got back on the bus and rode it a couple stops further to Trinity College. The architecture of the buildings on campus was beautiful and so, so old!

While walking around the small campus, we both got hungry again and decided to stop into The Porterhouse Pub, a local microbrewery, for a drink and some lunch. They brew all their beers, so Ryan and I both decided to order the Red Ale (Ryan ended up drinking both beers since it wasn't something I was really enjoying). Along with our beers, we ordered a pizza topped with Serrano ham and mushrooms and let me tell you, this was by far the BEST pizza we had ever eaten! So Good!

My mouth is watering just looking at this baby!
When we finished up, we got back on the bus and took it to the next stop, Christ Church Cathedral, which was built in 1173 and received it's last restoration in 1871-78. Holy OLD! We didn't really go in the church but admired it from the outside. There were signs EVERYWHERE warning us of pickpocketers in the area, which we thought was pretty sad since this is a place of worship. Go pickpocket somewhere else, thieves!

Our final bus stop for the day brought us to the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery. We explored the brewery, floor by floor (there were SEVEN floors), learning what goes into a Guinness to make it an Irish Stout before going through a tasting. I had never had the desire to taste a Guinness before today based on it's appearance alone. But, I'm so glad I got my first taste in Dublin because I really did enjoy the beer, even more than Ryan! In the tasting, we learned that there is an entire correct process to tasting Guinness that the official tasters go through before releasing the batch of beer on the world. Serious stuff, I tell you! After the tasting, we walked up to the top floor of the brewery, called the Gravity Bar, where we each received a free pint, which we enjoyed looking out over Dublin. We finished our tour of Guinness at the gift shop before hopping back on the bus to take us closer to our hotel. 

At this point, it was around 7 p.m. (2 p.m. our time), meaning we had been awake for roughly 32 hours and could have easily passed out for the rest of the night if we would have allowed ourselves. We rallied though and decided to walk to the Temple Bar area for dinner. We tried to eat at a famous restaurant called Temple Bar, but it was way too crowded so we walked up the street a little further to a restaurant called the Mercantile Tavern. Ryan had the BBQ pulled pork sandwich (so American) and I had the Irish Beef Stew. Believe it or not, Ryan totally won dinner that night- his meal was so much tastier than mine. Oh well! After dinner, I could barely keep my head up, so we walked back to the hotel and crashed immediately. I'd say we had a pretty successful first day though!

Day 2: With a full nights rest, Ryan and I woke up bright eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to hit the road and see more of Ireland! We started the day off back at the Mochaland Cafe with some more amazing coffee and the best blueberry muffin I've ever had. Once we checked out of the hotel, we loaded the car up again and began our journey towards Cork. The total drive from Dublin to Cork was about 2 1/2 hours but we had planned to stop at the Rock of Cashel, which was pretty much at the halfway point. The Rock of Cashel was beautiful, even though part of it was in repair. The castle was built high on a hill sometime in the 10th century and was the location of the ancient capital of the Kings of Munster as well as the spot where Brian Boru, the high king of Ireland, was crowned in 977.

After touring the spot where Brian Boru was crowned, we found it only fitting that we dine at the Brian Boru cafe down the street. The cafe was cute and the food was delicious. Ryan got the fish and chips and I got a BLTC on ciabatta bread. So good! With full bellies, we got back into the car to finish our drive into Cork. Since it was getting kind of late, we decided to drive right to our Bed and Breakfast for the night to get checked in before figuring out what to do with the rest of our day. We booked a night's stay at the River View Inn, which was super quaint and our hostess, Catherine, was lovely.

Our cute little room
We had planned on dropping our stuff off and then heading to the Blarney Castle, but Catherine informed us that that wasn't such a good idea since traffic at that time of day would be bad and the castle would close for tours by the time we got there, so we changed our plans and drove into Cork's city center instead to walk around for a bit. We checked out a couple of shops, but were not overly impressed with the area so we drove back towards the B&B, parking the car and walking to dinner at a nearby pub. 

We spent the rest of the night at Barry's Pub. Since we weren't quite hungry yet, we decided to grab seats at the bar and order up a couple of Murphy's Irish Stouts, which Ryan decided he liked better than Guinness.

When we got hungry, we moved over to a table to order some food. Ryan ordered a Smithwick's and an Irish beef burger and I ordered a Guinness and the seafood linguine. While Ireland isn't really known for their food, these meals were amazing!!

My Guinness moustache
Ryan in a Sam Adams shirt drinking a Smithwick's. 
We had some pretty decent entertainment while sitting at our table. Outside our window, a group of people dumped a trash can full of ice water out on a guy filming a video for the ice bucket challenge, which has gone international, and the woman at the table beside us was filling in her friends on her recent trip to the states. It was really funny to hear her thoughts (yes, we were eavesdropping) on our culture while experiencing her culture. At one point, she was describing her trip to Niagara Falls, where her family rented an SUV for the drive. She had to explain what an SUV was to her friends, describing the car as a mini-bus, which we thought was pretty funny, since we were driving the world's smallest car around her country.

After dinner, we moved back to the bar and spent the rest of the night chatting it up with a bartender and the owner of the pub. They gave us some great advice on things to do at our next stop in Killarney, and taught us about one of Ireland's favorite sports, hurling. The owner of the pub also gave us two really awesome Guinness glasses to take home with us, which was awesome!

I'm a transformed girl, I guess! 
Alright, that's enough for one blog post! I'll be back with the next leg of our journey soon!

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