How do I even start this blog without sounding snooty? My husband and I were blessed to spend our honeymoon in Ireland. This truly was a dream. There are so many pictures and memories to share, how do I choose or condense it down to one post? I promise to not ramble and keep the reading enjoyable and easy to follow without seeming endless.
Before I begin I just have to say that my in-laws are amazing. They have a time share through Marriott Vacation Club and it turned into a point system to use on hotels or airfare so they gave us points to use for our flight; their wedding present to us. Tyler and I are lucky!
Also I have to recommend the website: wanderable.com which we used for one of our wedding registries. We didn’t really need a lot of things for the home from Kohls so we registered on this Honeymoon website and guests were able to gift us with: A night stay in a castle, tickets to tours, etc. (If you are interested to see what it looks like http://www.wanderable.com/Jones_Doden )
Sunday May 17th, 2015
The big travel day with 10 hours spent in the air inside a steel tube! We started flying out of Mason City, IA to Chicago, IL on a very small charter plane with Air Choice One. For those who live around me who are curious about flying on one of these cessnas: they are small and fly lower than a commercial jet so they are more easily affected by weather. I only recommend flying if you have to book at last minute and know the weather is going to be clear which will give you a smooth flight. It rained the day we left and even though our flight was on time, a person who worries easily like me was panicking on what would happen if it had. If the flight to Chicago from Mason was cancelled, that’s a 7 hour drive to make to try and get to O Hare to make our flight. Yes our flight made it on time but it was a VERY bumpy flight and I was terrified the whole two hours as Tyler slept. If anyone can handle the possibility of lots of turbulence, it’s only $50.-$60. each way, so yeah it’s cheap.
After making it to safety on the runway of Chicago O Hare, we transferred from the small Terminal 3 to the bigger International Terminal 5. The other downside of flying Air Choice One to make a connecting flight in Chicago is that even though you checked your bags in Mason, since you are in the small terminal with the smaller air lines, you have to re check your bags and go through security again. We had a good dinner and boarded the plane leaving at 8 PM: we were off for a ‘wonderful’ 7-8 hour fight that we didn’t sleep through.
Monday May 18, 2015
We arrived in Dublin around 9:30 AM Ireland time or 3:30 AM Iowa time. We were both very tired and the line at Customs seemed to not move. We finally got through, got our luggage and made our way to pick up the rental car. It was weird for Tyler to drive stick on the other side of the car on the other side of the road. Since it was too early to check into our hotel we drove into the city centre to kill some time and recharge. We stopped at the Old Jameson Distillery on Bow Street:
This was the original site of Jameson but it’s not the distillery anymore due to it outgrowing the sight and a fire so it’s just mostly a tourist trap now.
We ordered some Irish coffees and it was the pick me up we needed!
After we finished we were fortunate to catch a short tour of the ‘distillery’ with a history lesson and how whiskey is made. We got to do some sampling and at the end, a free drink in the ‘bar’. Like I said, VERY touristy but it’s nice if you are looking for something to do.
It was now finally nearing the time to check into our hotel. We stayed in the ‘suburb’ Tallaght at The Plaza Hotel which was close to the Motorway, perfect for when we would leave the next day. This was supposed to be a two night stay but days earlier we found filming locations for Game of Thrones and did some last minutes changes to plans to try and fit more of these in so our first four days consisted of staying in four different hotels; try NOT to do this. It’s very exhausting to check in and check out staying one night at at time. We checked in and crashed for a nap but made ourselves get back up to eat dinner and get on Ireland time. Dinner at the hotel bar restaurant and of course this was the start of having Guinness with every meal. A pint with every meal is like two meals at the same time!
Tuesday May 19, 2015
This was a jammed packed day! Traveling from Tallaght to our next night stay at Holiday Inn Express in Antrim, Northern Ireland. So much green everywhere! SO BEAUTIFUL!
It rained all day but only in spurts as it does often. We left early to cross into Northern Ireland to see as many filming locations as we could.
Castleward, a national park made up of an old castle and estate was filming sight of Winterfell:
Just on the other side of Castleward was Audley’s Castle the sight of Rob Stark’s camp:
On our way up the hill to this sight we pretty much walked through a field of sheep. They were hanging out in the distance looking at us like no big deal.
Tyler doesn’t like to admit that he had so much fun driving a Toyota Yaris around the country side with their twisty, winding roads and hills. He also loved how all fence lines were made from stone and “everyone has their own little driveway”.
Next stop: Inch Abbey or the remains of it. Still an amazing sight hundreds of years old and we were the only ones there! This is not a busy tourist spot so it’s a nice little scenic stop to frolic in the grass and trail to the sight. There was a cute little dog that made friends with us while on a walk with his owner:
Moving along into Belfast to stop in the Titanic Quarter for lunch and a tour. This is where the famous ship was built and it’s now the home to Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones is one of the shows filmed there. Since we were now in Northern Ireland, we had to switch to using Pounds instead of Euros. Everything is more expensive. The tour of the Titanic Experience was OK but was too touristy and lame for our taste. Honestly the Titanic Exhibition in Vegas is FAR more impressive as there are more artifacts. I just wasn’t impressed by it at all. If you are in this part of Belfast, tour the Titanic Dock and Pump House, which was the original pump house from when it was built and launched. This is more historical and more interesting. Plus you are next to the dock so you can see how big it actually was. We sadly didn’t have time to see this. So yeah skip the Titanic tour and just see the Dock and Pump House.
We finally made it to our hotel in Antrim to check in and drop our bags off. You think we would be resting now but nope. Yes we were tired but wanted to get in two more sights in before the end of the day:
The Dark Hedges (The Kingsroad in GoT) A road of 18 century beach trees; the most photographed road in the world!
Our last sight of the day was Downhill Beach along the northern coast. This is one of the most amazing places I have ever been!!! The sun was setting when we arrived and it was foggy so it looked eerie but beautiful as you stared out into the abyss. This was the farthest north either of us had been in the world. It was just so beautiful; and the cliff with the temple on the hill just seemed so surreal. Very windy and chilly but just being there made us forget that.
Back to the Holiday Inn Express in Antrim: complete with a bar in the lobby and a kitchen in the back so you could order pizza, sandwiches and other things. They do a good breakfast in the morning as well. Booking and staying in Northern Ireland we the feel of Dollars converted to Pounds. Booking the room with Expedia look reasonable only $69.00 for the night. At this time last year dollars to pounds wasn’t even and the room went for 105 pounds that night, which I’m sure there were taxes in the cost as well. Last year the exchange rate was 1 British pound was equal to over a dollar and a half, this year in 2016 1 pound equals to $1.40 American. Something to remember when you want to visit Great Britain, bring more money than you think you will need.
Wednesday May 20th, 2015
We left Northern Ireland and made a 5 hour drive to our next stay in Clifden along the west coast. The drive really wasn’t bad saw a lot of gorgeous country side and since the roads curved and every which way up and down hills it was never short of interesting. How I wish we had roads like that here or roundabouts because they keep things going. We really did roads the wrong way over here in the States… Their signs seem confusing but really not at the same time…
The other nice thing about driving days is you can stop anywhere you want, we stopped by this bridge and walked down to the little river below it:
The things you don’t know you will drive pass after you stop at a small pub in a town smaller than yours, look Kylemore Abbey:
Driving to Clifden you pass the west coast, a gorgeous drive on Sky Road. We stayed at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel. Although not an actually castle, it was still originally built to look like a castle but was a home for girls.
This little town had so many little restaurants and pubs to choose from. Anywhere you go in Ireland no matter how small the eating or drinking establishment EVERYONE had a brand new nitro tap for pouring Guinness. No way you could not not find it. We had fish for dinner then returned back to the hotel bar inside the castle. We had live music to listen to as well and we met some other Americans from Wisconsin and Texas. Very fun night, well too much fun.
Thursday May 21, 2015
Up and ready to get back on the road again. I made it up for breakfast in the castle dining room while Tyler slept in. Another cloudy rainy day but that was alright as this would be a day to recover from the night before.
(West coast as we left in the morning)
We drove from Clifden to Galway and arrived around lunch time. We didn’t really have anything planned or tried to see anything so we made it into the City Centre to park and find lunch and relax. I was happy to find a restaurant that served Doner Kebaps! A favorite for anytime I travel abroad and I finally got to introduce this fine piece of drunk/hungover food to my husband. This brought me back to both of my times spent in Germany. Like I said a very rainy day so walking around or sight seeing was out of the question. While leaving the city we got a distant view of the coast which was pretty.
We made it to our next overnight in Limerick. I had booked us at a Travelodge in town but the GPS took us to the wrong one; there were two. When we found the one we were staying at (Travelodge Limerick Castletroy), I noticed it was a newer one just built but on the outer edge of Limerick where there was nothing around it within walking distance. The reviews said it was clean and cheap, only cheap because it was pretty bare in the room. This was more of a business hotel where the traveling business person on the go only needed a shower, bed, and maybe a tv and desk. I originally thought when planning this trip we would do some sightseeing around town and would only be in the hotel when we would return to it that night to sleep and shower the next morning but since the previous night was rough this small, simple hotel worked to take a nap and recharge.
Later on that night we tried to see if there was anyway we could get food around our hotel. There was a gas station down the road that was attached to Ireland’s knockoff version of McDonalds: SuperMacs!!! It wasn’t terrible food but it was a terribly corny place. There is only a couple of pictures from this whole entire day, like I said the previous night was rough and today we had to pay for it. I wish we could say more about Galway and Limerick but we only made it to the Doner place, a very basic cheap Travelodge hotel and a SuperMacs. When finding a place to stay always make sure there are places around you can walk to.
Friday May 22, 2015
Our honeymoon adventure was officially back on track! We left Limerick and on our way to our two night stay in Cork. Yes, we FINALLY had a two night stay and next time there will be more of these. Our first stop of the day was to see the Blarney Castle! We got there right away in the morning and I recommend getting there early or at least before lunch before the crowds show up and there are lines all the way up the castle. The path on the way in….
I don’t want to bore you with details, you will just have to travel there to really experience it.
Of course when you go up, to get back down you have to kiss the Blarney Stone and no they don’t clean if off after everyone has touched it. Gross. Tyler was able to hold on and fake kissed it. When it was my turn, I leaned back and saw the stone but I’m afraid of heights and even thought people were holding me I didn’t feel like leaning back all the way to ‘kiss’ it.
After you tour the castle itself, you must tour the grounds, the estate house and the Poison Garden. Yes a Poison Garden where when you bend down to read the sign of what it was there was a disclaimer saying “this scent might be considered toxic’… 😀
After we explored all the nooks and crannies of the grounds, towers, dungeons, woods, graveyard for horses it was time to move on. Even though I’ve heard recommendations from travel websites to try and avoiding eating around tourists destinations due to inflated costs, the little town of Blarney had a lot of little pubs and restaurants that catered to people like us who were coming and going.
After a quick lunch we were back on track to drive into Cork and check into our hotel, The Kingsley. This hotel was a GEM to find, VERY NICE and affordable. Located right outside of the city centre of Cork but next to the transit stop which allowed us access to anywhere. There was a full wellness center, a pool and a full service spa located inside. I had booked us a Couples’ massage at the spa, this was much needed and enjoyed after four days of non stop moving. Very relaxing and the staff was very nice. After our massage we got to hang out in robes in the recovery area on couch like chairs and enjoy rejuvenating fruit drinks. We had the option to explore the other areas of the spa. Do yourself a favor and check out this website! http://www.thekingsley.ie/ We would go back and stay in a heartbeat!
After resting in our hotel room catching up on Game of Thrones, oh one more thing about the rooms, VERY spacious bathrooms: You could ballroom dance in there! :D, we needed to find food.
We walked down the street to try and find anything that was close by. The restaurant we found was an example of don’t just a book by it’s cover! We had made it to the bus stop and saw a Subway restaurant and a small Chinese place next to it. This is a place I wish I would have took a picture of: the Chinese place looked like nothing special almost sketchy but we both thought Chinese sounded good so we took a chance. Oh my inside was gorgeous and very romantic with dim lights and candles on the tables. This place was open late so it was perfect for people like us who’s eating and sleeping schedules were not quite on with where we are. Delicious food too! I hope to find more off the beaten path places like this when we travel in the future.
Back to finish our night at the hotel bar located across from the conference and meeting center. There was a family function with live traditional music playing!! 🙂 We were two of only a couple others sitting at the bar so that was nice and it gave us a change to visit with the bartenders before going back to the room to bed.
Saturday May 23rd, 2015
With the advice of the hotel bartender from the night before, our adventures today would be made solely by public transportation. Our big plan for the day was heading over to Midleton to tour the Jameson Distillery. This is where the whiskey is actually distilled and then distributed all over the world. Like I mentioned before the bus stop was just down the street less than a block away. We hopped on and got off in the city centre by the big farmers market down by the Lee River (River Lee). We crossed over and hoofed it a quarter of a mile to the train station. Trains run from Cork to Midleton frequently throughout the day and are only 23 minutes each way.
Another benefit of taking the train is you are automatically in the city centre when you arrive. Since we were hungry we began the lookout for a place to have lunch. We found a little diner close by the train station. I ordered Roast Beef with potatoes and Tyler ordered the Shepard’s Pie, something he was looking forward to trying when we arrived in Ireland. We noticed when they offered us coffee or tea after the meal, they never skimp you on the cream served with it. I really wish they did tea/coffee in the afternoon in the States like they do in Ireland or Britain. The two ladies running it were very nice and didn’t didn’t skimp on the friendly goodbyes when we left, “Thank you! Goodbye! Bye now!, Thank you. Good luck to you! :)” They were adorable!
A ten minute walk down the street and we made it JUST in time for the afternoon tour of Jameson. The tour of this location lasted longer and was in more detail, more so because it’s the actual location now. Even though it wasn’t the Jameson distillery until the 1900s, most of the buildings date back to 1759! A lot of history here of how whiskey was made back then. The tour lead through the older buildings that aren’t being used for production. That was a disappointment that we couldn’t see inside the buildings of the modern plant. When you looked at the new buildings it felt like Willy Wonka: no body ever goes in, nobody ever comes out! We concluded our tour like at the other location with a free drink at the bar.
After the tour it was time to head back to the train station to take us back to Cork. After a 15 minutes walk, 20 minute wait and 23 minute train ride we made it back to Cork station. We then made the reverse route to take us back to the city centre to catch a bus back to The Kingsley. By then it was after 6:00 and we started getting hungry. Tyler asked if we could have Chinese again at the same place as the night before, so we did. The staff found this amusing. Back to the hotel for the night…
Sunday May 24th, 2015
It was time to leave the comforts of The Kingsley and move on to our next stop; our next overnight would be in Kilkenny with some stops before got there. After leaving Cork, we needed to stop to find an ATM and breakfast. We pulled off the Motorway into small town that I can’t remember the name. Even their small towns have very active main streets.
We found an ATM and a diner that served breakfast. Tyler and I finally got to order and experience a true Full Irish Breakfast: two eggs, two sausage links, two slices of bacon (though i might add their bacon is not like ours more meat and more like ham, not gristly like in the States), toast, white pudding, black pudding, baked beans and a fried tomato. I really wish I had took a picture of this.
Back on the road to the next stop: The Rock of Cashel. We made it up the hill to the site and entered and waited 10 minutes before there was a tour around the grounds.
The site originated around 400 AD when the Kings of Munster lived there before turning it over to the church years later. The site was going through some reconstruction work due to the limestone but was still very accessible to visitors who were touring.
Down the hill was Hore Abbey, the remains of a monastery connected to the site. We hiked down the hill and took a peak at that sight as well:
After our hike back up the hill and down again, it was back in the Yaris and on the road again. Our stay tonight was at Aspect Hotel Kilkenny, a new hotel located just outside of town. Yes it was outside of town but it was easy walk to get into town and very accessible. There was a small bar in the lobby so after we checked into our room we went back and relaxed with a couple of drinks.
The hunt for a place to have dinner was upon us and we started our walk into town. The street across from our hotel took us up a newer residential route before going up to a main road that seemed to branch off into two or three other main streets. There was so much to choose from and neither of us could decide where to eat. We again experienced a fine restaurant by not judging a book by it’s cover. I suggested maybe something of the Italian flavor and Tyler looked over and saw a place called Italian Connection. The front was very basic and plain, but inside VERY intimate. Even though we had a table for two, one side of the table was a bench so you could feel apart of the same seating with another couple sitting next to you. Another great meal by lucky coincidence.
After the meal, we headed back south toward the hotel but decided to make a couple of stops along the way. We turned down another street and into a pub that had a downstairs outside patio/deck. It was a Sunday night but there was live music. The Irish put our Sunday Fundays in Iowa to shame, they really party it up before 11 PM when the pubs close down. We stayed for a couple at our first stop. The next stop further back down on our reverse route back another bar with live music, we noticed this one like the first even though you head their own Irish songs, they play a lot of American music. We hit one more stop before all the bars closed down at 11, then it was back to our hotel for the night. Writing this day’s entry gets me to thinking I may need to write down the names of drinking establishments we stop at to make them more significant in my posts.
Monday May 25, 2015
The Aspect Hotel Kilkenny had a very good breakfast. We took the advice of the front desk lady the night before to eat after 9:00 AM after a big tour group would have gone through about 7:30. We ate a Full Irish Breakfast buffet style. We checked out and drove back into Kilkenny to tour a couple more stops before we spent the rest of the day driving to Dublin. We should have left our car at the hotel instead of trying to find a parking spot in the center but it was close by when we were ready to leave.
Kilkenny Castle was our first stop, and we didn’t know whether to tour the grounds or the castle itself first. Since all the furniture and decorations inside dated back to the 1500-1700s we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. This tour is really worth seeing my favorite was the enormous Portrait Room. The grounds outside we actually got to take some photos…
Our next tour was of the Smithwick’s Brewery. If you have not heard or have drank a Smithwicks (pronounced Smi-thicks, the w is silent) you are missing on a very delicious red ale, also served on nitro tap. Being brewed in Kilkenny this is a tour I believe people overlook. Tyler and I toured with another couple older than us. A red haired Irish kid asked where each of us were from, after I replied with ‘Iowa’ our tour guide said, “Oh Iowa? I love me my Slipknot!” I busted out laughing, something I did not expect from this happy cheery Irish ginger, oh that made my day. After walking through the tour that taught us the history of Smithwick’s dating back to the time of the monks narrated by a hologram and talking pictures. Really wish I could remember our guide’s name he was so friendly and hilarious.
After we enjoyed the Smithwick’s experience it was time to hit the road once again but this would be our last long drive of the trip. We didn’t have luck finding a place to eat lunch since it was later in the afternoon and everywhere had just closed after tea time. We found a place that served Doners and other fried things. Food wasn’t bad but the restaurant itself wasn’t the cleanest.
After an hour and a half drive we were in the middle of Dublin trying to find our hotel which was in the Christchurch district of the city centre. Our last place where we would stay two nights was an immediate regret mostly because there was only self parking which I was mislead by online sites thinking there was a parking garage next to it. We found a lot down the street but it looked questionable. Our last check in was at Staycity Serviced Apartments Christchurch. The rooms were updated and clean, the bathrooms though also clean were VERY outdated. Besides a bedroom and bathroom, it had a living room, kitchenette and dining area; all nice and comfortable. I would only recommend staying here if you don’t have a rental car and plan to get around on public transit. The place does have the benefit of being in the middle and close to everything. There was a convenience store and a grocery store down the street so we walked down there to get munchie type of food since we were tired and not very hungry after a big day and afternoon just trying to find this hotel and a place to park.
Tuesday May 26th, 2015
Our last full day in Ireland! How did a week and two days pass by so quickly? Our day started with walking 10 minutes from our hotel to the Guinness Storehouse. Even though a lot of tourists pass through here, this is still a GREAT place to visit, totally worth going to. The first level starts in the center, you look down and see the lease that Arthur Guinness himself signed for 9000 years! Before we started the official tour we grabbed coffee and a grab n go breakfast up on the food floor. The tour is very spacious and spread out among big room and floors so it flows very well and don’t feel you are in an endless line with other tourists. You don’t get to go in the actual brewhouse but you got to see a good view of it from a window and there were videos that showed what they do on the inside. They don’t leave you out like Jameson.
The highlight of tour besides your free pint is doing so at the top of Storehouse that overlooks Dublin. A spectacular view with descriptions on the windows explain what you can see.
After a couple hours on the tour and a pint at the sky bar it was lunch time. The Storehouse has four different restaurants, we ate at Gilroy’s which featured some Guinness recipes. I had the Shepard’s Pie and we both had what else but Guinness with our meal, I downsized to a half pint.
Tyler took more beer/drink pictures than me and might I add every single one was complete with my boobs in the background. I had all the scenic shots of everything; Tyler had beer and my boobs. Of course we had to hit up the gift shop before we left to get some souvenirs for family who had purchased these tour tickets for us a wedding present. I don’t think we would be bored of this tour if we went on it again.
We ran back the hotel quick to drop off our purchases from Guinness before we spent the rest of the day walking around Dublin. We laughed because when we checked in the night before our oven didn’t have a door but now it had a working door attached to it. Another close spot across the road from our hotel was The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub as it says on their sign:
This was a nice little spot that had inside and outside seating all under one roof. I loved the ambiance of this place. After we got a flavor of the place we decided to keep on moving. Crossing the River Liffey to get some pictures and selfies..
Not sure of where to go next we kept walking and made it to the Temple Bar district. We may have stopped at a number of pubs but this time of day everything was running together. We found a hole in the wall Tai restaurant which neither of us had ever had it before. It was a hit for Tyler’s spicy loving palate. Being in the area we decided to go inside the Temple Bar to see what it was all about. Nice live music but VERY busy tourist spot. After a drink we asked our bartender where he recommend we try and he lead us down the road to an area where locals hang out. Again I really wish I had the name of the first bar we landed at, we had good conversations with some locals. There were two more we wanted to try out; the first one had live traditional music. The one across the street, Wheeler’s I thought sounded familiar. It wasn’t until I got inside that I noticed this was the bar that was in the film “PS I Love You” where Holly heard the Galway Girl song! It was getting late and we were a ways away from our hotel. We made the trek back to try and find somewhere closer to finish out the night. I was pooped and just wanted to go to bed before we had to be up early to drive to the airport.
Wednesday May 27th, 2015
The honeymoon was officially over and it was time to go back home to the states. Our flight left at 11:30 AM so we checked out of the hotel at 8:00 AM to drive our rental car back to the airport. Remember me saying we had to park our car in a lot? Well those two nights of parking cost us about 40 Euro. Yikes, never doing that again. Another reason not to stay in the city centre if you have a rental is that it takes forever trying to get across and out of it and on to the motorways. Always stay in hotels close to main roads and motorways for easier exit and these places most likely will have great access to public transit if you need it.
After the car was filled back up and returned, we were shuttled over to the main terminal. The Dublin Airport is newer and US Border and Customs is part of your security screen before you board the plane. This is nice because that’s one less line we had to wait through in Chicago. Our flight over and now back again was on Aer Lingus. Another 8 hour flight across the ocean and we made it back around 1:30 PM Chicago time. Even though we had already done security and customs in Dublin, we still had to go through security AGAIN when we switched terminals to fly with Air Choice One. We wouldn’t have made their 3 PM flight so we had to wait for the 8 PM flight back to Mason City. TOO long of a wait when you are severely jet lagged and tired. Though when you do land in Mason, it’s nice because parking there is free and home is only 40 minutes away as opposed to 2 hours from Minneapolis or Des Moines. After a layover that seemed to last for days, we boarded at 8 PM and made it back to Mason City around 10:30 PM. I drove like a beast back to Forest City so jet lagged to the point where I was still able to stay wide awake to drive.
I think next time we fly international we will start in Des Moines before the connecting flight in Chicago or somewhere else. Yes it is two hours away but parking in the furthest lot from the terminal (which you can take a shuttle to) is only 5 bucks a day. Cheap! Plus we have more control of what flight we take so our layovers won’t be as long. Did I mention we would only have to check in through security once each way?!?! WORTH IT!!!
There you have it: A 10 day Ireland honeymoon in ONE EPIC BLOG POST!! One year later and these memories are still very vivid. I hope we get to go back someday, we talk about it all the time. I could go on and on with stories and tidbits but I will wait and save them for a future post about a returning journey to the Emerald Isle.