Hello, lovely readers!
Well, it’s been just about 2 weeks since we returned from our trip to Ireland, and all I can think about is how much fun it would be to go back.
I’ve been racking my brains trying to figure out what my favorite part of our trip was, and it’s so hard to choose just one moment. Of course, seeing my youngest daughter in person and hugging her as much as I could was absolutely the very best part, but that would have been true no matter the location. Deciding which “best parts” to share with you has been challenging because there were so many!
I know, this is not a travel blog, but I had so much fun planning it and we enjoyed it so much that I just have to share. Hopefully you’ll be inspired for the next time you are planning a trip as well!
Beware, this is a long post. If you’d rather skip over and check out the Instagram version of it, you can find me here.
We flew out of Spokane, and had an overnight flight to Dublin. We arrived in Dublin at around 10am local time, and then took a cab to our hotel. There were 5 of us traveling, so by the time we figured bus fare for 5 people, it cost about the same to just take a cab.
We were too early for checking in, but our hotel graciously allowed us to store our luggage, and we headed out to explore Dublin on foot.
Travel tip: If possible, use a portion of your first day to get out and get some exercise. Walking around is a great way to do this, and it also helps you get oriented and learn the layout of the city. Fresh air, exercise, and hydration will help you beat the jet lag quickly!
I had done my research prior to our trip, and knew a good deal of the sights in Dublin that we wanted to see. (Thanks, Rick Steeves!) We used our first day to wander the city of Dublin and find the places we planned to visit later in the week. Dublin city centre is very walkable and most sights aren’t too far away. There’s also a great public bus system and light rail system, though we didn’t actually use those.
We only visited one main attraction on our first day, which was the Guinness Storehouse. It was a very interesting tour, though for someone who is not a fan of heights, the many stairs, escalators, and open floor plans were a little challenging. I survived, though! The view from the Gravity Bar was astounding! And of course, we had to enjoy our free pint, though it didn’t help so much with the jet lag!
After our tour, we needed to find some food, and we opted for The Stag’s Head pub. This was our first meal in Ireland, and it was amazing. I ordered the fish and chips, and my husband had the Beef and Guinness stew. Fabulous!
After our early dinner, we headed back to the hotel to check in and have a little down time. We try to stay awake as long as possible on the first day; we’ve found over the years that it helps us acclimate to a new time zone quickly. Around 8pm, we were both feeling tired, so we headed out for another walk to stay awake for just a bit longer. We walked to the Temple Bar area and it was so worth it. This area was hopping and lit up with twinkle lights. So fun!
After a little more exploring, we headed back to the hotel, grabbed some snacks at the hotel restaurant, and then headed to bed. Day 1 success!
After a relatively good night’s sleep, the first order of business was finding decent coffee. Luckily, we found a cute little place around the corner from our hotel. I will never understand the European fascination with instant coffee!!
As I mentioned, the best part of our vacation was meeting up with our girls. They were due to arrive to the hotel by noon, so we wandered to find some breakfast, figured out how to make my phone work, and then waited at the hotel for them to arrive. I could barely handle it.
We had a surprise for our daughter. We had secretly planned for her sister to tag along on the trip, but didn’t tell M. She was shocked to find her big sister waiting for her in the hotel room when we took her luggage up!
After the girls arrived, we sorted the final plan for the day, purchased tickets and headed out. We had a couple of minor snafus with our credit card, despite having put a travel advisory on it, but finally got it worked out.
Travel tip: Many of our sights required pre-booking specific times, which we were not aware of prior to our arrival. If you’re headed to Dublin, double check if the sights you want to see require pre-booking or if you can show up and get tickets on the spot.
Our main stop the first day was Trinity College and the Book of Kells. It was pretty amazing to be able to see the illumations and scripts that are some of the earliest surviving parts of Scripture in Ireland.
We then headed to the National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology. We saw so many amazing artifacts, learned about clans, Vikings, and Brian Boru. So much information!
Finally, we were able to squeeze into the final group of the day at Dublin Castle. They closed early due to a state function being held at the Castle that evening, but we still got to see many of the State Apartments and some amazing artwork and portraiture.
We stopped for churros and coffee, did some shopping on Grafton Street, and stopped to listen to a few buskers. We also walked back through the Temple Bar area and found lots of gift shops to stop in.
Dinner was at a place called Brannigans, and it was even more amazing than the first night.
One thing to know if you’re going to Dublin and are a coffee lover: There are a ton of coffee shops. They just don’t open until 9 or even 10 on Sundays. We wandered several blocks before finally finding the one Starbucks that was open before 9. How do they survive?
After our coffee, we toured the Jeanie Johnston ship and EPIC Museum of Irish Immigration. It was so intriguing and informational. We learned a lot about the Irish potato famine, emigration from Ireland in the ensuing years, and the impact that Irish people have had on the world. Since most of us in our group have at least a little Irish heritage, it was a very cool and moving experience.
After the EPIC, we headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was so beautiful. Stained glass and amazing tile work. Not to mention the soaring cathedral ceilings.
After St. Patrick’s, we needed some food. Our girls really wanted to do a charcuterie board on St. Stephan’s Green, and the weather was just right for it. We found a grocery store, picked up some cheese, crackers, biscuits, salami, and fruit, then found a patch of grass on the Green to enjoy our picnic. The only problem was that we didn’t have a knife or cutting board. We used some hand sanitizer to clean off a couple of credit cards, and used those to cut the fruit and cheese. It worked surprisingly well! And made for probably the most memorable charcuterie in history!
We grabbed gelato and Irish coffee in the Temple Bar area and then headed back towards the hotel for a brief rest before dinner.
While we absolutely loved every Irish meal we ate, we changed it up a bit for day 3. I mean, there’s only so many times in a row that you can do fish and chips. We headed to a Thai place close to our hotel and it did not disappoint.
After dinner, the girls headed to Temple Bar, where they found some live music. The parents headed back to the hotel to put our feet up after walking so much.
By day 4, the hunt for the morning coffee had become a tradition. We finally found a Caffe Nero close by that opened at 9, so we were able to get our morning coffee before packing our bags and heading for the train to Galway.
Travel tip: If you’re changing money while abroad, make sure you do it while in the bigger cities. We quickly discovered that, due to the pandemic and Brexit, no one in Galway was changing money, and the bus and cab system, which had been mostly cashless in Dublin, was cash ONLY in Galway (unless you had a LEAP card for the bus). So while our hotel in Galway was conveniently on the main bus line, getting there the first time proved to be a bit of a challenge.
After checking in and dropping luggage, we sorted LEAP cards for bus fare for our group, then headed back to Eyre Square to find lunch, sightsee, and shop.
Galway was totally different than Dublin, and we enjoyed every second of it. Tons of pubs, coffee houses, souvenir shops, and general shopping as well. We found a music store, where I found myself a new Irish whistle, and a cheesemongers shop, where we found some really stinky, really tasty cheese. We explored shops filled with Claddagh rings and Aran sweaters, heard some buskers, and walked along the waterfront.
My only big disappointment in Galway was that we never could time it right to find live traditional (trad) music. Either we’d be too late and the pubs would already be packed out (hard enough to find seating for 7) or we’d be way too early and the music wouldn’t start until 9 or 10pm. Don’t worry, we did find some eventually.
This day was a major highlight. We joined a bus tour that took us through the Irish countryside out to the Cliffs of Moher. We were supposed to have a cruise along the base of the cliffs out to one of the Aran Islands, but that part got cancelled due to forecasted storms. It was a good thing, too. By the time we left the Cliffs, it was raining and you could hardly see the Aran Islands from the mainland.
The Cliffs were breathtaking. It was quite windy, but that made the bugs stay away, which was really nice. The path along the Cliffs is very safe, and we enjoyed a good workout to get the full experience. We briefly stopped in the visitor’s center, but spent most of our time braving the wind to see the main attraction. I even went up two spiral staircases to the top of O’Brien’s Tower.
We found a quick dinner in a pub after returning to Galway, then retired early to the hotel. We walked an average of over 25,000 steps each day in Ireland, and we were tired!
We returned to Dublin, and visited ChristChurch Cathedral. This was our last full day with our friends, so we were making the most of every last minute. We grabbed an early dinner at the oldest pub in Dublin, The Brazen Head (once again missing the live music), and got caught in a rainstorm. Amazingly, this was the only time we couldn’t somehow outwit the rain on our whole trip! We had amazing weather the whole time!
Our friends headed off to their flight very early in the morning, and we had one full day left in Dublin. Mostly, we just wandered and explored, finished up some last gift buying, and enjoyed the city. We also went to the Dublinia museum, which was all about the Vikings of Ireland. It was an interesting perspective and a bit different from the Archaeology Museum.
Our final evening, we FINALLY found some live music at a pub AND a table that could seat all 5 of us. It was so exciting. They sang some of our favorites, including “The Wild Rover” and “Red is the Rose.” They tossed in some covers (“Sweet Caroline” and “Livin’ on a Prayer”), but when they played the Irish reels, we really got excited.
We were finally able to convince M to do some dancing near our table, and the crowd back by our table loved it so much, she went up to the front of the pub where the musicians were. After that, she just took off and danced her heart out for a couple of songs. It was so much fun, and my mama heart was so full to see her fulfilling a dream: Irish dancing in a real Irish pub in Ireland.
After M’s legs got too tired to keep going, we called it a night. We knew we had to be up super early for our flights the next day, the girls back to London and we would begin a long, arduous, and stressful day of travel (Long story short: we all made it home safely, within 10 minutes of each other. That’s the most important thing). While it wasn’t the perfect day of travel to end such an amazing trip, it certainly makes for good stories later.
So, my dear readers, if you made it to the end of this super long post, bless you. I hope you enjoyed my chronicle of our trip, and I hope that it inspires you if you ever get the bug to travel abroad. It’s so fun, and so worth it.