Nick asked me a couple of months ago what I wanted for my birthday. ‘Hmm,’ I mused. There really wasn’t any thing in particular that I wanted (which, to be honest, is a lovely feeling). What I wanted was an experience. A memory. Nick asked where I most wanted to go. The answer was easy, Dublin!
On a Thursday night we dropped our pup off at the boarding kennels and headed to Frankfurt Hahn. To make it easier on us the next morning, this time we opted to shell out and stay in the B&B Hotel at Frankfurt Hahn Airport. It was around €60 for the night and completely worth not having to get up at 3am to do the winding 1 ½ hour drive to the airport. Not only that, but for whatever reason, the route has now changed from previous times and took us through all new villages. That would have been a little unnerving at 3am in the morning!
Early on Friday morning we headed over to the airport, checked in and hopped on board another Ryan Air flight. Now that seating is already allocated, everything went a little smoother. Everyone still rushed to board the plane, but we were thankful to end up next to a nice American guy who was in the army who let me borrow his Dublin travel guidebook. Up until then, I had no idea what our four days in Dublin were going to involve – Nick had organized everything and he did a wonderful job at it all! I pointed out in the book something about an Irish dance show and how it would be cool to go to one, Nick’s response was “we are!” I beamed.
The flight was only about 1 ½ hours and after an eventful landing, we made our way through the airport and passport control. I wasn’t expecting passport control as we were flying from within the EU, but nevertheless it’s not anything to be concerned about.
Nick had prepaid for our bus tickets, which took about 20 minutes to get into the city and left from right outside the terminal exit. We hopped off at the bus stop, walked across the road and Nick said we would be staying right there. He had ended up booking an apartment through airbnb. It was a cute little apartment and was the perfect set up for our four days in Dublin. Having a kitchen was an added bonus for saving a little money on drinks while we were there.
Our apartment was in Cows Lane, and Cows Lane happened to be opposite Christ Church Cathedral, which was sweet. Funnily enough, every Irish person knew about New Zealand, about Christchurch, about our earthquake and happened to have a nephew or niece who lived or has lived in New Zealand. It was nice for people to actually know all about it for once. I wish we could live in Ireland.
It was time to put our walking shoes on and make our way to the meeting point for our walking tour of Dublin. Our guide, Liam, was a jolly Irishman and taught us a lot. It’s not that I was completely naïve about Irish history, but I had never taken the time to really learn more about their independency and culture. I was surprised to discover there’s only 4 ½ million people in Ireland (roughly the same as New Zealand) and that prior to their famine disaster, their population was 9 million.
Perhaps the most surprisingly thing to learn was about the Viking history of Ireland. Where we were staying actually had a Viking village extracted from underneath it that was discovered when they started building on the site. Also, the buildings are all original rather than rebuilds like is often the case in the UK and Germany due to the extensive bombings and shelling in World War 2.
After the walking tour (during which the rain started that really never left for the duration of our trip), we went and window shopped and eventually became hungry enough for some dinner. Since we were just down the road from it, we ventured into the Temple Bar region. After perusing the menus, we ended up deciding on an Irish pub that seemed to have a good deal going for dinner. What I thought would be an empty pub ended up being a basement pub full of people. There happened to be a free Irish dancing show and band that we got to witness for our main course. We didn’t plan to have a big night, but after a couple of drinks we ended up enjoying the atmosphere so much that we stayed on for a few. Eventually we rolled out the door and walked the short five minute walk home.
Thankfully Nick hadn’t planned anything for super early in the morning as both of us woke up feeling a little seedy. I guess we just aren’t as young as we used to be! We had tickets to the Guinness Store House that could be redeemed any time that day. We headed in off and were there by about 10.30, which was great timing. It was an interesting tour and had a great environment. It was in the old storehouses (which made for an interesting walk from our apartment) south of the River Liffey and was about five levels high. Once we had made our way through the tour, we had a Guinness to redeem at the top of the factory. It was a busy Saturday, so it was a little crowded, and I’m not particularly a beer fan. Still, I drank a quarter of mine, and Nick managed to finish his off relatively quickly!
I was getting a little hangry, so we walked back to the Temple Bar region and found a cheap pizza place. It was okay and filled the gap. We then headed over the river to the shopping district and unfortunately for us there happened to be a One Direction concert in Dublin that weekend! The shopping area was full of tweenies covered in One Direction cr@p. I felt bad for all the elderly who had come into the city to do their shopping as it was a bit of a nightmare. We withdrew from the crowds to Butlers (a chocolate shop, one of which happens to be in Wellington New Zealand!) for a yummy white hot chocolate and a couple of sweet treats.
The next stop was the Jameson Whiskey tour! Nick thankfully pre-booked – it’s almost impossible to get onto a tour if you don’t pre-book online. There were about 30 people on each tour, including some annoying Frenchmen who I guess expected the tour to be translated and it wasn’t, so they enjoyed talking at the top of their lungs while everyone else tried to listen in. After the Guinness factory, the Jameson tour was a little disappointing, but it was still enjoyable and a nice break from the perpetual rain. The tour ended with a free Jameson, which they mixed with ginger beer. I’d never have thought of mixing the two and it was quickly skulled down by the both of us. Tours are thirsty work!
We had a little time after the tour and happened to pass by a grocery shop. We ended up finding a huge section of hard cider and bought several to take back to the apartment and enjoy before our dinner that night. They were so delicious! I think we have to go back to Ireland just to have all the yummy varieties of cider.
Dinnertime rolled around so we walked back across to the other side of the River Liffey to the Arlington Hotel. Dinner was a three course traditional Irish meal, accompanied by live Irish music and a traditional Irish dancing show. The dancers only came on for about the last hour, but it was really lovely and we were right next to the stage. A couple of groups were having hens (bachelorette) nights, so that added a great rowdy atmosphere. We were in a really jolly mood when we left and could have carried the night on, but we had to get up early in the morning for a tour.
At 9am we walked down and waited to be picked up by the tour company – ‘Wild Wicklow’. On the way we came across what I thought was going to be a colourful local. An elderly man was walking along the street, yelling what I thought was abuse at everyone. It turns out that he was just a passionate local Catholic. As Nick and I were sitting waiting for the bus, he looked at me and suddenly had his outburst – “The resurrection is true! One day you will be resurrected too!” and on he moved.
Our tour departed on a really nice coach, relatively on time and we had a nice mix of nationalities, ages and groups of people along with us for the day.
The first stop was an area along the west coast, which had a beach and a little swimming cove. Believe it or not, on a freezing cold day there were people happily enjoying a swim in the freezing cold sea.
Next stop was at a nice shop. I guess it was really a toilet stop, but we had time for a bite to eat. Nick discovered some delicious tomato chutney, so we ended up bringing some of that home with us, and I have some fresh raspberry jam to have on our toast in the mornings from a cute little berry stand. Irish food seemed very similar to New Zealand so it really felt like being home.
We finally headed into the Wicklow mountain range. The weather stayed perfect for us as we entered the national park range and made several stops at scenic points. It was so peaceful out there, but seemed devoid of much wildlife. I loved seeing the rain in the near distance that didn’t actually come near us until a couple of hours later.
One stop was at the Guinness lake which is where the water is said to derive from for the beer. Lunch was shortly after the lake in a small Irish village with literally three places to choose from. We had soup and a Panini for lunch and avoided the large crowds in the local pub, all of whom had stopped in for Sunday roast!
Our final stop was Glendalough (no, not the suburb in Perth, Australia). I guess this is a religious pilgrimage, and not being religious I thought we wouldn’t really get anything from it. Quite the opposite! I can see why it has been incorporated into religion because it truly was beautiful and majestic.
Glendalough is home to the monastery founded by St Kevin. The settlement was founded in the 6th century – which is incomprehensible for those of us from former and current Commonwealth countries. It’s something we should be used to after places like Rome, but it is still hard to comprehend sometimes.
The best part, however, was a brisk walk we took up the hill. Our guide said we had an hour to spend on site, and that it was a minimum of a 20 minute walk up the hill to what is called the ‘Upper Lake’. That meant we had roughly 15 minutes to spend up by the lake. We quickly headed off, and as we got up the hill, suddenly there was a loud thunder roll, a lightning strike and some heavy rain set in. This is the kind of rain that despite having umbrellas, we got hit by sideways rain and ended up saturated anyway. It was worth it. The site was beautiful.
After our day in the Wicklow County, it was hard to understand why so many left (and still) leave Ireland. I guess people probably say the same about New Zealand, but Ireland seems so majestic and full of such beauty. I guess due to its size, it faces the same downfalls of my own country – its young people want to explore and travel and end up staying away. I imagine their hearts always remain in their homeland. I can’t imagine mine would ever leave it.
After we arrived back, we ended up having a hearty Irish meal of fish and chips 😉 as we warmed ourselves back up and dried out. A few more ciders warmed our bellies and we slept extremely well that night!
It was with a heavy heart that our trip was coming to an end. I didn’t want to leave. We spent the day doing some window shopping, having a birthday meal at Hard Rock Café (I turned the old age of 26 that day!) eating, buying a few souvenirs, and eventually making our way back to the Airport that night.
Everything on the trip went smoothly. Everyone was delightfully nice. The weather didn’t matter. Ryan Air was once again reliable. I can’t wait to go back to Ireland, next time we will head to the south and make our way up from Cork back to Dublin via the ‘wild west’. Hopefully we can do that next summer.
We’re starting to realize that our bucket list isn’t actually expanding. It’s getting smaller. When we visit places we love (like Ireland,) we find ourselves wanting to return. I’m finding myself less drawn to certain places that I just want to ‘cross off’ and more wanting to go back and discover more about places we truly feel welcomed and at home.
Until next time,