After 4 fun-filled days in Scotland, I set off for Ireland - Easyjetting to Belfast. As I boarded the jam-packed AirLink bus I was kindly offered a seat…. by one of my very best friends that I hadn’t seen in over a year! WJS surprised me in Belfast!! We dropped my bag at Vagabonds hostel – in the hall since it wasn’t check-in time yet – and we hit the town. We decided the first order of business was a celebratory drink – however, considering it was 11am on Sunday – we settled for an Indian feast at St. George’s Market.
After our lunch we took a Black Cab tour in a shiny candy-apple red cab. The tour of the murals was fabulous and served as the beginning of our Irish education. Paddy, our driver, was very balanced in his approach and we got a pretty good foundation. An hour and a half later he asked where we would like to be dropped off – why, the Crown Liquor Saloon of course!! We snagged a snug and settled in with our pints – Guinness for me, Magners for her. After a couple more, we were joined by three locals and invited to tag along to Kelly’s Cellar, AKA, the best pub ever. Bob Dylan Fest 2 was underway and the music was awesome. We stayed until close and then headed to a house party where we ate, drank, and played music til the wee hours. Irish hospitality at it’s finest!
The next morning, sitting in the back of a van driving up the Antrim Coast, was a bit painful. However, after a liter of water and a little fresh air, I was back to myself in no time. We walked the Carrick-a-Read rope bridge, had a picnic lunch at Ballycastle, and then finally arrived at the Causeway. Wow! It was everything I imagined and more. The sun was shining and the basalt columns were literally glistening. It was breathtaking. After we stopped for a glass of wine in Portrush and then headed back to the city.
Tuesday morning was an early one…6am bus to Dublin, 11:15 Ryanair flight to Cork, and 2pm train to Cobh. The Queenstown Heritage Centre was surprisingly moving and the town very quaint. After a couple hours I headed back to Cork to meet up with my new tripadviser friend, RHS,…let the pub crawl begin! We began at our hostel bar, moved to the Franciscan Well Brewery, and then to Sin E (I think) before heading back to Bru. Although not feeling especially spry in the morning – we got ourselves up determined to make the most of the few hours we had left in Cork. We had breakfast at the Farmgate Café and then set off on a self-guided Shandon walking tour. The highlight of our walk had to have been stumbling upon a terrific little gallery called “Whatif” where the artists were working on pieces for the Halloween parade.
We took the noon bus and parted ways in Limerick while I continued on to Galway. I checked into Snoozles hostel and waited for WJS to arrive from Belfast. RHS had made me the most lovely care-package that included, among other things, brown soda bread, oat cookies, and Irish Porter Cheese. We took it along with some pear Bulmers to Eyre Square and had a picnic. Talk about entertainment! There was an American salsa dancer exercising, some local boys walking a tightrope, and a not exactly sober guy resisting arrest, all within viewing distance!…we were enthralled. Once it started cooling off we headed back to Snoozles (why must it be called that?!?!?), changed, and headed to the Latin Quarter. After deeming it a little too touristy for us tourists, we changed course and ended up at Paddy’s. While apparently filled with “con men and gangsters” we found it quite entertaining, and were confident that Gary the bartender had our backs. After a couple pints we continued along to Au Pucan before having a somewhat early night in anticipation of tomorrow’s daytrip to the Cliffs of Moher.
We got up, had breakfast at the hostel, and headed next door to board the Galway Tour Company bus at 10am. The highlights of the daytrip were both the Cliffs themselves and lunch in Doolin. We got back just after 6pm and took a walk to Salthill. We met up with our new friend from the tour for a few pints of Hooker at Sehan Ua Neachtains and ended the night with Curry Chips from ZamZam. Yum.
Friday morning we woke up early and took the 9am bus to Dublin – free wi-fi on the bus! We got to Dublin just after 11, dropped off our stuff, and headed to Leo Burdocks for fish and chips. As the weather was gorgeous, they recommended we eat at the wee park three minutes away. The “wee park” was the grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral – spectacular! We sat and ate, and sat and ate, and sat some more – just enjoying the sun and the beautiful surroundings. We finally dragged ourselves up and went to the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle. After about an hour the sun called again and we succumbed to it in St. Stephen’s Green. More great people watching! Sometime after 6pm we walked around Merrion Square taking in the Georgian architecture and fancy painted doors and then stopped for a pint at O’Donoghues. I have a feeling that this would be my “after work pub” if I lived in Dublin. From there we had a pint at the Stag’s Head and then moved into Temple Bar. Seriously, I don’t get why this place has such a bad rep! Yes there were stag parties, and yes pints were 5Euro instead of 4 BUT…the band was excellent, the crowd jovial, AND we met mostly locals! I’m a fan…
Saturday morning we woke up and our sun was gone. We broke out the jackets for the first time and headed off to the Guinness Storehouse even though the last thing on earth we needed, or wanted, was a beer. Fortunately fate intervened, we took a wrong turn, and ended up at the Old Jameson’s Distillery. We skipped the tour and focused on the gift shop buying a personalized bottle of whisky the minute alcohol sales were permitted. From there we went to St. Michan’s Church and took the crypt tour…the highlight of which was shaking hands with an 800 year old crusader! We had a delicious lunch at Queen of Tarts complete with the most amazing chocolate scone with clotted cream and jam for dessert and then finally made it to the Storehouse for the tour and pint in the Gravity Bar.
I woke up Sunday morning ready to make the most of my last day in Ireland! All that sun-tanning and park lounging my first day in Dublin had left me with a “to-see” list a mile long! To save time WJS and I took a cab to Kilmainham jail and arrived in time for the first tour. The guide was very informative and all the hazy parts of the Rising were starting to come into focus. We walked thru the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art to the 1916 Leader’s Memorial at Arbour Hill. There was a media event taking place and Billy Maguire was there speaking on behalf of the controversial Irish Republican Brotherhood. We stuck around to meet Billy and then headed to the International Bar for the 1916 Easter Rising Walking Tour with Lorcan - fabulous!!! Finally someone told the tale from an impassioned one-sided perspective and you know what??? That’s all it took…it’s clear as a bell now!!! The two hour tour ended at 3pm, just in time for the All-Ireland Hurling Finals. We headed directly to O’Neill’s Pub for a late carvery lunch, a pint, and some hurling. Go Tipperary!!! (Yes – we are bandwagon jumpers…) Afterwards we spent most of the night at Whelans and then had our last pint at Cassidys. Three hours later I was headed to the airport...back to Canada and my family.
In short – my trip was fantastic! And I couldn't have done it without all the invaluable advice I picked up here. Thanks to all!!!