Thursday, July 31, 2014

Our Ireland Anniversary Trip: Day 1&2: Dublin

Brian and I have been planning our 10th anniversary trip to Ireland for a while now, and it was everything we had hoped it would be! Brian has done so much research on his family tree, and has traced many ancestors back to Ireland, so we couldn’t wait to go see some of the places and meet the people he has been researching! As always, I took a lot of pictures, so read along and enjoy our journey with us! There are 5 separate blog entries… so hang in there!

A brief overview of our trip (with several stops along the way) was roughly 2 nights in Dublin, 1 night south in Kilkenny, 2 nights on the west side in Milltown/Killarney, and then our last night was spent near Shannon. Enjoy following along!

Ireland

We flew out on a 6-hour overnight flight to Dublin, and arrived there at 8:15, ready to hit the ground running, or driving at least!

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Our first look at the country was… Green!

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Although quite a distance from the kids, we knew they were having a wonderful time, and we were ready for a little parenting break! Thank you Aunt Bridget, Uncle Kevin, Nannie & Grandpa for taking care of everyone so we could enjoy our time together!

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And just like that… I had my very first stamp in my passport!

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Brian did an amazing job driving on the other side of the car, the other side of the road, AND with a manual transmission, especially considering that our first adventure landed us right in the heart of Dublin!

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I enjoyed all the differences I could find in a foreign country… It always took me a while to pay in Euros since I wasn’t used to all of their currency. They use a lot more coin amounts than we do! Thankfully, the shops were pretty patient with me…

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It also took me a while to figure out how to cross the street, and friends are “mates” over there.

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The tourist shops are a bit different than the ones you find in NYC…

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… and the characters on the street there aren’t Hello Kitty & Buzz Lightyear, but lucky leprechauns!

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It took me a bit to realize that when people were talking about the “Liffey”, it was actually the name of the river that runs through downtown Dublin…

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There were old buildings, churches & castles everywhere!

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We enjoyed touring the city on the Hop on, Hop off bus, and were able to cover a lot of ground that way. The first day, we took the purple route, and came back the next morning to finish the tour on the pink route.

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We got off at Dublin castle and walked around the grounds…

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Of course, the major stop of the day was the Guinness Storehouse. We did the self guided tour through the factory to learn about the history and the making of the famous (although in my opinion, gross) drink…

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We each received a complimentary Guinness on their rooftop “Gravity Bar”, and while Brian enjoyed his pint, I enjoyed the views!

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I have to say my drink looked pretty special though…

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… and I even tried it! I still don’t love it, but I couldn’t go all the way to Ireland and not try…

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We did a bit of shopping for souvenirs on Grafton Street, and enjoyed watching all the street performers along the way!

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The second day, we made a stop at the GPO, where the Easter Rising took place. Brian’s great-grandfather, Jack Lombard, was in the IRA, and this place was full of history from that time.

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In fact, we took a special trip up to the church where his great-grandparents, Jack & Kathleen Lombard, were married back in 1923. The church was closed, but it was fun to be in the same place they were many years ago!

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We also enjoyed a stroll through the beautiful grounds of Trinity College…

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A trip to the area known as “Temple Bar” provided us with a great street side lunch (on cobblestone streets) and traditional Irish music!

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You can’t come to Ireland and not enjoy some authentic fish & chips with a cold Guinness!

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Our first night in Dublin was spent with some relatives of Brian’s (his great-grandma Kathleen’s, sister’s, daughter), and we had a WONDERFUL night visiting with them. They welcomed us into their home, fed us two wonderful meals, told so many fun family stories, and even gave us a champagne toast to celebrate our anniversary! Our only regret to this trip was not being able to spend more time with them! Thank you Val & Eddie for such a memorable time!

We even got to sit on Brian’s great-great-grandmother’s couches from the 1800’s!

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After two days in Dublin, it was time to travel south to the town of Kilkenny…

Heading south to Kilkenny

After seeing most of Dublin in just over 24 hours, we hopped in the car and headed south to Kilkenny…

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When I wasn’t navigating our car trips (we didn’t get the GPS… which made for quite an adventure), I was busy taking pictures of the sights along the way!

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Our goal was to head to our B&B to check in, but my navigating wasn’t perfect, so we ended up sightseeing in downtown Kilkenny first (and stopping to ask for directions)! Good thing we didn’t have a schedule!

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We went in and took a tour of the ancient medieval Kilkenny Castle, which has been beautifully restored, although some it’s original foundation dates back to the 13th century. We felt like we were walking through the Downton Abbey estate, and could picture how they all lived back then. We walked through dining rooms, tapestry rooms, bedrooms, libraries, drawing rooms & more… It was a BEAUTIFUL site, and a wonderful detour!

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We enjoyed a very nice early anniversary dinner in Kilkenny that night, and even though the waiter had no idea what a Cosmo was (I guess most people order Guinness), it was wonderful!

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We headed over to our B&B, which I found in my research online, and we were in for such a treat!

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The farm before we got to the house was beautiful, and as always, there were dozens of cows & sheep roaming around!

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The house was a beautifully renovated stone farmhouse surrounded by a beautiful landscape & a fun farm filled with animals!

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Our bedroom was the “Stone Room”, which was so quaint and welcoming…

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The view from our room was beautifully green, and we even saw the cows grazing out there at times!

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The house was so welcoming, but not nearly as much as the owners, Ann Marie & Mark, who gave us a tour of the house & farm, mapped out a plan to see the area, and even gave us some history lessons on the area surrounding their home in the medieval village of Kells.

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Our delicious breakfast was in their glass porch room, overlooking the farm, and the food & company were both wonderful. They talked with us while they cooked, and we met some of the other couples staying in the house as well. In fact, the couple next to us were from Greenwich village in the city… it’s a small world!

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We started with the most delicious bowl of “porridge” that I’ve ever had… I would have filled my suitcase with the oats if I had the room!

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I enjoyed the “drop scones” (pancakes) with fried bananas…

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… and Brian had the traditional Irish breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon (ham), tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, and even black & white pudding. As it was explained to us, white pudding is pork meat and fat, bread, and oatmeal formed into a large sausage patty and fried. The infamous “Black pudding” is pork & fat, as well as oatmeal or barley, which is then soaked in pigs’ blood and then fried. I can’t even write all of that without being totally grossed out, so needless to say, I passed on the “pudding”, but Brian said it was good… I’ll take his word for it!

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Before we left, Mark gave us a tour of his magnificent home adjacent to the B&B property, which he built himself. It took him 3 years, but it is a simply stunning home that looks like it was built hundreds of years ago, using repurposed old stone to make the 2 foot thick walls (which he’s collected over the past 30 years), wood from old churches to build the beams in the ceiling, as well as using old steeple doors to mark the entrance to their home. I’ve decided this is where I would like to live someday…

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This wonderful couple even gave us a handmade wooden shamrock key ring that was from an 18th century Irish church room truss… If anyone plans on traveling to Ireland, we HIGHLY recommend staying at this quaint B&B. You will NOT be disappointed!!!

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Before we left, Mark helped us map out our morning excursions, and we couldn’t be happier with his suggestions! Our first stop was to explore Kells priory ruins, that was built in 1193, (you can find some history here: http://www.kellsvillage.bravepages.com/priory.htm ), and then it was off to some ancient castle ruins!

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The priory ruins were surrounded by a large stone wall (as most of the castles were back then)…

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To get into the priory grounds, we had to walk through a vast pasture of roaming sheep, which was like something out of a movie. There was no one else there, so off we went, through the pasture to go exploring. The sheep were all “baaing”, as if we were trespassing on their land, but were friendly enough, so we continued on!

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Here is a video of our sheep friends… please excuse the sheep peeing at the end, but I couldn’t cut it out, as it’s the girls favorite part Smile:

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As you can see, there was plenty of “exploring” to be had here! It was such a beautiful place!

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After walking around the Priory & along the banks of the Kings river, we headed down the road toward Newtown, where we looked for the castle ruins that our B&B host had told us about to go exploring in…  (you can read more about this castle here: http://irelandinruins.blogspot.com/2013/12/newtown-castle-church-co-kilkenny.html )

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We finally found the castle ruins, hopped the stone wall covered in thorny vines, climbed under the electric fence (I don’t think we were supposed to be there), and had SO much fun climbing to the top of this ancient 15th/16th century site!

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Brian has never done well with heights & this castle was no exception! He’s always up for an adventure though!

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The view from up top was breathtaking!

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The trip down was just as scary as the way up, but we were careful, and so glad we made the journey!

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This may be a boring video to most, but the girls loved watching our castle climbing adventure!:

After our castle climbing adventure, it was time to take a country drive to the west side of the country, and visit family in Milltown, near Killarney!