What better place to enjoy the start of 2017 than in Ireland? At this point we have been traveling for nearly three weeks and have been to Germany, England, Paris, Belgium, and the Netherlands. To say we were exhausted would be an understatement. We landed in Dublin and hopped in a cab to our hotel. Right away, everyone was so nice and happy around us. Our cab driver spoke to us as though we were long lost friends. Ian and I stayed at The Schoolhouse Hotel, an old school turned hotel. It was a short walk from downtown but provided a homey feel that we needed towards the end of the trip. We had planned on spending two full days in Dublin to see everything we wanted to see. Within one day, we had tackled everything we wanted to! We walked from our hotel to the downtown area and popped into some cute stores. We then walked through the Trinity College grounds. Additionally, right in the heart of town is the Dublin Castle. It is gorgeous and oh so close. Don’t miss this!
One of our top goals in Ireland was to go to Jameson for a factory tour, but they were closed for renovations! So we walked to the Guinness Factory. On our walk there were gorgeous stone churches everywhere. My expectations for Guinness were fairly low. I don’t drink beer and I don’t like beer. This factory tour was so well done. We were able to walk up and buy tickets on the spot since it was off-season in Ireland. The inside was massive. Each floor was colorfully decorated making learning about beer fun for any age! There were tasting rooms, aroma rooms, and old marketing props. To end the tour, every of age individual pours themselves a glass of Guinness to bring up to the Gravity Bar, at the top of the factory. With all glass walls, you can get a view of the Dublin skyline. Dublin has a rule that residential buildings cannot exceed 92 feet in order to see the sky from wherever you are. This created a bird’s eye view that I was not used to!
The next day, we were off on our tour with Paddywagon Tours. This was the only tour group available on our dates and I was concerned with the mixed reviews on this company. However, Ian and I only have pleasant things to say about our experience. The majority of our day was on the bus but it did not feel like this. The scenery was breathtaking, rolling green hills and castles captured our attention. The bus stopped at a few castles allowing us to explore.
The main destination of this day was the Blarney Castle. All I wanted to do was kiss the Blarney Stone. Doing so is supposed to give you the gift of eloquence. If you kiss it twice, you get a baby. If you kiss it three times, you get twins. Safe to say I only kissed it once! I cannot stress enough how lovely it was to travel to Ireland during off-season. We walked right up to kiss the stone, a wait that usually exceeds an hour. The grounds were entirely our’s to explore. I felt like a princess in this castle. The tour gave us a little over three hours to explore the gardens, waterfalls, castle, and Wishing Steps. We stayed the night in Cork, a city known for live music and partying.
The next day we were off to the Cliffs of Moher. In order to see these, we needed some luck. Our guide said that 330 of the 365 days of the year, you cannot see the Cliffs. The weather forecast for the day was cloudy with rain. The odds were not in our favor. We stopped at more castles along the way (I’m telling you, they are everywhere!!!) If you get car sick, this is the portion of the drive that will cause you the greatest discomfort. It is a lot of winding and weaving up to the Cliffs. Along this road, we saw a puffin. The driver says this is rare and brings you good luck. Well, we had good luck alright. We had crystal clear blue skies and perfect scenery of the majestic Cliffs. Pictures do not do this justice. It is so windy and cold on the Cliffs so bundle up!
Thinking our tour was over, we went to the bus. To our surprise, we stopped at what they call the “Baby Cliffs of Moher.” Cliffs at sea-level with incredible rock formations. This stop was a pleasant surprise and also an incredible view. We then went back to Dublin for the evening.
Our last day in Dublin was spent shopping and living like the locals. We topped off the night at The Temple Bar. This bar has such an incredible atmosphere. There is live traditional music, dancing, and drinking. What more could you want?
Our Europe trip was exhausting but oh so worth it. Our overall thoughts on Europe: everywhere serves French Fries with everything…stay strong. Don’t give in! Traveling through Europe is a breeze. Hopper flights are cheap from country-to-country. More so, the trains are so easy there. You go through customs prior to boarding the trains which makes your trip seamless. It is possible to pack everything you need for a month in Europe, during the winter, into a carry-on suitcase! We traveled with only carry-on bags since we were hopping around so much. We did not want to risk losing baggage and freezing our tooshies off. Walking is Ian’s and my favorite thing to do in a new country. Everywhere we stayed or went to was walkable. This saves so much money on cabs! Book your trip on a credit card that offers points towards travel. I bought all our hopper flights on points alone, for the both of us! I use the Chase Sapphire card. Lastly, pack warm layers and outfits you can mix and match. I had two main jackets that I swapped through the entire trip and I would wear Smartwool underneath to keep toasty!