Monday, February 25, 2013

Ireland in February 2013

So, went on my next European excursion, and this time it was to Ireland.  We started off by getting to Dublin Airport which was a reasonably nice airport to fly into, though nothing really special.  After that, we checked into the Hilton Dublin Kilmainham hotel.  Which in the end boiled down to your standard Hilton hotel, meaning a nice hotel that is geared towards tourists.  It's location does leave something to be desired for being in central Dublin.  The next time I stay in Dublin, I'll probably try to get the Ashling Hotel since it is more centrally located and in walkable distances from the interesting places to visit. 

That night, we went to dinner at what I thought was a great bar and steakhouse near the Ashling Hotel called Ryan's Steakhouse.  And it had some fantastic food.  I had the Guinness and Beef pie with mashed potatoes, and that was a great way to end the first day of this trip.  We also went there for our last dinner, and it was also amazing.  Though, I recommend you DON'T order a Kilkenny there, apparently the Irish there do NOT drink Kilkenny beer.  :-)

The next day we had organized to go on a full day bus tour of Northern Ireland via Paddywagon Tours and it was an awesome trip.  The trip left Dublin, bright and early and took us up to see a number of things.  The tour guide (Galvin, I think) was awesome.  Gave us great historical tidbits and stories along the whole trip from Dublin to our first stop of Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

It was a really great experience. A beautiful hike out to the rope bridge, with amazing views of the oceans and even over to some Scottish islands.  Crossing the rope bridge (for a small fee) was also really cool, learning that the island used to be a prominent location to fish for salmon.

Following the rope bridge, our tour guide took us up to Giant Causeway which was another amazing place to visit in Ireland.  Again, it provided a great hike along the shoreline to Ireland to see the natural beauties of the volcanic formations.  Which come with a very interesting story about a pair Irish and Scottish giants.  But the views were amazing, and the weather kept being fantastic, no rain and more sunshine.

 After visiting the gift shop at Giants Causeway, we enjoyed a quick lunch at the local pub/restaurant called The Nook.  The was quite a quaint little place with decent sandwiches and a chowder that I thought was really good.  After visiting Giants Causeway, we stopped by to see a ruined castle on the way back to see Belfast.  It was a little disappointing that we weren't able to go into the castle, but it was a reasonable view of the ruins.

Finally, we visited Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, before finishing the day and heading back to Dublin.  There was definitely some cool architecture in the City Hall as well as their "leaning" tower which you can see from the dome in the middle of the city at Victoria Square, giving you a decent view of your surroundings.  Besides going to a couple of gift shops, there wasn't much else we were able to do during our hour stay in Belfast from the tour.

After that we took long trip back to Dublin to end the day, where we enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant. (Yes, sacrilege eating Italian in Ireland, but still good)  Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the restaurant, so I can't really point people to it...  But, it was within walking distance of Paddywagon's hostel in Dublin.  Just to emphasize, I really enjoyed the Paddywagon tour, and would like to go back and take some of their other tours.  If you have a free day, I would highly recommend taking advantage of a Paddywagon tour for the historical and site seeing advantages.

The next day in Dublin we joined the walking tour in Dublin organized by New Europe Tours.  After being on the walking tour they organized for Berlin, I was looking forward to this tour.  I was not disappointed.  Our tour guide Sinead was awesome and had a lot of great stories and history to share with everyone.  She was also a lot of fun on the pub crawl that New Europe tours organizes to help tourists and adventurers be social and friendly.  It was fun, but with 40+ people, a lot of the bars were over crowded in our particular event.  Still recommended if you want to meet people, that you try to join this crawl.

On our walking tour we saw many things from the one tower of Dublin Castle, Trinity college, the Spire of Dublin, to Christ Church Cathedral.

 The walking tour was again a winner.  Still highly suggesting New Europe walking tours to anyone visiting one of their supported locations.

The next day, we started off the day by having a real Full Irish Breakfast at a small breakfast place called Juno's Cafe, and it was amazing.  Though my friends some of their other options, coffee and breakfast all excellent.  We finished up our last day in Dublin with doing tours at the Jameson and Guinness factory/distilleries which were really cool.  Giving insight into history and the process of making each.

Finally, we also went back to Trinity college and saw the Book of Kells, as well as the Long Room.  The Book of Kells is one of the oldest prints of the gospels and artistic work,  The Long Room, is library that inspired the Jedi Library in Star Wars and has an amazing number of incredibly old books.  I didn't get any pictures of those since I didn't think I was allowed to take pictures inside Trinity College, but it was really cool to look at those artifacts.

All in all it was another awesome European trip to see more history of the region.  I hope you can have a chance to visit it some day.

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