The Emerald Isle

The Emerald Isle

History

Ever since I was child and learned the history behind Saint Patrick’s day and its proximity to my birthday, I have been drawn to it. I don’t know if I have any Irish heritage in my blood, but I sure feel like I do. I have been to ChicagoBoston and Savannah for their celebrations, so this year I knew it was time to go to the big show. Everyone kept telling me that it is a bigger holiday in America. But I needed to see that for myself. I mean 125,000 people have to be on to something fun, right?


Planning

I pride myself on logistics and trip planning. I knew this trip would have a whole new measure of constraints and restrictions (wrong side driving, holiday hotel bookings, potential freezing weather, mixing types of attractions and events, etc). When we first came over to this job in Saudi Arabia, my friends and I all talked about places we wanted to visit. So far, we have tried to go somewhere for everyone’s birthday. This was my birthday trip. I finally had the time, resources, and companions to go on an epic journey.

I knew I wanted to see more than just Dublin, even though Dublin by itself could be a whole week. The city is saturated with history and places to explore. The best way to do this would be by car. I quickly mapped out a potential route and started my research.


The Route

After many hours of research, I had settled on an ideal 9 day route:

Land in Dublin, stay one night. Drive to Belfast, stay the night. head up to Giant’s Causeway, then drive over to Donegal and stay in a castle. Drive the Wild Atlantic Way to Galway and stay the night. Head down south, stay in Cork. Drive back up and spend the last 3 days in Dublin.

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The 9 day route

 

Dublin/Wicklow

When we picked our flights, I went with British Airways while my friends went with KLM. I had never flown BA, and they are a member of OneWorld. After that flight, I will avoid all BA flights possible in the future. The seating layout is atrocious. With the same 777 plane as Qatar Airways, BA puts in a 2-4-2 seating while Qatar has a 2-2-2. It is the worst. You have to stare at your neighbor the whole ride. Cramped, awkward, illogical… The way BA likes it. Enough of the negativity… wait no… then I landed in Heathrow. Friends had always warned me to avoid LHR when possible. I should have listened. Sure this guy was comforting:

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Welcome to Europe… Well I guess just UK now

But the security checkpoint quickly turns into a piled up nightmare. The passport desk and lines are confusing. Overall LHR is a full-on cluster. They were right. I got through the whole mess just in time to board my next flight: Dublin, here I come.

Getting off the plane, something just felt right with the world. I had an hour to wait for my friends. So why not hit The Angel’s Share pub. I wanted to save my first real pint of Guinness for the brewery, so I opted for several other Irish local beers. As I sat there, an amazing girl came and sat around the bend of the bar from me. I had to find a way to talk to her. She had soft eyes and a calm spirit about her. We talked about Ireland over some drinks. Here I was, talking to a female, at a bar, drinking a beer. Life was back to normal. Barbara will forever be my first new friend in Ireland.

I soon realized my friends were in a different terminal, so I grabbed my stuff and headed to the car rental place.

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We picked up Becky, our VW Van for the week, and we made sure to get the “we can bring it back with the doors hanging off” insurance. Turns out AMEX and Chase credit card insurance exclude the UK and Ireland. Sucks.

 

Exploring

Our first stop was the Guinness brewery at St James’s Gate. You have probably heard that a pint of Guinness is leaps and bounds better at the brewery. While I don’t have scientific proof of this, I can tell you, I believe it. It was nice to be back in a brewing establishment. And even better, it turned out that one of my friends from my time in Alaska happened to be in Dublin the same time. So it was awesome hanging out with her and her friend. We had opted for the Connoisseur’s Experience, and I would pass that rec along to anyone visiting Ireland. It is worth the price tag. It is one of the most exclusive bars in the world. It is a good time.

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A Beautiful Sight to behold!

After Guinness, we headed to a mall to try to pick up an Aran sweater. Unfortunately, The Donegal Shop lied to me. They had nothing for me. So we headed to grab a bite to eat and catch our Literary Pub Crawl. This came strongly recommended by my friend who knows how to see awesome things. The crawl starts off at the Duke and heads through Dublin to different pubs all while teaching us about James JoyceOscar Wilde, and  Samuel Beckett.

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The Famous Duke

We even got to explore Trinity College. The crawl was a great way to see Dublin. But we were worn out.

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Hanging with Finn after his performance

We piled into our car and our fearless driver whisked us away to our hotel down in Wicklow County. There are two Marriott properties in Ireland. We opted for the Powerscourt our first night. It was a short ways out from Dublin, but the hotel is immaculate.

We woke up the next morning to an amazing Irish breakfast. Then we explored the grounds a little. If we wanted to keep on schedule, we needed to leave, so we said our goodbyes to the staff and headed back to Dublin.

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Exterior View of the Hotel

We still needed our most important element of the trip, Water of Life. From research we found the Celtic Whiskey Shop had a very good selection. Once there, we met James who walked us through a sampling and knowledge transfer of all things Irish Whiskey. Awesomely enough, they ship bottles to the states.

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Hanging with James after purchasing a whole cache of delicious liquids for the states.

We ended up buying 19 bottles or so for gifts and else, but we also picked up our bottle we would enjoy each day of our trip.

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The cask. This is a variety that is hand-picked by the shop and re-aged.

After we got our whiskey, I needed one last thing… an Aran sweater. Luckily we passed by The Sweater Shop. I went in and Aglan helped me find a perfect fitting white sweater, and it was even on sale.

We were ready for our adventure. We piled back into Becky and headed north… To Belfast.

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