Ireland: homeward bound

Having been on the road for 8 months we both looked forward to some downtime staying with my Mom in Ireland. Summers in Ireland are notoriously unpredictable so we were prepared for the worst. Fortunately, as evidenced by the pictures below, we had our share of good weather days so it turned out much better than expected.

Getting In

It’s much easier to get from Zanzibar to Ireland than one might imagine. With just a single connection in Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia), you can fly all the way to Dublin with Ethiopian Airlines. This route only opened up in April 2015 and it likely saved us an additional connection through London. Total flying time is ~13 hours with a 3 hour layover.

We arrived to a cold and breezy Dublin Airport at 5.30am.

My home town is Limerick, in the south-west, so we waited until 7.15am for the bus to take us there directly. To our surprise, we were the only passengers for the 2.5 hour non-stop journey. For just $22 USD we had free WiFi, safety belts, bottles of water and a clean toilet. I highly recommend the eireagle bus company. And my brother Mike for bringing us the rest of the way home.

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Our backpacks are still in pretty good shape…

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Getting Around

Renting a car in Ireland is expensive but it’s the ideal way to get around especially if you plan to get out of Dublin City and see the countryside. Which is exactly what you should do unless you are on a very tight schedule.

You will definitely need a GPS but rather than renting one from the rental company, purchase a SIM card for your phone and use Google Maps or a similar app.

Sim Card

There are a number of carriers offering no contract plans in Ireland. Just walk into any Vodafone, Three, Eircom or Carphone Warehouse store and you’ll be up and running in minutes. There is little difference between each company though Eircom was the cheapest for our particular needs. For $11 USD, we had 7.5GBs of data at 4G speeds for 30 days.

Accommodation

With the exception of visiting Alina’s relatives in Buenos Aires, this was the only place we didn’t have to pay for accommodation which is fortunate as Ireland is not cheap. Not only that, but we had the benefit of my Mom’s cooking and seeing family and friends around the country.

When there’s a day without rain you’ll likely hear a symphony of lawnmowers in action as people take the opportunity to cut the dry grass.

Warning for Californians: the pictures in this post may be disturbing. Reader discretion is advised…

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The horses know that freshly cut grass is on the way…

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So why the long face?

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My Mom makes the best food…

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Someone at the supermarket knows how to ruin a diet…

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An Irish BBQ happens rain or shine. My brother Tin did all the work…

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Meanwhile the rest of the family enjoyed the sum of Tin’s labors. My Mom was strategically seated so she couldn’t get up to cook or clean dishes!

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My godson Rory holding court at the head of the table…

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My nephew Owen educating his Dad and uncles here…

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Which dessert do you think we had?!

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What to Do

Initially we did not have a rental car but after returning from a short trip to London, we hired a car at Shannon Airport for the duration of our stay. We hit the road and caught up with some friends in Cork, Wexford and Dublin along the way.

But before doing so we paid a quick visit to the Limerick Dog Shelter to see the dogs and were given a nice welcome and a little tour of the facility.

This guy was successfully re-homed…

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Cork

We visited my old roommate Kevin and his family in Co. Cork who themselves were on vacation from London. Not only did we enjoy a wonderful home cooked dinner but we also had a few pints with his extended family at Sin É – a pub with a long tradition of hosting traditional Irish music sessions.

His folks treated us so well we didn’t want to leave their home!

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Next up was a brief stop for lunch at the seaside town of Youghal on the road to Wexford…

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Wexford

Our only reason to stay in Wexford was to visit our friends Paulie and Natalie who live nearby. The last time we had seen them was 12 months previously when they moved from California to Ireland so we were eager to catch up and see how they (and their newborn boy) were doing.

We spent one night at the Abbey B&B in the center of Wexford town. The room was basic but clean and the breakfast was pretty good.

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La Côte seafood restaurant was the perfect spot for dinner…

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Kilkenny

On our way home from Wexford, we stopped by Kilkenny which is famous for its castle and quaint streets. Fortunately for us, it was also the beginning of their annual arts festival, which meant lots of street entertainment and pop-up art galleries serving free wine!

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Free wine? Yes please! (Pretend like you belong here)

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Lemon meringue pie at Mathews Tea Room. Yum.

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Inistioge

The small village of Inistioge which sits on the banks of the River Nore is about 15 miles from Kilkenny City. It’s just one example of the countless villages you may pass through when driving around Ireland. Another reason to rent a car and get off the beaten path.

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Dublin

In Dublin we had the pleasure of staying with our friends Seán and Colette in their lovely home for a few nights. We went out for a fantastic meal at Pichet along with my other great friend Declan. Incidentally the first person I met in Limerick on the day we arrived was Declan’s mother!

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Amazingly, Alina also got to meet some of her old school friends from Latvia right before we left town. If it was a small world before, Facebook has certainly made it smaller. And in this particular instance, it has made it better.

Here they are, all smiles, after a wonderful brunch at Farmer Browns. That’s Natasha on the left and on the right is Natasha…

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The River Liffey that divides the city…

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The spaceship which divides this old neighborhood…

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Lunch on the street at Meet & Meat

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The view of Dublin Castle from the excellent Chester Beatty Library. It exhibits many ancient and rare manuscripts, texts, prints, drawings and books and has been described by Lonely Planet as one of the best museums in Europe. So there.

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Guinness Storehouse

A visit to the Guinness Storehouse is high on most visitors lists. Having been there before, we didn’t feel the need to repeat the experience. And it’s difficult to justify spending 40 Euro to enjoy two pints of Guinness!

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Jameson Distillery

See Guinness above.

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Kilmainham Gaol

The Kilmainham Gaol is an important landmark in Irish history where many of the famous Irish revolutionaries were imprisoned and executed. In addition to a small museum, you can also visit the jail house and cells as part of a guided tour which runs every 20 minutes or so. The small entrance fee is money well spent.

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This building houses the Irish Museum of Modern Art and a small cafe where we had lunch.

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Queen of Tarts

It is important to end on a high note and nothing beats dessert. The Queen of Tarts is most certainly worth a detour. With two locations, you could walk back and forth between them all day long.

Who said the Queen wasn’t popular in Ireland?

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Conclusion

There’s no place like home. If you have visited Ireland and not had a conversation complaining about the weather, politicians or house prices then you probably need to go back and do it properly all over again!

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Next up…

Road trip through New England, USA.

  • Lisa

    Beautiful!! Loved Ireland! Was there in July 2013. Such a beautiful place. Love your blog!

    • Alina Basina

      Thanks, Lisa 🙂 Ireland is really beautiful. Thanks for following!