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The Passionate Pursuit of Delight

Tag: Ireland

Planning a Trip to Dublin

dublin-travel-guide

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but, in truth, Ireland is a country that is full of warm and welcoming people who receive visitors to the Emerald Isle any day of the year. If the Irish people are the life blood of Ireland then Dublin is the heartbeat of the country. If you only have a few days to spend in Dublin I have put together a list of things you must do.

But first,  if you are traveling around Ireland here are links to posts on Galway and County Louth.

Temple Bar

ireland-dublin-temple-bar

The Temple Bar refers to both an area and a bar in Dublin. Temple Bar is located on the south bank of the River Liffey and is the cultural center of Dublin. Here you will find shops, restaurants, pubs, and shops. At night this area comes to life.

ireland-dublin-temple-bar-james-joyce

The Temple Bar drinking establishment is a likely stop for tourists in need of a pint. Inside the bar you will find statues of James Joyce and room after room of people enjoying the craic.  The night we were at the Temple Bar we were lucky enough to have family meet us from nearby County Louth for dinner and drinks. A rare and wonderful treat!

river-liffey-ireland-dublin-family

Guinness Storehouse

guinness-door-ireland-dublinIf you want to tour Guinness I recommend making reservations a few days prior so that you can reserve the time slot that you want. If you wait until the last minute you may end up touring at 10:30a like we did. There are floors of interesting exhibits and a nice café. We particularly enjoyed the exhibit on Guinness advertising through the years. The Whistling Oyster is pure genius.

whistling-oyster-guinness-ireland-dublin

The price of the tour includes a complimentary pint at the Gravity Bar. The Gravity Bar is located on the top floor which is the place to have Dublin’s most scenic pint as the bar has floor to ceiling glass walls for an unobstructed 360 degree view of the city. You will want to stop by the large gift shop to pick up some souvenirs for yourself and your friends and family back home.

Trinity College

ireland-dublin-trinity-college

Founded in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest University. The campus is as lovely as you would imagine an old college made of stone buildings to be. There are treasures on Trinity Campus in the Old Library which includes the Long Room. The Long Room is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions and holds millions of rare and ancient texts including the Book of Kells. If you want to visit the Long Room buy online fast track tickets to avoid standing in long lines.

Teeling Whiskey Tasting

ireland-dublin-teeling-whiskey

Most whiskey drinkers include a stop at the Jameson Distillery when they are in Dublin but from September 2016 until March 2017 the Jameson Distillery is closed for remodeling. Luckily, friends recommended that we do a tasting at the Teeling Whiskey Distillery instead. Irish whiskey was once the most popular spirit in the world dominating nearly 60% of the market until the 1920s at which time the market dwindled to almost nothing.

ireland-dublin-teeling-whiskey-tasting

There has been a recent surge in popularity of Irish whiskey but currently there are only about a dozen distilleries in Ireland. The tour guide mentioned that the whiskey was stored in a Nicaraguan road house. Are you still reading? Nicaraguan road house is what I thought the tour guide said. Apparently what she really said was the whiskey was stored in Nicaraguan rum casks. I guess that makes more sense.

Culture Night

In a serendipitous alignment of stars and the full harvest moon, our last night in Dublin just happened to be Ireland’s Culture Night. Culture Night is an annual event that began in Dublin but has spread around the country and celebrates culture, creativity, and the arts. The streets were teeming with people and even at six o’clock in the evening people spilled out of restaurants and bars into the streets. The city was so alive! We poked our heads into the Dublin Castle to see live music. Dublin Castle was founded in 1204. Twelve oh four! My mind was totally blown by how old things are in this part of the world.  After all that culture we found a rooftop patio bar and enjoyed one last drink in Dublin before our early morning flight the next day.

 

 

 

Galway Travel Guide

Galway Ireland

Are you planning a trip to Ireland? Maybe you are just dreaming about planning a trip to Ireland. Either way, if you aren’t sure which cities to visit, let me try to convince you to consider adding Galway to your itinerary.

the quays

My cousins who live in Ireland, not far from Dublin, recommended that we spend a few days in Galway during our trip to Ireland as they regularly take vacations or long weekends there and love it. Galway is on the west coast of Ireland about three hours west of Dublin. If you have a car it is a relatively easy drive on highway almost the whole way.

quay street

Galway is a charming as everyone says and is ridiculously photogenic. In your mind when you picture Ireland it probably looks a lot like Galway.

Dail Bar

Here are my recommendations of what to do, see, and eat while you are in Galway.

Eat

There are many excellent restaurants in Galway. Below are few of the places that we visited and loved.

Ard Bia at Nimmo’s

Ard Bia Exterior

I read about Ard Bia once in a travel article once and added it to ‘the places I want to eat in Galway someday’ list. We rolled into town around lunch time and went straight away to find Ard Bia. Inside we found a cozy space with tantalizing displays of fresh baked goods right inside the door. We were seated in a small nook of a room in an almost private space.  The menu was appealing and offered choices that suited the vegetarians and carnivores in our group alike.

Super salad

As we perused the menu the server brought us Irish brown bread and butter to start our meal. Brown bread is served everywhere in Ireland but Ard Bia’s brown bread is something special. In fact, we bought a loaf to take back to our Airbnb with us. I will definitely try to replicate their recipe at home.

Oscar’s Seafood Bistro

Oscar’s Seafood is a perfect spot for a quiet dinner for two. Since we were on the coast in a seafood restaurant we ordered both oysters on the half shell and prawns. The oysters in Ireland are saltier or brinier than what I am used to eating in the U.S. but still delicious. We both enjoyed our dinner and recommend stopping in for a meal.

Kai Café + Restaurant

Kai Cafe porkchop

Our Airbnb host and every other local that we asked recommended that we dine at Kai. Now I understand why. The food and atmosphere are outstanding. The restaurant is small though so reservations are recommended. I ordered a beautiful dish of black rice, Chanterelle mushrooms, buratta cheese and sage cream.  I can’t even! The flavors and presentation were outstanding. My partner had this pork chop which he raved about for days.

The Seafood Bar at Kirwin Lane

Seafood Bar at Kirwin

If you are lucky enough to have good weather while you are in Galway I recommend sitting outside on the patio of the Seafood Bar at Kirwin Lane. The patio is in a courtyard that is much quieter than many of the surrounding streets and provides a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of Galway. The special that day was salmon with pea and bacon risotto. It was my partner’s favorite meal of the trip.

Do

Quay Street

Be sure to walk the cobbled streets of the Quay Street area and enjoy the vibrant architecture with flower boxes blooming in riots of color then find a pub with outdoor seating, grab a pint, and people watch.

Sheridan Cheesemonger

sheridans cheese mongers

If you love cheese, and seriously, who doesn’t love cheese? You must visit the Sheridan Cheesemonger shop. It is both a feast for the eyes and the belly. The patient and knowledgeable woman behind the counter let us taste many cheeses most of which were made in Ireland.  We picked up a creamy mild cheese, sharp cheddar, and a pungent blue. We also bought a baguette and an assortment of olives. All we needed was a bottle of wine and our picnic was complete.

Salthill Promenade

Salthill promenade

Known locally as ‘the prom’ this area is right on Galway Bay. The weather was sunny and warm while we were visiting the Salthill Promenade but I was amazed to see people swimming in the bay. I walked down to the water’s edge and dipped my toes in the ice cold water. I later learned that many locals swim in the ocean year round. Brrr!

Swimming at Salthill promenade

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

You may know the Cliffs of Moher as the Cliffs of Insanity from the movie The Princess Bride or the place where Harry Potter was hunting horcruxes. Visiting the Cliffs of Moher is well worth the 1.5 hour drive from Galway. The sheer cliffs are breath-taking in both their height and magnificence. Parts of the trail are fenced off as the trail is eroding in places and it can be hazardous but that didn’t stop many tourists from venturing out there the day we visited. Loco! Driving the winding country roads from Galway to the Cliffs is also an experience itself.

Cliffs of Moher

If you can squeeze a meal into your day trip to the cliffs I recommend Monk’s. This quaint restaurant had surprisingly good food. I was a bit put off before we went because I read that the tour buses to the Cliffs stop at Monk’s and I was worried that the food wouldn’t be good. I was wrong. I had a warm prawn and potato salad seasoned with mustard vinaigrette that was interesting and delicious. The Guinness stew also got two thumbs up.  A word of warning though, if you are a vegetarian dining in restaurants outside of the cities can be hit or miss. The only vegetarian option at Monk’s was spaghetti from the children’s menu.

More

Depending on the number of days you plan to spend in Galway you may want to consider adding a day trip to Connemara too.

 

 

 

What to Do in Ireland: Watch a Gaelic Football Match

Gaelic Football

On Saturday night, our first night in Ireland, we slept like the dead. I did not wake up until 11:00a. Eleven o’clock! I have never in my entire life slept until 11:00a. My cousin Amanda invited us to the County Louth Gaelic Football championship game later that afternoon. Her brother and two nephews were playing in the match. We wrongfully assumed that this would be held at a school yard with a few family and friends watching from the sidelines. Crazy Americans!

We failed to realize what a big deal this match watch. As we approached the address Amanda had given us we began to see cars lining both sides of the street with team flags attached to the windows. We were directed into a field to park and there were easily hundred cars already parked in the lot.

If you are unfamiliar with Gaelic Football it can best be described as a mix of soccer, basketball, and rugby. Gaelic football is played primarily in Ireland and consists of teams of fifteen players. The goal resembles the goal in rugby but has a net attached like in soccer. The object is to kick or punch the round ball into the net (scoring three points) or over the crossbar (one point).

Here is a video that shows a Gaelic football match in action. Take note: the players do not wear pads or helmets.

As we entered the stadium, the crowd was thrumming with energy as we made our way in to meet up with our family. Despite everyone around us sporting their black and red for St. Kevin’s we easily spotted my Aunt Joan and Cousin Elaine.

St. Kevin's Super FanThere was little time for small talk though as the match was underway. We had a hard time following the action at first and had to resort to cheering when everyone around was cheering. But it didn’t take long for us to catch on to what was going on.

The match was incredibly close throughout and so fast paced that we found ourselves screaming and cheering along with the rest of the crowd. I feared that my poor Cousin Amanda was going to lose her mind! She was so nervous and rooting so hard for ‘the Kevins’ to earn the win. We learned a few new swears which was awesome too, ‘aw, c’mon, stop bullocking around’ is one of my favorites.

The score was tied at the end of time but there were a few minutes of extra time for injuries and thankfully St. Kevin’s scored in the last minute and won the title of County Louth champs! The crowd went mad and rushed the field. It was a joy to see my cousin Gerard and his family bursting with pride at the win.

St Kevin's Wins

My cousin Amanda rushing the field after the dramatic last minute win!

So, if you ever visit Ireland and love exciting sports I recommend finding a Gaelic football match to attend to get a real sense of Irish culture.

Joan and Gerard

Aunt Joan and Gerard after the win.

We left the match exhilarated and rushed back to our Airbnb to meet up with my father’s brother Teddy and his wife Carol. I hadn’t met them the last time I was in Ireland because they were living out of the country at the time. Teddy has a great sense of humor and shared many stories about my father both when they were young and would save their money for weekend carousing around Bray and later on the golf trips they took together and the ones that they had planned before he died.

teddy-and-kenneth

Teddy, Carol, Fiona, Darryl, Kenneth, Ryan, Lauren, and me.

My cousin Kenneth and his wife Fiona also stopped by to visit. Kenneth was ten years old the last time I saw him thirty-six years ago but the moment he walked in the room I recognized his face instantly. We had a lovely visit with them and caught up about his mother Sheila (my father’s sister) and his brothers Tony and Shane.

I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to sit down together and spend time with my family. I am grateful to them all for coming together to spend time with us.

Gaelic Football

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