Instead of states, Ireland is broken up into counties. During this trip we plan to cover Galway, Clare and Kerry County. The country of Ireland is an island surrounded by the North Channel, St George’s Channel, Irish and Atlantic seas. Before visiting, the only things I knew about Ireland was from television. Leprechauns, pots of gold, Lucky Charms cereal, corned beef and cabbage, rainbows, Irish Spring soap, four leaf clovers and thick accents. As it turns out all of these things listed are not Irish. Yes, even the corned beef and cabbage.
We flew into Dublin on the national carrier Ryanair. This is the Irish version of Southwest Airlines in America. It was a fun budget carrier and everything cost extra once the ticket is booked. They have a reputation as being a cattle car airlines but I thought it was better than some of well known American airlines.
Arriving in Ireland the weather was blue skies with rain. I guess it’s no wonder why Ireland is so green. We rented a car from Budget and paid an upgrade for an automatic gear car rather than a stick shift. Apparently automatic cars are rarely driven. There was only one automatic car available and it wreaked of cheap cologne. It smelled like a pair of old Irish grandparents were the last ones driving. Even the trunk stunk as if someone was sleeping in heavy cologne back there. We told the agent but of course he said he couldn’t smell anything. How convenient when there is nothing to replace this with.
We stayed in an area called Sandymount. This is an upscale residential area . The Sandymount hotel has been around for many years and is central to Dublin. We chose to stay here three days before venturing out into the great wide open of Ireland. The hotel is walking distance to Aviva Stadium making it a popular place to stay during big soccer and rugby events.
Downtown Dublin has a few large canal areas running through the city.
In the old days ferries were used to cross the water until large bridges were built. One of the most famous is the Ha’penny bridge. We walked across the bridge in search of a great lunch place.
This brings me to the bars in Ireland. I quit drinking many years ago but if I was still drinking, Dublin would be my Mecca. Irish people know how to have a drink! Bars are literally on every corner and on every street. The most famous bar (especially with tourist) is the Temple Street bar.
Some of the bars have shelves of alcohol that go up two floors! Beer is the most popular drink but whiskey is a very close second. In some restaurants the price of a beer is the same as a Coke. It was fun just peeking inside at the set ups and just seeing inside a real Irish pub.
Irish food isn’t something I’ve seen often and I recently learned that corned beef and cabbage is not an Irish dish. However, Irish food shouldn’t be written off, they do have some great traditional dishes. The vegetable trinity of Ireland is potatoes, carrots and cabbage. All three of these vegetables grow in Ireland and taste better than anywhere in the world.
Some popular foods found everywhere in Ireland are blood pudding, apple pie, Irish cheese (specifically Irish cheddar), sea vegetables, soda bread and Irish butter.
After trying Irish stew at the Oval Bar our first day in Dublin we were excited to try other things. Irish stew is made with beef, carrots, potatoes, herbs and onions boiled for a few hours and served in a bowl. I’m not a fan of beef stew but the broth was amazing.
The Hairy Lemon restaurant is one of the few places that serves coddle, a traditional Irish comfort food. Coddle is made of bacon, sausages, carrots, onions and potatoes. Normally coddle is made with leftovers (when served at home) but in this case it’s a featured dish on the menu.
All of the leftovers are then boiled/steamed in a huge pot and served as a stew over mashed potatoes. The name comes from the verb coddle, meaning to cook food in water below boiling.
Another popular dish throughout Ireland is bacon and cabbage. Bacon in Ireland isn’t the same as the smoky tasting bacon in America. Bacon and pork have two different meanings in Ireland. When something is labeled bacon, it has been treated with a salt brine. The best way to describe it is like corned beef to beef brisket. I made the mistake of buying bacon ribs thinking they were spareribs, to my surprise they were salty. Think salt pork, its great for cooking, seasoning and simmering in dishes for hours but not for eating right away.
One morning we decided to go to the book of Kells except we didn’t take into consideration that every single tourist in Dublin had the same idea. The Book of Kells is sacred to Ireland and if I hadn’t visited Ireland, I would never know they existed. The Book of Kells is a colorful decorated ninth century book of the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ. The exhibit is located in Parliament Square on the Trinity College campus.
Some major celebrities have been here including Michelle Obama and her daughters, Queen Elizabeth and her husband. The line to get in was wrapped around the building so we passed on it. The whole area of Parliament Square is nice. People were eating outside at a cafe while others were sitting on the grass or just standing in awe. I found it kind of strange to have all these tourists on a college campus but everyone behaves and its quiet. This is the beauty of traveling outside the United States, just seeing others in public being polite and considerate to each other. These things sound simple but it seems to be a problem in America at times. Especially knowing how violent America is and the fact that anyone can be armed with a loaded weapon (it’s their “right” in America).
Throughout our travels there’s always been one person that stands out for outstanding salesmanship in each place. In French Polynesia it was Robert Wan and his Tahitian pearl empire, Ray White had a lock on high-end real estate in both Australia & New Zealand and Betty & Roy Sakamoto are local real estate celebrities on the island of Maui in Hawaii. In Ireland, the star is Sherry Fitzgerald. Sherry’s for sale signs can be seen throughout Dublin and surrounding areas. Speaking of local celebrities, the employee of the month at a grocery store we first visited reminded me I was in Ireland. His bright red hair and fair skin was screaming Irish to me.
Ireland is ahead of America when it comes to the store Argos. Argos stores in Ireland or similar to the store Walmart in the USA. The differences everything is done online via catalog (in the store) and then you collect the items you buy right there in the store. The warehouse is the actual store and the shopping area is filled with computers and catalogs. Shopping is very easy – pick what you like in the catalog, write down the number item, and then pay at the register. Once you’ve paid at the register it’s just a short wait for your number to be called. Minutes later your items arrive at the collection point, packaged as if they’d arrived in the mail. Because of this system the prices are lower than if you shopped inside of the store front.
The style of homes in Dublin are similar to brownstone style homes in NYC except some have driveways. It’s always interesting to see the layout of homes in different places.
I’m starting to piece something together. Hamburgers are comfort food here in Ireland. Every restaurant or pub claims to have the best hamburgers. While eating in an Irish mall at (old faithful) McDonald’s, I realized the hamburgler may have been Irish. There’s a strong connection of hamburgers, the redheaded, red cheeked character the hamburgler and the Irish name McDonalds. What do you think?
Phoenix park is a beautiful 15 acre park in the middle of Dublin. Herds of wild deer have been living in the park over 100 years. The deer congregate in certain areas of the park and allow visitors to feed them carrots by hand.
I bought a big bag of carrots as we drove through in search of the deer. We finally found the known spot and not a deer in sight. Only O’Brien’s ice cream truck and a few people admiring the Papal. We were told they don’t come out this early (2:00pm). That was a blow to my daily entertainment and it also meant I’m stuck with 2 pounds of carrots.
Ireland is home to Guinness beer. The Guinness factory is the number one tourist attraction in Dublin. We passed on this for a variety of reasons. First reason is the steep $20.00 admission charge per person, second being I don’t drink anymore so the “free” beer at the end wasn’t worth the admission charge. The tour ends at the top floor Guinness bar to redeem your drink coupon. The bar is open to the public which makes it very crowded at times. I found the history of the Guinness family more interesting than their beer factory. They are the Rockefeller’s of Ireland, having a lock on banking, brewery, parliament and land in Ireland. It all stems back to Arthur Guinness.
In the middle of the city is an unusual structure called the Spire of Dublin. When we asked for directions, a couple people used the spire as a landmark. The Spire is also known as the Monument of Light is a 400 foot stainless steel pin with a very pointed end. It’s one of the most odd structures I’ve ever seen. I tried to get the whole thing in a photo (from the ground) but using my panoramic mode, the tip got lost in the sky.
The grass isn’t the only thing green in Ireland. Grocery stores do not supply plastic bags. Everyone brings their own bags or hand carry their groceries out of the store. Hopefully America will follow suit (Hawaii is starting). During my travels I’ve seen first hand the damages plastic have done to the earth and landscapes of some of the most beautiful beaches and fields.
Gas stations double act as grocery stores, delis, laundry, convenience stores and of course gas.
They are truly a one stop shop. In America I wouldn’t be caught dead eating from a gas station café but here in the states actually pretty good.
Ireland has it’s own breed of pony called the Connemara pony. I didn’t see many of them but there were many Irish Cob horses also known as the gypsy horse. Their bodies are robust and their necks are shorter than a horse. Some of the ponies have beautiful long hair around their ankles. During our visit I had Doug pull over every time I saw one close to the road (fenced in). I had fun feeding them carrots along the way. I’m sure they appreciated it too. As soon as they saw the orange color, they came over to check it out.
I’m really looking forward to seeing the country side of Ireland. So far I really like it here. Next we are driving the Wild Atlantic Way down the coast of Ireland through three counties.