Ireland: The Emerald Isle

I recently went to Ireland for the first time. I had always dreamed of going to Ireland - the Emerald Isle. I knew nothing of Ireland though other than the superficial things I learned about American-Irish celebrations of St. Patty's Day. I knew there was much more to it though and wanted to learn.

I mentioned before that the book I came upon in Iraq called Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks sealed the deal for me -- I loved his book and decided Ireland was a must-visit. A friend of mine who was stationed in Germany asked me if I wanted to go with him to ... somewhere in Europe. He asked where I wanted to go and I said, "Take me to Dublin!"

Leaving Palm Beach and heading to New York and
then across the pond to Ireland!

Now, part of the reason for wanting to go to Dublin was that it was a shorter flight than traveling elsewhere in Europe. The further south I'd go, the longer the trip and, my little airport offers connecting flights anyway so I wanted one that was fairly reasonable and fairly quick. Dublin it was!!

The trip wasn't that long considering it was a journey across the pond, but I had a reason for making it the duration I picked. First of all, I hadn't been away from my daughters before and couldn't imagine being gone too long. Secondly, I wanted it to be a nice, short trip before starting Grad School. I think the 5-day trip was a great decision. I got to see enough and enjoyed my time.

I left Florida and hit up a connecting flight at JFK in New York. My flight out of Palm Beach was awesome - I sat next to a lady who lived in Long Island and grabbed a snack for me while I was sleeping. I woke up and she said, "I got this for you because you were sleeping." Awwww!!! I love good humans!!! Then in NY, while I was boarding, I waited until all the other people had lined up and gone on the plane. Why do people rush to sit on a long flight? Makes no sense to rush to sit. Really, why??? While boarding, there was another guy behind me who I noticed - then again, how could he not? He was in a black jacket and black pants and sooooooo damn tall.

I sat nearest the window and one empty seat remained next to me then it was the aisle ... then middle seats and then two seats against the far window. Guess who sat down next to me? Dude in all black. He and his long legs squeezed into the seat next to me. I casually smiled at him. He smiled back. The flight attendants came over to him and said he could move seats where there were two empty ones next to each other - cause, like I said, he was tall and stretching out would probably be more comfortable. He opted to sit next to me though and let me tell you why I was grateful for it.

It's not a short flight across the pond. We had hours and almost immediately we began chatting. He's a chef from Dublin who is working in New York across the park from my favorite museum in the world. I joked that we should get married one day so he could have the American citizenship he wanted and I could have my EU citizenship. If it happens one day, I'll have this to look back on and laugh at because sometimes the universe is funny like that -- so who knows what could come of it.

Anyway, we chatted endlessly. What did we end up doing? Exchanging info to follow each other on Instagram, of course! He also gave me a fabulous list of pubs to check out in Dublin and recommended some food. How perfect!! Getting the skinny about where to go from a local is exactly my favorite way to travel!  At some point during the long flight, I used him as my pillow and curled up next to him. As if we had been dating for years and were used to traveling, he made it as comfortable as possible. I wrapped my arms around his, curled up my legs, and he reached down and sort of held my leg to keep it from sliding. Honestly, I was quite grateful he sat next to me and didn't move seats. It was the most pleasant trip next to a stranger I've ever had.

Now .... onto Dublin.

When you look down in a new city
sometimes you notice such random things
like this. Random tiles were like
collages of objects. Why??

We landed and I went through immigration. Let me tell you about those charmers in immigration. I may have flown next to the tall Irishman but wasn't traveling with him. So when immigration asked if I was traveling alone, I said yes. After all, I was not on a flight with my friends. They asked the purpose of my visit to which I replied, "Visit Dublin." Oh, let me tell you, they did not like that answer. I got a new immigration officer who was already mad at me. How dare I travel as a single female, aye? (Men, pretend you understand even though you have no clue what I'm talking about). Finally, the new immigration officer said, "Are you meeting your boyfriend to travel?" Clearly, she wanted me to say yes ... so I did. Pissed off she said, "You should have said that from the start!"

Well, thanks for the pleasant welcome to Dublin, immigration ladies!

My bag decided to stay in New York so I had to file a claim for it and then hopped in a cab and went to the hotel. I beat my friend there by a few hours and by the time he arrived, so had my luggage, so all was well. Off to a great start!!!

Now, the way I normally travel is by housesitting. This wasn't that kind of trip. In fact, because my friend foot the bill, I was game for whatever. He wanted to stay in an overpriced hotel - fine by me. He wanted to eat and drink at tourist traps - fine by me. Made no difference at all. If it was my call, it would have been a bit different but I was game for something different.

Our first day we head off to the Guinness Factory. Most things in Dublin are walking distance so we head off by foot for the Guinness Factory. It was chilly out but it was a nice walk anyway. Plus, when you walk in a new city, you see it differently than if you were driving.

The tour was designed so well. Lots to learn without being too overwhelming with info. 

The lil Guinness they gave us to teach us how to properly taste it. 

A cool view of the Guinness Factory

Drinking my free pint in the Gravity Bar. 

The Guinness Factory was awesome. There were no lines to deal with and the tour itself was fantastic. The building is huge, well designed, modern with that gorgeous hint of architectural integrity from long ago ... and, at the end of the incredibly long self-guided tour is a room with 360-degree views of Dublin where you get your free pint and enjoy the view of the city. Oh! I'd be remiss if I didn't mention they also taught you how to drink it. They gave you a mini pint (like a shot) and gathered you in a room and taught you about how to breathe, how long to keep it in your mouth, swallow and exhale. (They do the same thing for whiskey tasting as well).  Anyway, for a few euros, it was worth it! I'm still not a fan of Guinness but it was absolutely worth going on this tour!

One of the guys wanted to eat Shepard's Pie so I asked a worker where they'd eat it and they pointed us to a restaurant just a few minute's walk away. Perfect! So away we went to a wonderful little restaurant. I had a soup that was wonderfully hearty as well as a local beer because ... why not?! There was a fireplace in the restaurant with the most insane amount of wax drips on it. It was stunning!! I absolutely loved everything about this place. Already, I was in love with Dublin.

To move from dinner to drinks seemed like the proper move - so we finished eating and then stopped in at a place that looked interesting. The Brazen Head claimed to be the oldest Pub in all of Ireland. Was that even true? Who cares. I had to go in for a drink. A few days later, we were on a tour and learned that it was, in fact, the oldest pub in Ireland!!! What a lucky find!

At the Brazen Head, I had a Jameson and Ginger Ale which ended up being my little go-to Irish drink because Craig (tall dude on the flight) recommended it and I just rolled with it. I can tell you that I had never, ever, ever asked to drink Jameson before but somehow the combo of ginger ale with it made it yummy. The cute thing about Dublin is that it didn't just have fountain soda like in the States. Each time I ordered this drink, they gave me a lil ginger ale. It was adorable! Plus, this way I could establish my own ratio of alcohol to soda. How awesome!

One of the many pubs we visited. 

The singer I was digging. 

This is Temple Bar. Pretty, festive and totally touristy.

We then headed over to a super touristy area called Temple Bar. There is literally a Temple Bar but it is also an area in Dublin. It's crowded there. Drinks are overpriced and the bars are packed!! We hopped into one pub that wasn't too crowded and had a little table near the stage. We got there with perfect timing because a musician was about to go on. He was a singer and guitarist. I was facing him and as soon as he started playing, I fell in love with his music. The table near ours was some dudes from Holland who were in Dublin for a stag party. (bachelor's party) I saw little smiles shoot across my way but probably because I hadn't stopped smiling at the singer. As soon as he took a break, I went up to him to grab his Instagram info. Why not follow him? So I shot him a message saying something like, "Love your music.  - Florida." Well, after that, he dedicated a song called "Your sex is on fire" or something like that and the pub went wild. He dedicated it to Florida. Awwww! After that song, we left but not before I went on his stage to give him a kiss and then head out. I heard him trying to calm the masses while I was leaving. It was awesome. Have you seen the movie P.S. I Love You? Well, it was a bit like that. I loved it!!! I mean, who doesn't love flattery like that?! Like I said, I fell in love with Ireland pretty damn fast and this dude was just an extra reason to love it there.

And, can I just tell you that the musician also played the song from P.S. I love you? Yup -- all of it was fantastic!!! All women deserve to be serenaded like this.

Continuing on ... while in Dublin we visited Teeling Whiskey Company for a tour and tasting. Now, I am not a whiskey chick. I'm much more a craft beer and wine chick but when in Dublin do as they do ... and enjoy some Guinness and whiskey! This company is pretty new and I loved the tour. We had a great group in the tour - all of us foreigners and enjoyed learning the process for making whiskey. I particularly liked that Teeling is pretty eco-friendly / sustainable. I love businesses that think beyond capitalism. Our tour guide was an Irish chick (one of the few local chicks I met). She was fantastic!  And at the end of the tour, we got seated at a long table in an enclosed space so we had to slide into our seats. In front of us was the whiskey we paid for. Some paid less for fewer options, some paid more for sampling their best. Now, here's the cool part.

I had the sample of three whiskeys. The guys across from me had paid the most and had the sample of their best bottle (limited edition) and then a French couple at the end of the table had paid the less and got a whiskey mix. I am not a whiskey connoisseur and some of it was pretty strong just to smell. I learned how to smell it properly, how to drink it properly and then taste it. Who knew you don't just shoot it back?! This process was fantastic to learn. Anyway, although they only give you a sampling, I passed along one of my whiskeys to the French couple to smell and let them taste it. In exchange, they offered me their mixed whiskey! And then the guys across the table let me sample their best whiskey. This was cool. It was like a little family gathering. There is something really lovely about the openness and generosity of strangers who come together for a common good. In this case, it was just whiskey but it was an act of kindness and shared experience that I really appreciated. This one small experience encompassed my feeling about people in general - given a chance, people will be kind and share what they have. And, it's that experience that I love most about humans and humanity.

If you're in Dublin, do the Teeling tour and tasting. And, absolutely do the Guinness tour and tasting. Jameson had a tour as well but it was the most expensive and the least impressive. So, I'd say go to Jameson for a drink but don't waste money on the tour. It's just not worth it for the number of Euros they want.

Yup, I'm doing handstands in Dublin at random places because ... why not? haha

We did an amazing tour of Kilmainham Gaol Museum, which is a prison in Dublin which opened in 1796 and closed in 1924. The tour was lead by an incredibly passionate Irishman. He filled us with information about the prison. There was overcrowding, there was a lack of windows in an area and in the hallways is where women and children slept. Could you imagine the bitter cold of winter and just sleeping on a stone floor? Children as young as FIVE were imprisoned and given hard labor. My oldest daughter is five - it's a heartbreaking reality to know that children suffered here. But then again, I feel that way about children in the present day who are sexually abused, physically abused, trafficked, enslaved ... and all children in history who suffered the wrath of the evilness of humans. It's all heartbreaking and mind-boggling. How are humans able to be so rotten? There was also the famine that plagued Ireland and people went to prison because they simply wanted food. I completely understand that need. And, as a response, the inhumanity of those who ran the prison decided to reduce the meals to just one time a day. One meal is better than none though.

The prison was a fantastic tour and I highly recommend going. It's insightful and educational and this institution plays a huge role in the local history with the British, the famine, the challenges of the nation ...

The interior of the prison - the more modern part. There was a different area that was in bad shape
and it's obvious that it was a miserable place to exist under any circumstance. 

The exterior of the prison. In this area, people did hard labor and there were a few executions. 

Dublin - walking toward the Temple Bar area. 
Walking in a new city means getting to see and appreciate the local charm. I love the green door and the
fact that they even colored the box green! LOL It's a sweet touch of individuality. 

I also visited St. Patrick's Cathedral but let me just tell you, as an agnostic,
I am not a fan of paying to enter a house of worship. The church is so corrupt and already
horribly wealthy. Why take more money from common people? Meh.
I'm. not impressed. 

We did a bus tour out to the Cliffs of Moher. Oh my goodness the trek across the countryside was wonderful. Lovely rolling green hills, farmland ... I am much more a country girl than a city girl. Next time I come to Ireland, I am going to travel the countryside and enjoy a quiet life enjoying the gorgeous natural landscape.

We did stop half way in route to the Cliffs because it was a long drive so I grabbed a tea and a bite to eat. At this area they called it Barak Obama Plaza - it's where they have a small exhibit on the second floor of the facility that pays a tribute to American-Irish presidents such as Barak and he also has family from this area of Ireland. Anyway, the exhibit was fabulous! All I could think was how that dipshit current president is and how nothing he says will appear as quotes on anyone's walls except for some racist museum that focuses on something disappointing like a white heritage museum.  yuck!

Below are a couple of photos from the Barak Obama plaza.

Now about the Cliffs of Moher. First of all, don't go in January! It's cold and wet. It's a horrible time of year (I know this now! LOL). The Cliffs apparently get very busy during peak tourist seasons, and I can see why. Also, there is a season for Puffins - and January is not the time to see them, which was a huge bummer because my daughters watch the Irish cartoon called Puffin Rocks and I told them I'd take a photo of Puffins for them. No such luck though. Wrong time of year!

The walk along the cliffs was so muddy and messy and cold that it was almost funny. People tried avoiding sloshing in mud but it was inevitable. Your shoes were bound to get messed up. Deep, slippery mud is a reality on a wet day.

But, the hell with it - you can clean your shoes! Get muddy, deal with it and simply enjoy everything that's there!!! There is also an eco-tourist center built into the cliffs. Inside the tourist center are bathrooms, gift shop, cafe, and information about the cliffs themselves. It's a wonderful facility. There's also a few outlets that you can charge up your phone. (that was a must!) Don't bother with an umbrella if it's raining though. The wind is too strong and you just look like a fool trying to make use of a useless umbrella. And, if it is rainy, pack an extra outfit so you can change into something dry - particularly if you are staying in Dublin because you've got hours on the road before making it back to your hotel and sitting in wet clothes sucks.

The cute eco-center built into the hillside 

I couldn't get all the caked off mud off my shoes but the cleaning job I did was pretty decent.
Goes to show you, mud will happen up there. Rain boots are ideal or a good pair of hiking boots.

So, basically, that was my short trip to Ireland. The cabbies who drove us around were horribly nice. Every single person I met who learned I was from Florida told me they had been there. The driver of the tour bus to the cliffs was wonderfully social and told me about places to visit outside of Dublin on my next go around in Ireland. All of it was absolutely wonderful.

I've gotten a few questions about the guy I traveled out there with. We had known each other for years and it was fantastic that he flew me out there for this trip but it was not a love connection. However, it was completely worth the trip and experience. I had a great time and know that I plan on returning to Ireland to learn more and see more of their country.  And, as for the tall Irishman I met on the airplane, well, let's just say, I'm glad he sat next to me and I made a new friend out of it.

That's all for now. If you have questions about Dublin based on anything I shared, just let me know. 

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