Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dublin, Kilkenny, & Cashel, Ireland

(Written August 2014)

So it's been just over a year since we moved out of Italy and back to the United States, but that doesn't mean the travel stops, right? Believe it or not, there are about five different areas of Europe that Jon and I had on our "list" that we didn't get to in our two years of jet-setting around the continent. Ireland, various Scandanavian cities, Scotland, Western France, and Iceland. We were all set with a deposit on two different cruise lines to a lot of Scadanavian cities, but I just didn't want to leave the baby for the 15 days it would take for us to complete it all. Ireland was next and we figured that we could do a nice eight day trip starting in Dublin, working our way south and west, and flying out of Shannon. It's also less than a six hour flight from Newark and only a five hour time difference. I planned for the trip to have a nice balance of sightseeing and relaxation since the last nine months with a new baby, while utterly amazing, didn't leave a lot of room for downtime.

Our flight arrived in Dublin at around 6:00am. After going through customs we picked up our rental car and were ready to start. Driving on the left side of the road was... different. The roundabouts were tricky at first and anytime we had to make a turn we looked both ways multiple times because we just kept forgetting which way cars were coming from! There are signs all over the right side of the roads that say "Wrong Way" and "Turn Around" for everyone not from the area. It was pretty entertaining. Jon did an amazing job!

What do I do???

After dropping off our luggage at the hotel we made an early visit to the Guinness Storehouse. We figured it wouldn't be that crowded at 9:30am (it wasn't) and we wanted to enjoy it while we were fairly awake. We learned all about the history and brewing process of making a true Guinness and even got a certificate for perfecting the perfect pint of Guinness - meaning they taught us how to properly pour a pint. It was a fun and informative hands-on experience!

After walking through the storehouse we went up to the rooftop bar with our beer and enjoyed the panoramic views of Dublin.

We walked outside to find ourselves in a rainstorm. Rule number one when visiting Ireland: Always carry an umbrella or raincoat. There is always some passing shower overhead! We took a cab to another area of the city and went to a delicious restaurant based on the recommendation of local. After lunch we went for a quick walk around Trinity College. We were so tired from our overnight trip (and not sleeping) and our heavy beer and lunch that we went back to the hotel afterwards and crashed until dinner.

The next morning after breakfast we walked to St. Patrick's Cathedral, a beautiful cathedral dating back to 1191. We opted not to go inside, but the outside was very impressive.

(This part written January 2015 - no time to write while chasing around a crawler/walker!)

After walking around the city a little bit more we checked out of our hotel, got in the car, and headed towards Kilkenny, which is about 1.5 hours away. Kilkenny is a busy, but charming town built on both banks of the River Nore. We really wish we had more time here, rather than rushing off to spend the night in Cashel (more on that later), but I don't think we realized that there was so much going on here.

We took a two hour bike tour of the city in order to get a quick overview since we didn't have much time. We used scenic riverbank paths as our roadways, which took us not only to the town center, but to sites such as Kilkenny Castle, the Design Centre, Shee Alms House, The Tholsel, St. Mary's Church, Rothe House and Gardens, The Courthouse (Grace's Castle), St. Francis' Abbey, The Black Abbey, and St. Canice's Cathedral. We had a really nice time with the diverse group of travelers and our fun guide!

Inside the Black Abbey

The Black Abbey 
Our last stop on the tour was to St. Canice's Cathedral and the Round Tower. The site was founded in the 6th century and worship has taken place here for over 800 years! The Round Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny and we were able to climb to the top and take in some nice views!

We were hoping to get to Smithwick's Brewery after the bike ride, but we ran late and JUST missed the last entrance for the tour. Since we had reservations at a bed and breakfast in Cashel that night we couldn't stay in Kilkenny to tour the next day. Instead, we bought some beer glasses and went on with our journey!

We were so excited to be back in travel mode and even more excited to be back in Europe after a year of not living there. Dublin and Kilkenny were great cities to start our trip with, though we wish we had more time in both. But, we had decided to focus more of our time in the west, and with a limited amount of time something has to be cut, right? Next up Cashel, Cobh, and Cork!