It is essential to our marriage to spend time together, just the two of us.
Kendel has been to Europe a million times (probably actually less than 100) for business, but I never accompanied him because of kids or this or that or the other. Now that my baby is five, I have finally decided that excuses are for the dogs, renewed my passport, and I am going to fill it up with stamps over the next ten years. We will prioritize travel and not let finances or jobs or kids or anything else stand in the way.
We decided to start in the UK (plus Republic of Ireland), but then I actually began to plan the trip and realized there was far too much I wanted to see. We would have had to spend three months over there, and my parents, who get to tend the kids and farm in our absence, would have objected. So we decided to start with two weeks in Ireland (because–U2!) and save the rest for 2018. We decided to fly in and out of Dublin and rent a car and drive the perimeter of the island in order to see everything on our itinerary. We used tripmasters to book our flights and hotels, because their price for everything was about 30% less than it would have been for me to book everything myself, frugal as I am.
TWO DAYS IN DUBLIN–what you must see
1. Trinity College. We flew, red-eye, from Salt Lake City, UT to Dublin, Ireland, and landed on a Wednesday morning. We dropped our luggage off at the hotel, then spent that first bleary-eyed day exploring Trinity College, especially the library (Kendel and I are both serious bibliophiles) and the Book of Kells exhibit. The Book of Kells is a small portion of the New Testament, created around 800 AD in an Irish monastery, with beautiful illustrations. You aren’t allowed to borrow books, or even touch them, but it is still so much fun to browse through the old titles on the shelves.
Dublin is very walkable. (You do NOT want a car. Not only are the majority of the streets narrow and one-way, but there is also zero parking.) We laughed about the ‘LOOK’ and directional arrows in the crosswalks, reminding pedestrians to look in the correct direction, since so little of the world drives on the same side of the street as the Irish. We walked from our hotel to Trinity College and then over to Dublin Castle. I would say it was less than a mile round trip and a great way to fight off jet lag.
2. Dublin Castle. On the way to Dublin Castle we got a little lost and two sweet elderly ladies, one with no teeth, showed us the way, while patting our arms and calling us dearies. They also advised us to ‘be sure and visit the Guinness Storehouse and git yerself a pint’. What cute ladies! We didn’t tell them that we don’t drink, as we didn’t want to disappoint them. We purchased an OPW card at Dublin Castle, which paid for itself many times over during our two weeks. If you don’t spend time touring the rest of Ireland, however, the card won’t save you any money. The castle tour was interesting–they take you down through excavations of actual viking and medieval parts of the castle and teach you the history of the structures up through the present, and then take you over to the modern structure and through all of the rooms currently used for important events.
After being wowed by Dublin Castle, we ate at a fun pub in the Temple Bar district and then sauntered across St. Stephen’s Green back to our hotel and went to bed early to try to get our mixed-up-inner-clocks turned around.
The next morning we walked over to St. Patricks cathedral and Marsh’s Library. We loved walking through the cemeteries around the old cathedrals. Jonathan Swift is buried in the cathedral.
Important Note: We had a hard time NOT entering and touring every building we walked by, but I promise you–after two weeks of touring cathedrals and castles and ruins and graveyards you will be a little tired of them. Save your time and money for the very best.
3. Christchurch Cathedral. St. Patrick’s is beautiful, but the Christchurch tour is so much more interesting and in-depth that if I had to do it over I would skip St. Patrick’s. (Sorry, St. Patrick!) At Christchurch you can take a tour that goes up into the belfry, where they will let you ring the bells over Dublin if you ask, and down into the crypts, where you can see the King’s treasury and relics and more. I also love, love, LOVE the flying buttresses and architecture, and during the tour into the belfry you get to walk out on the roof right in amongst the flying buttresses. It doesn’t get any cooler than that! Kendel was too tall for the steps and doorways and had to crawl on hands and knees.
The Crypt at Christchurch was such a treat to visit! We saw the king’s treasury, including ancient books, and the mummified remains of the cat and rat from the organ pipes that James Joyce refers to in Finnegan’s Wake. Not kidding!
4. Kilmainham Gaol. We spent a couple of hours at Christchurch, it was so neat! We then hurried and caught a bus out to Kilmainham Gaol, which is not very far away, but our poor feet were tired! I loved learning Irish history, and the two places I learned the most were at Kilmainham and the Post Office. Kilmainham is connected to several historic events, most notably the Easter Rising in 1916. Kilmainham is also an OPW site, so free if you have purchased the card.
After Kilmainham we did some souvenir shopping and ate, then toured the Post Office. I learned some history at the Post Office, but felt it was too pricey and I could have learned what I did from a quick internet search of the Easter Rising. It was rainy as we walked around Dublin, which made everything extra shimmery and lovely.
5. St. Stephen’s Green. Just walk across it as often as you can on your way other places. It’s peaceful and so full of beauty that you could really forget you were in a bustling metropolitan city. Awhile ago, because U2 is one of my all-time favorite bands, I learned that recipients of the Freedom of Dublin City award were allowed to graze sheep anywhere in the city, including at St. Stephen’s Green. I saw photos of Bono and The Edge grazing lamps here.
We ate Mongolian BBQ in Temple Bar, shopped for groceries for a picnic at Glendalough the next day and then sauntered across St. Stephen’s Green back to our hotel. Read about driving Ireland’s paved cowpaths, Glendalough and Waterford here.
6. Grafton Street. Just give yourself plenty of time, and walk it from end to end, stopping wherever you fancy.
Most people will also want to visit the Guinness Storehouse, which is a short walk from Kilmainham Gaol. It looked busy! We, however, are ‘mormons’ and don’t drink alcohol, ha, ha!
Read about the rest of our adventure here:
Did we miss anything we should have seen?