No, we did not cross the Carrick-a-Rede, gaze upon the Cliffs of Moher, or frolic on the Dingle Peninsula. But rest assured, when we finally made it to Ireland, we did more in our 5 short gifts of days than I could have ever imagined, let alone added all of the aforementioned spectacles to our “Return to Ireland” wishlist.
Now, if you read my previous entry, you’d understand fully our desire for the day on Monday to just be…over. Experiencing life can be tiresome, so we were happy to spend our first night quietly in Dublin in the comfort of the apartment of our host, Liam.
The next day brought us to Killarney, the land of fulsome greenery. To give a brief background on the area, Killarney is situated in the southwest of Ireland in Country Kerry about 3 hours from Dublin via train. It is actually a fairly lively tourist town, with plenty of Americans abound. Its close proximity to the Ring of Kerry is a large attraction, but the entire area is stunning and perfect for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Once again, though, we came with an agenda differentiated from the rest: to rent bikes and see the petting zoo at Muckross Farms. Behold, my vast display of “AAAAWWW!”-inducing morsels:
We were hungry and stopped at Molly Darcy’s, which is attached to the Muckross Park Hotel and literally a quarter of a mile or so from our romp at the farm. While swarming with tourists, the food was great and the entertainment provided by Irish band Onóir made for quite the entertaining environment. Do I even need to mention that June and I served as catalysts for the dance party?
The rest of our time in Killarney was spent horseback riding with Killarney Riding Stables (to be updated with review) and visiting local landmarks Ross Castle and Torc Waterfall. The sore butts our four-legged gentlemen (named James and Paul) gave us were worth the stunning views of Killarney National park and Loch Leane, and we felt we had covered a generous portion of the area through our ride. It should be noted that we stuck to the nearby attractions as we regrettably did not book enough time in Killarney. Per unanimous inquiry, the region itself takes at least 4-5 days to experience properly. Did I mention we already have a return itinerary?
We were weary by the end of this short side-adventure in the South. By the time we returned to Dublin, we were ready to get a bit bougie at the Gresham Hotel. Which brings me to a helpful tangent for the reader.
If you’re trying to figure out whether to do AirBnB or hotels, consider the following a guide:
AirBnB is awesome for:
- Saving money
- Getting to know new people
- Getting advice on where to go
- Getting breakfast right when you wake up
- Having a more “homey” environment
Hotels are awesome for:
- Coming and going as you please (though, most AirBnB hosts are pretty flexible with this as well; it’s just checking in that might take some coordination).
- Getting some privacy and/or spending quality time with your travel partner(s) alone (AirBnB’s hosts run the gamut from absent to becoming your new best friend/brother/sister/uncle/dad/mom/grandma, etc.; I’ve experienced all of these)
- Having more “built-in” things generally, like restaurants, gym, pool, etc.
We upped the ante and made an impromptu visit to The Gate Theater to see Oscar Wilde’s comedy, An Ideal Husband. Forget any stereotypes you’re inundated with about British or Irish theater; the sharp wit and luscious Victorian drama of this piece was both perfectly audible and able to be enjoyed by anyone. Of particular splendor was the costume and set design. I respected the cast by not taking pictures during the show, but I instantly regretted it. The costumes were INCREDIBLE. I was, however, able to get a discreet snap of the stage right before we started.
Those mirrors, those frames…why isn’t my house decorated like this?! Watching the set changes in between acts was a show in and of itself.
Our classiness was ephemeral, as we later went for our Last Dance at Copper Face Jack’s on Harcourt Street. Now, you probably have noticed that I’m not one to easily dole out negative reviews. That’s true, I’m not. I figure this is due to my general aptitude in picking solid places to go, thanks to my trusted friends Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Mama Google. I must, however, give the Reader a fair heads up about CFJ’s.
Ask a local about it, as I did, and you’ll probably make out the following words in relation to it: trashy, scuzzy, and, my personal favorite, “ratchet”. Indeed, our first impression upon walking in was no less than incredibly ratchet, as American dudes proceeded to sliver over and take, not ask, for our hand in a sloppy dance. Expertly we initiated our escape, an easy one given the inebriated state of our would-be captors. Throughout the night, it was definitely necessary to assert ourselves, as we had made the mistake of dancing conspicuously in a clearing near the ATM. I even had to put my hand in a guy’s face at one point, which should tell you how bad it was getting. No drinks or sweaty cadres of tourists for us, no. Those were luxuries to the stagnant people who hung by the bar like normal patrons. Us danceaholics got to deal with the creepy men who wouldn’t disappear. The music wasn’t initially terrible until they switched to American novelty dance songs like “Cotton Eyed Joe” and whatever that other chipmunk abomination is. Some of you probably know it and can help me out here, yeah?
This didn’t stop the 4 am pedi-cab journey back to the hotel from being splendid. I’m trying to remember how many drunk people we high-fived; so brilliant.
Friday was our last day. As I write this on a protracted Wednesday afternoon, it’s hard to believe that this was only five days ago. The main events on Friday were undoubtedly Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced “jail”; don’t be like me and tell the taxi driver you’re headed to Kilmainham GOWL) and our Gaelic Games experience, which I cannot say enough good things about. As we learned about and played handball, Gaelic football, and hurling, we were burning calories and bonding not just with our fellow teammates, but with the country of Ireland in its national sports. Our instructors were unbelievably helpful and patient. And I do mean patient, because they needed to be with me. The gaol also provided an incredibly interesting tidbit of Irish history, specifically regarding the Rebellion of 1918.
Dinner at The Lebanese Chef near Dublin’s food-mecca of South Great George’s Street was spectacular. I think my Yelp review does it some justice, so check it out when you’re there. However, per the advice of a local, it’s quite difficult to get bad food on South Great George’s Street, so you’ll probably good picking anywhere. Other recommendations we had were Yamamori Noodles, Rustic Stone, 777, and Whitefriar Grill. Are you taking notes?
Heavily debating on whether or not to go out, we ended our final evening in Dublin with a stroll through the (in)famous Temple Bar. Ahhhh, Temple Bar. So interesting a place it is. It’s like an Irish Cabo. I don’t even think any real Irish people hang out there. But if you’re looking for a party, it’s the place to be.
As much as we wanted to indulge in the unique culture of the ‘Bar, we were okay with getting some much needed rest before we set a course for return to LAX.
Having been through a few days of the “post-return stress syndrome” that accompanies any vacation, I can say that looking back on the adventures had in this corner of the world has been difficult at times. I remember the littlest things so vividly: The smile of the adorable stingrays at the aquarium. Taking a picture of the Scotsman Hotel for June’s father-in-law during our 2:00 am tour of Edinburgh. How cinnamony black pudding tasted for the first time. The look of the suggestive mountain beyond the fairy pools. The taste of the cheesecake at the Plockton Hotel. The rain in my hair during our horseback ride.
It takes a little while until I realize that adventuring and new experiences are never limited to vacations. Every day is an adventure lying dormant under our obligations or fears; it’s up to us to unearth them.
Until the next adventure.
Thought of the day: Woops, I may have already written it just now.