Ireland was, in a word, a whirlwind. In our six days there, Lizzie and I visited four counties, five towns, and spent time with twelve family members. It was amazing. And exhausting. But mostly amazing.
DAY 1 - ADARE AND TRALEE
On Monday, July 3, Lizzie and I woke up at the crack of dawn, shlepped our way down to Stansted Airport, were herded through security, ran to our Ryan Air flight, and landed in Shannon by 10:30 AM. It was an eventful morning, to say the least, and one that coincided with the setting in of our jetlag...which wasn't the best timing, considering I was about to drive on the left side of the road for the first time in my life.
Our father is from Ireland, so when we would visit as a family, he would drive. This was the first time that Liz and I went without him, and since I planned the trip, I got to drive. It was nerve-wracking and expensive, but we got through the week without any casualties (with the exception of one very soft, very forgiving traffic cone).
Slowly but surely, we made our way to Adare, a super cute town about 30 minutes outside of Shannon. It was a good place to stop and calm my nerves with a quick walk and lunch.
For those of you visiting Adare, there's plenty of parking in the back lot of the Adare Heritage Center. I recommend dining at The Good Room - they had plenty of hearty and healthy meals, whichever your preference - and some of the best brown bread I had in Ireland. After eating, take a walk through the Celtic Park and Gardens and along the main street of town. Adare, like many Irish villages, is full of colorful buildings, more pubs than people, and, my favorite, thatched-roof cottages.
After stopping in Adare, we braved the roads again. We miraculously found our Aunt Audrey's home by way of GPS coordinates in Tralee and immediately crawled into bed for a nap. We woke feeling slightly refreshed and headed into town center, which was dead quiet on a Monday night.
We found our way to Polymaths, my Uncle James' bookshop, and were disappointed to find it closed for the night. As we started to walk away, though, I heard a car pull up behind us, and lo and behold, it was Uncle James! Our serendipitous encounter gave us the chance to meet his wife Kelly and son Tiago for the first time. We caught up over a long dinner at the Ashe Hotel, falling into an easy rhythm of conversation that only comes with family. Spending time with James, Kelly, and Tiago was a wonderful way to bring our first day in Ireland to a close.
day 2 - ring of kerry
After waking from a good night's sleep, Lizzie and I caught up with our Aunt Audrey over tea before meeting up with our cousin Brian and his girlfriend in Killarney. From Killarney, we would drive the entire Ring of Kerry, arguably Ireland's most scenic drive — except when it's raining. Which, on that day, it was.
The views were limited but the company was fantastic. Brian and I became close when he spent a college summer in Newport with us and our friendship has lasted through the years—despite the distance and time. I was so grateful for the time spent with him and his girlfriend, Claire, who gave up a whole day of their getaway to sit in the car with us. Brian, don't hate me for saying this, but she's a keeper ;-).
We started our day with a hike past Torc Waterfall and through Killarney National Park before hopping in the car to drive the ring. We stopped along the way for lunch in Kenmare and again for photos at Ladies View and one more photogenic spot before parting ways in Killarney.
From there, Lizzie and I drove back (slowly) to Tralee and met with family for dinner at my Uncle Aidan's. We again got to see James, Kelly, Tiago, and then my uncles Colm, Aidan, aunt Eileen, and cousins Grainne and Doireann for the first time in years. Catching up and conversation flowed over glasses of wine until we went into town to hear a trad session. It was fun to get an insider's welcome to the pub; to be greeted with "Oh, you're the American cousins. Which one are ye?"
day 3 - Inch beach and dingle
After spending most of Tuesday in the car, Lizzie and I were itching to get some exercise, or at least stretch our legs. With the help of Aidan and Eileen, we mapped out our route for the day and planned to stop for a walk along Inch Beach on our way to Dingle.
Inch Beach was stunning. Used as the backdrop for the 1970 film Ryan's Daughter, it boasted dramatic scenery at every turn. It gave us exactly what we needed—time to be outside, on the water, breathing fresh air, and enjoying each other's company.
Once we got our fill of the outdoors on Inch Beach, we headed to Dingle. Dingle is colorful port town that I loved visiting as a kid. It's home to their famed dolphin Fungie, an elusive bottlenose that I spent hours of a fishing boat in search of when I was eight. Upon returning twenty years later, I still didn't catch site of Fungie, but I've made my peace with it. Dingle has much more to offer, after all!
Lizzie and I grabbed a beautiful lunch at Grey's Lane Bistro, a light-filled old church that was converted into the restaurant it is today. After that, we walked around town, got ice cream at Murphy's, and drank a pint at Dick Mack's.
After spending the day in Dingle, we decided to brave the Connor Pass...well, part of it. We drove to a scenic point, stopped for pictures, and turned back to avoid the narrow single-track road. As we drove up to the scenic point, the fog got heavier and heavier until the air was so thick with it we could barely see. But when we got to the top the fog cleared momentarily and we got to see a beautiful valley open up below us.
Upon arriving to Aidan's, we were greeted by a slew of our cousins' friends, all students at my uncle's Kerry School of Music. The night quickly turned into a musical one as people gathered around the piano and sang songs from the musicals they'd performed. Lizzie and I were so blown away by everyone's talent and sheepishly sat back to take it all in!
days 4 and 5 - Kinsale
Our fourth morning in Ireland was a rough one after the countless bottles of prosecco consumed the night before (I blame you, Eileen!). We got a late start, met our Aunt Audrey for a cozy lunch at the Grand Hotel, and hit the road for our next destination: Kinsale.
Kinsale is a port town in County Cork that has two seventeenth-century fortresses, the oldest Protestant church in the country, and is also a sister city of Newport, Rhode Island (my favorite place in all the world).
The drive through Cork was beautiful, and Lizzie and I loved Kinsale—it quickly became our favorite town that we'd visited in Ireland. It was peaceful, medieval, and devoid of tourists. We had a delicious dinner at Fishy Fishy before heading back to our hotel to hear some live music and retire to bed. The next morning we enjoyed the best porridge ever at Lemon Leaf Cafe, walked around St. Multose Church (it was built in 1190—just think about how much the world has changed around it since then!), and then begrudgingly drove on to Dublin. If there was anywhere in Ireland that I wish we had more time in, it was Kinsale.
days 5 and 6 - dublin
By the time Lizzie and I got to Dublin on Friday afternoon, we were wiped. The week of driving around, indulging, and changing surroundings so frequently was catching up to us. We returned the car unscathed (a BIG victory in my book), dropped our bags at my cousin Brian's place, and walked into city center.
Dublin was crowded. And a little bit too much for us to handle in our tired state. We popped into a few charming alleyways and walked along the beautiful Harcourt Street before tucking into Against the Grain for a cocktail (or two) before dinner.
We met our cousin Grace at Delahunt, a pretty little prix fixe restaurant on Camden Street. It'd been ages since we'd seen Grace—at least ten years—so it was wonderful to get some quality time in with her. Lizzie and I didn't make it out past dinner, though, so we bid our goodbyes before walking back to the Sandymount neighborhood and calling it a day.
Saturday, July 8 marked our last full day in Ireland, and the last day of travel with my sister. We woke up, had a healthy breakfast, and headed back into town. We strolled through Saint Stephen's Green and along the river until it was time to meet Garrett, fresh off of his flight from San Francisco!
My cousin Orla so graciously offered to pick Garrett up at the airport and bring him back to Brian's in Sandymount. (Honestly—all of our family members were so giving and helpful on this trip, and we appreciated it so much.)
I was so excited for Garrett to meet us. For one, we hadn't spent that much time apart in ages, and for two, this was his first time in Europe! After meeting, we all went into town, strolled around the Trinity campus, had lunch at The Bank on College Green, and walked around Temple Bar before parting ways with Orla and her boyfriend, Ronan.
Lizzie, Garrett, and I went on to tour the Guinness Storehouse, where we ended up listening to some fantastic live music and learned how to pour the perfect pint. After that we were pretty wiped, so we grabbed a pub dinner on our way home before passing out. Garrett and I had to wake up at the crack of dawn to fly to Scotland the next day, and Lizzie would leave shortly after us to fly home to San Francisco.
Our week in Ireland was full of laughter, very slow driving, and quality family time. I loved having Lizzie as my travel buddy (partly because she was so patient with my slow driving and inability to read maps) and am really grateful to have had that week of one-on-one travel with her. (Annie, you're next! Where to?) I can't thank any of our family members enough for hosting, driving us around, treating us to meals, bringing us to hear music, and just sitting down and having good conversation—we're really lucky to have you in our lives.
Until next time, Ireland.