Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ireland in 13 Days: Uninvited Advice From Yours Truly

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Morning, everybody! I FINALLY got my Macbook charger in the mail and fired up my laptop. Blogging will once more become part of the routine this summer, and I can't be more excited to share my ideas and thoughts with you all! 

My family just spent two weeks touring Ireland - a phenomenal experience and my very first international trip! My dad's parents came from Ireland, so we went with a loose sense of connection to the place and some knowledge of distant familial roots there. We left feeling like family, which speaks to the familiarity and friendliness of the people there. Many of the Irish people we met seemed to love making connections with you, so we ultimately were able to see the ruins of the stone home in Cleggan where my Great-Grandfather King was born and link up with friendly folks across the country.

The next few bits of my blog will be a series describing our trip and making a few suggestions as to where you absolutely must visit and where you ought to steer clear. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Our travel day was hellish. We were delayed for 10 hours in total in Portland, made an emergency landing in Denver, and ultimately had to spend the night in a Chicago airport hotel before flying out on Aer Lingus the next day. All I will say about that is that we were underwhelmed by American Airline's customer service efforts and impressed by the friendliness of the Aer Lingus flight attendants.

view of the harbor in Howth
Day 1: Arrived at 4:45AM, rented a car, and drove to Howth, a beautiful, sleepy fishing town just twenty minutes outside of Dublin, a spot of solace from the busy city life. I highly recommend a visit - grab coffee and a pastry at Country Market and head to the outdoor market on Saturdays and Sundays for local food trucks and vendors. Take a walk on the pier and watch fishermen unloading their day's catch for the local restaurants and shops, and keep an eye out for seals swimming in the harbor.

We couldn't check into our B&B until 1 PM, so we walked to nearby St. Stephen's Green Park, a lovely green oasis in the middle of the city, and spent some time people-watching (and for my brothers, dozing on the park benches).

We then checked into our B&B, the Waterloo, and napped, waking to a distant cousin of ours sitting in the lobby making dinner plans for later. Searsons was the place, a spacious bar and grill with sports photos lining the wall. Good food and a good, lively atmosphere.

Day 2-4: Packed the car and drove (manually and on the other side of the road) the the town of Westport, a lovely place with bustling shops and very friendly folk.

Stayed: Plougastel House - Comfortable, but not the warm, familial feeling that you'll get at some of the many B&Bs in Ireland. Breakfast coffee was bad, but the baskets of brown bread and scones in the morning are lovely - and you ought to drink tea anyway if you're in Ireland :) Easy walk to just about everything.

Ate: Cosy Joe's was the first place we ate in Westport, before we connected with our cousin and local expert. Don't go. Terrible service and food, maybe the nightlife is better, but no promises. The Plaza Westport Hotel - upscale and lovely (meaning a bit more money)... but great for a special occasion. We went for my brother's 18th birthday and enjoyed the food and service. DO go to McCormack's for lunch or tea - it's above a butcher shop by the same name. We LOVE the owner's, Mary Claire and Katrina, and we love their sandwiches and treats just as much. No website, but just ask around and you'll find it.

Activities: The Legend of Grainne Mhoal show in the newly-reopened Westport Town Hall Theatre - a collection of song, dance, and traditional Irish music loosely depicting the life of renowned Irish pirate Grace O'Malley, or Grainne Mhoal. Very, very talented and passionate musicians and dancers in a lovely refurbished space. Running all summer, if you're heading that way! If you need a workout after a few Guinness and too much pub food, rent a bike and ride along the Great Western Greenway to the neighboring town of Newport for sublime views of lush farmland.

Stay tuned for the next few days of our journey along the Western Coast of Ireland on PDX Belle! 

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