Day 7 – Swords, Boston, Washington D.C., and Dallas

We woke and returned our car to the Hertz outside the airport, which is very poorly signed. After making our way through the light security (in comparison to American airport security), we had Irish breakfast in the airport, which was surprisingly good. You’d think we would have been tired of it by now. The flight to Boston was very comfortable, and it should be noted that Aer Lingus was one of the best airlines I’ve ever flow. The staff was incredibly courteous, the in-flight food decent, and the entertainment selection excellent. And they gave us tea and biscuits.

Goodbye, Ireland. 😦

When we arrived in Boston, however, we learned that our flight had been cancelled. This was AFTER going through security to the terminals. The American Airlines people at the terminal told us we would have to exit the terminal and go speak to the check-in people in order to resolve this. We did that, only to learn that AA had no flights going to Dallas that day. They managed to get us on a US Airways connecting flight to Washington D.C., and then on to Dallas. We rushed to get to our other terminal, went through security again, and then flew to D.C. only to find that our flight to Dallas had been delayed by an hour. An hour later, it was delayed by another hour. An hour later, it was delayed by another hour. That repeating sentence was not a mistake. An hour later, it was delayed by another hour. Neither was that one. After a total five hour delay, we managed to get on a flight to Dallas. Thank goodness we have friends willing to pick us up from the airport in the middle of the night on a Monday morning. I know AA is having financial problems, but seriously?

Despite the horrid trip home, we left with an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. The land and people of Ireland are truly great, and we could not have had a better honeymoon.

Day 2 – Kilkenny

Despite the noise of the party-goers, we manage to get some sleep (due largely to complete exhaustion).  We rose bright and early, with plenty of time to grab breakfast before our pilot service taxi arrived.  The free breakfast at Isaacs Hostel consisted almost entirely of toast and juice, so we walked the short distance to O’Shea’s for their very reasonably priced, and very filling, Irish breakfast.

To our surprise, our taxi was waiting for us when we got back, a full half-hour before our designated pick up time.  We gathered our belongings, checked out, and jumped in the taxi.  Fintan Murray with Corporate Transfers was quite the gentleman, and made some recommendations as to some of the sights we should see on our drive.  He was also very encouraging when it came to my driving in Ireland.  However, seeing him drive through Dublin, with its very aggressive drivers, did little to ease my nerves.  He drove us to Hertz in the city center.  Getting our car was painless, and after Fintan gave me a rundown of our bright blue Ford Ka, we were off.

Mr. Murray drove carefully in front of us, allowing me to follow as a comfortable clip. Having someone to follow out of Dublin’s confusing layout did wonders for easing my anxiety, and for anyone who is driving on the left side for the first time, I highly recommend Fintan Murray’s pilot service.  35 Euro well spent!

When we reached the roundabout to get on the highway, Fintan waved us on, and we had successfully escaped Dublin!  Almost immediately there is a change of scenery, and we found ourselves surrounded by beautiful green rolling hills, framed by the majestic Wicklow mountains in the hazy distance.  Driving on the highway was quite easy, and before too long I was feeling comfortable driving the Ka.  Just stay out of the fast lane (the right one) unless you’re passing.  People seem to take that offense quite seriously.

Once we arrived in Kilkenny, the driving changed.  It is a bustling little city, with very narrow medieval streets.  People here don’t drive particularly slow, and Sygic’s iPhone GPS wasn’t tracking us too well.  After getting completely turned around, we managed to find some pay parking not far from our hostel.  Speaking of, we discovered that keeping a pocket full of Euro coins is important, as most of the parking in almost every city cost 2-5 Euros a day, and the meters took only coins.

Despite being early for check-in, our room at Kilkenny Tourist Hostel was ready for us. The very nice receptionist gave us our room key, and some suggestions for lunch.  The hostel is obviously older, and a bit rough around the edges, but very charming and in a GREAT location.  Our room was very clean, and the hostel didn’t seem to have very many occupants.  We were glad to have some peace and quiet after the raucous that was Isaacs Hostel.

On the advice of the hostel receptionist, we stopped off at John Cleere’s for a sandwich and soup.  Alexis enjoyed her cheese sandwich and lamb stew, and my mushroom soup was good, but my ham sandwich (which was just that: ham and bread) was a bit bland.  I got the feeling the place was more of a bar than an eatery, but it served its purpose.

This does not belong here!

As it was the main reason for our stopping in Kilkenny, we walked the short distance to Kilkenny castle. Kilkenny is a wonderful medieval city, and its many multicolored shop fronts give it a decidedly European feeling.  The cobblestone streets and many cathedral spires are icing on the cake.  By the time we reached Kilkenny Castle (perhaps a mile from our hostel), I learned one of the most important rules of Ireland: never leave your rain jacket behind.  It was sunshiny and t-shirt comfortable when we walked out of our hostel.  In less than fifteen minutes, it was grey, rainy and had seemingly dropped twenty degrees (Fahrenheit, of course).

Kilkenny Castle

The sight of the castle quickly made me forget my damp clothing.  The castle is absolutely stunning from the outside, with a beautiful and fragrant rose garden out front.  We paid the 6 Euro apiece entrance fee, and took the self-guided tour of the castle.  Though the castle has a very rich history dating back to medieval times, its interior was completely redone during the Renaissance, and has been restored to that era.  Its interior is very lavish, and was a great look into what it would have been like to live in aristocratic Renaissance society.  Due to the fragile nature of some of the original tapestries and paintings that remain on display, no photography is allowed within the castle.

View of Kilkenny Castle and the River Nore from John’s Bridge

When we had our fill of Renaissance luxury, we took a brief walk through the woods on the castle grounds, and along the bank of the River Nore.  There is a fantastic view of the castle and river to be had from John’s Bridge. Alexis and I both remarked about how lucky the residents of Kilkenny were to have such beautiful views in their town.

St. Canice’s Cathedral

We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the various cathedrals and abbeys through the city.  There is no shortage of them!  Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by an almost overwhelming amount of history. From the 800 year old stonework to the richly detailed stained-glass windows, there is a palpable sense of awe in these places.

Alexis in front of the Black Abbey

Worn out from all of the walking, we grabbed a cup of coffee at Nostalgia Cafe.  At this point, I’m realizing that the Irish don’t really use drip coffee machines like we do in America.  If you order coffee, you get a cup full of espresso.  It’s wonderful.

We then settled in to Kyteler’s Inn, a storied medieval pub whose original owner was believed to have been a witch.  After a pint of Smithwick’s (which is brewed right in Kilkenny, next door to our hostel) and some more Irish stew, we participated in a beginner bodhran session in the pub’s top bar.  Damien Walsh taught a group of us the basics of playing the traditional Irish frame drum.  He had a great sense of humor and encouraged a lot of audience participation.  The whole thing was silly and fun, and a great way to spend our evening.  When the session was over, we moseyed on down to the pub’s main bar to hear some traditional music.  As we were getting weary at this point, we didn’t last very long, and made our way back through the eerily empty streets to our hostel.

Day 1 – Dublin

After a full day of flying, we arrived in the Dublin airport at about 8:00 in the morning. We were tired, but decided to power through the day and not sleep until that night. After waiting for over an hour to get through customs, we emerged into the misting grey of Dublin town, ready to see the sights of the city. We caught a shuttle bus to the central bus station, which was very close to Isaacs Hostel, where we were staying. Check-in wasn’t until 2:00pm, so we rented some lockers to store our bags.  The receptionist also told us there were showers in the basement. Despite being the push-button kind of shower that only gives you about 30 seconds of water at a time, we were thankful for the shower.

As recommended by the hostel receptionist, we had a hearty Irish breakfast in the restaurant of O’Shea’s Hotel, a block from Isaacs. A bit more awake, we walked across the River Liffey toward Trinity College.

Trinity College

Not intending to visit The Book of Kells due to the horrendous lines we had read about, we decided to walk around the campus anyway. To our surprise, there was no line to see the Book (probably because it was raining). The exhibit has a few other historical Bibles and lots of information on the making of them, but it is still a very small exhibit. The Book of Kells itself is truly beautiful, and beautifully preserved, but you really don’t get to see much of it. As part of the entry fee, you also get to visit the Long Hall Library, which is really quite spectacular. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures anywhere in the exhibit, as flash photography can damage the fragile vellum paper. I was glad to see the Book and the library, but it was only barely worth the 9 Euro entry fee.

Christ Church Cathedral

We then set out in the general direction of the Guinness Storehouse. We stopped in at the Christ Church Cathedral, where a number of scenes from The Tudors were filmed. The cathedral is absolutely gorgeous, and the crypt below it was very eerie. It was well worth the 4 Euro admittance.

On our way to the Storehouse, we walked around Dublin Castle. It’s a smaller castle, but still very cool looking. We decided not to take the tour of it, but walked around the garden grounds in front of it. We spent some time walking around the streets of Dublin, taking in the sights and enjoying the vibrant life of the city. Everything seemed very old and steeped in history in a way that we don’t much get in America.

Dublin Castle

We finally arrived at St. James Gate after a pretty decent walk. We payed the entry fee to tour the Guinness Brewery and Storehouse. The presentation of the self-guided tour is very good, and the building is shaped like a Guinness glass.

Alexis with her “free” pint.

About halfway through the tour of the seven story building Alexis and I began to feel the effects of sleepless flying, so we decided to head to the Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness brewery for our “free” pint. The bar was packed, but provided some great views of the city. We downed our pints and headed downstairs for a bite of food. We both had a bowl of Guinness beef stew in Arthur’s restaurant, inside the brewery. With a bit more energy and a satisfying day in Dublin, we decided to walk back to our hostel. By the time we made it to the Temple Bar area, however, we were thoroughly exhausted, so we caught a taxi back to Isaacs.

The view of Dublin from The Gravity Bar

Though only about 6:30pm, we called it a day in order to get a good nights rest for the next day’s drive. The people on our floor had different plans, however, and partied from the time we got there well into the night. Despite the noise, we drifted off to sleep.