Ireland: Day 3 – Gardens, and Castles, and Books…Oh My!

We woke up bright and early despite the drizzle outside, almost ready to begin our day exploring Dublin before traveling across the country to Tralee. But of course, how could anybody be ready for the day without downing some good old Irish breakfast?

As we entered the dining room, we walked right into a table covered in brown bread, cereals, granola, juices and coffee. We were thrilled with the choices when we were handed a menu by one of the owners, who offered to whip up anything we wanted. I ended up going with the half Irish, which was more than enough needed to get me going.

z1

We began our day with a guided tour of Trinity College, including the library and the Book of Kells. I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that our tour guide, a current Trinity grad student, was a legitimate Harry Potter look alike, something that he himself even announced before we began. The fact that the tour guides must wear the old Trinity robes that all students had to wear at one point only brought it out even more.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Trinity College Library really is even more amazing in person than it is in photographs. My favorite part would have to be the fourteen busts representing the faces of various philosophers, writers, and supporters of the college.

For those wondering, no, Trinity College Library is not the library where Harry Potter is shot. I hadn’t heard this, but apparently it’s a very common rumor especially amongst tour guides in Ireland, and so our tour guide made sure we had the facts before our tour began. The actual library used for library scenes in three of the films was Bodleian Library at Oxford.

Of course no trip to Trinity College is complete without paying a visit to the well-known Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. When it comes to time to enter this area, you receive a stern warning to not take any photos. Being both a history junkie, and a lover of religious studies courses,  seeing the Book of Kells was high on my list of must-do’s.

After Trinity, we switched course towards St. Stephen’s Green. We did some shopping along the way, stopping to grab some ice cream from Murphy’s, records, and scarves from an Aran Sweater Market.

z4 img_1236

It didn’t take us long to get to St. Stephen’s Green, however it did take us a while before we actually entered as we got a bit distracted. Surrounding the park were numerous artists selling and showcasing their art work, not one who wasn’t super talented and original. Even at home, stopping to admire art is definitely a pastime of mine.

There was only more beauty to be found inside. I gravitated towards the flora and fountains, my sister towards the duck-filled ponds, but my mother, after getting her hands on a park map, made it her mission to locate numerous statues located around the park. But of all, the one she had to find was The Three Fates.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unfortunately, we had to miss out on the Little Museum of Dublin, which I had been highly anticipating visiting, but that just means we have more on our agenda next time we’re here.

After gathering our bags, and leaving half at our next Dublin hotel, where we’d come back to after a few days on the other side of the country, we hopped our train to Tralee.

The ride required one train switch and in total took approximately four hours, but with the gorgeous views of hillsides and cows, how could we complain? But it did help that we sprung for VIP seats. You’d be surprised how much more comfortable you are with reclining seats and wifi.

Before we knew it, we were stepping out of a cab in front of Ballyseede Castle, being welcomed by Einstein, one of the friendly dogs that calls the more than 400 year old castle home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ballyseede was everything we had imagined, with beautiful guest rooms, gardens, and common areas that still managed to not to drift too far from the true, vintage castle feel. If  have any complaints, it is one, and it’s one I know many prior guests have experienced as we had read through numerous reviews before booking.

To avoid making unfulfillable promises, guest services avoids letting guests request which room or floor they’d prefer prior to check-in. Because of this we ended up on the basement floor, which did have large size rooms, however cell service was virtually non existent. Wi-fi was available everywhere on the entire premises until you reached the stairwell leading down to our floor. Typically this wouldn’t be an issue for me as sometimes lack of wi-fi forces you to be more in the moment. However, we had no cell reception either. I’m talking zero bars. So if there happened to be an emergency or my mother, who runs her own business and is consistently receiving client calls had a call, we’d have not known about it until we left the floor of our room. I did leave a comment on a review sheet in the room as I feel it needs to either be fixed or specified to guests before they choose to stay here.

But other than that, Ballyseede was absolutely lovely, especially if you’re a dog person. To my fellow humans cursed with dog allergies, staying here is not a problem. We had no issues with dog shedding or dogs constantly being around. In fact we had to seek out the adorable pups when we wanted.

The bartender and waiter of the bar was super kind and helpful when it came to our let arrival, making us cheese and ham sandwiches. And the complimentary breakfast, which is a buffet + entree, was delicious.

After exploring, and wandering the gardens obviously pretending I was Alice, we decided to hit the hay early before the long day ahead of us.

 

Read about the rest of our Ireland Adventure:

Ireland: Day 7 – A Man Named John Jameson (2016)

Ireland: Day 6 – The Rock of Cashel and the Gift of Gab (2016)

Ireland: Days 5: Bidding Adieu to Ballyseede Castle (2016)

Ireland: Day 4 – Adventures Through the Gap (2016)

Ireland: Day 3 – Gardens, and Castles, and Books…Oh My! (2016)

Ireland: Day 2 – Towers, Cliffs & the Burren (2016)

Ireland: Day 1 – The Three Musketeers Take on EPIC (2016)

Found this post helpful? Pin it on Pinterest for future reference!

SevenDays.jpg

Advertisements

Ireland: Day 2 – Towers, Cliffs & The Burren

After grabbing a couple of cheese toastie’s from a local McDonalds, which are surprisingly addictive, it was only around 7:15 AM, as we waited for our tour bus that would take us across the country of Ireland to visit part of the Wild Atlantic Way.

After a little over two hours, one coffee stop, and an Irish vocabulary lesson from our driver (going out for a ‘craic’) we finally arrive at the Cliffs of Moher. We were a bit disappointed as we’d heard how the view is never as good on a smoggy day, which this day definitely was. When we first stepped off the bus, it was drizzling and we could just make out the Cliffs from afar. Fortunately for us we must’ve been carrying along some Irish luck, for the closer we walked towards the Cliffs of Moher, the bluer the sky got. By the time we were halfway up the pathway, it was still cloudy but with sun beginning to shine through and we had a full and perfect view of the Cliffs of Moher.

After over an hour wandering, taking photographs and admiring the view, we walked away and made our way over to O’Brien’s Tower, and at the same time the clouds came back almost cloudier than before. Safe to say, luck was on our side.

The Cliffs of Moher is one of those attractions that leave you in awe, especially when you’ve spent years in awe just from the photos alone. You really gain a new appreciation for the natural beauty of nature.

The views of fields out in the distance is another amazing site to see, in it’s own right. Being native to New York City, it’s easy to get lost in the concrete jungle and forget that some places are so amazing simply because they aren’t overdeveloped.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Cliffs of Moher visitor center was ridiculously overcrowded to the point where you could barely move, but the short filmed “The Ledge” is actually a cute find as it shows the Cliffs from various angles and we were able to grab some Murphy’s ice cream. Actually the best ice cream you will ever eat, and the only shop that will ever compete with Ample Hills Creamery.

*Tip: Whenever you pass a Murphy’s in Ireland, get Murphy’s

*Tip 2: Get the Dingle Sea Salt flavor, which is actually made in Dingle.

*Tip 3: Don’t climb over the small fence built to keep you safe to take a “ledge selfie” on the Cliffs of Moher, because I watched two people almost fall to their doom, there is a memorial for those who’ve lost their lives in the Cliffs and because if you die, you won’t get to try Murphy’s.

Finally, we all re-boarded the bus and took a short drive to the Burren, which we didn’t get to spend much time at whatsoever. My one pet peve with tours, is that they often try to throw in more than they can legitimately fit into the schedule. But this just means I’ll have to go back!

Our next stop was Galway City, which we also felt was a bit rushed but we did have a good amount of time to roam the city center and check out a bunch of shops including some used bookstores. But definitely another place we’ll have to go back to on our own time. I’m definitely guilty of being one of those travelers that want to see as much as possible, but there are certain places that you wish you could just relax, and get lost in for a few hours or a few days.

We also passed through at least twelve smaller towns that were so small we hardly knew we were passing through them. Our driver said, “You’ll notice as we drive through these small towns that each one has at least one church and two pubs, so you see where our priorities lie.” When it comes to clashing personalities in these small towns, his response was, “If someone you aren’t fond of comes into the pub, you just go to the other one.” Our driver was top notch on this tour.

Once we got back to the east coast, we knew there was only one spot that could quench our hunger: Nandos.

*Tip 4 – When in doubt go to Nandos.

They get Nandos, and we get KFC back home; which seems like a very unfair negotiation to me. So if anyone wants to petition to have a the best fast food restaurant opened in one of the best cities (I’m bias), I’m definitely in.

 

Read about the rest of our Ireland Adventure:

Ireland: Day 7 – A Man Named John Jameson (2016)

Ireland: Day 6 – The Rock of Cashel and the Gift of Gab (2016)

Ireland: Days 5: Bidding Adieu to Ballyseede Castle (2016)

Ireland: Day 4 – Adventures Through the Gap (2016)

Ireland: Day 3 – Gardens, and Castles, and Books…Oh My! (2016)

Ireland: Day 2 – Towers, Cliffs & the Burren (2016)

Ireland: Day 1 – The Three Musketeers Take on EPIC (2016)

Found this post helpful? Pin it on Pinterest for future reference!

SevenDays.jpg

The Most Useful Travel App

Will you be my bridesmaid- (3)

If you’ve ever traveled abroad you most likely know understand the struggle of being lost in a city you’ve never explored, but knowing that you have to dramatically reduce your use of Apple Maps (or whichever GPS Map program your smartphone comes with) out of fear of using up your entire data package.

On my last trip I was being stingy as possible with my data usage, having already received the dreaded “You’ve used up 75% of your data” message. However, while attempting to find my way back to my apartment at one point, I of course ended up lost and thought, “What’s two seconds?” Well, after using Apple Maps to figure out the direction I should be walking for no more than a minute and a half, I quickly was hit with “You’ve used up 100% of your data.”

Awful yes, however, it was this experience that led me to discovering what I consider, the most useful app when traveling both abroad and even domestically.

banner-slim-en_without_promo

CityMaps2Go by Ulmon is a map app that allows you to use it while connected to the internet, but also allows you to download offline maps as well as tracks your GPS signal even while on airplane mode.

If that’s not great enough, you can also star must-see attractions, or restaurants even before you leave for your trip; and add them to handy little lists such as “Restaurants Near My Hotel”, “Must-See Museums” and any other customized category you could imagine.

If you’re someone who doesn’t plan much until you arrive, no worries! CityMaps2Go also provides a Discover option where you can find helpful guides such as “Top Tours & Activities in Sydney” or “5 Amazing Historic Sites in Berlin”. While scrolling through these guides you can even star and save ones that sound interesting without exiting, and can even pull up information for each one such as photos, nearby accommodations, websites and add your own notes.

While in map view, if you click search you are presented with an array of categories to search for things in your area.

So what originally started off as an easy way to save data, turned into so much more. While visiting the Eiffel Tower, I could just click search and find the closest restaurants, top attractions or tours and activities offered close to where I was.

The premium version costs 9.99 which, for regular travelers, is a bargain but even the free version allows you so much flexibility and help, including everywhere I’ve listed above.

As far as travel apps go, I’d definitely say this one is worth checking out!

And for those who are not too tech savvy, or just want a breakdown of all the features, I’ve created a handy dandy little PowerPoint guide (citymaps2go)to make things a bit easier.

Safe Travels!

Ireland: Day 1 – The Three Musketeers take on EPIC

After slugging my bags back to Dublin Airport and greeting my mom and sister, we hopped in a cab to where we were staying in Dublin, a guesthouse above O’Neill’s Pub. It was clear that they both didn’t have the greatest in flight sleep, but naturally I dragged them out as soon as our bags hit the floor of our room.

I’m what one would call a die hard New Yorker. I was born and raised there and while I have about 80 countries to go on my travel wish list, I’ve always said that I refuse to live permanently anywhere else. Until I spent my first day in Dublin, that is. There’s something about Dublin, and I came to find this applies to a majority of places I visited in Ireland, that the minute you arrive, you feel home.

We had a couple of iconic Dublin attractions on our sightseeing list, all in a similar area, which included the Dublin Famine Memorial and the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship. Both attractions go hand in hand and add to the history lesson that is the Irish Potato Famine; and if you have any Irish roots this will be an especially interesting and also somber experience. The faces of the statues that make up the Famine Memorial are completely haunting, but also seem to say, due to their upward and forward glance and thin arms filled with some belongings, “We don’t know where to go, but we can’t stay here.”

1

The Jeanie Johnston is also a huge history lesson in itself, should you choose to enjoy one of the great guided tours through the inside as opposed to just snapping a photo. Using wax figures to depict scenes in quarters that remain largely unchanged, it almost feels as if you took a step back into time. Despite the fact that the ship was designed to help the Irish escape from their terrible situation, the Jeanie Johnston is not only known for making 16 voyages, carrying 2,500 emigrants safely to the New World, but was also known for not losing a single life. As far as coffin ships go, a nickname used for these ships due to the significant loss of life, the Jeanie Johnston was not one of them.

But one of the absolute highlights of our trip to Ireland, was an attraction we hadn’t even heard of planned to see, but stumbled upon. EPIC Ireland is an interactive visitor experience and if you ever make it to Dublin, especially if you have even some Irish roots make sure to add this as an attraction to your list.

After entering you receive a mock “passport” which you get stamped while exiting each segment of the experience. FYI, make sure you give yourself time as you can easily spend two or more hours here. Segments include areas such as “Leaving Ireland” where you get to watch dramatized footage of different people talking about where in Ireland they came from and where in the states they went, all the way to Irish Music and how it influenced us here in America, which includes headsets to listen to various music by Irish bands or artists with Irish roots, and a follow-along step-by-step Irish Step lesson drawn on the floor. Overall, just an amazing way to learn about all the Irish culture present back home. But you’ll also feel a much closer connection to ancestors you may not have even known.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a bit more sightseeing around Dublin City Centre we headed back to our guesthouse which, remember, is also a bar but also serves some of the most delicious food. Not a bad trio, plus if you have too much Guinness nothing is better than only having to trek it up one flight of stairs. And, as only right, that’s exactly how we ended our night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read about the rest of our Ireland Adventure:

Ireland: Day 7 – A Man Named John Jameson (2016)

Ireland: Day 6 – The Rock of Cashel and the Gift of Gab (2016)

Ireland: Days 5: Bidding Adieu to Ballyseede Castle (2016)

Ireland: Day 4 – Adventures Through the Gap (2016)

Ireland: Day 3 – Gardens, and Castles, and Books…Oh My! (2016)

Ireland: Day 2 – Towers, Cliffs & the Burren (2016)

Ireland: Day 1 – The Three Musketeers Take on EPIC (2016)

Found this post helpful? Pin it on Pinterest for future reference!

SevenDays.jpg