50 Shades of Green
We just returned to LA after driving around Ireland for 10 days. It was amazing! A few friends have asked for more deets on our trip, but before I get into our itinerary and suggestions for restaurants, shops and places to stay, below are highlights on what I learned on our trip:
- Driving on the other side of the road is Not So Bad! (I was a passenger the whole time – thanks Jeff!) Seriously, he mastered it pretty early on. The narrow roads in the small villages and rural areas did cause some white knuckling when we seemed destined for a head on collision with a tour bus, but we survived to tell the tale. We heard stories from fellow travelers about losing one or both of their front side mirrors in such situations. The bus drivers must get quite a chuckle seeing the horrified expressions on tourists’ faces as they approach in their tiny rental cars. I will say, we sprung for the extra car insurance up front, just in case, and it was worth it.
- Get off the beaten path. Ask locals for recommendations. One of the most beautiful places we visited was a tiny harbor/village called Glandore. We would never have known about it had we not met a friendly local woman in an antique store and asked her for suggestions.
- Eat at the Bar and meet more Locals. We’ve found this to be true in other countries as well. But in Ireland, we were serenaded by a gent with his wife celebrating their anniversary, and got to hear a little more about Michael Fassbender from the Killarney locals, where he is from. We also met other travelers with whom we exchanged travel experiences.
- The Ugly Americans?
- Baseball Caps – one way to spot an American is the baseball cap. My husband and I were both wearing them one day in Dublin, and several people took our picture (without asking – the nerve!). We think it was the caps – it couldn’t have been our good looks lol.
- The Selfie Stick – I bought one just before our trip, and we took some great pictures with it. One day we were visiting Kylemore Abbey (which is stunning). As Jeff moved the selfie stick around, looking for the best photo angle, a group of German tourists looked at us with disgust and starting talking (my German is rusty, so all I could make out was “selfie stick” at the end of their ramble). And, of course we were wearing the aforementioned baseball caps. Oh well – we got the shot! It was worth it. (Es War so Schon, nicht Sie treffen – english translation – It was so nice not meeting you!)
- The Irish People are Lovely. Some of the nicest people I have ever met. They also happen to be very direct and have a great sense of humor.
- Use Booking.com or other travels sites for research and comparisons, but book directly with the B&Bs – you’ll save 10-15%.
- We found great B&Bs for around $100 a night including a big Irish breakfast – quiet, clean, comfortable, and close to the village. Our priority was to spend our money eating well! And we did. (Note: in Dublin we used points and miles for hotels.)
- Booking a double room does not necessarily mean a double bed. I made this mistake at one of our B&Bs and we slept in twin beds…
- It’s a safe country. I saw a police car maybe twice, and never heard sirens.
- It will rain (duh). As the saying goes, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Pack for it and accept it – the rain is definitely NOT a reason to mark Ireland off your bucket list.
- The Food! Some people have the perception that the food in Ireland will basically be battered fish and fried chips, which are readily abundant throughout the country. But there are some really great restaurants that will satisfy the foodie in you.
- Ruins and Castles. You will see them throughout Ireland, of course. I feel like once you’ve seen one, you’ve kind of seem them all. We stopped at a few on one of our first days and decided we’d rather spend our time experiencing the present versus the past – exploring the beautiful countryside and the villages/towns we visited.
- Pay for High Speed Data Access. My husband and I made sure we had international calls/roaming set up before we left, but he paid the $25/week extra for high speed data access to ensure we had GPS.
- On that note, don’t rely on GPS. We lost mobile service when we were on our way back to Dublin. It came back before we got into the city, so all was good, but have a map as a back-up, or you might have to go old school and stop to ask for directions (why do men hate to do that?)
- Don’t Fall for the “Pay in Dollars” option. It will be offered to you – and it may seem like a convenience, but the exchange rate is not as good, and you’ll end up paying more for goods/services.
Go to Ireland, you will not regret it! You might even be inclined to dance in the streets.