Taking a trip to Ireland is something that I've wanted to do ever since I was a kid, partly due to the fact that I'm Irish (Donnelly/Quirke) but more so to do with the fact that everyone I know who has ever gone comes home waxing poetic about its people, beauty and landscape. Last year we decided to head to Ireland for a week to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary but due to life's little pitfalls, we were forced to postpone the trip until November. This gave me far more time to plan, which in turn resulted in the trip going from 7 nights to 12 nights, and much to Alan's horror, more $$. Oops.
Our trip couldn't have come at a better time (from my point of view; Alan may differ) as I was really stressed out with just completed back-to-back-to-back launches for all of my clients. I desperately needed some down time where I could just focus on staying sane and spending time with Alan. Unfortunately, all of this work-related activity really derailed the amount of reading/planning I'd normally do for a trip so rather than really honing in on what we absolutely wanted to/must do during the trip, I put together a list of absolutely everything we could possibly do. This proved to be a bit overwhelming while we were there as there were times when we tried to do more than we could feasibly fit in during the approximately 7.5 hours of daylight each day.
The other issue that had me worried about the trip was my extreme fear of flying, which is only getting worse and worse the more I travel. A couple of weeks before we left I mentioned this to my doctor who was oh so lovely and prescribed me Adavan which was exactly what I needed to relax on the 10 hr, 40 min flight to Amsterdam, en route to Dublin. Yeah, it was a long route, but it was the cheapest available for our dates, and in the end I thought flying KLM was as good an experience as one can have during such a long flight. The crew was professional and thoughtful, the seats spacious and comfortable, and they fed you constantly and the movie/TV options were top notch. When I wasn't passed out, I managed to watch The Hangover and 500 Days of Summer. As an aside, I really don't get why people thought The Hangover was the most hilarious movie ever filmed.
While in Dublin we stayed at the Shelbourne Hotel, which had an excellent location on St. Stephen's Green and won my heart over with its down-filled pillow top mattress pad. Swoon. We had a pretty standard room with a view into some offices behind the hotel, but we didn't spend much time actually in the room so that was fine by me - we just kept the curtains drawn the entire time. While in Ireland, this hotel was the only one where we were able to regulate/control the heat to our liking which doesn't sound like it'd be much of a big deal but when it's freezing outside and your room doesn't have heat ... well, as you can imagine, that ain't cool. Walking into the Shelbourne was also our first run in with the Christmas decorations that would be on display during the duration of our trip. I know it's such a strange thing, but I think having Christmas trees, wreaths and garlands on display made the hotel feel that much more cozy and warm.
After getting settled at the hotel, we made our way to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. This is one of those things that every guide book and person you know who has been to Ireland will tell you you absolutely have to see. I'm about to say something very sacrilegious so stop reading if you can't handle it: not worth the time. Sure it's astounding that the Celtic monks of circa 800 A.D. were able to create these amazing drawings and use the color they did, but the whole "illuminated manuscript" thing you hear so much about? I kept saying, "is that it?" The majority of the time you spend viewing the pages isn't actually about the pages; rather, it's a room with a ton of information about the pages and the day and age. I guess I had assumed we'd be able to see more than 4 pages (yes, you read that right) and that it would somehow bowl me over or make me feel humbled in the presence of greatness. It didn't. What did, however, was The Long Room in the Old Library with its ancient books, vaulted wood ceiling and just floor to ceiling stacks as far as the eye could see. We actually spent more time looking at the library itself than we did the Book of Kells.
After our walking tour of the Trinity College area, we made our way to Temple Bar for what we hoped was some food, drink and live music. We found the drink and music but at that point we were both STARVING so we wandered around looking for someone that would serve us traditional irish stew. Yes, we're lame like that, but I wanted stew and I would not settle for anything less at that point. We ended up eating at The Quays Restaurant and yes it was a tourist trap, but dammit if they didn't have some very decent Irish stew. They also sat us immediately and brought our food quickly, so it was a win in my book. And of course we had our first of what would be MANY pints of Guinness over the next 11 days.
And then we went back to the hotel and promptly CRASHED from exhaustion.