I’ve been swearing I’d write a trip recap for 2 weeks, so now is the time! I actually still can’t believe that our trip is over. We had been wanting to do a ‘Mommy and Daddy only’ trip to Europe for a while, and originally planned to do it when we have a little more money after Mike is done with residency. But after talking through everything we decided we had better do it now, while Leah’s relatively easy to leave on her own with the Grandparents, and before life gets any crazier. So we did! And I’m soo glad we did.
We flew into Dublin on a red eye; I got very little sleep but Mike got some, and we landed around 5am (which was like Midnight our time). We got our rental car, and since the city was still asleep decided we would just start driving. Driving sounds like a straightforward task, except for that it was Mike’s first time driving a stick shift, we were driving on the wrong side of the road and had a parking break we didn’t know was engaged. It was…interesting. I was 100% sure we were going to die in our rental car, with the narrow roads, and at first, the way we were lurching around. Luckily to both our relief, Mike got the hang of the clutch quickly and I there were spans of a minute or two when my heart stopped palpitating long enough to enjoy the scenery. I still say if you’re looking for a marital trust exercise or in need of couples counseling, spend a week driving through the Irish countryside. If you survive you’ll be so happy you did that you’ll forget anything else. Foolproof.
Anyway, our first stop was Glendalough, where we had our first Full Irish Breakfast. I was sleepwalking, and you can see it in my glazed over eyes, but nevertheless, it was beautiful.
Then we continued on to where we spent our first night, Kilkenny. We didn’t book any of our B&B’s beforehand, and we loved being able to just drive into the next place we wanted to go, and walk up to a B&B and ask if there was room and parking. It was much easier than trying to navigate to a pre-determined destination (keep reading to find out how that went). We also had more flexible travel plans that way, which we took advantage of.
In Kilkenny we had our first Guinness (YUM), and spent the evening in a Pub called The Abbey, where we enjoyed live music from a local father and son duo (shout out to Mick and Gerry!), who we made friends with (it’s Facebook official) and were gifted 2 of their CD’s that kept us company throughout the rest of our trip. Mike also obviously befriended the owner who is a certified Guinness something-or-other, and gave Mike his Guinness pouring certificate, which was a giant CHECK on his list of Must Do’s. We enjoyed sampling all the bartender’s specialties and then got “chips” with salt and vinegar on the late walk back, which became the thing I had to eat every day. Healthy, I know.
The next day we toured Kilkenny Castle which was amazing.
Then we set off to our next destination – Cork. Cork was a really cool city, my favorite part of it was our adorable B&B hostess. She was so nice and accommodating, she spent forever telling us about our options for food and pubs around the city. We also saw some really amazing live music at a popular Pub called The Oliver Plunket. Most importantly, while at the bar drinking a Guinness, I ate my salt and vinegar chips.
The next day we were enjoying our Full Irish Breakfast as we heard the radio reporting the Brussels attack. It made me a bit more uneasy than usual just being far away from my baby and realizing that you just never know what’s going to happen.
That day we drove what felt like forever. We went from Cork all the way to Dingle. The drive was scenic, but the roads were really narrow and people whip around the country roads so fast Mike was terrified, but I was totally calm and in control the whole time (Anyone buying? Anyone?). God Bless Mike, for putting up with me clasping my heart and gasping every time another car sped towards us.
Dingle was cool, but honestly I was a little let down by the time we got there. I was feeling like “this had better be paradise”, after the drive and how out of the way it was on our itinerary. And it was pretty, but the town itself looked like any other Irish town to me. It was also really cold and windy. However, the fish chowder we had was the best I’ve ever had in my life. We tried it a couple of other places after that and it was never as good. We had booked an Air B&B reservation at a
nearby Farmhouse and decided to get there early to make sure 1. we had a place to stay, and 2. we could find it. We could not. After 20 minutes of driving down roads that got narrower and narrower to the point that as the only car on the road, branches were scraping both sides of the car, our Garmin confidently told us to go “off road” for another 12 km. We were driving a Yaris. So we turned around, drove back to Dingle, and started over. This time we made it to the adorable Farmhouse which ended up being one of my favorite nights in Ireland. We walked down the road to the coastal cliffs, and then back to a Pub where we the little family that lived there stayed open to make us dinner. Then we enjoyed tea and conversation with our hosts until we went to bed.
The next morning after a great breakfast we walked to an architectural ruin nearby, and then hiked part of the way up Mt. Brandon for an amazing view before heading off in the direction of Galway.
Galway was such a great city; we were able to stay with a family friend who is from Mayo, Ireland, living in Galway to get his PhD in Philosophy, and he showed us his favorite restaurants, and introduced us to his friends who we had great conversation with. One thing we joked about was that everyone we met asked us if we were voting for Trump. Bartenders, taxi drivers, waitresses, etc. were all far more interested in our election it seemed, than their own which had taken place 2 weeks prior, and was hung in a tie. The first night in Galway we went to a Galway College bar, then ate at a great French Restaurant and then ended the night in a Pub with several Philosophers taking selfies.
The next day Sean, our host, drove us up to Connemara, where there was more beautiful countryside, and we got to see Kylemore Abbey. That was another highlight, and possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. We toured the house, walked through the garden, got tea and
salt & vinegar chips snacks and enjoyed the scenery.
The next day we drove to Dublin and met up with one of my best friends from college and her husband. They are living in Manchester, England and it was soo good to see them and catch up! We were all set to have a wild night in Dublin, until we realized that it was Good Friday, and it is illegal to sell alcohol in Ireland on Good Friday. Luckily we brought our own supplies and even found a few places that did sell us a couple of drinks. We were served Guinness in coffee cups, so it looked like we were drinking lattes and we were cracking up because it actually did look exactly like a latte, but we all felt pretty rebellious walking around with our “Irish Lattes”.
We had a great dinner that night and then went back to our apartment where we talked and hung out the rest of the night. It was so fun to see Christine and Tom, definitely another highlight of the trip!
The next morning it was up early, and to the airport to fly home! The whole time we were gone I missed Leah but it was so nice to be together as a couple and not worry about who needs a nap or fighting off a meltdown. Mike’s family was soo wonderful to take Leah and Jelly (our Goldendoodle) for the entire week, and we even came home to a newly washed and cleaned car, not to mention that Leah had clearly had such a great time.
Looking back I’m so glad we just booked the tickets when we did, even though at the time it seemed kind of wild. It was so good to get away together. But it also made me realize how happy I am to have my little family, and my home, my friends, and my imperfect but wonderful little life here in Iowa City. <3