Ireland R&D

Our Ireland trip is fast approaching. And that’s a good thing, considering we’ve been waiting for what feels like ages to make this trip actually happen. We successfully booked all of our lodging — a mix of hotels, bed and breakfasts and a castle! (Yes, a castle!) We also booked our rental car, a tiny VW that I’m hoping will fit all of our luggage. (Not that we’re packing heavily. This party is carry-ons only, and just watch. I’m going to pack my compact Samsonite spinner like a champ.) Fiats were available through the rental car company, but the VW was slightly cheaper. Fingers crossed that the “or something similar” rental car disclaimer turns into “Oh, well luck of the Irish, we just happened to have this Fiat available for you, Mr. and Mrs. Riley.”

The eight days we’re spending in the Emerald Isle are jam-packed with things I can’t wait to do. I have a Fodor’s Ireland travel book on loan from a coworker that I’ve been burying my nose in for the past three months. Its been a huge help with mapping out where to go, what to see, where to stay, what to eat, etc. And with all the information I’ve been taking in and analyzing, I’m now building a down-to-the-last-detail itinerary. (I’ll spare you the actual itinerary. It makes me look like I have way too much time on my hands.)

Another thing that the Fodor’s book has helped me do is really pick apart which towns we want to see in Ireland. Without a whole lot of knowledge about the country, my immediate plan was to hit all of the well-known cities or towns — Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork, Killarney, Limerick and Galway. But I realized that Ireland is one of those places where if you stay close to the action or the big cities, you’ll walk away having not experienced Ireland.

That’s why we swapped Cork out for the port town of Kinsale in southern Ireland. It’s also considered the gourmet capital of Ireland because it pioneered the fine dining tradition and is now home to an annual gourmet food festival. Some websites I’ve been to even refer to it as the San-Tropez of Ireland. The best part is that we will be staying in Kinsale on the night of our four-year wedding anniversary, so we’ll definitely be eating well in Kinsale.

Kinsale

Photo courtesy of Irish Heart

We also swapped out the city of Limerick, Ireland for a small town in County Clare called Newmarket-on-Fergus. It’s there that we’ll be staying at the Dromoland Castle for one night. It’s a massive neo-Gothic castle that’s the ancestral home of the O’Briens, descendants of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland. As a five-star hotel, this is the priciest place we’ll lay our pretty heads during this trip. But hey, if I’m staying in a castle, it’s going to be a kick ass castle. Write that five-star comment up in my travel review!

Dromoland Castle

Photo courtesy of Authentic Ireland

With as fascinating as all this research and planning has been, I can only imagine how much better the actual trip will be. There is a tiny inkling of worry in the back of my mind that we’ve packed way too much into this vacation and are going to come back to the states exhausted instead of relaxed and rejuvenated. But who knows if we’ll go back to Ireland again, so I’m adopting the “milk it for all it’s worth” motto and fretting about the sleep deprivation later.

BTW, if anyone has tips for European travel (e.g. How hard is it to drive a stick shift on the other side of the road? Or, do we need one of those outlet converter thing-a-ma-jigs?), I am all ears.

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