After seven months on the road, a new milestone: visiting a country where English was the local language. We get by just fine wherever we are, but knew how breezy it would be to get around and communicate when you actually speak the language. Yessss!
We started in Dublin which was the most expensive city we’d visited yet in terms of accommodations. We rented a tiny room on Airbnb with a shared bathroom in a Brazilian couple’s home. But it still cost over $120 US per night in off-peak season. The real perk of staying here though was the couple’s four-month old bulldog puppy, Lola! We got our puppy fix in with lots of snuggle sessions.
Dublin is a vibrant city with loads of history and charm. We spent our days exploring the city both by walking and using their awesome public bus system – double deckers aren’t just for the Brits! I quickly learned that 1) Guinness really does taste better when consumed in Ireland 2) I want an Irish accent in my next life and 3) Any time in a pub with a pint in hand, is time well spent. Trav started his love affair with the Irish Cider Bulmers which would later disappoint him around the world never being able to find it. We also really enjoyed touring the Guinness Factory. We expected it to be cheesy/too touristy but it’s well done and quite the production. You learn the family history behind the company and all about the process, even getting behind the tap and learning how to properly pour it. Trav doesn’t like Guinness so I happily drank mine and his (hmmm..is that why I had such a great time?!). We listened to a great band playing Irish music complete with a flashmob of Keltic dancers.
After Dublin, next up was exploring the countryside. While in South America I’d come across a company, Wicked Vans, that rents camper vans painted crazy on the outside. Each is actually a minivan with the backseats removed and retrofitted with a bed and area in back with a makeshift sink and camping stove. They had a Dublin location so we thought why not, we like to keep it interesting! A camper van meant we could roam around with no set plans and sleep where we wanted. Also, it was much cheaper than renting a conventional camping van or motorhome. Trav was hoping Wicked gave us the Big Lebowski van and I was pulling for the one painted like a Jurassic Park jeep. In the end we got the one painted like a tiger in bright orange and black stripes with a quote on the back “…what winks and shags like a tiger?..” It was hilarious to ride around in and turned quite a few heads. Trav earned his stripes (bad pun?) by driving on the left side of the road for the first time and keeping us both alive during the crazy roundabouts.
Our first day on the road we drove west to the coastal town of Galway for lunch and a haircut for Trav. Next stop was to the Cliffs of Moher, the jaw-dropping beautiful cliffs and contender for the “new 7 wonders of nature” list. Except Mother Nature didn’t get the memo and there was a windstorm and pouring rain. We braved it anyway and got completely soaked and nearly blew away in the process. Unfortunately the weather meant we couldn’t walk the path along the ridge to see more of the cliffs (we saw some mudslides – yikes!), but we at least got the highlight reel then had to run back to the van for cover. After the cliffs we headed to the nearby town of Doolin to set up shop for the night. We decided to pay a fee to park in the lot of a small B&B with access to bathrooms and shower but still sleep in our van. Which coincidentally meant that our van was parked….down by the river. I can’t make this stuff up! That night we walked to an adorable pub to enjoy a few pints and the nightly dinner special of local lamb. The vibe was great with live music and friendly locals with Irish accents so thick it was almost hard to understand their English.
The next day we hit the road early and drove south through Killarney while stopping at little towns along the way for coffee or bite to eat. The thing with the Irish countryside is that all of it is beautiful. One adorable town after another with winding roads through farmland and fields the brightest shade of green (we kept joking it looked like it had an Instagram filter on it). And considering it was October, we lucked out with not a ton of rain. We ended in Kinsale that afternoon and found a public lot in the middle of town to park for the night. We realized the key is to find an overnight spot in walking distance to the pubs – noticing a pattern here? Kinsdale itself is a quaint little town on the water with lots of shops and restaurants.
After a night in Kinsale we headed through Cork and over to Kilkenny to see the Kilkenny Castle, finally reaching Carnew in the afternoon. Carnew is the small town where my great grandpa was born and grew up. With help from my dad’s cousin, I had directions to my great grandpa’s old house and managed to track it down. It was really special it in person. We also visited the local cemetery where we found multiple Bookey headstones. Trav always gives me a hard time because my Irish heritage clearly doesn’t show, but I think he believes me now!
We left Carnew and drove back to Dublin to return the van and spend one more night before catching a flight in the morning to London. All in all, Ireland really surprised us and is one of our favorite countries from the trip! We’re already plotting a return in the coming years, but maybe this time we’ll stay in cute B&Bs and not the tiger van….