Guest Post: IRELAND - céad mile fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes)

One of my closest and oldest (AKA longest) friends, Meredith, recently went traveling abroad.  Mer and I have known each other since we were like 5 or so, but really only became friends in high school, and then even went to college together.  She met her husband at college, so he is really one of the gang.  Not to mention, he is from our hometown too, which is a nice coincidence.  Since I getting ready to head on my trip to Italy, she has been kind enough to share with my readers about her trip to Ireland.  She also has some amazingly beautiful pictures to share.

I recently traveled to Ireland with my husband, Matt, in honor of his 30th B-day. Apparently, turning the big 3-0 warrants a trip to Smithwicks, Guinness and Jameson :) After an hour delay at BWI, were
off to Ireland via Logan Airport in Boston. We arrived in Dublin about 6am local time, picked up our right-hand-drive rental car and were off to our 1st stop, Kilkenny. Matt was immediately comfortable
driving on the “wrong” side of the road. Gaelic is the official language of Ireland and although no one speaks it, all of the road signs are written in both Gaelic and English.
Matt feels like he's on Top Gear, UK! Kilkenny Bound!
After an hour power-nap at the hotel, were off to start exploring. This was a small town with lots of charm! We visited The Smithwicks (pronounced Smiddicks) Brewery & St. Francis Abbey
M+M @ Smithwicks (running on
adrenaline) St Francis Abbey
St. Canice Cathedral St. Canice Cathedral
and Kilkenny Castle which had a beautiful park behind it (cue power-nap #2, I hate overnight flights)
Kilkenny Castle Mer Outside Kilkenny Castle
For dinner, we picked a place with a familiar name, Matt the Millers. We enjoyed what seemed to be a big trend for the trip, a basket of deep fried items (Fries, Chicken Tenders and Mini-Sausages) as well as Goat Cheese Tartlets. I also found all of these condiments on our table, so many dipping options!
Munchie Basket Goat Cheese Tartlets! Condiments

The next morning, well rested, we were off to the Blarney/Cork area.

When we arrived at Blarney Castle, it was gloomy and drizzling. As we began our journey
upward to kiss the stone, the weather became sunny and quite warm. Feeling all four seasons in one day is quite common in Ireland. Kissing the stone is said to endow the kisser with great eloquence
(AKA the gift of gab). Neither Matt nor I really need MORE of this “gift,” but we each kissed the store, regardless. You lie on your back, and with the help of two metal bars, reach down and out a very
high window to touch the actual stone.
Blarney Castle, stone kissing (yes, it's
that high!) Mer kissing the Blarney Stone Matt kissing the Blarney Stone
Around the castle, there is a Nature Walk (Rock Close)
Blarney Castle Garden, Dolmen Blarney Castle Garden
and a Poison Garden, which I found to be very interesting. It contains a collection of poisonous plants from all over the world including Absinthe (Wormwood), Poppy & Salvia. Some plants even
had cages around them (Mandrake, Nightshade & Wolfsbane).
Poison Garden, Absinthe Poison Garden, Mandrake
That night we stayed in Killarney. Killarney is a small town with a
cute downtown area. Here is where we discovered Murphy’s Ice Cream (made in
Ireland). We shared a cup of 2 flavors - Guinness and Jameson of
mmm Murphy's Ice Cream! mmm Murphy's Ice Cream!
We explored St. Mary’s Cathedral and Killarney National
(including Ross Castle).
St. Mary's Cathedral Thanks goodness for the red hat, we
might have not seen you there! Ross Castle Waterfowl M+M Ross Castle
All that adventure makes ya thirsty, so we stopped for a pint. I had a Bulmers Cider (it’s called
Magners in the USA) and Matt enjoyed a Guinness. In Ireland (and possibly other areas in Europe), you can order a half pint or a glass of draugh beer (10oz). This is something I have talked about for
YEARS! Sometimes I don’t want a whole draught beer and I have been known to say “I wish I could just get a small beer.” Well, in Ireland, I could :)
After 2 nights in Killarney, we headed north towards Galway (a bigger city). We stopped at The
Cliffs of Moher
, which are a finalist in the “New Seven Wonders of Nature” (to be announced in Nov 2011). I have included a few photos, but they certainly do not do this fantastic phenomena justice!
Cliffs of Moher M+M Cliffs of Moher Cliffs of Moher
We also drove through Burren National Park and met some furry friends.
Burren National Park baaaah
Our 1st night in Galway, we celebrated “1/2 way through the trip” with a nicer dinner at KC Blake’s Brasserie. I started with a salad of Rocket (Arugula), Feta, Pine Nuts, Pom Seeds and Matt had an
interesting creation of Asparagus wrapped in ham with a Poached Duck Egg atop a Panfried Boxty Cake (Irish Potato Griddle Cake).
Salad w/ Rocket, Feta, Pom Seeds
Asparagus wrapped in ham with a Poached
Duck Egg atop a Panfried Boxty Cake
For the main course, I had Chicken atop mushroom risotto and Matt had
Braised Pork Belly with Creamy Mash, Roast Apple Puree.
Chicken atop mushroom risotto Braised Pork Belly with Creamy Mash,
Roast Apple Puree
In the morning, we enjoyed another staple of our trip; a “Full Irish Breakfast” for Matt (an Egg, Black and White Pudding, Baked Beans, Bacon and Sausage - sometimes served with a tomato and/or french
fries) and Smoked Salmon with Scrambled Eggs and Toast for me.
Full Irish Breaksfast Smoked Salmon & Eggs
In Galway, we visited the Galway Bay area called Claddagh (like the rings).
M+M Galway Bay Matt cold!
After 2 nights in Galway, we ditched our rental car and took the train west to the City of Dublin, the last stop on our Tour of Ireland. Dublin, the capital of Ireland, holds about 25% of country’s
population. The 1st afternoon we explored the cobblestone streets of Temple Bar (pubs/restaurants) and walked around part of the city. Some highlights were the interesting bridges (each one is different), the James Joyce statue (Matt was an English Major in addition to Computer
Science), The Church (an old Church that is now a bar) and the oldest houses in Dublin.
Dublin James Joyce The Church (bar) Oldest houses in Dublin
In the evening, we went to Leo Burdock, a famous Fish -N- Chips restaurant. Our waiter was an
Ex-Pat from Delaware who immediately recognized our Mid-Atlantic accents.
Fish & Chips @ Leo Burdock
Hall of Fame @ Leo Burdock
After dinner, we visited a fabulous “tourist trap” pub with Traditional Irish Music called Oliver St. John Gogartys. Prices were a little higher, but the music and atmosphere were worth it! About 75% of all pubs boast LIVE “Traditional Irish Music” nightly. The next morning was Matt’s 3-0 (as well as the Royal Wedding). In the morning we went to see The Book of Kells at Trinity College (no photography allowed inside the exhibit) and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Trinity College, Book of Kells Exhibit
(no photos allowed inside) St. Patrick's Cathedral
Then we went to Guinness. I have to say, I have been on A LOT of brewery tours, this one was by
far the best. The tour ended with a free pint in the 7th floor Gravity bar with 360 views of the city. We befriended a bartender who gave Matt an extra B-day pint, made a “30” in his foam (they usually
make shamrocks for the ladies) AND got on the microphone to have the entire bar sing happy birthday to him! HA! I would have died, but he loved it :)
Guinness Guinness Tour - Gravity Bar 30 Guinness Tour - Gravity Bar
Keeping with the drinking theme for the day of celebration, we headed
to the Jameson
, followed by a pint at The Brazen Head (the oldest pub in Dublin).
Jameson Distillery The Brazen Head - Oldest Pub in Dublin
That evening we had dinner at a restaurant called Elephant & Castle (I love elephants, so it was an obvious choice). They had “Maryland” crab cakes on the menu, so we had to try them. They were fried (like so many things in Ireland), and although I personally prefer broiled,
they were pretty tasty!
"Maryland" Crab Cakes
In the morning of our last day in Ireland, we visited Dublin Castle which is now used for government offices and events (when Queen Elizabeth II visited Ireland , the reception was held at Dublin Castle).
Dublin Castle Garden Dublin Castle Dublin Castle Dublin Castle
We had dinner at The Porterhouse Brewing Company, one of the only craft breweries we could find. We enjoyed a Pint (and a half pint) of their Oyster Stout (very tasty) and dined on bangers and mash as our last meal.
Pint & Half Pint Bangers & Mash
Ireland was an absolutely wonderful vacation and I highly recommend it to anyone! It was very easy to get around by car or by train. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip and seeing a few photos
as well. For over 1,500 photos CLICK HERE. Sláinte!

**Follow all of Matt and Mer’s adventures HERE!


Rachel Lauren said...

Yay! Looks like a great trip! :)

Unknown said...

Melinda -- what "gang" was I initiated into? Is this like West Side Story & we're the Pikesville Jets?

Unknown said...

Initiation rituals including dining at Cafe Isis and playing Jewish Geography!

Kristen @ Swanky Dietitian said...

Ireland looks amazing! I would absolutely love to go! Thanks for sharing!

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