Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Irish Honeymoon

We flew out of DFW Airport on Monday, April 18th.  Austin's flight left in the early morning, mine mid-afternoon.  We met up in the Chicago airport and then hopped on our international flights which departed at 6:45pm.  The flight is 6 1/2 hours long - I spent most of it sleeping.  AerLingus provided us with a meal mid-flight: chicken with vegetables, iceberg lettuce (salad), a sip of water, a cold stale breadstick, and cheesecake.

We arrived at 8:00am in the Dublin airport and immediately exchanged our US dollars for euros.  We are flabergasted by the exchange rate - it cost $1.50 per euro.  Next we begin searching for County Car Rentals to pick up our car.  It takes an hour of waiting for us to finally speak to a representative.  We debate renting a GPS for €9/day, but decide against it, as that was the same rate we're paying for the car itself!  Besides, a map of Ireland is included with the car rental.

The shuttle takes us directly to our car - a manual Toyota Yaris.  We load up our luggage and Austin starts up the engine.  We lurch forward, neither of us accustomed to driving a manual vehicle.  Adjusting to driving on the left side of the road was easy compared to adjusting to the road identification.  First of all, the signs are in both English and Gaelic, so there is a lot of information on one tiny sign.  All of a sudden you're at your first roundabout and you don't know what the hell you're supposed to do.  I remembered reading somewhere to "Yield to Your Right" and I tell Austin to do so.  Rapidly, we're on the roundabout and realize we have no idea which exit we need to take.  Naturally, we take the first exit, just to get off the damn roundabout.  We're heading towards Swords, because that was the only town name I recognized - it's on our itinerary for our last night in Ireland.  Unfortunately, Swords is north of Dublin, and in the exact opposite direction of where we needed to be going.  But, at least we were going somewhere.

A few minutes later and we're in the town of Swords, utterly lost and without a clue how to get to Dublin city centre.  I tell Austin to just park the car and we'll ask for directions.  We hop out of the car only to discover that we're in a "pay-and-display" parking spot.  He feeds the machine a few euro cents, and we start walking.  I run inside the first store we find, and ask for directions to the city centre.  Not sure if it was my accent or if the lady was just a bit dense, but it was a worthless attempt.

I'm lost, irritated, and my head starts to ache.  My nose is running like a faucet and practically bleeding from wiping it with the sandpaper toilet tissue from the plane.  I start regretting our decision not to rent the GPS, and ask Austin if we can go back and get it.  No, he'd rather purchase a map...

Spying a pharmacy a few stores down, we briskly make our way inside.  I pick up some Kleenex and vaseline for my nose, while Austin inquires about a map.  They direct us to Fingal Tourism a few doors down.  No luck there either, but they send us off scurrying towards a bookstore, Wise Owl Books.  We finally find a detailed map, €10 or so, that is a great blow-up of the Dublin area.  Sure, that will work for today, but what about tomorrow when we've got to make it to Killarney?  (The map of Ireland in the car has been completely forgotten).  I reiterate my desire to go back and get the GPS, until suddenly I notice the Fed-Ex store across the alley has pay-by-the-minute internet access.  What if we just print off the directions, like we were supposed to do at home but never got around to doing because, oh, we were in the midst of unpacking our house and preparing for our wedding.  Brilliant idea, and €5 later, we've spent half an hour attempting to print off directions to get us from one Bed and Breakfast to the next.  Of course, Google maps was playing games with us and wouldn't allow us to type in the name of the actual bed and breakfast we were staying at, so we had to just get it in the general vicinity.  But we had directions to our first hotel, and that was really all that mattered.

I'm in the passenger's seat with the directions in front of me.  If there's one thing I'm not typically good at, it's navigating Google directions.  Don't ask me why, they're pretty damn simple, but the truth is, I get lost a lot.  Regardless, Austin's adjusting to the stick shift, and driving on the left-side of the road, so I'm the one in charge of telling him where to go.  We take a turn, merging onto the M1.  It's really not that hard, and we start to see signs for Dublin city centre.  We keep driving, looking for our next turn.  But where the hell are the street signs?  Oh, is that one, up on that stone wall?  Yeah, that's it.  We haven't seen Upper Gardiner yet, let's keep going.  There it is, turn left.  A left turn in Ireland is like a right turn in Texas, so it's easy.  This street turns into Lower Gardiner, and we're looking for the Maple Hotel.

There it is...wait, where do we park?  We keep driving, can't turn on the next street, it's a one-way.  We turn on the second street down and see a couple of construction workers in the street.  Austin slows down and rolls down the window, asking if there is anywhere to park nearby.  They tell us there's a car park a few blocks away, €10/day.  No, that's not right, I recall that we were supposed to receive free parking along with the hotel.  Austin stays with the car and I jog the two blocks back to the Maple Hotel and ask where we can park.  They tell me that we're actually being transferred to their sister hotel.  I immediatly panic, as I was just beginning to relax because I thought we were done driving for the day.  I tell them this is our first night on our honeymoon and we don't know the town very well.  Suddenly it occurs to me that they're telling me the hotel is only a few doors down.  The hotel bartender walks up, overhearing the conversation, and tells me that we can park our car in their carriageway.  Ah, that's better, I smile and run back to the car and tell Austin where to park.  We come back inside and the bartender offers us a drink.

Now this is vacation.  A Jameson and Sprite and I start to breathe again.  Austin orders a pint of Carlsberg, and I can tell we're going to finally start having fun.

The bartender gave us those hats we're wearing, and he also sent fresh flowers and wine to our room at the other hotel.  We're stoked, but also starving.  We thank him for everything, pay for our drinks and ask for a recommendation for lunch.  He sends us next door to O'Shea's.

Austin orders the obvious - Fish 'n Chips, and I spring for The Dubliner, a Baguette filled with hot roast beef, sautéed mushrooms and onions.  Lunch is delicious, and afterward we head back to our hotel room and unpack our luggage.  We log onto the free wi-fi and check in with friends, family, and Facebook - reporting that we've made it safely to Ireland.

The Spire, a 360-ft tall landmark on O'Connell St, Dublin (photo on right)

That afternoon we took a walk around town.  We found the famous Temple Bar Pub and took a picture in front of it.

Surprisingly, most of the shops, small restaurants and delis were already closing up around 6pm.  That's too bad because Austin probably would've wanted to eat at the Bad Ass Cafe.  Alas, a picture would have to do.

We decided to head to the restaurant the bartender had suggested for dinner, Le Bon Crubeen.  Austin ordered another Carlsberg, and I chugged a water in hopes of my allergies improving.

For dinner, Austin ordered the most fantastic meal we had the pleasure of eating on our honeymoon - Spring Lamb Sweetbreads with Risotto.  It was indescribable, and definitely surpassed my meal, tasty Asparagus soup, on the scale of awesomeness.  Little did we know that Sweetbreads is a term used to describe the thymus gland...but ignorance was bliss in this scenario!

After dinner, we were ready for sleep.  Not only did we need to recover from a full day of travelling, we were also still feeling the remnants of no-sleep during our wedding weekend.  And we knew we'd need to be well-rested the next day when we ventured out to find Killarney, our next stop on our Irish honeymoon.

Keep reading to see what we did on day two.


  1. Awww I couldn't help but laugh reading this post - I've been to Ireland before since my family lives there and have NO IDEA how they get around! Very brave of you too for doing the travelling yourselves.

  2. YAY! You guys are adorable, and so glad that the driving worked out.

    (The background picture on the blog is breathtaking!)

    Haha, when I read that you got sweetbreads I was so impressed with your huevos!