Irish Travels

It always takes me a little while to “shift gears” when I return home even from a short trip, so it’s no surprise that I’ve been feeling a bit muddled since returning yesterday from my trip to Ireland.  I suspect I’ll be feeling the effects of jet lag for at least a couple more days, but I don’t mind.  The trip was more than worth it.

This was the first international trip my husband and I have been on that wasn’t organized by someone else, and we were a bit nervous about how everything would go.  (Even for domestic flights, we print multiple copies of our boarding passes and tend to show them to every airline staffer we see “just to make sure everything is okay.”  One of these days, someone is probably going to lose patience with us and reassign us to permanent seats in the lavatories.)  For our Ireland trip, we not only had a long international flight, but we were also traveling around the country by train and had made our own hotel reservations on-line.  That’s a huge step for a couple of “nervous travelers” (paranoid travelers) such as my husband and me.

IMG_0302Amazingly, everything went off without a hitch.  We visited Kilkenny, Dublin (where we stayed with a good friend who is temporarily living there) and Galway.  We used the Irish Rail system to get to each town, and since we stayed in the city centers of Kilkenny and Galway, we were able to walk to almost everything we wanted to see.  While in Galway, we booked a day trip to the Connemara area on one of those huge tour busses.  How the driver managed to maneuver it down the narrow country lanes, I’ll never know, but he did it expertly, stopping every now and then to let a sheep or two get safely across the road.

Almost everyone we ran in to was both pleasant and helpful, directing us when we made a wrong turn or answering our questions cheerfully.  The food in both the pubs and restaurants was delicious, although I was a little taken back when I first saw the baked beans on the breakfast buffet.  And after a long day of enjoying the sights, it was fun to sit  in a real Irish pub, sipping wine (I know, but I just don’t like beer, ale or lagers) and listening to music. The authentic Irish music was very good, but my favorite performer was the young man with a terrific voice who sang a huge variety of songs. Trust me, you haven’t really heard Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line” until you’ve heard it sung in an Irish accent, with many of the locals singing along.

IMG_0223This trip was a first in many ways.  It was my first (but hopefully, not my last) trip to Ireland.  It was the first time I have depended on a train to travel from one city to another. It was the first time I saw sheep sporting big dabs of neon paint, used to distinguish which sheep belong to which farm.  It was the first time I rode a horse English style, which is something I have always wanted to do.  I don’t think I was particularly good at it, but the guide was helpful and the horse was patient, so it all worked out.  We even trotted through a rather busy roundabout on our way to the park, which was a definite first for me.

It may sound odd, but both my husband and I are feeling a bit proud of ourselves right now, having stepped out of our comfort zone and still managing to achieve a certain level of success.  And who knows?  Maybe the next time we fly somewhere, we’ll be daring and head to the airport with only one copy of our boarding passes.

 

54 thoughts on “Irish Travels

    • If you get a chance, go! You won’t regret it. The photos don’t really do it justice; it’s just so pretty and the people are so nice. I really hope I get to go again some day.

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  1. This sounds like a lovely trip, Ann. I think train travel is a very romantic way to see the sites and I also find it very relaxing. I’m so glad all your plans worked out. I can understand how international travel can be a bit daunting. Good for you!!

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    • It was really nice. The seats even had a little table with them, and the windows were huge so it was easy to see the passing scenery. We haven’t done much international travel, so we were definitely a bit leery, but it all worked out very well!

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  2. How awesome for you! Glad your trip went well! Years ago I lived in England for a few years. Visited Scotland and saw lots of beautiful country! While in Scotland we rode horses on the shores of the Loch Ness. Very happy for you!

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  3. Since becoming a blogger, I never need to travel! There are so many interesting trip to view. It sounds like you had a great time. What’s next? When I traveled Europe nearly 35 years ago, there was no internet to make reservations. We just landed in a town and searched.

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    • That would be a fun way to travel, but I doubt we’ll ever do it…just to nervous! But the internet does help a lot, because you can check out the hotel first and then make the reservation online. I had visions of showing up at the hotel only to discover that they had lost our reservations, but that didn’t happen. And if it had, we would just have walked around until we found a new one!
      I know what you mean about “traveling” through other people’s blogs, though. I do the same thing!

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  4. What a great trip, Ann! It sounds like you both had a wonderful time. You should be proud of navigating your travels so well ~ it’s not always easy to do. And next time pack those extra copies if you feel like it ~ you’re in charge!

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  5. I’m so glad you had a great trip, Ann. Ireland is a place I always wanted to visit. The closest I came to Ireland was England and I should have included Scotland and Ireland but I’ve always believed there’s a difference between looking and seeing…:)
    Did you get much rain? Was it as green as the pictures show? How was the food?
    Glad you survived the horseback ride..:)

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    • England is a country I definitely want to visit, and Scotland is a close second! Ireland was wonderful, and the natural landscape is every bit as beautiful as people say. Amazingly, we only had one truly cold and rainy day, and one day that was cool and rained a bit, off and on. Otherwise, it was sunny and warm, which the locals told us was rather unusual for that time of year. And the food was good, although I wasn’t expecting that. We found places that served traditional Irish food, but there were also restaurants that served almost any kind of food you could want. And most of the sandwiches automatically came with a small side salad, which was nice.
      The horse ride scared me a little, at first, because I’ve never ridden on an English saddle before (although they told me it was an Irish saddle, not English) and the way you handle the horse is completely different. So when I realized that I would be riding on busy city streets to get from the stable to the park, I was a little concerned. But the people at the stables were great, letting me ride in the ring first to get the feel of it, and putting me on a very gentle, calm horse. The guide talked me through everything, and always asked how I was doing. So it ended up being a fun experience!
      Trust me, go to Ireland if you can!

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  6. I’m glad you had such an enjoyable trip. Well done on organizing it all so successfully. I envy you your opportunity to listen to so much live Irish music. I always enjoy it when I hear it. (Johnny Cash is okay too.) 🙂

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  7. We visited and then lived in Ireland for a couple years and loved it. I learned from the locals that they strap paint to the rams so that when they have mated with a ewe it leaves a mark so you know who the “husband” was.

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    • That makes sense as well! It was the tour guide who told us that they painted the sheep in Connemara because they share fields up there, and the paint lets them know which sheep belong to whom. Mostly, the paint was blue or pink, but we saw a few other colors, too. And with tour guides, who knows how accurate their information is? Thanks for letting me know!

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    • This comment made me curious, so I actually googled it. From what I saw, the paint on a sheep can mean ownership (different owners, different colors) and it can also be a result of a bag of dye around a ram’s neck, letting them know which ewes have already been mated. So now we know! Thanks for the comment, too!

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    • I was taught to ride “western style,” which uses a different saddle and a different way of guiding the horse. In western style, the saddle has more lift in the front and back, leather-covered stirrups, and a big saddle horn that was originally used for roping cattle. And you sit deep in the saddle, hold both reins in one hand, and “neck rein” which means when you want the horse to go left, you touch the right side of his neck with the reins. You cue the horse to go forward, or faster, with your heels. In English style, the saddle has no horn and less support in general, with a metal stirrup. You hold the reins in both hands, and if you want the horses to turn left, you put a bit of pressure on that rein. You also move your hands more, with the movement of the horse’s head, and when trotting, you “post” which means actively moving up and down with the horse’s trot. At least I think that’s right, because that was the gist of what I learned from this ride. I wasn’t at all sure I was sitting right, and I did my best at posting, but was very grateful the horse was so patient! I would love to take a few English riding lessons and learn how to do it properly.

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      • My sister used to ride when she was younger, I must tell her about this, she’ll be fascinated – as am I! Thanks, Ann. (And the western style of riding sounds more sensible, even to me as a Brit!)

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        • If you look it up, you’ll probably get a much better description of Western riding than the one I gave! When I lived in Kansas, that was the only style there was, so that’s what I learned and it feels the most natural to me. I think it came about mostly through cowboys and ranchers who used horses to handle their cattle, but I’m not sure. It was really fun to try English style, though! I’d like to do it again!

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  8. I’m so glad you had a wonderful time! My husband, then 20 month old son, and mother-in-law went to Ireland in 2000 and LOVED it. We rented car, booked our B & Bs day by day (because we never knew where we were going to end up), and bought a cassette of Irish music to listen to as we drove around the country. Such a beautiful place.

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    • It really is beautiful! The photos don’t do it justice at all. And what a fun way to travel around Ireland! We were too timid to take the car, but I sort of wish we had, just because of the freedom to go exactly where and when you want to. And I would go back there the first chance I got…

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  9. Ann, I have to admit that the first time I booked a trip without a travel agent (yes, a while ago) I double, triple, quadruple checked everything. Did I miss a connection? Do we have a hotel for every night? And then I checked again. And freaked out on the plane that maybe I forgot a rental car. Now it’s old hat. Lovely article – thanks for sharing! Have you been to Napa Valley – it’s where we call home now. Check out and follow our blog: http://www.topochinesvino.com.

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    • It is scary the first time, isn’t it? We double checked everything as well, and I was still quite sure we’d forgotten something important. But all went well.
      I have been to Napa Valley, and loved it! Thanks for the link to your blog…I will check it out for sure!

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