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Honeymoon Highlights: The Museums of Dublin

How I Know Clay Must REALLY Love Me

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

As a self-admitted nerd, I LOVE museums, like more than any person should love museums. My idea of a good time is a vast museum with lots of detailed plaques to read. And of course, I am the person who reads Every. Single. Word. My family just loved taking vacations with me! And everyone knows that if you do not see every single exhibit, you have not really been to the museum. So, being newly married, it was important to me to thoroughly test our young marriage by dragging Clay through multiple museums during our honeymoon. Nothing says romance like ancient artifacts and dead animals. I am sure that Clay secretly finds my love of museums sexy, right? Right?

The following is a brief review of the museums we visited while in Dublin:

  • National Museum: The National Museum of Archaeology (often just referred to as the National Museum) covers the history of Ireland and contains the largest collection of Irish artifacts in the world. Open since 1890, the museum is housed in a gorgeous building designed specifically to display centuries of artifacts found throughout Ireland. This museum made such an impression on me the first time I was in Ireland, that I could not wait to go back during our honeymoon. Permanent exhibitions include treasures from throughout Ireland’s history, a vast collection of Irish gold, artifacts from prehistoric Ireland through medieval Ireland, and even exhibits featuring items from ancient Egypt, Cyprus, and the Roman world. Housed in the same building is the Museum of Decorative Arts & History, which, among other things, covers Ireland’s more recent history. The most memorable exhibition for me was The Easter Rising: Understanding 1916 – it was both educational and moving. The National Museum is a truly fascinating place with something to interest everyone and should be a stop on any trip to Dublin. And best of all, admission is free.
  • National Museum of Natural History: Also part of the National Museum of Ireland, but housed in a separate, yet equally astounding building, was the Museum of Natural History. This was definitely Clay’s favorite museum. It housed zoological collections from all over the world, although the Irish collection was especially interesting and unique. The museum recently underwent a major renovation, including the addition of some interactive exhibits, which would be especially appealing to children. This museum is also free to visit.

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  • Dublinia: The final museum we visited while in Dublin was Dublinia. This museum was specifically devoted to Viking and Medieval Ireland. This museum was clearly designed to be an interactive experience, offering the opportunity to do things like try on Viking clothing, experience first hand what a Viking house would have been like, and visit a medieval fair. Although at times the exhibits could border on cheesy, it would definitely be a fun place for kids and even as an adult I enjoyed the immersive aspect of Dublinia. A visit to Dublinia is also a great time to explore Christchurch Cathedral, with its fascinating medieval crypt, because you can purchase a discounted combination ticket to the adjacent sites.

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Of course, there is never enough time to see and do everything I would like, so these are a few of the spots on my “next time” list:

  • National Gallery: This museum houses a permanent collection of European and Irish art from the 13th through mid-20th centuries. Irish art is, unsurprisingly, the focus, so the National Gallery contains the most extensive collection of Irish art in the world. There are also regularly rotating exhibitions of outside collections. I would love to while away a few hours here, but I am not quite sure I will be able to convince Clay to join me.
  • Dublin Writers Museum: This would be another spot that could be difficult to get Clay to visit, but I think it sounds absolutely lovely. As you can probably tell by the name, the museum presents information and collections of items related to centuries of Irish literature.
  • Guinness Storehouse: I would probably have a much easier time getting Clay to visit the Guinness Storehouse than the previous two museums. Some would question how we managed to miss this attraction during our honeymoon, given that it is one of the top attractions in Ireland, but somehow we did. A visit to the storehouse includes a self-guided tour of the storehouse (but not the actual brewery), information about the history and creation of Guinness, and of course the option of visiting their retail store. The onsite restaurants and bar cannot be visited without purchasing a ticket to the storehouse, but of course no visit would be complete without at least having a pint!

There are so many wonderful things to see and do while in Dublin, not the least of which are the amazing museums. Yes, I realize I enjoy museums more than the average person, but Dublin truly has something for any interest, age, or itinerary.

Posted by cgplatt 15:20 Archived in Ireland Tagged museums honeymoon ireland Comments (0)

Honeymoon Highlights: Kilkenny

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

Other than our day trip to Co. Wicklow, our other main venture outside of Dublin during our honeymoon was an overnight trip to Kilkenny. One morning in the middle of our trip, we checked out of our hotel, leaving all but an overnight bag with the staff at the Best Western, and made the relatively reasonable walk to the public transportation hub in Dublin. From there, we caught a bus to Kilkenny. The scenic drive (of course, I do not know of a drive in Ireland that is not scenic) was less than two hours long, so before we knew it we were in the middle of the oh-so-charming town of Kilkenny. We checked into the Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel before setting out to explore the town by foot. The hotel was very centrally located, although nothing in Kilkenny was too distant from anything else. The Hibernian was converted from a historic bank building, so it had some unique architecture and details. Although I am sure all of the rooms were lovely, our "penthouse suite" (it was our honeymoon, afterall!) was especially wonderful.

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One of our first stops after checking into the hotel was the aptly named Kilkenny Castle. The castle was first built in the early 13th century and the subsequent centuries have only added to the fascinating history of the castle. Perhaps most surprising was the fact that, until the castle was essentially given to the people of Kilkenny, it was in the hands of a single family - the Butlers - from 1391 to 1967. We were able to participate in a guided tour, although the Kilkenny Castle website no longer presents that as an option. The castle was both captivating and magnificently beautiful. It is certainly a must see site for any visit to Kilkenny.

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For the remainder of the afternoon, we wandered the charming streets of Kilkenny, stopping whenever something piqued our interest. There was plenty of architecture, history, and shopping to keep us occupied until dinner.

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That evening, we enjoyed dinner at the Hibernian Hotel's onsite restaurant, which at the time was Jacobs Cottage.

The next morning, we enjoyed an Irish breakfast-in-bed before checking out of our hotel. We used the bit of time we had left to continue exploring Kilkenny before catching the bus back to Dublin.

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Our trip to Kilkenny was short, but sweet. Although we could have certainly spent more time in such a delightful town, it was also the perfect place for a quick trip from Dublin.

Posted by cgplatt 19:32 Archived in Ireland Tagged honeymoon ireland Comments (2)

Honeymoon Highlights: The Food

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

Quick, name the first things that come to mind when you think of Ireland. Gorgeous green scenery, music, pubs, castles, Gaelic language and culture, Guinness, Riverdance (maybe??) - these are likely to make the list. One thing that might not make the list - delicious food. Unless, of course, you have an affinity for corned beef and cabbage (which I sort of do), Ireland is not particularly considered a foodie destination. However, even six years later, some of the food we ate while on our honeymoon most certainly deserves a mention.

Let's begin with breakfast. A trip to Ireland is not complete without the experience of an Irish breakfast. This typically includes soda bread; hot, fresh scones; multiple varieties of meat including blood pudding, sausage, and bacon (yes, I said and); some type of crispy potato (it is Ireland, after all); eggs prepared in a variety of manners (and often to your preference); and usually a poached tomato. So basically, you have the opportunity to consume an entire day's worth of food before 8 a.m. while enjoying every mouthwatering bite.

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If you stay in a B & B, some version of an Irish breakfast is probably what you will be served each morning. We, however, only had one true Irish breakfast while on our honeymoon. Instead, I had to be content with tea and scones for breakfast most mornings. As you can tell by the unhappy look on my face, it was such a difficult way to begin each day.

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Oh, and lest you are confused, scones are not just a breakfast food. They can and should be enjoyed at any and all times of the day! With a hot cup of tea and served alongside butter and jam, of course.

We enjoyed many scrumptious meals while in Ireland - fish and chips, carvery lunches, potatoes prepared in every way imaginable, Irish stew (yum!!), and coddle, to name a few. Two restaurants in particular stand out, however. The first is Gallagher's Boxty House. Located in the Temple Bar District of Dublin, Gallagher's serves many traditional Irish dishes, but specializes in boxty pancakes. These thin pancake-like potato wrappings are filled with anything from chicken with a bacon and leek cream sauce to lamb with tzatziki. My choice was (no surprise), the corned beef and cabbage boxty. Although the food was fantastic, I most enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant. The cozy setting is quintessentially Irish - with Irish music playing in the background and a turf fire roaring in the fireplace, you may be seated at a long, worn wooden table next to strangers who are no longer strangers by the end of the meal.

The other especially memorable restaurant was Elephant & Castle. In fact, we loved this Temple Bar restaurant so much that we ate there twice during our honeymoon. The menu has plenty of variety, with dishes ranging from pasta to rack of lamb to omelets. Signature items include their spicy chicken wings appetizer and gourmet hamburgers. The hamburger I had was cooked to a perfect medium despite the thickness of the patty and topped with fresh mozzarella, homemade pesto, and a roasted tomato. Needless to say, it was beyond delicious! Elephant & Castle is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the week and for brunch and dinner on the weekend. This restaurant is definitely on our must visit list for next time we are in Dublin.

For us, food is an important aspect of any travel experience and Ireland certainly did not disappoint. Maybe delicious food should be one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking of Ireland!

Posted by cgplatt 13:25 Archived in Ireland Tagged honeymoon ireland favorite_food Comments (0)

Honeymoon Highlights: Wild Wicklow

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

Although we loved our time in Dublin, we also wanted to see some areas outside of Dublin during our honeymoon. One of the tours we booked during our stop at the Dublin Tourist Center was the Wild Wicklow tour. Wicklow is an incredibly scenic area located south of Dublin. A number of options were available for exploring this area, but after comparing the possibilities, we booked this particular tour. Of course, an organized bus tour such as this comes with a number of potential drawbacks, such as the number of other people on the tour and a lack of flexibility, but we enjoyed the day we spent in beautiful County Wicklow, tour bus and all.

The tour offered several options for a pickup location, so we had no difficulty joining the tour first thing in the morning. We enjoyed a brief tour of the city as we drove through the City Center toward the coastal road from Dublin to Co. Wicklow. The coastal drive was both beautiful and informative - we even saw the tower where James Joyce, one of Ireland's most beloved writers, began writing Ulysses.

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DunLaoghaire Harbour

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We soon stopped at Avoca Handweavers, where we had time to browse their famous wool products and eat a quick breakfast in the onsite cafe. Our next stop was the highlight of the day - Glendalough.

Glendalough was a 6th century monastic settlement with a fascinating history. I had been there before without the benefit of a tour guide and, although the ruins were still gorgeous and intriguing, I could appreciate Glendalough so much more on my second visit because of the information provided on the tour. There were remains of buildings spanning across centuries, including some examples of historical architecture that now exist nowhere else in Ireland. Being a monastic settlement, there were numerous churches (some surprisingly intact), an iconic round tower, and a cemetery which included a unique high cross.

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The natural beauty of Glendalough and the surrounding area is not to be missed, either. There are numerous hikes in the area, but the short but scenic walk to the Upper Lake is one that could easily fit into any tour of Glendalough.

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Although we were part of a group, we had plenty of time to explore Glendalough on our own following the organized portion of the tour. After a leisurely morning wandering among centuries of history, we enjoyed a hearty Irish lunch at a nearby pub. Following lunch, we began our return trip to Dublin taking a different, but equally scenic, route back to the city. We enjoyed more of Co. Wicklow's incredible scenery as we drove by Lough Tay (more commonly known as the Guinness lake) and through Sally's Gap (famous as a filming location for movies such as Braveheart), stopping at multiple points along the way. At one of the stops, we even had a bit of Jameson to warm us up!

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At the end of the day, we arrived back in Dublin exhausted, but having thoroughly enjoyed our day. We were able to relax and fully appreciate the scenery in a way we would not have been able to had Clay been driving and I been navigating. We learned more about Wicklow than we would have on our own, as well (plus, there was the whole lack of a rental car to contend with). For us, it was the perfect way to enjoy a day outside of Dublin.

Posted by cgplatt 11:24 Archived in Ireland Tagged honeymoon ireland tour wicklow Comments (0)

Honeymoon Highlights: Walking Dublin

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

Dublin was such a walkable city. Once Clay and I relocated to a more central hotel, we could easily walk to most of the sights we wanted to see. One of our first stops was the tourist office, which normally would not deserve a mention. However, Ireland has a fantastically organized tourist system and the Dublin office was certainly a highlight. When I had been in Ireland before, my family had easily been able to book B & B accommodations as we travelled throughout Ireland at the tourist offices seemingly located in every town. This time, Clay and I spent time in the Dublin Tourist Center planning what we would like to do both in and outside of Dublin, booking a couple tours, browsing the made in Ireland products that were for sale, and even grabbing a bite to eat in the surprisingly delicious onsite restaurant. All of this was located within a gorgeously restored church. I would definitely recommend this as an early stop on anyone's trip to Dublin.

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Even an aimless meander through the streets of Dublin revealed street after street of incredible architecture. I could never get used to the idea of simply walking along and stumbling across a castle or a building with a history longer than the entire history of the U.S.

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Henry St. and Grafton St. provided easily accessible, pedestrian only shopping and dining, with Henry St. being the less "touristy" of the two streets. If you know me, you know I love shoes and frequently sacrifice comfort for cuteness in a pair of shoes. Dublin was no exception. After one particularly long day of walking, my feet were killing me. Just when I thought I could not walk any further, Clay noticed an athletic shoe store and literally forced me to buy a pair of tennis shoes. Although they were not the most attractive solution, they literally changed my entire outlook. I went from being perhaps a teensy bit whiny and ready to call it a night to feeling ready to singlehandedly take on the entire city of Dublin, ugly shoes and all. Moral of the story is do not be like me - pack comfortable shoes for you will be doing much walking. Luckily, Grafton St. and January Sales came to my rescue that particular evening!

We also enjoyed museums (which really deserve their own post), restaurants, and numerous other Dublin sights without the benefit of a rental car. Some can't miss sights were Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral (especially the crypts of the cathedral), St. Patrick's Cathedral, and St. Stephen's Green, to name just a few. Who needs a car when all of this can be reached by foot? Plus, it helped burn off the calories from all of the scones and fish and chips we consumed!

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Posted by cgplatt 18:20 Archived in Ireland Tagged honeymoon ireland dublin Comments (0)

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