Plan a trip to Ireland. Go to Ireland. Love Ireland.
I wanted to travel to Europe ever since I was a little girl. The idea of walking through a romantic city full of delicious food and coffee filled my mind for years. When I got married in 2016, my husband Matt and I decided that for our first year anniversary we would finally go to Europe. At the time that seemed like a far stretch since we were only in our mid-twenties, saving for our life together and moving to Florida. It didn’t matter; we knew we would make it across the ocean to our destination.
In November of 2016, Matt and I wandered into a bookstore for new notebooks and of course, a coffee. Across the steaming espresso machine I saw it, a tiny travel book with IRELAND written across the front cover. I had been so busy with life and trying to keep my head above water that I almost forgot one of my biggest dreams, to visit a European country for our first anniversary.
After swiftly taking my large hot coffee from the barista, I ran over to the travel section of the bookstore. Once there I looked back at my husband whose face clearly said “nothing is safer than running across a maze of books with a hot coffee. “ I didn’t care. I was about to start planning our dream vacation.
Once I got home I immediately began flipping through the pages of our Lonely Planet Ireland book. There were a few factors that played a part in our decision to go to Ireland; my ancestors once roamed the country, English is widely spoken, and when I searched #Ireland on Instagram, my eyes were flooded with pictures of bread, coffee and more bread. Clearly, this was the only option.
Months went by and “Plan Ireland” stayed at the top of my to-do list. Between reading numerous travel books, travel blogs and Ireland’s “must-sees” online, I finally began to develop my itinerary. One of the best pieces of advice that I read on one of the many travel blogs was to plan out the trip and then purchase the tickets and hotels. I made my itinerary flexible so that each day could happen on any day of the week and at any time. I also left a large portion of the itinerary unknown. I love having a plan don’t get me wrong, but I knew that I needed to be flexible and explore places at the spur of the moment. After multiple Google flight alerts, calls with the airline and more Google alerts, I did it. I bought the tickets that would lead us to fulfilling our dream.
The day was finally here: July 12th. We took our first flight to Europe. At the time I thought that I would easily fall asleep on an overnight flight. I was wrong. I couldn’t fall asleep the entire time. My TV decided not to work and the turbulence caused me to pop Dramamine like candy. That wouldn’t stop my happy. As I stared out the window and watched the sunrise I realized how absolutely blessed I was. Here I sat with the greatest man in the entire world on a plane to Ireland. I was happy.
After nine hours of flying and rushing to our second flight that we almost missed, we made it. We were in Ireland! And it was beautiful. The airport was clean and green, even the advertisements on the wall were green. The cab driver was kind and even wore a green jacket. It was cold at a crisp 50 degrees, especially for two Floridians in July. We were a bit nervous at first as we zoomed on the left side of the road surrounded by green pastures. Then our cab driver spoke up “so who in this car has Irish roots?” Apparently my freckles and auburn hair fit right in with the Irish locals.
Our first stop was Dublin. As we pulled up to the Camden Court Hotel my heart fluttered. The hotel was beautiful, covered in brick and ivy. We stepped out of the car and made our first transaction with euros. I was excited. We walked into the hotel where we realized it was only 8 a.m. and that our room would not be ready until 2 p.m. At this point we had been awake for 24 hours and counting. We didn’t care. We checked our bags, grabbed our jackets and set out to explore Dublin.
Our first stop was for coffee. We walked down the road taking in everything we could with our eyes wide. We came across a coffee shop with large breads in the window. I felt as if the breads were calling my name. And maybe they were, we were living out our dream after all. The coffee was amazing and the pastries were warm and had a melt in your mouth quality.
We grabbed our coffees and went on our way to St. Stephen’s Green. Have you ever seen or heard of St. Stephen’s Green? It’s glorious! Everything is green. Everything is bright. Everything is beautiful. The gardens welcomed you in and the creeks kept you memorized. As we made our way through the park we came across a group of swans, or a bevy as I would soon learn. They were stunning with their long necks and smooth feathers. We sat on a bench to watch the swans, but my attention quickly went to the people in the park. I have never seen so many people from so many places in my life. It was a wonderful sight to see so many of God’s people walking around in the same park from all over the world.
We then walked further into the city to try the beer and bread. Lots of bread. Everything was delicious and every bartender and waiter treated you like a part of his or her family. Ireland was a very welcoming country I must say. After finally checking into the hotel we made our way to the Bank on College Green. If you want an authentic Irish meal, this is the place to go. I ordered a burger with fries, which were actually large potato wedges, I wasn’t complaining. Matt ordered the fish and chips, which tasted like pure happiness. Really, I’ve never tasted anything as good as the fish and chips and I’m pretty sure that’s what pure happiness tastes like. We didn’t stop there; of course we had to indulge at the sweet shop next door with cronuts topped with Oreos.
Each day spent in Dublin was fantastic. We ate all day and pumped our veins with espresso shots to keep going. On the second day we went to the Guinness Storehouse. A brewery filled with the most amazing Guinness in the world and the best Irish dancers I’ve ever seen.
On the third day we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As we walked into the Cathedral I felt as if we stepped back in time into a different world. History was written all over the walls as the choir’s angelic voices filled every crevice of the massive building. It was beautiful. After touring the cathedral we sat outside under a large tree just looking and the majestic sight of the church. Of course we grabbed another coffee for this viewing.
I’m normally pretty regimented and somewhat uptight when it comes to going places and exploring. But not today, today I felt a freedom where anxiety was not allowed to enter your mind. We jumped on a train and rode 30 minutes to a part of the country called Howth. The ocean surrounding the town made you feel at peace. The waves splashed up against the stones as we bought two ice cream cones and walked along the shore. That night we went to the Temple Bar and I even danced on stage with the local Irish Folk Band. So far, Ireland was more than a dream.
As beautiful as Dublin was, I have never seen anything more beautiful than Salthill and Galway. Matt bravely drove for almost three hours on the left side of the road to the opposite coast because he wanted to show me the most beautiful place in the world. He was right. As we drove down the final stretch of the trip, we were greeted with sparkling blue water that was surrounded by two islands. The Salthill Promenade stretches for almost two miles and overlooks Galway Bay.
We found coffee shops and bakeries all throughout Galway. The locals were kind and the weather was perfect. As we sat at our new favorite restaurant sipping on two lattés, we looked out at the Spanish arches and felt nothing but happiness.
On our second to last day we travel out to the Cliffs of Moher. On our way to the cliffs Matt surprised me and drove me out to a castle. I almost cried, I had never seen anything so magical and full of history. Although no one lived there, you could imagine what it must have been like to live at the top of the castle overlooking the town below.
After driving up a mountain on the left-hand side of the road, clenching to my seat hoping that we wouldn’t tip over for an hour, we finally made it to the Cliffs of Moher. I instantly felt like I was in the Game of Thrones and Khaleesi would fly by on her dragons while I overlooked the waves splashing on the shore. The Cliffs of Moher really are picture perfect. We walked along the designated areas of the cliffs as took as many pictures as we could. There were cows napping in a field of yellow flowers, life was good.
Ireland was amazing, a dream come true. After traveling to Ireland I have officially caught the travel bug, and I cannot wait until we find out next adventure.