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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): First Impressions of Dublin & Ireland

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

First Impressions of Dublin & Ireland

You always hear people talking about wanting to make a trip to lovely, green Ireland...especially Americans...something about going back to the homeland.  About 10% of American men can claim Irish ancestry...little less for women.  Anyway, I have no Irish ancestors that I know of....mostly German and "other".  No one ever guesses, so I keep them guessing for too.  But I am SO off topic.  So, I book the tickets thru Ryanair, cause I just can't resist those cheap seats.  And from that point on, after people ask me where we're going, and I say Dublin..they say, "oh, Dublin is ugly.  Nothing to see there."  How's that for encouragement?  Of course, I don't listen as always and go about my merry way, researching and dutifully putting an itinerary together for my family.

Well, I am back.  We were there a week before the craziness of St Paddy's Day.  We are back happy, refreshed and wanting to see more.  Here's what I have to say about what we saw and did.

  • They don't do Pounds in Ireland, even though it is next to the UK.  If you didn't see this, you may be as confused as I was.  Come prepared for Euros.  I almost planned for the wrong thing.  Many Irish sites online will have things priced in Pounds, and now I realize they do this because their big market is the UK...not because their currency is in Pounds!
  • They drive on the "wrong" side of the road...of course I knew that...but the hardest part for me was not driving but the looking RIGHT before crossing the busy streets!
  • I was happy I had my vest and found myself taking many more pictures than ever before.
  • Found out that Dublin=Guinness and vice versa, and there isn't one without the other.
  • Kids loved the FREE Paddywagon day tour which came with our apartment rental in the Temple Bar District (center of the action).   I found it and it's review on Hostelworld of course!  There were no gimmicks, just pure fun and learning and not only historical stuff but one of our favorite things to do, to scout out movie locations.  In this case, we saw scenery from "Braveheart" and "PS I Love You", as well as a few others within Dublin (even in Kilmainham Jail).
  • Speaking of the jail, it is a MUST see, and if you MUST bypass some of the cheesy tourist stuff to get there, then do it.  Learn what the connection is with Abraham Lincoln and our American history too.
  • I learned (cause I had forgotten) that potatoes don't come from Ireland.
  • Maybe cause it was before the holiday, but I believe I saw some leprechauns, and I could've sworn that TONS of people (not just tourists) were wearing kelly green!  In fact, I read some article while I was there that said that leprechauns were being paid up to 1,000 euros A DAY to come and be a pub fixture.
  • As always, I recommend the hop on/hop off bus...either company has the same price and similar schedules...this can take up a whole day of hopping on and off and visiting some of your favorite sites (because you can't get to all of them I'm going to tell you right now).  The companies' tickets are also good for TWO days instead of the usual one day you see in most European cities (or 24 hours).
  • Dublin has some of the CLEANEST European streets I've EVER seen.  Not because us tourists and locals are clean, especially in March.  It's because they have a HUGE army of automated street sweepers and people cleaning the streets and sidewalks at all hours.  On the morning we left, as the sun was coming up, we saw some broken bottles and random trash but that was about it!  I think I only saw one pile of doggy crap the entire time...highly unusual for Europe!
  • The Irish are some of the proudest and friendliest people I have EVER met over here.  I felt totally safe, although I never ventured to the Northside (opposite of most cities, as most have the Southside as being the rougher side).  This is why Colin Farrell likes to say he comes from the Northside to bolster his bad-boy image (and you thought he came from the Southside didn't you?).
  • Loved that the National Museum of Ireland is free.  It was worth it, but I had a nightmare of the bogmen (yes, they were dug up) in the Archeology Museum.  The architecture of the building itself was impressive, and you gotta like the Viking stuff there too...did you know Dublin was founded by Vikings?  If you have Viking fever, the company that dug up one of the earliest Viking settlements around, set up its own exhibit, so check that out (I guess they had to do something to keep on building, huh?).
  • Go to pubs for food (cheaper) and get away from Temple Bar area for shopping, pubs and food (again, cheaper).
  • Check out the iWalk Tours on Dublin Tourist Bureau's website...they have about 12 of them in all parts of town.  Follow along in their guide as you listen to the podcast. My favorites are of course the Guinness Walk and the walk with the Georgian doors.  I think I took photos of about 20 different Georgian doors.
  • Speaking of Georgian, don't miss the House #29.  If you want to see what a rich family lived like in this era, stop here.  Too bad there wasn't a slum to view to see how the other 97% lived in those times.
  • Kids were ecstatic to be coming to an English speaking place with English bookstores.  Yes, the Eason's chain is the biggest in Ireland I think, but we loved Chapters, cause the entire top floor was ALL second hand books. We had to beat feet before we spent an entire day in there!
  • Kids and hubby flipped over an all-you-can-eat Indian/Italian/Chinese place for 7,95 euro a plate....yes, there is such a thing and yes, you'll find it in Dublin on the corner of Henry Place and Moore Lane near O'Connell Street.  There is also a nice foodmarket in that area...actually there are markets all over the city on the weekends.  You can find some other cheap eats here.  There is a famous Paddyjack sandwich I read about here and here (also info on the markets), but by the time we got there in the late afternoon, he just had horsemeat left and was selling them as Paddyjack on a spit and not a sandwich!
  • Do bring your raingear.  It rained/drizzled the entire time we were there, plus it was windy!  Wait, we did have sun for a few hours when we were out in the countryside and Kilkenny, but it was brief.
  • I regretted not seeing the ocean, or should I say Irish Sea.  It's not like you can walk down along the river and see it.  It's quite a distance from downtown Dublin and the actual port area is ugly with big container buildings and crane, but there is bus service out to Howth Cliffs.  There are hiking trails and beautiful ocean views to see....sigh.
Now that we've gotten a taste of what Dublin has to offer, we would love to go back and spend some quality time in the countryside.  We only got a day's taste of that which only makes us want to come back for another trip!  The Irish countryside is just beautiful, and we drove miles before we would see another car at one point.  Even in winter, we got a real sense of the green and beautiful landscape.  Of course, I promised the kids we'd get to Scotland before we go back up many destinations and so little time!  If you are on your way to a European tour, let me suggest you start sooner rather than later to visit all these wonderful locations!



Blogger Kristen said...

You outdid yourself on this one - it's a fabulous article and chocked full of wonderful hints and suggestions!! Can't wait to go! We also promised the kids Scotland, so that's next for us and then Ireland in May!

April 7, 2011 at 9:05 AM  

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