Monday, October 22, 2012

Ireland - Day 1

As previously posted, to celebrate our anniversary this year (10/16) we booked a week long trip to Ireland with another couple via Travelzoo, more or less on a whim.  Ireland wasn't on our travel radar and we didn't know much about it.   After booking, I was excited but still in the back of my mind questioning if it was the right move, especially considering that we already spent 18 days in Europe in the spring.

The experience was better than I could have imagined. Now I understand why when we told other's who'd been to Ireland that we were going, their eyes lit up. It truly is a beautiful country with it's landscape, music and people.

Now for the documentation of our trip.  Our booked package included non-stop Aer Lingus flights from O'Hare to Dublin, rental car and 7 nights of hotels.  Thus, the outline of our trip was determined by the hotel locations.  We truly had no idea what we were getting into, but, now having done Ireland as we did, I'd recommend our route or one similar to other's wanting to experience Ireland.

Here's the route we drove (with each colored line being a different day's travel):
(Here's my google map of our trip)

Surprisingly, the flight going there was fast; only about 6.5 hours of air time. We attempted to sleep, but without much success for any of the four of us. Ireland is six hours ahead of Chicago, so by the time we landed it was around 7:15am.  Customs took over an hour to get through.  From there, we located our rental car company, Dan Dooley, to pick up our car.

Since we were sharing one car to two couples AND driving is on the left side of the road, we opted to upgrade to a full-size automatic (instead of the compact manual the deal came with).  Smart decision.  All of our luggage fit in the trunk, which I'd been slightly nervous about.  When booking the trip, we'd paid ~$300 for insurance.  While picking up the day, we learned that insurance was only good to insure one driver and additional drivers would be $10euro/day/person (about $100/day/person).  We opted against and kept just the one driver insured.

We went over general rules (no left on red like right on red here!) and then we were off. Our insured driver started off the journey.

Something I want to note is that if you go to Ireland and rent a car, YES you will want GPS.  The original plan was that we'd use a map (our thought was "oh, we'll kick it old school. This will be fun!").  We were a bit offended when the car rep rolled her eyes at us when we declined GPS rental at 10euro/day. 

We lucked out.  Our car had built-in GPS that we were able to use. For free.  I vow now I will forever be grateful to our Irish GPS Navigator, Sean. Now having driven Ireland, there is no way in hell we would have survived with just a map.

Our original plan was to drive directly south of Dublin to through the Wicklow Mountains. We started off that way and soon enough, even with GPS Sean, we got lost.  We found ourselves in the cute little town of Enniskerry, so we stopped to make a plan and get some much needed coffee.
At this point, we decided that maybe we were better off just to drive straight to our first hotel and check out the city of Kilkenny since we'd only be there for one night. It took a little back driving but in less than two hours, we arrived at Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny. The entrance of the was gorgeous (unfortunately I forgot to snap some pictures).  Our room was mediocre.  It had a double bed and a twin.  It wasn't anything special, but was nice enough and certainly comfortable for a night's stay.
After a shower (which was blissful) change of clothes, and talking with the concierge to understand our whereabouts, we took a 15 minute walk to city center.  There aren't a lot of sites to see in Kilkenny, although there are a few, but the city itself is fun.  As the clerk at Dan Dooley car rental told us, it's where all of the locals like to go on the weekend to have a good time.  Have a good time, we did.
We did visit a few sites, like St. Clanice's Cathedral:
and the exterior of Kilkenny Castle...
Kilkenny isn't huge (it's certainly walkable). Apparently, it's the place that all of the Irish go to on the weekend for a good time.  The women who gave us our rental car said she was headed there for a night out.  It was the perfect spot to start the trip. The majority of downtown is blocks and blocks of bars and restaurants.

Our hotel concierge had recommended Langton House for food.  We walked there and it was pretty empty (granted it was around 3pm).  It had a kind of stuffy/sophisticated air to it and the meals were more than we wanted to pay ($15eu+) for food that didn't sound all that great.

Instead, we agreed to go to a bar from one of our guide book, Pumphouse.  We found our way there only to find out they didn't serve food.  The bartender recommended to go to Kyteler's Inn to eat.  Great recommendation.  The place had the cozy, dark and wooded ambiance of what we expected to find in an Irish bar. 


Not only that, but our food (and drinks) was (were) delish.

First round of drinks on the trip
First (of many) Irish Stews
We also had our first round of live Irish music. 
After music, we went back to Pumphouse; who happened to have a 6-10pm Happy Hour that included $3euro Guinness.  Perfect for the first night in Ireland.

After Happy Hour ended, we moved along to Left Bank; which is a bar converted from an old bank.  It was definitely more the kind of place you'd find downtown Chicago or in Wrigleyville.  The prices proved it.  $19.60eu for 4 beers (as compared to $33euro for countless beers at Pumphouse; many of which we think we got for free after making buddies with the bartender).

At this time, it was past midnight and we were so impressed with ourselves that we made it out so late on our first day. Especially considering that at 3pm, all we wanted to do was nap.  We stayed strong and it paid off.

After a round of drinks at Left Bank; we headed across the river to Matt the Millers.  The car argent had recommended this to us.  By the time we got there it (and by it, I really probably mean us), was a shitshow of drunken Irish trying to karaoke.  Instead, we found a Papa Johns and got a late night pizza before taking a cab back to the hotel.  (Yep, drunken pizza in Ireland is just as good, if not better, than in the US).

Kilkenny was the perfect spot to spend our first night in Ireland!


  1. Love it! Keep the pics coming! We're FINALLY planning our first trip across the pond for the spring. Can NOT wait! Hopefully we can follow in your footsteps and do 2 in the 1st year! ;)

  2. Thanks Kate! I can't wait to see where you decide to go!

  3. Hi Mrs. Haha, that sounds like an amazing trip around Ireland! We love the photos and look forward to your next visit, maybe for another anniversary celebration! :D And just in case you're craving some more Irish stew, here's a fantastic wee recipe (!

  4. Thanks Discover! Looks and sounds delicious!


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