As we approach our five year wedding anniversary, Josh and I have been reminiscent upon our time in Ireland as newlyweds. We lived two miles from Playa Del Rey Beach when Josh and I tied the knot, and we were urning for something different. We were craving rain, history, and the type of sightseeing that you just can't find on the young west coast of America. Josh's family background is Irish and neither of us had ever been to Ireland so we landed on the Emerald Isle for our Honeymoon. Turns out that the only thing more romantic than a beach getaway is cuddling up in 600-year-old candlelit tavern with a good stout and an acoustic set on a misty evening in Temple Bar.
We landed in Dublin two days after our wedding. If you didn't already know, the Irish are chatty, and we made friends right away with our cab driver. He gave us tips on where to go and advised us not to drive as he drove us clockwise around a traffic circle. We told him not to worry. We planned on waking up with Irish coffees everyday and had already studied all the public transit options Ireland had to offer. He warmly shook our hands and gave us a congratulations as he helped us out at The Morgan Hotel in Temple Bar.
The Hotel was wildly modern with white walls and purple colored lights creating an interesting contrast to the cobblestone roads and old pubs of Temple Bar. We checked in as Mr. and Mrs. Burke (swoon) and got ready for an evening out. We hit the pubs that evening in jeans, tartan scarves, and sueded boots. It was cozy and made for a much more comfortable walk back at the end of the evening than my LA stilettos.
The next day we planned a day-trip to the Cliffs of Moher. If you've ever seen a photo of Ireland, it was likely the Cliffs of Moher. Situated on the western coast of the country near Galway, these magnificent cliffs are tall and mystical as they tower over the open sea. Coming from Dublin, we were in for a seven-hour day to go there and back on the tour bus - a long day that sounded like cake compared to Josh's 30-mile commute back in LA. What we didn't bargain for (or anyone else for that matter) was the unusual heat and a broken air conditioner on a bus that almost never needs an air conditioner. Hot as it was, we both look back on that day fondly. Along the way, we stopped at the Burren and learned about how the Irish were banished there by the English and how they survived off of the grass growing between the rocks. The tour was packed with history as we crossed from East to West coast and back. From the abandoned ruins of a chapel covered in tombstones with the name "Burke" to the tiny chocolate shop landlocked in the middle of the island with a grass roof and 1950's wallpaper, the tour was so much more than we thought it would be.
After some rest and lazy days at the hotel, we finally got a chance to take a walking literary tour that I had read so much about on TripAdvisor. Josh met me with resistance at first until I explained that it was a literary pub crawl, and that we would be drinking in the pubs of great writers around Dublin. Nothing compares to a tour about writers in Dublin. I think the Irish are the best storytellers in the world - and this tour did not disappoint.
We met the tour guides and a group of no more that 15 outside the first pub. They performed some scenes from a James Joyce piece and finished by telling us that this is the pub where he wrote it! Each place we stopped at allowed for a couple of stouts and then we would meet outside to head to the next place together. These weren't just tour guides - these were full blown actors performing parts in the dusky evening light that transported us to another time and fueled us with a brew for a five-senses experience. The nerd in me loved hearing about all the amazing works of art and literature and walking into pubs older than the country we call home. The city alone is an archeological study and it was fascinating. I can't remember if it was five or six or seven pubs that we visited, but each one had a unique story and each beer was delicious.
After a week in Dublin of touring pubs, the Guinness Brewery, and learning everything we could about Irish writers, we were ready to head to our next destination - Cork. We boarded a train and headed to the small town. We had learned on our tour to the Cliffs that Irish slang for "what's up" is "Craic" or more specifically "what's the craic?" and much to our delight found a little spot called "The Craic House" when we arrived in Cork. We stayed at a quaint bed and breakfast with two giant windows overlooking a small garden and I'd be lying if I told you we didn't think the place was haunted. Those two nights were the scariest evenings of my life, but the breakfast, tea time, and lovely staff more than made up for it.
While staying in Cork, we took a tour at the Middleton's distillery and learned all about whiskey. Did you know sherry barrels are used to age fine whiskey? Yum. We learned that American bourbons use new barrels and that's what gives them such an oaky finish. The Irish purchase used American Bourbon barrels in combination with sherry barrels from Spain for a more refined taste. We tasted a handful of elixirs in a wooded tasting room. Josh described it as butter and the best buzz he's ever had.
Next, we headed to the fanciest and most remote spot on our Irish tour - The Park Hotel Kenmare. Formal dinners, Barry Crockett, tea time, and silver-spoon breakfasts in an estate fit for the Royal Family (only they probably aren't allowed), this place was an Irish kingdom. We spent an evening walking along the coast, watching the water rise up towards the hotel and descend so far that full boats were docked in mud at the wrong time of day. Our room was complete with a welcoming champagne, a canopy bed with a stuffed bah-bah (sheep), and giant windows that always seemed to attract a butterfly or two. We walked through a lavish garden and around the small town of Kenmare, the Jewel of the Ring of Kerry, and at night we enjoyed a quite evening on the town where I remember eating stew in a dark and old restaurant by lantern light.
The next morning we had booked a full day at the adjoining spa. We left our room and passed by classic works of art and whittled wood through a corridor until suddenly everything was zen and modern. A babbling brook, a posh front desk, and a spa experience to die for awaited us. We had a couples massage and enjoyed several hours in the spa's amenities including an outdoor spa tub facing the misty and private woods. Later we enjoyed a beautiful evening participating in a formal dinner at the estate. Upon checking out, the concierge came running towards us with the stuffed animal from our room. "This is yours to keep" he said. We named the sheep, 'Craic'.
We headed back to Dublin for our last few days and stayed at The Temple Bar Hotel and Inn - a trendy hotel for a decent price. We used the time to take a few more tours including a day trip to Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Legend has it that the hexagonal structures were built by a giant named Finn McCool who was building a bridge from Ireland to Scotland to fight his nemesis, another giant named Benandonner. Now we know that the odd shapes were created from a volcanic eruption 50-60 million years ago! The tour was fascinating. We learned about the history of Northern Ireland (still under English rule today) while the Scottish were voting on their referendum. We stopped in Belfast for some tea. We even walked across a swinging bridge high over the ocean and watched the chilly sea spraying on the rocks below us. It was adventure made for living in the moment, and it was our moment.
Happy Anniversary, Babe.
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