Dublin, Round 2 (and Northern Ireland)

Since B was out of town for work when I visited Dublin with my sister and her hubby, we planned another visit in August (2015).  Dublin is super easy and cheap to fly to from London; I think we paid around £20 round-trip for each of us!

Benjamin joined us on this trip- he was around 9 months old.  He again did amazing on the plane, and is such a happy, content traveler!  This trip, we brought the Ergo, our lightweight stroller, and the carseat.  The only reason we brought the carseat on this trip is because we had booked a day trip up to Northern Ireland, and the company required us to have a carseat for him for the bus.  We checked the car seat (for free), and gate checked the stroller, which was nice as we could use it in the airport until we boarded.  We bought our stroller secondhand and it has been perfect for us.  There is just enough storage underneath for a few things here and there (a blanket, water bottle, etc.), it has a visor/hood, and is incredibly lightweight and small when folded up.  It has been all over the place!

Anyway, we arrived in Dublin on August 12 around 8:30am.  Luckily, our AirBnB owner was okay with us checking in early, so we took a cab directly to the apartment.  The apartment was amazing!  We actually took a little bit of a chance on this listing, as there were no reviews yet when we brooked it.  Usually I am a bit of a review nut, I search and read reviews incredibly carefully because I have heard horror stories of apartment and house rentals.  The owner, Brian, did have other listings in other cities with great reviews, so we decided to go ahead and chance it.  I am so glad we did!  The apartment was across the street from the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral and was cozy, but just perfect for our little family of 3.  Brian was kind enough to arrange a cot (pack and play) for us for little man.  He even stocked some milk, a water jug, and some snacks for us in the kitchen!

*Sidenote: we have yet to encounter a situation during our travels that a cot/pack and play has not been provided for us upon request.  We most often stay at AirBnBs, and every place has been able to secure one, and often places even provide a high chair.  We own, but do not travel with our own pack and play.  Most hotels provide cots as well.

After getting our items settled, we decided to head out toward Trinity College, meandering through St. Stephen’s Green along the way.  Dublin is a fairly stroller-friendly city, so we carted Benjamin around in that for the day.  We were hoping to go see The Book of Kells, but the line was outrageous, so we just wandered a bit, checking out the architecture and other sights.  For most of the morning, we did one of our most favorite things when traveling: letting ourselves get lost in the city.  I think we ended up walking something like 13 miles that day total!

We ended up back in the city centre for lunch, and had some delicious sandwiches {and a Guinness!} at Temple Bar.  [If you haven’t checked out my other post about Dublin, I raved about their food, especially considering my reservations regarding touristy hot spots.]  B suggested we try Trinity College again after lunch to see if the line for the Book of Kells was any shorter.  It was actually pretty short, so we decided to go for it.

Photography was not allowed in the area housing the Book of Kells, but it was pretty amazing to see!  It is an illuminated manuscript, so of course I was really fascinated by the intricate illustrations and lettering.  The history of its creation was also pretty interesting.  We then were able to go to The Old Library which is…well…an old library!  I think I found it even more fascinating than the Book of Kells.  It was gorgeous and reminded me of Beauty and the Beast!  It houses the oldest books in the Trinity College Library, as well as busts of authors and philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Newton.

On our way back to the apartment, we found some street performers–Benjamin loved watching them!

The next day we got a bit of a later start, as Benjamin didn’t sleep super well.  We had decided to get the Dublin Pass for the day, so we headed to pick it up.  We were hoping to see quite a bit that day: Kilmainham Gaol, The Dublin Zoo, Guinness Storehouse, Old Jameson Distillery, and possibly St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Well, between getting a late start and just overall travel logistics, we highly overestimated what we could do.  While I think the Dublin Pass ended up saving us a few Euro, it wasn’t as cost-effective as we had hoped.

We started out the day at theThe Dublin Zoo, which was a winner for all of us!  We took the city bus there, as it was a bit outside of the city center.  There were lots of animals to see and the zoo was clean and nice!  We spent quite a while there and didn’t even get to see the whole thing!  I definitely would recommend it and go back if we were in Dublin again!

Our plan after the zoo was to check out a tour at the Old Jameson Distillery [which I spoke about in my other Dublin post].  Unfortunately, the next tour wasn’t for another hour, which would impede upon our later plans to check out the Guinness Storehouse.  Since I had already visited Jameson, B was okay with us skipping it and going to Guinness.  I kind of wish we would’ve gotten the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus pass–while most of the sights in Dublin are centrally located, there are a few that are a bit of a walk, especially if you are on a time crunch.

We made it to The Guinness Storehouse with plenty of time to explore.  The tour is self-guided through seven floors, covering everything from history to production to  advertising to tasting.  Although I had been told that the Jameson tour was better, I actually much preferred this one, especially with a nine-month-old.  Being able to move at our own pace and read as much or as little as we wanted was ideal.  Much of the tour was interactive and filled with colors, lights, and sounds, which also kept Benjamin entertained.  B and I even did the “Guinness Academy” [on the fourth floor], where we learned how to pour a proper Guinness.  The top floor had an observation deck bar with great views of the city.

Since we spent quite a bit of time at the storehouse, we didn’t end up making it back over the Jameson, which was okay with us because we enjoyed Guinness so much.  Instead, we had just enough time to stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  I had been during my last Dublin visit, so I hung out with little man to let B wander around and read all of the history and such.

We ended our day with some delicious Irish food (approved by all three of us!), Irish beer, Irish music, and traditional Irish dancing at Fitzsimons  in the temple bar area.

The following day was our looooong day trip to Northern Ireland, so we got some rest.  The day trip was exhausting but absolutely amazing!  We booked the Giant’s Causeway day trip through Viator.  The tour included the Carrick-A-Rede bridge, Giant’s Causeway, lunch, and a quick stop in Belfast.  After getting on a coach bus at 6:30am, we made our way through the Irish countryside and along the coastal highway to the Carrick-A-Rede bridge, a rope bridge that was once used by fishermen to get to an island that was good for fishing.  We had a little bit of a walk from the parking lot to the bridge, and the landscape was beautiful.  This was what I had always thought of when I thought of Ireland!

The bridge itself didn’t look especially scary or dangerous, but was much more frightening when actually crossing it!  There were super steep steps leading to it, then it was basically just some wood planks surrounded by rope netting and handles.  The wind made the bridge sway and rock, which was then made more intense by the fact that I was wearing Benjamin on my back in the Ergo.  B and I both made it across safely to the island, where we didn’t get much time to explore, as it promptly started to mist/rain.  We pretty much headed right back across the bridge and toward the parking lot.  Luckily, we thought ahead and brought our rain jackets!

The tour stopped for a quick lunch, then headed to Giant’s Causeway, an area along the coast where volcanic lava created interlocking basalt columns {most with five sides}.  It was pretty cool to see, but I don’t know that it was as magical as I had expected.  I did enjoy seeing the waves, the varying sizes of the “stepping stones”, and areas where old coins had been lodged in between the rocks.  Luckily, it wasn’t raining in this area, and B carried Benjamin in the Ergo, so I was free to roam and take a boatload of pictures (surprise, surprise, right?).

Our final stop of the day was Belfast.  We were only there for about an hour, so we just wandered about and ate a snack.  It was a nice little break from the bus.  Our bus made it back to Dublin city centre around 8:30pm.  Overall, it was a fantastic day–the sights were amazing, our bus driver was great–he told stories and made the ride much more enjoyable, and Benjamin was such a trooper- most of the people on the tour were shocked when we carried him off the bus, as they had no idea that there was a baby traveling!

After a long day of traveling, it was nice to get some food in our bellies and head to bed!

Our last day was August 15, and we didn’t have much planned for the day since we had such a busy day the day before.  We started our morning at the yummy Queen of Tarts {also mentioned in my last Dublin post}, then found some local art to add to our growing travel art collection.  We spent some time relaxing in St. Stephen’s Green–Benjamin loved all the birds and ducks there.

Finally, we peeked inside Marsh’s Library, another old, fascinating library before heading back to pack up and head to the airport.

This trip renewed my faith in Ireland, as I was a little disappointed last go around.  I liked not being as rushed to see things for sure.  I also really, really enjoyed our day trip up to Northern Ireland–I feel like I was able to see some different types of landscapes and scenes.

Dublin, Round 2 Travel Journal