For the sixth month of our around-the-world adventure we planned to spend our time in Ireland. We had reached the maximum allotted time in Europe’s Schengen Zone and had to remain out of that area for 90-days before we could re-enter to continue our explorations of mainland Europe.
We had just spent the last month in Morocco and were happy to be heading to a place where we could speak English again and have most people understand us. Morocco was a great place to visit, but being in the big city of Rabat for a month with it’s noise, pollution, and crazy drivers had left us a bit frayed and wanting to enjoy the quiet countryside of Southwestern Ireland.
We had rented a house on a working farm near the coastal town of Bantry. This would put us close to the Ring of Kerry and many other sites worth visiting. Before heading there we decided to spend a bit of time in Dublin.
Day 1: The Great Escape and Flying to Dublin
We were surprised to find how expensive flights from Morocco to Ireland were. The “cheapest” option we found was to fly RyanAir from Fes, Morocco to London, England and then take another RyanAir flight onward to Dublin, Ireland. RyanAir has a lot of add-on charges and our “cheap” flight soon skyrocketed to $950 USD for the 3 of us.
We also had to lighten our bags, as RyanAir’s baggage weight limits are less than those of US airlines. In packing clothing for four seasons we knew our bags were too heavy and we were happy to be getting rid of some stuff.
Our flight left Fez at 9:00 in the morning, which required us to travel 3 hours by train from Rabat the day before and get a hotel near the airport. Our hotel was really nice, but was in the middle of nowhere and we had to pay a small fortune ($15 USD) to arrange for ground transportation that would pick us up at 6:30 in the morning to deliver us to the airport on time.
We had read RyanAir’s strict baggage policy about only being able to bring on one 10 kg carryon item, but were a bit surprised to have our carryon bags weighed and measured. After successfully getting through the airport checkpoints and getting our Moroccan exit stamp we boarded our plane and couldn’t wait to land in England.
On the plane they handed out Landing Cards to be filled out by foreigners. We filled ours out and I entered ‘Travel Blogger” as my occupation. I had previously worked in the Engineering and GIS fields, but since I am no longer employed at that, “Travel Blogger” sounded more accurate. Unfortunately, the immigration agent at the airport in London did not like that answer and grilled us about what we were doing there and wanted proof of finances, which we didn’t have, and proof of a return ticket to the USA, which we also didn’t have. Either “Travel Bloggers” have a bad reputation in England, or we looked like a dangerous family of international arms smugglers. So, we had to go sit in the chairs of shame until the agent discussed our future with his supervisor.
We have heard about other people on RTW trips having problems when trying to enter some countries when they do not have a round trip airline ticket, but we never expected to have problems in England. Especially since we were actually only going to be in England for a few hours until we caught our plane to Ireland.
After a few minutes of watching all of the other foreigners from our flight pass through immigration without difficulty, the agent came back and said they would let us into England, but he was worried that Ireland may refuse us entry and we would get sent back to England. His parting words were, “I don’t want to be mentioned in a blog.” Ha!
Once through “Checkpoint Charlie,” I went to an ATM machine and got a printed balance slip showing we had funds to support ourselves in Ireland in case there were problems with Irish immigration. Fortunately, after arriving in Dublin we told the immigration agent that we had rented a house near Bantry for the month and it turns out he was from that area and stamped us in. We were only allowed a limited stay of one-month, but that was all we needed. I have since read on the US State Department’s website that Ireland has been refusing or restricting entry to lots of American’s over the last 2 years for those who do not meet the immigration requirements. I guess we really need to be more prepared when entering a new country, even if it seems like it should be a piece of cake.
Once at the Dublin Airport we got a taxi and arrived at the Regency Airport Hotel a few minutes later. Being tired and hungry we made our way to the hotel’s family friendly pub and ordered food and pints of Guinness and then retired for the night.
Day 2: Trinity College and the Book of Kells
No trip to Ireland is complete without seeing the Book of Kells. After a quick breakfast and a swim in the hotel’s indoor swimming pool we went out to catch the bus to Dublin’s city center. After having warm weather in both Spain and Morocco we were not ready for near freezing temperatures again and had to break out the gloves, scarves, and hats. We had expected April to be a bit warmer in Ireland, but spring has yet to arrive.
The double decker bus soon came and we paid our €5.30 bus fare for the 3 of us and headed upstairs to enjoy the scenery. Back in the 1970’s, Portland, Oregon had double decker buses that went from downtown Portland to Washington Square Mall and I always enjoyed riding on the top. Our daughter, Sydney, loved it as much as I did when I was little and she had a great time pretending to drive the bus.
After paying less than a Euro for a taxi ride anywhere within Rabat, going back to high priced transportation would once again be hurting our budget.
We got off the bus near the river in downtown Dublin and found the Tourist Information booth to get a free map and to find out where Trinity College was. We walked to the college and signed up for a tour of the college, which also included entrance into Trinity College Library where the Book of Kells is displayed.
The tour of the college was conducted by a grad student and was really informative, although very cold. We learned all about the long history of the college and a few of its most famous graduates, including Oscar Wilde whose lipstick covered grave we saw in Paris. We also found out that the college has three giant Oregon Maple trees that had actually been brought over from our home state of Oregon in 1920. One of those trees is the largest Oregon Maple in all of Europe.
The tour ended at the line for the library and the Book of Kells, but before departing the guide wanted to know all about our RTW adventure. It’s never to early to start planning a sabbatical!
After getting into the library we read all about the 1200-year old Book of Kells and about the three scribes who created the book. We then proceeded into the room where 2 of the 4 books are displayed. The Book of Kells is very artistically done and we had really been looking forward to seeing it. They switch out the books every couple of weeks with only two of them are on display at a time. For the books on display, they turn the page every day so you never know what you might see. Unfortunately, on the day we visited the pages were not as colorful as some of the others pages, but it was still impressive. They do not allow photos of the Book of Kells, but the entire book is available to view online here.
After seeing the Book of Kells we entered into the beautiful Old Library. The library houses a large collection of really old books that have been organized by size. A book request might take a librarian a few days to actually find the book. Not the best system for quickly accessing a book, but it sure did look nice.
While in the library I saw people with cameras taking pictures. I thought it would be okay to take some photos and shot away. I later learned that photography is not allowed inside the library without applying for permission ahead of time and having a guide. Oops!
The library also has on display the famous Trinity College Harp. The harp is the oldest harp in Ireland and dates back to the 14th or 15th century. That harp has really become a symbol for Ireland and can be found on the Euro coins and is on the Guinness logo.
After our visit to Trinity College we wandered around the trendy Temple Bar area and then took the bus back to our hotel and enjoyed a hot meal in the pub and a pint of Guinness.
Day 3: National Archeology Museum and Live Music
On our third and final full day in Dublin we wanted to visit some of the museums. Kerri compiled a list of must-see museums with the free National Archeology Museum first on the list. We expected to spend an hour or two there and then move onto the next museum on the list. Once inside we were surprised at the size of the museum and ended up spending most of the day there. The museum is full of Celtic and Viking treasures and artifacts. The museum was so fascinating that even Sydney loved it. If a museum can hold the interest of an 8-year old child, you know it has to be good!
After visiting the National Archeology Museum we ventured over to Dublin Castle, but found it closed due to remodel work.
The rest of the museums on our list were close to closing so we decided to do the other must-do thing in Dublin; hit an Irish pub and listen to live traditional music. The best bet for finding live music was in the Temple Bar area and that was were we headed.
It seems most of the pubs in Temple Bar offer daily live music. There is no cover charge, but you do end up paying more for a pint of beer. We stopped at two pubs with live music and enjoyed a classic Irish stew and a couple of pints of Guinness. In case you were wondering how much a beer in Dublin costs, we paid €6.40 ($8.33 USD) per pint. It was really expensive, but definitely worth the price to hear live Irish music. It felt weird bringing our daughter with us on a pub-crawl, but she had a great time listening to the music and drinking a soda.
Day 4: Escaping the City
On our 4th and final day in Dublin we checked out of our hotel and got a taxi ride to a rental car agency where we picked up our rental car to visit other parts of Ireland. It was really weird sitting on the wrong side of the car and driving on the wrong side of the road, but we made it out of Dublin safely.
We really enjoyed our time in Dublin and would love to return someday. Even though Dublin is Ireland’s largest city, it feels small, comfortable, and safe. The people are friendly, the pubs are festive, and the city is full of history that can even entertain an 8-year old.