My original thinking for our spring break travel plans was Scotland. I mean… Loch Ness, the accent, the Outlander standing stones… My middle name is Stewart, for crying out loud! But I was slowly convinced that Ireland might be a better choice. And by “slowly convinced” I mean Ben said “How about Ireland instead?” and I said, “Alright”. Because, hey, they speak with an accent there, too. And leprechauns!
So last Wednesday, we hopped on a Ryanair flight and arrived in Dublin, bringing Ben’s mother along with us and meeting my mother and stepfather there. It was a Martin Family Travel Tour!
Our first stop was the car rental desk to pick up our vehicle for the week. A few days prior, Ben had switched our rental car to make sure we had enough room for everyone and their luggage. What we found when we got there was, there is no such thing as a normal sized, regular looking car that will fit seven people and their suitcases in the Republic of Ireland. Well, what good is a Martin Family Travel Tour without a Martin Family Travel Van?
We headed out onto Irish roads with Ben driving on the wrong side with the steering wheel on the wrong side, shifting with the wrong hand. Glad it wasn’t me. We arrived in Dublin with enough time for dinner and an evening stroll around the Temple Bar area.
We had heard about how nice the people from Ireland are. It was not an exaggeration. Every waiter, tour guide, boat captain, bartender, hotel owner and random citizen on the street felt like our new best friend after a five minute conversation. And converse they can! Yes or no answers must be illegal over there. For instance, earlier on our first evening, Patty had asked a waiter if a certain dish was good. Turns out it was. On our way out, the waiter asked her if she had enjoyed it. Yes she had. “Good, good. Let me tell you, though. The title says “traditional” but the actual traditional way to prepare the bangers would be boiled, rather than grilled. My Granny used to make it boiled, but of course I’m from the country, and she would make so many we would be eating them Sunday and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday. We were lucky if by Friday we could get something different. Maybe Chinese.” And that’s the way it went with every person we spoke to.
The next morning we climbed into the van and drove just a bit south to a town on the coast called Bray. For a good reason, I promise. About a year ago, we found what could have been the oldest geocache in Europe. But there is one in Ireland that also competes for that title. So we figured it would be a good idea to find both to make sure we had, in fact, discovered the oldest. And since it was my birthday and I got to call the shots for the day, we went on a geocache hunt. We found it, and another one on the way for good measure.
Our drive took us past the Rock of Cashel, the ruins of a castle that started as the seat for the Kings of Munster, but was eventually donated to the church. Most of the buildings that currently stand were from the 12th and 13th centuries. We took an informative tour but you’ll have to ask E about it. I spent most of the time taking pictures and being mesmerized by our tour guide’s accent. Little E, however, took in every word, rushing to keep up with the guide and keep his place, front and center, whenever she started talking. My little learner.
Our evening stop was in Cobh on the south coast, near Cork. Known as the Titanic’s last stop before it headed out to sea, it’s a very cute little town with an enormous cathedral on top of the hill, looking down over a little street of shops and the Celtic Sea. While the rest of the Martin Family Tour members were exploring various museums, I headed out in search of sore throat medicine and a geocache. I found both, but couldn’t get my hands on the latter without first having to shake one of those very friendly Irish who intended to have a long conversation with me about the church where the geocache was hidden. I know for a fact that we would still be talking right now, possibly having only stopped for a traditional boiled dinner or two, if I hadn’t found a way to distract her and take my leave.
Our afternoon drive took us around the Ring of Kerry. I highly recommend doing the drive in early April or possibly any other time of the year when you don’t have to share the road with tour buses. We were pleasantly surprised that we never ran across any because that road can be narrow in places and I can see myself having a mini heart attack or two if we had encountered any coming toward us. If you do drive it during the high tourist season, be sure to drive it clockwise, as the buses take the counter clockwise direction. They’ll be coming right at you, but at least you won’t be riding behind them.
Oh, the views! Another bit of advice… plan on the trip taking longer than your GPS says it will. Especially if you have an avid picture-taker in the car with you. There are many pull-offs for viewing and I made us stop at Every Single One.
Our evening destination was Dingle, the only true town on the entire Dingle peninsula. Our hotel was run by the most friendly, talkative and knowledgeable man in Dingle. He was also the most difficult to understand person we came across all week. We took his advice on many things including where to eat, where to hear our first bit of Irish music, and where not to drive on the way out with our Martin Family Tour Van.
My favorite bit of overheard gossip of the week happened at the Courthouse Pub. It was a windy night and the front door kept opening. A man at the bar mentioned to the bartender that they must have a ghost who wanted the door open. The bartender said, “Oh, we do have a ghost but she doesn’t bother with doors”.
What? You want more of the Martin Family Tour of Ireland? See you tomorrow.