As my extreme absence in the month of December indicates, I took a huge trip with my family over the holidays.
My beautiful and brilliant sister Maja is studying abroad for the whole school year (sniff) in Nottingham, England and so my parents and I went over for a visit. For a day-by-day account of what we did on the trip, hop on over to her travel blog here.
In the spirit of efficiency, I thought I would go through some of the best and worst parts of the trip and offer you guys a brief recap of an amazing two weeks. I decided to break it down into two posts since there was so much going on. This post will include Ireland and Liverpool and the next one will include Nottingham and London (baby!).
DECEMBER 17: Depart MSP
DECEMBER 18: Arrive in DUBLIN!
DECEMBER 18-21: Ireland
DECEMBER 21-22: Liverpool
DECEMBER 23-26: Nottingham
DECEMBER 27-JANUARY 1: London baby!
JANUARY 1: Endure a hellish day of travel back to the frozen tundra that is Minnesota. Luckily, I was smart and did not consume any alcohol on New Years (lame sauce, I know) because that day was awful enough. I cannot fathom it hungover.
We stayed in one hotel for the duration of our time in Ireland, The Townhouse Bed & Breakfast. They had a KILLER breakfast that kept us full (no small feat, let me tell you) until late afternoon, free wifi and computers to use, and a room with four single beds (so sister and I didn’t have to share. Holla). Additionally, the concierge, David Kennedy, became our BFF and gave us tips, booked things for us, and made sure we got around okay. He even made calls down to the Kennedy Homestead Museum (the irony) to inquire about travel there. Cannot say enough positive things about this hotel. If you are ever in Dublin and looking for a place to stay, I highly recommend The Townhouse. They also have a hostel attached, Globetrotters, that is a cheaper option.
Duh. Most of them have live music after 8 or 9 and even my parents came out with us one night. The Temple Bar area was super fun, but be prepared for extremely overpriced drinks. Temple Bar itself was super packed, so we pub hopped and really liked The Auld Dubliner. I have major can’t-get-to-the-bar-too-early anxiety but my sister assured me that that’s not really an issue in Ireland. And it was not. We went out at like 7:00 and it was like 1:00 am in Minneapolis. This granny got to go out and go to bed at a decent hour too.
Can I find this in America? I love cider (more than beer and wine) and this Irish cider came highly recommended by my fabulous cousin.
Okay, I know this one seems weird but stay with me here. We walked (I sweated) across Dublin to find this jail that is roughly seven million years old. But being three history nerds and my mom, my dad, sister, and I were gung-ho about seeing such an old historic place. It blew us away! We saw the cells and execution sites of many of Ireland’s most famous criminals/revolutionaries and got to walk in the “marching yard” where many famous movies have been filmed, including In the name of the Father and The Escapist.
-Taking the bus around the country
So before I left for Ireland, a lot of people were hating on me because we were doing a Paddywagon tour rather than renting a car. Something about Paddywagons being tacky and overpriced. Well I loved the fact that we could get on a bus and look out the window and not have to deal with driving on the wrong side of the road and car. Seriously, we just got on the bus and watched the gorgeous countryside fly by. Our Paddywagon driver made several cool stops and told us lots of fascinating stories that we probably wouldn’t have gotten if we were on our lonesome. The Paddywagon service we used was Paddywagon Tours on Lower Gardiner Street (across the street from our hotel) and I really recommend it.
-Not being able to make it to the Kennedy homestead
So this was the biggest downer of the entire trip for me. On a trip planned around everyone else’s wants, the ONLY thing I specifically wanted to do for myself the entire trip was go to the Kennedy Homestead Museum, which just opened in June of 2013. Although Jackie was not Irish, I don’t discriminate when it comes to Kennedy historical stops. On our first day, my sister and I took a bus to Wexford, planning to take another bus to little town near the Homestead, and then walk from there. As it turns out, the bus down to this little town would be like 30 euros each plus 25 euros for a cab to take us the four miles to the homestead from the town. Plus museum admission for two. That is a TON of money to spend on the first day of a European trip. So we saw Wexford, made some friends at the local travel stand, and bussed back to Dublin. Disappointed.
This became the album title for my photo album on Facebook. Seriously the rain over there is nuts. I’ve been to Seattle and it was nothing like Ireland (and England too, for that matter). Because we walked everywhere, I spent most of my days in a vicious cycle of getting wet, starting to dry off, and getting wet again. As anyone who knows me can attest to, I HATE being wet. Cold I can handle; wet I cannot. Cold and wet? No thanks. My parents brought their rainpants to Europe and endured endless teasing from me during the packing process and first days of the trip. And then I ate my damn words because the Cliffs of Moher was a disastrous day. When we finally made it to the Cliffs, the guide who worked there said that the torrential downpours and 70 mph wind gusts were the worst he’d seen in 15 years working there. We were advised not to go further and we did not listen. None of us got blown into the ocean but we did get soaked to the bone. Like I went in the bathroom, peeled off my pants, and wrung my jeans out in the sink. If I were to do it all over again, I would bring a pain of hellaciously nerdy rainpants just to be worn for days spent hiking in the torrential rains.
-A Beatles Story and The Cavern
This one was for my mama. A Beatlehead since she was little, going to Liverpool to see where it all began has been a lifelong dream of hers and it was great to be there with her when it happened. The museum was also pretty awesome. Great pictures of the lads, cool memorabilia, and the final room was one of the most powerful museum rooms I’ve ever been in (except for the shoe room at the Holocaust Museum). It was an all white room, with John Lennon’s white piano with his classic glasses on top. “Imagine” was playing on repeat and the lyrics to the song were written on the wall. It was incredible. Awesome gift shop as well. The only thing I didn’t like was the numbered stops on the free audio guide were not all in order and this Type-A lady could not handle it. From the museum down on the docks we walked up to Matthew Street and saw The Cavern, where the Beatles got their start and took some pictures with the John Lennon statue.
For our one night in Liverpool, we stayed at the YouthHostel Association on Tabley Street. It was a 5 minute walk to the wharf/docks area (including the Beatles Story museum) and probably a 7 minute walk to the main drag and restaurants. We got our own room with bunk beds and had our own bathroom. Since we were only there one night, we didn’t need too many bells and whistles, and this hostel fit our needs perfectly.
-Titanic Memorial and Docks
One of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling, especially in a new city, is to go for an exploration run. After our awful day of travel to get to Liverpool, I decided I needed some alone time so off I went with only my iPod. Luckily I have a great sense of direction so I don’t have to worry much about actually getting lost, so I love to just run along paths and streets and get the lay of the land. I ran along the docks and came to the Titanic Memorial. I have been a little obsessed with the Titanic story since age six, so imagine my excitement as I’m jogging along, look up, and there is the Titanic Memorial right in my face. It was a very cool albeit sad surprise on one of my favorite exploration runs of all time.
-Not much to do
For real though. The only attractions in Liverpool are the Beatles ones. Granted, we were there right before Christmas so I’m sure the city is different at other times of the year, but I thought Liverpool kind of sucked in terms of fun/entertainment.
-Not much to do if your family doesn’t want to go to a football match (soccer game, ya moron)
So I’m the only one in my family who likes soccer and I was secretly dying to go to a match, and was really hoping we could go to one while we were in England. But alas, not even in Liverpool, where their only attractions are Beatles and soccer, did my dreams of seeing footy come true.
This is only Part I of our Eurotrip, Part II will be coming at ya soon!
Are you traveling to Ireland or England anytime soon???