10 Things About Ireland

Rather than bore you with a day by day recap of our trip to Ireland, I thought I’d hit the high points with some entertaining stories, photos, and yes, a video. As it so happens, I also have no interest in writing a day by day recap, so there you go.

For the record, I titled this “10 Things About Ireland” because I only intended for it to be 10 things. But then it needed to be 12. Deal with it.

1. If you think Chicago is windy, go to Ireland.

So, I have what is indisputably the most luxurious hair in all the land…as long as that land is not Ireland. Holy hell, it is impossible to have a good hair day anywhere in that country. It’s either raining, gusting 30 mph winds, or both. If you go, just invest in a lot of really festive hats. This must be why the Royal Family in Britain is always wearing those ridiculous hats. They’re distracting from their horrible hair days. Also, if Chicago is the Windy City, they should just go ahead and call Ireland the Windy Country. It’s amazing AJ didn’t blow over.

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This is what my hair looked like every day in Ireland. (Photo taken at the Cliffs of Moher, by the way).

2. If you have my appetite and you aren’t a billionaire, you’ll starve to death.

There is nothing like a trip overseas to make you realize why Americans are so fat. You basically go and pay like 13 Euro (about $17.50) and you get a wrap that is about the length of your hand and is really skinny. And it has some funny name like “chicken salad” but what they mean is actually “chicken with lettuce and tomato” which is, of course, not chicken salad, and then you eat it and you’re like “that was a nice appetizer, where’s the rest of my food?” Except there IS no rest of your food and now you’re starving but you’re too poor to eat anything else. Maybe that only happened to me. But seriously, the portions are tiny (compared to what I eat here, which I recognize is perhaps a bit on the hefty side) and everything is horrendously expensive. The only good thing about paying in Euro is that you have no idea how much you’re actually spending, so it’s easy to just ignore the sobbing of your bank account.

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Mm hmm
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Exactly.

3. All the stores and buildings in the cities are painted extremely fun colors, possibly to distract you from the fact that it’s raining. Again.

I feel like anytime I’ve been anywhere in America where fun colored doors and buildings existed, there were like 3 stores and you saw them all on a postcard before you came. In Ireland, pretty much every building in every city and town is painted like that. Everything could be on a postcard. I could have taken a million pictures of just doors and buildings. In fact, I just got a new cell phone and I custom ordered a case with the picture below on it. I’m that obsessed.

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Just a random street in Galway. I die.

Even the small towns did the exact same thing. I nearly swooned every time I got off the bus. I temporarily forgot I was hungry.

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Seaside town of Kinvarra.

4. Belfast is the Moscow of Ireland. 

No offense, people from Belfast, but holy shit, your city is depressing (and sorry, people from Moscow, for the comparison). Maybe it was just the weather that day (particularly rainy and cold), but I’m thinking not. We took a day tour up to Northern Ireland (technically a different country, win!) because we had heard that the tours of Belfast are fascinating. Well, they are fascinating. We learned a lot about “the Troubles” and the decades of fighting between the IRA and the British. We saw some of the locations of the bombings, including the Hotel Europa, which was bombed over 40 times. I’d like to think people stopped staying at the hotel for awhile, but probably not. We also saw many of the amazing murals that have been painted (and continue to be commissioned) for political prisoners, IRA martyrs, etc.

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Just a few of the many murals in the Catholic section of Belfast

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like painting the faces of people who were killed in bombings or died during the hunger strikes is perhaps not the best way to “forgive and forget?” It’s easy to see why the violence continued there for such a long time, and the Catholic portion of the city is still largely in ruins. The city itself was also depressing, but at least in one piece.

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Belfast City Hall. Pretty, but I got bad vibes.

5. The best part of our trip was a visit to a sheep farm.

There are sheep everywhere in Ireland, so the whole trip, I kept telling AJ I wanted to pet one. He insisted that going up to a sheep and just petting one is not appropriate, so imagine my excitement when I was told that part of our day tour to the Connemara region of Ireland included a trip to Killary Sheep Farm! I really didn’t know what to expect, I just knew I wanted to pet a sheep. Well, it was THE BEST. Tom, the owner of the farm, showed us how his dog, Sweep, herds the sheep with voice commands. The most amazing part about it was that Tom spoke in a completely normal, “inside” voice” while giving commands to Sweep, who was sometimes half a mile away. He said it takes 2.5 years to train a sheep dog, and I believe it. My dog can barely sit, and this dog was herding sheep!

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If you look very closely, you can see Sweep the Wonder Dog herding the sheep.

I’m not even mentioning the fact that this sheep farm was overlooking the only fjord in Ireland and it was absolutely gorgeous. In America, it would be covered in condos. In Ireland? Sheep farm.

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If you’ve ever in Ireland, go to Killary Sheep Farm and tell Tom that I sent you. And pet Sweep for me.

6. Irish castles are not how I imagined castles to be.

That is to say that the Irish castles we saw were pretty small. Apparently, the locals refer to them as “AFCs”, as in “Another fucking castle,” which I think is probably the most hilarious and potentially snooty thing I have ever heard. There really are a lot of castles, though, and there are neighborhoods and cities built around them half the time, so it’s not really the stuff you envision when you learn about the Middle Ages. Of course, the only place in Europe I’ve been is Ireland, so I don’t really know about the other castles.

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Dundrum Castle. It did have a good view, though.

7. Ireland has some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.

I repeat: the whole country could be on a postcard. Sorry I’m not sorry for all the pictures.

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The Cliffs of Moher
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The view from Dundrum Castle
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Just a random bridge in the middle of nowhere
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Fields lined with stone walls, again in the middle of nowhere.

8. Irish people are ridiculously friendly. 

Within about 5 minutes of arriving at the airport, we grabbed a cab and our cab driver immediately started giving us ideas about all the things to do in Dublin and pointing out local places to go. Then, when we were trying to figure out where to get on the double-decker hop on-hop off tour bus, an Irishman saw us with our map and came over to help us. THEN, as we made our way to the International Rules Football Game between Ireland and Australia, a man overheard us talking about getting tickets and told us not to buy any because he had some that he would give us for free. He told us to follow him, so we did (looking back, this could easily have ended like Hostel) but he led us right to the stadium and gave us a full tour of the stadium, the GAA museum, and then our free BOX TICKETS to the game. Like, literally in one of those suites that rich people sit in at football games. He showed us to our seats and then left. Didn’t want anything. So Declan, thank you, wherever you are!

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Before you mock our touristy Irish scarves and hats, please note that everyone in Ireland wears scarves and hats all the time and the country’s colors are very popular during the football games.

9.  The Irish take their music seriously.

Irish music is not a touristy thing in Ireland. You might think it is, but given that literally every single pub plays it live pretty much every night, it’s clearly something that locals enjoy as well. The bed and breakfast (not the way Americans think of them…more like just a cheaper hotel) that we stayed at had an old Irish pub downstairs – directly beneath our room, actually – that had live Irish music each night. On the night before we left, we headed down to listen and I took this video of my new favorite song, Galway Girl. If you don’t know it, get to know it, because it’s the jam.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnXNiVj2BD4

10. The churches are out of control, regardless of how old they are. 

Again, I might consider going to church if churches here looked like the ones in Ireland. Except I’d be too busy staring at how pretty everything was to actually listen, but at least I’d be physically in the building.

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Ruins of a church constructed in the Middle Ages
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Inside Galway Cathedral
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St. Patrick’s Cathedral. St. Patrick is buried in the cemetery just outside the church.

11. The Guinness really does taste different in Ireland.

I think Guinness is basically the most disgusting thing on the planet, but obviously, when in Rome, right? Well, they say Guinness tastes different in Ireland, and it is true. That is, it is actually drinkable in Ireland, and by the end of our trip, I daresay I enjoyed it. We went to the Guinness Storehouse (which has been brewing Guinness for 300 years) and took a tour, which included a free pint. We also drank Guinness at the pub where JFK had his first ever pint!

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Drinking our free pints at the Gravity Bar at Guinness! It’s an all glass bar in the shape of a pint glass that is 7 stories above the City of Dublin!
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I know you’ve already seen this picture, but it’s the only one I have from the pub where JFK had his first pint, so look into my eyes again.

12. This.

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This is Kylemore Abbey. First it was a house (!) and then it was a boarding school for girls. The school closed in 2010 and it’s now a museum and place where nuns live, which I suppose would make it a convent.

In short, I love Ireland. That’s all.

Leave a comment: What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?

41 thoughts on “10 Things About Ireland

  1. I almost changed my mind about running the marathon in Ireland for my 40th birthday when I read #1 about how windy it was. But, by the end of the list, I changed my mind back. Beautiful!

  2. Japan! I went there for three weeks after I graduated high school as an exchange student. I don’t speak Japanese. Worst exchange student ever! However, a lot of the people there speak English, and many who are learning are happy to practice. There is so much culture and beautiful sights there, and I hope to return one day. It is fun to be out and about doing tourist-y things, because sometimes school groups are out too. The little kids will ask you for your autograph and if you give them the autograph, it makes their day. 🙂 So cute!

    1. I am so happy to hear this! I’m going to Japan in February for 8 days and I’ve been so worried about the language barrier. I’m really looking forward to it! Any special recommendations on things to do or see?

      1. Anything you can!! Haha! I have no concept of where anything is because we were shuttled around everywhere the whole time. However, if you are able to go to Hiroshima, go! It is an amazing experience. They have beautiful memorials there and the museum is great as well. The Japanese “castles” are really neat to go to as well. Not sure what the weather will be like in Feb, but if there are any gardens open, they are beautiful! 🙂

        And watch out for the toilets! The traditional Japanese is a little funny looking. But don’t worry…normal (to us!) toilets are plentiful. I only mention this because it was something that I was a little worried about when I went to Japan. Hehe.

        1. I was worried about that too! I saw a picture of one of the traditional toilets and I was like um…I’m going to need a diagram! I’d really like to go to Hiroshima, but not sure if I will have time since I’m only going for a week and it’s a good distance away from Tokyo. Going to try, though!

  3. Have you never seen P.S. I Love you? They sing Galaway girl in the movie! (not sure if it’s the same one but maybe? not getting up to find out. It’s one of my favorites. and Your pictures? esp the scenery ones are SO making me want to go there. and I’ll never be able to afford it. ever. Love you!

  4. OMG thank you for posting this !! My (non-running) husband & I went to Ireland in 2010 (no marathon). BUT, after seeing me reading your first post, he looked up info for the marathon you ran and asked what I thought about running it next year– HELL”S YEA! I jogged in Dublin several times while we were there and I really got the idea people thought I was crazy as there were NO other joggers. On young lad (like that?!) , did pick some flowers and chased me down! Even w/out luxurious hair!! So, long, rambling post to thank you in advance for my probable 2014 marathon trip to Ireland 🙂

    1. Ahhhhh Sherry that is awesome! I hope you end up going – it is such a great race! You will love it! I did notice that there were not too many other runners in Dublin when I was there. I think I saw a few, but maybe it was just the area where we were staying. Anyway, I’m so glad my shameless Ireland promotion has worked in your favor!

  5. A lovely blog. Typical of somewhere that is only a relatively short trip from me, I have never made my way over to Ireland. I certainly mean to though and this makes me even more determined

    1. It’s funny that you say that, because I have quite a few friends in the UK who have never been to Ireland either. It’s definitely worth going, especially since it’s so close to y’all, and everything will seem cheap by comparison!

  6. I’m so glad you enjoyed Ireland and actually got to see so much of it! I was on business in Dublin for 3 days so I didn’t get to see much (or visit Guiness or Jameson) but I did almost get blown off a bridge. 🙂
    I still can’t believe how windy it gets there and for some reason I thought it was only in early spring…
    I see I was wrong now.
    I do remember food being quite more expensive than in Croatia but also getting portions that were way beyond what I could eat (in pubs) – a huge sandwich with a side of fries that covered the whole (large) plate. Combined with a Guiness… Oh, I wish I was back there.

    And Guinness definitely tastes different (and better!) in Ireland – I tried it here and it’s nowhere near as good. Then again, the Guinness we get here is not the one brewed in Ireland but someplace else.

    1. Oh gosh, if you think portions in Ireland are huge, then there is no hope for me in Croatia. On the plus side, at least the food is cheaper there so I can order more! I know there is a huge Guinness brewery in Nigeria (it’s the largest brewery in the world) so maybe it comes from there?

      1. I think the one we have here comes from Poland, but I can’t say for sure.

        I’d say food here is not only cheaper but possibly of better quality as well. We tend to stick to old, homemade food our grandmas used to make even though there’s an influx of junk as well…

  7. I agree with all of your points (apart from the Guinness one, I was too young) especially about them being friendly, every Irish person I’ve met no matter where I was in the world has been lovely.

    A few years ago my parents went to Dublin and one afternoon they didn’t pay for a single drink. The bartender in one pub gave them more change than they’d given him and a bartender in another pub was a wee bit drunk and hadn’t been keeping track of their drinks and said ‘don’t worry about it’.

    1. Wow, I wish that had happened to me! I’d be so much less broke right now if I hadn’t paid for any Guinness 🙂

  8. This trip looks amazing!!!! I was in the midst of planning a trip to Ireland this year before I had to get knee surgery. I am hella jealous right now!!

  9. Galway Girl is totes my jam. (Have you not seen ps I love you?!!) I’m super jealous that you got to hear it live! But thanks for the video because now I’ll be singing all day!

    1. Hahaha I have not seen PS I Love You, much to the dismay of apparently everyone in the world. I MISS YOU RACHEL C!!!

    1. You should teach your dogs to herd sheep! It’s apparently an excellent use of energy. For the record, Sweep was half Aussie and half Border Collie. Of course I asked.

  10. It looks so beautiful there! It’s on my bucket travel list, so I loved the preview.

    Did you enjoy running a marathon internationally? Any real differences? I am running Berlin next year (yay!) and would love any insights.

    1. I really enjoyed running Dublin! I will say that the main difference with the water stops. They are much farther apart (about every 3 miles) and there is not Gatorade/sports drink at all of them. At Dublin, they gave out full water bottles at each stop and full bottles of Lucozade at the 3 (I think) stops that offered it. Also, it seemed like there were a lot fewer porta potties than I recall from other races, but I don’t pay attention to that too much. SO lucky you got into Berlin! I did not 🙁

  11. It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to have nice hair. I looked like a wind blown weirdo for during my year in Scotland. Lots and lots of hairspray…

    Also, Guinness is 1000000x better in Ireland. It’s awful in America. Also, the American imports of European beers are awful.

    I love Ireland minus the awful weather (although it looks like you got some blue skies!)

    1. How my hair looks in all of our pictures from the trip is a deep personal tragedy. It is just catastrophic. I can’t even imagine how much hair spray you used!

  12. Beautiful pictures! My hubby would LOVE to go to Ireland, if only for the Guinness! I could run, and he could drink then we could drink together, although, I’m with you, I don’t like Guinness – at least here in the US.

    My favorite place hands down to visit is Italy. I would love to do the Rome Marathon – just once! (or more if possible)

    1. I would love to go to Italy! Definitely will some day, but I basically want to see every single thing in the entire country, so I’ll need like a month to devote to that trip.

  13. Awesome!! We are planning for Ireland in July. I can’t wait. I too, have luxurious locks (although not quite as nice as yours, and I’m brunette) so I will be sure to bring fabulous hats to mingle & drink Guinness. And sleep in castles. And pet Sweep.

    1. Seriously, go see Sweep. It is so worth your time. Maybe (hopefully) the weather is better in July, but you will have a great time regardless! Just give up on your hair now.

  14. Thanks (as always) for the chuckle. Belfast=Moscow – hilarious! Looks like a great trip. Wondering if Ireland puts mayo on every small morsel of food like they do in England (yuck!)?

    You look fab in your pictures and I hope you are doing well!

    1. Thanks girl! I did not notice an excessive amount of mayo, and I feel like that is something I would have paid attention to since I don’t generally eat the stuff. Poor, poor Belfast.

  15. You’re so lucky to have visited Ireland! I was fortunate enough to go when I was in university (I did a semester-long exchange in England and hopped over to Dublin for a weekend) and it was so much fun. I’d say it’s easily one of my most favourite places I’ve ever visited.

    Other than Dublin, I love Berlin and Paris and, a little closer to home, Montreal. Even though I live in Canada it took me 29 years to visit any city outside my immediate vicinity (sad but true). I went to Montreal this past summer and it was awesome. I definitely recommend a visit for something a little off the beaten path. =)

    1. I’ve heard Montreal is really cool and actually, RnR Montreal is supposed to be pretty great – perish the thought! Maybe we’ll make our way up there so AJ can live out his apparently lifelong dream of visiting Canada.

  16. 1. Why Guinness tastes better in Ireland: they pour it right.
    A proper pour is to pull the tap towards yourself and fill the glass 80%, let it sit and settle, then top it up pushing the tap AWAY from yourself. I have NEVER seen a pint poured properly in North America. When I explained to a bartender he was doing it wrong, I was informed that they don’t have time to worry about that. Well, make time because I won’t be buying Guinness here until you do. (A proper Guinness tap changes the percentage of nitrogen being added to the drink depending on if it’s pulled towards or pushed away from you.) Add this to the fact that there are different brews for different parts of the world, and you have a vastly different tasting beverage. But really, the pour makes or breaks the drink no matter which brew you have. Science!

    2. Thank you for not liking Belfast. Okay, maybe not ‘thank you’ but I’m just glad I’m not the only one. My family lives on both sides of the border and I love the North (the Antrim Coast Rd? Worth a trip back just to drive that!) but I really don’t care for Belfast. My cousin’s who live there think it’s the greatest place ever, but I always end up feeling so *meh* about it.

    3. If you ever make it back, I highly recommend making the trek up to Co. Donegal. Thanks to the fact that the quickest way to it is to cut through Northern Ireland, it’s still largely unheard of by tourists outside of Ireland (lots of Irish flock there for weekends though) and has my favouritest (totally a word) pub in the world, The Reel Inn.

    4. My favourite place to visit is Switzerland. I was studying in Germany many, many years ago when I dated a Swiss boy, We’ve since parted ways but have remained friends (I even introduced him to his wife) and I visit as often as I can. Love that country (and forever thankful for friends’ couches which make it an affordable holiday.

    1. We did hear a lot about the proper pouring procedure for Guinness. That’s really interesting – who would ever think that there is a bad way to pour a beer? It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes. I guess I’ll just have to resign myself to only drink Guinness in Ireland and nowhere else in the entire world.

      Ok, I am SO glad I’m not just a stuck up American who snubbed Belfast. I was seriously concerned that I just had some kind of ridiculous perception problem. We did spend some time up in the North and so much of it was absolutely beautiful! Belfast was just not one of those places.

      Oh, we are planning a trip to Germany/Switzerland/Austria for next fall! I absolutely cannot wait. It’s definitely high on my list! Feel free to send suggestions of places to visit 🙂

  17. Oh my gosh….I was in Ireland last November/December. My daughter and I went on a self-driving tour and saw a lot of the same scenery you did. I almost hit a sheep! First off….driving is insane and I’m glad I took out extra insurance on the car 🙂 We went on a running tour of Dublin and surprise, it was cold and rainy 🙂 Great post!!

    1. OMG! I can’t believe you almost hit a sheep! But yet I can, because the driving and roads there are crazy and there are sheep everywhere! I was definitely glad we did not rent a car, even though we probably could have seen a lot more!

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