One of the hardest parts about living abroad is being away from family. So I was fortunate to recently share my father’s visit to Ireland for the 2nd summer in a row. He’s 85 and thankfully in good enough health to still make trips across the Atlantic from Florida. I’m very grateful for the wonderful 3 weeks we just shared exploring new things in Dublin, the nearby coast and a few other places. But equally great was just sharing the little moments like catching up over dinner every night. My Dad’s visit also coincided with the Obama’s visit to the island so we were both interested to see all the hoopla surrounding that as well.
Bell and I still haven’t driven in Ireland. We’ve been fortunate to have a few friends visit who have been happy to rent a car themselves and we’ve shared in the cost. But being my father’s 2nd visit, I felt ready to finally take the plunge and drive myself. Unfortunately my Dad did not feel like taking this dive. He had the same reservations I had for driving on the west coast- aside from driving on the left side, the coastal roads are extremely narrow and rainy conditions can add to the challenge. So we opted to explore by other means once again.
Last year my Dad and I visited Belfast and saw the political murals along with hiking a few gorgeous spots on the coast, like Bray. For father’s day weekend this year we took a 2 hour and 15 minute train ride south, on the east coast to Ireland’s oldest town, Waterford. We spent a night at the Travelodge, a good cheap option for 3 people sharing a room in several locations in Ireland as the couch pulls out into a little bed in all their rooms. We couldn’t do better for 45 euros. The intention was that we would wake up early on Father’s Day and take a bus tour to see the famed Copper Coast Geological Park.
Immediately after exiting the train station in Waterford we headed to a massive and seemingly new tourist information center. When I inquired about bus tours to the Copper Coast I was given a look like I was crazy. “You could rent a car” she said. “There are no tours there.” Looking around the massive information center I probably gave the employee an equally bewildered look in return. Sure, why would there be given it is a UNESCO world heritage site just 20 km away?
So with the Copper Coast out we had to make other arrangements. Waterford is famous for crystal but after the recession hit, 2,000 employees were laid off and many crystal making jobs were shipped to Poland. So we decided to skip the Waterford Crystal tour and showcase room. A few of the employees who were laid off, along with a few other local artists, formed a co-op called Kite Design Studios. It’s well worth a visit as you can see lovely crystal glassware being hand made and shop for great gifts. We arrived late and did not see any glassware being made but we had a wonderful chat with a fantastic porcelain sculptor named Sharon Fleming who told us of her adventures hiking the famous 800 km Camino de Santiago trail in northern Spain. She also told us the best places to eat and drink in town. After a good pub dinner we headed to the oldest pub in Waterford, T & H Doolan’s, to listen to Irish music. Sinead O’ Connor started her career in this pub and it’s a must stop for a drink in town. Try a locally brewed Metalman pale ale if you like this style of beer as it’s a good one.
The next day we caught a local bus to the coastal town of Tramore to catch a wee glimpse of the Copper Coast. Unfortunately the weather was horrendous and we were forced to flee into a little diner and warm ourselves with coffee and hot chocolate…Summer in Ireland! So we went back to Waterford and had dinner at the oldest hotel in town, the Granville Hotel. A nice place to swing into for a meal.
Another great excursion we embarked on was a visit to Glendalough, which is stunning and you can actually catch a tour bus to from Dublin. But that’s a story for another time. In the meantime, thank you so much for visiting again Dad. We love you.