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 second visit, I felt ready to finally take the plunge and drive myself. Unfortunately, my Dad didn’t feel like going that route. 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.
*Updated July 25th, 2018 Below*
Where to Stay in Dublin?
It’s a good idea to book a hotel with free cancellation in advance. Later if prices change and you find a better deal, you can easily cancel your reservation and book another one. Here are hotel and bed and breakfast recommendations for Dublin:
Shelbourne Hotel is Dublin’s most historic luxury hotel, as several US Presidents and many foreign dignitaries have stayed there. They have a wonderful cocktail lounge and fantastic dining options. Even if you’re not a guest, swing in for high tea and enjoy a lovely view of St. Stephen’s Green.
The Merrion Hotel is another excellent luxury choice. This 5 star hotel offers an old world luxury experience in a great location.
O’Callaghan is a small chain of centrally located, comfortable hotels with good breakfasts. Trinity College often puts job applicants and guests up in these hotels. We stayed at O’Callaghan St. Stephens Green when Bell interviewed for her postdoctoral position at Trinity College and highly recommend it.
ABC House Dublin and Egans House are quintessentially Irish bed and breakfasts a little outside the center of Dublin. They both offer reasonable comfort for those that don’t want to spend a lot to sleep. We spent a week at ABC House Dublin while searching for our apartment when we first moved to Dublin. We stayed at Egans House on a visit to Ireland.
Generator Hostel is conveniently located right next to the Jameson Distillery (fun!) and is part of a reputable chain of hostels in Europe that are known for being clean and having a fun atmosphere.
Families especially will find the best deals on short term apartment rentals. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for free and receive $40 credit off your first stay!
Want to travel to Ireland for Free?
Play the credit card points game and use bonus point sign ups for free plane tickets! The most popular card among travel hackers is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The card also includes complimentary priority pass lounge access with free food, drinks and wifi. The annual fee seems steep at $450, but it includes $300 in travel credits. The 50,000 bonus point sign up is good for $750 in travel credit, enough for a free plane ticket to Ireland! They’ll also compensate you $100 for free Global Entry and TSA pre-check to skip airport lines.
If you don’t travel very frequently, the Delta Skymiles American Express Gold Card is free the first year and just $95 each year after. They give a 40,000 point bonus after you charge just $1,000, so this is a great card. You’ll typically need around 60,000+ miles for a free flight to Ireland, but you can earn these miles with everyday purchases. There are other perks to having the Delta SkyMiles AMEX Gold Card, like free checked bags on Delta flights.
Have questions about planning your trip to Ireland? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below and we can assist you!
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