A Travellerspoint blog


Quick stop in Wexford (Ireland) before Workaway time!

semi-overcast 12 °C

Well, its been awhile since I have gotten around to putting together a post about our travels. It's not that we haven't had much to write about, but rather I just haven't had time to prioritize this in with everything else that has been going on. Let me take some to time to catch everyone up on a little bit of what we have been up to.

After getting back from the Shamrocker all Ireland tour, we settled back in with our friends Colette and Alan in Dublin. Priority number one was to square away a Workaway opportunity that would hopefully start around May 1. We had some success with this after hearing back from Ian and Trish who own/operate a hostel as well as a Bed and Breakfast in Wicklow, Ireland. The dates didn't quite line up with a starting May 1st but the reviews were incredible from everyone that had been there, so we gladly accepted and would start May 13. This meant we had some spare time on our hands that we hadn't anticipated on our initial planning so the next thing to do was to figure out what the heck we wanted to do with ourselves during that time. We new we wanted to hang in Ireland and get to see some more of it, particularly places we hadn't stopped at during our other tour. We looked up a couple of cool towns near Wicklow that we thought might be fun to explore, with one being Waterford and the other being Wexford (not all towns in Ireland start with "W" I promise). As we had been having such good luck with AirBnB, we searched out places through it again and we were able to find one place in each town that intrigued us, so all we had to do was choose one. This decision was left up to chance, luck, fate or whatever you want to call it, but at the end of the day we flipped a coin and with that we were off to Wexford. Before leaving our friends in Dublin we had one last night out with them and their friends at a local pub on a Sunday evening. It was a bank holiday weekend so everyone had Monday off work and just as we do in Canada, they make sure to make the most of an extra day to be hungover! The evening seemed harmless enough, with me wavering back and forth on even bothering to go, but eventually kicking myself in the butt to get on out for some fun. It was just Colette, Alan, some friends from their cycling club and Sherry and I, which I thought was a pretty calm gathering. Calm....this night was anything but calm! Several pints of guinness, dancing, singing and heaps of laughs later, we got back to our apartment quite well off and ready for bed! This story may seem quite normal and really not noteworthy in this type of blog, which I would agree with. The reason I bring it forward though is to let you know about Cathal Miller, who is one of Colette and Alan's friends from the cycle club we met that night. Cathal was born without his right arm from the elbow down, but that did not stop him from competing in 2 paralympic games and even being selected as the flag bearer for Ireland in the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 games. Cathal is one of those people who has an infectious spirit about him and who does everything possible to ensure the people around him feel welcome and are having a good time. On this particular evening he went above and beyond to spend time getting to know Sherry and I which was incredible, but it was a separate event that hit the sweet spot for me that evening. A family was sitting at the table next to us and with them was their young son who happens to have down syndrome. The family recognized Cathal from his paralympic days and noticing this he made his way over to the table and spent almost 30 minutes just chatting with their boy and the family. The boy was grinning from ear to ear and the family was as well. The encounter was beyond heartwarming. As many would consider their good dead to be done, Cathal, who had come back to the table and had been carrying on with all of us for some time, took notice that the young boy was leaving, and again he stopped what he was doing, made his way over to the family and shared another few heartfelt moments with them. As simple and perhaps natural his gestures may have seemed, Cathal certainly made a difference in that young boys life that night. Cathal is one of those people that make you want to be a better person just by simply being around them and seeing how selfless they go about their lives. What a great send off from Dublin that night was. It was just another reminder that things that may seem simple and routine in life and can get pushed aside as the perceived return seems minimal or negligent, just might turn out to be that motivating moment you have been searching for everywhere else and not finding it. Catchal is yet another reminder also that when it comes to travelling it is not necessarily the places you see or things you do that will make your trip. Often times it is the people you meet that have the most profound affect on the outcome.

With bags packed, we jumped on a train and made our way to Wexford to meet Kathy and Declan who would be our hosts for the next 7 days. The train was relatively cheap as we booked far enough in advance (30 euros each - 3 hour journey), but traveller beware, the closer you get to your departure date the more you can expect to pay. In general the train is quite expensive in Ireland, so if you have time in your travels, the bus is much more economical (Bus Eireann). Wexford is located along the Irish Sea and is south of Dublin. When we rolled into Wexford the weather was a bit rainy, which meant a rainy walk ahead of us to our apartment, but then we heard a voice calling our names and their was Kathy (our host) with a big smile on her face and most importantly, a vehicle to drive us to her place. This is was extremely kind and unexpected. It certainly pays to take the time to communicate your travel plans to your hosts if you are using AirBnB! As with all of our other experiences with AirBnB to date, this would turn out to be another great one. With no real plans for our time in Wexford (as is the case with most of our destinations) we just set out to explore the town and see what popped up. During our stay we were fortunate to spend time hiking with Kathy and Declan as they would always let us know if they were heading out and ask us if we would like to join. This allowed us to get to places such as Tintern Abby. Tintern is a monastic settlement which is very much still in tact today, with its last resident leaving in the mid 1900's. Tintern has beautifully maintained grounds, with lush green hiking trails (depending on season) filled with the aroma of wild garlic, that take you back to the days when Tintern would have been a vibrant society. On the same afternoon we visited Tintern with Kathy and Declan we also stopped at the Dunbrody House which is an upscale country hotel owned by Kevin Dundon and his wife Catherine. Kevin is a world famous chef who also has a cooking school that operates on this property, as well as a recently opened pub (converted horse barn) which we ate lunch at and sampled a couple of pints.

Another worth while venture we stumbled on while in Wexford was the Jeep tour we took with Hook Head Safaris (http://www.hookheadsafaris.com/testimonials.htm). The tour itself was 4 hours long and was guided the whole way, with lots of great detail about the area. The highlight for the tour, as its name suggests, is Hook Head Lighthouse, which is the oldest operating lighthouse in the world (mid 12th century). On a nice day (remember this is Ireland after all) the views are spectacular as the waves crash against the shore and the winds power you away from the shoreline. It is well worth the visit and Hook Head Safaris is a great way to get the job done if you don't have your own transportation.

Aside from touring around the town which is very beautiful on its own, taking in the shops on the Quays, or just chilling out in the harbour front, one other attraction I took in while there was some fishing out on the Irish Sea! Never having fished in the sea before I had been seeking out an opportunity to do so since starting our travels. After chatting to a nice lady in the local bait/tackle shop I had a list of contact numbers to try and get my trip organized. Turns out there are no boats that leave directly from Wexford so I would need to make the short bus trip down the coast (30 mins) to Kilmore Quays - no bother. I exchanged a few phone calls with Seamus and without an interpreter on hand to verify for me, I was pretty sure I had a trip booked for Saturday. Seamus was back and forth on the weather but eventually he settled on going and I made my way to the docks early Saturday morning with Sherry coming along to tour the sites of Kilmore Quays. As it turns out there is really isn't much to Kilmore Quays. It is really nice and there are a couple great restaurants for seafood, but two hours is plenty of time to tour around. Before taking off on the boat I sat in the harbour and chatted with Seamus as we waited for the rest of the guys to show up. I did a bit better understanding him in person than over the phone but I think there were still a few things that slipped by me in our conversation. Once I got settled onto the boat, it was off to sea with 6 other Irish lads who were out to fill up their freezers with Cod, Pollock and whatever else might be tempted by their bait. As for me, I just wanted to catch some fish, so when we started landing fish I just tossed mine into the closest pail beside me, which seemed to go over well with the other fella's. The day turned out to be sunny and warm, with calm waters and a veteran captain giving us every opportunity to land plenty of fish. There were points in time when I would be reeling in two or three fish at once! To say this was an incredible experience, would be an understatement. I love fishing and this was fishing at its best. We ended up spending almost 5 hours out on the water and when I asked the captain how much I owed he figured 50 euros would be lots considering I didn't keep any fish! This totally made up for the overpriced and underwhelming experience I had with the fishing charter in Queenstown, New Zealand. As I said goodbye to my boat mates, I realized I had a couple hours to burn before the bus rolled through, so it was off to Saltee's chipper for possibly the best fish and chips of my life and a delicious locally brewed pint of Amber Ale.

A flip of a coin did not disappoint as we had an incredible time in Wexford. It is one of those towns/areas that has something for everyone. It has the relaxed quaintness and welcoming vibe of a small town, while offering plenty of things for visitors to see and do. We spent 7 days there, which might be a bit excessive as a 4 day stay might be closer to the right number to really enjoy all it has to offer. When you are looking into Wexford make sure you research its surrounding area as places like Tintern Abby and Hook Head Lighthouse are just a short drive away. Next stop Wicklow, Ireland to begin our Workaway adventures!


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 04:09 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

7 crazy days touring all the way around Ireland

Shamrocker Adventures - "All Ireland Rocker"- Stops in Belfast, Derry, Galway, Ennis, Killarney. Giants Causeway, Inis Mor, Easter Rising, Cliffs of Moher, small town music sessions and of course the Blarney Stone!

sunny 14 °C

After spending around two weeks introducing ourselves to Ireland through the lens of Dublin City it was finally time to get out and see what else this beautiful country has in store for its visitors. I went back and fourth about renting a car and trying to do it on our own, but when it came down to it I wasn't ready to be that adventurous. The added stress of driving in a new country in combination with the fact that I wouldn't be able to look around to take in all the new scenery in between stops, became the deciding factors for seeking out a tour that took us around Ireland. We found nothing but amazing reviews for Shamrocker Adventures on trip advisor and the seven day tour seemed to have all we were looking for so it was an easy decision to sign up with them. Here is the link if you want to check it all out for yourself after I give you a bit of a run down on all the shenanigans we got involved in (http://www.shamrockeradventures.com).

The tour kicked off on April 18th with a meet up in the Temple Bar district of Dublin. About 20 or so people were gathered outside of the office when we arrived and it was shortly after that we all made our way over to the bus to load up and get on our way. Our tour guide was a young Irish gal named Kim and she fired things up early in the morning by getting everyone to come up to the front of our bus to do introductions. The good old ice breaker to ease the pain of getting to know everyone one by one. Another little game Kim tossed in along the way which allowed everyone to get to know some of the people better was the “late for the bus” punishment of having sing a song for everyone at the front of the bus. It may come as a surprise to some, but it was not for me at all, that Sherry got to share her signing talents on more than one occasion during our trip! As we made our way out of the city and towards Northern Ireland there were lots of laughs as people told embarrassing stories or just straight up embarrassed themselves during their introductions. We had a fairly globally represented bus with Portugal, Mexico, England, Canada, Australia and America. The Aussies were dominating the bus though with around 1/3 of the group being from there - not a bad situation to have on your hands at all - guaranteed good time with Aussies onboard! Surprisingly enough the age demographic was quite varied as well with average age being late twenties. This was a bit of a surprise for us as we were expecting to have to keep up with 19 and 20 year olds all week!

Our first stop was in Belfast and our last of the week would be in Killarney before making our way back to Dublin. I have struggled to come up with a way to explain how amazing our week was while keeping this post short. The trip was everything we thought it might be and so much more. I will knock off a few of the highlight moments but please know that every bit of this experience was great! Our first night we stayed in the far north of Northern Ireland after taking in an eye opening Black Cab tour in Belfast that explained the past, and still existing troubles of the North. We settled into a little town called Ballintoy which had no more than 100 permanent residents. Even though the population was small there were still a couple of hostels and most importantly a couple of pubs within its boundaries. After only knowing our fellow tour companions for just mere hours, we all grabbed some beers, unloaded our luggage at the hostel and began walking the coastal cliffs while sipping away on our beverages, getting to know each other even better. By the time we all made our way over to the local pub there were few strangers amongst us and the good craic was on. The pub, like the town, was tiny and cozy with a small fire burning in the corner and local musicians treating us to traditional Irish music. Locals welcomed us with open arms and it was not long before the 40 or so people in the bar were getting along just the same as if they had known each other for years. The owner of the hostel was even there. He treated us to some brilliant karaoke singing of his own, which was quite impressive considering his distance away from sobriety. The night was capped off with the bar owners wife coming out from the kitchen and passing around little triangle sandwiches (free of charge) to all of the patrons. We were told this might happen and when it did we all felt that at home, small town feeling inside us, no matter how big of a town we may have each come from. Ballitoy had won me over on night one of the trip with its stunning scenic cliff views and its wonderful Irish hospitality - it was hard to imagine that it could get much better then this.

The following morning we made our way west with memorable stops at the Giants Causeway and in Derry which was the scene of the easter rising which claimed many innocent lives. After Belfast we had all started to really appreciate the troubled times in Northern Ireland and it brought a sombre feeling to all of us. When we got to Derry and received our walking tour from Garvin of Martin McCrossan tours (http://www.derrycitytours.com), there was not a single person in our group that didn't have with them a true understanding of just how much pain and suffering took place there. Our tour guide had our entire group hanging onto every last word he spoke. He made us laugh, he made us reflect and he even brought tears to a few eyes during our walk. Kim had told this was what we were in store for and she wasn’t a liar. If you find yourself near Derry do not hesitate to book a tour with Garvin as you will not regret a moment of it. If you don’t believe me then just ask Will Ferrell (yes that Will Ferrell). No he was not on our tour, but Garvin did give him and some of his friends a private tour just a year ago or so, with rave reviews following it.

Some final highlights to mention are our day spent biking around the Aran Islands (Inishmore), sipping on some pints while looking 300 meters down into the Atlantic from Airkins Castle (Inishmore), walking along the Cliffs of Moher, an unforgettable traditional music session in Ennis led by one our tour guides, great beach walks in Dingle, a wacky one man show in the top of an old pub in Killarney and kissing the Blarney Stone to wrap things up. To top all the great moments off we had exceptional sunny weather for all but one day of our trip. The luck of the Irish was on our side that week for sure. As if all the amazing sights were not enough, we had an incredible group of people of on our bus, some of whom we are still in contact with and are making plans to go visit as we speak. Even with bad weather, if you have great group dynamics you will always find a way to have fun. Lucky for us, we had both. Somehow we managed to party into the early hours of the following day almost every night and still drag ourselves out of bed in the morning to start all over. Of course there was always lots of laughter when we settled into our hostel rooms at night. Although sleep should have been the top priority, everyone was still giddy from the nights events. One person would say something and then it would just snowball from there with gut aching laughter taking everyone over. There was even the odd night were I was able to catch up on my NHL playoffs back home, as my new friend Dan from Australia just happened to have the Centre Ice Package which allowed us to watch a couple of games live when we got home from the bars. I didn't care who the teams were, it was just really great to see the best sport in the world being played in front of me again. Who would have thunk it, an Aussie who loves hockey came to the rescue!

When it was all said and done, and everyone was set to go their separate ways, some of us decided we just were not ready for that and so it was time for a couple more Guinness and a BBQ supper in Dublin. We even made plans and hung out one more time with Clare and Elijah from Australia before he headed to France to continue his rugby career and she made the long journey back to Australia without him as her European visa had expired.

So, as I said earlier, I could go on for days about our tour but unfortunately i just can’t do that here. The trip itself is one we will remember for a life time. We met so many incredible people with very interesting stories of their own, which we were fortunate enough to lend an ear to during our time with them. We had so many laughs and what seemed like once in a life time experiences. It was hard to believe it even all happened. Now it was time to finally square away our work away situation and spend a few more days hanging out with Colette and Alan back at our "home away from home" in North Dublin.


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 09:55 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

Back to Dublin for a "Feckin" good time!

Great new friends, applying to work away opportunities and taking in more of the great sites around Dublin City

all seasons in one day 12 °C

On April 9th we found our way back into Dublin city. We made a quick stop at Isaac’s hostel to pick up our stored luggage, then it was off to the bus stop to catch a ride out to the north-east of Dublin. Even though we were armed with fantastically detailed directions from our host, who even went to the effort of leaving all our keys and instructions to get settled in, at the hostel for us, we still managed to make a few wrong turns before eventually recalibrating and getting to the bus stop. With heavy backpacks on our shoulders and our other free extremities piled up with smaller packs, this detour was less than enjoyable, but “dem’s the breaks” as they say, and there was no time for feeling sorry for ourselves. For some reason I think I was bit anxious about taking the bus, which I realize likely sounds quite ridiculous. At this point in our travels it was somewhat of a foreign public transport for me, with the train or taxi being my preferred choice. Now, had I taken the time to read the signs and apply a bit of logic, I am sure this would not have been such an issue, but I had my mind made up and these buses were not going to be my friend. Sure enough, when we got on the bus, the exact change that was needed to pay our fare didn't go through the machine properly, thus not showing the exact amount the driver needed and so began the battle. He claimed the machine was right, I said we counted out the change before and I knew we had the right amount, then he just got frustrated and said to go sit down as we were holding up the bus - needless to say this fella wasn’t going to be reminding us first time bus travellers of when our stop was going to be coming up and, as predicted, we blew right by it. Luckily the next stop was just a few 100 meters away and the back tracking wasn’t too bad. Chalk that one up as a win for the bus driver man! We settled into our new apartment after following the detailed directions the rest of the way. As it was still early in the morning Sherry went down for a nap, while I got the television up and running for some quality vegging out. No sports channels here either! Damn. So began the "Friends" marathon!

That evening we met our new host Colette when she got home from work. I was in the midst of a cat nap, when I heard two girls chatting in the living room like they had known each other for years. The pace was furious and the pauses were few if there was any at all. I went out and introduced myself to Colette who was sitting feet up on the couch and blazing a conversation with Sherry about gluten free recipes and just about every other thing that Sherry loves. It is funny how and who comes in and out of your life, but I think these two were destined to meet. To say that they were old friends within the first few hours of meeting would not be a stretch. Later in the week we would get to meet Colette's boyfriend Alan who is a great guy and who was in the midst of training for his first Ironman!

Knowing that we had 9 days before we set out on our 7 day Shamrocker tour of Ireland, we set out to make the most of our time in Dublin, while also figuring out what our next move would be after that was over. We came across the website www.workaway.com while doing some research on working opportunities while at James and Jaro's the other week. Work Away is a website where you can create a profile for yourself or as a couple and then in turn apply to posted work away opportunities that are advertised using the site. A work away is an opportunity to complete work in exchange for the basic human needs of food and shelter. Work aways are offered all over the world and consist of lots of different types of work. You could be working at a hostel, doing gardening at someones home, helping a on farm, supporting an eco project and just about anything else you can think of. The plus side for travellers is that you get to save some cash not having to pay for accommodations or food, while the hosts keep their costs low and get to meet people from all over the world. A pretty darn good trade if you ask me. The plan for us was to try to find something that would start in early June and would maybe carry us through the summer. Be damned if we were going to leave Ireland while it was going to actually be warm and sunny! We began sending out applications to places that caught our eye and that shared common interests for both of us. This seemed like a pretty simple exercise on the surface, but for me there was a sense of nervousness as this would be another step into the unknown. The consequences were low in terms of risk to us and yet I still found myself self anxious about where we might be setting up camp for a bit. I guess that is a good sign though, as it means that you are not just sticking to the "same old, same old" and you are taking yourself out of your comfort zone. This usually means that you will be learning knew things and taking in experiences that you had never been apart of before , which is what this journey is all about. Another site that we sent a few applications out through was www.mindmyhouse.com. As the title indicates, people who are looking to be away from their home for varying periods of time, but who do not want to add significant cost to their travel plans, will post opportunities for other people to come and mind their home, animals, plants etc. Again, this is an exchange, wherein, the house sitter stays in the home free of rent, while also tending to the specific needs of the home while the owner is gone. Another great way to experience a country, while saving yourself some accommodation costs. It did seem as though many recommended having your own vehicle so you might want to keep that in mind when looking at places in Ireland.

In between setting up profiles and sending out work away requests, we still managed to have heaps of fun while back in Dublin. One day we made a trip over to the coastal area known as Howth. If you are in Dublin this is certainly worth the trek. The DART train will get you straight there and is likely the most economical way to arrive unless you have someone who is kind enough to drive you there. If the weather is right you will want to take in the cliff walks around Howth which offer a few different tracks depending on how ambitious you are. We took the long route, which is the purple track. Give yourself at least 3.5-4 hrs to crack this one off and don't forget your camera as there are beautiful views all around. The Irish Sea is splashing all around you for most of this walk, but don't worry about getting your shoes wet as it you will be well above the waves. On clear days you can even see back across to Dublin city. The Howth hiking tour was the first time since I had been in Ireland that I really felt as though I was experiencing the parts of the country I had dreamt up in my mind. There was no hustle and bustle, we set our own pace, and the ocean air was very refreshing. When we finally made it back to the harbour front area of Howth we made a stop at local pub to warm up with a drink and some food, then it was back off to our AirBnB. If fresh sea food is on your menu Howth is certainly a place to get it served up - mussels, fresh fish and seafood chowder will no doubt cure any cravings you might have. One second noteworthy stop in the city is Dublin Castle. Unfortunately, there is little that remains of the original castle. That being said, we do recommend taking the 8 euro guided tour which takes about 1 hour to do. You will get a chance to see ruins that are close to 1000 years old and get an in-depth historical review of the importance of the Castle. We just happened to have some time to kill while we were waiting out the immigration office lineup and this was the perfect stop. The immigration office is a whole other story I won't drag you through, but lets just say we got our ticket in the queue at 9:00 am, left and toured the city for 4 hours, came back and then waited another 6 hours to have our working holiday paperwork processed! We chatted with an American couple who claimed this to be worse than the DMV! People were literally cheering when their number got called and even the odd "high five" was tossed out as they made their way to the counter. Too funny looking back on that experience. Another stop we made that is worth mentioning is Phoenix Park. Listed as one of the largest recreational spaces in any European city, Phoenix Park (http://www.phoenixpark.ie/about/) is a great place to go for a walk, bike ride (you can rent them at the park), stop for picnic or even go to the zoo! We really lucked out with the weather on the day we went as the sun was shinning all day and it really felt like spring had finally arrived. There are beautiful flower gardens throughout the park and well manicured walkways to help guide you along. We decided to take in the Zoo and we were not disappointed. It kind of seemed bizarre going to a Zoo in Ireland, as nothing about it seemed authentically Irish, but we had a blast. The Zoo is very well laid out and has something for everyone. The variety of animal species is incredible (Lions, Tigers, Elephants, Baboons, Gorillas, Giraffes and so many more). You can easily put in 2-4 hours making the trek around this place and it is certainly time well spent. I remember going to the African Lion Safari near Toronto when I was quite young and this stop made me feel like a kid again. Watching the monkeys mess around, the Lions stalking around their den and the massive Silverback Gorilla holding fort in his area of the park, it was just good old fun. At first when we were talking about going to the Zoo I tried playing it off as though I was too old for the Zoo and that it was for parents and their kids - I was big time wrong and thankfully Sherry persisted (http://www.phoenixpark.ie/visitorinformation/dublinzoo/). One final note on Phoenix Park, which Sherry won't let me get away without mentioning, are the great little tea rooms that are in it. We stopped for some lunch and of course tea, at one of them. We were able to sit out side to enjoy the fresh air while we snacked on our lunch and talked over plans for the park which was really nice.

On our last night before heading out on the Shamrocker tour we organized a night out on the town with our hosts Colette and Alan. The whole week we had been hanging out at the apartment, drinking wine, sharing stories and just having a good craic (pronounced "crack) so it was time to take our talents out into the streets of Dublin. We met up at a pub after they had both finished work on the Friday for a quick pint of Guinness, then it was over to a tapas bar for lots of interesting and tasty treats. The big event for the night was a comedy show and the International Bar was the place where it would all go down. The show started at 9:00 and we might have been just a few minutes late but thankfully we escaped being roughed up by the MC who just pleasantly welcomed us and let us sneak to the back of the room. The room was quite small and it was full with about 50 or so people. A small bar is tucked into the corner of the room and no microphones are required for the comics. Just like a great acoustic guitar performance, this room was intimate and comfortable, the only difference being that you did not want to be in the front row for this show - unless you like being publicly humiliated, then the front row is all yours! We were treated to 3 comedians who came from various areas of Ireland and who were at different stages in their comedic careers. We had an absolutely deadly MC who kept the show lively throughout the night and who even tried to play a bit of a prank on Sherry who had to sneak past him to get to the washroom while he was up on the stage. Luckily for Sherry the guy beside the door was absolutely terrible at keeping the ruse a secret and she was tipped off before she made it back into the room. The entire show was excellent, the Guinness was perfect and the final sprint to catch the last bus of the night back to our apartment was even funnier.

After a great night out with our new friends, it was an early rise to make our way back down to the Temple Bar District where we would catch our bus. The extremely nice part about leaving Colette and Alan was knowing that we had a place to come back to as they offered up the room to us at a "friends rate" when we returned after our trip. This allowed us to pack only what we needed and kept us from having to worry about accommodations when got back. This was especially great since we didn't know our work away situation yet. We had one lined up, but were still waiting for final confirmation on start dates. It wouldn't be until at least the start of June, which meant at a minimum we would need a room for 5 days when we got back. We could have stayed with our new friends for much longer as we had a great time chilling out with them, but it was time to take in Ireland and hopefully meet lots more fun and interesting people from all over the world!


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 14:52 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Well Hello Spring & Hello to you too Dublin, Ireland!

Endless pints of Guinness, crazy weather, amazing AirBnB's, a complicated, tumultuous history and so much more.

all seasons in one day 8 °C

With no major flights booked beyond getting to Dublin on March 24th and 20 plus hours of flying from Perth, Australia behind us, we couldn't have been happier to know that we wouldn't be jumping on a plane any time soon. Clearing customs was the only hurdle between us and beginning our time in Ireland. This process went well as we had our documentation lined up ahead of time and I personally think the guy who was helping us just might have been to tired to bother asking a boat load of questions. This same gentlemen would be our first encounter of friendly Irish hospitality as he went on to make some recommendations on where we might have our best chance at finding work and where to avoid. This was quite kind of him and with that simple gesture, things were starting off on the right foot. For our fellow travellers out there, here is some quick insight into what we had to arrange before getting to Ireland. We ended up getting our Working Holiday Visa's through the Irish Embassy in Ottawa. These visa's would allow us to stay in Ireland for up to 2 years from our date of arrival, earn an income if the opportunity arose and to also come and go from the country as we desired during that time. The up front cost for this was $200 cdn each and it only took a couple weeks to organize all the required information and get our paperwork returned from Ottawa. Websites can be somewhat confusing when it comes to understanding what visa, if any, you require when travelling. If you have any doubt about what you need I highly recommend contacting the local embassy for your destination to ensure you are on track for your travel plans. It was just around 7:00 am when we cleared customs. As we waited for our bags a lovely Irish lady started up a conversation with Sherry while I was busy checking out the airport washrooms. They carried on for some time until our bags came gliding around the carousel and they parted ways. Another friendly face from Ireland!

Originally, we were not supposed to get into our AirBnB apartment until around 5:00 pm because our hosts would both be at work when we arrived, but thankfully I checked my email at the airport and they had left a note saying that Jaro would be around to meet us in the morning! This was a huge relief as we would of had to store our luggage and find something to do for about 10 hours, which would have been quite interesting considering our zombie like state....it wouldn't have been ideal but we were prepared to do it. Things were looking up and despite being tired we had smiles on our faces.....and then we exited the airport....When the automatic doors slid open and we walked out onto the pavement we got a lovely blast of 0 degree celsius weather. As if it was rehearsed, we both gave each other that look of "what the hell were we thinking leaving the warm weather in Australia!" I am sure that many people reading this are thinking the same and to be honest, we don't really have a great answer for that question. In our planning we just figured that after the time spent in all the other locations that it would be time for us to move on and so why not get settled into Ireland where we planned to set up shop for awhile. Pretty simple. Now that we were freezing our butts off, our next task was to navigate our way to our apartment on the South Side of Dublin. The gents that would be hosting us at our AirBnB sent us some extremely detailed information on how to get to their humble abode and from that we knew we needed to jump on an AirCoach. 10 Euros each would get us dropped off just a few short steps from our destination - which wasn't too shabby - heck I would have paid twice that just to get into somewhere warm at that point in time! The AirCoach buses can be easily found outside of the arrivals terminal and there are plenty of helpful staff if you have questions about ensuring you get on the right bus. A few pleasant features about these buses are that they have ample room for luggage storage, the seats are comfy and spacious and for the uber social media fans there is free WIF that works quite well! This actually proved quite useful for us as we needed to contact our hosts to let them know when we would be arriving on their doorstep. I wish I could tell you all that I had some amazing Irish sensation that came over me as we passed through the city to our destination, but to be honest, it was cloudy, it was too damn early in the morning, and we were cruising through a city.....so nothing too inspirational was firing up inside of me just yet. The streets were filled with pubs, I can verify that, but other then that single stereotypical observation, I really don't have anything exciting to tell you about our arrival in Dublin. Maybe the 20 plus hours of travel and over 30 hours without sleep had something to do with it.

Sherry and I had never used AirBnB before, so this was a whole new experience for us. In the simplest terms, AirBnB is a website that people can post accommodations with the intent being to rent them out in various capacities. You can rent an entire home, apartment, or just a single private room within a residence, for any given duration depending on your travel needs, with the only catch obviously being availability. In this case, we chose to rent a private room in an apartment in the south end of Dublin. What the heck - why not meet some new people and maybe learn a few things from them during our stay. To some people this may not seem very appealing as you are thrust into a living situation with complete strangers and surely it could be a roll of the dice in terms of personalities meshing or not. On the plus side, it can often save you a few dollars as you are only renting a single room and you have a kitchen to cook out of, thus giving you the chance to save on dining out every night. Another plus that you will frequently find in the shared accommodation set up is that you get first hand tips from people who live in and know the city, which in turn could lead to experiences that you may otherwise have not been aware of through the usual tourist information sources. When booking your accommodation you do have the advantage of seeing the reviews from past guests which can help to alleviate any anxieties you may have about your new roommates. As the saying goes, to each their own. I can tell you for certain that Sherry and I are big fans of having shared accommodations in the AirBnB scenario. You'll see why as our Ireland travels carry on.

Tired and groggy, Sherry and I hauled ass off of the AirCoach and then over to our apartment which was about 2 blocks away. On arrival we were greeted by Jaro, who was extremely welcoming to the dishevelled looking travellers who could have easily fit into any suspect line up at that point in time. After exchanging pleasantries and getting the lay of the land, Jaro headed off to work, we grabbed some food from a local shop and then it was head to pillow for both of us! The plan was for a short nap, but jet leg ran the show that day and we both crashed from about 2:00 pm until 6:00 am the following morning (sound familiar). The kicker for all this sleep was that it took place on Sherry's birthday! Whoops! So, quick recap here - on my birthday I jumped off of a giant canyon swing and we had an incredible dinner out, while on her birthday, just one week later, we flew for 20 hours and then slept for like another 16! So much for all that "make your birthday memorable", mumble jumble I wrote about earlier! Arriving in a new country on her birthday seemed like such a good idea when we booked everything.....

With our bodies recharged, we spent the next week or so touring around Dublin, taking in many of the essential tourist stops. Our hosts had plenty of guidance and advice for us on what to do and when to do it, which proved invaluable as we were like fish out of water in this new city. Getting around is fairly easy with tram lines running in almost all directions, plus buses and taxis being found throughout Dublin. Figuring out bus schedules is still a bit like solving the Da Vinci Code for me, so the trusty old tram (Luas green line) was our chariot in and out of the city centre for the week. It also helped that we had a stop just outside of our apartment building. Our first steps out on our own into Dublin took us for a walk around the coastal towns of Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire. When we reached the harbour of Dalkey we were met by a surprise visit from some local seals who were enjoying a fish gut lunch being provided by a local fisherman who just finished cleaning up his catch for the day. After that we made a stop at Finnegans pub, which claims to be President Obama's favourite pub in Dublin. The pub was nice as it had all the truly Irish elements found throughout it, I just felt a little out of place because pretty much the all the rest of the patrons were around when the automobile was invented! Obama must have liked this place because it made him feel young. It was really tasty lunch and In true Irish fashion, it was a fish and chips washed down by a nice pint of Smithwicks for me. Unfortunately we were hitting up these coastal towns early in the spring so they were not quite yet alive with the buzz of summer tourists and the harbours were void of the many beautiful boats that call them home during the warmer months. All that said, it was still nice to be breathing in the fresh sea air, while taking in a very relaxed environment.

When we finally made it into the city centre we got ourselves tickets on the Dublin Sightseeing Hop on/Hop off bus tour. This is the best way to get your bearings and to get a good idea of what you want to see and do while in Dubin (https://citysightseeingdublin.ie). Dublin is a city that is steeped in centuries of incredible and complex history. The tour guides on these buses will give you great insights to the major events that have taken place over the years in Dublin, along with the famous people who helped to shape the city into what you see today. As my high school history teacher Pete Carver would attest to, I am not exactly a history buff. I have the C's, D's and final exam marks to prove it. With that said though, I really did enjoy learning about the origins of the city, along with the centuries of conflict that has shaped Dublin into the city it is now, while building Ireland into the country we know it to be. Even if you cannot keep up with all the timelines of conflict, despair and growth, it is pretty incredible to be standing in front of castle walls that are almost 1000 years old (Dublin Castle - city centre) or looking at inscriptions on jail walls that were carved by the famously executed 14 hero's of the Easter Rising in 1916 (Kilmainham Gaol). At Kilmainham Goal you are even shown the exact places where the executions took place, which is quite moving on its own. History aside, the bus tour also gives you a great chance to figure out which pubs you want to grab a pint in, of which, there are literally hundreds. Take advantage of the hop on/hop off aspect and try a few out along the way!

Two stops on our initial city tour that I really enjoyed are the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery. No coincidence that free samples came with the ticket price! The prices for each tour is respectively decent and, in my opinion, worth the spend. There are many people who will say the Guinness tour is not worth the expense as it is not a guided tour and I have agree as it would seem like a given since they are such a large and prosperous operation. Sherry and I both felt like we got value from our time at the brewery, but I can certainly see the other side of the argument. There are many different ways to purchase your tickets for the Guinness tour, we combined it with our hop on/hop off bus ticket, but another great option to help avoid lineups and to save some cash would be to use the Viator App, which I would recommend checking out for any travel you will be doing. Once purchased, your ticket includes a complimentary pint of Guinness which you can chose to use during a lesson on how to pour the perfect pint or you can relax in the Gravity Bar at the top of the building where you will be treated to 360 degree views of the city whilst sipping on the wonderful brew that helped to build it all. For Sherry and I, we ended up being able to take in both experiences. When we walked into the Guinness Storehouse a gentlemen who was unable to use his ticket for a pint, kindly offered his ticket to us to use and I had absolutely no problem accepting! On top of that, Sherry doesn't drink beer, in light of her gluten intolerance, so needless to say I was one happy lad, quite full of Guinness by the time we walked back out onto the streets of Dublin. Watching Sherry focus so intently on pouring the perfect pint may have been the best part of my day. You would have swore she was mixing highly toxic chemicals, that, if mixed wrong, would have killed everyone in the room. I couldn't even get a smile out of her for the photo! As for the Jameson Distillery (we did this on a separate day), we had a great time there as well. You can purchase your tickets right in the building and if you have to wait a bit before your tour starts there are lots of little restaurants around it where you can saddle up for some Irish grub and maybe a drink or two to get yourself in the mood for some whiskey tasting! Unlike the Guinness Storehouse, this tour was a guided one and the young lady that was touring us around did a great job of going over the whole distillery process, while sharing the storied history behind Jameson's which dates back to 1780 . At the end of the tour you are given a chance to compare Jameson's, with Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker, before heading into a private bar area where you get to chose a Jameson drink to top off your tour. There is no doubt when you leave this tour that you will have warmed yourself up on the inside and will be ready to face the ever changing weather that Ireland can toss at you. Just a quick note on the weather - the rumours are absolutely true! You can be treated to rain, snow, sunshine, gusting winds, rain while the sun is shining and just about any other type of weather you can think of, all within a single hour at times. I would strongly recommend applying the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared" when heading out to tour around Ireland. Investing in a durable rain jacket/wind breaker, will be money well spent all day long.

In our fist week we spent lots of time trying out some of the local pubs and doing our best to train our ears to interpret the many different Irish accents we encountered. The pubs fill up early and if the weather is all out of sorts, they will fill up even earlier. So, if you plan on just randomly popping into a pub in the city centre later in the day, be prepared to duck in and out of a few before finding a seat, unless you are one of those people who likes to get into a fresh pint early in the day, then you will have no problem finding a barstool to curl up onto - just don't mind the well weathered Irish fella who might babble on next to you in what will seem like a foreign language of sorts. Of course we made a stop in the Temple Bar district at the one and only Temple Bar. If you google "Dublin Bars" the Temple Bar will no doubt be the one that tops the list. As much as the locals will tell you that Temple Bar is nothing but a tourist trap with jacked up prices, I still can't get over how great it felt when I was tipping back my first Guinness while listening to an Irish musician entertain the bar. We were tucked into a corner that put us well within earshot of the music, but slightly out view from the singer, but it was perfect. You won't likely find too many Irish folk in Temple Bar, as it is in the heart of the tourist district, which means we were sharing this experience with...you guessed it...Tourists! Even with our company maybe not being all that genuine to the Irish experience, I still had a big old smile on my face and enjoyed every minute of my time there. If you are trying to manage your costs then you may want to limit your entertainment and dining experiences in the Temple Bar District and Grafton Street areas as food, clothing and just about everything else is priced for tourists with deep, or at least, alcohol inducedloose pockets. The good news is that you only need to walk a few streets away from these areas and you will still be able to enjoy great food and entertainment and not blow your budget. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying to avoid these areas, both Temple Bar District and Grafton street have their own unique appeal which deserve your attention. On any given day you will come across some extremely talented buskers on Grafton street (singers, dancers, artists, musicians etc.), while the Temple Bar District offers the opportunity to run into new friends from all over the world.

As I mentioned earlier, Sherry and I really hadn't made any concrete plans beyond our first week in Dublin, so as a result we spent a few days working out what we thought we should do next. This is where the AirBnB scenario played out really well, as we had the apartment to ourselves during the day and our hosts had tones of Ireland travel information gathered up that we could peruse through at our leisure. Surprisingly, during our days of planning we received an invite to head over to England and spend the Easter Holidays with Sherry's Aunt Marj, Uncle Phil, Cousin Allie and her boyfriend Alex in England! There was nothing much to discuss on this one, it was a yes right away, followed by the task of booking a RyanAir flight to get us there (so much for not flying again for awhile hahaha). While leafing through some of the pamphlets in the apartment we came across Shamrocker Adventures which offers a 7 day tour that takes you all the way around Ireland. This was a goal of ours from the beginning, but we just hadn't figured how we would go about it with no car and not wanting to overspend on a tour. The price was appealing right off the bat, so I did some research on trip advisor and could find no flaws in what I saw there. If there was room available for us in one of their upcoming tours we were sold. We had hoped to time it that when we got back from England we would jump right on this tour, but it was booked up until April 18th. Knowing we would find something to fill the time in between we signed ourselves up. Now, I may make these decisions out to be very simple in nature, but what is important to note is that there are two of us involved in each one. There were plenty of conversations and time given to each person to think through our options as they came to us, which kept things on the up and up once we finally pulled the trigger. Did we agree on everything right away, no, not always, but we have learned to give each other time to work their way through a choice before reacting to their initial feelings about doing it. These are the simple little life lessons that you go through together and which seem to be magnified when travelling and if adhered to, will hopefully only make things even easier down the road as we learn how each other operates. Alright, I think that is enough of my Dr. Phill impression, lets get back on track here!

I will leave off this post by saying that this will not be the last that you hear about Dublin and the many great experiences it has to offer. Our first week in the city staying with James and Jaro was a great introduction to Dublin and Ireland as a whole, but we knew there was so much more to see and do. Each day that passed by we became more and more comfortable with our new surroundings, which brought with it a craving and anticipation for even more!


Shayne & Sherry

Posted by Shewy 10:53 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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