Back from Ireland, and the depths of the interweb

Since I'm officially now an alumna of Hunter College and not a student, I have a little more time for navel-gazing, non-academic reading, and blogging.  I'm also having a little transition week, as I go from doing PR for a travel magazine to doing PR for a travel PR agency.  Since I'm relatively free this week, I thought I'd take the opportunity to write about my trip to Ireland.  Just got back on Saturday, however one of my bags is still in London, thanks to the good people at American Airlines.  Here's a bit of a pre-recap since I have no photos uploaded as yet.

Why Ireland?
Really no good reason.  Well, a lot of little reasons.  Husband and I have no ancestral ties to the country, making us somewhat of a novelty among American tourists there.  We wanted a nice trip to celebrate my college graduation (an event 10 years in the making!) and our 3 year wedding anniversary, and while we wanted to go to Italy since I've been studying Italian for the past few years, tickets were exorbitant.   We were somewhat locked into American Airlines, as Husband is an Executive Platinum flyer, so we wanted to use our upgrades to fly business class and get miles to boot.  Dublin was the cheapest destination in Europe, though it would mean a connection at London Heathrow, which would later prove to be a nightmare.  Finally, H. is also a Platinum Marriott member, so we had points to burn and I was anxious to use them to stay at the fabulous newly renovated Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.  So, no Irish roots, but cheap tickets and a sweet hotel.  A little irony in the fact that H hates friendly people and I hate live music, and we were going to a country renowned for its friendly people and live music.  But hey, you have to adapt when traveling.

Where did you go?
With about 16 days in Ireland, we had to really consider what we'd have time for, as everything in Ireland takes longer than you expect.  We wanted to be off the beaten tourist track, no Blarney Stone or Ring of Kerry for us, and we had some destinations we wanted to hit: Dublin, Belfast, Galway.  So we started in Dublin, drove to Northern Ireland, west through Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, and Galway and back to Dublin.  I am trying to figure out how to customize a map and show our routes, visual TK.

What did you think, in a nutshell?
We had a great time, of course, the country is gorgeous and the people are great.  People are not lying when they say it is expensive, I scoffed at most such comments, coming from New York City where I don't bat an eye when being charged $10 for a drink or $7.50 for cigarettes.  But, daaamn, Ireland makes NY look reasonable!  Dublin is especially bad, with a pint costing 4 or 5 euro, and booze much worse and measured.  It nearly brought a patriotic tear to my eye when I had a drink back in Brooklyn Saturday night, generously poured and unmeasured.  God bless America.  Anyway, Dublin is great, but is getting to be a little generic.  It really could be any big European city.  It's lovely and there's tons to do there, but it wasn't as Irish as I thought.  The countryside was gorgeous and while we didn't really "do" much there, I really got into the groove of the Irish.  It's not quite the fabulous lifestyle I enjoyed in Buenos Aires, where you can sleep late, wander around, go have a nap, and go out for dinner at 10pm.  But I digress, back to the nutshell.  You just have to go with the flow of the weather and be happy to go have a pint instead of the walk you intended.  Our favorite part of the trip by far was Northern Ireland.  Belfast and Derry are really fascinating, vibrant cities with sad histories but bright futures, if you'll pardon my cheesiness.  The Antrim coast is gorgeous and the country really has a lot to see, and we didn't have nearly enough time there.  Belfast in particular is booming with construction, I'd like to go back in a few years, it will be almost entirely different.  We expected NI to be much more expensive because of the pound, but it was actually cheaper than the Republic.  Also, while we'd like to see the southern half of the country, I'm in no hurry.  We don't generally revisit countries since we have so many places we want to go, and while the Republic of Ireland is beautiful, it's not necessarily compelling for us to return to, unlike N. Ireland.  We got a small taste of touristy Ireland in a few towns in the west, and it wasn't pretty: busloads of American tourists with enormous suitcases and little interest in things off the beaten and oh-so-quaint path.  I think going somewhere like Dingle would just be a nightmare to us, at least in the summer season, but the thought of Ireland in the "wet" months makes me nervous considering how much rain we got in the "dry" season in June.  Oh!  And the radio is awesome there, tons of random talk shows with people calling up to complain about things or share stories.  We listened to Gerry Ryan every time we were in the car in the morning, it's fascinating.

What did you read/see first?  I tried reading Ulysses, I swear.  Lord knows, I tried.  We were in Dublin on Bloomsday, so I wanted to read it all first, but it just didn't happen.  I did read lots of Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchy, though!  My favorite books I read to prepare were Round Ireland with a Fridge and McCarthy's Bar.  They were really fantastic memoirs/travelogues that I should have brought in lieu of guidebooks.  For movies, we downloaded a ton but only watched The Commitments, The Snapper, Circle of Friends, and Intermission before we left, which gave us a nice taste of the culture there, if not history.  This week we'll probably watch Bloody Sunday, The Field, Ryan's Daughter, In the Name of the Father, and The Quiet Man.  Also downloaded a lot of U2 and The Cranberries to listen to in the car when there wasn't anything good on the radio.

I could go on and on, but there's plenty more to tell when I get some photos up.

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