Over a month ago now, my wife and I went on vacation with her boss and friend and another friend of hers to Ireland...
We took the CIE 'A Taste of Ireland" bus tour, and had an amazing time. This was my first trip to Europe, and unsurprisingly, I found it amazing.
Ireland is definitely a party country, if there could be said to be such a thing :) It seemed like there were Guinness taps everywhere. Being
rather a fan, this could hardly be considered a problem for me :)
Speaking of Guinness, on our first day we visited the Guinness brewery in St. James Gate. The initial 'tour' is kind of neat, although mostly just
multimedia presentations and the like about how it's made. The real bonanza however, and the reason that I feel no Guinness fan should miss a visit,
is the 'Gravity Bar' on the top floor of the brewery. You only get 1 pint of Guinness (probably to cut down on loitering and move people through) but
I have to say it's the best pint I've ever tasted. Most of the other pubs we visited had fine Guinness, but really it wasn't particularly any more
tasty than a pint drawn at a really good pub here in the US that knows how to handle its Guinness.
The bus tour itself was incredible, but a bit grueling. A typical day involved getting up at 6:30 to get to breakfast at 7:30 so we could pile onto
the bus for 8:00. After that, it was a dizzying whirl wind of destinations and picture taking, and usually around 5:30 in the evening they'd dump
us at our destination where we'd be staying for the night, and we'd all crawl away to freshen up and try to recover enough to enjoy the evening's
festivities :) In addition to the sheer endurance required for the trip, we definitely experienced the expected feeling that in a number of cases,
we would have *REALLY* liked to have more time to explore (For instance we never kissed the Blarney Stone because we had exactly 2.5 hours to
have lunch, explore the Blarney Woolen Mills, and visit Castle Blarney!).
I won't detail everything we saw, it would get boring for both of us and there's no point - consult a good travel guide and you'll get better
writing than I can muster anyway. A couple of tidbits I particularly enjoyed were seeing Trinity College and the Book of Kells, a stop we made
at a working sheep farm (You have no idea what it actually sounds like to have 1,000 sheep being herded :) ), and a buggy ride through Kilarney
National Park with a stop at Castle Ross, whose ruins are still in remarkably good shape allowing you to wander around, climb the ramparts, and
generally get up close and personal in the kind of relaxed way I most enjoy exploring a place.
My talented wife took about a billion pictures - I took a few as well but if you see the angle skewed oddly it's probably mine - she has a real
eye for composition! You can look at them on Flickr
if you like.
Maybe we'll go to Italy next year, if I don't convince her that a nice relaxing sunny beach vacation on an island somewhere is the way to go :)