I don’t have many updates from this past week.
I went to the bank on Saturday to order my Euros; I like to have ample time when I order anything just in case. They arrived at the bank yesterday so I swung by and picked them up. It was so easy to just go through the bank – plus they didn’t charge any fees for the service. It cost so much to have to exchange currency at the airport. The first and last time I did that I decided it was cheaper to just blow all of the Canadian dollars I had rather than exchange it back!
I can now rest assured since I have my chump change for food and souvenirs!
The worst part of trip planning is trying to maximize the destinations while limiting travel time without over booking every single day of the trip. The way I look at it, I might not ever get another chance to visit a place again so I need to cover everything. That being said, I’ve been playing around with all of the possibilities of things to do while on this trip. So, I’ve decided the best way to tackle my trip planning is to break it down in segments by city. By the title you’ve probably guessed what my first segment is – Belfast.
Belfast, by far, is going to be the easiest segment to plan for this trip. The Titanic was built here and I’ve always been obsessed with anything related to the Titanic. So that sums up my main focus of this city. I’m the type of person that likes to have all of my ducks in a row as soon as possible. What that means is that my time is already booked for Titanic Belfast! I am pretty excited for this place, check it out for yourself http://www.titanicbelfast.com/Home.aspx. The thing that I already love about this museum are all of the minor details that were put in place to really capture all of your attention. There are benches around the outside plaza that are spaced out to simulate Morse code for what was sent as a distress signal to other ships. There are also lights on the plaza that outline the ships (the Titanic and her sister ship the Olympic) to put their true size into perspective. In my opinion, things like this really set museums apart from the rest.
I also purchased the Hop On Hop Off bus tour so I’d have transportation within the city. This will also provide me with a tour of the murals and peace wall when I am finished absorbing all of the Titanic information as I can. I really want to see the murals from both sides. History is so often skewed by the victors so I really like to study both sides of an issue. What makes these so unique is that these serve as a line of communication from those who lived it to the current and future generations. This is that rare history that was written by those who lived it. These may not be around forever as I would imagine the city would not want to carry a Berlin-like image with their own peace wall and whatnot despite the want to preserve their history.
There are still a few things that I’ll have to book, but it was too early right now. Train tickets from Dublin to Belfast and back or else I’m not going to see any of the things I’ve mentioned. Also, I want to do the Titanic Walking Tour before the museum, http://www.titanicwalk.com/. This will keep the engineer in me fully interested with the tour of the drawing offices, the slipway, and the dry dock and pump-room. I’m the type with history I have to be there and experience where the events took place and take a chance to somewhat walk in their shoes. This day will probably be pushing my limits as I am expecting to take a train from Dublin at 7:30AM and catch the last one from Belfast at 8:00PM; I guess that’s what coffee is for. Only 70 days until I’m in Ireland!
So, its been a while… I’ve been extremely busy with work these past couple of weeks. Any free time I had was dedicated to hotel planning, which I can now say has been a complete success. All reservations have been confirmed so I can relax and start planning all of the fun stuff!
Dublin- 2 nights at the O’Callaghan Stephens Green Hotel
This was the last hotel I booked and was by far the most difficult to decide upon. Every hotel I was checking on tripadvisor had something I just didn’t like. I found that trying to find a good location and a good price in Dublin is very difficult. I literally just decided to do one of those secret deals on priceline for a 4-star hotel in the area around Temple Bar. If anyone truly knows me they would recognize the turmoil I felt when I entered all the credit card info and finally hit the submit button. I was like “Oh my gosh! What am I doing? What if I get a horrible hotel? No, that won’t happen its guarenteed to be a 4-star hotel I’ll be happy… but that area covers a large distance! What if I am all the way at the bottom of the area?! Moment of truth… oh thank goodness it is a great place!”
(image from http://www.booking.com)
Galway- 5 nights at the Asgard Guesthouse
I am most excited to stay at this bed & breakfast. I booked this directly through their website. I don’t like to book bed & breakfasts on any of the discount websites just to help keep profit at the establishment. All I had to do was fill out an inquiry form on the site and received an email from the owner within the hour. A very quick and painless process.
(image from http://www.tripadvisor.com)
Ennis- 1 night at the Old Ground Hotel
I booked this hotel back in mid-January. Since I’ll be staying in Ennis during Fleadh Nua I figured I should be sure and book way in advance. Ended up paying full price for this on their website since the other websites were showing no availability, but I got a room and that’s all that matters in my eyes. Plus I really wanted to stay here the hotel itself looks amazing!
(image from http://www.hotels.com)
Shannon- 1 night at the Park Inn at the airport
This was actually the first hotel I reserved mainly since there were only two choices I was considering near the airport. Priceline seemed to have the best deal on this place. My flight coming home is at 11:30AM. I don’t like to risk it with airports so I figured it would be best if I stayed at the airport for the last night. I’ll definitely be hanging out in Ennis for a while the night before though!
(image from http://www.tripadvisor.com)
All hands on deck! Official planning mode has begun!
Yesterday morning started off with me braving the sub-zero windchill, getting to work, and submitting my vacation request within an hour of me being there. I spent the remainder of work day dreaming about this trip; in Rachel terms that would be me mentally creating a list of things I’ll need to do prior to the trip, my itinerary options (yes that’s plural I like to have multiple plans!), etc. The day was so long and I thought it would never end!
I came home and found the flight I wanted through US Airways entered my passenger info and then it happened… I started second guessing myself!? I knew as soon as I hit the submit button there was no turning back. Could I really do this trip? Should I really go by myself? Am I crazy?! NO, not happening! I’m totally doing this! So, I hit submit but I took too long to decide and my session timed out… seriously?!
So, I restarted this process (minus the second guessing this time) and I can now officially say I’m going on my grand tour of Ireland in 127 days!
Alright, so I think I have narrowed my Ireland destinations down to a manageable handful.
Fly out of the US to Dublin. Stay 2 days in Dublin. Head out to Galway and stay 3 days. Next stop will be Doolin where I’ll stay 1.5 days. Ennis will wrap up the trip with 1.5 days. The last day I will fly out of Shannon back to the US.
I really wanted to narrow down my locations to decide which airports to fly into and out of. I’ll spend the next leg of research looking at things to do, where to stay, etc. Depending on what I find, the days in each city may be adjusted.
After some thought, I’ve decided to make my dream of Ireland a reality.
Rough planning puts this trip in the timeframe of late May to take advantage of the Memorial Day holiday to minimize my vacation usage. Potential sights include: Dublin, Galway (definite stop, ancestral homeland), Ennis (Fleadh Nua Music Festival!), Cliffs of Moher, etc. More details to come as I iron out the details.
Back to my research…
Lonely Planet Ireland
Rick Steves’ Ireland 2014