Best of the best – Ireland

November 25, 2023

  Don’t let the title fool you. You won’t be jotting down any “must sees” or “must do’s” on this ensuing list. That’s not how Carol and I roll. Or at least how I do. We’ve been to Paris several times since we’ve been together, for example, and have yet to set foot in the Louvre. We’ll routinely watch a Rick Steves episode on a country or city we’ve just gotten back from visiting, and will routinely comment “Didn’t see that,” or “Didn’t know that was there.” So when you read through the list below from our recent trip to Ireland, keep in mind some might not strike you as the kind of expectations that motivate you to travel in the first place.

A room with a view.

BEST ARRIVAL AND PASSPORT CONTROL: We never broke stride all the way to a wide open checkpoint. From deplaning to getting off the airport bus a couple of blocks from our hotel in downtown Dublin took maybe an hour. Contrast that with a two-hour long line just to get to the same checkpoint spot on our last trip to Paris. Has me considering flying to Dublin and taking a ferry to Europe from now on. 

 “Contrast this with waiting out 8:30 p.m. start times for “Irish music” in the pubs, only to hear covers of pop groups like Pink Floyd and U2.”

BEST SCHLEP FROM TRAIN/BUS STATION TO HOTEL: Ten minute walk in Sligo, smooth pavement and flat terrain to a grand hotel (The Glass House) with an amazing floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the roiling Garvoge River in the heart of town. Contrast this with the forty minute trek over cobblestones, broken pavement and rising terrain upon arriving in Belfast, eventually settling among a row of hotels closed and converted to refugee housing.

BEST DAY OF DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD: Carol was fighting a cold by the time we arrived at our little vacation cottage in Donegal. Cold and rainy, she decided it was wiser to stay indoors, and not walk into town. I never set a foot outside, and with Netflix on a Smart TV, and plenty of wine in the fridge, never had to. Contrast  this with our stay in Barcelona, where there were so many things to see and do (Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, Gaudi architecture throughout the city, etc.) it made you feel guilty about spending any time at all in your hotel room.

What I prefer to do with the type of people I meet.

BEST STREET BUSKERS IN A CITY: Hands down, it was Quay Street, the pedestrian promenade in Galway, where every street corner featured a virtuoso tenor singing traditional Irish songs on banjos, guitars, accordions, fiddles, harps and lutes. (It’s possible I made up the lutes.) Contrast this with waiting out 8:30 p.m. start times for “Irish music” in the pubs, only to hear covers of pop groups like Pink Floyd and U2.

BEST WAY TO BREAK UP A THREE-WEEK PLUS TRIP: The five days we booked the Donegal Estuary Holiday Homes broke up what might have turned into a grind of trains, buses, hotels, sightseeing and pubs without a break. It was like coming home to recharge our batteries, without actually having to do so. By the time we left, we were actually looking forward to the grind of trains, buses, hotels, sightseeing and pubs again. Well, Carol was anyway.

The very best Irish music session we found the whole trip at the Quay Bar.

I’ll admit it’s not the way most people evaluate their travels. I’ve read enough itineraries posted on social media to know that most people would be appalled to see mine. Just not quite as appalled as I am to see theirs. Take it easy out there on the road, folks.

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