Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Very Special Adventure, The Wrap-Up-Part Un

The Decisions Made

After we made the initial decision on when we were going to finally go, we sat down and made a list of "things we absolutely must see", "things we'd like to see if we can", "things that don't really interest us", to assist us with how long we'd need to be there and what was realistic too.

Given the whole drive on the opposite side of road, potential for a manual shift car to boot, and that we've never been there, we decided to go with a tour of 8-10 days, and ideally one that included Northern Ireland, as Spouse and I have both done some reading on The Troubles of the 20th Century.  

I am very lucky to have friends, who have some experience with the travel world. Angela used to work in the travel industry and is an experienced + well-educated traveler, so she was invaluable in choosing a tour company. Her spouse and his family had gone with one company on their trips over to Ireland and had enjoyed themselves. She cautioned it wasn't exactly luxurious but so long as we were willing to give up some comforts, she thought it would be a great time. 

Based on her feedback and knowledge, we chose a 9-day tour with PaddyWagon Tours. Their name is not exactly the most PC but it speaks to their ethos, which is to have fun while showing off the country they love, and also speaks to their average age demographic, which is 18-40 years of age. 

While there were a few fellow travellers who could legitimately have been our children <eek>, we weren't the oldest but definitely at the top end of the demo. However, it was totally fine and, given that we don't know strangers, fit in just grand. Honestly, it had a lot to do with our fellow travellers, who were all lovely people and there to enjoy it as much as we wanted to. I don't think we could have put together a more fun group. 

Their basic accommodations are hostels. Given that we are over 40 and celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary, we decided that might not have the right feel, so we opted for their deluxe accommodations, which we presumed would be B&Bs (which it did). Of the six places we stayed, only one was sub-par and it was owned by the tour company - so all in all, very happy with our choice to upgrade. I'll write more on the actual places in another post. 

Another experienced traveler and friend, a.k.a. Spouse's "Girlfriend" because he adores her almost as much as I do, Ashley, took a fairly impromptu trip to Ireland this summer so had great suggestions on lodging for the days we were not on the tour.

In between making reservations and booking, there was much research conducted on the interwebz and reading reviews from regular people. Mainly on TripAdvisor, which I've really become fond of. I used it to choose the two hotels we stayed in while in Dublin (first night, then last two nights). Again, I'll write more on the actual places in another post. 

Two more awesome twists of fate are being incorporated into our trip:
1. I read a bunch of blogs on a fairly regular basis and in the midst of reading one, realized the lovely lady at the helm is an American living in Ireland, having married an Irish lad. They've been living in Dublin for the last five years and she offers walking tours, with a particular twist of non-touristy places. Given that we'd have 1.5 days back in Dublin at the end of the trip, we decided to engage her expertise for our first afternoon in Dublin - the day we arrived - so that we'd have a good orientation of the city. Her walking tour was really easy to arrange and, I think, totally worth the money. 
2. This past spring, we and some friends visited one of our favorite local wine joints, Tutto Vino, for a tasting with Jameson Irish Whiskey. The young woman who was leading the tasting was Irish and in the states for a six-month visit, going around and spreading the good word on Jameson. We mentioned we would be in Ireland in the fall and she was kind enough to pass us her business card and said, when plans were finalized, to let her know and she'd arrange a tour and tasting for us. Needless to say, I made sure to keep that business card and sure enough, after a quick "You probably don't remember me but..." email, we had a tour and tasting arranged. Complimentary, no less! Huzzah. Side note: had no idea I was a whiskey drinker. Spouse is so pleased!!

The trip turned out perfectly. We saw so many places, interacted with so many incredible people, from Tomás at our first pub in Dublin, to Sinéad & Peter in Killarney, to our tour guides Shaun & John, and absolutely for our fellow travellers (Averil, Daphine, Andrew, Pip, Amm, Leonie, Tim, Rebecca, Gabby, Simone, Natalie, Breada and Michael) and our new favorite band, The Cool Hand Dukes, it is really difficult to say what would have made it better. <Short of all the time in the world and unlimited funds of course>. 

We started a list of places and things we want to do on our next trip, so know that we will return. I'll write more about specifics and start including some of the 994* photos we took in the next blog. 

*Actually it's more than that - that's just what was on our official camera. Doesn't include what we took photos of with our phones. Don't worry, I won't make you wade through all 994+. Maybe more like 800+ #just kidding #I think #Still a wee bit jet-lagged #NeedMoreCoffee

1 comment: