Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons, Orange Stars, Green Clovers, Blue Diamonds, Purple Horseshoes, and Red Balloons!
We have landed in Dublin to kick start our stint in Ireland. Our month long roadtrip thru Ireland was focused around the most popular Irish west and southwest coast along the route known as The Wild Atlantic Way. It is the longest coastal route in all of Europe that covers nine (9) of Ireland’s counties and is famous for its amazing coastline of bays and towering sea cliffs. If you like driving around in beautiful open spaces with rolling green hills, then Ireland is for you. If you want to see the worlds biggest and relaxed cows and sheep, Ireland is for you. If you want get real sloppy in the many warm and cozy Irish pubs drinking the best Guinness tap beer on earth, then Ireland is for you.
Or should I call it Pub City? The main activity here seems to be visit a pub, get smashed and maybe pay a side visit to the Guinness Factory and Jameson Distillery to get more sloppy. We made the mistake of renting our car upon arrival in Dublin and that was a mistake. We should have waited until we left Dublin as there is absolutely nowhere to park in the city centre or even the outskirts of the centre. There are no street signs and where there are signs, you can barely read them without making a full stop. Many of the roads are 2-way but fit only one car in one direction, so the art of yielding comes into play. The highway signage is awful and to add to the confusion, many of the highway and street signs are written in both English and Irish Gaelic which made it difficult to focus. All of this all adds up to one of the crummiest cities I have ever driven in.
GALWAY (Galway County) –
The drive from Dublin to Galway was a straight shoot and we effectively went from the east coast to the west coast of Ireland in about 2.5 hrs. with a stop in the completely off the radar, middle of nowhere Irish town of Kilbeggan known for the Kilbeggan Distillery. We did not visit the distillery but used the town to take a piss and top off with gas at a station surprisingly packed with locals ordering from a buffet of homemade Irish food. We have come to learn that many gas stations are also popular lunch places that also serve hot cafeteria style dishes. Barbie and I had a few romantic lunches at these roadside gas stations.
The moment we arrived in Galway, I could tell this was one cool MF town. The bohemian town has so much character and it’s oozing with atmosphere, friendly locals and a shitload of Irish pubs lining the cobblestone streets. Just a great scene with good vibes flowing. Galway reminded me of a ski town without the snow. We were here in the summer (August). However, there is no normal summer weather in Ireland. Summer is really Fall. Galway’s weather sort of reminded me of the weather in New Zealand.
We were so fortunate to hit up Galway at just the right time. It was the Galway Horseracing Festival week and the town was absolutely buzzing. I can compare it to other big race days such as the Travers @ Saratoga Racetrack and the Melbourne Cup @ Flemington Racecourse. The difference being, the Galway Racing Festival runs an entire week. Whereas, the Travers covers a weekend of partying and the Melbourne Cup is only one day. The track was festive and the Guinness was flowing at the track and in the town pubs. If you can time a visit to Galway during this racing festival week, you will be good to go.
I have to admit I have absolutely no clue when it comes to fashion. My idea of dressing up, is my nicest pair of cargo shorts and my dressier flip flops. Of the thousands attending the Galway horse races, I was probably the most under dressed in the entire crowd. Everybody attending the track are dressed up as if they were attending a formal reception, all decked out in their skinny jeans and tight form fitted suits. I am guessing my only suit I own sitting in my Las Vegas storage unit, a baggy suit with pleats, is probably a bit out of style nowadays. I will just have to wait it out until my suit goes back into style cause I ain’t buying a new suit anytime soon after dropping out of society. How these young men are able to squeeze their bodies into these skin tight dressy outfits just baffled my mind. It looked so damn uncomfortable but I guess considering all the beer these guys were drinking, they could be wearing a straight jacket and still be comfortable. It was interesting to observe the new fashion trends and I wondered if this is the current style of dress with the younger set in the USA. Thankfully, dropping out of society and being completely out of loop has allowed me to continue to dress like a bum. (just the way I like it!)
If you like to drink beer, Ireland is the place for you. I can personally vouch for the Guinness which tasted, out of this world good. Asking a local where you can get the best pint of Guinness seemingly always leads to a different answer. I’ve been told what makes a good Guinness generally has to do with the length of the draw, or the length of the tube that moves the Guinness from the keg to the tap. I was also told that real ‘old school’ Guinness is supposed to be served just above room temperature. When Guinness came out with Guinness Extra Cold, the traditional Irishmen scoffed.
Monroe’s was our favorite place for casual dining in a vintage Irish Pub. Think Parting Glass type experience but with significantly better food. During the day and into early evening Monroe’s televise horse races on all their TV’s (even with sound) from all the major tracks throughout the world. Awesome hearty home cooked comfort food, great Guinness and live racing…..a degenerates dream place.
As previously mentioned, the Irish love to drink and the options to visit an old school wooden Irish pub is limitless. Every other storefront in Asia is a massage parlor and every other storefront in Ireland is a pub. The bar/pub turf war is between the M’s and the O’s in Ireland.
The “M” Pubs are represented by:
McDonald’s, Malone’s, McCarthy’s, Murphy’s. Monroe’s, Mulligan’s, McDonagh’s, Moloney’s, McGrath’s, McGuire’s.
The “O” Pubs are represented by:
O’Briens, O’Connors, O’callahan’s, O’Leary’s, O’Donoghue’s, O’Halloran’s, O’Keeffe’s, O’Rourke’s, O’Hara’s.
Other than visiting the track In Galway, we drove the 1.5 hr scenic Wild Atlantic route from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher where we were blessed with a rare sunny day to view one of Ireland’s most visited natural attractions. You really cannot appreciate fully the size and beauty of the cliffs without seeing them in person. We enjoyed walking along the dirt portion of the coastal path on top of the cliffs away from the paved middle section where most of the lazier tourists congregate. Our drive back to Galway in the opposite direction led us thru the smaller Irish towns of Lahinch and Ennis. We have seen lots of cliffs during our travels but these cliffs over the crashing Atlantic Ocean are quite impressive.
CONNEMARA AREA (CLIFDEN / LETTERFRACK / LEENAUN) –
As soon as you venture off the main highway and into the famous Irish countryside we were rewarded with some pretty awesome scenery. We stopped in the popular and quaint town of Clifden for lunch at Guy’s Bar. After devouring a very tasty Irish Beef cheeseburger we proceeded on to the nearby Sky Road Drive. The Sky Road upper/lower loop drive in Clifden is a popular route in the Connemara region and has been described as being the most impressive coastal drive in the country. The steep ascent along the coastal edge provides a cool vantage point with panoramic views of Clifden bay and its many islands. A stop off to check out the dilapidated Clifden Castle gave us our first up close taste of an old Irish castle.
Ireland was very similar to New Zealand with our favorite activity being just driving between the various towns and experiencing the entire Connemarra area. We loved seeing the rolling hills of green, endless fields, and of course…all the sheep, horses and cows who Barbie spoiled rotten with healthy treats. We shacked up in a great Airbnb for a few nights in Letterfrack, which was strategically located in the Connemara National Park area. It was one of my favorite areas to drive around as it was really green and beautiful and glad we included it on our itinerary. A highlight was our visit to the Joyce Country Sheepdog Demonstration. The surrounding scenery on the drive out from Letterfrack was nice but once we got into the valley closer to Joyce’s the scenery was beyond spectacular.
KILKEE BEACH / KILRUSH (Claire County) –
On the drive from the Connemara area, we drove thru the the quaint town of Cong, home of the Ashford Castle. This is the famous castle that big league golfer, Rory Mcllroy got married. If you have big bucks, you can stay in the castle. During our 3 hr. journey to Kilrush/Kilkee Beach we had to endure the thrill of Ireland’s notorious narrow roads. A few times were a bit scary, especially when there is an oversized tractor coming toward you and a stone wall butting up to the side of your car. Barbie had a few scares in the passenger seat and was quick to criticize my driving techniques. This is the point where the 20 Year Tune-out comes into play. Have you heard of the 20 year tune out? 20 years into our relationship and road tripping on our RTW for the past 2+ years, hanging out together every single day. We have developed the art of selectively tuning each other out. Barbie bitching about me being a shit driver did not faze me a bit, I simply went into my 20 yr. tune out mode and was good to go.
While driving around parts of Ireland, it was like we were in Bedrock from the Flinstones. Rocks are everywhere. Houses are made of stone. No such thing as wooden fences around neighborhood houses. The fences here are big piles of stacked rocks. We stayed in the working town of Kilrush as it was an inexpensive place to base for the night while visiting the impressive Cliffs of Kilkee Beach. If your mission is to see of all the towering cliffs in Ireland than the Kilkee Coastal Ocean Cliff Walk that begins at Diamond Rocks Cafe is a must. The walk was simply spectacular, especially because we caught a sunny day. Best of all, the Kilkee Cliffs are alot less crowded than the more touristy Cliffs of Moher walk and has to got to go down as one the top 10 scenic walks on our RTW. If you really have some balls, you can swim with the bat shit crazy locals willing to freeze their asses off in one of the famous three Pollock Holes, natural swimming holes when tide is out. The icy cold water did not seem to phase the locals probably because of all the Guinness flowing thru their veins.
DINGLE (Kerry County) –
On the drive from Kilkee Beach to Dingle, we opted to drive thru the scenic Conor Pass and the views were first rate. Dingle is a small port town on southwest Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula, known for its rugged scenery, trails and sandy beaches. We perfectly timed our visit to Dingle during the Dingle Racing Festival which is the biggest weekend of the year and we were “locked and loaded’, just like the orange fellow, to wager on the ponies. The streets were buzzing and as usual with any Ireland town there are tons of pubs to chug a Guinness and eat some hearty Irish pub food. The ‘must do’ activity here is the Slea Head Loop drive which starts and ends in Dingle. The scenery is ‘Holy Shit, Goddamn’ amazing, no bullshit. There are a bunch of cool scenic overlooks and beaches along the way. Our favorite being the spectacular Coumeenoole Beach and it was worth a good chunk of time to hang out and watch the world go by. The views from Dunquin Harbour were not too shabby.
KILLARNEY (Kerry County) –
Another scenic and easy drive took us from Dingle to Killarney. We stopped off at sweeping Inch Beach to breathe in the crisp and clean Irish air. Lots of surfers were out in the chilly water. Killarney is a very popular tourist town with many pubs and the best activity is simply get out of town and into nature at the vast Killarney National Park. The park is really nice with many activities. We took one of the forest hikes to Torc Waterfall with a stop along the way at Muckross Lake. Also in the park is the Muckross House. The other big activity is driving the Ring of Kerry, a scenic loop road packed with many viewpoints and cool Irish towns along the way. The highlight on the Ring is a walk along the Kerry Cliffs. The ocean cliffs sure were impressive and less busy than the Cliffs of Moher. The Kerry Cliffs marked our 3rd set of cliffs we visited in Ireland, the other two being the Cliffs of Moher and the Kilkee Cliffs. We enjoyed the walk and relaxing on the hills overlooking Foilhommerun Bay on Valentia Island. We passed on the popular Skelligs Michael boat tour, islands where a scene from Star Wars was filmed but did view the islands along our drive.
THRU THE BINOCS –
Let’s talk about the food in Ireland. Prior to our visit in Ireland, when I thought about traditional Irish pub food, I thought of Fish and Chips, Irish Stew, Coddle, Shepherd’s Pie and Corned Beef/Cabbage. Well, let me set the record straight. The Irish really do not eat corned beef and its not available in the pubs. I have never eaten a Shepherd’s Pie (aka Cottage Pie) in Ireland before this trip, but I have been told it’s more British than Irish. Coddle was one of my favs. Its an Irish dish which is often made to use up leftovers, and therefore without a specific recipe. They basically throw a whole bunch a shit into one big stew. The shit mostly consists of pork sausages, fatty back bacon, chunky potatoes, onions, chives and some Guinness. Basically, most of our meals in Ireland were meat and potatoes, potatoes and meat, more meat and more potatoes. I had no problem at all with this because they know how to do meat and potatoes right. Especially, the mashed potatoes which were even better than Macks signature ‘cigarette ash infused’ mashed spuds. Throw in an occasional order of fish and chips and some bangers to mix it up a bit, and that’s what Irish cuisine is basically all about. Of course, I cannot forget to mention their home baked pies and donuts which the Irish have also got down pat.
Let’s talk about the woman of Ireland. The Irish woman will not win any beauty contests. Looking at their bodies, something has seemingly has gone wrong from their waist down. These Irish woman sure know how to put some food and beer away. Every single woman was over the top friendly.
Let’s talk about the abundance of pale people of Ireland. If anybody wants to go to war with the people of Ireland, they can be effortlessly defeated by beaming a few days of sunshine in their direction. The Irish are very lucky Mother Nature has blessed them with a built in defense mechanism being under mostly cloudy skies. A typical weather day in Ireland during their summer months basically is rain and wind with a chance of sun. The clouds roll on in, then it drizzles and becomes windy as shit, then the sun comes out, then the clouds roll on back in.
Our 3 weeks in Ireland are up. We head to Amsterdam for about 2 weeks to relax in the many coffeeshops and then its off to Asia.