My excitement over my recent visit to Ireland seemed to have overflowed while going through immigration at the airport. Not really a place someone would enjoy, except that two things happened.
I was standing in line waiting for passport check when a foreign couple approached the line confused and apologetic to have gone through the wrong queue beforehand.
“Oh, no need to be sorry! You’re alright here now. Take a deep breath, no need to stress yourself out, not here. Not with us,” said the immigration representative directing everyone where they belonged.
I couldn’t help but think of how differently that would have gone at my home based airport in NYC.
My turn comes up and I walk up to the window.
Check. Flip page. Look. Check. Flip page. Check. Look.
“What are your reasons for traveling to Ireland?” said the immigration inspector.
“I am here for a conference,” I responded.
“What kind of conference,” he replied.
“A travel bloggers conference,” I responded, not really sure that would explain much.
“Oh!” his smiled widening, “There are so many of you arriving! How nice! I hope you enjoy our country and that you write some nice things about us!”
I walked away with a loss for words. What was this place? Where had I just arrived to?
It was raining and a bit chilly. My curly hair seemed to have found new life and was slowly taking over the surface of my head. But I couldn’t stop smiling. I took the bus(es) from the airport to the Double Tree Hotel (formerly The Burlington), and it took everything I had to not breakout into song.
The TBEX Dublin conference was a thrill. A grown up version of what it once was. A rewarding experience in diversity of bloggers and topics. Tourism representatives for Ireland were on hand from the minute I got off the plane till the very last day of the conference and then still online. It was a great time. I loved seeing my friends and meeting new ones.
But the second Travis, my husband, met me there I felt myself come alive even more. I couldn’t wait to explore it all with him.
Some of the highlights of our visits include the tours we took. We had originally thought we would rent a car and venture across the island. But with time being so limited, we decided instead to take advantage of the tours being offered through partners with TBEX. We took two tours. Two tours which were wonderful and offered two completely different Dublin experiences.
The Dawn2Dusk Tours offers several tours, we decided on the photography tour around Dublin. The incredible thing about this day was that it was the first sunny day since I had arrived. For all the talk about rain in Ireland, I believe it can all be forgiving on a sunny day there. All the green, lush surroundings against the blue waters and clear skies are enough to make you never, ever, want to leave. On weekends the villages are busy with locals and tourists alike. Families come out in numbers on their bikes, for picnics and strolls. Incredibly romantic and family friendly all at the same time. We felt so at ease and comfortable here. Like home. The photos I was able to capture still take my breath away. In person, the experience is awe-inspiring. I loved, loved, loved our tour guides. So laid back and easy-going, and so much of that super friendly Irish charm. Wild Wicklow Tour took us a little further away, to Sandycove, Dun Laoghaire, the Wicklow mountains, and the ruins of Glendalough. On this particular day the weather was typically Irish. Being in the countryside of Ireland is so enchanting and so magical that we could have cared less. Starry-eyed and feeling like two kids madly in love with each other, Travis and I couldn’t stop kissing, holding hands, and smiling. We were giddy to say the least, and this was long before our wonderful and super funny guide, Niall, offered us all a shot of whiskey. Even before we came upon singer Pat Connery performing her entrancing ballads. I don’t remember when exactly it happened, but Ireland had us falling even more in love with each other, just as we felt ourselves falling in love with Ireland.
Had we not left our kids at home, had we not had to return, had Travis asked me to stay there with him forever right by that “P.S. I Love You” bridge, standing in the misty rain and under the cloudy skies, I would’ve said yes, without hesitation. Above photo by Sarahlynn Pablo (one of the fabu bloggers we met at TBEX for the first time!)
We also had really great food experiences while in Dublin. Irish food hasn’t ever been something that I would say is on the top of the culinary scene and though there is no doubt that culturally the cooking styles and flavors are different, especially from a Latino perspective, the food is not bad. Some places were better than others, so here are our highlights:
L. Mulligan Grocer in the neighborhood of Smithfield, also known as Stoneybatter (a former meat-packing district) is a local favorite. The night we went the place was full of Irish locals talking and laughing over drinks. Our waitress had the gift of storytelling, which is a gift many Irish have and one of the things I love the most about them. She had us laughing each time she approached us. The food here is generous and so, so delicious. My mouth waters when I think of it. The menu is super helpful, as they recommend the perfect drink to pair it with. Not just wine, but also beer or cider. I followed the recommendations and to date it was one of the best Irish meals I have ever had.
We stopped into the Pygmalion Cafe for a latte and dessert one night and absolutely loved the scene, which was a world away from the touristy and loud bar scene going on right outside of it. The cafe is one a few eateries inside of Powerscourt Center, formerly the city home of Lord and Lady Powerscourt (who also had a country estate that you can tour and visit in Wicklow). I would suggest taking a tour of what is now an upscale shopping and arts center. The original architecture, even amidst all the contemporary add-ons, is gorgeous and worthy of further exploration.
B Bar, the restaurant and bar at the Double Tree, where TBEX was hosted, was surprisingly really good. One wouldn’t often expect a hotel bar and restaurant to offer such great service and food, but I had a wonderful meal with friends here. A really convenient spot, especially because the hotel itself is a bit of a short drive or commute from the center of town where most of the eateries and bars are.
The Irish House Party Dinner and Show was were we spent our last evening in Dublin and the musicians there really made it a special night for us, so though I will admit that the food wasn’t mind-blowing, it was still pretty good, the service was really friendly, and the entertainment is just one that we will never forget. I would say if you can make this the last thing you do in Dublin, then you are sure to be sent home with a smile that will resurface over and over every time you think of your trip.
When the conference was over, we left the Double Tree hotel and searched for something a bit more intimate and romantic. We found the perfect retreat at the Brooks Hotel. This contemporary boutique hotel had all the amenities we wanted, such as Internet access (not that I used it much) and an in-house restaurant and bar. It was right in the center of it all, but once in our room we felt silence and tranquility. And it had Colin, the hotel’s concierge, who greeted us, quickly befriended us and memorized our names, and provided us with all the information we could want about the area. We were within walking distance of everything you could want in Dublin City, so finding our way around was never a problem. Though our adventure to Ireland was only a few weeks ago, the whole experience feels like a dream. Except that as a couple, we feel a deeper connection with having experienced a place that is such a part of my husband’s memories and heritage, and as travelers, we left feeling moved by the cultural pride and diversity, as well as warm welcome and friendship of the people of Ireland.
It’s hard to put into a post the very many things that we saw and felt and really think you should check out, specifically when in Dublin. Ideally, when you visit Ireland, you rent a car and travel beyond its capital city. However, unless you are there for a limitless amount of time, if you choose to venture out, you will have to miss something else in the process. The reasons to visit Ireland, in my mind, are endless. The discoveries I have yet to make there are just as many it seems, thus this tale is only the beginning of many more to come.
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