My love and I recently had a wonderful vacation in Ireland, in part to celebrate our 25th anniversary. I thought you might like to read the cliff notes version of the trip.
When we started planning our journey, I got in touch with the leader of our tour to Italy, "Italy Discovered", from a few years ago. Natasha is Irish by birth, so I thought she could give us some tips about where to go and what to expect. As luck would have it, she was planning a small group tour there this spring. After giving it some thought (it didn't take long), we decided to sign up with the tour, rather than find our own way around. This was for a few reasons: We only had 11 days, and once you factor in travel and decompression time, that doesn't give you a lot of time to stumble your way around uncharted foreign territory. Then there's the idea of one of us having to drive, and in a country known for its narrow lanes and pubs that takes away some of the fun time. And finally, our small group touring experience in Italy was so positive we thought we'd give it another go.
In short, we had a gas! Our tour consisted of 15 travelers, most from the southeast US, and a few with Kentucky roots. We spent a good part of the time traveling on a small bus between destinations in the southwest if Ireland, from as far east as Kilkenny in the east to Galway and Dingle on the Atlantic. Our home for most of the trip was about smack dab in the middle, at Springfield castle in county Limerick.
We found the food to be quite excellent. Of course it helped that one of our tour leaders is a chef and owner of Osteria La Bottiglia, a restaurant in Charleston, so our meals at the castle were excellent. But we had plenty of opportunity to sample the local restaurants as well. We found that the locavore movement has made it to the emerald isle. This means plenty of lamb and local beef and seafood, along with potatoes (of course) and yummy cheeses, and considering the time of year, most likely greenhouse veggies. Even the pub grub was decent, with fish and chips and fresh sandwiches on offer.
Speaking of pubs, we did visit one or three. The popular pours are Guinness and Smithwicks, though we did see a few taps with Heineken and even Bud Light. I didn't notice much in the microbrew category. That said, a pint or half of Guinness was all it took to put a smile on our faces.
We also had a tour of the old Midleton distillery in Cork. For our tasting they presented us with Jameson, and a blended scotch (Johnny Walker black) and American whiskey (I believe Beam) for comparison. Not surprisingly to me, the Jameson was the smoothest. But then comparing the three isn't really apples-to-apples, in my opinion.
Even the weather was fairly agreeable on our trip, with a few drizzly days, but otherwise sunny and in the 50s. A perfect excuse to buy a nice woolen sweater.
The only downside of the tour was that it was delayed one full day, thanks to the first leg of our flight (from Louisville to Philly) getting cancelled. An experience unpleasant enough that I will go out of my way to avoid flying usair, and whatever it becomes after its merger.
All in all, we met some great people, both natives and from the US, ate and drank to great satisfaction, and had the pleasure of experiencing a beautiful country.