Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ireland Slideshow

The slideshow is posted.

Abode Rentals in Dublin, Ireland

We traveled to Dublin with our friends Nils and Ina. Rather than check into a hotel for 7 nights, with the higher prices due to New Year’s Eve, I searched for a 2-bedroom apartment. My trusty cyberrentals.com and vrbo.com yielded no results as most places were already rented in September!

I stumbled upon Abode rentals, which caters primarily to businesses; however they do rent apartments to tourists.

We stayed in Hanover Quay in the H block with a nice two bedroom, two bathroom apartment overlooking the Liffey River and the Convention Center.

My rental checklist:
Does the property include parking? Off street, on street, underground, guarded, etc?
Is the apartment a non-smoking, pet free environment?
Do we need to provide shampoo, soap, and basic paper products?
Does the property have internet?
Are linens included?
Is there a washing machine/dryer on premises?
Is there a discount for paying cash?
Is the property near (the beach, city center, train/bus lines)?

After the initial phone call in October, we were set. Even though the advertised price online has a range of €690-€850 per week for a 2 bedroom, depending upon length of stay, the actual price was a bit higher at €1113. Given the limited options and it was over a major holiday, the additional price was acceptable; however misleading the website is.

But, imagine my surprise when a week before we arrive we receive the contract (which we have been asking for since October)…and low and behold I read that cigarette smoking is allowed. This is a major problem and had we received the contract in October, would have been a deal-breaker. Luckily, the apartment seemed smoke free as my sensitive nose wasn’t able to sniff anything out…although, I spent quite a bit of time sneezing in the apartment.

My second surprise was the lack of basics for the apartment. Each bathroom had two little hotel size bottles of shampoo, body soap, two little bars of soap, and two rolls of toilet paper…for a full week. The kitchen had one dishwasher pellet, no dishsoap, one kitchen towel, no hotpads, and no special cleaning supplies for the flat cooktop.

All of these would have been acceptable had they been addressed when I asked the questions in October. It would have been much easier for me to pack extra shampoo, some dishwasher pellets, etc in my suitcase, rather than go out and buy large quantities that will last the average person a month.

The bottom line - It was a nice apartment in a good location, but...No traveler likes surprises.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Park House Hotel in Galway, Ireland - Review

After reading some of the reviews for the Park House Hotel on TripAdvisor, I decided to book it for a one night getaway from Dublin. What a fabulous hotel in a great location! We stayed in an upgraded deluxe room that was perfect. The room was quite large with a queen size bed and a separate single bed, a sitting area with couch and coffee table, a nice desk and chair, and a large marble bathroom with a nice soaking tub.

But, it’s the extra touches that are always appreciated…free covered parking (right in the center of town), full breakfast with a nice variety of hot and cold items, morning newspaper, nice, large, plush bathroom towels, a heated towel rack, complimentary Butler chocolates, still and sparkling water, and Molton Brown toiletries.

The staff…from the front desk staff to the breakfast staff to the gentlemen at the car park…were all quite friendly. Most of the time you were greeted with Good afternoon or good morning and at a minimum you would get a smile and a nod.

This is definitely a top notch hotel without the huge price.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ireland - 8 day itineray

Days 1 & 2: Dublin
We had chilly, but sunny weather, so we were out exploring and taking pictures at all the major sights - St. Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church, Temple Bar, Trinity College, shopping on Grafton Street, Henry Street, Nassau Street and O'Connell Street. We had planned to visit the Dublin Castle, as the website said they were open...but alas, closed.

Day 3: Waterford, Cashel, Kilkenny
Nils and Ina arrived on Day 2, so we decided to go on a road trip on Day 3. It rained all.day.long. We walked through and around the Rock of Cashel, but the weather just wasn't cooperating, so we ended the tour early and hopped in the car for the 1 hour ride to Waterford. The drive was, shall we say, interesting. The winding roads are in varying degrees of disrepair. The posted speed is 100kmph; however I don't think we were able to go any faster than 80kmph. Mario must have done a test run and set the speeds!

I wanted to buy crystal, so our next stop was Waterford. Had it not been pouring, I think we would have spent more time in the city center. It looked like a lovely place to shop and stroll around. We found the Waterford Factory and after about an hour of browsing, I managed to find enough crystal to match my existing pieces and pick up a few more...just because. And, they shipped it to the US, for free! Yes, I bought that much.

Kilkenny is a wonderful town. We walked, we shopped, we stopped in at a pub, we saw the Kilkenny Castle. If only we had more time.

Days 4 & 5: Clonmacnoise, The burren, Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Kilbeggan, Kildare
Chuck and I planned a two day getaway to western Ireland. The motorway from Dublin to Galways is a very nice multilane tollway...a huge improvement over the roads from the previous day. We timed our stop at the Clonmacnoise for 10am, when they were scheduled to open. By 10:10, not a soul in sight, so we left.

Our next stop was a drive through the burren (heading through the hills) with a stop at the Cliffs of Moher and then continuing on through the burren along the coast back up to Galway. The drive was interesting, to say the least. The snow was heavy and wet, and started coming down in big flakes. Before we knew it, we were behind 2 cars that had (probably) never drove through snow. It took the better part of an hour to go about 20km, but most of that was spent watching the 2 cars in front of us go in the ditch, push each other out, slide down a hill, spin in the slush, repeat. The burren and cliffs were lovely, and I'm sure even more so when it's not snowing and blowing!

Galway is lovely. Absolutely lovely. We stayed at the Park House Hotel (review upcoming), shopped, and had an amazing dinner at Sonny's Front Door pub. On the return trip to Dublin, stopped in Kilbeggan and Kildare. Neither city was anything spectacular and most of the sights were closed because it was December 31.

Days 6, 7 & 8: Dublin and Malahide
We decided to cancel our day trip to Belfast. Call me crazy, but when a lorry filled with 1000lbs of explosives is found under an overpass on the main road from Dublin to Belfast, it's probably best to stay put.

New Year's Eve celebrations took their toll on Nils and Ina as both had some pretty bad hangovers. We didn't get moving for the day until almost noon! Our first stop was Malahide Castle. The grounds were beautiful and the castle was quite nice. Each time you went into a room within the castle, the audio system would start and tell you about the room. It was impersonal, but nice.

Kilmainham Gaol was quite interesting. Liz was our tour guide and while she was very informative, she spoke so fast and monotone that it would be difficult for ESL folks to follow along. We walked across the street to the Modern Art museum and arrived at 3:45. The website indicated reduced hours because of the holiday (12:30-5:30) and I was anything but pleasant when they posted a sign that they were closing at 4pm. What's the point of having a website and providing information to the public if you're going to arbitrarily modify operating hours on a whim?

No trip to Dublin would be complete without a trip to the Guinness Storehouse. Underwhelmed. It's a self guided tour through about 5 floors of exhibits. At the end of the tour you can go to the Galaxy bar for your free pint. I thought a trip on January 1st would be less busy because everyone would still be hungover...not so much. It was body to body.

The sun was shining, albeit chilly, so I was on a mission to take some nicer pictures. Rainy, cloudy, grey pictures just don't do it for me. We also saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Overrated and at 9Euro a person, not worth it!

Gallagher's Boxty House in the Temple Bar area was wonderful. Chuck had the chicken boxty and I had the Murphy's stew. Both were delicious! I should have taken pictures!

We ended our trip to Ireland with shopping in Dublin. Chuck will attest that I shopped and shopped and shopped! My poor little suitcases were busting at the seams.

A few pictures until I get the slideshow posted.

Bridge in Dublin over the Liffey River

Cute little town in the countryside between Cashel and Waterford.

Malahide Castle

Cliffs of Moher - yes the weather was that crummy!

St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland

Customs House in Dublin, Ireland

8 day trip to Ireland

This past holiday season, we decided to fly to Dublin and spend just over a week exploring the island. Ireland is huge and very diverse, with so many things to do and cities to visit, so selecting a handful to explore wasn't an easy task. It's safe to say that our first visit to Ireland will definitely not be our last visit! And, for what it's worth, we found another country that we wouldn't mind living in for awhile.


Air - We flew Ryanair, the low cost no-frill airline into Dublin. While the flight wasn't exactly as cheap as my previous flights (it was peak holiday season), it was quick and easy.

Daily Transportation - We rented a car from Enterprise. Michelle was very nice and helpful. It was nice to run into someone that was willing, and comfortable, making idle chitchat.

Accomodations - We rented a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment from Abode Dublin (review upcoming).

Weather - We were prepared for chilly temperatures. But, the freezing rain, slush, and snow were a surprise. I felt like I was back in the Midwest. Driving was a challenge for the locals as the weather was a rare event. In western Ireland, they received about a foot of snow and one of the locals told us that it was a once every 20 year event. Another gentleman in Waterford told us that he doesn't remember weather like this (bitterly frigid) in over 50 years!

Our whirlwind tour (detailed post will follow):

Days 1 & 2: Dublin

Day 3: Waterford, Cashel, Kilkenny

Days 4 & 5: Clonmacnoise, The burren, Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Kilbeggan, Kildare

Days 6, 7 & 8: Dublin and Malahide

Christ Church in Dublin, Ireland

Half Penny Bridge (built in 1816) over the Liffey River in Dublin, Ireland - so named because the toll was a half penny if you wanted to use it to cross the river.