Now that we have gotten all of my family history out of the way in part one (see post here), this post will focus on the tourism part of the trip.
I surprised my mom with buying a ticket so she can travel with me on this family research trip. She was 70 at the time and has limited mobility. I did a bunch of research before-hand to get an idea if Dublin or various other locations would be wheelchair accessible due to the age of the buildings, cobbled roads, etc. Yes, there were definitely some limitations, but we were always met with the most kindest of people to help us as needed, or we simply were fine with the limitations and made the best of it all.
We went early October, so mild weather with light rain was expected. I made sure we only packed a carry-on each using my tips for packing light and tight. I also invested in a compact-able and versatile wheelchair-walker combo that would be easy to transport throughout our adventures (we opted for this one). It worked out great minus the few wobbly sidewalks and potholes!
We departed from Portland, Oregon flying Air Canada stopping over in Toronto before arriving to Dublin.
Exciting Adventures in Dublin Airport
As soon as we landed, Iris, an airport attendant, greeted us and helped by pushing mom in her wheelchair and expedited us through customs and immigration. She even helped us when mom got locked in the bathroom (hahahah - the lock malfunctioned and a handyman had to come and rescue her).
She stayed with us the entire time, even when I was at the rental car pickup for a long period of time due to some complications with the insurance policy. Just a heads up, even with insurance coverage (paid through them or not) they have to put an additional $5,000 hold on your bank account. When I booked my car through Travelocity, I paid for insurance through Travelocity. The agent (who was very nice and understanding), stated that those coverage plans aren't generally accepted and further insurance would be needed including an additional credit hold. I was unprepared for this and was shocked - all of my money for the trip would have been held up and not released until after I was back home. I ended up having to defer any insurance coverage through the agency - taking on all liability in the case of any damage - in order for them not to have to hold all of my funds. In theory, after following up with Travelocity, I was still covered by them even if the agency didn't recognize this as proper coverage. The agent let me know this happens all of the time and he is gutted when this comes up, especially if the result is to cancel/change plans due to the complexity of their insurance policies. He was very helpful and sympathized with me - he upgraded my vehicle and gave me navigation for free for the troubles. It all worked out in the end but it sent me into a panic thinking I needed to cancel all activities that required a vehicle.
Now, back to the real adventure!!
If you've been reading along my blog posts about travel thus far, you definitely can see a trend with me and loving to stay in self-catering options. This didn't change in Ireland. To give us some additional comfort of getting around, I wanted to utilize the hop-on/hop-off bus system while staying in Dublin for the first few days. And, I wanted to find accommodations that were perfectly situated near a bus stop, as well as a safe place to park with easy access to a grocery store. I thought this was nearly impossible, but I found the PERFECT place. It is a very clean and well equipped 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom flat with a full kitchen, dining and living space. It was also nearly perfect for accessibility - only a couple steps to get into the lobby, but from there the complex had an elevator making it easy for my mom to safely get up to the flat.
Here are a few shots from the listing on Airbnb.
I parked the vehicle at the house of the Airbnb owner's (Maggie) sister Brenda, that was just down the lane a couple small blocks. She was co-hosting the property and was an absolute gem - she kept a close eye on the car and all was ok. We were greeted at the property and she delivered a welcome basket with a few snacks and tea!
The apartment is just across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral. I was going to wake up to the bells of the church and I was all for it. Stunning. Directly next to the cathedral is a bus stop, and next to that a small market where I could pick up essentials for breakfasts and a few dinners.
Avoca at Malahide Castle
On our way to our Airbnb apartment in Dublin, we stopped at Avoca located at the pristine estate and grounds of Malahide Castle. It was the perfect welcome to Ireland and an easy stop on the way from the airport to Dublin city centre. Avoca is a posh franchise around Ireland that is known for their specialty market, cafes and home decor & gift shops. You can find them in various towns across Ireland.
Here are a few shots from their website.
Since the castle was about to close when we were done with our late lunch, we ended up just taking a stroll around the property and to get a big breath of Irish air. It was a delightful way to kick off our trip!
Favorite Things to Do In Dublin
Mom and I aren't much for drinking, so we didn't hit Temple Bar as many do. We decided to stick to culturally and/or historically significant experiences - I'm a bit of an old soul and a history buff.
First up, we hopped onto the City Sightseeing bus to get a full tour of the city. I highly recommend this service - I used the same in Edinburgh and Oxford England. Reasonably priced, great information, clean, friendly staff, and super convenient with frequent stops. Check them out here. They also offer discounted admissions to various attractions around the city, so be sure to ask the driver about the attractions you want to visit and the types of promotions they offer before purchasing directly at the venue. Even at that same price, the convenience of purchasing from the bus saves (depending on how crowded it is) a lot of time waiting in lines to purchase admission at the venue. We also just loved sitting on the bus and taking a few trips around the city of various routes listening to the driver tell stories or give information about sights along the way - all with a bit of wit and Irish charm.
The Book of Kells
Not only is Trinity College a beautiful place in itself, it is home to the world famous Book of Kells - a fully illuminated manuscript in Latin completed by monks in about the 9th century. It is truly a magnificent piece of history. There are also several other artifacts to see throughout the library, like the original Brian Boru's medieval harp which became the national symbol for Ireland.
National Museum of Ireland
If you travel anywhere in the world and they have a national museum, GO TO IT! This is the perfect way to get a better understanding of the local history (ancient to modern) through perfectly curated collections of artifacts and information. And, in many cases, visiting these museums are free! This goes for the National Museum of Ireland. We opted to visit their Archaeology museum - they have 4 to choose from (Decorative Arts & History, Natural History, Country Life and Archaeology). Visit their webpage here for all the details. Be sure to add this or any of their locations to your trip!
General Post Office Museum
The highlight for our stay in Dublin was visiting the General Post Office. Yes! Who knew that a post office would have an award winning museum!? Attached to the historical post office is a state of the art, modern interpretation center and museum. The exhibits tell the story of the Easter Uprising of 1916 and gives perspective to modern Irish history.
The entrance fee for the museum is 15e for adults, so a bit higher than other museums - but it is worth every cent! The exhibit is immersive and interactive experience that made me feel as if I was living in the middle of the events in April 1916. The rising was launched by Irish republicans with the mission to end British rule in Ireland while the UK was fighting WWI.
The curation of this museum was perfection. Although more mature in content due to the violence of the uprising, it is historically on the most significant moments in Irish history and I believe is vital for all ages to experience.
Plus, we popped into this gorgeous post office to send off a few postcards back home.
I highly recommend visiting Dublin Castle. Although not extravagant or excessive in 'interactive' Disney-like entertainment, it is full of historical significance to Dublin. We opted for the self-guided tour (8e per adult), so the admission is very affordable. We also enjoyed a delicious lunch of crafted sandwiches and salads in their cafe overlooking the grand lawn. It was a perfectly sunny and cool day.
The original castle was built in 1204 and suffered a great fire in 1624. From 1204-1922, the castle was a residence for the British monarch's Irish representatives. The end of the British presence had come about in the wake of the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence.
Guests at the castle over the centuries were Benjamin Franklin (1771), Charles Dickens (1864), John F Kennedy (1963), Nelson Mandela (1990) and countless others. Writer, Bram Stoker (Dracula), worked here from 1866-1878. The castle is an iconic symbol of Dublin and of the Republic of Ireland.
Christ Church Cathedral & The Dublinia Vikings Museum
Another great visit was to the Vikings museum, Dublinia which is located directly next to Christ Church. This is a fantastic museum especially for families with kids. There are several sections that are hands on and interactive. Even as two adult females, we had a blast. The museum offers a good balance of fun, interactive living history combined with enough education, historical information and artifacts. This was a great exhibit to learn more about Medieval Dublin at the times of the Vikings.
The iconic center-point of Dublin is Christ Church Cathedral with its world famous bell tower and stone bridge. Like so many medieval churches, the ornate beauty throughout the cathedral is simply breathtaking. Make sure to head down to the church catacombs where there are several artifacts to get up close to. The eerie, dark and ancient ambiance in the catacombs was so cool to experience! The church still operates as an active church with services, concerts and more. Check out their site for the latest details on planning your visit to the cathedral.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Just before departing Dublin, we took a few more spins on the City Sightseeing bus and made it a point to stop in at St. Patrick's Cathedral as it had been our next door neighbor and view for the first few days here in Ireland. I was so impressed with this stunning cathedral. I would put St. Patrick's on your list for visiting Dublin! We had the pleasure of being welcomed by the sounds of an international choir practicing for a service - it added a whole other element to the experience there. We also were encouraged to leave a prayer leaf on the remembrance tree, in which we did. We honored our ancestors and my cousin who was killed in active duty in Afghanistan. It was a touching way to end our time in Dublin.
Stay tuned for part 3! I will recap the remainder of our trip to Powerscourt Palace and beyond!