Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cheap Things to Do in Ireland - Powerscourt Gardens

If you’re in Dublin for more than a day, I suggest branching out to some local attractions nearby.  Hill of Tara is a good bet if you want to travel about a half hour northwest, or you can visit the beautiful grounds at Powerscourt Gardens about a half hour south in Enniskerry.

Powerscourt dates back to the 13th century, but has undergone plenty of renovations since then.  Today, people visit to see the gorgeous greenery…

And to literally stop, and smell the roses.

It’s only 6.50€ to enter the gardens, which I think is an incredible steal, considering all of the beautiful scenery inside.

The gardens at Powerscourt are divided into several different areas, as shown on the map below.  You can take a one hour route or a 40-minute route.

I actually saved this map of Powerscourt Gardens from two years ago, but I threatened to throw away Frank's baby shoes because they took up too much space
We started at Tower Valley with Pepperpot Tower.

The brochure says this tower was modeled after the pepperpot
on Lord Powerscourt's dining room table.  Not sure how to
define "pepperpot?"  I had to look it up, it's a pot where you
keep black pepper.  Obviously.
You can climb the tower and take a photo shoot at the top like I did.

Next, we strolled over to the Japanese Gardens. 

This garden was laid out way back in 1908 and is probably one of the most serene places at Powerscourt.

Unlike the Pet Cemetery, which is a little strange to have on display in a beautiful garden environment.

We are very sad for all the animals that have passed
But we did enjoy reading about the pets kept by families who lived at Powerscourt, including two cows.

Poor Eugenie the Jersey Cow!
In the following picture, you'll see the Dolphin Pond behind Frank.

The brochure says the dolphin fountain "was
purchased by the 7th Viscount in Paris."  Not sure
what a Viscount is?  I wasn't either.  Apparently I
learned a lot at Powerscourt.  A viscount is royalty
ranked just below an earl or count.

Then you’ll find the Walled Gardens.  This was one of my favorite parts of Powerscourt because of all the beautiful flowers found inside.

The Bamberg Gate leads you out of the Walled Gardens, almost to the exit of Powerscourt.

The Bamberg Gate is 240 years old.  That's
about as old as our entire nation.  The Irish
have a gate as old as America.
On our way to walk out, we smiled one last time before continuing our journey around Ireland.

Total Cost: 6.50€/person (about $8)

Best Deal: If you don’t feel like spending the money to get into Powerscourt, or the $1,000 for a plane ticket to Ireland, take a virtual tour, which I found through the Powerscourt website.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

24 Hours in… Dublin

I like to think of Dublin as a necessary evil.  I apologize for those who like Dublin, but to me, it didn’t have the charm of the other cities in Ireland.  However, since most flights come into Ireland through Dublin (including mine in December), it’s something you have to do and see at least once.  I recommend 24 hours there, starting with…

8am – Breakfast at Queen of Tarts

The opening hours vary for this delicious bakery, but if you’re visiting Dublin on a Monday through Friday, you’ll be safe coming at 8am.  If you’re coming on a Saturday or Sunday, click here for times.

The list of menu items are mouthwatering, from homemade scones, to Queen of Chocolate Fudge Cake.  Grab something for breakfast (a scone will cost about 3€) and then plan your day with my handy map.

9am – Trinity College

This college, founded in 1592, is one of the oldest in Western Europe.  The campus is quite beautiful and you can walk around enjoying the architecture for free.

Many people in Dublin want to see the Book of Kells, which is housed at Trinity College. 

Long line to get inside - Frank was not about to wait in that!
The Book of Kells is the four Gospels of the New Testament.  The official website says the Book of Kells has been on display at Trinity College since the 1800s.  The official website also says it cost 9€ to see the Book of Kells, which explains a lot about why I took a picture of the sign and didn’t go inside.

10am – St. Stephen’s Green

This park is wonderful any time of day you visit.

If you’re arriving to Dublin after an overnight flight from the States, you might want to take a nap in St. Stephen’s Green, kinda like we did.

Sleeping in a park, kinda like homeless people, but we were tired!
11am – Medieval Cathedrals

It’s less than a mile walk to Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Christ Church Cathedral has been around since 1028 A.D.  The architecture on the outside is amazing.

You can also go inside and see a crypt, which contains a mummified rat and cat.  It’s 6€ to get in, however.  I, personally, found it a little unusual to pay to enter a Catholic Church (you don’t even have to pay to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, which is one of the most famous churches in the world!), so I just took some pictures from the outside.

I did the same thing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, right next door, as it is 5.50€ to get inside there. 
Kinda looks like Christ Church Cathedral, doesn't it?
This church does not have a cool mummified cat and rat, but has many other things to see.  Plus, it is a tribute to the man who brought Christianity to Ireland and a man who I celebrate every March 17 by drinking a case of beer or so.

12pm – Bar Stop

Speaking of St. Patrick, by now, you’re well overdue for a drink, as this is Ireland, and most people are at the bar at 9am.  I went in more bars than I could possibly name, but if you see one of these, do stop and have a pint.  You’ll probably want to grab food too.

1pm – Guinness Storehouse

It will cost you a pretty penny to go inside the Guinness Storehouse for a tour.  About 16.50€ to be exact.  At the end, you get to drink Guinness beer from the Gravity Bar at the top of the Storehouse, with 360° views of the city.

I opted to save my 16.50€ and just take pictures outside.

Then, I went into a nearby pub and got a Guinness.

2pm – Bar Stop

Though we didn't go inside the Guinness Storehouse, we did
drink Guinness elsewhere... and probably for much less
3pm - Old Jameson Distillery

Keeping in the groove of drinking Irish-made alcohol, walk on over to the Old Jameson Distillery, about a mile and a half from the Guinness Storehouse (WARNING: You may have to stop at more than one bar while making the journey, it’s kind of a long walk).  Once you arrive, you can take a tour for 11.70€, or you can be economical, and just take pictures for free.

4pm – Bar Stop

This is Ireland, you have to stop at as many bars as possible.  You’ll especially want to stop for a pint if you see a pub with your name on the outside.

5pm – General Post Office

If you follow my schedule, you’ll be at here about an hour before the General Post Office closes at 6pm. 

This isn’t just any post office – you’ll find bullet holes around the columns outside – as this was the home base for insurgents of the Easter Rising in which Ireland tried to claim independence from Britain back in 1916 (as I am an ancient history teacher and not Ireland history teacher, you’ll have to click here for more information).

It’s right outside the General Post Office where you’ll see the Spire of Dublin, the 24th most photographed place in the world, according to Budget Travel.
6pm – Bar Stop

I think the best thing about Europe is the little differences.  For instance, my favorite drink in the U.S. is Magners, which is from Ireland.  But there, they call it Bulmers.

And they come in flavors in Ireland!  Regular, pear, and berry!
7pm – Temple Bar

This is considered a more touristy area of Ireland, but it’s also a great place to eat.  And go to more bars. 

You can stay here for hours, just popping into and out of bars, enjoying the Irish music, Irish scene, and Irish sayings.

I love the Gaelic saying "Two shorten the road."  It's so true.
11pm – Back to the Hotel (or, you know, whatever time you’re ready to retire)

We stayed at a few hotels in Dublin, but I think the best was Trinity Capital Hotel.  Mainly because there was a block of rooms named Tara.

Refer to this post if you need to know more
about things named Tara
This hotel is very centrally located, just a few blocks from Trinity College.  The inside is funky and eclectic.

The rooms are pretty big by European standards.

Even the bathroom had space to move around.

Perhaps the most important feature at the Trinity Capital Hotel was the baggage storage.  Since we arrived in the morning from America, we stored our bags at the front desk.

And in one of those bags was my engagement ring.  Frank
planned on proposing the next day!
Here’s a review I did for Trip Advisor right after staying there.

We also stayed at Arlington Hotel, which is in the Temple Bar area.

But the rooms there are smaller, and the prices are more expensive (about $205 per night)

Breakfast: About 3€ (about $3.72)
Books of Kells: 9€ (about $11.17)
Cathedrals: 11.50€ ($14.27)
Guinness Storehouse: 16.50€ ($20.48)
Old Jameson Distillery: 11.70€ ($14.52)
Lunch: 10€ ($12.41)
Dinner: 20€ ($24.82)
Bar Stops: Approximately 4€ x ∞ (okay, maybe times about 4) = 16€ (almost $20)
Trinity Capital Hotel: About $179/night

Total Cost: About $421 for two people

Best Deal: Take my all alcohol and food, no tourism approach for about $300 for 24 hours (saving $121!)

Have you been to Dublin?  What's your favorite part?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Free Things to Do in Ireland – Things Named Tara

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be traveling to Ireland in less than a month.  I really love the Emerald Isle.  First of all, my husband’s family lives there.  Secondly, I got engaged there.  Third of all, everywhere you turn, something is named Tara.

Jewelers, buildings, streets… those Irish love them some Tara.

But no sign that says “Tara” is as important as the Hill of Tara.

Refer back to reason number two why I love Ireland.  I got engaged here.  Right on the Hill of Tara… the place where kings were crowned until the year 500 A.D.  Or 500 C.E. if you’re not Christian.

But even if your name is not Tara, and your wonderful husband did not kneel down on one of these hills after saying he had to tie his shoe, and even if he did not ask you “Would you make me the happiest man in the world?”… even if that all did not happen, Hill of Tara is one of the most wonderful, and free, things to do in Ireland.

The hills are alive, with the sound of music... oops, we're in
Ireland, not Austria
It’s about 30 minutes northwest of Dublin and well worth the drive.  There is nothing too touristy about this place.  We saw barely any guests when we were there, actually.  Even though it plays a large, and sometimes confusing, part in Irish history, there’s actually not terribly much to view.  It’s just rolling green hills, dotted with a few sheep.

Ewe's not fat, ewe's fluffy!
In fact, it’s said that you’ll see 25% of the Irish mainland from the Hill of Tara.

Yep, 25% seems about right
Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what you’ll see in Ireland in general – natural beauty.  But, at the Hill of Tara, you will see one small monument – the Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny.

This stone was very good luck for kings crowned here
Which is kind of coincidental because this is where my destiny became evident.

Total Cost: Free!

Best Deal: Making the gift shop cashier cry after we told her we just got engaged outside

What do you consider to be the best thing about Ireland?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Conquering My Fear of Flying – Not Gonna Happen (But Here's Some Advice Anyways)

Over this long weekend filled with feasting, family, and friends, I came to the realization that I would be journeying to Ireland in less than a month.  Which means, I’m going to come face to face with my fear of flying, which hasn’t gotten any better since the last time Itold you about it 

I'm going to be flying on a plane way larger
than this device, which I flew fearlessly on back
in 2007.

Apparently Budget Travel magazine wanted to help my fear of flying.  I have been getting this magazine for years and even get their newsletter via email.  That’s where I read an article entitled "10 Tricks for Conquering Flight Anxiety."  It listed ten ideas that will help make your flight a little smoother.  I disagree, starting right with the first tip.

Give your phobia a name

Unfortunately it has a name.  It’s called, “I’m-plummeting-to-my-death-from-30,000-feet-phobia.”  The name is what’s so scary.

Familiarize yourself with airplane noises

OMG, I’m about 100 times more freaked out to fly after familiarizing myself with these noises. says “During descent, the flight becomes quite quiet as the engine’s power is reduced to an idle position and the airplane glides.”  The plane becomes idle in the air?  And glides?  No, no, and no.

What I’d really like to familiarize myself with are noises that indicate the plane is crashing.  I’m incredibly freaked out by the sound of the “fasten seatbelt”/”unfasten seatbelt” dinging because I feel the pilot is going to come on and make an announcement about my imminent demise.  I’d like to know how to differentiate between “We’ve reached out climbing altitude” and “Nice knowing you, folks.”

Check the turbulence forecast

I’m pretty sure if I knew my plane was going to hit turbulence, I’d crap my pants.  ‘Nough said.

Bring a photo of your destination

I’m not kidding when I say I nearly ruined a day in Milan (which wasn’t hard to do if you read my story about this city) worrying about taking a flight back to Germany.  I was super excited about Germany, and about the remainder of my honeymoon, but I couldn’t shake the anxiety that was building.  My sister-in-law says she’s going with this tip for our trip, but I know we’ll be clawing at each other and holding on for dear life when that plane takes off for the Emerald Isle.

Skip the coffee – and the wine

Are you freaking out of your mind?  First of all, I don’t skip wine for anything, especially not during my potential last moments on earth.  Plus, my doctor recommended I drink wine to calm down.  That actually sounds like pretty bad medical advice now that I read it, I promise my doctor doesn’t operate out of the back of a van!

Bring a book you’ve already started or tune into a television series you already know 

I partially agree with this advice, but I’d like to add on: do something as mindless and mind-consuming as possible.  For instance, I thought that playing 45,000 rounds of Angry Birds would help, but something about the motion of the plane and the motion of birds flying into buildings didn’t mesh well.  However, reading trashy magazines was slightly effective (especially when paired with wine!).

Share your secret with the flight attendants

I did that.  I said, “I’m afraid of flying, so I’m going to need constant fill-ups on this wine.”  The flight attendant was very courteous in following my requests.

Embrace safety information

I do.  I’m the only one watching that safety demonstration.  However, I’m not sure how handy the “floatation device” will be if we’re crashing.

Use this breathing technique

I have practiced yoga for more than 10 years now and I’m a strong believer in using breath to work with the body.  Deep breathing is the only advice I think truly works.  However, it's brief.  I breathe in for a count of eight, then out for a count of eight.  After doing that for a minute or so, I am much calmer.  Until that damn fasten seatbelt ding comes on again!

Have one of two relaxation remedies handy – but use them only as a last resort

When I posted something on Facebook about being afraid of flying, many of my friends posted back with “Xanax,” “Valium,” and “Adavan.”  I have tried the drug route before (much more helpful when paired with alcohol, which sounds very dangerous), but I’m afraid of ending up like this.


"There's a colonial woman on the wing, the woman on the wing, there’s something they’re not telling us!"  That will be me after taking Xanax, Valium, and Adavan.  Haha, that clip makes me laugh so much, maybe I’ll just watch it over and over for the eight hour flight.  That should quell my fear a little.