A Trip that Exceeded my Expectations
by Taylor Deer
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde
Around a month ago, I got offered one of the most unexpected and exciting opportunities to teach yoga on a corporate incentive trip in Ireland with my fellow SitInMySeats team. I had never been to Ireland before and honestly, it was never a trip on my bucket list, but BOY did this Northern European adventure make me feel like I was in a fairytale. I was in awe of the greenest nature I had ever seen! (Yes, New Jersey is pretty green, but the grass doesn’t look like nature dumped neon glitter on it.) The fresh Atlantic air that surrounded the entire country was something I had been craving and the Irish were some of the friendliest people I had ever met!
For the next few weeks, I will be doing a mini blog tour on the glistening emerald island. Enjoy reading about my time having fun in the capital city of Dublin and meandering around the beautiful fishing villages surrounding that area; chasing rainbows in scenic Killarney, Cliffs of Moher and Galway and experiencing a taste of royalty at Ashford Castle in Cong. This week, we are taking off and heading to Dublin!
On Friday, October 6, I boarded my overnight flight from Stewart Airport in Newburgh, NY. This was my first time flying out of Stewart and it was seriously the best airport experience I have had because of its location and size. I am used to flying out of Newark or JFK and I always get so overwhelmed by the crowds, traffic and unnecessary security lines there that I wish I can just always fly out of Stewart instead. (A girl could dream…)
After a seven-hour flight, we finally landed in the land of Kelly green! The friendliest driver picked me up at the airport. He was kind enough to give me a brief history lesson of the country and the ongoing controversies of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. I thought this was way past history, so I was surprised to hear that religious issues are still lingering there.
The start of my fairytale in Ireland began when I arrived at our hotel in Dublin called The Merrion Hotel. The Doorman, who was dressed in a formal British suit (with a tall top hat), opened the car door for me, took my luggage and led me into the lobby where I was greeted with a cup of tea. A few minutes later I met up with my Cousins Lisa and Alexie (of Travels with Lexy)! I hadn’t seen them since the spring, so it was awesome to be reunited. Since we were babies, Alexie and I always had a great time when we were together. We are the sisters to each other that we both never had.
After I settled into the room I was staying in with Alexie, I couldn’t wait to start my Irish adventures. The first activity on our agenda was the Pat Liddy Walking Tour that we took around Dublin city. Pat (Peter) was our main tour guide during our time in Ireland. He was awesome and has great pride for his country. The first few stops of the tour were actually on the same street that The Merrion was on – The National Museum of Ireland and the Oscar Wilde House. As we continued on, we made our way through Merrion Square where we got to see the Park Statue of Oscar Wilde chilling on a rock. I loved looking around at the architecture. I thought the chimneys on top of the buildings were the coolest part. It reminded me of Mary Poppins (LOL).
Our next stop on the tour was to see Ireland’s famous university, Trinity College. The campus was beautiful and fall foliage was really showing on the grounds. This was my first European college tour and as I imagined most universities to look like in Great Britain, I felt like I was in Hogwarts.
It was a little chilly outside so my cousin and I tried to find a coffee shop that had the “basic” pumpkin spiced latte and as we searched around, Peter informed us that there are no pumpkins in Ireland. If they have a fall festival in the country, they will usually get the pumpkins imported from the United States. Another cool fact we learned from Peter on our tour around Trinity College is that Halloween was originated in Ireland! (I swear, I learn something new everyday.) Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts, who lived 2,000 year ago in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.
After our tour around the college, we made our way into the downtown area where we first stopped at a traditional Irish coffee shop where I indulged in my first Bailey’s coffee (LOVE!). Everyone else in the group enjoyed a traditional Irish coffee with whiskey or a nice and warm latte. Once we were fueled up, we made our way through cobblestoned alleyways, passing the Dublin Castle before reaching the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
When we made our way into the cathedral, we all were struck by peace and amazed by the beautiful architecture from the ancient world. I talk more about peacefulness in places of worship in my last blog post. While we were at the Cathedral, we bought beautiful emerald Rosary beads, which I have hanging over my bed with my other pearl and crystal beads from Spain and France.
After walking through the church, we were starving! I am excited to share with you that my first lunch in Ireland was spent at the oldest pub in the country, dating back to 1198. The pub was called Brazen Head and my first dish of the trip was the country’s traditional fish and chips. During our lunch, my cousin and I met a group of Irish guys who made us hysterically laugh with their jokes and stories. To be quite honest, I didn’t realize how fast the Irish spoke, but it is such a great and traditional accent that you normally don’t hear everyday! Another fun thing I learned in Dublin is that one of our new friends, Connor, got to meet the famous UFC Fighter, Connor McGregor. How awesome is that?
We spent a few hours relaxing and enjoying our food and drinks with our new friends before heading back to the hotel to nap. On our way back to The Merrion, we took a traditional horse and buggy ride through the city. We felt like we were in old-world Great Britain.
One of the many reasons why The Merrion is so great is because it is conveniently located near a few of Ireland’s best restaurants and pubs located on Merrion Row. For dinner that night, Alexie and I went to a delicious French restaurant called Marcel’s where we enjoyed delicious pan-seared scallops and muscles.
After our great dinner, we met up with our new Irish friends and started our pub-crawl. In Ireland, there aren’t many nightclubs that you would normally see in big cities in the United States or Southern Europe. A traditional pub is where you enjoy a drink with friends in Ireland and believe it or not, most of them only stay open until 12:30 AM. This worked out in my favor because I had to teach yoga in the morning, so I didn’t want to stay out too late. We started the night at a cocktail bar called Xico and then made our way to the more traditional pubs called O’Donoghues Pub, Foley’s Bar and Rielly’s Bar. All of these places were so much fun as they played great music and no one was “too cool” to happily dance around.
My second day in Dublin was full of more exciting adventures. It all began with an hour of morning Vinyasa yoga in one of The Merrion’s beautiful Victorian rooms. Since most of the people from the corporate group had never done yoga before, I led a beginner flow with a mixture of soft, meditative music along with some fun hits as well. It was the perfect way to start the day and everyone felt amazing afterwards. I love teaching yoga to all levels and seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces after my class!
To continue on our wellness grind, a few of us participated in a guided bike tour around Dublin city. I love bike riding, but it was definitely an adjustment riding through Dublin as we had to ride on the opposite side of the road, to follow the traffic. Since I am obviously from the United States, I am not used to walking, driving or riding a bike on the left side of the road. There were definitely a few scares as I made some turns. Overall, it was such a great tour! We started the bike tour through Oscar Wilde’s neighborhood and the corporate center of Dublin that hosts the European headquarters for Google, Facebook, Air BnB and InDeed.com to name a few.
As we continued on our bike tour, we went over the iconic Samuel Beckett Bridge and then we entered into the old part of the city where we got to see the Irish Potato Famine Memorial where we learned about the depressing history behind that tragedy. I cannot believe how many people starved from the Famine and how Ireland’s population dropped drastically from mid-late 19th century.
To change up the mood, we rode our way over to the Temple Bar area, where we would later spend our evening pub-crawling again. I loved all of the cobblestone streets and colorful architecture this area of Dublin offers. We also got to see the adorable Ha’penny Bridge, also known as Dublin’s version of the love-lock bridge.
When we made our way back to The Merrion, we hopped on our bus that took us to lunch at The Riddler, a fairly new restaurant in Dublin with fresh, Irish farm-to-table dishes. My lunch started off with a delicious caramel-spiced latte and the best potato soup I ever had! On top of all things potato, the meal came with my other favorite Irish specialty – soda bread! (Gosh, I could have a whole loaf in one sitting, it’s that good.) To follow along with the soup, we were served fish and chips. Mind you, this was my second day in a row eating fish and chips for lunch. Where else could you eat that everyday, am I right? Dessert was a molten chocolate cake served in a mug – one of my favorites. This lunch definitely did not disappoint!
Waiting outside for us was a mysterious-looking bus that we were getting on next. I had no idea what was in store for us next, but when we stepped on the bus, it was definitely the coolest moving vehicle I had ever been on. The first thing I saw was a bunk bed with a fireplace and these freaky-looking mannequins. As we made our way up the staircase, there were seats for us to sit in during the show and more bunk beds in the back. A few minutes later, our tour guide, who was also our “storyteller”, made his way onto the bus.
As we started driving east to the coast, our guide began the story. It was a typical Irish folklore story, but he made sure that we would laugh throughout it. Our first stop was to beautiful St. Anne’s Park that features a serene duck pond with lily pads, woodland paths and trails, fall foliage and of course, greenery. Since I had been eating heavier food items than what I am used to indulging in back at home and drinking beer on top of all of that, I needed to walk around and get some exercise. Ireland is pretty flat, especially compared to where I was over a month ago in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, but it was still nice to walk off some calories and get to breath in some fresh Atlantic air.
After spending some time at St. Anne’s Park, we made our way onto Bull Island, a beautiful coastal area featuring endless plains of green sea grass and overall peace and quiet. This is actually the area where Dubliners will go to get a beach day. Located on Dublin Bay, Bull Island, with its sandy beach known as Dollymount Strand running its entire length, is relatively recent as a result of human intervention in the water.
It was a pretty chilly day and being on the coast made it colder, so I was in complete shock when I saw a bunch of people sitting on the beach like I normally do on a summer day in Lavallette. They were even swimming in the water, which I ended up feeling and it was way colder than what I am used to. Overall, the beach was beautiful and I wish I could’ve spent more time there.
To warm back up, we made our way back into Dublin city to the Irish Whiskey Museum. This fun and interactive museum features several exhibits that allows you to journey back through time and discover the intriguing history and origins of Irish whiskey. At the end of the tour, we did a tasting of five different Irish whiskeys. I am not a big whiskey drinker, but it is fun to learn about the history and do a tasting where you can enjoy the natural flavors that are crafted in each glass. Prior to this whiskey tasting, I had done one at Jack Daniel’s Distillery when I visited Nashville at the beginning of the year.
After spending time at the Irish Whiskey Museum, we began our pub-crawl for the evening on the old side of the city. We took a horse and buggy from the Museum to our first pub, Brannigan’s. There was an awesome live band playing traditional Irish music at the bar, so we were able to dance around and have a good time. There was one point where they started playing the Irish folk song from the party scene on Titanic. My cousin Alexie and I love that movie (maybe a little too much) so we got up and danced for everyone. It was so much fun! We even got to learn some Irish step moves and folk dancing afterwards.
Our next stop on our pub-crawl was to Jack Nealon’s Pub and then we made our way to the famous Temple Bar. As we crossed over the Ha’penny Bridge, we made our way to the Temple Bar area – yes, it is also a “district” too. Before I got to the bar, I was forewarned by the locals that the bar is a big tourist trap. I still wanted to experience it though!
The Temple Bar has several different bars within the building, each one setting off a different vibe. There were even some areas where you can sit outside in one of the bar’s courtyards. The room that we were mostly in had a great rock band. My cousin and I grabbed a Guinness and enjoyed the lively ambiance.
The next day was started with a well-needed Ashtanga class. After the pub-crawl from the previous night, there weren’t as many corporate clients that made it to yoga, but it was nice to have a smaller and more intimate group for this class. My yoga class took place in another beautiful Victorian room in The Merrion where we were able to see the hustle and bustle of the city, but still remain focused and in peace.
After Ashtanga, we got on the bus that took us over to Howth – a charming fishing village that is located a half-hour east of Dublin. Our corporate clients were given a scavenger hunt to complete for prizes, while my Cousin Lisa and I walked around the adorable village of Howth. The corporate clients had a BLAST with the scavenger hunt and they got to see the hidden gems within this coastal town.
In the meantime, my Cousin Lisa and I went to a cute café where we enjoyed a Bailey’s coffee with a chocolate croissant. (Europe, your croissants are something else!) We also walked around the village and admired the cute buildings, serenity, all of the sailboats and the beautiful, green cliffs that surrounded the port.
One of the gems that Howth holds is the original fish and chips restaurant called Leo Burdock. This amazing place first opened in 1913 and has been rocking with the best fish and chips in Ireland since. Mind you, this is now day three that I ate fish in chips for lunch and Leo Burdock was out of this world. (It reminded me of Callahan’s. If you are from NJ, you know what I’m talking about.) It was so good and I am currently dreaming about it as I sit here and write this.
After our amazing lunch, we enjoyed a great beverage at Bloody Stream Pub. I loved how warm and cozy this place was and the owner and workers were so sweet! I definitely recommend this pub if you are visiting the Howth area.
When our time in Howth was sadly over, we got back on the bus to head to our next adventure at the Guinness Storehouse back in Dublin city. The journey at Guinness begins at the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass and continues up through seven floors that are filled with excitement and interactive experiences that showcase the heritage of the dark Irish beer.
The inside of Guinness is so cool. When I visited, they already had a beautiful Christmas display up. There was even a pretty waterfall inside as well.
After our tour, we went up to do the Guinness Academy, where we learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. There is a six-step ritual and it takes 119.5 seconds to pour and settle. At the end of the Academy, I got a certificate and then was able to take my freshly poured beer and enjoy it!
When we left the Academy, we were able to take the escalator up to the top floor where the famous Gravity Bar was located. This amazing bar offers 360-degree views of Dublin’s historic rooftops and you can even catch views of the mountains from afar. It was a gray day when I visited Guinness, but the views were still amazing!
After spending a couple of hours having fun at Guinness, my Cousin Lisa and I took the Guinness horse and buggy back to The Merrion. Since we all had been doing pub-crawls the past few days, the entire group took it easy and spent the night enjoying the beautiful 5-star hotel.
That night, our corporate clients enjoyed a fun musical dinner with a talented chef. He sang classic Italian songs like Andrea Bocelli’s Time to Say Goodbye. It was the perfect ending to our time in Dublin.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my fun time exploring the Dublin area. Stay tuned for my second Ireland blog post on the Killarney area next Tuesday!
Adventure awaits in Ireland for you and your partner, family, friends, corporate group, retreat and more! Email me at Taylor@sitinmyseats.com or call us to experience the fairytale I did by booking your next trip to Ireland. Click here to explore this season’s featured trip to Ireland!
Sláinte! – Cheers
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