2012 was our first Christmas together. On Christmas morning, I opened my presents from Tommy:
A Guinness t-shirt.
An Ireland toque.
And a copy of Rick Steves’ Ireland.
I was a little unsure about my presents, and then Tommy handed me paperwork that detailed our week-long spring break tour of Ireland, including stays in Killenard, Galway, Killarney, and Dublin.
When we landed, we hit the ground running in Dublin. We walked all over the place and ended up at the Guinness Factory. We then drove to Killenard, where we stayed at the Heritage. I think we missed dining hours at the restaurant because we ended up having sandwiches and (more) Guinness at the bar. We crashed for the night and slept twelve hours.
In the morning, we headed to Galway. We stopped at the Tullamore Dew distillery for a whiskey tasting – at about ten o’clock in the morning. The tour of the facility was fascinating and we had lunch there afterwards.
On the way to Galway, we marveled at the constantly changing landscape. Sometimes it was lush, green, and typically Irish. Other times it seemed like we were driving through barren, almost industrial-like areas. And the sheep! We pulled over at one point just so I could get out and take pictures. Silly, I know. We ended up seeing a ton of sheep, and even saw the occasional wandering road sheep. Or flock. We enjoyed Galway, though. It was a great town to walk around in. We used it as our jumping-off point for visiting the Cliffs of Moher during the day and found a great spot to listen to some traditional music while drinking (more) Guinness that night. We also took in a hurling match. Hurling is the national sport of Ireland, and to me it looked like a cross between field hockey, soccer, and football. I don’t know. And the scoring was weird, too. But the Irish love their hurling, so it was cool to hang out with the locals and see them get all riled up.
From Galway, we went to Killarney. We stayed at the Muckross Park Hotel, in the Killarney National Park. The weather had actually warmed up enough to where we could go out without our heavy coats, so I suggested that we go for a walk. We walked through Muckross Abbey and the cemetery, looking at dates on gravestones and admiring the ducks and sheep. We found our way to the lake and while I was snapping pictures of some craggy rocks jutting out of the water, Tommy got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. We took a selfie to immortalize the moment and that night went out to the Laurels Pub to celebrate.
We drove the Ring of Kerry and the Skellig ring. We stopped in the towns of Sneem, Portmagee, and Skellig, either for gas, or chocolates, or to get out and walk around. The views on the Ring of Kerry are phenomenal. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the water almost seemed tropical in color. Back in Killarney, we walked to Torc waterfall, a beautiful sight not far from the hotel.
On our way back to Dublin, we stopped Waterford, and of course, visited the Waterford Crystal Factory. We took the tour, and the best part – we got to break some crystal! If a piece doesn’t meet design/production standards, it gets shattered. I don’t know if they still do this on the tour, but they had a bunch of “irregular” pieces that weren’t good enough to be sold, and they asked for volunteers to smash the crystal. I almost felt guilty taking something so guilty and destroying it! Totally made up for it in the gift shop, though, where we purchased gifts for ourselves and family back home.
In Dublin, we stayed at the Four Seasons. We walked St. Stephen’s Green and Grafton Street. I bought a dress and a pair of shoes. In the evening, we did the Literary Pub Crawl – it was great! We got a walking tour and saw Dublin at night, with a lot of great stops along the way. Our tour guides threw out trivia questions (which I love!) at each stop, and at the end, they did another round of trivia for some prizes… I ended up winning a little bottle of whiskey! So proud! Great way to end a great trip in a fabulous city. I hope we can return to Dublin someday, because I know there’s a lot more fun to be had there.