For some travelers, planning a trip is almost as enjoyable as the trip itself. It generates excitement and wonder. Nothing else can compare to this kind of freedom of exploration.
Recently, we met with the couple we are traveling with to Ireland to plan our itinerary. With our plane tickets purchased, we had the dates nailed down and the parameters of our schedule set. The next point of order was to decide where we were going to visit so we could make room reservations. For some people that like to live on the edge, booking the accommodations beforehand is too structured. In fact, a friend that I consulted about our trip arrived in Ireland without one night booked. She and her husband flew to Dublin, rented a car and just started driving. The couple stayed in Ireland for a month and never failed to find a place to rest for the night. Apparently, with the numerous bed and breakfasts in Ireland, this kind of travel is easy. For those of us that like to have it all laid out in advance, that is not something I could ever imagine doing.
Coming together to plan a trip is an opportunity to share a meal and catch up. It was our turn to host so we prepared dinner – our companions were in charge of the dessert. [For my husband, letting go of the dessert planning is akin to my trepidation in traveling to Ireland without accommodations—he had to make sure they were bringing something “good” and “not just fruit.” Needless to say, the homemade blackberry cobbler and Blue Bell ice cream met his expectations.] After a lovely meal, we got out our maps and the handy itinerary chart I prepared for everyone – a planning element I developed for our trip to London a few years ago. The chart is designed to plot out where you are staying each night and what to do in the morning and afternoon. Filling in the chart with a map and guide ensures efficiency in travel and sightseeing.
After studying the map for a bit, it quickly became apparent that Ireland is, indeed, a very small country. You can drive from Dublin on the east coast to Galway on the west coast in three hours, which will be our first move upon arrival. Given that our departing flight leaves from Dublin, we preferred to end our trip there rather than drive from another city to catch the plane home.
While staying in Galway for three nights, we plan to take various day trips to places such as Connemara and the Aran Islands. The bed and breakfast in Galway offers a packed picnic basket to take away for these day trips. They also offer an afternoon tea with all the bells and whistles—warm scones, clotted cream and jam will tempt the strictest dieter!
From Galway, we drive to the Dingle peninsula with a side trip to the Cliffs of Moher. In addition to seeing the countryside, this route also affords us an opportunity to take a car ferry across an inlet to cut off about an hour of driving. While in Dingle, we can hop over to the Ring of Kerry on a tour to see those sights as well as explore the Dingle peninsula on bikes.
At one point, the discussion halted when someone pointed out that we had included multiple “one-nighters.” Collectively, we agreed that we didn’t want to spend our trip dealing with the hassle of packing and unpacking for just one night. Given this decision, we turned back to our maps to figure out the best way to see what we wanted without the chafe of one-night stays. This led to a two-night stay in Cork, which hadn’t been on the table initially. From Cork, we could visit Kinsale, a lovely little town on the coast that hosts a museum dedicated to the Lusitania, and we could take a quick jaunt over to the Rock of Cashel to explore that site.
Upon leaving Cork, we meander back to Dublin for four nights permitting us to really explore the city (Book of Kells, Trinity College, etc.). We plan to visit Newgrange and Belfast, both are short day trips from Dublin. Originally, I did not think we would have time to visit Northern Ireland. Adding Belfast to the itinerary really tops off the trip.
All along the way, the most important part of our schedule will be the time allotted to breakfast with our hosts and visiting pubs to allow ourselves to be enchanted by the people of Ireland. The Irish are known for their friendliness and their legendary storytelling. About a year ago a colleague suggested that I read Ireland by Frank Delaney in advance of this trip. In the book Delaney weaves a tale within a tale and manages to provide a storyteller’s history of Ireland throughout it. For my colleague, Delaney’s story illuminates the Irish history and provides a point of reference for the sites. He was spot on.
Irish history is long and full of ancient legends and mysticism. More recently, it has been filled with stories of violence and rebellion against England. I grew up watching the news about the IRA and seeing the images of obliteration left by the bombings. The historical background of this rebellion was never clear to me until reading Ireland. And while I truly understand the anger and frustration that gave birth to the insurrection, I hate that they felt the only avenue of justice for them was based in death and destruction. It has been a number of years since those frightful days, but the history is still alive and this year marks the 100-year anniversary of the Easter uprising, which occurred on April 29, 1916.
In planning a trip anywhere in the world, a little research can really enrich the experience. It is easy to find books either written about major cities or books set in the location of your visit. Additionally, reviewing the local event’s calendar may change the course of your schedule in order to attend a festival or see a concert. I mean, who wouldn’t want to make sure they were in Dublin to see U2 if they were playing a gig while you were in Ireland. Unfortunately, we are not going to be so lucky as to see U2, but a little gem of a festival is taking place in Dublin the week we are there: the International Literature Festival.
Regardless of your research or plans, keep your schedule loose and stay curious. After all, vacation travel is about taking in a culture and having an experience that colors your view of the world we live in – it’s not just about ticking off a list of places to say you’ve seen in your lifetime. As the old adage goes, the journey is the reward – enjoy it and savor it.