Well, we’ve done it. Survived our first week in Ireland. I have purposely waited exactly 7 days to write this post so that I could give our first impressions of Eire after a few goodnight’s sleep (hello jetlag!) and so that I could tell you that we have seen more than the route from the airport to the hotel! We’ve spent most of our time in Dublin, with one day down in the South East of Ireland, at Wexford, so we have barely scratched the surface of the Emerald Isle. But, this is not a comprehensive ‘tell all’ about Ireland, this is our First Impressions of Ireland, warts and all, because first impressions count right?
We landed in the middle of a heavy downpour. Yes, we know, landing in the rain in Ireland is a bit of a cliché, but when we cliché, we do it in style! Apparently last Thursday, was one of the wettest days that many Dubliners could recall for a quite a while, so crikey, that must be saying something! Don’t believe us, see this local article. Apparently 40-60ml fell across Dublin and flash flooding was happening around the country! Yes, someone must have told the Big Man upstairs that the Aussies were coming, because if I’d written this post on that very first night I’d have said that our first impression of Ireland was that it is WET! Anyway, landing was definitely a rough one, so bad that when we finally hit the ground, Oscar exclaimed loud enough for every passenger around us to hear, “We’re alive!”
Riding into the city in the Taxi, we noticed that Dublin’s roads and houses were very similar to London’s outer suburbs. Roads are congested, but drivers are courteous and patient. Traffic is what it is, and like the inhabitants of every other large city, locals just seem to accept that you get there when you get there, something, sadly, most angry drivers in Adelaide are yet to master. The double decker buses are green, that’s pretty cool, and there are a couple of fast, modern tram lines crossing the city. Housing is in grey apartment blocks or red-brick terrace housing in Dublin, but much to our delight we spotted our first Irish cottages, complete with thatched rooves, when we took a trip down to Wexford.
It didn’t take long to realise, that our cheap and cheerful budget B&B is cheap and cheerful for a reason. Three floors, no lift, and of course our room is on the top floor! In true budget European style the room is tiny, and the drain in the bathroom smelly, but it offers value for money in an expensive city, and the hosts are incredibly friendly. Apparently our B&B is on the wrong side of the River Liffey. Yes, Dubliners will tell you that there is a wrong side and a right side according to where your allegiance lies, but honestly we’ve seen some pretty grotty neighbourhoods both sides of the Liffey, so we’re not sure what all the fuss is about. Perhaps all the posh neighbourhoods are on the south side?
So, let’s talk the River Liffey. In every other city that we have visited, the area immediately either side of the river is usually pedestrian friendly, pretty, and in the best cities (think London and Paris) boasts a wide boulevard perfect for a stroll. Not here. Walk on the narrow sidewalk beside the river, and you can barely hear yourself think for the noise of the traffic speeding by. I hang on to Oscar tightly because the whole area is just manic! Sorry Dublin, but the River Liffey just isn’t pretty by day. To other tourists, we’d recommend waiting for the sun to set for a photo. She’s a little past her prime, and twinkling lights in shadows certainly work to her favour.
Thankfully we’re not the type to judge a book by it’s cover, or a city by it’s river, so we are happy to report that just one or two streets back, the Dublin that you see on postcards is on display. The famous, albeit touristy, Temple Bar area is a fantastic maze of tight cobbled streets, traditional Irish pubs, street buskers and busy eateries. If it’s in the guidebook you’ll probably find it in, or nearby Temple bar. There are so many tourist that even we were asked for directions, but the whole area has a great vibe about it, and we can’t help but like it there.
Nearby, Grafton Street is a pedestrian shopping strip. It got a little busier on Saturday, and perhaps it’s crazy in summer, but right now in winter, navigating your way through the sea of shoppers is a breeze. All the Christmas window and light displays are in place now, and it really is beautiful. The kids have made us visit the Disney Store three times in a week, it’s so much fun, and we all LOVE the Marks and Spencer food hall for a quick bite for lunch. Thanks to ‘Marks and Sparks’ the British department store institution, now I feel at home! O’Connell Street over the Liffey is not as pretty, but appears to be a favourite with the locals, who are probably glad the all the tourist are on the other side!
The locals are AMAZING. Everything that we had heard about Irish hospitality and friendly nature is true. Every time that we have pulled out a map on the sidewalk, someone has stopped to ask if we need help. If someone cuts you off on the path, they apologise, if they’re done eating lunch and you’re looking for a table, they’ll offer you theirs. Cab drivers are chatty, and bus drivers forgiving of Aussies who don’t know that you can only use correct change on the bus, (oops!). Considering Ireland is recovering from a nasty recession, no one seems to be whining about it. The Irish look as though they are getting about with energy and optimism, because at the end of the day everything is always ‘Grand’.
We hired a car and drove down to Wexford, a couple of hours South East of Dublin. It’s autumn here and the colours of the country side are just stunning. It didn’t take long to realise that the picture perfect Ireland of postcards is out of the city. Hedge rows and thatched cottages, rolling green hills and colourful seaside villages. This is the Ireland that we came to see, and we loved it! The kids caught their first glance of a real castle, and the medieval villages reminded us why we’ve bought the kids to Europe. Tomorrow we are starting our house hunting in Wexford. We hope that it will be a great base to explore the rest of Ireland from, whilst still being close enough to Dublin to get our ‘city fix’ regularly.
Overall, we are all really liking Ireland so far. If first impressions count, then this tiny little country does it’s best to put on a song and dance routine. I can see why so many fall in love with the Emerald Isle, and without a doubt I think we’ll be joining them. My only hope is that we don’t fall head over heels, or this blog might have to change it’s name to ‘Our Ireland Adventure’ instead!