Travel plans: Ireland

In December my family is going to Ireland. This is a big trip for us; it’ll be our first international vacation together.

Joining me will be my mom, dad, brother, and husband. Five people in a group is an awkward combination for travel, especially when they’re all adults. Take, for example, a hotel reservation. Should we book two doubles and a single room? Or a double and a triple? Does anyone mind sleeping on the couch? So this has been an interesting trip to plan already, to say the least, and I think it’ll continue to be tricky.

Dublin, Ireland

They key word is “flexibility.” We have plenty of places to explore, so if we get sick of each other, we can split up and enjoy some quiet time. If places are closed for the holidays, we’ll just have to find something else to do. We’re renting a car for some of the journey, so we’re not limited by public transportation. Our plans, other than our accommodation, are fluid.

This will be my second time to Ireland; I was in Dublin for a weekend trip in December 2012 and had a wonderful time, despite severe jet lag. Why do I keep picking cold, rainy European destinations for my journeys? Well, in this instance, it was a place we could all agree on, and the price was right. Flights to Ireland are consistently low from RDU compared to other European airports.

We have roughly eight days to spend in Ireland and are dividing our time between cities and more remote areas. For accommodation, I chose a combination of hotels and Airbnb rentals. (I would’ve loved to stay in a warm, cozy Irish bed and breakfast, but it was just not in the cards around Christmas time.)

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin

There’s so much to see in the capital city, but we only have about a day there. We’ll be getting in early, so we will easily be able to visit a few attractions, unless jet lag sets in. Having been there before, my top sights will probably differ from everyone else’s:

  • Kilmainham Gaol for some insight on the political and penal background of Ireland
  • Trinity College Library to see the Book of Kells, which I skipped last time
  • Dublin Writers Museum, a place I didn’t know existed until I did some research on things to do in Dublin. I’ll have to brush up on my Irish writers beforehand, of course.

And of course, a nice hearty meal, good beer, and a chilly stroll through the streets will be fantastic.

County Wexford

Around Christmas we’ll be staying in a cottage in a small village. Most things in the area will be closed, so I think we’ll just be having family time here. If it’s open, I would like to see Hook Head Lighthouse, one of the world’s oldest lighthouses. I’d also like to do some walking while we’re there…it seems like such an Irish thing to do! Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

County Clare

Jumping over to the other side of the country, we’ll be staying in a cottage fairly close to the town of Ennis. Besides exploring the town, I hope to view the Cliffs of Moher and see the Burren National Park.

Galway

Our last stop is Galway. Other than checking out Galway City Museum and Galway Cathedral, I’m looking forward to wandering around the city. I’ve heard so many good things about Galway!

Do you have any suggestions on things to do during Christmas in Ireland? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Travel plans: Montreal

Next week I’m hopping on a plane to Montreal for my first solo travel trip! I’m excited because I’ve heard so many good things about Montreal. I’m looking forward to spending a few days selfishly doing all the things I want to do, and nothing else. Plus, I’ve been working 12-hour days for the past three months, and I need a break!

Planning for Montreal

Montreal has a lot to offer when it comes to museums, history and food. I’ll have roughly four full days to explore the city; here’s my rough plan so far:

Museums:

There are a number of other museums in Montreal I’m interested in but these are the two I’m definitely heading to.

History:

A stroll through Old Montreal will be good place to start my visit and take some photos. I might check out City Hall and Notre-Dame Basilica while I’m there.

Walking:

I’m crossing my fingers for good weather (the latest 10-day forecast only has one day above 40 degrees) but no matter what, I’m hiking up Mont Royal for the views. And, being honest with myself, I’ll probably want the exercise after eating poutine and drinking beer.

I’m staying in the Plateau area, which I understand is a thriving neighborhood with a lot of younger residents. Sounds like a good place for a stroll with frequent stops for coffee and snacks!

Food:

The more research I do, the more I read about how great the food is in Montreal. I’ll have to try poutine for sure (I hear La Banquise is a poutine institution) and some bagels (St-Viateur and Fairmount Bagel are both close to where I’m staying…I should probably sample both).

As for drinking, I plan on trying as much craft beer as I can. I’ve read good things about Dieu du Ciel, a brewpub with house beer.

Jean-Talon market is also on my to-do list. If the weather’s nice (again, crossing my fingers!) maybe I can have a picnic lunch, if not, maybe I can stock up on things for dinner at my host’s apartment.

Books:

I’m trying to find some Montreal-based books/authors to read before I leave, but my local public library is sadly lacking in that regard. The plan now is to stock up on local books while I’m there – it looks like Montreal has several independent book stores to check out!

Thanks for reading! Any suggestions on things to do in Montreal?

Travel plans: San Francisco

Later this month I’ll be getting away from the East Coast and heading to San Francisco! The more I read about and research the City by the Bay, the more excited I get. My mind is picturing a city full of history, beauty, funky people and butt-toning hills. I can’t wait!

Right now I’m just reading through travel books, blogs and websites to get my bearings before I dive into the city’s rich literary history. If you have any suggestions on what to read, let me know!

Checked out this 3-year-old guidebook from my local library. Some jerk who checked it out before me tore out the fold-out map!

Checked out this 3-year-old guidebook from my local library. Some jerk who checked it out before me tore out the fold-out map!

Must-sees for me:

  • A trip to the forbidding island prison, Azkaban — I mean, Alcatraz.
  • Taking in some art at the de Young Museum, followed by a walk through Golden Gate Park.
  • Walk (or possibly bike?) across the Golden Gate Bridge. Touristy, yes. Fun, yes.
  • Even more touristy, a trip on the cable cars. When in SF!
  • Food: Dim sum in Chinatown, coffee and pasta in North Beach, a trip to the Farmers’ Market.
  • Just taking in the view from atop a hill.
  • Checking out some local breweries!