A few weeks ago I took my first trip over to visit Ireland. I spent a few days in Dublin, starting by visiting a few sights, then attended Pycon Ireland. I went out to the west coast, saw Killarney and Galway and a lot of country in between. Finally, I returned back to Dublin for a last couple of days before heading back to the states.
Some random good things about my trip:
Historical sights in Dublin
Ireland has an amazingly rich history and although I typically don't particularly care for political history, the political history of Ireland is pretty fascinating. Buildings and places that have played a critical role in Ireland's history are dotted all around Dublin. Places like the Central Post Office and the Kilmainham Gaol were unbelievably intriguing to visit and see first-hand. Outside of the political realm, the Chester Beaty Library, the National Gallery of Ireland and even the Guiness Storehouse were worth every second of my visit.
I attended Pycon in Ireland (for the uninitiated, Pycon is a conference put on by the community surrounding the Python programming language). The conference was very small, but I felt like I got about 10x more out of it because of that. Every talk was focused and seemed to be included for the right reasons. The talks by Raymond Hettinger—a Python core developer—and Damien Marshall from Demonware in particular struck a chord. I really left feeling like I had learned a great deal and that I like the Python language even more after attending the conference.
I really enjoyed Dublin. It has a great vibe to it—a great mix of the historical and contemporary. Dublin has everything you could ask for in a big city, but it definitely manages to feel pretty small at the same time. It lived up to everything I had heard about it and more.
I went to a lot of different restaurants while I was traveling around. Everything from bars to fancier, upscale restaurants. However, the best meal I had while I was in Ireland was at this place called Sonny's/Front Door—a small pub off High Street in Galway. When I sat down to have my meal there I really wasn't expecting anything great. But the Shepard's Pie there was honestly one of the best meals I've ever had in my life. It was totally worth a trip over to Galway for, even if their wasn't much else to do in Galway itself. Not bad for $15 or so.
I greatly enjoy plays and live theater. I've been to various theater productions in New York and such and I had heard good things about Irish theater, so I made sure to take in a play or two while I was in Dublin. The shows I saw were unbelievably good.
I didn't really know what to expect when I walked into the Abbey Theater to see Juno and the Paycock. It turned out to be a incredibly moving story about lower class Ireland during the Civil War written by a famous Irish playwright around that period. It was one of the best plays I had ever seen.
So when I wondered into the box office for the Gaiety Theatre and bought a ticket for The Wild Bride on my last night in Dublin, I didn't expect it could possibly be any better. It was. The Wild Bride was even better than the show I had seen the previous night. Both of the shows I saw were arguably the best I had ever seen. I walked away extremely impressed with Irish theater and I already want to come back and see some of the Dublin Theater Festival as soon as possible.
Now a few random bad things:
Anyone that knows me, knows I like a good beer in a good bar as much as the next guy. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me that I really didn't care for the pubs I went to in Dublin. To be fair, I was using a guide book to find them, and I was probably going to the wrong places. However, all the good things about these pubs—all of their history and nostalgia—was kind of lost on me because they were absolutely packed with tourists and people that disliked tourists. I had a few good experiences, but mostly I just got tired of stepping in to see a classic pub and have a pint, then not being able to even find a place to stand.
To be fair, I only had about a day and a half in Galway and it was probably over hyped to me. But, I really didn't care all that much for it. On the positive side, I had an amazing meal at the Front Door Pub, the city museum is excellent and if you want to buy Irish trinkets (which I didn't) it's great. However, after walking through the city for about an hour, I found myself wondering why it had come so highly recommended. Maybe I didn't see enough of it, maybe I was weary from travelling, but regardless, I just didn't get it.
Driving in Ireland with a faulty GPS
After my conference I rented a car and headed out to see the west coast. I didn't really prepare very well and map out the places I was going ahead of time. I just trusted my GPS to get me to my first few cities. That was a monumental mistake. I drove from Dublin to Kinsale (which should have taken about a 2.5 hours) in 4.5 hours and my GPS seemed to have an almost uncanny knack for taking me completely off course in random directions. Looking back I'm surprised I even made it to Kinsale. Once I finally made it to my stopping point for that first day, I never fully trusted my GPS again and mostly navigated myself. I noticed for the rest of the trip that it continued to attempt to pull me off course. It certainly can be stressful to drive in a different country, it gets magnified when you have a navigation system that tries its hardest to get you lost in the middle of nowhere.
Well, I guess that about sums it up. No amazing revelations here, but just a few things I wanted to share about the trip. If you make it over to Ireland, definitely check out the historical sights, the national Gallery and the Guiness Storehouse in Dublin. I'd recommend Killarney and seeing a few other parts of the coast, but Galway just didn't seem to get it done for me. Just my 2 cents. This is my blog afterall.