“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

Planning and doing are two separate things, as we learned from our recent trip to Ireland.  The truth is, we were overly ambitious for this trip trying to cram as much as we could into a short period of time fearing that we may never return to the Emerald Isle.  We wanted desperately to embrace the culture and absorb all this marvelous country had to offer.  When we first thought of a title for our recent trip to Ireland (a trip I might add that we have been planning in our heads for a very long time) would have been a little something like this…The Beautiful Disaster.   There were a series of events, some mentioned in the below text, others simply skipped over for a multitude of reasons.

The first three days of the trip were rather rough.  Suitcases, hotels, new surroundings, lengthy drives, unhappy campers (not just the children) it seemed to be a race of coming and going never feeling rested and never fully relaxing.

The trip started in Dublin.  Dublin is a lovely, large, bustling city, with sounds, smells, frenzied pace and lots of people, oh and lots of beer.  We walked those streets, visited (all too quickly) some of the sights including:  Trinity College, Grafton Street, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and St. Steven’s Green.  There was much more we planned on seeing, however, when the news of a loss back home came, we seriously considered canceling our entire trip.  A cloud of sadness hung over us and washed away some of the charm that Ireland was to behold.  Though in the end we continued our journey, we bid farewell on streets, in churches, and over long ocean walks.  Dublin was quickly visited and quickly departed, but the sorrow hung in our chest throughout our trip.

Day Two – Dublin to Kilkenny

Oh, we had high hopes for our long drives on small streets where drivers drive on the wrong side of the road, where our car was notorious for pulling to the left (wink, wink), where sheep grazed in the middle of the street and ruins dotted the distant landscapes, but with two children tucked tight in the backseat and a daughter who wasn’t the biggest fan of the car seat, our visions of sweet, quite conversations didn’t occur on this leg of the trip.  The screaming from my little one was more than this mama could handle and I found myself all too often asking my dear husband to pull off the road, where I then proceeded to jump out of the car, grab my daughter and walk the streets of new surroundings simply to calm her down.  See, our children are simply not used to car travel. We don’t own a car and they spend most of their time outside walking, in strollers, on trams, in trains, gondolas and other modes of transport…a car is simply not one of them.  The plus side of jumping out of your vehicle is that we were able to get a real pulse for the city upon our footed arrival.

When we found ourselves in a lovely, little downtown hotel in Kilkenny (The Pembroke Hotel), we quickly bathed the children, ordered room service, which I must note, we NEVER do, life felt a bit more manageable.  The next day we set out to explore Kilkenny on foot, all the while making time to allow our children to be just that…children.

Kilkenny is a beautiful little town, worth a day or two of sightseeing.  The Kilkenny Castle is pristine and grand; certainly worth the visit. The playground that is nestled behind the castle was a huge hit with our entire family.  The streets of Kilkenny were clean; the truffles from the local market were to die for (shall I say Bailey’s cream heaven) and the churches quite stately.  We were rather impressed with the preservation of the St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower, and the Black Abbey.   The town was enveloped in a charming warmth and we were pleased with our selection to visit the little gem.

Day Three – Kilkenny to Cork… or so we thought

Oh, the little details you seem to miss when booking a hotel in a foreign country.  The address said Cork, so I assumed that it was in Cork, but I have come to learn that Cork and Cork county are two very different locations. As we drove, and drove and drove we looked at each other more than once and wondered, “Where the hell are we going and where are all the people?”  After what seemed like the endless drive and yes, once again, I jumped out of the car with our screaming daughter, however, this time around, we stumbled across a beautiful, self-sustained community in Kilcullen where individuals are living and working according to Rudolf Steiner’s beliefs.  A belief that, “recognizes and honors the full range of human potentialities and to work harmoniously and respectfully with others. “  I was sold.  It was a scenic place with hard working people who respected each other and the land.  We purchased fresh produce and met the loveliest people who were engaging and making a real difference in the world.  The little area was so incredible, that I urged my husband to park the car where we then proceeded to all get out and take a walk on their nature trail, witnessing pigs, turkeys, chickens and vegetables growing.  It was the thing we needed, fresh air, and time to connect with nature.

OK, back to Cork.  We arrived at the hotel far later than we anticipated and we had also neglected to feed the family.  So, once upon check – in we were all back in the car in search of food, but before that excursion, it is important to note that the home we stayed in felt like a home that inspired great literary pieces. The house was grand in scale, with ancient trinkets filling each corner.  There were stories in those walls and the halls seemed to come alive at night.  I was inspired by its’ history, Robert on the other hand felt it was a bit too distinguished for our family.

We managed to summon up some dinner, fed the little ones and headed to bed.  All too soon Robert’s theory came to life.  Our daughter loves blueberries, so much in fact that after downing about a pint of them, followed up by what seemed to be a gallon of milk, she proceeded to toss her blueberries all over the fine, white linens.  I do not think words can convey the magnitude of this disaster and we kept wondering, “How could someone so small create all of this?”

I was in desperate need of a bath and our bed, was, well in need of a complete change of linens, pillows and quite possibly a fire.  This is where as a parent no words can come close to expressing how you feel and for ways to say you are so, very sorry for what has just occurred.  There was no way to cover up this mess, so we summoned the hotel staff and apologized profusely.

I must, without going any further, thank Jenny the owner of the beautiful and stately Ballyvolane House for her gracious help that evening.  She was prompt, kind and sincere in her concern for our daughter.  There wasn’t an ounce of anger in her voice, nor the immediate need to change the guest policy to state: NO CHILDREN allowed…EVER!  She was incredible and understood completely as she is the mother of three children of her own.  Whew…saved by an empathetic mom.

Cork, well, the sad news is that we never did make it into the city of Cork, but the grounds of the hotel were majestic to say the least.  The trees were ancient realms of the past, the gardens were pristine and inviting and we only wish we could have stayed longer to enjoy the landscape, but Dingle, our place by the sea for the next four days and three nights was calling.

Time of Year:  August
Duration:  10 Days
Where We Stayed:
Dublin – Ariel House (we have decided we do better as a family in modern hotels with family friendly conveniences, therefore, we would not return to this hotel.  Also, the hotel is a significant distance from downtown)
Kilkenny – Pembroke Hotel (we would return here – spacious room, close to downtown, good food and beer)
Cork – Ballyvolane House (beautiful rural location, kind innkeepers, but a bit too nice for our young family.  Maybe next time we will try Glamping at their location.)
Eats and Treats:  Guinness, Smithwicks, Fudge Truffels (Kilkenny street market), Scones (Everywhere), Salads and Fish
Child Friendly? All of the areas we visited were child friendly, though we feel more comfortable in modern hotels.
Likes:  Kilkenny was our favorite on this leg of the trip
Dislikes: Looking back, we might have skipped Dublin and headed right for Kilkenny and Cork
Would we return?  Yes!  Ireland is a beautiful county and the people are lovely!  We, however, would stay in one location for a minimum of three to four days and skip all of the hassle of moving each day to a new location.  We are refining our skills as parents traveling with young children!

Ireland – 1 of 4 – Slideshow

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4 thoughts on “Ireland: Post 1 of 4 – The Beautiful Disaster

  1. You fit in a lot of things in your trip to Ireland! I am Irish and when I saw the title of your post I was getting a little worried about a negative image of Ireland but it wasn’t! I am happy you had a good time and would return! On your next visit you should try fit in a trip to county Kerry (particularly a town in Kerry called Killarney) and a trip to Galway city in country Galway! I am from Dublin city but I much prefer Galway city! 🙂

    1. Hey Brian, Thanks for the comment. We did make it to Galway and Connemara, after a stay in Dingle. More to come on the next 3 posts. You have a beautiful country and great friendly people. And the beer is really great too! -The Schoutens

      1. Great! Happy you got many things covered in Ireland! The beer is excellent – if I can say so myself! 🙂 I look forward to reading your next three posts! 🙂

  2. I was looking through the slides again, now that we have been to Ireland ourselves, and a lot of them looked familiar – I especially remember the chocolate vendor in front of Kilkenny Castle, really nice guy and the chocolate was FAB!

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