Sunday, May 12, 2013

Traveling Betty Style: Part 1

The gifts are unpacked, our suitcases are stowed away, and we are back to our daily routines. Mostly. I keep finding myself mentally drifting away to memories from our wedding and honeymoon. Good thing we have a lot of photos to help keep these memories fresh!

When we decided on heading to Europe for our honeymoon, Operation Savings went into full effect. We didn't want to backpack across the countryside; we wanted to see it in full Buckhead Betty style, staying in nice accommodations and living it up with dining out. Thankfully, we had a year to plan and save our pennies, so not only did we get to enjoy Europe for all it was, we also didn't blow our budgets in the process. A full two weeks in Europe (or anywhere) is doable if you plan accordingly. So, as part of my little recap here on the blog, I want to share a few of the things we did and learned along the way. Just in case you are planning a little getaway of your own to these two fair countries someday :)

The first half of our trip was spent in Ireland. Rather than driving around the country for the whole week, we decided to balance "relaxing honeymoon" with "tourist honeymoon," spending three days and three nights in each of two little fishing villages. By choosing a "home base" for a few days, we got to relax, slow down our pace and still see enough to satisfy our exploring bug. Our first stop was Doolin, on the western side of Ireland.

Doolin is a tiny town with big claims to fame. Home to a few famous tourist attractions, there is a lot to do while staying in a town with only a few hundred residents, a few pubs and tons (and tons) of cows and sheep (seriously, they were everywhere).

 While we rented a car for the trip, we found that it was most cost-efficient to walk everywhere we could in each town. This saved on fuel, the remaining tank of which was actually reimbursed to us when we returned the car later in the week. Go Ireland!

We chose to stay at bed and breakfasts through our entire trip. A B&B is a fun way to meet the locals and also get a hearty, HUGE breakfast as part of the cost of your room. The breakfasts we had throughout our trip were amazing. Cooked to order full Irish Breakfasts, French toast, cheese boards, fruit, yogurts and cereals -- the works. My favorite? The little Irish soda bread scones and jam, with a huge pot of Irish breakfast tea.
This was just the buffet portion of this B&B meal. You had this -- PLUS the cooked-to order hot meal. Oh my. So good.

BB tip: If we had not been gluttonous by still having three full meals a day (we were coming off of Wedding Diet, so we may have splurged on eating a little), the B&B breakfast can actually get you through a big portion of the day -- cutting down on lunch dollars later.

The only thing on the whole honeymoon that didn't go to plan was our cruise out to the Aran Islands. The weather was particularly stormy and windy that week, so they didn't have any cruises the whole three days we were there. But that's ok -- we fit in a lot of other things, instead! A few highlights ...

All through the country and especially in the Burren, there are these old rock walls made by farmers.

The Burren: this massive region of Ireland is made up of huge limestone rocks. And grass. And that's it. Rocks and more rocks and grass and cows. It was other-worldly, barren and stunningly beautiful.

BB tip: Go on a free hike of the Burren for a day. You can find short paths throughout, or do what we (accidentally) did, and end up on a 9-mile trek up the side of the Burren itself. Woops! At least we earned our pints that day :) 

Our view at the top of the Burren. As we sat there having asthma attacks from the climb.
We were smiling by the time we hit the other side. All downhill from here, and towards the sea!
Cliffs of Moher: these cliffs off the edge of the peninsula are breathtaking, and it's easy to see why they are one of Ireland's most-visited attractions. Seriously, just go. It's hard to detail out in words why.

BB tip: Go to the Cliffs in the evening after the visitor center closes, when entrance fees are free. Plus, the sunset on the Cliffs is stunning at that time of day. 

Pubs: But of course. We went to a pub every single day we were in Ireland (we would have in Scotland, too, but the Scottish Highlands were a bit more remote, so we just drank whiskey in the B&B, ha!). Whether for a mid-afternoon pint, evening dinner or the free music sessions at night, the pubs in Ireland are where it's at. I loved the music at night!

Every session features different instruments. This one had an accordion, guitars and an Irish whistle.
BB tip: Fish and chips, like the American burger, is a go-to choice at any pub. None of the bars charge a cover, so head on over around 8PM, grab a seat near the corner with the musicians, and hang out until close.
Our German couple friends!

Hanging out on our last night in Doolin.
Up next: our three days in Dingle!



Julie said...

We are going in September so I can't wait for all your pictures!