Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter in Dublin and Dalkey

The Dalkey Doors
Coliemore Harbour with Dalkey Island in the distance
After spending months (months!) trying to figure out how to logistically navigate the country of Ireland with four young children, we decided to focus our trip on Dublin and its surroundings, with the promise that we'll come back soon to explore the west coast and Northern Ireland. The trip was absolutely perfect, and I'm so glad we knew our own limitations so we could fully enjoy our plans.
It was an interesting time historically to visit Ireland, on the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, an armed political and military struggle, which was very respectfully commemorated the day we visited Dublin with planes overhead, parades and bagpipes. But more on that....

First, our plane landed in Dublin, and Rob did a great job navigating the road from the opposite side of our rental car -- he was so brave! We were very soon in the Dalkey suburb just 12km from Dublin City -- a picturesque, quintessentially Irish seaside resort town with Viking roots, 10th-and-14th century churches and castles, and the current home of Bono. It's also a seal sanctuary, and though boats weren't running for the season yet, Dalkey Island is a few kilometers off the coast and is home to a herd of wild goats. Cue nonstop goat jokes all weekend.
Our fearless driver.
Dalkey was gorgeous. Everywhere I looked, I saw the Ireland I've always imagined....
It rained and rained, but we didn't care! It was lush and green, and we brought our raincoats. We pulled up to our hotel, the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, an 18th century castle overlooking Dublin Bay. The kids would have been happy to never leave, with its fabulous swimming pool, fun room service and amazing kid activities. (We've been home for a few months now and I'm catching up on the blog. Just the other day, Charlie said, "Mom, I'd really like to go back to the hotel in Ireland where they brought all that food to our room for free!" I thought it was so cute.) Within minutes of piling out of the car, Charlie found a rugby football on the beautiful hotel grounds. The daffodils were in bloom and everyone was so happy to have arrived!
Bathing beauties
Swimcaps required!
Room service heaven!
Bitsy DOMINATED this cheeseburger!
Our first outing was a short gorgeous drive to Killiney Hill for a lovely and wet hike to the top, which is marked by a obelisk and on a clear day (which it was most definitely not!) looks out on Dublin, the Irish Sea and the mountains of Wales. We must have passed 30 friendly people out walking their dogs in the pouring rain.
Overlooking Dublin Bay
We warmed up in a local Dalkey coffee shop and headed back to the hotel for a swim, room service and a Guiness....which was a lovely theme of the weekend. At night, Rob and I would take turns going down to the sauna, steam room and hot tub.
The next day, we walked up and down Castle Street, and visited the Heritage Center in Dalkey Castle, where the actors reenact 15th century life. We expected cool history...but we didn't expect to laugh so hard or for our time there to be so interactive. This was a highlight of the trip. 
Rob got picked on!
The kids all made coins the old fashioned way.
We ate a fish-n-chips lunch at the Tramway Cafe, named because Dublin's tram routes ended in Dalkey -- we walked over the tram tracks and cobblestones to the restaurant.

The 100-year Anniversary newspaper on the Saturday before Easter
Charlie reading sports! This happened!
The next morning was Easter Sunday. The kids were delighted that the Easter Bunny found us! We tried attending a service in a beautiful steepled church by our hotel, but service times were listed incorrectly, so instead, we enjoyed visiting with the chatty choir as they warmed up and said a quiet Easter prayer as a family. We couldn't stick around long because the Fitzpatrick Hotel had a scavenger hunt and a special visitor scheduled for the children...the Easter Bunny!
Charlie vetoed his button down and bowtie. Some battles are worth losing. At least he was wearing clothes, so that's a win.
On Sunday afternon, we hopped on a DART (the metro) and minutes later were in downtown Dublin, right at the center of the 1916 anniversary events. We walked to Merrion Square, where we found a fantastic playground for the kids. Bitsy fell asleep in my arms on the DART, so I carried her through Dublin until my fingers were numb -- I was so happy to sit on a bench while our big kids happily played. We listened to the festivities around us. The city was alive, but not overly crowded because we'd missed the quarter-million-spectator parade earlier that morning.
Sweet baby girl needs her nap. She slept for 90 minutes while I carried her.
We loved seeing all the locals in the pubs remembering the 100-year Anniversary
We followed the sound of Irish Trad music into this crowded pub and listened for a moment.
We saw storm clouds and quickly ducked into an upscale Italian restaurant right as giant raindrops led to a torrential downpour. The rain passed and after a gorgeous lunch, we wandered another 100 meters to St. Stephen's Green, a 400-year-old park where we fed the ducks and swans and waited out more light rain under a gazebo.
This swan was a biter!
For the next hour, we wandered along Grafton Street, Dublin's principal shopping strip, walking past Trinity College and through the Temple Bar area. Since we were leaving the next morning for Scotland and still wanted a true Irish pub experience, we popped into The Long Stone Pub, which calls itself Dublin's oldest Viking Bar, and was established in 1754. It was packed! Decorated with Irish flags, penants and balloons in the national colors, and televising the commemoration events....we ordered our Guinness from the bar and felt true local color. People were so kind -- one family offered our children their basket of crackers and a young man handed me my wallet when it tumbled out of Bitsy's carrier pocket.
My guy!
Famous Grafton Street
What a terrific experience. It whetted our appetite to see so much more of Ireland. We look forward to coming back and traveling by car to other beautiful parts of the country, but for this particular moment in time, this was perfect. We rode the DART back home, sitting next to four red-headed children -- I eavesdropped as their parents taught them about their Irish history. We left early the next morning, barely making our flight for Scotland when we went to the wrong terminal....but we made it. And the spring break adventure continued.....

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