How to Travel Ireland Like a Spoiled American

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a lot of Americans are still without power and I am reminded of a  young Irish woman with four children under the age of four that I met in Ireland this past month when I was traveling there.. Although they don’t usually get snow, they get what they call “frost.”  I imagine the roads can be very slippery and she told me the Irish do not salt or sand the roads as we do in America. They just stay put.  On rare occasions when they get snow, I was told there is one snow plow in the whole country and it is in Dublin. Two winters past, my Irish friend told me her pipes froze and people had to wait for the Spring thaw. Her family was without power, water, and electricity for six weeks!!!  I cannot even imagine what that must have been like but the Irish seem to take this in stride. Never knowing how bad a coming winter will be, they stock up on food, water, and make preparations beforehand. I’m in awe at their resilience and willingness to just take charge of their own situations. But that’s not really what this post is about.

 Americans like to travel but we also prefer the same luxuries we had at home. I call them luxuries because not everyone lives the way we do, with Starbucks on every corner,  a Walmart with every available item  under the sun and 1-2 cars in every garage filled to the brim with gas no less. In Ireland gas is about $9.00 a gallon so they don’t drive far.

Here are some tips to make your trip to Ireland , a bit more hassle-free and American friendly. Often these tips carry a cheaper price tag as well, so listen up!

1. Do your homework. Scope out where you want to go and how you will get there. Decide the places you want to see and make your own itinerary. Don’t rely on a tour group or scheduled itinerary from some outside source. There are several reasons for this. A.  tour packages can be as much as $1000.00  higher per person than renting a car and traveling on your own. Also, we were able to add three more days  than is often allowed in a tour package. There are other reasons such as seeing what you want, taking your time, not being on some tour operator schedule etc. The  photo of the Moone High Cross was a rare treat we stumbled upon while going from one place to the other. It was not easy to find, hidden away behind a stone wall in the back of a

Moone High Cross County Kildare

farmer’s private property. We had to squeeze through a small opening to get inside the area where it was kept, another advantage of driving on your own. What fun that was finding it!

2. Rent a car and take out the extra ins. too. ( I recently found out that many credit cards will cover collision on rental cars)  Driving in Ireland is not as scarey as you may think. Although there are few street signs and there will be places where the roads are very narrow. Everything takes twice as much time to get to than it appears on a map so allow for this. Rent your car before you leave the states and rent an automatic (if that is what you prefer) way ahead of time. Rent or buy a GPS with voice activation. I’ve driven with a map and I’ve used the GPS both. I survived both times but the GPS added so  much ease to the trip that it greatly added to my enjoyment. note: An advantage of buying  the GPS in the states and loading the European maps ahead of time, will allow you  get to know how the gizmo works before you get into a foreign country.

3. Stay at a bed and breakfast. Many tour companies stick with the few hotels available because they need to accommodate a larger group of people. B@Bs often have about four rooms  to a dwelling. The advantage of a bed and breakfast is Great Value!  and the personal attention. The last time I traveled in Oct. I payed 60 Eu which is about $75 a night  including a full Irish breakfast. (Irish Breakfast: porridge, bacon, eggs, toast, sausage, fruit, coffee, tea, juice, etc etc) We were greeted at the door and offered tea and scones, when we got there. Here’s a tip: Look for the Shamrock. Ireland has a great advantage over America when it comes to accommodations. Every place with a shamrock on the sign is guaranteed by the Irish Tourist Board to be good and I’ve never been disappointed.. One place even washed our clothes for an added fee. Another note: book your Dublin accommodation for the night you fly in and the night you fly out. (over the internet)  It also is a good idea to pay for the night before you arrive as most places won’t let you in the room before 3pm otherwise and since  you’ll have major jet lag and you’ll arrive early a.m you may want to sleep. ( the time change will mean you lose most of a nights sleep before you arrive) Its; alright to book the rest as you go as there are plenty of B@Bs all over the country at least in the off season.

4. So you’re getting your breakfast included in your b@b. Now how about lunch? Just about every pub, restaurant, tourist stop I can think of serves homemade soup and fresh baked bread. This is  your best value and nutrition. It’s cheap and healthy. No McDonalds here, lads and lasses although they are beginning to spring up.

5. Nine to twelve months ahead of your trip watch for cheap flights! Every couple of days or so pop on the internet and search flight prices on as many sights as you can find.. I’ve found May and Oct. to be pretty cheap but I’m sure if you look you could find other months as well. If possible do not fly in the summer as those flights are usually double what you would find in other months of the year. My last flight to Ireland from Roc. to DUB was under $600 round trip. If you live in NY or Boston its may be cheaper as that is the connection from where I live. Also fly in and out of Dublin. Shannon and Belfast will make you connect there any way and charge you for that connection. Besides there are lots of     things to see in Dublin.

These are the major points to make your trip to Ireland American friendly. I would add , invest in a Ireland Tour book by Frommers It can be any edition but be sure to get a paper map with it. They also have a website. This is by far the best traveling tour book out there and will help you with your itinerary.. Its also good just to flip through if you have no real destination. That’s how we found the Moone High Cross.

Another great place to find hidden gems to visit in Ireland is at a blog called (R U IN Ireland) The blog is written and updated often by a fabulously helpful woman named,  Elena Clancy. Elena  writes reviews and travel tips about some of the less traveled spots in Ireland,  some of the best, and some of the most popular, which she will be very honest in either promoting or telling you not to waist your money on. She will even answer your questions or point you in the right direction before you travel as she has lived in Ireland for over ten years and knows nearly every inch of her beautiful landscape.

I welcome any other tips on how you can save money, time and  have as much “craic” as ever while touring Ireland. For more savings tips go here! Or.

If you have any tips or stories about Irish travel, leave a comment below. You can also subscribe on the home page to read more Irish history..





The Irish Americans who built America

In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a Catholic holy day of obligation.  Patrick, the boy slave who became a saint and bishop, wasn’t even Irish, yet St. Patrick’s Day is all about Ireland and its culture. Why is it so huge in the United States?

It’s true the Irish and also Irish Americans have made contributions to the United States almost since our country’s inception, but did you know when Christopher Columbus made his claim to the New World, the first one of his crew to step on North American soil was an Irishman by the name of Patrick Maguire?

Henry Ford was Irish American,  the son of an Irish emigrant father. Henry Ford’s father, William, immigrated to the United States in 1847, an era in history referred to as ‘the great famine years.’ One of Ford’s most successful cars, the Ford Fairlane, was named for his Irish heritage. On the last night in Ireland his then twenty one year old father and family spent the night in a cottage in Fair Lane, off Fair Hill in County Cork. William’s mother, Thomasina is listed as being born in one of those cottages.  Unfortunately like many of the Irish seeking a better life in America, she did not survive her journey and died in the crossing from Ireland to the United States.  Her grandson Henry is credited with revolutionizing industry by creating the first mass produced automobile.

As America grew, she needed strong men to build bridges, canals and railroads. Many Irishmen threw themselves into this back-breaking work. Some paid with their lives in one of the most dangerous of occupations of the time, railroad worker.  A common expression of the day was “an Irishman is buried under every tie.”

Irish soldiers fought alongside Americans in the Revolutionary War, both sides of the Civil War, and every war after that.

In 1780 George Washington commanded Irish soldiers in the War of Independence. In gratitude for their service he granted them a holiday on March 17th.  This became known as The St. Patrick’s Day Encampment of 1780.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed eight men were of Irish descent. Matthew Thornton, George Taylor and James Smith were born in Ireland and George Read, Thomas McKean, Thomas Lynch Jr. Edward Rutledge and Charles Carroll were sons or grandsons of Irish immigrants. The Irish American secretary Charles Thompson also signed.

Irish Americans also signed the Constitution of the United States.

The Irish Brigade, so called the “Fighting 69th” fought in the Civil War in some of the bloodiest battles ever fought. They never gave up their tattered flag, leading Abraham Lincoln to visit General Thomas Francis Meagher, known as “Meager of the Sword” and kiss the Second Colors in appreciation.

Both Meager and Patrick Kennedy, (great grandfather of United States President, John F. Kennedy) were from County Waterford, Ireland.  John F. Kennedy also served in the military before becoming president.

And speaking of presidents, ten of our U. S presidents had Irish roots. They are Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, John F Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

While it’s true St. Patrick’s Day may be a beer drinking, parade walking, shamrock float and balloon festival we cannot forget the Irish Americans who helped build America and in the Gaelic words of the Irish Fusiliers of 1798 and many Irish Brigades after them, “Faugh A Ballagh.” In English it means, “Clear the Way,” for that is what they did for all of us.