Okay, folks, I’m back from my 12-hour tour today, and I’ve processed all the pictures. But I am very tired. I was out of the B&B by 6:10 this morning, and didn’t get back until after 8:00 this evening. I am wiped.

Thus, I am going to bed. I’ll get up early to do a real post tomorrow. Sorry about that.

Why am I bothering to post? Mainly to reassure my parents that I’m not dead in a ditch over here. I’m alive and well, Mom and Dad, just tired.

Here’s a little something to tide you over.

I was lamenting the other day that, instead of swans, the ponds in St. Stephen's Green were full of gulls. Walking home this evening, I passed the pool and saw not only swans, but cygnets, as well. I am relieved.
I was lamenting the other day that, instead of swans, the ponds in St. Stephen’s Green were full of gulls. Walking home this evening, I passed the pool and saw not only swans, but cygnets, as well. I am relieved.

Tomorrow, after I get the post up and have breakfast, I’m meeting Al, Daphne, Ryan, and Keira at St. Stephen’s Green, and we’re going to do some sightseeing together. That’ll be fun.

But bed now.


Tomorrow is the day!

Which means that today is the day that I finally have to finish up all the stuff I need to finish up before I can get on a plane. I’m almost there.

One of the things I have to get done is a post about my final packing arrangements1 – what bag(s) I’m bringing, and what I’m carrying in them. I started finalizing a packing list a few weeks back and did a test pack where I managed to fit everything I really needed into just my Tom Bihn Aeronaut, which is awesome. There were two minor problems:

  1. It was pretty full.Not a lot of room for bringing back souvenirs and such.
  2. It was about a pound too heavy for the carry-on baggage restrictions.

Now, the extra pound wasn’t such a big deal – odds are it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at the gate unless I looked like I was labouring under a terrible weight. And I had packed an extra bag2 to use as an everyday carry, so I could have slipped my iPad and some other stuff into the second bag at the gate and come in safely under the limit.

But I wasn’t all that happy with the Cafe Bag choice for an everyday carry on this trip. It’s a great bag, but it’s not quite as big as I wanted. I wanted something that would hold my iPad, camera, and a few other things, and the camera just didn’t fit into the Cafe Bag very elegantly. I’d settled on the Cafe Bag because it fit very easily into the Aeronaut with the rest of my stuff.

Most of my other Tom Bihn bags were just a little too large to qualify as a personal item as a second bag. So, I settled on my Red Oxx Gator Carry-On as a second bag. It fits the size requirements neatly, is big enough to carry the stuff I want with me during the day, and small enough that it doesn’t feel like I’m lugging around the world. My one worry is that, while it is water resistant, it is not waterproof. But I think a little common sense will overcome that limitation.

So, with that sorted out, here’s my packing list.


I’ve got most of my clothes in a large Aeronaut packing cube in the main central compartment: two pairs of cargo pants, three merino wool t-shirts, a long-sleeved button shirt, and a sweatshirt. The central pocket also holds my laptop in a sleeve, my Tilley hat and, in the mesh top pocket, my 3-1-1 kit for liquids. That way, I can just unzip the center compartment and pop out the laptop and 3-1-1 kit for airport security.

One of the end compartments holds my socks and underwear in an end pocket packing cube, and the other holds my toiletry Kit with toothbrush, tooth tablets, sink stopper, and clothesline. It also holds my travel towel and my rain jacket.

The slash pocket on one end is for my organizer pouch full of reservation papers and such, and the other is for my phone, keys, wallet, and travel tray.

Fully loaded, the Aeronaut comes in at just under 17 pounds.

Gator Carry-On

The central pocket is for my iPad, camera, and Snake Charmer with all my cords, chargers, adapters, and what not for my electronics. The snap pockets on the front hold my sunglasses, reading glasses, and regular glasses3. The gusseted end pockets hold my travel notebook and pen and a few Clif bars.

And the Gator weighs in at 11 pounds with this load.

What Else?

Well, I’m wearing one set of clothes, including a short-sleeved overshirt, a t-shirt, socks, underwear, cargo pants, and hiking shoes. And I have a really cool fold-up backpack from Sea to Summit. That’s the total of what I’m bringing to get me through a three-week journey all over Ireland. It’s significantly less and significantly lighter than what I carried last time, and that’s a good thing. Not only will it be easier to haul around, it will give me a little extra room to pack a few souvenirs – that was a pretty tight fit last time.


I added one last thing to the itinerary last night – I booked the Evening of Folklore and Storytelling dinner at the Brazen Head4 for the Friday night I’m in Dublin. It looks like fun. And with that, the itinerary is locked.

Which is a good thing, because I leave tomorrow.

And then I’ll finally start having some interesting things to post here.

  1. Some of you may be interested in this – or not – but the folks at Tom Bihn said they’d like to see my packing list and stuff. []
  2. A Tom Bihn Cafe Bag, if you’re curious. []
  3. Of which I generally use only my sunglasses, but I’ve been needing the reading glasses more and more, and the regular glasses might come in handy if I decide to, say, go see the opening of Man of Steel on my last weekend in Dublin. Just sayin’. []
  4. Ostensibly the oldest pub in Dublin. []

Almost Ready

It’s less than a month until I leave for Ireland, and I think I’ve got most of the details of the trip nailed down. Which is good, because, as I said, it’s less than a month until I leave. Did I mention that I have less than a month before I go to Ireland? ‘Cause it’s less than a month!

I’ve updated my itinerary for this trip to reflect the fact that I’ve sorted out what I’m going to be doing. It’s pretty much locked down, now, though that’s less rigid this trip than on the previous one – there are more days where I’ve got some plans, but nothing that I’ve had to book. This gives me a little more freedom to do what I feel like doing, based on weather, how tired I am, and stuff like that.

The big block in completing this portion of the trip was sorting out what I was going to be doing in Killarney. I really wanted a chance to take the boat out to Skellig Michael, but – as I found out last trip – that’s a chancy proposition. Also pretty expensive, what with the taxi ride from Killarney to Portmagee, but that’s the lesser concern. Much as I want to see the Skelligs, I finally decided to play it a little safer; after all, I really wanted to take the tour up through the Gap of Dunloe and to see Dingle and Slea Head, and those were more guaranteed things.

So, that’s what I booked. I’ve decided that, if I want to see the Skelligs, I’m going to have to book a week or so in Portmagee to have a good chance. Maybe rent a car, so I can tour the Kerry countryside on the days I don’t go out in the boats. Guess that means another trip to Ireland. What hardship!

Once that was done, I booked the tours in Killarney, and found a ghost tour I can take one night, as well. Those, coupled with the nice walks in and around the town, should keep me happily occupied for my two full days there. Then it’s on to Kilkenny.

After doing a fair bit of research online and sending about a half-dozen e-mail messages to various places in Kilkenny, I picked out three definite things I want to do there: take a walking tour of the town, head out north of town to Dunmore Cave, and head out south of town to Kells Priory. For the trips out of town, I contacted Kilkenny Taxi, and got some price quotes, which are quite reasonable, so that’s how I’m going to do that.

I haven’t actually booked anything, because I don’t really need to for this part of the trip. That means I can decide on the days in question when I want to go where – with the exception that I need to do the walking tour of the town on the Saturday, as it doesn’t run on Sunday. But if weather is rough, then I can head out to Dunmore Cave in the afternoon, or if it’s nice, I can either walk around the town to see the things the tour didn’t cover, or head out south to Kells Priory.

I’m really pretty excited about Kells Priory. It’s open to the public, with no guides or tours or opening or closing times – it’s just a three-acre, twelfth-century ruin that you can wander around. It’s not on a lot of tour itineraries, and there is no convenient buses1 to anywhere near the site, so most of the reviews I read of it featured the line, “We were the only ones there!” Which is awesome.

And after two days in Kilkenny, I hop the train back to Dublin for the last part of my vacation. I’ve got a few day trips booked out of the city, and I plan to make a little more extensive use of the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour than I did last trip, but I’ve left the evenings free, as well as my last two days in the city, so I can finish off the trip in a little more relaxed fashion than previously.

That said, there are a couple of evening things I want to look into in Dublin – there’s a storytelling dinner at The Bronze Head that looks like fun, and I want to try and hit a pub or two that I heard about on the Musical Pub Crawl last year for some music. I also want to revisit Kilmainham Gaol, and take a tour of Dublin Castle, Christchurch Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and wander around Phoenix Park for a bit.

And then it’ll be time to come home.

  1. Believe me, I looked! []

One Step Closer

Well, actually a couple of steps.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly firming up the itinerary for my 2013 Ireland trip. I’ve got all my accommodation booked, and most of the tours for Belfast, Doolin, and Dublin. I’m waiting on some answers before booking my Kilkenny tours, mainly to do with how one gets to Dunmore Cave from Kilkenny.

Killarney is a bit harder. I’m very torn. I’ve got two full days in Killarney, and three things I’d like to do. Each of the three things I want to do takes a day, so one of them has to fall by the wayside. Yes, I know I can shift things around, even now that I’ve booked my accommodations, but there are reasons for this timing1.

So, the three things are:

  • Tour the Gap of Dunloe. This is an interesting trip, where you take a bus around through the Kerry Mountains, get out and either walk or ride23 – pony or pony cart – up through the gap, and then taking a boat down through the Lakes of Killarney to Ross Castle and then busing back to Killarney.
  • Tour the Dingle Peninsula. This is a day trip, similar to the Ring of Kerry trip I went on last time, but around the Dingle Peninsula. Lots of rugged coastline, interesting archaeology, seeing Dingle Harbour, and cool stuff like that.
  • Boat trip out to Skellig Michael. This is what I had planned to do last time, when I stayed in Portmagee, but weather prevented the trip. Now, Killarney Taxi runs a service down to Portmagee to take people to the boats and bring them back again. It’s a little pricey, but not ridiculous considering the distance and the convenience. But everything is dependent on whether or not the boats are running.

If I decide that I really want to see the Skelligs4, I’ll be leaving things kind of up in the air, as I try and book a place on the first day and leave the second day clear in case the boats aren’t running. That means that I may be scrambling to get a spot on one of the other tours on the day I don’t take the Skellig trip. Possibly both days, if there’s no Skellig trip on either day.

I’m trying to decide if I can live with that and, if so, which of the other tours I’d take on the off day. That means no booking stuff in Killarney just yet.

I talked to some friends of my parents over the Christmas break. They used to live in Ireland, they gave me some good pointers of things to look for. I’ve found that a number of them – including the Avoca Handweavers – are covered in some of my day tours. Others, like the Lisdoonvarna fair, are at the wrong time of year, but I’ll at least be in the nearby area.

Last bit I wanted to mention: I was having some trouble settling on accommodation in Kilkenny. I had planned to stay at Butler House, which is the dower house to Kilkenny Castle, and right next door to it. But the more I looked at it, the more I was put off by the price. Eventually, I decided to check out some other B&Bs in Kilkenny. The first three I tried had no rooms for the days I was going to be in Kilkenny. My friend Chris5 said, essentially, that I’d be a fool not to splurge a little bit on Butler House, considering that it might be a long time before I went back to Ireland. I caved in and booked at Butler House, and am looking forward to staying there.

We’re in the home stretch as far as planning goes. I’m starting to look at my luggage, now, to see if I can reduce what I bring with me and have to lug around. I’ve got some plans.

  1. Mainly, I want to be able to spend my birthday evening in a pub in Doolin listening to music, and don’t want to steal time from Kilkenny and Dublin. []
  2. I’m planning on riding, myself. []
  3. Not, you’ll notice, riding myself. Commas matter. []
  4. And I do want to see them. []
  5. “I’m good at spending Rick’s money.” []

Doolin Details

This past week, I booked my accommodations for the Doolin portion of my trip. I had originally planned to stay at Nellie Dee’s, which looks like an awesome B&B, but then I found out that McGann’s Pub also rents rooms. Given that one of my objectives  on this trip is to spend more time in the pubs1 to hear more of the live traditional music, and that Doolin is famous for its music pubs2, I decided to book there, instead.

I’ve got four nights in Doolin, with three full days to do stuff in the area. And four full evenings to sit in one of the three pubs and listen to whatever music is going on.

Getting from Belfast to Doolin is going to take all day. Train to Dublin, change stations3, train to Galway, then bus to Doolin. Looking at the schedules, that should get me into Doolin in the early evening of May 31.

So, what to do in Doolin during the day4? Well, I want to take the ferry out to the Aran Islands. Doolin Ferries offers a cruise that gives me four hours on Inisheer and then takes me past the Cliffs of Moher. If I take the noon ferry, it looks like I’ll be heading past the Cliffs around sunset, which would be awesome for some pictures.

I’d also like to see the Doolin Caves, which look to be within walking distance of the town5. Ideally, I’d also like to get on one of the Burren walks run by Burren Wild, though I’ll have to see about arranging a taxi drop-off and pick-up. There’s this taxi service run by the man who used to run McGann’s pub, so I should be able to set something up when I get there.

That’s one day for the trip to the Aran Islands, and one day for the Doolin Cave and either a Burren Wild tour or walking some of the trails near the village6. Day three7 I’m leaving open, either for more exploration of the area, or a day-trip out to Inishmore or a bus trip to the Cliffs of Moher. We’ll have to see how I’m feeling that day. The important bit is that I’ll be in a pub each evening, listening to music.

And that’s stage two of my next Ireland trip. Now to start looking at Killarney and Kilkenny.


  1. Well, you know what I mean. []
  2. That is, after all, one of the reasons I’m spending some time there. []
  3. North-south trains seem to run out of Connolly station, while east-west trains run out of Heuston station. []
  4. Besides alliterate, of course. []
  5. Well, I think it is. Of course, the town of Doolin is pretty widely scattered, so it’s hard to be certain. []
  6. To places like Doonagore Castle, Ballinalacken Castle,  and even the Cliffs of Moher, if I’m feeling stroppy. []
  7. Which also happens to be my birthday. []

Belfast is Shaping Up

I spent some time over the past couple of days figuring out how I’m going to be spending my time in Belfast, the first stop on my Ireland trip for next summer. Surprise, surprise: I’m not going to have the time to do all the things I want to do. But I’m going to get to do a lot of them.

The first couple of days, while I’m feeling the crappiest from the flight over, I’m going to spend on the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour, seeing the city as a whole and stopping at all the interesting spots I didn’t make time to see last time. I’m going to take it easy, and keep in mind I have two whole days to do this, though if I find that’s too long, I’ve got the option of taking an afternoon to go see Belfast Castle and climb Cave Hill. But the Cave Hill walk is about three to four hours, so that – plus a lunch or dinner at Belfast Castle – will take the entire afternoon. We’ll see.

But the Hop On/Hop Off tour will take me to the Peace Wall and the murals on Shankhill Road and Falls Road, and to Crumlin Road Jail, and Stormont with the parliament buildings, and Queen’s University1, and probably several other places I don’t yet know that I want to see.

The company also offers a package deal – 48 hours of Hop On/Hop Off bus tour with a bus tour to the Giant’s Causeway (and Carrick a Rede, and the Glens of Antrim, and Dunluce Castle, and Carrickfergus Castle, and… you get the idea) for £30. That’s good for me, because it’ll give me another chance to see the Antrim coast, and maybe it won’t be raining the entire time2.

Aside from that, I want to take a day trip out the Marble Arch Caves, and maybe another one to Downpatrick, to see Down Cathedral and St. Patrick’s grave. I’m thinking I can do that the same day I head out for a nice walk to the Giant’s Circle, just outside of Belfast.

I also want to make sure I get to try The Barking Dog restaurant. It was recommended to me last time, but I couldn’t get a seat, so I’ll give it another try3 this time. And any other restaurants that get recommended.

So, with that stuff in mind, I’ve updated my itinerary. Have a look, if you’re so inclined.

  1. I saw the outside several times last time I was in Belfast. This time, I want to take the tour. []
  2. A man can dream, right? []
  3. Or two, or three, or whatever. []

One (Maybe Two) Steps Closer

Today, I booked my tickets.

Now, I really wanted to have only one stop on this flight1, and I spoke to some other travelers last time who recommended Aer Lingus, so I tried to make that happen. I was successful, but ran into a couple of snags. First, I had to travel through the US. Not a huge deal, but I’ve heard far too many TSA horror stories to be completely comfortable with flying through their jurisdiction2. Still, if it saves me four to six hours sitting in another airport or on another plane, I’ll take it.

The second hitch is that all the Satruday flights, which I had intended to take, were full3. After thinking long and hard4, I decided to fly on Friday, instead. That’ll cost me one more vacation day, but I can live with that. So, I booked the Friday flight, with a return flight on Sunday three weeks later.

That gives me a total of 23 days in Ireland.

Once I had the flights confirmed, I e-mailed The Old Rectory in Belfast to book my stay there. I was very flattered that Mary remembered me (and this blog), and am just waiting for final confirmation of that booking before I check it, too, off my list.

I’ve still got eight and a half months before my trip, but even doing this little bit of planning has got me excited to see Ireland all over again.


  1. Flying non-stop from Winnipeg to Dublin is still just a fool’s dream, but I really didn’t want to go through London or Amsterdam. []
  2. Of course, I happily drive down into the US at least once a year, and never have any problems. It’s really just the TSA I’m scared of. []
  3. According to the Aer Lingus site, anyway. Some reseller sites still listed seats on the Saturday flight, but didn’t offer little things like being able to choose my seat. I wanted to be able to choose my seat. []
  4. Close to two whole minutes. []

Starting Early

I’ve decided to head back to Ireland next summer. Three more weeks of touring that amazing island. I’ve even roughed out an itinerary for this trip you can see here.

I loved my last trip, but I learned a fair bit, and missed some things, and hope to make this trip even better. I’m still planning on relying on public transport – no car rental – so the format for my trip is going to be about the same as last time. But here are some things I’m thinking about, in no particular order:

  • Pack lighter. I wasn’t terribly overburdened, but I was carrying some dead weight that I didn’t really need, which reduced how much I could bring back as souvenirs.
  • Check to see if I can get a reasonable roaming package for my iPhone/iPad to save some hassle getting set up on the Irish network.
  • Start in Belfast. Belfast was my last stop on the previous trip, and I just didn’t have the energy left to focus on it the way it deserved. I feel I missed a lot there, and want to correct that. So, I’ll head there from the plane in Dublin, and see it while I’m fresh.
  • Take better advantage of the hosts and concierges at the guest houses, B&Bs, and hotels. Whenever I had a question, they were ready and happy to answer and advise, but I didn’t ask as much as I should, and I think that meant I missed out on a lot.
  • Spend more time in pubs. I always feel awkward in pubs, not being a drinker, but that’s where the music is, and that’s where the social life is. If I want traditional music and less-touristy interactions with the locals, this is what I need to do.
  • See the south-east. I’ll spend a few days in Kilkenny, and want to take some day trips from there and Dublin to see a little more of that area. I sort of missed it entirely on the last trip.
  • Leave more blank days in the schedule so that I can take advantage of interesting things that come up.
  • Be a little more touristy. Take the tours of places like Christchurch, the GPO, the Guinness Storehouse, etc.
  • Make sure to see the Rock of Cashel – take the bus out from Dublin one day.
  • There are trips running from Killarney out to harbours that have boats going out to Skellig Michael. That’ll give me another chance to see the Skelligs, and won’t “strand” me somewhere without other amusements if the boats don’t run1.
  • Go in a different time of year. Not that going in the fall was bad, but I’d like to see the country in a different season.

The only two cities I’m staying in that I stayed in last time are Dublin and Belfast. Galway and Londonderry are other place I’d like to revisit, but I need to balance my time, and there are lots of new things to see and experience.  I’d like to try and get back to Tara, Newgrange, the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and Carrick-a-Rede if I can do that when it’s not raining.

So, there’s the plan. I’ve got several months before I can start actually booking stuff, but the research has begun.

  1. That’s not really fair. Portmagee was lovely, and the Moorings was a very nice B&B, but being in a larger town means that, in the event of weather that keeps the boats from going out, there’s still stuff I can do without being soaked to the skin. []