I know, I know. The blog’s been really quiet lately. I stretched myself very thin at the beginning of this year. Between editing and producing Countdown to Infinity, moving to a new state, finishing my construction project management certification, starting crossfit and studying for my NASM certification, I’ve been a little bit exhausted. Good thing I snagged a vacation.
But, as of writing this post, I’m on my way back from visiting my brother in Ireland. I got a whole airline row to myself. OH yeah. No getting climbed over by strangers today!
This trip was a bit of a mental challenge for me. I was four weeks out from my first Spartan race. How was I going to keep training and balance that with enjoying myself without guilt? I’m going to get you be the judge of that.
Sunday, May 6th
Having flown overnight from New York to Dublin, we had a whole first day ahead of us. As soon as I got the all clear to turn on my phone, I texted my brother to let him know we were finally in the same time zone! By the time my parents and I cleared customs, picked up the rental car, and drove into the city — my brother was waiting for us at our hotel!
Is it possible to cram five months worth of hugs into a one? I dunno, but I tried.
Our de facto tour guide took us around Trinity College where he finished up his undergrad and is staying to get his Masters degree. The fact that it’s both a college and a tourist destination is a real trip. To one side you’ve got students cramming for finals and to the other you have a line of people waiting to pay €14 to see the Book of Kells.
The weather was absolutely stunning! In fact, we really only got two days of major rain while we were in the country. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t actually happen in Ireland.
After touring St. Stephen’s Green, my brother took us to his favorite bookshop where I snagged a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. (Love it, btw!). Then it was time for a quick nap followed by the dinner BuzzFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr have had me hyped for.
I gotta say, this chicken lived up to the hype. I indulged in the mango-lime chicken and definitely felt like I was in tropical chicken heaven. The Peri Peri Chips weren’t half bad either.
Then it was time for my very first proper Guinness. It true what they say, it’s way better in Ireland than it is in the States.
By the end of the day I’d racked up almost 20,000 steps.
Vacation Tip #1 – Walk. Walk as much as possible. Don’t drive if you don’t have to even if it seems far. Especially if you’re visiting a foreign city – there is no better way to get to know the town than walking around with the locals.
Monday, May 7th
I’d planned to start my first full day off with a crossfit class, but it turned out Monday was a bank holiday. I didn’t find that out until after the mile walk from my hotel at 6 am. Oops. Well, more steps for me!
Back to the hotel and a few more hours of sleep before finally getting ourselves up and about. My brother said he wanted to take us to his favorite neighborhood in Dublin, Smithfield. Which just happened to be where the closed crossfit gym was.
On the way, we grabbed a proper full Irish breakfast, and I let myself try black pudding for the first time. It was amazing. I’m still pretty sure you’re not going to get me to eat haggis any time soon, though. (Wrong country, I know.)
Smithfield is home to the Jameson distillery. Well, an old defunct one. My dad really wanted to go but my brother was adamantly against it. Jameson is the tourist whiskey, he insisted. No one in Ireland actually drinks Jameson. Instead, he recommended the Teeling Distillery down in the Liberties.
No one was disappointed.
The new distillery was opened in 2015 by a family that had been making whiskey since the late 1700s. Our tour guide was an absolute pisser, who may have been drunk on the tour, and I loved every second of it! He had a dark, self-deprecating sense of humor but managed to connect with everyone in the tour group.
After some Irish history, he took us through the active distillery, showing us how they get from grain to beer to whiskey. He also said it was his birthday but I suspect he says that every day.
I was never a big whiskey drinker, but this was amazing. I picked up a few sample packs as gifts for my friends back home. My mom bought a box of chocolate infused truffles and each of us had one. Amazing!
That evening we went down to my brother’s neighborhood, where he showed off his new apartment and introduced us to his girlfriend. The five of us went out for burgers and I gave the obligatory embarrassing stories an older sibling has to give in front of a sibling’s s.o.
Vacation Tip #2: Share! There are amazing treats and local delicacies out there! Splitting with a group means you get to try more of what is out there without going overboard.
Tuesday, May 8th
I finally got the opportunity to hit up Viribus Crossfit in Smithfield. The class was small, just myself and one other person. The WOD consisted of snatches and overhead squats, not unlike the WOD I’d done the Friday before I left. Overhead squats are definitely a weakness for me. They kinda feel like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. But hey, I completed something from my 2018 bucket list!
A little less sunny, we opted for more indoor activities in the morning. Our first stop was the Dublin Writers Museum – a two room display with guided audio.From there we swung by Oscar Wilde’s home and looked at the monument dedicated to him in the park there.
My brother took us by his favorite fish and chips place which gave us massive greasy piles of chips. I had the chicken tenders. But the best part of it all was the curry dipping sauce. The USA needs to hop on that, yesterday if possible. I could barely finish half of it, and packed up the other half for my brother to have later.
Later that night, we went to the Abbey Theatre to see On Raftery’s Hill, a very dark play by Marina Carr, but wonderfully enacted by the actors.
Vacation Tip #3: Divide it in two. Restaurant meals are notoriously huge, even outside the USA. Try getting a to go box and dividing the meal in half to start. Worst case scenario? You have two meals for the price of one.
Wednesday, May 9th
This was the only day I didn’t break my move goal on my Apple Watch, because we spent most of it in the car.
My brother joined us for this leg of the trip, as we made our way up to Newgrange. Newgrange is a 5000+ year old passage tomb. From inside the narrow stone building, a beam of light can be seen as the sun rises only on the shortest days of the year. The symbols carved throughout remain a mystery, as does the tombs purpose. However, it’s safe to assume it has something to do with the winter solstice.
Afterwards, we made our way out to the western coast of the country, past Galway and out to Clifden where we stayed at Abbeyglen Castle. Though not as old as the one my parents stayed in thirty years ago, or the one my family visited in Wales back in 2012, the rooms were spacious and comfortable and the hospitality was wonderful.
Perhaps even too wonderful.
My father got a bottle of red wine as we dined in their main dining room, served by hosts that learned everyone’s name and story. And I had a little too much to drink. Which for me meant a little too much to eat. Especially when it came to dessert.
I made myself so sick from food that I collapsed immediately after dinner.
Vacation Tip #4 – Take care with your alcohol. A drink or two is nice, but it can lower your inhibitions leading to going overboard with your meal and snacks.
Thursday, May 10th
After being cooped up in the car most of the day, I was determined to get some physical activity. On Thursday, my brother and I went down to All Things Connemara and rented a pair of bicycles. We got a good discount for letting them know we were referred by Abbeyglen Castle, and locks, helmets, and visibility vests were included in the fee.
After stocking up on protein bars and liquids, we set off for Roundstone, about 23 kilometers down the road. We made a few stops along the way to look at the beaches along the peninsula and the grazing animals that dotted the countryside. Springtime meant so many babies!
After about an hour and forty minutes we reached the town, a small village consisting mostly of seafood serving pubs. I stuck to a banana and a hard cider, while my brother downed a beer and a hearty Irish Stew. I think that might have slowed him down on the trip back.
Our return route was an 18 kilometer ride through the bog. The whole big made me feel like I was in Fallout and seriously expected some two-headed sheep!
Two years ago, I never would have been able to do something like that with my brother, and it was honestly the highlight of my trip.
Vacation Tip #5 – Have an active adventure. Whether it’s biking or swimming, learning to surf, or taking a hike, set out for somewhere you have to work to get to. Bring home a memory you’ll never forget.
Friday, May 11th
Brother had to go back to Dublin to work on a student film he is producing, so we swung by Galway to drop him off at the train station. From there, we made our way further south to the Cliffs of Moher. My mother had gotten into the habit of complaining about how 30 years ago there were no visitors centers and you didn’t have to pay for these things. (30 years ago, I wasn’t born. Times change!)
From there, we had to take a winding route to avoid the Shannon Ferry. We drove in towards Limerick and then finally south towards our next destination – Killarney!
Killarney was an adorable town with lots of pubs, shops, and gyms. (I’m single minded, sue me.) They even had a crossfit gym but were closed while I was there.
We checked in to a cute B&B, Kathleen’s Country House. Kathleen herself was a hoot, very animated and opinionated. She gave us a ton of advice on restaurants in the town. We ended up at a pub called The Laurels, where I got an amazing steak and chips. We spent the evening wandering around the town.
Saturday, May 12th
Saturday was a heavy driving day, but we made a lot of stops along the way. Why? Saturday was our trip around the Ring of Kerry, with a side trip down Skellig Ring.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, Skellig Michael may be familiar to you. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it is also where Rey found Luke Skywalker at the Jedi Temple. Needless to say, this area loves the money Star Wars brought in. The town of Portmagee still had banners and posters up from May 4th. (May the Fourth Be With You.)
The coast line is absolutely beautiful, somewhere between Maine and Hawaii.
Kathleen recommended a few towns and sites to stop at and she was spot on with all of her recommendations. Honestly, I think my favorite was the Kerry Cliffs. I made it a point to sprint a few times up the steep trails. I heard someone say they wish I had my energy. It’s all training, buddy. When you want something, you make time for it. I had to counter being cooped up in the car all day somehow.
Finally, when we made it back to Killarney, we freshened up and got dinner at Bricin. Kathleen recommended it, and it shows up on several lists of best restaurants in Killarney. I got to try Boxty for the first time! It’s an Irish specialty, somewhere between a latke and a crepe. At this point, I had been eating so much throughout the trip I had no problem putting the fork down.
Vacation Tip #6- Find your priorities. Vacations are about feeling good. Endorphins and exercise are part of that, not making yourself sick from eating is part of that. Especially important when you’re on a longer trip.
Sunday, May 13th
The end of the trip was approaching fast. We left Killarney in the morning, setting course for Dublin one more time. Of course, my dad had us drive through Blarney on the way and made us stop by the castle. He had kissed the Blarney Stone thirty years ago, and said he needed to “top up.”
If you’ve ever kissed the Blarney Stone, you’ll know it’s a weird experience. First, you lay on your back and grab a set of hand rails. An attendant holds you as you lean back over an opening. You have to kiss the stone upside down, kinda like Spider-man. Finally, they’ll try to sell you an official photo for 10 euro. No thanks.
So, when we finally made it to Dublin, we were back at the Central Hotel. I hopped into a local 24-hour gym that allowed day passes and fooled around with deadlifts for a little while. While I wasn’t setting any PRs that day, I was pleased to find I hadn’t lost any strength either. I left the gym exhausted and smiling.
Then, the family went out for dinner at an amazing restaurant called the Winding Stair. Unfortunately, Ireland celebrates Mother’s Day earlier in May. So, we were the only ones celebrating our mother. I like to think that just makes her more special.
Vacation Tip #7 – Enjoy. It’s a vacation. You will return to your normal life soon enough. Progress is not linear. Sometimes the progress is peace of mind knowing that this is a treat. Life is to be lived. There is always going to be time to return to normal once you get home.
Monday, May 14th
One more crossfit class! This time at Crossfit Navitas. This was much more like I’m used to from Crossfit Hoboken and I will definitely be going back the next time I visit my brother. The overhead squats continued to haunt me, though. I had enough time for a shower and one last protein-packed Irish breakfast before getting on the plane back to the states.
Between the two crossfit classes, the 41 kilometer bike ride, and all the walking we did, I definitely feel like I balanced enjoying my trip and continuing to work towards my Spartan Training.
For those of you who have been following my Trail to Trifecta series, you know my first race is coming up on June 2nd! If you want to support my races you can donate at my Patreon or Ko-Fi accounts or check out any of the ads around the site.
Make sure you sign up for my newsletter to keep in touch!