We just returned from a beautiful week in Ireland. Every year my husband has to take two weeks off from his job, and we usually spend a week at the Jersey Shore and week with my family in Ohio. All of this is lovely, but this year, since our kids have gotten more independent, we decided to do something adventurous. We discussed Disney, a beach vacation and I suggested an RV road trip, which as usual, was summarily shut down. We settled on Ireland, hoping it would be just the speed for a family with a three-year-old and a five-year-old. After taking an overnight flight, where the kids each slept about 3 hours, we arrived in Dublin and quickly made it to our AirBnB. It was a lovely little apartment that overlooked a courtyard where Handel first conducted "Messiah." We had an amazing Irish breakfast at a place called Queen of Tarts. I had a potato and Irish bacon cake with poached egg, the husband had beans and chorizo on toast, and the kids shared a muffin and a yogurt parfait. The food was traditional, with a twist, and beyond tasty after the sad little airplane breakfast we'd picked at. Of course, I was too dazed to take any pictures.
We napped and then took the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus which I highly recommend, especially with kids. I've seen them a thousand times in the city, and secretly wanted to do one of NYC, but it was the perfect was for weary travelers with little kids to figure out what they plan to do and just see a lot of the city and hear a bit of history.
We hopped off by the The Brazen Head, which claims to be Ireland's oldest pub at nearly 1000 years old. It's touristy, yes, but also charming and I had my best meal there, the lamb stew that inspired Sydney to make one at home in Cranford. One day I will try to recreate this stew myself. It was simple with large, tender chunks of lamb, a thin but flavorful broth and chunks of leek, potato and carrot that still had a little toothiness. And the Guinness was perfect, of course.
The next day, Thomas and Elise were very excited for the Dublin Zoo after passing it on the bus. Jet lag had us all up way earlier than is humane, so we headed out in a taxi to nearby Phoenix Park with a nice cup of coffee to wait until the zoo opened. Again, it was perfect our kids. The Park is gorgeous, right next to the zoo, and the zoo is tidy, manageable to walk with a three-year-old snoozing in your arms and the animals look healthy and happy, but are very easy to see in their habitats.
That evening, after more naps, we also had a memorable meal at Salamanca, a tapas restaurant near Dublin's Temple Bar/Grafton Street areas. The kids had spaghetti and meatballs which they devoured and Mark and I shared an eggplant stuffed with couscous, chorizo and shrimp, octopus, and a few other dishes that are a blur because I was still jet-lagged. I do remember the delicious sangria and that the place was so loud with an after-work crowd that I didn't worry about keeping my kids quiet, which was nice. The kids' meal also came with a profiterole, which they crushed in about 10 seconds.
The next morning we left for our next destination, to see my husband's cousins in Longford, where we stayed at the VERY special Viewmount House. We arrived at 9 p.m. with exhausted kids. My husband ran to their restaurant for a menu, while I bathed them and put them to bed in the charming loft with twin beds above our room. We ordered a salad with pears and blue cheese, and I asked for duck, while he chose a steak. Three lovely women showed up twenty minutes later with food, that was out of this world. Perfectly cooked meats and side vegetables. We happily fell asleep and woke the next morning to these gardens:
I realized there that Ireland never gets too cold or too hot. So things just keep growing and growing. Viewmount House has a Japanese peony that is 6 feet tall. Every plant there is lush and large, and you can tell incredible thought and care goes into maintaining their gardens.
To me, a perfect vacation is filled with good food and an opportunity to slow down and enjoy some of the things you might not fully appreciate in the midst of the hustle of every day life. Like a trip to the park with my kids or a walk through a garden. Our stops in Dublin and Longford were just that. Traveling with kids can be stressful, but we weren't stressed. Maybe a little tired, but what is more renewing than a walk through a Japanese garden? We're going to do that Disney trip in a year or two, but this year, Ireland was the perfect speed for our family.