Category Archives: Ireland

Ireland with Kids: Water, Water Everywhere

Parenting Lesson #17: Never go ANYWHERE without an extra change of clothes. Once our kids reached the age where they could reliably hold their bodily wastes until a toilet can be found, we stopped treating every trip outside our home as an expedition. OK, we still routinely bring a little something edible because they refuse to eat normal, adult-sized meals at normal, prescribed mealtimes. But long gone are the days when each kid had her own spare change of clothes, undergarments, and shoes in a bag, “just in case.” Ha! That will teach us.

A full summer of daily swim lessons had the girls eager to show us their new skills. Sister Bear was already proficient from our backyard pool in Houston but Baby Bear wasn’t quite swimming unassisted when we moved east. So when Uncle T offered to take us all to his community pool, the girls jumped at the chance. So off we go to the center with T and cousin O. I take the girls into the women’s locker room to change and shower whilst the menfolk do the same on their side. We meet up in the pool and, as PB and I are putting the baskets with our belongings on the shelf, BB decides to commence her swim. Except that her reach still exceeds her grasp. We turn around to see her underwater and the lifeguard holding out a pole for her to grab.

Lifeguard to 5-yr-old: Grab the pole.

5-yr-old: glub

Lifeguard to 5-yr-old (louder): Grab. The. Pole.

5-yr-old: sputter splash

I jump in and pull her head above water. She hadn’t been under long enough to get scared so she’s quite pleased with herself. Look ma! Um, yes, dear, I was looking. While you sank like a stone.

Meanwhile I’m thinking, “I don’t know how they train lifeguards in Ireland but if a US lifeguard sees a child in trouble I’m pretty sure he jumps in the pool.” He’s probably thinking, “I don’t know how they do things in the US but I’m pretty sure Parenting Lesson #3 is don’t turn your back on a small child near a pool while you put away your small clothes.”

Crisis averted, we let BB show off all her new “skills,” play some games with SB and O and then spend some time at their local library before heading back.

After lunch we head to Myrtleville beach so the girls can get their promised visit to the beach. The last beach we went to was in Florida so we warned them that this would be different. At 65F with a light drizzle, this wasn’t going to be a splash-in-the waves kind of beach but more of a dip-your-piggies-and-run-back-to-Mama-shrieking thing. OK, Mama.

Sure enough, the waves are breaking, the mist is misting, and the seascape was beautiful and wild.

Myrtleville Beach

Myrtleville Beach

Off come the shoes. In go the toes …

Myrtleville Beach

In for a penny…

…toes turn to ankles, then knees and pretty soon both girls are soaked to their waists.

Myrtleville Beach

…in for a pound

They stop just short of throwing themselves headlong in to the surf. This goes on for a good 45 minutes. I keep expecting them to start complaining of being cold but they’re having too much fun.

We wrap them up in their raincoats for the 30 minute ride back to T’s. Nary a word of complaint.

Soggy little bears

Soggy little bears

Never underestimate a child’s desire to get wet!

Ireland with Kids: Driving Wicklow Gap

When we started talking about returning to the international travel we did before kids, my head was filled with thoughts of new horizons, countries unvisited, sights unseen. Central America, South Africa, New Zealand. PB’s list consisted of Ireland and the Philippines, two countries we’ve already been to (Ireland twice) so that we could visit his far-flung relatives. Again. I have nothing against either of these places, nor of his kin, but come on! Let’s go somewhere I can practice my Spanish, someplace that qualifies as another notch on the travel belt, someplace we won’t have the safety net of family.

OK, Ireland it is. BUT. If we’re going to Ireland, again, and you want to spend a lot of time in Cork with your brother, again, then I’m getting some time in Dublin. I mean, how many times can one go to Ireland and not visit Dublin? So I got my three days in Dublin, PB begrudging me every day in the old country not spent with his brother, and I feel that while we certainly didn’t see every little thing, I got the sense of the place.

The other thing I negotiated was that we would drive between Dublin and Cork instead of taking the train as we had done the last time. This way we could take our time getting down there (it’s less than three hours away) and maybe even throw in a side trip or two. The drive wasn’t a hard sell since we would need a car in Cork anyway but the side trips were  begrudgingly accommodated as long as they didn’t take too much time away from the family visit.

OK, back to the airport to pick up the car and begin the adventure of driving on the wrong side of the road. With kids. Since I’m prone to motion sickness, I’m the driver. The staying on the left part I master quickly enough, helped along by PB who spends the entire trip quietly reminding me, “Drive on the left,” whenever we approach a turn. Good thing I’m comfortable with a manual transmission. Um, yes, when I can shift with my right hand like nature intended. Finding 3rd gear with my left hand I struggle with intermittently the whole trip. I am now supremely happy to learn that the European map I bought and preloaded onto our TomTom GPS device a) actually finds our current location in Dublin and b) knows where both Wicklow and the bro-in-law’s are. We’re off.

As a born-again camper, I had decided that if we couldn’t camp in Ireland (and you can, but that was out of my hands this time) at least we could get some gentle hiking in. So I routed us from Dublin to Cork through the stark but beautiful Wicklow Mountains. No sooner did we leave the nice big highway for those delightfully charming, narrow, windy Irish back-country roads then BB loses her breakfast. Wait. BB? Sister’s the one who’s supposed to get sick in these situations. It seems I’ve passed on my motion sickness to not one but both of my offspring. Let’s hope they got some of my better qualities as well.

She’s shrieking hysterically in the back seat and I do a highly illegal and dangerous maneuver the wrong way down a one-way lane to get us to where we can pull over and assess the situation. The clothes are completely trashed and the back seat and seat belt are covered in vomit. We strip the child naked by the side of the road, rinse her off with some bottled water, dress her in clean clothes, sequester the soiled clothes in a plastic bag  stuffed in the hatchback, and clean up the back seat the best we can. Which isn’t very well, judging by the smell that permeates through the cabin.  Sea Bands don’t work for shit. Once she’s cleaned up, BB recovers nicely and we continue on our way.

Wicklow gap was breezy and misty but the girls loved clambering over the big rocks and it was a nice break during the long car ride.

stark terrain

Beautiful heather carpets the landscape

kids on rocks

Nature’s playground

The fresh, cool mountain air and ramble through the heathers and over the rocks has left us refreshed and ravenous. Time to find a nice little restaurant by the side of the road.

Maybe in the next village.

Is this a village?

Ooh, there’s a pub. Closed until 4 pm.

Despite having planned our route down to the kilometre, I have failed once again to anticipate the need to provide sustenance for my children. We get back on the main highway and eventually find a Tesco grocery store that sells prepared sandwiches.We eat in the car. With the windows open because it’s still somewhat rank from the earlier episode.

I had with great forethought programmed T’s address in B- Park into TomTom before we left the US. Very grateful to have turn-by-turn navigation covered so I could focus on driving on the left and finding 3rd gear, I brush off PB’s growing alarm that we are going the wrong way.

PB: Where is this thing taking us?

Me: Look, it says right here, we’re going to B- Park.

PB: This is taking us back by the Cork airport.

Me: ?? No, I programmed in your brother’s address.

PB: This is wrong.

Me: Well, we’re almost there. Let’s see where it takes us.

TomTom did indeed take us to B-Park in Cork. The other B- Park. There are two!! Good thing I had also programmed in the name of the hill close to where they live before deciding I could do better than that and get us all the way to the exact house. Thirty minutes later we are climbing the memorable hill into the old B- Park.

T's apartment

The girls were delighted to be reunited with cousins O and M and the rest of the evening passed pleasantly.

Dublin with Kids: From the Dublin Zoo to the Dead Zoo with some unanticipated quantum mechanics

Two must-see attractions for traveling in Dublin with kids are the Dublin Zoo and the so-called “Dead Zoo.” Our order of events was entirely dictated by the forecast which called for perfect park weather on Day 2 and rain on Day 3. Thus we did the live zoo before the dead zoo. We definitely made the right call but if you have a choice, consider reversing these for reasons which will become apparent.

Getting to the Dublin Zoo by public transport from the City Centre involves taking the 46A bus to its terminus at the southeastern edge of Phoenix park and walking for about 15 minutes to the entrance of the zoo. If you don’t have a good map of the park, stick to the road because there’s little signage within the park. Actually, there’s little signage anywhere and we found ourselves following other travelers with short people and hoping for the best.

The Dublin Zoo is shockingly expensive (44.5 euro) to a family from DC where many attractions, including our zoo, are free. But if you couple this activity with the Dead Zoo, which is free, then the hit to your travel budget for two days of fun isn’t too bad.

And it’s a lovely zoo. Is it just me or is the whole thing not laid out in the shape of a giraffe head and neck?

What animal is this?

The highlight for me was getting up close and personal with the tiger prowling in front of the viewing window so closely we could have reached out and touched it.

Tiger, meet your baby

“Baby Bengal, say hello to your ancestor!”

The highlight for the girls was the multitude of playgrounds we encountered in the Zoo and Phoenix Park. (Maybe I should start a Playgrounds of the World with Kids blog since that’s what “adventuring” seems to mean these days. Patience, mama.)

Playground at the Dublin Zoo

Kid magnet in the Dublin Zoo

Phoenix Park itself is gorgeous so do orient yourself and stroll back to the bus stop this way.

Phoenix Park

Just another beautiful Irish pond

Between the bus rides, miles of walking, playground hopping, and bird chasing, this is an all-day affair. One suggestion: Don’t allow yourself to become hostage to the zoo’s greasy lunch offerings, which included the omnipresent chicken nuggets and french fries. Even the “veggie wrap” was a fried potatoey patty smothered in mayonnaise. The less said, the better.

On Day 3 our good weather fortune finally expired. It rained heavily in the morning and we had to go out in it to get to the Museum of Natural History, also known as the Dead Zoo. It’s been dubbed so because of the extensive collection of taxidermy. It boasts quite an impressive collection of stuffed giraffes, elephants, and tigers along with a giant whale skeleton hung from the ceiling. The first floor is dedicated to native Irish fauna with the second floor showcasing mammals from around the world. Upper floors were off limits but, really, how many cases of dead things does one really need to look at in a day? (Answer when it’s pouring rain outside: As many as you can and then some.) Don’t get me wrong, the kids absolutely loved this place but, having gone to the Dublin Zoo the day before, we found ourselves saying, “Hey, we saw a live one of that yesterday,” a lot. The dead ones lost a little of their luster because of it.

Dead Zoo Whale

Dead things at the Dead Zoo

Since it was still raining we headed around the corner to the (also free) archaeology museum. Not so kid-friendly, I enjoyed it for the Viking history exhibit, with miniature model boat and lots of axe heads, swords and spears. Lunch in the cafe was surprisingly upscale food with lots of cold vegetable salads and tarts. Not quite ready to give up we headed to Dublin Castle and walked around outside for awhile. The only way inside was a guided tour and they were booked up for the next few hours. There was a very cool set of sand sculptures in the center that were some kind of paean to Irish science.

William Rowan Hamilton

William Rowan Hamilton

Yes, that Hamilton

Someday I’ll start a Quantum Mechanics Landmarks of the World with Kids blog.

A leisurely stroll back through Temple Bar with a stop off for hot chocolates and coffees.

Hot chocolate

Perfect treat for a rainy day

An attempt to stop in a Spar for provisions for a simple in-room dinner were aborted due to incorrigible behavior by the girls. We ended up getting a pizza from La Pizza (imagine that) and eating in the room. Not our best. day. evar. in Ireland.

Dublin with Kids: What to do on your first interminable day

You’ve just landed in Dublin with two kids after a restless overseas flight on which no one got more than a couple hours of sleep. Bleary-eyed, you catch your Airlink bus into the City Centre, drop your bags at your hotel, and have several hours to kill before you can get into your room. You know you should heed travelers’ advice to stay awake to adjust to the new timezone but nightfall seems so far away. What’s the first thing to do? Find a restaurant that serves all-day breakfast and fuel up. Don’t be deterred by the fact that the place is named for a dish native to Italy, La Pizza serves eggs and beans at any hour! Plus, french fries. Nothing says “vacation” to the little ones like eating fries at 11 am.

Sufficiently sated, you’re still too early to check in so it’s time to wander around the new city. Armed with only the free tourist map from the hotel lobby, because you forgot to pack your daypack for this first adventure, you head for the River Liffey. It looks like all the good stuff is on the other side so you cross and wander in the direction of Trinity College Dublin, home of world class academics and the Book of Kells. Despite having read the children’s book and seen the movie countless times, the kids are not interested in seeing the actual book. Perhaps it’s because you make the mistake of calling its home a “museum.” Or perhaps it’s because waiting in a long line in the hot sun (yes, there are such days in Ireland) to see an old book just isn’t that exciting when you’re 6 or 4. Especially not compared to a huge metallic globe sculpture that spins around.

Arnaldo Pomodoro's Sphere Within Sphere sculpture outside the Berkeley Library

The Big Globe at Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin

Reflections in the Big Globe

This provides a much-longer-than-expected interlude but when the moment is over, it’s over. And when the off-limits grassy quad of TCD tempts the little ones, it’s time to find a proper park. And that is how you end up in St. Stephen’s Green.

The Green is perfect for children because of the duck ponds, flower beds and wide open spaces for frolicking. And then you discover the large playground. You marvel at how quickly little children can make new friends and with what gusto they throw themselves into play. Running, climbing, kicking a soccer ball, experiencing the joy of movement after the confines of an airplane. Jet lag means nothing when it’s time to play! (For them. You’re really feeling it.) The only downside seems to be the lack of water fountains or restrooms. Bring your own drink and be prepared to walk a ways to download it later.

Pond in St. Stephens Green

Pond in St. Stephens Green

Cooling off at St. Stephen's Green

Cooling off at St. Stephen’s Green

Playground at St. Stephens Green

Playground at St. Stephens Green

Cajole your kids into leaving the park with the promise of a snack. Stroll back along touristy Grafton St and stop at a little shop for gelato (more Italian food) and some liquid caffeine for yourself. Take these into the nearby Burger King and studiously avoid acknowledging the signs that say toilets are for patrons only.

At long last, check into your surprisingly spacious Best Western Academy Plaza L-shaped room with one double bed and two singles and smile as the girls squeal over the leopard print sitting chairs. Squeal over the free wifi. Play a few games of Sleeping Queens, play on the iPad for a bit then head off to dinner. Walk all over North Dublin in search of something acceptable to eat, then end up right across the street from your hotel at Toddy’s, the restaurant of the hotel Gresham. Practice patience and compassion as your kids transform before your very eyes into whiny, needy monsters. Be grateful they wake up long enough to nibble a few bites of dinner. Stumble back to the BWAP (they love it when people call it that) and congratulate yourselves on having survived the first day!

You know what to do now.