Posts filed under ireland

Pack Your Bags | Belfast (with Kids!)

If you’re looking for a fun place to get away to- and not have a ton of hassle- I’d like to suggest Belfast. It’s often forgotten, but with easy and frequent flights from London airports- it makes for a fun weekend getaway. And since the tickets are cheap and flights are short- it’s especially great to bring the kids along, too. 

Here’s my quick and easy guide for a great weekend in Northern Ireland’s famous capital city, Belfast.


WHERE TO STAY

THE FITZWILLIAM BELFAST | This hotel is gorgeous and has a great location in downtown Belfast. We’ve stayed in other places in recent years, but have made this our official favourite in the city. It’s just so nice and so well priced. Annnnnd, for any Game of Thrones fans, it’s where the cast and crew was living for a few months this fall. (And we got to share the lift with several of them!) If you’re going with kids, it’s worth it to upgrade to a larger room or suite for the extra space. You can also book an adjoining room here. Breakfast is fantastic, and staff is lovely.

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WHAT TO DO

TITANIC MUSEUM | You can’t go to Belfast and skip a visit to the Titanic Museum. Situated on the site of the original shipyard where the Titanic was built, the Titanic offers an amazing view of the history of chipmaking in Belfast, the actual building of the Titanic, and the heartbreaking single voyage of the ship. The cafes on-site are really nice and the whole experience is very kid-friendly. (And if you don’t have kids, even better. Ha! You may be able to glean more information than we can.) Either way you do it, it’s pretty much a must-do when you’re in the city.

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ST. GEORGE'S MARKET | Every town needs a great food market, and Belfast isn’t an exception. St. George’s Market is open over the weekend and offers food stalls, eats and the occasional live music performance from musicians. It’s indoors, so it’s a place you can go and not worry about it getting rained out in bad weather. Plus, it’s located in downtown, so it’s an easy walk from everything.

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THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY | So this place isn’t exactly a playground or theme park, but it’s great for kids in the fact that they can roam/explore and you won’t be too nervous for their safety. The rocks are like little steps and easy to help them navigate by holding their hands. The coast is there, but it’s so far out that they can’t run there too quickly without you noticing. The visitor’s centre has some nice children activities and, when all else fails while you’re teaching them of the folklore surround Finn McCool, there are sheep that graze along the fences of the property. Voila. All you really need for a fun day out. 

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The Giant's Causeway is about an hour and ten minutes from Belfast. It’s an easy drive, but you will need a car. 

BUSHMILL'S INN | While you’re out at the Giants Causeway, plan to stop for lunch at the famous Bushmills Inn. With cosy nooks and hearty food, it’s a great stop. The inn may look tiny off the main road in Bushmills, but when you wander back- you’ll see how expansive the site really is. Also, if you go on a Sunday- you’ll be there for their legendary roast. It’s served on a buffet… and MASSIVE. Your plates will be piled higher than Christmas dinner. It’s insane and so, so good.

BELFAST CHRISTMAS MARKET | Each year, we end up being there at the start of the Christmas market, so for us, Belfast has a great holiday feel to it. With windy weather and dark days, the Christmas market is a great way to end the day for our little family. I mean, any time I can feed my family without going to a sit-down dinner is a win. Plus, it’s so cheap. Definitely recommend going, if you can!

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WHERE TO EAT

MADE IN BELFAST | This is our favourite place to eat in Belfast. We typically try to sneak away from the hotel (if we have our au pair) for date here, but if that’s not possible, we bring the kids for a lunch time meal. The interiors and locally-sourced menu make if too good a spot to miss. We go to the City Hall location, as it’s the closest to our hotel. Reservations needed,.

FRATELLI | This is a great Italian restaurant dishing up massive bowls of pasta and warm Italian dishes. It would work great for adults only or for the family. It’s got a big dining room, but I’d still recommend booking a table due to it’s popularity. For a rainy day in Northern Ireland, this place is not only warm and cosy… but super tasty. 

What a fun city! We are already planning a return visit in April, and I’m excited to see the city in springtime. Maybe next time, we won’t have to be so bundled up.

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(These coats are all Boden - one of the best British brands out there. Our family is perpetually wearing Boden because everything looks great, can stand up to the crazy weather and stands the test of time between kids.)

BodenBelfast

ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE | TEN | ELEVEN


Looking for things to do in the rest of Ireland? Check out my guides to Dublin and Ireland.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | WILDE in Dublin

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I met my friend, Orlagh, a few years ago at a press breakfast when we were both huge and pregnant with little boys. She was so nice and we just kinda clicked. We’ve kept up with various meet ups, but when she moved back to her home of Ireland last year… well, I was a bit sad. (How many times have I complained about friends moving away from London on this blog? Only 357? Okay!)

Anyway, I’ve changed my mind that her being gone is bad now that I realise I have a friend to hang out with in Dublin. And not only a friend- Orlagh is super hip and just…. the nicest. (Also, how many times have I waxed poetically about my love for nice people on this blog? Only a million? Great. It’s true- I love sweet people.) She held Edie so I could eat and just loved on her as if she were family. 

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Orlagh met me for lunch at WILDE and it was such a dream. The restaurant is bright and airy with pretty pink throws on the backs of chairs. There’s greenery hanging over you and crawling up the walls, and I have to say- the surrounding tables of Dublin’s finest femmes make it a gorgeous place to be!

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We had lunch and before I even tasted a bite, I knew I’d still come back again. The staff were SO sweet and every time our waiter came to the table, he chatted to Edith (calling her by name) and speaking to her as if she would actually place an order, too. Ha! They were all so sweet.

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(For those that have asked about my shirt, yes! It is a nursing shirt, and yes- it is fantastic. It’s so not frumpy and I wish they had a million colours of it. Plus, its only £32.)

But luckily for me, the food was KILLER. I had a chestnut and apple soup (this girl can never resist chestnut soup in the winter) and the most perfect salad of all times: rocket (or “arugula,” if you’re in the US), fresh figs, goats cheese, beetroot, truffle oil… and maybe some kind of nut? Hazelnut? I can’t remember. I’m pretty sure I blacked out. They whipped me up a little pear and almond mocktail that was so refreshing and light. The whole experience felt exactly like you’d hope a girls lunch would feel. I think WILDE is one of the best lunch spots in Dublin, especially if you’re with someone fun.

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Orlagh is just one of those people who has sincerity washing over her words and her actions are intentional. (Example: I asked when she’d be in London next, and basically she just said she doesn't socialise when she’s there because she needs to keep her trips as short as possible to get home to her kids. Respect.) She makes motherhood look so stylish and I have no doubt that you’ll feel the same way if you follow her on Instagram, @theminipost…. She’s the coolest.

There were so many desserts that I really wanted to try, but I had to peace out and leave on a high note of a well-behaved baby. But next time! And thank goodness I’ll have a sweet friend there to meet me when I go. 


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WILDE RESTAURANT | Harry Street, Dublin 2, D02 CH66


Find more of my Dublin favourites in my travel guide or book a travel consult for personalised help for your upcoming travels.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 29, 2017 and filed under ireland, friends, eat, pack your bags.

"Nollaig Shona" from Galway, Ireland

No matter where you're from, Christmas just feels especially right there. I have grand visions of Dallas at Christmastime in a way that makes no logical sense-as we didn't have snow, cultured outings to make annual traditions of like the Rockettes, or any distinguishing factor besides it being home. (And as they say, there's no place like it at the holidays.) 

But sometimes you stumble upon a place that feels perfect- like you've walked into a real Christmas card. And while it may not be your home, it's easy to imagine why someone would be proud to call it theirs.  

That's how I felt when we arrived in the cheerful coastal Irish town of Galway a few weeks ago. The brightly coloured houses all sparked with Christmas cheer as shop owners mingled outside chatting to each other and hung decorations and painted Christmas scenes on the glass panes of their windows.

Sparkly lights twinkled "Nollaig Shona" across the street- wishing those who walked below a Merry Christmas in Gaelic.

So while I'm not sending out Christmas cards this year- I hope you can enjoy this Christmas card-esque view of this special town.

Find more of my posts on Ireland here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 22, 2016 and filed under travel, ireland, holiday, get out of town.

Pack Your Bags: Giants Causeway, NI

 

You may have noticed that I go back to the same places... a lot. In every two year cycle, a pretty standard routine of destinations get cycled through the various programs that I oversee. Edinburgh, Paris, Iceland, Stonehenge, Versailles, Dublin, Avignon, Oxford... I'm not complaining at all. Actually, I fall in love with all of these places and am always eager to see them again. It's definitely no chore.

While I'm really content to see many of the same places, I always am constantly on the lookout for ways to get new experiences into the programs, and this year- it only seemed natural to put Northern Ireland into our final trip of the semester. Not only was I excited to see the home of some of our great friends, but I was also excited to add another country to my "list." (A list that I actually haven't tallied up in years, but it's still fun to keep.) To be honest, we didn't hit Belfast on its best day. It was soaking wet rain and we were all pretty exhausted. I'll have to re-do that with fresh eyes another day.

But we did wake up the next morning and head out to the Giants Causeway... and it was totally awesome. It's claimed (by those from Northern Ireland) to be the "Eighth Wonder of the World." The unique basalt formations out into the water have some fun folklore behind them, but regardless of how and why they formed- it's is a breathtaking site.

giants causeway basalt rocks aspiring kennedy

To visit, it's 1.5 hours north of Belfast. You can park there, or nearby in town by Bushmills Inn and ride up in the shuttle. The walk down from the visitor's center to the Causeway is about 20 minutes. (Or you can pay £1 and take the bus down.... though I'd save the money for the return trip back up the hill!)

lauren and tyler knight giants causeway kiss aspiring kennedy

After you've finished, you'll probably have worked up an appetite. The cafe on-site has really nice local food and picturesque desserts, such as lemon tarts with mile-high meringue. Or you can drive in five minutes and stop for a bit at Bushmills Inn. It's an adorable setting with a great menu. We had their daily special of beef strips in a creamy mushroom sauce with mashed potatoes and fish & chips and were so stuffed that we barley had enough room to finish the sticky toffee pudding that we dutifully ordered afterwards.

A few more things: The walk up & back can be tiring, plan for a walk or to pay the small fee to take the shuttle to the site. | Wear comfortable shoes for getting down there and climbing around on the rocks. | The site isn't free, in fact- it's one of the oldest paying sites in the world. However, it is run by the National Trust, so if you're a member, you'll get in free. 

 


Have you been to the Giants Causeway? Stunning, isn't it? Was the weather this pretty when you were there? I have a feeling we just had some Irish luck sprinkle on us that day... because it was fantastic.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy


Posted on December 1, 2014 and filed under travel, ireland, pack your bags.

Over The Rivers and Through The Woods.

This morning, we are leaving for our annual twelve day tour around the UK & Ireland. It's the standard end-of-semester trip that we take my students on, and it's always so much fun. (How could it not be though, right?) While it's a lot of work, I'll have Tyler there to be an extra set of hands... thus confirming that if he ever gets an office job, I'll be devastated.

We'll be going up through the Lake District, York, Edinburgh, Stirling, St. Andrews and over to Belfast, Giants Causeway (see gorgeous image below!), Dublin, and the Cliffs of Moher. Oh man. It's going to be a busy two weeks!

giants causeway northern ireland

I've never been to Belfast- or Northern Ireland, for that matter- and I'm so excited. First to see this place that I've heard so much about from Megan and Stephen, and second because... well it's another country to add to my list!

We've got big plans for the Christmas Market and the Titanic Museum... but let's get serious: I'm gonna need some good recommendations for where to eat. Go ahead and drop your favorites down below. Much appreciated, love.

 

 

*image via

An Irish Apology.

Last year, 

I wrote

a post

about how I didn't

love the city of Dublin.

The responses were varied.

Some of you agreed.

Some of you though I was crazy.

Last week, I went back

and I looked back through the comments

to find some recommendations

that you offered as highlights

for my next stay in Dublin.

And, woah. 

You delivered.

First recommendation:

The Bank

for Dinner. Very cool place. So cool, we couldn't get a table. Next time!

So, Dublin,

I'm coming back to you.

With my hands over my heart,

pleading on my knees,

and my belly a little chubbier

after discovering some of the gems

of your fair city.

Adding on to

my previous recommendations,

here are some new stops to add to the list

to create an awesome time of your own

when you find yourself in Dublin.

*   *   *

Fallon & Byrne

After reading a comment recommending

this stop for eats,

I was keen to keep my eye out for it.

Luckily, I didn't have to strain my eyes too hard...

as it was next to our hotel.

The first night we had dinner in the restaurant upstairs.

Delicious.

Tyler left with the baby a few minutes early

as I settled up the bill and ordered a coffee.

The amazingly sweet waitress

talked me into embracing the moment alone

and trying their signature dessert, 

the Knickerbocker Glory.

Imagine a big sundae glass layered with

berries, ice cream, cheesecake, whipped cream, & digestive cookie crumble.

Yum.

I also loved their take away coffee bar.

The week I was there, they were donating all sales

to the relief of the Philippines. 

After watching a few hours of coverage on it the night before,

that got big points from me.

And the flourless chocolate cake didn't hurt either.

Check them out here.

*   *   *

Central Hotel

This hotel is in a great location.

Not only is it a stone's throw from Fallon & Byrne,

but it sits just a few steps from everywhere you want to see

during your time in Dublin.

(Trust me, it's a decent place.)

The rooms aren't anything fancy,

but the prices are great,

the staff was really kind & gracious,,

the location is great,

and it will more than get the job done.

Check it out here.

*  *  *

Bewley's

All over Ireland, 

you'll see small shops

boasting that they sell Bewley's Coffee.

Go straight to the source

at

Bewley's Oriental Cafe

in the middle of bustling Grafton Street

while you're in town for a classic cup

and a great view.

Potato & Bacon soup with brown bread.... when in Rome.

Whether you eat inside

or score one of the balcony seats

on a nice day,

it's a stop that,

with it's stained-glass windows & constant buzz-

 will add a little character to your day

without stripping your wallet.

*   *   *

Brown Thomas

I think there is something

really special

about visiting

the main department store

of a city.

Not just one that is part of a chain,

but one that stands alone

as an icon for the city's style.

In Paris, you visit Printemps or Galleries LaFayette.

In London, Liberty or Harvey Nichols.

In New York, Henri Bendel or Barney's.

In Dallas, you go to the first Neiman's downtown.

And in Dublin,

you visit

Brown Thomas.

The windows are gorgeous,

the departments are curated perfectly,

and the prices...

well, they're high.

(It's fancy!)

But it's worth stopping through

and buying something pretty for yourself.

Even if it's something on the smaller side,

like a pretty candle.

*   *   *

So thanks for the help, amigos.

It made my four nights in Dublin

all the better

with your suggestions and guidance.

And now,

I only feel it right to conclude

with one more round of your suggestions

on the best Dublin stops...

I can only guess how great

 it will make next time like.

*all photos original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 26, 2013 and filed under "dublin", "ireland", "travel", ireland, travel.

Write It Down.

I enjoy writing.

(Obviously?)

I can think clearer and articulate how I feel

by writing my thoughts down.

Journaling has always been a huge part

of all of my travels.

If you looked in my closet

at my parents house,

you would find endless journals

half-filled with pages of my travels.

School trips, mission trips, family trips...

They would become immortalized by pen.

It seemed an injustice to the experience (and expense!)

to do anything but that...

As if it was wasteful to forget one day.

And I guess I still feel that way...

I love taking notes, pictures, 

writing favorite spots

we discovered down along the way

to show an odd form of thankfulness for the experience...

That's why this blog is so full of things, I suppose.

If someone can benefit from the experience I had,

it makes it live on and have a deeper worth.

But beyond the journaling & blogging,

I also love writing postcards.

I send them to the littles in my life that are special to us...

And, now that they've received them for a few years and the excitement has worn off a bit,

I get to write them to a new friend who needs them.

And that just makes the experience of going places,

even amazing places,

all the better.

Postcards? Pictures? Videos?

How do you savor your travel experiences?

* * *

I just walked in the door from two weeks

moving around England, Scotland, Wales & Ireland...

capped off by a weekend in Barcelona.

(If that's new news, jump on the

Aspiring Kennedy Instagram

train for immediate gratification.)

More on those later

-as my immediate priority after a 4am taxi is a nap-

but for now,

check out two other places (on-line) 

that you can find me at recently.

NEXT Home Blog | Designs By Katy

Pack Your Bags: Irish Day Trips

First, I need to apologize

for making some people

very sad when

I posted about Dublin.

I said I didn't really love the city

and that I had hard time connecting to it.

So, I'm sorry.

{I actually am, as I get really sad when people don't connect with a place I love.}

Though it was awesome having you pour out in the comments

what things & places made the city great to you

and I can't wait to try out some of your suggestions the next time I'm there.

So while Dublin still isn't my favorite place in the world,

I can't say one bad word about Ireland as a whole.

Getting out of the city

and into the quieter places of the country

is something I hope everyone gets to do at some point in their life.

{And I'm itching to get to Northern Ireland... luckily I have

a hot wedding

to go to there this June.}

If you are wanting to get out Dodge

{or Dublin, whatever},

I would recommend these two day trips.

*****

Glendalough

& Wicklow National Park

If you can get out of Dublin,

it's worth

the hour-ish drive

out to to

Glendalough

home of good old St. Kevin

and his (once) famous monastic community.

The ruins of this long-lasting community

are in impressive shape,

considering how long they have been around.

There is a small museum at the Welcome Center

that will brief you on the history of the site

and then you can head out to see the ruins in person.

{I always like getting some context before heading out to a site. Who doesn't though?}

After you've looked at all the old rocks, ruins & graves your heart can handle,

head out to the lakes for the real treat.

There are two lakes...

the first is about 5-10 minutes away

and it's really pretty.

But keep going on the path

until you reach the second lake

{about 20-30 minutes from the ruin site}

so you can see this.

You won't be sad you did.

If you're in need of a great place to eat,

right up the road from Glendalough

is the charming

Wicklow Heather.

Not only is the food delicious,

but the restaurant is a literary-nerd's heaven

showcasing first-edition works by famous authors

such as James Joyce & Yeats in their

Writer's Room.

{Editor's Note: Remember in PS I Love You when Hilary Swank mets Gerard Butler

on the road in the Wicklow National Park... 

yes, these are those Wicklow Mountains.}

***

The Cliffs of Moher

I've been to Ireland

several times before making it out to

this famous coastline.

I'd call it a "Rookie Mistake,"

but obviously, seeing as how many times I've gone

 that wouldn't really apply.

The Cliffs of Moher

{or "The Cliffs of Insanity"as you Princess Bride fans may know them}

are on the Western Coast of Ireland.

It takes several hours to get out there

and making it out there will take up a day of time.

But is it worth it?

Oh yeah, baby.

Because after you get there, 

you can have this view.

{24 week pregnant lady not included.}

There is a small cafe & a restaurant at the newly refinished visitor's center

that you can find warmth in

once those coastal breezes get the better of you.

Rangers can lead informational walks, 

but from my personal experience,

 it's not anything to cry over

if you miss out on making the tour.

Apparently, there's not much to say about these cliffs

other than that they are really old

and that puffins come to nest there in the summer.

To reach the famous cliffs,

you have two options:

you can take a tour with a group like

McCoole Day Tours or you can drive yourself.

If you drive yourself, will you promise to stop in the town of Ennis for lunch?

It's a tiny little Irish village

complete with an adorable town square

and it will make your day trip all the better.

You have the Aspiring Kennedy's word on it.

For what it's worth,

I've also heard Galway is more than worth visiting

when you're out that way.

__________

PS. There's an

awesome giveaway

happening right now

for a sweet pair of shades from The Sunglasses Shop. 

Don't miss out on the chance to snag a pair!

Posted on January 11, 2013 and filed under "europe", "ireland day trips", "ireland", "travel tips", "travel", ireland, travel.

Pack Your Bags: Dublin, Ireland

I'll be honest,

I might have Irish heritage

but Dublin is one place

I really don't connect with.

You know how some places just speak to you

and you feel, somewhere in your soul, 

a prickly feeling

that can quickly escalate the enjoyment you feel over a lunch

into the hopes & dreams of someday relocating to that city

in order to recreate that experience every day?

Dublin isn't one of those places for me.

While it may not be my favorite city on the planet,

I can tell you that it's a place that you should visit once in your life...

just to experience real Irish culture up close & personal.

Because Irish culture really is charming...

but, dare I say it, better experienced out of this landmark city?

Since part of my job is to facilitate that once-in-a-lifetime experience for others,

I do know a few things that can help make sure that your trip to Dublin a bit luckier.

______________________________________

What to Do:

Visit

Trinity College

and see the famous

Book of Kells-

gorgeous hand-written copies of the first Celtic Bible.

After you've worked through the exhibit, 

you'll be routed through the famous library

that you've probably pinned on

your Pinterest travel board.

***

Take

a tour

with Lorcan Collins.

This guide is always one of my students favorite guides of the semester- hands down.

His tours aren't just walking tours of the city,

but are tours that explain the

Easter Uprising of 1916.

{Think Tom Branson from Downton Abbey.}

He's completely Irish, incredibly smart, alarmingly sarcastic... but really a sweet guy.

The tours run every day from 11:30 (1pm on Sundays)

from March 1 - October 31 for €12 per person.

***

Visit

Temple Bar.

Not an actual bar, per say,

but an area of town that is pretty touristy

but full of endless pubs that will make your visit

seem all the more authentic.

***

Tour the

Guinness Factory...

Okay, so I'll be honest:

 I've never done this myself

but I've heard it's amazing and a must.

So therefore, you must do it and tell me all about it.

Where to Eat:

Ok, this is kinda cheesy to recommend

but you're in Ireland and it's actually kind of fun...

Go to the

Arlington Hotel

for their

Irish dinner show.

It's €30 per person but you get dinner

(a really decent 3-course meal)

and you can watch some fun Irish music & dancing.

I've been twice. 

It's totally touristy, 

but hey, you are a tourist, aren't you?

{Editor's Note: If you're just up for the music & dancing,

 you can go in after the show starts after 8:30pm and sit at the bar instead. 

Shh... I didn't tell you that.}

***

Go to the

Queen of Tarts

for lunch or tea...

or both, if you're a fat kid like me.

This place is so cute! 

Eat a savoury tart

and then relax with a sweet homemade treat

and a fresh pot of hot tea.

Where to Stay:

TRINITY COLLEGE

If you're on the cheap... You can book a room at Trinity College. Like, an actual dorm room.

The rooms are affordable, centrally located, right near the airport shuttle-

but only available when students aren't living in them.

***

WYNNS HOTEL

This is a historic hotel that often offer some affordable rates.

The breakfast is entirely Irish- complete with Irish oats & soda bread,

but the rooms, while slightly basic, are comfortable and have everything you'll need.

Plus, the front desk staff is so nice-

I swear you'll want to hug them before your stay is over.

Located right off O'Connell Street- right off the River Liffey.

***

GRESHAM HOTEL

This is one of the "nicest" hotels in Dublin...

but I have to say, if you find yourself in a standard room-

you'll know that the hotel reviewers had an upgraded room.

The rooms, while really large, lack any feeling of luxury...

and are very hard to keep warm in colder months.

The downstairs is nice for teas and drinks,

but unless you are willing to splurge on a nicer room

or find an amazingly cheap rate (like I did),

you can take or leave staying at this famous hotel.

***

So there you have it...

all my thoughts and ideas

to help give you a good starting point 

for planning your trip to Dublin.

Have you been?

Weigh in with your favorite places/meals/sites below

and help other people plan a great stay in Ireland!

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 30, 2012 and filed under "dublin", "europe", "ireland", "tea time", "travel", ireland, travel.