Ireland – Days 12 & 13 – Kilkenny, New Ross, Dublin

July 6, 2018 (Last Updated: July 1, 2020)
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rain boots filled with flowers hanging from a fence

Breakfast at Hotel Kilkenny was not a traditional buffet. There was a buffet for cold items, and table service for hot items.

A close up of a menu
toast on a platter with small packages of jam on the side

Dad ordered the pancakes, which were more like crepes. He seemed to like them.

a crepe on a plate

Mom tried the eggs, grilled tomato, hash brown, and beans.

a full Irish breakfast on a plate

I was intrigued by the scrambled egg with Irish smoked salmon served with homemade brown bread, which our server said was a popular choice. I pictured it to be smoked salmon scrambled into the egg, but it was actually 2 separate items on the plate. On one end was incredibly wet scrambled eggs on top of a soggy piece of bread. At the other end was a single slice of smoked salmon on top of a dry piece of brown bread, with nothing to lubricate the bread. Honestly, this dish to me was unpalatable. I put the slice of smoked salmon on a piece of toast and ate that. The rest went back to the kitchen. I filled up on toast and cheese instead. What a bummer.

toasts topped with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon
small pieces of cheese in plastic wrappers

After our disappointing breakfast, we boarded the coach for a quick stop in the city center of Kilkenny for a bit more exploration. Since we had already checked out the castle the evening before, we spent some time in the Butler House Garden across the street. Here you can find some of the remains from the blown up Nelson’s Pillar from O’Connell Street in Dublin, 1966.

A close up of a sign
A large stone building with a garden in front
A green sign with white text
A close up of a pond
pink flowers in a garden
A close up of pink flowers

We had admired the spires of St. Mary’s Cathedral the day before, and wanted to check that out as well in closer proximity.

a large church
interior of a large church
the altar in a church with tall ceilings
pipe organ in a large church

A quick stop in Inistioge led us to a “leprechaun bridge.” At least that’s what our tour director Bernard called it. I swear, he was constantly making us laugh the whole trip!

A man standing on a tiny stone bridge
That’s Bernard, our very own leprechaun!

New Ross was our main attraction for the day. It’s actually the ancestral home of the Kennedys, but also an important port for emigration during the famine. Here we toured the Dunbrody Famine Ship and Irish Emigrant Experience with Liam as our tour guide.

a sculpture of the globe
A close up of a sign
A close up of text on a white background

We learned the very sad and interesting history of the Dunbrody and other famine ships, or coffin ships. They earned this dark nickname because of the number of passengers who died along the way. Passengers would spend about 2 months at sea. Most were steerage passengers, but there were some first class passengers on board. Both had very different experiences. Steerage passengers spent at least 23 1/2 hours per day below deck, with up to 8 people sharing each 6-foot-by-6-foot bunk. This led to the spread of disease, and as a result death on board. Bodies were dumped overboard regularly. Steerage passengers also ate hockey puck-like breads that they would soak in rain water to make them soft enough to eat. Imagine these living conditions for 2 months straight.

A large ship in the water
A woman standing in a room
Our steerage class passenger. The person she portrayed died in real life on the Dunbrody 🙁
a fake rat between 2 baskets
A large wooden table
A large room lined with bunks
A person holding up a piece of paper
I found my passenger Owen Daily’s bunk

Meanwhile first class passengers had actual food and coffee on board. There were even live animals that the crew would butcher for meat along the way.

a small, old cabin on a ship
First class quarters
A small cabin on an old ship
A person lying on a bed
a table topped with fake food
An old kitchen on a ship with a pot and wooden counters
The kitchen for preparing food for first class

And speaking of the crew, it wasn’t easy for them either. The first crew of the Dunbrody abandoned ship when they got to New York. For future sailings, instead of getting paid after each leg of the trip, the crew didn’t get paid until they returned to Ireland, ensuring the crew would actually finish their job and come back across the Atlantic.

stairs in an old ship
The crew’s quarters

The Dunbrody was an unexpected gem. I didn’t think much of today’s itinerary when I first read it, but after visiting the Dunbrody I think it’s an important experience for anyone visiting Ireland to understand the sad reality of the Irish people during the famine, but also to see the roots of the vast emigration from Ireland to America and why it occurred.

Grace Kelly and Walt Disney on signs with text about them
photos of the Kennedys with text about them
A close up of a map of the United States
Map of the United States showing % of population with Irish roots

We had enough time after our tour to grab some lunch, and luckily for us there was a restaurant right upstairs with lovely views of the Dunbrody and the town of New Ross!

A close up of a menu
A group of people sitting in a restaurant with large windows

Dad had one of his usuals of this trip, a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich. Between tuna sandwiches and vegetable soup, his lunch selections were pretty predictable.

a tuna sandwich cut into quarters on a plate with potato chips

Mom got the Cajun chicken strips in light tempura batter, and served with lime and chive mayo. The chicken was crispy, hot, and juicy. I tried a couple pieces and really enjoyed it!

A plate of fried chicken tenders with salad

My pick for lunch was the salmon croquettes, infused with fresh chili, fennel, and lime, and encrusted with pinhead breadcrumbs. It was served with the same lime and chive mayo and a medley of salads much like the chicken strips. The various salads were comprised of rice salad, beets, red slaw, lettuce, and a potato mash (kind of like cold champ–scallion mashed potato), and were all drizzled with balsamic.

fish cakes on a plate with salads

The salmon croquettes were delicious. They were soft and tender, almost creamy on the inside, and super crunchy on the outside. Service was super fast, which made for a quick and very convenient meal with a pretty awesome view.

cross section of a fish cake on a plate

Later this afternoon we returned to Dublin, where it all began. It was time for our Farewell Dinner, which took place at Nancy Hands near Phoenix Park, north of the Liffey.

A sign above a restaurant that says Nancy Hands

Here’s a little history we learned about dear Nancy and her hands. Nancy and her husband opened the bar together, but later got divorced, and Nancy kept the bar and ran it on her own. She would break the rules on Sundays and serve beer during the 2 hours when all bars were supposed to close. After she got in trouble, she closed the doors during those 2 hours, but had a copper mailbox out front where customers could knock and she would serve them beer through the mail slot, and so they would only see her hands. Nancy’s hands. Get it?

old copper mail slots

Oh wait, there’s more. Apparently her hands serving beer were not the only reason her hands were famous. Apparently she would also take customers around the back and serve them in other ways with her hands. One of the employees at Nancy Hands told us this colorful history. We were all kind of speechless!

interior of a restaurant with long tables
looking down the staircase inside a restaurant
framed pictures inside a restaurant
“Guinn-tiques” aka Guinness antique ads on the walls

We sat upstairs in one of the dining rooms, and selected from the following menu for our last supper as a group.

A close up of a restaurant menu

Not surprisingly, dad ordered the soup to start (this man is so predictable, haha).

A cup of soup

I had the warm goat’s cheese pastry, really more like a parcel stuffed with herbs and goat cheese, served on roasted, thinly sliced beets, rocket (arugula), and walnut oil.

a dough purse on a plate with green sauce
a close up of food cut up on a plate

My entree selection was the beef and Guinness casserole (really beef and Guinness pie).

a pot pie with scoops of mashed potatoes on the side

It was filled with tender beef and flavorful veggies in a thick, well-seasoned sauce, topped with a round of puff pastry. The side dish was just potatoes though, not the champ (scallion mashed potatoes) as advertised.

close up of the interior of a beef and Guinness pie

Dad got the breaded cod, which was a breaded version of fish and chips (he asked for fries on the side), but not quite as good as the battered stuff. I’m sure this is meant to be a fancier version of the classic dish, but why mess with perfection?

a piece of fried fish on a plate

Mom liked her pan-fried chicken supreme, which was supposed to be stuffed with leeks and potatoes, but wasn’t actually stuffed at all, nor was it pan-fried. It appeared to be roasted. So basically the food was great, but not always as advertised on the menu.

A plate of meat with mashed potatoes and gravy

Other members of our group really enjoyed both the rack of pork, and chicken and mushroom pasta dishes. Everything really looked great!

a slice of roasted meat on a plate with sauce
A bowl of pasta

Dessert was a sampler which included three different sweets.

a small selection of desserts on a plate
closeup of desserts on a plate

Our Farewell Dinner was such a special experience for all of us. It was not only a great way to say goodbye (or see you later) to our new friends, but also a very special opportunity to meet some of Bernard’s family! We were the first group that was special enough to him, and I suppose asked him so much about his family, that he invited some of his family members to Nancy Hands so we could meet them! His mother came from the nursing home with his wife, one of his sons and his 4-year-old granddaughter, who was so precious as she visited our tables and sang songs for us. We had seen pictures and even videos of them throughout our trip, and heard so many stories along the way, it really felt so special to get to meet them in person.

A group of people sitting at a table in a restaurant
A man, a woman, and child in a restaurant
A group of people sitting at a table in a restaurant

After vacating Nancy Hands, we headed to our final hotel of the trip, Ballsbridge. The room was pretty nice, and shortly after we started settling in we got a call from the front desk informing us that he had an additional single room available for us at no extra charge, because the triple room we were in wasn’t really a triple (although I swear it was the same size as what we had at other hotels). We thanked them but passed on the offer since we were sharing some items like toothpaste, it just made more sense to stay in the same room as planned. It was a great offer though!

A hotel bedroom 2 beds
A hotel bathroom

Breakfast our final morning wasn’t bad, but I was kind of over all the typical options so I decided to make a sandwich instead.

A plate of food and a cup of coffee

Sadly, our journey is coming to an end. It’s time to head back to Dublin Airport where we’ll make our way across the Atlantic back to Providence aboard Norwegian Airlines. As our plane takes off, we can take in the gorgeous forty shades of green of the Emerald Isle one last time (for now, because we WILL be back).

A view of Ireland from an airplane

Once again we have a couple options for food, this time chicken with tomato sauce, rice, and green bean (mom and dad’s choice), or beef with brown sauce, carrots, and mashed potatoes (my choice). Both meals also come with pasta salad with pesto and tomatoes, and decadent Irish chocolates! The beef was more tender than I expected for airplane food, and the chicken was pretty decent as well. Both were far superior to the chicken we ate on the way to Dublin 13 days prior. The chocolates in particular were excellent! I really wish I had, like, 5 to 12 more boxes of these chocolates.

A tray of food on an airplane tray table
airplane food on a tray table
a small cardboard box with a label that says Lily O\'Brien\'s
nutritional information on a box
2 pieces of chocolate in a small box
cross section of a small chocolate

Well, friends, the time has come to wrap up these trip reports from the glorious island of Ireland. I knew Ireland would be beautiful, but it truly exceeded my expectations. I had a wonderful time traveling with a really cool group of fellow explorers from around the world, and the best darn tour director ever! Thank you Bernard, and of course Paul our amazing coach driver, for sharing beautiful Ireland with all of us. I’d also like to add that overall we had fantastic meals throughout the country. I’ve heard so many people say British and Irish food is nothing special, and it breaks my heart to hear it. We really loved the places, the people, and the food. Ireland will always have a very special place in my heart, and I CANNOT WAIT to go back someday!

Ireland – June 2018

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