Well, this post is a long time coming. We have been in Ireland now for just over three weeks. I think as I reflect back on our time here at a later date I will love Ireland even more than I already do. Luckily we still have a week left to look at the beautiful endless shades of green and interact with the incredibly friendly people of Ireland.
Flying To Ireland
We flew into Ireland on a Monday morning. We had taken the red-eye flight from New York with Aer Lingus, Ireland’s main airline. Our very first interaction with the people of Ireland came on that flight and it was fantastic. The flight attendants were friendly and helpful. They made us feel welcome while on the flight and even while Grayson woke up towards the end and threw a very rare ‘I am extremely tired’ fit. Each of their planes comes fitted with certain seats that have a drop down bassinet for children. They offer personal entertainment systems at each seat to keep you entertained and a choice of meal and snacks. The plane was clean, comfortable and enjoyable to fly in.
Initial thoughts about Ireland
Ireland is incredibly beautiful! The fields of Ireland coming in many shapes and sizes. Typically littered with sheep and some beef cows. Roads are narrow with tall trees or shrubs on either side and typically over-hanging trees that group above the road to create a shelter of sorts. Rock walls are spread throughout each field and along roads that offer moss and vines a place to grow and expand. This leads to unique clusters and shapes along walls that look to be hundreds of years old. Since we are coming into fall, the leaves are starting to turn an assortment of colors adding to the beauty of our surroundings.
Houses are painted an assortment of bright colors with vine growths up their face of them and a variety of bright red and green doors with knobs sometimes found in the middle of them.
The people are friendly, helpful and easy to talk to. The Irish accent is wonderful to listen to and easy to understand. They are die-hard Irish Rugby fans. Ireland just improved to 4-0 in the Rugby World Cup with their win over France. I enjoy speaking with them about their culture, scenery, sports, and food.
Ireland as the starting point for our journey
We chose Ireland as our starting point for two reasons. First, it was only a five-hour flight from New York which meant it would be easier on our kids. Second, they speak English. We knew that starting there would be a lot of adjusting on our part. Mainly time change and getting used to living in rental homes for short periods, so we didn’t want to make it more difficult with a language barrier. Both Katie and I have been happy that we started here.
The food in Ireland
The traditional Irish breakfast consists of an egg with a little softness to the yoke, 2 sausage links, 2 pieces of bacon, rashers (potatoes), black pudding (a circular cake made with pig’s blood, oats and barley), white pudding (a circular cake made with pork meat and fat plus oats and barley) baked beans and toast. Omlettes are also a popular breakfast item.
A typical lunch consists of soup and soda bread or brown bread. Some people have fish and chips (fries) for lunch as well as dinner.
I have eaten many different items since being here and I enjoy the Irish breakfast and the variety of soups that they offer along with delicious bread choices and Irish butter.
Quick note on bread. In the states I am unable to eat any product that has gluten unless it is imported from outside the US. However, here I have no problem with gluten so I am able to eat breads and chowder. No more sore joints, messed up stomach or foggy feeling!
The weather in Ireland
Since we arrived, the weather has been pretty consistent at 58 degrees. It’s typically overcast in the morning and some days at around 12:30 the sun will come out and you can get away with a light sweater. Otherwise, a jacket is needed. The rain here is like a mist, it hasn’t rained hard for us. The wind fluctuates, but hasn’t really been that bad.
One interesting thing I have noticed is that you never see the same thing twice. It’s hard to explain, but because of all the green and the way the lighting changes with the clouds, you can drive by the same section of highway everyday and the scenery looks different because of how the light hits it. I have never experienced this anywhere else. It is especially noticeable around water. The tide here fluctuates dramatically and sometime there is no water and boats sitting on dry land while other times the water is up but smooth like glass. I never get tired of looking and commenting to my wife, Katie, about how beautiful the scenery is on a particular day.
Driving in Ireland
In Ireland the driver is placed on the right side of the vehicle and you drive on the left side of the road. This took some getting used to at first. Not necessarily the driving on the left side of the road like you would think but how you measure the depth you have on the left hand side of the car. Since I am used to being on the left I am comfortable with how close I can get to objects. Now that I am on the opposite side it is hard to know how much space I have on the outside of the road. This has led to me hitting a few curbs and even trimming the hedges with my side mirror, but I am now used to it.
It is not uncommon to drive through areas where sheep are grazing off to the side of the road and you have to slow for them to move. My kids really enjoy this. Grayson has to baa every time we come across the sheep.
The roads are very narrow, especially when you are in older areas. It is not unusual to have to pull of to the side of the road to make room for an oncoming car, especially trucks and buses. I would say the average speed in rural areas is 40 mph.
A majority of the cars here are diesel and come with a manual transmission. You pay for fuel by the liter with prices about €1.19 per gallon. Right now it works out to be just over $5 per gallon. The Ford Mondeo we rented is a diesel and gets about 55mpg. In the two weeks we have driven our rental car, we have gotten gas once and it cost us $33. We drive a lot so I was surprised by the mpg of our vehicle
Technology in Ireland
Ireland has great cellular coverage and data speeds. We brought along our T-mobile iPhones which allow us to make calls from anywhere over wifi and comes with unlimited data and texting (I will go over this more in another post), however, the data is throttled at 128kbps so it was important for us to have a good, reliable data speed for maps and navigating. So we brought along an iPhone 5 that is unlocked and we purchased a SIM card from a company called Three. They offer unlimited 3G/LTE data for €20 per month.
Internet through Internet service providers has also worked well allowing me to work productively on a daily basis. It is also nice to have the the mobile hotspot when we are traveling in the car. This makes navigating and entertaining the kids even better.
Church in Ireland
This last week was the first we had to go to church. The week before was General Conference and the week before that we lived in the northwestern part of Ireland (my wife wrote a great post on our experience there.), and the nearest building was 3 hours away. This time it was an hour away.
While driving into Cork we didn’t know if it would be a church building or someone’s home. We were attending a small branch, that was the only information we had. When we arrived we were supposed to see a small church building. There were about 40 members in attendance. The branch president was young, in his 20’s, same with his counsellors. There were people from all over the world in our meetings and it was awesome.
Two young women sitting next to me were from China. They were visiting to learn more about our church and I had the opportunity to teach them a bit using Google Translate and the Gospel Library app (iTunes or Google Play). It was a really cool experience. There were also people from South Africa and Nigeria.
Six sets of missionaries served in the area. One senior couple, one sister missionary companionship and elders. They have a lot of work to do.
We had a wonderful time and on the way back to where we are staying, Katie and I reminisced about our time at BYU Hawaii and how this experience felt similar.
Well, I think this is good for now. I will be writing a more detailed post later where I show what power converters we use, apps we use to get around, etc. Basically a detailed technology post.
I will also write a post about how we found our places to stay and what we do to avoid International charges with currency exchanges. Basically a post about planning your own trip. It doesn’t have to be a year long like us, these tips will be useful for anyone.
Also, if you have any questions about what we are doing or how we are doing it and have suggestions on a post. Let me know in the comments below and I will see what I can do.