Contiki So. Ireland

June 08 tour:

Hello, My name is Lauren and I live in Southern New Jersey.  My friend Jessica and I decided to book a tour of Ireland with a company called Contiki, which Dave, our awesome travel coordinator, gave us as an option.  Contiki offers tours of various destinations for people ages 18 to 35 years old.  Booking the trip was pain-free and at our own pace.  We were able to book in advance and had to have the trip paid for around 6 weeks prior to departure.  Dave helped us book our air separate from the air included with the Contiki which saved us a substantial amount of money.  We departed from JFK in NYC around 9pm and arrived in Dublin at around 9:30am. From the airport we took a bus (around 4 Euros) to our first hotel where we were to meet the rest of our tour companions.  That night we met our tour manager and bus driver, as well as the other 48 people from the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia that we would be traveling with for the next week. From Dublin we traveled to Galway, my absolute FAVORITE of all Irish towns visited.  They have pedestrianized streets, which means the roads are simply for walking, no vehicles are allowed.  It is a quaint fishing district with subtle hints of modernization scattered here and there.  We roamed through the town, drank at a few pubs, did some shopping.  The Quays, pronounced “keys,” was our favorite spot, be careful for the stairs though, I managed to miss 13 out of the 15 steps and landed on the ground without my pint, with a sprained foot, and was offered fre(e) drinks for the rest of the night from the bartender.  We traveled to Killarney, traveled through the park on a horse and carriage ride, went to pubs, clubs, and even had a few run-ins with Dr. Cox from Scrubs, who was staying in our hotel.  Kilkenny was interesting as well.  We took a walking tour of the city and took in a bit of history about the city, including the Black Abbey Church which was 200 years old when Columbus visited before sailing to The New World in 1492.  We traveled to Blarney and kissed the famous Blarney Stone.  I must caution you, to make this attempt, WEAR SNEAKERS.  I wore flip-flops and one managed to break, causing me to climb the very narrow and steep stairs of the castle with one shoe.  The actual stone is on top of the castle and a little old man dangles you by your ankles 3 stories up in the air to kiss a small, silver portion of a boulder….  Kissing the stone supposively gives you the “gift of gab,” or, being able to talk yourself out of any situation.  We visited Cobh, the last port-of-call of the ill-fated Titanic.  It’s basically a museum documenting the famine and the emigration to America made by the Irish.  We stayed the night in Cork and didn’t really venture out by recommendation of the tour manager.  Cork is Ireland’s version of NYC, LA, Miami, etc, but it is really no bigger and industrialized than any small town in the US.  Our tour ended back in Dublin, where we said goodbye to our new friends and exchanged emails and numbers before we left for the airport.

I would definitely recommend Contiki as a tour because they were very organized and made the trip really fun.  On long bus rides they played music, we played games, and the time really passed.  A few recommendations, if you don’t drink beer, don’t order mixed drinks,…bring sneakers.  I didn’t and I paid dearly.  Bring extra money for the tour manager and bus driver.  They ask for it as a tip, not required though.  It’s usually 10 Euros per person, so save a spare E20 for them, it’s their spending money, and I’m sure you’ll feel they deserve it.Don’t venture too far from the hotel in Cork, it’s not that exciting, trust me, stay at the hotel bar, much more fun. Make sure you have the proper appliance converter for plugging things in.  We managed to blow up the entire wall in every hotel we stayed in. Note: all plugs, tv’s, hair dryers are all on one wall in Ireland.  You blow one socket, the rest are done. Have enough space on your camera for pics.  Ireland is as beautiful as you’ve heard, take as many pics as you can, and lastly, have a blast!  Ireland is full of excitement, quietness, beauty, and chock-full of history.  Take it all in and cherish your experience.  I’m never going to forget it.