Top tips for international departures from Dublin to America

Travel Ireland

“Oh my God, they are getting us back for Ellis Island.”

When the woman standing behind me at the Dublin International Airport said this outloud, I smirked. Husband and I were in the United States Customs Pre-Clearance line along with hundreds of others including the funny lady behind us. We had already been through security, removing belts, jackets and liquids. Now we were waiting to go through customs before boarding our plane from Ireland back to the U.S.. It made some sense at first – we wouldn’t have to wait in a long customs line in New York, and be held up catching our connecting flight home to Minnesota.

But the woman’s funny quip might have been half true. I have never been required to clear customs in the country I was departing, and while organized, the lines were long and tedious. After waiting for about an hour, we made our way through customs and thought we were home free. Then we hit the next line.

Even though we had already been through security, the hundreds of us that had just cleared customs had to de-robe once again and go through a second round of security – laptops out, shoes off, liquids in the bin. At this point people got downright angry. We were two hours into the process since arriving at the airport, and many couples had to cut ahead of others because they were on the verge of missing their flights.

With this experience under my belt, I offer some first-account advice if you are flying from Dublin to the United States:

  1. Get plenty of sleep the night before because it’s going to be a long day
  2. Get to the airport 2.5-3 hours in advance of your departure time
  3. Reduce the “unload” – don’t wear a jacket or belt but do wear slip-on shoes
  4. Keep your liquids and technology within easy reach
  5. Go in with the expectation that you will wait a long time
  6. If you are handicapped or cannot stand for a long period of time, get wheelchair assistance as soon as you get to the airpot

And to the authorities at the Dublin International Airport who’s Irish ancestors most likely had similar experiences at Ellis Island … I’m really, really sorry about that.

Farewell to Dublin

This morning husband and I said goodbye to Dublin with a stroll over the river, and a picnic breakfast in the center median of Upper O’Connell Street. It was a grand holiday, but it’s time to come home. As I was lamenting the end of our vacation to the very nice taxi driver taking us to the airport, he kindly reminded me, “You have to go home in order to come back again.” Well said.

This is day 173 of Photo 365.

Temple Bar rain dance

It’s the last day of holiday travel, and I’m not ready go home. It has been a lovely trip, and I plan to share photos here in the near future.

Today is day 172 of Photo 365 in the Temple Bar district in Dublin, Ireland.

Belfast barricade

When you wander the streets of Belfast, you begin to notice a reoccurring pattern on the fencing – barbed wire. Whether from days past or to keep thieves away, the barbed wire on fenced areas is a reminder of how hard the people of Northern Ireland have struggled to find balance between the crosses on their fences and the painful stabs only a few inches away.

This is day 169 of Photo 365.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, one travel tip. It is true what they say. Skip the Ring of Kerry and head for Dingle Peninsula instead. Less tourists, same gorgeous scenery.


Favorite pubs in Dublin

A friend recently announced on Facebook he is heading to Dublin in a few weeks. There were a lot of virtual thumbs ups and “have a Guinness for me!” comments that flooded his wall. It seems people get excited about Ireland, no matter what their lineage. I promised I would send details about some of the pubs we had found while in the city.

As I dove into pictures from my trip to help aid the memory banks, I posed the question to Husband. “What were the best pubs in Dublin?” His response – “There were no bad pubs in Dublin.” True. Every pub in Dublin has a little something different to offer, including a unique experience.

What was originally going to be a direct Facebook message to my dear friend with a list of our favorite pubs, turned into a full blog post. So Richard, this is for you. Sláinte!

The Celt

The Celt Pub at 81 Talbot Street Dublin 1 has the traditional interior ambience of rural Ireland just blocks from Connolly Station, which is a main hub for both buses and trains. This small pub hosts live music seven days a week in a tiny corner that sits across from the bar. The Celt is situated in a popular area of hostels and inexpensive B&Bs, so the crowd (and sometimes musicians) are either wandering youth, looking to experience Ireland at her finest, or laborers getting off work, complete with sweat and dirty boots.

O’Shea’s Merchant

O’Shea’s Merchant at 12 Lower Bridge Street in South Dublin is across the street from the famous Brazen Head pub. The Brazen Head, while the epitome of Irish pub cool on the inside, did not make my list because the tourists outnumber the Irish. While I recommend seeing the Brazen Head, spend time in O’Shea’s Merchant. Traditional Irish music is the name of the game, and spontaneous dancing by patrons averaging around the age of 60 is a common sight.


This pub is in a working class neighborhood of Dublin, just around the corner from the Jameson and Powers Distilleries at 77 North King Street, Dublin 7. The Backroom hosts local musicians from folk, country and roots genres. Seek out a bluegrass session to see how the Irish spin something that is distinctly American. No matter what night you are at the Cobblestone, you’re guaranteed plenty of foot stomping.

If you are looking for a different beer experience other than Guinness, Smithwicks, Harp or Murphy’s, Ireland does have a few microbreweries. For a taste of how the Irish interpret brews other than dark porter, there is a microbrewery worth a try:

The Powerhouse Brewing Company

This brewing company has five establishments, and we visited the one in the Temple Bar neighborhood, skipping the more touristy Temple Bar Pub. Located at 16-18 Parliament Street in Temple Bar, the three-story brewhouse has nine mirco beers on tap and one seasonal. Crowded and popular with the younger set, it is still easy to belly-up to a copper kettle drum (right there as decoration in the bar) and sample a flight of your favorite styles. Messrs Maguire is another brewhouse that a true beer geek might want to try, but it didn’t get as high of ratings as Porterhouse during our visit. You can find Messrs Maguire at the foot of the O’Connell Bridge, Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

And finally, the pubs that didn’t make my list but are worth noting ~

Brazen Head: It was established in 1198. It has dirt floors. Those two facts alone help you look past the Italian and Japanese tourists sitting next to you.

The Church Bar: This is truly a bar in a former church. Elegant and grand, with the pipe organ still in place in the choir loft overhead, the beer selection is poor, and some might consider it sacrilegious to drink in a former place of worship. But its a spectacle to behold.

The Temple Bar: Probably the most recognized pub in Dublin, stop in just to say you had a Guinness there. Or take a picture and say you had a Guinness there. No one will know.

The countryside of Ireland

Fishing boats in Howth


On the road to Trim.

Abandoned cottage.

Roadside Jesus.

Conor Pass, outside of Dingle.

At the bottom of Conor Pass, these horses were leisurely grazing.




Making the old, new

I’m in the process of having some 35 mm film negatives transferred to digital images. Over the last few days I went through all of my travel images to see what I really wanted to preserve and what could be left for a later day.

The greatest thing about looking at old travel photos is the reality check it provides. In your hands you have proof that 1)  the hairstyle you had was not ‘da bomb’; 2) your Euro fashion attempt was just an American in a scarf; and 3) your travel pictures look just like everyone else’s.

I was mortified at my photos. Boring! I have stood in the center of some majestic, ancient cities, and my pictures make me want to take a nap.

You probably know the remedy – take a look at your subject from a different angle. That theory is harder than you think when you’re standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. You want to take a picture of the whole darn thing. And you should. But then it’s good to play around with angles to see what other lines, shapes and dimensions you can get from your subject.

I’ve pulled a few examples of when I did break the norm just a little bit. As a disclaimer I do realize that at least 1.7 million people also have these “alternative” angles.

First, let’s look at the Louvre Museum in Paris. We know the glass pyramid at the Louvre mixes contemporary in a traditional setting. But how does that feel? I took this picture inside the pyramid to put the modern age in the foreground while blending France’s history in the background. It felt like momma was looking in on what had become of her children over the years.

Next, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. It’s the most recognized bridge in the city. While this angle isn’t really different (it’s not hard to get this angle, you just have to climb some stairs) it’s still different than the straight on shot that every tourist takes from the bridge opposite of the Ponte Vecchio.

This next picture was taken one early morning in Amsterdam. My photos were starting tolook the same again. Bicycles, coffee shops and canals were filling up my memory card. I needed something a little different – stat. Again, this isn’t the most intriguing picture, but it sums up the quiet Amsterdam neighborhood of Jordaan to me. The reflection has Dutch buildings, a canal and bicycles, just from another point of view.

Finally, this photo was taken in Brussels at night with my point-and-shoot. I had put the digital SLR away for the day and was just enjoying the scene. It was a holiday weekend in Brussels when I was there, so everyone was out. I took this angle for two reasons. The main reason is that I was literally sitting on the ground. People gather in the Grand Place square and just hang out on the cobblestones with a picnic basket or a beer. I also wanted to get the grand spectrum of the buildings, but they are so tall you cannot capture them unless you turn your camera sideways. This is probably one of my favorite things to do now – turn the camera on it’s ear. The scene is kind of interesting, but a different angle and black and white treatment make the lovers walking by more intriguing to my eye.

The moral of the story is sometimes you just need to get up and move around or sit on the ground with a beer. The one thing I do know is that I have a lot of places to revisit so I can get better pictures next time.