Some of you might recall a blog post I published last year where I compared the similarities in architecture between London and Boston. Even after compiling the photos, I found myself stumped when taking my own quiz. (You can read that post here). I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again… there’s just some thing so beautiful about the historic buildings and parks in European cities, and I’m so glad that this translated over to Boston (& remain historically preserved).
Why am I even talking about this? Well, when Aer Lingus announced that they were now offering direct flights from Hartford, CT (my home state!) to Dublin, I knew I had to hop on and take a quick European trip…and of course, take my mom with me (sorry, Jeff!). In the past, whenever my family and I traveled anywhere from CT via plane, we had to trek to New York City. Now, Aer Lingus basically just made Dublin and London part of Connecticut’s backyard (which I’m very, very happy about).
To start our trip, my mom and I celebrated with a glass of bubbly. No joke, we had been looking forward to this trip for WEEKS, so clearly we were both very giddy to get on our flight and be on our way. Soon after, we boarded our first flight on Aer Lingus and made our way to our seats. Since we were taking a red eye in their business class seats, immediately after take off, I reclined back and passed out, hoping to get in some sleep before landing in Dublin. Luckily, I slept through the entire flight (which was only 4 hours!) and woke up to us landing in the very green Ireland. For anyone flying to Europe for business and are short on time, being able to get a few hours of shut eye and arriving the next morning at 8 a.m. is such a great time saver.
After landing and picking up our luggage, we made our way to the taxi stand at the airport. But, last minute, we decided we should take a stab at Dublin’s public transportation. We hopped on the bus (it had wi-fi, whoa!) and just 30 minutes later, got off at Heuston Station, just a block away from our hotel.
Upon arriving at the hotel, I knew we were in for a treat. The Ashling Hotel is located right on the River Liffey and seemed to be centrally located to just about everything…specifically the Guinness Storehouse (that’s all that matters, right? 🙂 ). Once we checked in and dropped off our luggage, since it was only 10 a.m., we had the entire day ahead of us. Since I’m a huge advocate for the hop on / hop off buses (I even spoke to U.S. News about it years ago), we opted for a two-day ticket with a local tour company so that we could see everything in Dublin.
From there, we hopped off to explore Saint Stephen’s Green, the Temple Bar neighborhood, Trinity College, O’Neill’s Pub (we got lunch here, it was delicious!), and some of the close by residential areas.
Of course, because I’m a book nerd, an item on my bucket list was to visit the Trinity College Library, specifically the “Long Room.” While there, I learned that it was built in the early 1700s and holds 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. When walking in, I was in serious awe of the room and the rows after rows of books. Plus, the room is lined with beautiful marble busts of famous philosophers & writers… and right smack in the middle is Trinity College Harp, which is the oldest of its kind in Ireland.
After lots of sight seeing, we knew it was time to wet our whistle… in the form of a Guinness.
We got back on our hop on / hop off bus and just five minutes later, found ourselves entering the Guinness Storehouse via the St. James’s Gate. From there, we spent the next hour on our self-guided brewery tour to learn about the history of Guinness and the brewing process. Seriously, it was unreal. I couldn’t believe how much Arthur Guinness helped shape the city of Dublin.
Of course, after spending an hour learning about Guinness, you really, really want one on the end of your tour :). An amazing feature at Guinness is their Gravity Bar, which provides you with a 360 degree view of the entire city. While there, the bartender poured us two of their classic stout and we cheered to our a-mazing time in Dublin.
The next morning, we packed up our belongings and traveled back to the airport to hop on our next Aer Lingus flight to London. When booking our trip, we chose the “Stay On Your Way” vacation option, which allows you to travel to Europe and visit two cities. One hour later, we arrived in London and this time, took the Heathrow Express Train to Paddington Station. Luckily, our hotel was just a few blocks away and we were able to walk there…but not before ooh-ing and aah-ing at all of the white row houses. And yes, we spotted a red photo booth along the way, which obviously requires a photo.
In London, we stayed at The Caesar Hotel, a chic and modern hotel set in a Victorian townhouse. Best yet, it was just a five minute walk from Hyde Park. Basically, we were staying just a few blocks away from Prince William and Duchess Kate and their Kensington Palace home (hey, neighbors!).
After checking in, we set out to see as much of the city as possible. Similar to our strategy in Dublin, we booked a tour with Evan Evans for their London in One Day excursion. The day included a stop by Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge (no, that’s not the London Bridge!), and a cruise up the Thames River that ended at Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. By the end of the tour, I was ready to pack up all my belongings in the U.S. (husband and pup included) and ship them to London.
The next day, we made sure to make time to roam around London… strolling through Hyde Park and then down to the Thames again. When I was previously in London back in 2008, I always wished I had gone on the London Eye, a giant ferris wheel on the river. It’s Europe’s tallest ferris wheel and I knew from photos, that the views of the city were unreal. My mom and I were in a “treat yo’ self” mood and upgraded our tickets to the “Champagne Experience”… and we couldn’t have been happier. Us two, plus another couple and our tour guide, boarded the capsule and soon after started filling up on bubbly. We learned that the London Eye was actually only meant to stay in the city for a few years…but due to its popularity, stuck around.
After a few days of exploring Dublin and London, it was time to head back to the States. We boarded Aer Lingus again and made a quick stopover in Dublin before continuing on to Hartford. Luckily for us, Aer Lingus is part of the pre-clearance program and we were able to go through U.S. Customs at the Dublin airport.
Since I fell asleep during my first flight to Europe, I didn’t truly experience the on-board service. For my return flight, I was truly in awe. The lunch that was provided was unreal, my wine glass was always full (hehe) and it was so nice to kick back, pop on a movie, and relax while flying across the Atlantic. A few short hours later, we landed at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, and due to pre-clearance, just walked off the plane and made our way to the luggage carousel. I’ve never had an easier time flying international as I did on this flight, and was so grateful for the processes put in place.
For anyone looking to book this trip, or a similar multi-city European vacation, I highly recommend Aer Lingus’s “Stay On Your Way” program. And even if just wanting to visit one city, when flying out of Hartford via Aer Lingus, you’ll have access to dozens of European cities.
*Disclosure: Aer Lingus provided me with a complimentary round trip flight from Hartford to Dublin and London, but all opinions are 100% my own.