An American Girl in Ireland: The Book Lover’s Irish Journey

If you are an avid reader of this blog, follow me on Instagram, or know me in the real world, you’ll know I’m kind of obsessed with all things books. I love wandering the stacks at my local Barnes and Noble looking for a new story to dive into. My to-be-read pile is kind of insane. I bought a “Boys are Better in Books” sweatshirt. (Just waiting for it to be delivered.)

My love of books is just one of the many reasons I love Ireland.

Ireland is a book lover’s paradise. From the words and wit of literary giants like Oscar Wilde and James Joyce to contemporary creators like Cecelia Ahern and Mike McCormack, Irish writers have been shaping the world of literature for generations. There is a little bit of literary magic wherever you turn and a never-ending supply of bookish things to do.

Want to get the Irish bookworm experience? Here are a few fun things every book lover should do on your next adventure to Ireland.

Visit the Old Library at Trinity College.

The Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin is a must for any book lover journeying through the Emerald Isle. (It was my top must-see place during my trip.) Dating back to the 18th century, sunlight softly illuminates the college’s impressively exquisite antique book collection that line the oak shelves as busts of some of literature and philosophy’s greatest minds stand guard. With its high ceilings and old-world details, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time. (Or to Belle’s favorite room in the Beast’s castle, or to the magical school of Hogwarts for those Disney and Harry Potter fans out there.)

Click here for more information on hours and ticket prices.

Strike a pose with a famous writer.

Want to pose for a picture with wordsmith Oscar Wilde? Snap a selfie with poet William Butler Yeats? Keep your eyes peeled for one of the many statues scattered around depicting Ireland’s literary greats in various forms. Looking to get a little more up close and personal with your favorite writer? Do a little research on where they are buried and make a stop at their grave. Okay, it’s a little morbid, but how many times in your life are you going to be able to say you stood by the final resting place of a literary giant?

Check out the Frank McCourt Museum.

While there are various museums featuring Irish writers all over the country, my personal favorite is the Frank McCourt Museum in the city of Limerick dedicated to Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt. The museum is housed in the old Leamy School McCourt attended as a child and mentioned in his memoir. With child-like murals lining the walls and black footprints imprinted with “Frank’s Way” lining the floor, it houses a large collection of memorabilia from McCourt’s life and the various incarnations of Angela’s Ashes, and features recreations of his two room flat and school room. You are guided through McCourt’s world by the museum’s enthusiastic tour guides who are a wealth of knowledge and fun facts about the author. (In addition to answering all of our questions, ours pointed out a small box said to contain part of McCourt’s ashes.) Hit the gift shop on your way out and purchase your very own piece of the Leamy School’s wall. It’s a really cool souvenir and proceeds go to keeping this cool museum in operation.

Click here for more information on hours and ticket prices.

Walk a mile in a fictional character’s shoes.

Do you have a favorite book (or movie) set in Ireland? Look up some of the places featured in your favorite story and incorporate them into your journey if possible. It is a great way to feel a great way to build an even deeper connection with your beloved characters and to stand in the places you fell in love with on the page. Bring a copy of your favorite read and snap some pics of it at the real-life places that inspired its author. (Need some recommendations? My personal favorites are Herself by Leslie Carroll, Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch, and anything by Cecelia Ahern.)

Stop at a bookshop.

What is the best way to commemorate you bookish journey? With a new book, of course! Before you return home, make sure to stop at one of the many bookshops scattered across the country and pick up a new read. (Pro tip: If you have your heart set on something by an Irish writer, keep your eyes peeled for an Irish Authors section.) Whether it’s your new favorite Irish writer or a cool international version of one a beloved favorite, this will be one book you will treasure forever.


An American Girl In Ireland: Cool Things to Do in Cong

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Hi, readers! Sorry for the stretch of time between this post and the last. Between my annual writing conference, work, book planning and graduation season, June has been a pretty crazy month. Now I’m back and super excited to share one of my favorite excursions in Ireland you need to check out: Cong.

Straddling Co. Mayo and Co. Galway, I think the village of Cong is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets. Home to only 60 residents, it may seem like a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of place. However, this tiny town is actually a piece of Hollywood history. It has made a name for itself as the filming location of the 1952 film The Quiet Man. Starring legends Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, this love story between a retired American boxer Sean Thornton and a feisty Irish woman Mary Kate Danaher has been a beloved classic for generations. While I’m not as into the film as my mom and my grandparents, I’m the first to admit that my time in Cong is one of my favorite memories from my trip to Ireland. It is a really cool place to experience with a an authentic Irish charm you will fall with.

Whether The Quiet Man is your favorite film, you love Hollywood history, or you are just looking for something unique to do, here are a few things to check out on your visit to Cong.

Visit The Quiet Man Museum.

Immerse yourself in movie magic with a visit to The Quiet Man Museum. The museum itself is a replica of the cottage Sean Thornton buys in the film. (The actual cottage from the film is in ruins, but if you are feeling adventurous, you may be able to find someone who can give you directions to where it stood.) Inside, you’ll find a beautiful recreation of the cottage’s interior along with a collection of movie memorabilia. You can even snap a few pictures in reproductions of Sean and Mary Kate’s costumes. I also highly recommend taking the guided walking tour offered by the museum. Not only do you get behind-the-scenes stories and to see filming locations you may have missed, you get to enjoy a truly lovely walk through the town of Cong.

Click here for hours and ticket prices.

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Hit the museum gift shop.

Okay, pretty much every attraction has a gift shop. However, this one is my personal favorite. After you’ve finished exploring the museum, head upstairs to check out the a wide array of Quiet Man themed products perfect for you or the film fan back home. In addition to tea towels, posters, and postcards, there is an official line of Quiet Man jeff caps and scarves John Wayne would be proud to wear and a beautiful collection of vintage-style jewelry inspired that will help you channel your inner Maureen O’Hara.(My mom and I bought both.) It is a one stop shop for all things The Quiet Man.

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Pose with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

Just how much does Cong embrace its Hollywood past? Enough to erect a bronze statue to John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the middle of town. After your tour and trip to the museum, be sure to snap a pic posing next to one of Ireland’s most famous film couples. Grab onto O’Hara’s hand or wrap your arms around Wayne’s waist. (Let’s face it, ladies. John Wayne is still a heartthrob even when he’s made out of bronze.) Traveling with your significant other? Have him literally sweep you off your feet for a sweet shot.

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Stand in two places at once.

Have you ever wanted to be in two places at once? Just steps from The Quiet Man museum, you’ll find a simple bridge that runs over the River Cong, the dividing point between Co. Mayo and Co. Galway. Not only is this the perfect place for some really great pictures, straddling the line between two different counties is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere else.

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An American Girl in Ireland: Things to Do Before You Leave

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Your passport is up to date. You’ve sorted out your mail pick up. Your pets have their babysitter. Your plants have a designated waterer. The suitcases are packed and weighed. Your boarding passes are in your hand. You’re all ready for your big trip, right?

While you may think you’ve dotted all your Is and crossed all your Ts, there are a few things that every traveller should have on their checklist, but are often overlooked.

Here are a few important things you should do before heading to the airport.

Make copies of important documents.

Make two copies of all important documents like passports, driver’s licenses/photo IDs, and medical insurance cards, as well as confirmations for things like hotel reservations and car rentals. Keep one copy in your carry on and another in a safe location at home that someone you trust can easily access. This way, if an issue arises or something gets lost or stolen, you have two backups you can utilize.

Notify your bank and credit card companies.

In a world where identity theft is a real threat, some banks and credit card companies will freeze your card if they see charges outside the country. Prevent this by notifying your bank and any any credit card companies that you will be out of the country and for how long you will be gone. Add on an additional few days past your date of return just in case you have issues with your flight and get stuck.

Swing by the pharmacy.

Okay, no one wants to think about sickness or injury putting a damper on a highly-anticipated vacation, but I have seen it happen, leaving those affected scrambling. Hit up your local Walgreens or Rite-Aid, and pick up a few things to create a small first-aid kit. Hey, it never hurts to be prepared.

Things to get include:

  • Tylenol/Advil
  • Imodium
  • Decongestants
  • Bandaids
  • First-aid ointment (like Neosporin)
  • Pads/tampons

Boost that immune system.

Want an added way to prevent getting sick before or during your trip? Increase your odds staying healthy by boosting your immune system with either elderberry or Airborne a few days before your flight. Be sure to pack some with you for your return flight home.

Write up your souvenir list.

Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory and Lorelai come back from their European trip and realize they forgot to get something for diner owner Luke? Learn from their mistake and write up a list of everyone you want to buy something for. Carry it in your purse, so you don’t leave anyone out. (Bonus points for creating budget for each person, so you don’t break the bank.)

Order your attraction tickets ahead of time.

If you know the exact dates of when you be in certain locations, save time by order all attraction tickets online ahead of time. You’ll be able to skip general admission lines and get to the fun a whole lot quicker.

Pack some American cash.

I’m a cash girl through and through. I would much rather pay for things with tangible money over using a plastic card. (Strange for a girl in her late twenties, I know!) Plus, there are some places that won’t take a debt/credit card, and an ATM may not always be easily accessible in these situations. (Also, no one likes those pesky service fees.) I picked up a good portion of my euros before I even stepped on the plane, but I had concerns I would run out. I made sure to some U.S. dollars in my bag in case I needed to do a quick exchange to replenish my euro stash. If you go this route, I recommend taking about $300.00 and storing it in a safe place like the inside pocket of your suitcase. Be sure to check the exchange rate before you leave as you may need to increase how much you bring based on the currency rate fluctuation.