10 Day Ireland Itinerary & Gluten-free Guide

Hi friends! I am so excited to share our Ireland trip with you! I have been meaning to put this blog post together for quite some time. It has been well over a year since we took this amazing trip. A month before we left, we bought our first home and quickly started our extensive renovations. That month flew by and before we knew it, we were handing our keys {and renovation plans} to our dads and packing our bags for Ireland. I fully intended to blog about our adventure when we got home, but as soon as we returned, my life became re-occupied by house renovations AND wedding planning. Now that our wedding has passed and we are much more settled into our house, I am excited to finally share this vacation with you! This is going to be the longest post I’ve ever written, but I hope you find it helpful!

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I will start with the planning. We used a tour company called Gate 1 Travel which we booked through Virgin Vacations.The booking process was straight forward and the site was easy to navigate. I now realize that we could have booked our trip directly through Gate 1 Travel. I am in the process of booking our next trip and have concluded that the booking process on either site is very similar. I still suggest comparing pricing between the two.  The tour we took is still available and called 10 Day Classic Ireland. It was the first either myself or my husband had traveled to Europe or took a tour. 

We honestly cannot say enough good things about Gate 1 Travel. Our tour guide (Linda) and driver (Declan) were amazing. The travel plans were well organized, Linda was so knowledgable of the country and the coach bus was new, clean and comfortable. One aspect of the trip that we loved was that there was just the right amount of planned/guided activities and free time. It was also really nice to not worry about our luggage – it was either safe in our hotel room or on the bus. Declan and the various hotel staff always took our bags off the bus and to the rooms and vice versa.

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I strongly recommend adding at least 1 day to the start of your tour to help with jet lag. We took a Saturday night flight from JFK and landed mid-morning Dublin time. Our tour was considered the “Sunday Start,” but that technically means you would depart for your tour on Sunday. We departed on Saturday {because we added an extra day} and had all day Sunday to explore on our own. As soon as we got to the hotel we changed clothes and started exploring Dublin. We took a 2 hour nap before dinner and went to bed right after dinner which seemed to kick jet lagged in the butt! By the next morning, we were totally adjusted to Ireland time. On Monday, we were also able to explore on our own because we didn’t meet up with our tour until late in the afternoon.

The tour package we chose included a lot of meals, and I was happy to find that we were able to include our dietary restrictions in our reservation. I chose gluten-free for myself and no seafood {not his favorite} for Mike. For our specific trip, I don’t think these selections made much of a difference for the tour-included dinners. Almost everywhere we went had gluten-free options – more than I would find in NY. Most of our breakfasts were included in the tour package as well. I found breakfast to be the trickiest when it came to gluten-free options, but that’s why I always travel with instant oatmeal packets, granola bars and peanut butter.

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Dublin

We arrived in Dublin mid-morning and made our way to our first hotel; the Mespil Hotel. We were able to check into our room, so we changed clothes and started exploring. My beer-loving husband did a lot of research on Irish pubs, so we had a long list to make our way through. One of our first stops was O’donoghue’s Pub. I couldn’t have thought of a more perfect place to start. It’s a small old pub with a side alley that was filled with locals enjoying each other’s company and live music. We were both in awe of the culture we stepped into. On our first day we walked all through the city and St. Steven’s Green.  That night we ate at The Farm Restaurant which was a little tricky to find, but not all that far from our hotel. Prior to our trip a lot of people told me that the food in Ireland wouldn’t be great. Those people could not have been more wrong. We had so many delicious meals on this trip! But The Farm Restaurant was definitely my favorite. I had cottage pie and got to try a gluten-free beer I had never heard of. The Farm Restaurant is a must if you’re in Dublin!

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The next morning we were up early and made our way to the Guinness Factory. We had great weather our entire trip and this day was one of the best. It was a long walk, but we got to see so much of the city by walking. Although I cannot drink Guinness, I enjoyed every second of the factory. At the top of the building is the Gravity Bar. It was a little crowded, but the views were amazing {especially with perfect weather}. After leaving the Guinness factory, we stopped in a random pub and that’s when I knew I wanted to eat as much soup as possible on this trip! Later that afternoon we finally met up with our tour group for a quick introductory toast and then we headed off to dinner on our own.

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Our tour began on Monday morning with a tour-included breakfast at the hotel. This was the first morning we saw our tour bus or as our fabulous tour guide called it, “the coach.” The bus was on the new side, clean, air conditioned and had outlets in each seat for charging devices. I really didn’t mind the time we spent on the bus because it was comfortable. Between the long rides, the comfy seats and a tour guide’s soothing voice, I almost always fell asleep on the bus {and my husband has 50 pictures to prove it}.

On this day we toured St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College and the Book of Kells. Although our tour guide gave us plenty of quiet time on the bus to relax, she also shared a lot of history while we were driving. Before leaving Dublin we had time to walk around the city on our own. We stopped at the Porterhouse Brewing Company for lunch. While in Ireland I had the opportunity to try a lot of gluten-free beers that I haven’t seen in the U.S. At this restaurant I enjoyed a pale ale by BrewDog. It also only took me two days to figure out the country was filled with the best gluten-free soup I’ve ever had. Soup with a side of gluten-free bread was my lunch of choice for the entire trip. Before we got on the bus I stumbled on gluten-free scones {yes, the exist!} and tea for the ride.

Foley’s Bar in Dublin – cute decor and gluten-free fries. Enough said!

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Galway

From Dublin, we made our way to Galway, which was a bit of a drive. I pretty much always fell asleep on the bus and on this particular drive, I had a cup of tea in my hand which leaked onto my brand new white jeans {that took me all summer to find}. Total bummer! Before we made arrived at the hotel, we stopped at the Connemara Marble Factory & Visitor Centre. This area of Ireland is know for its green-toned marble. This cathedral was incredibly beautiful and filled with Connemara marble.

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In Galway we stayed at the Radisson Blu which was the only larger, chain hotel included in our trip. Our room was so comfy and the only hotel on our trip with air conditioning, so we definitely took advantage of it at night. Galway was filled with so much culture. The main town had so many little shops, bars and restaurants. Our favorite part of this city was the live music. At night the streets were filled with bands and on-lookers totally enjoying the moment. On our first night in Galway we ate a tour included dinner at the hotel then stopped at a bars The Dail Bar Galway and Tig Choili in town.

It is hard to say which of the areas we visited was my favorite because they were all so beautiful, but Kylemore Abbey ranks pretty high on the list. Every day of our trip I was more amazed by how beautiful Ireland was. Kylemore Abbey and the Victorian Garden were no exception. It was probably the most beautiful place I have ever been to in my life! Acres of beautifully manicured gardens and buildings filed with history. I highly recommend adding this location to your travel plans if you will be in Ireland.

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Killarney

From Galway we made our way to Killarney and stopped at the Cliffs of Moher. I remember this being a very windy day, but the views were beautiful! You only need an hour or two to walk around the park and take in the sights. There is a visitor center, but not much more to see. Along the way we also took a tour of the Bunratty Castle which was full of medieval history and narrow passage ways up the tower.

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We spent two nights in Killarney at the the Dromhall Hotel which was beautiful, clean and classy. It was also in easy walking distance from the main town. The town is full of restaurants and little shops. I didn’t buy much of anything on this trip, but in Killarney I found a the wooden spoon I have used every day since we moved into our house and it always reminds me of this trip. Although there are many locations throughout the country, it was in Killarney that we found Murphy’s Ice Cream. This ice cream was delicious! Take a short break from the Guinness and get your fill of Murphy’s for a night.

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From the hotel we took a pretty long walk to Ross Castle and Muckross Abbey. We visited more castles, big and small, than I could have ever imagined on this trip, but each one was impressive in its own way. This day was the warmest day of our trip which made the walk to Ross Castle seem even longer. We opted to take a Jaunting Car on our way back.

Our hotel was also very close to the Killarney Brewing Company. We ended up not having much time at this brewery {check the hours before you go}, but Mike was able to try a beer and we met a couple from Massachusetts who were on their honeymoon. During our second day in Killarney, we drove through the Ring of Kerry and made a quick stop at Waterville Beach.

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From Killarney, we made our way to Waterford and stopped at the Blarney Castle and Gardens, home of the Blarney Stone. It is a narrow, steep climb to kiss the Blarney Stone. I knew very little about the Stone before this day and when I finally saw it, I didn’t know what the fuss was all about. And I certainly was not going to kiss it {hello, germs!} but Mike said he couldn’t pass it up. Right after I got his picture I handed him an antibacterial wipe to clean off his face. The grounds of the castle are beautiful. We spent quite a few hours walking around the gardens before we ended this stop with lunch and shopping at the Blarney Woolen Mills.

Waterford

The Waterford Crystal Factory is pretty impressive and definitely worth seeing. In hindsight, I wish I would have bought a small, authentic piece of Waterford Crystal home with me. We spent one day and night in Waterford and in all honesty, it was my leave favorite stop of the trip. I found the city to be a little eerie and desolate. Perhaps we just hit this stop on the wrong day, but it was the only area that I felt a bit uncomfortable. Even with that being said, the night we spent in Waterford was made memorable by a sweet local couple we met in a bar who share so many world things about Ireland with us!

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Kilkenny

Our last stop before heading back to Dublin and heading how was Kilkenny. We grabbed coffee and walked around the beautiful grounds of Kilkenny Castle. Each castle we saw in Ireland was more beautiful than the last. Kilkenny is home to Smithwick’s beer. We visited the Brewery {although I’m not sure this is where they actually brew their beer} and took a guided tour of the facility. The small tours are lead by a guide and enhanced with digital technology. The technology their incorporated to help tell you the story of Smithwick’s was actually pretty impressive. For lunch, we stopped at the  The Fig Tree Restaurant and had warm toasties {ham and cheese sammies}. As with the rest of our trip, gluten-free food was easy to find! The Fig Tree has “gluten-free” outside on their window. It was one of my favorite lunches too.

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Packing Suggestions

I thought it may be helpful to share some of the items that was most useful on my trip. Packing for 2 weeks in a foreign county can be tough! My carry-on bag was a very light weight Vera Bradley backpack. I used this bag almost every day on our trip. It was able to hold all of my necessities which came in handy because the weather can change a lot in Ireland throughout the day. Each day my bag held a very light weight, waterproof jacket that could be rolled up, a small umbrella, a cardigan and a light weight scarf. I never felt uncomfortable carrying a backpack, but I know in some other countries it’s a no-no for traveling. I honestly felt very safe on this trip.

Clothing wise I kept it pretty light. I packed two pairs of sneakers (incase one got wet on a rainy day), two pairs of jeans and mostly light weight, long sleeve shirts.It’s also a good idea to bring a small plastic bag to shoes that may get wet and need to be put back in your suitcase before totally dry. Everything I packed could be easily layered for changes in the weather. And of course, don’t forget to bring a converter and adapter!

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Gluten-free Chicago

It has been a LONG time since I posted here! Not sure when life got so busy, but it has totally derailed my blogging schedule. I am wrapping up an online course this week and looking forward to having some extra free time {anyone else work full-time and go to school? I feel ya!}. Last month, I surprised my cousin and maid of honor in Chicago to meet her new, sweet baby girl! This was my first trip to Chicago. It was a short weekend, but luckily I was able to find some good gluten-free eats!

Summer House Santa Monica

We went to Summer House for breakfast on Saturday morning. It is such a cute restaurant! The decor is light, airy and as the name suggests, makes you feel like you stepped into the summer season. It’s a pretty big restaurant, but from what I could tell, it fills up quickly. You should definitely make a reservation beforehand. We made ours the night before and there were only a few openings left for 8:30am.

Summer House offers a separate gluten-free menu. I ordered the three egg breakfast without crispy hashbrowns and a cappuccino. I was very impressed when the waitress told me that the kitchen has a separate toaster for gluten-free bread. In the almost 6 years I have been gluten-free, this was the first time I have been to a restaurant that has a gluten-free toaster. I also loved that my toast had an “allergy stick.” This extra little step always makes me feel like the kitchen and servers are very aware of their customers.  We all loved our breakfast and I bought a huge gluten-free chocolate chip cookie at the bakery counter on our way out.

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City Winery Chicago Riverwalk

We spent Saturday afternoon on Michigan Avenue. When we made it over to the Chicago River, we stopped at City Winery to warm up and relax at bit. This wine bar is right on the river with indoor and outdoor seating. It was a pretty chilly day, but fortunately indoor/tented area was heated. This restaurant does not have exclusively gluten-free options. However, if you are gluten-sensitive, you could opt for the meat and cheese platter, skipping the bread. We shared a bottle of Caves São João Rosé Bruto {Sparkling Rosé} from Portugal. The bartender told us that City Winery is the only place outside of Portugal to serve this wine. I’m not a huge fan of rosé, but I thought this one was great. Gluten-free or not, I definitely think this restaurant is an awesome place to stop at if you’re in Chicago; especially if the weather is nice! I am looking forward to going back.

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Homeslice

Saturday we stayed in and ordered pizza from my cousin’s go-to place – Homeslice! Gluten-free pizza is hit or miss, but I am always looking for the perfect GF crust.  There are only a few places near my house in NY that actually have great GF pizza. Sometimes GF pizza can be soggy, so I usually play it safe and don’t order many toppings. I ordered the Jr. Cheese pizza from Homeslice. It was so good! The crust was thick and crisp. Not soggy at all. I would definitely recommend this place if you’re in the area. After enjoying our pizza, we rented The Greatest Showman {affiliate link} and stayed in for the night. I am not a huge fan of musical movies, but I really enjoyed this one!

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The Vig

After walking around the Lincoln Park Zoo, we took a long walk over to The Vig for lunch before I headed home. To our surprise, Sunday at The Vig was quite the brunch party. If you’re looking for a quiet brunch spot, skip this place. If you’re looking for good 90s jams from a live DJ with a side of dance party, go here. Definitely a great location for birthdays, bachelor or bachelorette parties.

The Vig offers a decent amount of gluten-free options on their menu. I ordered the Chorizo Skillet and was not disappointed!  This personal sized skillet came with potatoes, crumbled chorizo and a fried egg. I definitely want to try to re-create this dish in my own kitchen! It had tons of flavor and was just the right size. Our waitress was really friendly and provided us with food and drink recommendations too.

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Disclaimer: I am participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. All opinions/recommendations are my own.

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Classic Marinara Sauce for Two!

Hi blog friends! Thanks for stopping by again. Today, I want to share a quick and simple recipe that I think everyone should know how to make — Marinara Sauce! This sauce can be served with pasta, meatballs, on pizza, eggplant parm, chicken parm and so much more. I use this recipe as a base to all red sauces I make too. Like many of the dishes I make, this one starts with olive oil, garlic and onions. I really believe that if you always have these three ingredients, you can whip up a tasty meal with whatever else you have in your kitchen.

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Tea Kettle / Stand Mixer / Spoon Rest (similar)/ Pot/ Mason Jar (similar)/ Backsplash

I first started making my own sauce my junior year of college. I could often be found making a pot of sauce and baked ziti before my 8am class. Although I didn’t do very much meal prep in college, I did find it easy to make a head some dinner here and there so I could heat them up quickly after late classes. A girls’ gotta eat, right?

One of my first blogs ever was about my homemade sauce {check it out here} and reading that blog now is kind of funny. In that post I mention that oregano was my least favorite dried seasoning, but now I would say that I love oregano and don’t care for parsley. Sometimes I even leave parsley out. I also find it really funny that I mentioned I was making Mike {who is now my husband} strawberry shortcakes with homemade whip cream. He was the pickiest eater in college! I totally forgot that there was a time he ‘hated’ strawberries until I re-read that blog. Boy have times changed!

Now that I’ve taken you on a trip down memory lane, let’s get back to my current recipe! Although I haven’t changed much since I first started making sauce there is one change that I think was for the better. I almost always add very finely chopped or grated carrots. Carrots really cut down on the acidity of red sauce. I am a bit prone to heartburn and acid reflux. I have found that when I add carrots to my sauce it is much less likely upset my stomach. If you’re in the same boat, I definitely suggest you give carrots a try!

Disclaimer: I am participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. All opinions/recommendations are my own.

Classic Marinara Sauce

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2-3 small garlic cloves, finely minced
2-3 tbsp carrot, finely grated
14.5oz can petite diced tomatoes, unsalted*
8oz can tomato sauce, unsalted*
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp black pepper
*Can substitute 1 28oz can of unsalted tomato sauce/puree

Directions

-Saute onions in olive oil over medium/low heat until they’re fragrant and translucent, about 5-7 minutes
-Add carrots and saute for another 5-7 minutes
-Add garlic and sautee for about 3 minutes
-Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and seasonings
-Once sauce starts to bubble, bring down to a simmer for 30 minutes or up to two hours.

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