• 4 February 2022

Happy older couple travelling Ireland

Travel brings joy to people from all over the world. After months of restrictions, rescheduling and changed plans, David and Melissa Vicars were finally able to experience the joy of travelling once again when they visited Ireland with Expat Explore

In September 2021, David, 65, and Melissa, 64, both from Delaware in the USA,  joined the Irish Explorer tour and enjoyed a week of Irish adventures! From the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant’s Causeway to the lively streets of Dublin and Belfast – it was the perfect way to press play on travel again! After returning home from their tour, David and Melissa shared the highlights, funny moments and useful information from their trip with us. 

Experiencing the joy of travelling once again

While the couple had initially planned to travel to Europe and Greece in September 2020, Covid-19 and various lockdown restrictions called for a change of plans. The couple needed to reschedule tours, “We had already booked two tours back-to-back for September 2020 (Europe Taster and a Taste of Greece tour),” David and Melissa shared, “The Greece schedule stayed essentially the same but the European Taster did not. That is when I looked into travelling to Ireland. The schedule worked out perfectly. In addition, tour leader Mike Thoms, who was on our first Expat Explore tour in Great Britain, spoke highly of travelling to Ireland.”

Just over a year later, they were touching down on the Emerald Isle!

The Irish adventure travel dreams are made of!

The Irish Explorer tour begins in Dublin and travels through the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland over seven days. Along the way, David and Melissa experienced some incredible sights and destinations! 

“The things that stand out are the Cliffs of Moher – it was an amazing sight and a stunning view. Walking the humongous stones of the Giant’s Causeway with the sea slapping the stones was another highlight and there was a sheepdog demonstration which was amazing and very interesting – they were very skilful!” 

Giant's Causeway in Ireland
See the impressive basalt columns on a visit to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Local sheepdog presentation in Ireland
David and Melissa enjoyed the sheepdog presentation on their trip!

During a visit to Bunratty Castle, the couple were able to see the estate’s historic cottages and had the added bonus of seeing a movie production on location, “There was an actual filming of a Hallmark Movie (Christmas at Heart Castle) taking place, which we watched recently on television!” 

Perhaps the biggest highlight was a visit to the famous Blarney Castle. “Making our way to the top of Blarney Castle and kissing the Blarney stone was special,” said David and Melissa, “We enjoyed the Irish coffee and purchased an Irish man’s hat and some treats. Our Irish driver provided a lot of interesting stories as we covered the countryside. His stories of Belfast and the history of Catholic and Protestant conflict were very moving and interesting.”

Blarney Castle in Ireland
Blarney Castle is a popular stop on Ireland tours.

It would have been a very different trip, had the couple not joined an organised tour. “Traveling on our own, we would not have seen as much of the country or experienced the culture and history,” said David and Melissa.

Making memories in the Irish countryside

Travel comes with many memorable moments – the good, the bad and the funny! One of the couple’s funniest memories took place at Blarney Castle while kissing the Blarney Stone. Tradition says kissing the stone will give you the “gift of the gab!”

“I took a picture of my wife kissing the Blarney Stone and then she was supposed to take my picture,” said David, “After I kissed the stone and climbed back to my feet, my wife said she was watching me and did not take the photo. The gentleman who was helping me so that I did not fall as I was upside down kissing the stone, said to go right ahead and kiss the stone again. Now, I am afraid of heights and must hang upside down with a 90-foot drop to the ground – again! After I kissed the stone a second time, the gentleman said to my wife ‘Honey, did you get the picture?’” 

View of Blarney Castle and traveller kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland
David and Melissa won’t soon forget kissing the Blarney Stone!

Another chuckle-worthy memory was when David nearly missed lunch due to a surprising language barrier. During a stop, he wanted to send postcards to his grandchildren. David stopped to ask several people for directions to the post office. However, the locals he came across only spoke Gaelic! “After a few minutes, I found someone that I could ask. I was concerned because we were on a schedule and it looked like I would miss lunch because I did not speak Gaelic!” That’s when you know you’re in Ireland! 

Covid-19’s impact on travel in 2021

Over the past two years, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the travel industry, in many ways. While there were tours that operated in late 2021, travel looked slightly different due to Covid-19 protocols. David and Melissa were cautious and careful about travel, but very happy to begin some sort of normalcy. 

Covid-19 added a few steps to David and Melissa’s travel process. Luckily, none were too tedious. “We had to prepare a personal locator form. Not too difficult except they required one for both travellers. The form only had one entry for the place that you were staying,” said David, “When we arrived at customs, the officer asked how long we were staying and what we were going to do in the country. I told him that we were going to see Ireland on a tour with Expat Explore. He was delighted and asked what was the most exciting thing on the tour that we were looking forward to experiencing. My wife quickly said the Cliffs of Moher and he was delighted.”

Cliffs of Moher in Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Ireland!

In addition to extra customs forms, Expat Explore required negative PCR tests and masks to be worn on the bus. Masks and hand sanitisers were provided where needed. There were also extra protocols in place at restaurants, attractions and hotels. “Expat Explore took care of these checking-in requirements at all hotels and restaurants included in the tour and helped travellers to get their test prior to departure home. Some sites required to see the vaccination card and a mask to enter, Expat Explore always prepared the group for these requirements,” added David. 

Making friends from around the world

One of the best things about a group tour is getting to meet new people from around the world. It is also the chance to make friends for life! “It is exciting to learn about the different cultures and experiences of the group,” David shared, “Melissa always finds several people to share our stories with and join together on Facebook. She is friends with former Expat travellers from around the world and the list of friends continues to grow!” 

According to David and Melissa,  the group were quick to bond over the topic of dealing with Covid-19. The group talked about their experiences of the changes to everyday life and travel plans since 2020. Everyone is looking forward to eventually returning to normal! 

Happy couple at Giant's Causeway in Ireland
David and Melissa – happy to be travelling once again!
Where to next for David and Melissa?

David and Melissa have always loved to travel. “Travel gives people joy. It opens our minds and souls to new experiences and, often, it creates new friendships and bonds,” the couple shared.

So where to next? The Balkans and Switzerland are near the top of the list. In fact, the couple has booked an 8-day Taste of Eastern Europe tour for September 2022! 

We look forward to welcoming them back on the road again later this year!

If David and Melissa’s love for travel has inspired wanderlust in you, take a look at our exciting tours departing in 2022! We hope to welcome you on board soon! 

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