Can anything beat a weekend with a super great camp friend, in one of the friendliest country in Europe? I highly doubt it, especially now looking back on my many travels this semester, I can honestly say this was probably my favorite (closely tied to the Octoberfest weekend with Nadia). I have wanted to visit Ireland since my sister, Karen studied abroad here in 2008, and even highly considered studying abroad here myself. A weekend trip, however was just the perfect amount of time to enjoy it, and promise myself that one day I will go back. There were so man things that made my weekend in Ireland amazing, it is almost hard to put in words. Don’t fret, however, I am going to try.
The Journey: While it wasn’t difficult to get to Ireland, flying is always quite an endeavor. I flew Ryan Air, and it only took a couple hours to arrive in the Emerald Island. Once there, however, I did have to wait about five hours for Brooke’s plane to come in. This wasn’t a problem though, and I busied myself with the free wifi at McDonalds, and well, McDonalds. When her flight did eventually get in, however time flew quickly as we chatted away and caught up on the way to the Dublin City Center. We were staying at Isaac’s Hostel Dublin and it was quite easy to recognize from the orange and red flags portrayed outside and on the website. Our 16 person mixed dorm (yikes) was on the 3rd floor, and if I can say anything positive about this hostel experience, it would be how motivated I am to get a good job and work hard in life to not have to stay in crappy hostels!! But I figure that while I am young and lacking an income, I should do my time and learn to enjoy the stench of strangers and the shock of a crisp cold shower. Haha, okay maybe a bit of sarcasm, but if one day I will look back and wonder where my motivation came from, please remind me of this blog, and the feeling of laying on a rickety bunkbed trying not to make eye contact with other people in the room. Thankfully (and for anyone who may be worrying around this time in my blog), I have felt safe in all the hostels that I have stayed in, and would definitely not leave myself in a bad hostel situation if I felt truly threatened or miserable. Sometimes, I just think that it is fun to remind myself the conditions that I slept in quite contently, and be grateful at night when I get to be in my own bed with my 1 roommate.
The Experience: The first morning in Dublin, Brooke and I woke up fairly early and enjoyed the hostel’s provided breakfast (toast , coffee and Nutella). It wasn’t bad, but definitely got old as the weekend went on. We then proceeded to take the free walking tour; through the company Sandeman’s New Europe that they have in almost every big European city. After doing a free walking tour in Paris on the last day, I realized what a great way it was to be introduced to the city, and a good way to learn a diverse bit of history without hitting every museum in sight. As good and interesting as it was, this tour ran a bit long for Brooke and I, and by hour three we were ready to split and devour some Irish grub. We found a fantastic soup and salad place that filled our appetites, and energized us to continue exploring the beautiful city and quaint shops for a few more hours. As we looked around we stopped at an ice cream shop where we were literally handed more samples than known to man. This worker literally gave us two times the size of our ice cream cups, so we tipped him well and got directions to the Guinness Factory while chatting. It took us a while, but we did eventually found ourselves staring at the big black gates and 18 euro tour fee. I was hesitant, but am so glad that we did the tour (self guided) that led you up around 6 floors explaining the beer process and company history. We even got to go into this cool white room for beer tasting. At the end we got a free beer and sat around to enjoy it in the sky lounge, with a 360 view of the city of Dublin. After our tour Brooke and I hustled ourselves back to the hostel to get ready for our (first ever) pub crawl! We paid $12 euros and that included a free shot (turned out to be very sugary and weak alcohol, but hey what can ya expect) at each of the 5 bars we visited. The first bar that we met at was a disappointment because you had to buy a drink to get either a free beer or mixed drink, and started to wonder what we had paid for. The next pubs, however, lived up to the advertisement, and we actually enjoyed a few with some really really great live music [The Old Storehouse]. By about the 4th bar, however we were ready to split, so Brooke and I left and found some fantastic Mexican food before heading back to the hostel. The nice thing about Ireland (unlike both Prague and Madrid) is that the nightlife started early and consequently ending early, something that both Brooke and I highly appreciated, as it allowed us to sleep a lot.
On Saturday Brooke and I decided to do something spontaneous, and catch a bus to Galway. We were set on seeing the Cliffs of Moher during our trip, and rather than paying $45 dollars for a tour bus to take us there and back, we choose to go to the nearby city of Galway, stay the night, and from there head to the cliffs the next day. What we didn’t quite realize was that the cliffs were another two hours from the city of Galway, so both time spent in busses and economically, it was not more frugal (we took the loss of our hostel in Dublin, and paid for one in Galway). These facts, however, do not negate the fact that it was SO worth it. I loved Galway 10x more than Dublin, and from the minute we stepped off the bus and walked through the city center with the blue and white flags , I was in awe of the quaint seaside town. Brooke and I quickly found ourselves at a street market where we had falafels (my first ever- so good) and ate them by a stream that led to the ocean. We had booked our hostel last minute that morning, without really checking out the location, and it turned out to be quite a walk from the city center. Nonetheless, it was quite an enjoyable walk, and allowed us to walk right along the ocean. What made it even more enjoyable was how nice the hostel was. I am not joking when I say that it was the nicest hostel I have ever stayed at, extremely new, cute, and very friendly. Named “The Nest”, this is a hostel that I would recommend to anyone we had such a good experience. Even the breakfast was awesome, and a very welcome change from toast and Nutella. Brooke and I rested for a bit, before heading back to the city center. We ate fantastic soup at a cute restaurant that gave us big water flasks (??) to keep us warm and blankets. After this we debated just getting ice cream and heading to bed, and eventually settled on McDonald’s sundaes and finding some live Irish music. Not only did we find fantastic music, but we also made friends and got seats. Overall, it was a great night filled with singing and drinking the foam off my Guinness (a very funny story for later). Irish pubs like this one were one of my favorite part of the country, if only for the friendly people, good memories and good music.
The next morning (Sunday) Brooke and I packed our stuff from The Nest, and headed to the bus station to find transport to the Cliffs of Moher. It turns out that the bus was set to depart around 45 minutes before we expected, but luckily we made it in the nick of time and settled in for another 2 hour trip. The drive was absolutely beautiful, and definitely satisfied my desires to see the authentic Irish countryside. It was pretty cold and windy at the cliffs, but so worth it because the view was amazing!! It was one of those moments in life when I can say I felt most alive. Brooke and I were so lucky throughout this entire trip to have such nice weather, see the sunshine a lot and not endure too much rain. After about three hours, we headed back to Galway on the same bus and stopped in to get some warm soup in a (yet another) cute and cozy tavern that also had live music. Then we caught the bus to Dublin and went to bed early, because it was raining and we were exhausted, but not before getting burritos.
Monday morning we enjoyed sleeping in for the first time of the trip. Around 10 we woke got ourselves moving, and without any real plan headed toward the city area. We ended up getting brunch from a cute cafe named The Bakehouse. Then Brooke and I went to the city area and looked around at little shops. It was interesting because we really had nothing that we were dying to do- which shows that one day in Dublin is probably enough for someone visiting to see all the sites and feel satisfied. We went to coffee after this, and then to a park where we sat and listened to music and watched the birds. Probably my only regret of this Ireland trip was not going into the Trinity college library and seeing the book of Kells. It is funny how in some circumstances $12 seems like nothing for an experience while in others cases $12 seems exorbitant. In this situation, $12 to enter the historical library seemed ridiculously expensive and so rather than paying it, Brooke and I spent part of our Monday afternoon roaming around the campus looking for students to make friends with who would take us into the library for free. While I acted completely confident about this daunting task of approaching people, I was more talk then action and chickened out multiple times, and we eventually gave up. Following this, Brooke and I grabbed some fantastic hamburgers before heading to our hostel to pack up again and refresh ourselves. That night we went looking for live music and ended up at a pub listening to an amazing artist who did acoustic everything. Besides the entertainment it was a super fun, chill night and a good way to close our Ireland trip.
The final morning included getting the best donut I’ve ever had (baileys Irish cream filled) and sweet goodbyes at the airport. Looking back at our trip we were extremely fortunate to have no hiccups- everything went smoothly, including our transportation, hostels, and even the weather. It was truly a blessing to get such a sweet weekend with Brooke, as she is a joyful girl who is spontaneous,fun, and easy to travel with. I will always remember this weekend as one of my favorites and will cherish the memories of Ireland forever. If I ever get the opportunity to visit Ireland again, I will be there in a heartbeat.