Sunday, April 18, 2010

Póg mo thóin!

Eleanora and I had our first trip without most of the normal group and it was wildly successful! (She gets the credit, since I took a backseat in planning this, and most of our other trips…) But we both agreed that Dublin was one of our favorite places we visited and we’re SO glad we choose to go there instead of Amsterdam with the rest of the group. We arrived in Dublin around 7:30 and grabbed the shuttle to our hostel, which was right along the Liffey River in South Dublin. Our first encounter with the Irish people who were so friendly and helpful was the bus driver who stopped right at our hostel even though it wasn’t on his route! Everywhere we went, I was surprised by the friendliness of all the Irish we met. I instantly felt comfortable in the city. We dropped our stuff off at the hostel and checked in before heading to Mom and Aunt Nancy’s hotel. Since it was just the two of us, we decided to go for the cheapest room which was with 4 other random people. Definitely a true hostel experience! But more about that later. We went to their hotel and Mom went out to dinner with us. Since they had been there for 2 days before we got there, she already had a favorite fish and chips place which was perfect for what we were looking for. It was sad saying goodbye after dinner but I know it’s not too much longer now before I go home and I had a great time while they were here!
The next morning we got up early for breakfast (toast and coffee) before heading to the Guinness Storehouse for a tour. I really enjoyed the tour and we got a pint of Guinness at the end, which was good after hearing how it was made. I think I appreciated it more. We also got a nice view of Dublin from the top of the storehouse. Before heading to our next stop, Kilmainham Gaol, we stopped at a little family run pub for lunch. It had a great authentic feel to it and I’m sure we stuck out obnoxiously with our big Guinness Store bags. We headed to the Jail (Gaol) after lunch. I knew it was a famous jail and a must-see in Dublin, but I didn’t know a whole lot about Irish history going into it. Our tour guide was really interesting and told us about the prisoners that were held there, especially during the Irish Civil War and during the Easter risings of 1916. Many were political prisoners that were held and executed there. It’s also been the set of over 80 films and I thought the east wing looked vaguely familiar. Lots of interesting history that I didn’t know about previously. After the jail we tried to go to the Jameson factory but we realized we’d get there too late so we headed back to the hostel to freshen up before getting dinner. For dinner we went to a highly rated Japanese restaurant (I know, but we had 4 whole days to eat Irish food, right?) because we were both craving sushi so bad! This was the night we went all out – drinks, multiple courses, desserts, the whole nine yards. All of it was delicious. After dinner we didn’t really know what to do. We were full and tired but didn’t want to miss out on the night scene. On the way back to the hostel we saw the one pub, Fitzgerald’s, playing live music so we decided to stop in for a pint. The duo singing was a riot! They played some Irish songs mixed with pop tunes. Pink Floyd and Britney Spears mashup? Amazing. Eleanora and I each had a pint of Bulmers, an Irish cider, so good. After leaving the bar we talked the whole way home about how we could see ourselves living here. I seriously loved Ireland and it would be great to move back after college! Not sure how feasible it is, but I’m keeping the possibility open.
The next morning we woke up and went on a walking tour that hit most of the main stuff in the city: Dublin Castle, St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College, Christ King Church, Temple Bar, etc. It was such a good tour and it helped me to understand and appreciate Irish history even more. After the tour we took the train to Houth, a fishing village on the coast. They had a great farmer’s market where I got the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. It was so huge but I had to get dessert too because they looked amazing, obviously. We sat on the rocks for a while and looked out at the ocean. It was so beautiful. Later, still stuffed, we decided to go to the movies instead of dinner. It was great to go to a theater and know the movies would be in their original format! Read: English. We saw Remember Me – really good, but a little sad! Before heading home we stopped at a place in Temple Bar for a pint.
Our third full day in Ireland was great because we got to see the actual countryside. We took a day tour to Wicklow and Glendalough in the south of Ireland, near the coast. The views were incredible – the coastline, the mountains, the green farmlands, the lakes, waterfalls, etc. were fantastic examples of nature’s raw beauty. Many of the places we stopped were the scenes of movies such as Braveheart, P.S. I Love You, Excalibur, and Reign of Fire, just to name a few. We also saw Bono’s huge mansion on the coast, still under construction, and Van Morrison’s house as well. We stopped for lunch in a little town called Larough where I ate Beef and Guinness Stew – delicious! Our tour guide was a little old Irish man who tooks all through these towns and St. Kevin’s Monastery where, of course, I took tons of pictures for Dad. It made me really interested in my family history since I know my great-grandparents were from Ireland. We got back from the tour in perfect time to catch the last tour of the day at the Jameson distillery. Free whiskey tasting at the end and a free glass of whiskey… can’t beat it! We got to taste the difference between Jameson, Jack Daniels, and a premium Scotch. All very strong but I could definitely taste the differences. For dinner that night we went to the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin. Really great atmosphere at the place and we ended up hanging around for a while after dinner. Later we went to Temple Bar and watched song live music before calling it a night.
I mentioned earlier the ‘true hostel experience’ that we had and there’s no other way to say it! When we first went to our room, no one was there but there was bags and stuff on the beds/in the bathroom and the first thing we noticed was that there was all male products. Later that night when we got back from dinner, two of our roommates were already asleep in the first two beds. One was bald and heavily tattooed; the other was gray-haired and rather large. We climbed up to bed and went to sleep anyway. The next morning when we woke up, all of our roommates were already gone so we took our time getting ready. When we were almost ready to leave, a guy around our age came in and introduced himself. He was from Germany but spoke great English. Another girl came in while we were talking and got right in the shower so we didn’t really get to meet her. Those two and Grandpa (our affectionate nickname for the large gray-haired Irishman) were only there that first night, but Jared, tattooed, bald guy who we later found out lives in Barcelona and enjoys yoga and meditation, was there all 4 nights that we were. The next day we got another round of randoms that we never met. Our last night there, Ramon, moved in. He was a Spaniard from the Basque Country, but he had lived in France for a while and was currently moving to England to get his International MBA. He was really nice so I forgave him for the awful snoring… All-in-all quite a different experience for us, but an enjoyable one! It was great to meet so many different characters.

Please look at my pictures!

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