Ireland, The Actual Motherland

Before visiting Ireland, I knew to expect two things. One, that the people were going to be among the nicest we’ve met on this trip and two, copious amounts of alcohol will be involved. Both expectations rang true on our trip throughout Dublin, Galway and County Clare.

I am part Irish so visiting Ireland was a really cool experience for me. I loved being able to indulge in my unfamiliar heritage. Our original itinerary for Ireland included Dublin, Galway and Cork. Unfortunately, we had to cut Cork out of our trip due to some time restraints and proximity issues. I was extremely saddened by doing so, but that just means I’ll have to come back!

First stop was to Galway where we stayed at the best hostel in Ireland, Galway City Hostel, very original, I know. The hostel definitely lived up to its awards. They offered free breakfast, 2 euro dinners and the hostel was smack dab right in the middle of the city.

Our first day in Galway, we walked all throughout the city. Galway isn’t big on sightseeing which was a big change of pace for us, but we didn’t mind. The best way to see Ireland is through a beer glass anyways. We swung by a few different pubs and got to enjoy multiple beers with the locals.

Salthouse was the first stop. It’s a typical Irish pub known for their craft beer, so you know I was already hooked. We met a wonderful lady, Concilla, from Galway who traveled all throughout the U.S. when she was our age. She congratulated us on our travels and reminded us just how lucky we are to be able to do so much in such a short period of time.

Before we left, Concilla recommended that we go to Taaffes for a few beers. Taaffes is another local pub which hosts live Irish music every single night. The bar here was a little more packed and the age range definitely went up a few years, but we didn’t mind one bit. We met a group of guys our age who drew particular attention to us based on our height. Irish people really do love tall people enough to want to take pictures with you and stare at you in amazement for hours on end. Again, we didn’t mind and actually found it quite entertaining.

The guys recommended that we follow them to a bar with more people our age, but when we walked past the outside we had to decline. One look inside the bar and it looked like cradles were being robbed left and right.

We headed back to the hostel for 2 euro vegetable curry and called it a night. We can’t hang anymore.

Galway is situated only two hours away from Cliffs of Moher which meant taking a day trip was a MUST. We chose to book through the Galway Tour Company which included a trip to Doolin, Cliffs of Moher and Burren for only 20 euro. Going into the tour I didn’t care much about Doolin or Burren, but these little towns in Ireland were truly spectacular.

We stopped first in Doolin for lunch at Gus O’Connor’s Pub and I had the best seafood chowder I will ever eat. There was so much shrimp, crab and lobster in the chowder I couldn’t believe it was only 6 euro. After lunch we walked around and took pictures of the vibrant shops along the main strip then headed back to the bus.

After about 15 more minutes, we finally reached the Cliffs of Moher. When your tour guide tells you that the Cliffs are windy, believe them. We took one step off the bus and I was convinced if I lifted a foot I would blow away. I’m sure the weather is much different/better during the spring and summer months, but if you ever travel there in the fall or winter, best of luck. Although it was horribly cold, windy and rainy at the Cliffs, we still had an amazing time. The Cliffs are breathtaking. I really wish my iPhone camera proved just how speechless the Cliffs made me, but they sure do not.

We wandered around the Cliffs for two hours and visited the gift shop then headed back to the bus for our last stop. Burren was last on the tour and we only spent about 15 minutes exploring the small cliffs there. Burren fit in extremely well with the trip. The way the sun hit off the rocks made for a beautiful picture and the small cliffs were a perfect end to our tour.

When we returned back to Galway we quickly realized that the Christmas Market had just opened. I love all the Christmas Markets in Europe and I felt like a little girl in a candy shop the second I saw all the tents up. We snatched our 2 euro Carbonara and then ran across the street to the market.

The Christmas Market had a chocolate fondue station, jewelry tents, a beer tent and a charcoal grill with the biggest burgers and sausages I’ve ever seen. Galway’s market is one of the smaller ones I’ve seen but it was one of my favorites. There were Christmas decorations hung all around the trees and each tent went to extreme lengths to cater to the holiday spirit. We sat next to the beer tent and had some Christmas punch and hot wine as we ate donuts. It truly was a wonderful ending to our time in Galway.

The next three days were dedicated to Dublin. My sister’s best friend, Scobie, lived in Dublin for over a year and had amazing recommendations for us so I was extremely excited for our arrival.

The first night we stayed at the perfect Airbnb in South Dublin with the cutest little family. The host, Saskia is from Germany and her husband, Miguel is from Venezuela and their beautiful one year old daughter whose name has escaped me. I absolutely fell in love with their family. The moment we walked in they were all in bathrobes with face masks on eating dinner together. The little girl was in her pajamas with jingle bell socks on following us around the house and waving. I wanted to move in immediately.

Bianca’s birthday fell on our first full night in Dublin and things got ugly. We started the night out at Porterhouse Pub which has about 100 different types of beer. You can only imagine how that ended. When the pub started to empty out a little we made our way to Copper’s which is a night club about 15 minutes away. Copper’s was one of those places that Scobie referred to as “dirty but cheap.” Hey, we’ve all been to college, so we knew exactly what that meant. Copper’s was in fact dirty, full of very sexually aggressive men, but the drinks were cheap and we had a body guard with us so we stayed for a few hours.

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Around 4 a.m. we decided to take the 40 minute walk home because taxis in Ireland are horribly expensive. The walk wasn’t terrible, but I sure was ready for bed the moment we stepped inside the Airbnb.

Apparently my 10 a.m. alarm clock wasn’t enough to wake me and we finally got out of bed at noon. Thank goodness Saskia let us check out late, god bless her heart.

I pre-booked a hotel stay at the Hilton Dublin Airport for my last three nights in the city. The hotel was such a great relief from hostel life and I will continue to miss that bed for the remainder of my two weeks abroad. The hotel was much farther outside of the city center than I would’ve liked, but the transportation system in Dublin is incredible. I was able to take the bus from my hotel into Dublin center for only 3 euro and get there in about 25 minutes, not too shabby.

Scobie gave me a huge list of things to see while in Dublin, pubs to drink at and restaurants to eat at. I was able to see pretty much everything on her list, drink at a few of the pubs and eat at one of her favorite restaurants. Dublin is more expensive than I originally thought so eating and drinking out every day wasn’t a possibility for me, but I definitely made the best of my stay.

During my time in Dublin, I visited the Guinness Storehouse and did a tour of the entire facility. Tickets for the Guinness Storehouse are much lower if you go in the morning so I booked a 9:45 a.m. tour and started my day the Irish way. The Storehouse was incredible. It’s a self-guided tour where you are able to smell the different aromas, learn about the ingredients and even become a certified Guinness pourer. As if the tour itself wasn’t a highlight, I was offered 20 euro from an Irish tour company to answer a few questions for their travel video. I’m not going to ever turn down 20 euro so I hopped right on camera, answered three simple questions and went on my way. The tour ended at the 360 bar on the 7th floor in the Storehouse. It had an amazing view of the city and was the perfect spot to enjoy my Guinness.

We walked around the majority of Dublin City and saw all the iconic landmarks. Trinty College was absolutely beautiful and we were able to see the Book of Kells while we were there which blew me away, very Harry Potter-esque.

Dublin Castle was one of my favorites. It was really gloomy the day we saw the Castle and I think that definitely added to its beauty.

We saw Temple Bar, literally just saw it from the outside. I’m not very big on touristy places like Temple Bar. Scobie told me the drinks are very expensive and she was never a big fan of the bar itself anyway, so I knew I wouldn’t be either.

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Dublina looked pretty awesome from the outside as well. It’s the viking and medieval museum of Dublin. If I had more money I definitely would’ve gone in!

St. Patrick’s Cathedral was in line with the other architecture we saw in Dublin, but still beautiful nonetheless. We didn’t get the chance to go in due to being short on money, but I’m sure it’s a sight to see from the inside as well.

Last but not least, Hugh Lane Gallery. We stumbled upon Hugh Lane Gallery while at the Gardens of Remembrance and almost walked right by because we were convinced it would be expensive. I’m so happy something inside me told me to turn around and just go in and ask. The Gallery ended up being free, but we left a 2.50 euro donation anyway. The Gallery is huge! We probably spent about two and half hours walking throughout all the exhibits. My favorite part was the very top floor where old news articles were plastered everywhere. The Gallery encompassed a different kind of art that I’ve never seen before displayed. I had such a great appreciation for Hugh Lane Gallery because of my University background in Journalism and Public Relations. It was very cool for me to experience this type of historic news art and I cannot wait to return someday.

Unfortunately, we were unable to see Stephen’s Green. We spent more time at the Hugh Lane Gallery than originally expected and by the time we got to Stephen’s Green the fence was already locked.

One thing that really surprised me about Ireland was how festive they were. Dublin has shopping malls hidden many different places in the city and each is so beautifully decorated in the holiday spirit. I absolutely LOVED walking in and out of each one just to see the different decorations.

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Before we left Dublin I knew I had to try at least one of Scobie’s recommended restaurants. For our last night in Dublin we chose to eat at Le Bon Crubeen. Le Bon Crubeen is a very stylish European restaurant that serves some typical Irish dishes. Since we are on a budget we arrived between the hours of 5 and 6:30 p.m. where they do a two course dinner for only 19.95 euro. The food was incredible! I had the onion tartlet for an appetizer and the mediterranean risotto for my main course. I also was able to try the fish and chips and liver pate, which were also extremely delicious!

I had an amazing time in Ireland. As expected, the people were extremely friendly and copious amounts of alcohol were drank. I was able to experience a lot over the course of a week, but I know there is still so much more to see. Next time I return to Ireland I will be visiting Cork. I plan on renting a car once I am over the age of 25 and taking a few weeks to drive all throughout the countryside of Ireland.

Our next stop is Switzerland where we will be staying in Geneva. I’ve heard incredible things about Switzerland and it’s beauty so I am extremely excited for this next stop in our journey.

Until next time, Ireland. Thank you for the hospitality and all the Guinness.

 

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