It’s so strange having a fall break this early on in the semester. Of course, I’m used to the first break of the year including a big roast turkey and pumpkin pie. With it being just the end of October, I guess a trip to Ireland will have to do.
Ireland has been on the top of my travel list for a very long time. I’ve always wanted to visit the land of four leaf clovers and green as far as the eye can see. Despite the stereotypical idea I had in my head of Ireland, the time I’ve spent here has lived up to every expectation I had regarding this trip. Saturday morning had Hannah, Rebecca and I leaving Stamford Street for Heathrow Airport (at an ungodly hour for them, but just the morning for me). The tube was empty and we actually got seats for the hour ride to Heathrow Airport. A quick breakfast at the cafe and then on to the airplane, jetting towards yet another adventure.
When we landed, we were so giddy with excitement and the customs officers were laughing at us as we cheered when another stamp marked our passports. We took the AirCoach bus to the city center of Dublin, for only 12 euro round trip – it was definitely easier on our wallets than the emergency taxi we took on our delayed Scotland flight. Hannah went running down the road when she spotted her friend and their reunion was so priceless…made for a movie, even. We had a great hot lunch at KC Peaches, across the road from Trinity College, before making our way to the area of Rathmines, where we were staying in a Travelodge hotel just across the road from Molly (Hannah’s friend from the states).
A much needed pick-me-up coffee was at TwoFiftySquare, a cute little cafe around the corner from our hotel in Rathmines. Although the flight to Dublin was only 50 minutes, any day of travel makes me more tired than usual, and we had a night at the pubs ahead of us. Caffeine was an absolute must. I was prepared for a bustling nightlife that resembled London – but Dublin has a much more relaxed pub life. Sure there was the loud music, mingling groups and many “sláinte”s to drinks around the room, but it seemed more intimate and you were certainly able to simply talk with your friends if that was what you desired. On top of it all, the Irish guys were actual gentlemen – they were there to socialize and share a drink with their buddies (although that accent didn’t hurt much). Fast forward to 1 AM, when Dublin had daylight savings and I became confused when I left to go back to the hotel at 1:40 but got back at 1:10 – definitely took a while to notice.
Come morning, I left the sleepy heads to their morning slumber and ventured for a walk into city center. I passed along St. Stpehen’s Green and Merrion Square as the parks were being unlocked and the city was waking up on the chilly Sunday morning. There’s something so refreshing about walking around when nothing is quite open yet. Seeing an area wake up teaches you a lot about the way it works – whether its busy or sleepy, young or family oriented. Dublin is so much smaller than London, in the height of the buildings, the amount of time it takes you to walk from one side to the other and the number of people living in it.
My friends joined up with me at Trinity College, after I had done some souvenir shopping up and down Grafton street. We took a short walk to the Temple Bar area, which is a young and vibrant slice of Dublin, and crossed the Ha’Penny Bridge, that separates the north side of Dublin from the south. Much like everything in London, everything in Dublin is very old and has seen so much history pass by. It’s still such a new concept for me to grasp – these bridges existed before the states had even declared independence… how strange.
We took a bus over to the Guinness Factory at St. James’ Gate. Founded in 1759, Arthur Guinness had such a large vision for his brewery that he signed a 9000 year lease for the land. It was definitely worth the 14 euros to take a tour through the brewing process – the hops, barley, water and yeast that are used in crafting the perfect pint. Speaking of crafting a pint, we went up the fourth floor after learning how to properly taste the qualities of Guinness to take a stab at pouring a pint at the Guinness Academy. All three of us came out with a certificate…kind of reminds me of those participation trophies they hand out in recreation soccer; but no matter, because we did it!
The day ended with a dinner at Portside Pub in the temple bar area for a traditional Irish lamb stew in front of live music being played by what can only be described as a rock flutist. Like no kidding, live flute and rock music combined. I had no idea that genre of music even existed. For day one of our reading week trip, it was pretty darn good.
Little to our knowledge, we picked Ireland’s Bank Holiday weekend to come visit. Apparently the population of Dublin doubles during this weekend, as the marathon runs through city center and most of the smaller towns shut down for the day. I spent a few hours in the morning catching up on some journaling in the cafe down the road and by the time I was caffeined up, the sleep head brigade was waking up and ready to go explore. We made our way back to Grafton street in search of Claddagh rings – traditionally worn as wedding bands symbolizing love, friendship and honor, and now more commonly worn. It’s been an item on my list for a while; to purchase a Claddagh in Dublin – really can’t get more Irish than that.
With hot chocolates in hand, because dang Dublin is cold, we made our way through the Iveagh Gardens. It was the perfect spot to spend some time outside when most of the shops were closed. There were a few statues throughout the park and locals were walking through with their dogs and enjoying the bank holiday outside.
For the first two days of our trip to Dublin, I would vote it as pretty successful. Dublin is an enchanting city – small yet busy. Our trip continues with a day trip to Western Ireland, so keep an eye out for the update this weekend! Each trip I take makes me fall a little bit more in love with living abroad. I’ve learned so much about what I want out of adventure from these 6 short weeks – hopefully it won’t be too long until I’m moving back a little more permanently.