I’m finding it hard to write words passionate enough to describe the time that I spent in Dublin, Ireland for Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. March 14-18 were easily some of the happiest days I have spent abroad so far. On Friday morning, Jenna, Taylor, and myself headed to Charleroi airport to catch our flight to Dublin. We left LLN at around 8am to catch our 11:45 flight, the airport is a bit of a hike. But, the minute we got to the airport (in Belgium mind you) the St Paddy’s Day spirit was in the air. People were already decked out in their green clothes and hats and costumes. It was awesome and a really fun atmosphere right from the get go. This was the first time I flew Ryanair, and fortunately I had no problems, but it was absolutely the rowdiest flight I’ve ever been on. Everyone was so loud and excited. The row in front of me ordered 5 personal champagne bottles. There were cheers, songs, laughs, and shouts the entire time until we landed in the promise land. The Dublin airport was decorated with balloons and streamers and hanging clovers; they were anticipating us. I soon discovered that this holiday we so cherish is really only a big deal for us North Americans. The Irish could basically care less; it was also the first time since I’ve been abroad that I felt really surrounded by other Americans and native english speakers. It was slightly refreshing until I remembered how much I loathe the whiny 20-something white girl voice audible from half way across the room. Please, if I ever talk like that can someone please slap me. Anyways, we were all giddy to get our passports stamped (you don’t get a stamp when you travel internationally by train) and we were soon on the city bus en route to our hostels. Jenna and I were late bookers for the trip so we were in a different hostel than Taylor, and we were about 15 minutes each from the main part of the city. After a bit of a ride into the city center we each found our accommodations and dropped off our things. This time around, I was really happy with the hostel (the great looking Irish desk reception guy didn’t hurt either). Breakfast was included in our stay, the rooms were clean and new with private bathrooms and all that. Definitely worth the money we spent to be there for a crazy holiday weekend. It was then the afternoon and us gals met back up in the famed Temple Bar area to grab some grub. So here’s what I quickly learned about Dublin: The Temple Bar is an individual bar, very famous, and then the surrounding Temple Bar area includes a bunch of nice pubs and restaurants. So we grabbed a fantastic burger at Bobo’s (shutout to our Swedish friend named Bobo) and then wandered around a bit. We went to The Temple Bar to order a token Guinness and spent some time there listening to a live band and people watching. Like I said before, amazing vibe right off the bat. I was a huge fan of the live music they had everywhere around town for the festival. For the rest of the evening we explored the city. We saw some more live performances along the streets and went in and out of shops along the way. We were so childishly excited to buy our green costumes for the big day, and there were no shortages of places to do so. That night we ended up at a fun student bar called the Living Room. There were fish tanks all over and a nice outdoor deck and patio. Really nice place to wind down for the night, especially because we had an early morning on Saturday!
Saturday was our day trip to the Cliffs of Moher. We had to meet our tour bus at around 8am to head out for the day. So we got to the bus and boarded on with about 45 other people and our Irish tour guide named Gavin. The Irish accent is so fun to listen to, so I enjoyed Gavin’s plethora of fun facts and information all throughout the day. We headed out of the city, and spent a few hours on the road to get to our first stop which was a small fishing village that was home to the most photographed castle in the country. We only had about 20 minutes to take a walk and get some pictures but it was a beautiful day! So we got as close to the castle as time would allow and got some good pictures and took in the cute atmosphere of the small village. There were colorful little shops and tiny boats, quite picturesque. Then we were back on the bus to continue our drive across the width of Ireland to get to the coast. We drove along a coastal road next to the ocean which was absolutely beautiful. It was a little bit foggy but you couldn’t beat the cliff side view of the water and the natural beauty of the land; it reminded me a lot of Iceland! Our next stop was at a very old Abbey built in the midst of limestone rocks. Apparently you can reserve a plot in the cemetery for 100 years, so there were many families in the cemetery together. It was a peaceful little place with a noticeable Irish touch on the gravestones and in the architecture. This was a pretty countryside stop so we took some nice pictures there as well. Continuing further along the coastal road we pulled over at one point to see the “Baby cliffs”, the miniature version of the real cliffs. It was a sparkling view over the ocean along an empty highway, a beautiful piece of nature. We snapped some pictures and got excited for the real thing! By this time it was about the lunch hour, so Gavin drove us down the road to the town of Doolin where we stopped for some delicious homemade hot lunch. I had a great salmon, potato, and vegetable dish for a good price! It was apparently an extremely popular stop in Doolin where the line is often out the door so you can imagine how great the food was. We had some time before the bus left after we ate and so Jenna and I ended up getting ourselves Irish Claddagh rings from a nice family owned jewelry boutique, souvenir of the trip! Back on the bus we went, to finally arrive at our biggest destination of the day. The Cliffs of Moher is it’s own park area, there was a tourist office and parking spots for all of the visitors. Our bus dropped us right off at the base of the cliffs and we had an hour and a half to spend at the site. I can’t say enough how nice of a day we had and how lucky we were. It is definitely still the end of winter/early spring in Ireland so there are no guarantees with the weather but we had a clear day with some wind, not too cold, no rain, and we could see the entire area of the cliffs with no problem. So we started by climbing the pathway on the right side of the cliffs overlooking the ocean and coastal cliff line. Absolutely stunning. Apparently these cliffs are the second tallest in all of Europe. There was a mossy/grassy area along the top where we relaxed for quite a while, taking pictures and enjoying the view. There were plenty of people there with us, but it really felt like we were in an untouched part of the world. After some time we walked back down and up the left side. If we had more time I would have loved to follow the whole trail, but we made it a decent portion of the way and saw the view from the other side. The water was so blue in contrast to the green cliffs and you could see the waves lapping away at the old rocks below. At one point a boat went past, decently sized but it looked so small because we were so high up. It was a breathtaking place to be, and definitely reminded me of Iceland, which remains my favorite landscape. When our time was up we got back on the Paddy Wagon one last time to head back to Dublin. It was a few hours to get back so we all had some time to relax and watch the sunset from the windows. A beautiful day! We got back around 12 hours later and found an Italian place to grab some dinner. We had a good meal just eating and relaxing after a long day. When we left the restaurant we ended up running into some of Taylor’s friends who were on a pub crawl. We joined them at the one bar they were headed to next and enjoyed some good live music. We called it a night after that because it had been a long day.
On Sunday we slept in a little bit and then met up in the city center again. We had a relaxing low key day ahead of us which was quite nice, especially in anticipation of Monday. We walked around the city some more and through the Trinity College campus. It’s a beautiful university and really different from what we know in LLN. Some of the trees and flowers were in bloom and it was nice to see spring on the way. The town was really hyped up in anticipation of the next day; there were more people out and more live performances along the side streets. A bit later in the afternoon we met up with one of Taylor’s hometown friends who had come in from Glasgow, Natalie. The four of us went into a bunch of the shops called Carroll’s to stock up on our green gear for the next day. I chose some Irish flag colored high socks, a green tutu, an Ireland crew neck sweatshirt, tacky clover beaded necklace, and a sparkly green bow for a headband. We were definitely ready and in the spirit. By late afternoon we parted ways to go freshen up for the night because we were signed up for a pub crawl. The group met at around 8pm at the first bar in the Temple Bar area. We got our wristbands and first beers in a homey feeling pub. After the group was ready to get going, our guides introduced themselves and got everyone all excited. What a job they have! We headed to another bar down the block, it was huge and an enjoyable atmosphere. We had some fun there, meeting some of the people on the crawl with us and all of that. Our third stop was at a bar with a live band, which was fun to sing along to and make requests. By this time we were getting tired even though the crawl still had 2 more stops. We decided to cut it short and head in for the night, but it had been some great fun!
Monday finally arrived and we were ready. Jenna and I got up early to check out of our hostel and make the trek to Taylor and Nat’s place. The streets were all closed for the parade and no busses were running so we walked with our backpacks all dressed up lol. At the other hostel we stealthily locked away our bags and got ready with Tay and Nat. Face tattoos and green clothes on we headed out around 11. The parade was to start at 12 and the streets were packed! Everyone was lined up to get a view of the street. We walked around for about an hour and agreed it would be really hard to see the parade from our place. So we went down to Temple Bar, the actual bar, grabbed a Guinness, and watched it on tv! I’d say we did that one right. We made friends with some English guys where we were standing and got one of them, he easily could’ve been a grandpa, to buy us all a round, success because the alcohol was sooo expensive. Lol at us. It wasn’t too crowded at first because everyone was out at the parade, but once it ended the place filled up real quick. People were everywhere! So we finished up at Temple Bar and spent some more time walking around with the crowds. Everyone was so rowdy and was having such a great time. By around 3 we were hitting a wall so we went to the food store that was part restaurant and ordered this unbelievable meal: 20 euros for a large pizza, French fries, garlic bread, and chicken fingers. Oh and a coke. Best decision of the day. On our way back to the hostel we played in a fountain with bubbly water and cheered along with everyone else in the streets. We napped for a few hours at the hostel, Jenna and I did a great job at acting like we were staying there, and then reconvened at around 7. We went down to the lobby of the hostel to hang out and ended up meeting some other people staying there. One guy from California was in the midst of a 2 year stint around the world just because. He would be working in a few places and just moving around the world as he pleased; some really interesting people stay in hostels. We ended up heading out with him a little later to find a good bar. A lot of places were either full or had an age restriction, so we spent some time wandering until we found a good spot. We had some fun there, met some people from the University of Illinois band who played the parade, and bar hopped a bit until around midnight. Now, we had a 8am flight out if Dublin Tuesday morning. So originally we were all bold like let’s stay out all night and go straight to the airport!!!!!! So funny and ambitious considering we actually called it a night around 12. Jenna and I snuck back into the hostel for the night to get some sleep and we headed out around 5am to catch a shuttle to the airport. It was pretty busy because everyone was getting out of town but we made it! A flight, bus, and 2 trains later we made it back to LLN by the afternoon. I basically napped for the rest of the day and night, what a weekend it had been!
Like I said in the beginning, absolutely one of my happiest experiences here so far. I wish I could write my emotions better, but I love being able to write the details that I cherish so that I can fondly look back and smile at the incredible experiences I’ve had this semester. Dublin was a splurge weekend for me, but worth every penny, or euro. Besides, we had a cheap flight booked to Poland for the next weekend anyways 🙂