My passport is slowly getting more interesting. The latest addition – a bright green stamp from Ireland. Five of us went on this trip. Two Americans, two Spaniards and myself.
We arrived in Dublin, our first stop, around noon on Monday. We decided to go to the Guinness factory that afternoon, a key attraction for anyone visiting the capital. As it was a little bit out of the city centre, we took our time and saw some of the city’s sights on the way there.
One thing that struck me was how nice the people are all over Ireland. People would come up to us and volunteer their assistance if we seemed unsure of where to go. And the conversations would sometimes extend beyond that into a general chat. As much as I love London, you don’t really get that here.
If you weren’t aware, Ireland is famous for producing Guinness beer. The Guinness Storehouse/Brewery was pretty cool. Through a number of levels built around a giant pint glass, visitors are taken through the process of making Guinness, the history of Guinness, and more. A highlight for us was learning to pour the perfect pint. Not only were we presented with certificates at the end, but we got to drink the pints we’d poured. I can’t say I like the stuff… but I don’t like beer in general. I am told Guinness is very good.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Dublin. We found a beautiful park, where the springtime flowers were in bloom. It was sunny too!
That evening, after making dinner at the hostel, we went out to Temple Bar. Originally I thought it was just a single bar, but Temple Bar is in fact a whole area full of pubs, eateries, shops and more. We went into a traditional Irish pub where there was a live musician. It was a cool place and a really enjoyable night. The right level of low-key, seeing as we had all been up since about 4.30am and were understandably exhausted.
On Tuesday morning we were up at 7 to catch a train to Cork, the next city on our itinerary. I’m developing a real fondness of train trips, and this one was no different. Sure, it took a few hours, but I very much enjoyed the scenery. Wide green expanses, animals, dilapidated old castles… The Irish countryside certainly has charm.
The city of Cork didn’t blow me away. To be fair, I can’t fall in love with every single city I visit. It was nice enough. We had a great pub lunch, wandered around a bit, and came across a cool food market. But the highlight of our day in Cork was certainly our visit to Blarney Castle, about half an hour away by bus.
The most famous thing about Blarney Castle is probably the Blarney Stone. At the top of the castle you have the opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone – supposedly the stone of eloquence. If you kiss it, apparently you will never be lost for words again. Of course we all did it, while attempting to avoid thinking about all the germs on the stone. You have to go upside down to kiss the stone, and there is a man employed especially to help visitors do it! Blarney Castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens, which we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring.
That night we again prepared dinner at our hostel, and spent the evening there. A word about hostels: I wasn’t especially looking forward to the prospect of staying in hostels everywhere I went. But every hostel I have stayed in so far has been really good. Sure, in hotels you have a private bathroom and a mini-bar. But hostels are often funky, and you get to socialise with young people from all over the world. And the staff give you advice on where to go, what to do, and so forth. It’s certainly the ideal way to travel for students.
The next morning we were up early once again, to take a bus from Cork to Galway. Galway is a town on the West Coast of Ireland. I know I’m meant to be all eloquent since having kissed the Blarney Stone, but I can’t really find the words to describe how cool this little city is! Here’s what my Lonely Planet Guide says about it, to give you an idea:
“Hip and happening, Galway glows with a Bohemian energy so unexpected that it sweeps most visitors off their feet. As you creep through cobbled medieval streets, bouncing between pubs, shops, restaurants and cafes, don’t be surprised at the thought that you could see yourself living here forever.”
Spot on. I certainly didn’t want to leave. We spent the first part of our afternoon meandering through the little streets, stopping here and there. We then ventured a little further out, to the beach. These few months are probably the longest time I’ve ever gone without seeing the sea, so it was really good to be there. We stumbled along pebbles on the shore, and strolled down the pier. After a rainy morning, the sun was kind enough to stay out the whole afternoon. We even got ice cream!
At the hostel in Dublin, we had met a girl who was studying in Galway. She had recommended to us a few places to go out. We took her advice, and spent our last night in Ireland at a couple of happening Irish pubs.
On Thursday morning, it was back to Dublin. Our trains/buses got progressively earlier each day. This train was at 7am! As difficult as that was, it was worth it to have a whole day in Dublin before flying back to London. We went on a free walking tour, organised by the same company as the one I did in Amsterdam. We saw a few places we had seen on our first day in Dublin, but that was OK, because this time we learnt things we couldn’t learn by ourselves. Our guide was animated and entertaining to listen to. Highlights of this tour included the Christ Church Cathedral and Trinity College.
After the tour, we had a bit of time to get something to eat and do some last-minute souvenir shopping before getting on a bus to the airport. We all really enjoyed our few days in Ireland. The trip had special significance for Tiernan and Colleen, both who have Irish roots.
After the couple of weeks I’ve had, it’s a little sad to think that I’m not travelling anywhere now until May. But my parents are coming to visit at the end of the month which is very exciting. Until then, I have to hit the books. You’ve probably forgotten that the reason I’m here is to study. Certainly at times I forget…
Until next time.