Bucket List Item #17: Go to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day. Check.
So talk about luck? I got to spend my St. Patrick’s Day (weekend) in Dublin, Ireland. Shannon (my best friend who likes to tell everyone she’s Irish because there is a river named Shannon), Sully (Shannon’s friend) and I took on Dublin for the most iconic holiday of the year. Shannon and Sully are fortunate enough to only have class Monday-Wednesday, so they got to Dublin Thursday morning…but me, the studious student that I am, didn’t arrive until late Thursday. Once getting off the plane, I had two options taxi solo or the airport shuttle. I had figured out my stop for the shuttle and mapped the walking route to my hostel, so I decided to go with the cheaper option of shuttle bus. I immediately regretted this decision when I got off (alone) at my stop in the dark of the night, walking by myself down abandoned streets to find my hostel. Spoiler alert: I made it there safe. But moral of the story: take a cab when it’s night and you are by yourself.
P.S. I hope my mom isn’t reading this. If you are, ignore everything I just said. I was super safe!
Generator Hostel. Probably the coolest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. Very well kept. Just like a hotel, minus the having your own room part! I would definitely suggest it if you will be in Dublin; however, it is a little far from the main part of the city. But do you like whiskey? It’s next door to the Jameson Distillery. Anywho, onto the actual site seeing!
Day Trip to the Cliffs of Moher
Early the next morning, we woke up and headed, via bright green Paddy Wagon bus, to the Cliffs of Moher. On our way to the Cliffs of Moher, we passed over the River Shannon (which ironically Shannon slept through) and we stopped in a small town called Blarney. There we saw a medieval castle and a really cute coffee shop. After a trip to the bathroom, it was onward towards the cliffs. We exited the main interstate and I immediately regretted not bringing Dramamine. The winding roads of the Irish countryside were beautiful, but not without their side effects. When we finally arrived, my jaw dropped. When The Princess Bride referred to them as “the cliffs of insanity”, they were exactly right. The cliffs are 66% as tall as the New York’s Empire State building and they stretch for almost 10 km. When the wind is strong enough, they won’t permit people to go up because they could literally get blown off. Lucky for us, it was sunny and clear…super rare for Irish weather. Mother nature must have known we would be in town. The cliffs were beautiful. We took plenty of pictures, so take a look at a few: After the cliffs, we explored the “Burren”, an incredibly rocky landscape near Galway Bay. This limestone hillside made for more beautiful scenery on a beautiful day in Ireland. We ate lunch in a traditional small Irish town called Doolin Village. The only thing there is one school, one church and several pubs (clearly proportional, right?). After that, we continued driving down the Atlantic coastline stopping at some monastery ruins, a combination of Ireland’s Celtic, Christian and Medieval history. Last stop on the road trip was the fishing village of Kinvara. Bunratty Castle sits on the bay of this village and it is said to be good luck to walk clockwise around the castle…but unfortunately we only had time for a bathroom break OR a walk around the castle. I’m sure you can guess which option won…but we still got a picture! Cue curtain on the day trip through Cliffs of Moher and Galway.
Picture Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. Perfect, now you have an accurate depiction of what St. Patrick’s Day in Temple Bar looks like. Although there is a bar named Temple Bar, the name really refers to the strip of bars in that area. We managed to push our way into one and I ordered my first Guinness. And I have to say; it wasn’t great…but more to come on that later. In the bar, we managed to catch the end of a musicians set. He was somewhere between Ed Sheeran and One Direction…so naturally we went up to him and asked where he was performing next. And then went there immediately. Unfortunately that bar was full, although that didn’t stop us from trying every doorman until one had pity on us and let us in. After a few more bars, several Irish beers and some amazing live music, we called it a night. However, we didn’t go back to the hostel without stopping at Papa John’s and getting a large pepperoni pizza!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
What would a trip to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day be if we didn’t actually go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral? The medieval cathedral dates back to 1191 and is the largest church in Ireland. Well preserved stain glass, a beautiful alter, and the hand knit kneelers gave it overwhelming character. Since, the cathedral has added other touches as well including an iron tree for all who serve in armed forces where visitors can write the name(s) of loved one(s) who serve in the armed forces on leaves and put them on the tree. There is also a large prayer book where you can write your prayers and a priest will pray for you later. These small touches made the visit more personal. But do not be fooled, the back of the cathedral has been turned into a gift shop.
Lunch…the beauty of bar food
One of the things I miss most about America/Texas is the food. I miss good old quality burgers and fries and all the wonderful Mexican food. For lunch we went to a local pub, had a pint of their Brewery’s wonderful pale ale then ordered a massive plate of nachos and a burger. There’s. No. Place. Like. Home. (Or like an Irish Pub).
Guinness Storehouse Tour
Never been a fan of Guinness but I am a fan of beer, so taking a tour through the Guinness Brewery was a must. You start the tour learning about the 4 main ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast. Then you learn about cooperage, transportation, advertising and sponsorship. The whole construction of the barrels and transportation information was a little extensive for my interest, but I enjoyed expanding my knowledge of my major (Advertising and Public Relations) with the exhibit of past and present commercials and slogans. Who knew my visit would be educational too? After being thoroughly trained about Guinness, they finally let you taste it…and more importantly they teach you how! Remember how I told you I didn’t like Guinness the first night? Well I was doing it all wrong. If you sip the beer you aren’t getting enough to taste the full range of flavors. In order to properly taste Guinness, one must take a big gulp, hold it in your mouth for a second, swallow and then exhale. It tastes way better this way…I promise. Then the least (but definitely not least) part of the tour is the crafting of the “perfect pint”. They teach you EXACTLY how to pour a pint of Guinness…and let me tell you, it’s not that easy. But at the end you get to drink your pint AND you get a certificate! Totally worth it!
Dinner and Temple Bar Round 2
So Sunday morning, we had to leave for the airport at 4:45, making Saturday an early night. But before we could leave Ireland, we had to look up the best shepherd’s pie in Dublin. We found it. The name of the bar is forgotten…but if you ask, I’ll try to figure it out. They brought you an individual pie in a wrought iron skillet. It was so good…my mouth is watering just talking about it. Then we headed back to Temple Bar to find our favorite musician. We didn’t find him, but we found another duo that was just as good, so we grabbed some bar stools at the front and enjoyed a beer while listening to some great American covers, traditional Irish music and watched the Italian next to us relentlessly hit on a girl that was not interested. Despite rising at the crack of dawn on Sunday, I felt lucky to spend my St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin…hey maybe the luck of the Irish is wearing off on me! St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland: Check. To hear more about my study abroad experience, check out my next blog, Best Friends and Barcelona.