Visiting The Homeland: Ireland!
Today I am fulfilling one of my clichéd dreams: Writing a blog in a café.
If you’ve been following along with me, you’ll know that I am a big fan of a café right below my flat called the Blue Corner. It’s just so cute and friendly and has the best cappuccino I’ve tasted so far (which is saying a lot, because I have had far too many).
Also, if you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know that this weekend I went to the place responsible for approximately 50% of my genes, the Emerald Isle, Ireland! The journey began on Thursday evening for we decided we wanted to have two full days rather than half day, full day, half day. I’ve decided that I like having two full days better because you actually get to sleep a little bit and get to experience where you’re going more fully.
Our flight left out of Gatwick per usual with no problems. We ended up getting to the airport early and grabbed dinner at Wagamama, an Asian cuisine chain in London. It was exactly what I needed because believe it or not, I have not had any Asian cuisine since I’ve gotten to London!!! Back at Fordham my roommates (and my credit card statement) can attest to me being far too big of a fan of our good old Chinese take out place Golden City, so it’s been a secret struggle to have not had any yet. Why my restraint? Well I try to limit eating out only to when I’m traveling in order to save money and when I’m in other countries, I try to stick to local restaurants and dishes. Believe it or not, sesame chicken isn’t the national dish of Scandinavia or Ireland.I ordered the chicken ramen and green tea (which comes free!!!!), and I was not disappointed:
Once we were fed and happy, we were off on our flight to Dublin, Ireland! The actual air time was around an hour and fifteen minutes. It was perfect. I think I’ve started to like flying a bit more now that I’ve been doing it so often, but I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of it. We landed, went through immigration, and then hopped in a taxi to our AirBnB.
Although the ride from airport to AirBnB was short, I cannot say that I would ever recommend where we stayed. The actual location was fine enough, though we were warned just to be smart when walking at night and not use our phones on the street, but the home itself was… Not good. It was being sold by the owner so there was not a lot of maintenance going into the home. The owner had come only a little before and washed the towels, which ended up remaining damp for the whole stay, cleaned a little, and had only just turned on the heat. The house was FREEZING when we walked in and stayed that way for most of our stay.
I was surprised that we had such a bad experience because it had gotten fine reviews, but I think it goes to show that one must really research the area they are going to be staying in and how many positive reviews an AirBnB received. I’m going to be much more careful with where my friends and I book next time.
Anyways! It was fine to sleep in, which was really the only thing we needed our AirBnB for. We all immediately passed out in our layers and layers of clothing, happy to just sleep.
The next morning we started our adventures in Dublin fairly early because, as usual for most cities, the museums and attractions tended to open and close on the earlier side of things. There was one, very important thing that we needed to address first though… Breakfast.
I was lowkey disappointed that the butter wasn't Kerrygold...
After wandering a little across the River Liffey to where the more central part of Dublin is, we settled upon a little place called the “Cafe Tri Via”. I went with a usual breakfast combo of mine, cappuccino and a scone. However, I went with a more traditional Irish brown soda scone! It definitely had a different flavor, but I was a big fan of it. The best part though, and one of my favorite parts about going to Ireland, is that it is (comparatively) so cheap!! The Euro is very close to 1:1 with the dollar, so every time I bought something I didn’t die a little inside. As usual though, no luck with American Express in most places. One of my friends ended up paying for most of my things and I used Venmo to pay her back. Here is a photo I took that basically sums up all of my experiences with money abroad:
After breakfast, our first stop was Trinity College Dublin and the Book of Kells. If you’re not familiar with the Book of Kells, it is an illuminated manuscript that was created around 800 a.d. and contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. It is world famous because it is considered the most beautifully ornamented and illustrated illumanuscipt in the world. I have studied illuminated manuscripts in multiple art history classes and was very, very excited to see the Book of Kells.
The actual campus of Trinity College Dublin is gorgeous. Tons of beautiful architecture, trees, and statues that tie together the old with the new.
We walked through it for a little before finding our way to the Book of Kells exhibit located in the library. Admission was 9 euros a pop for students, which was fairly priced. There is a nice exhibit before you get to the actual book that walks the visitor through how the book was made, why it was made, other examples of illuminated manuscripts, the time period in which it was made, etc. Since I had already studied illuminated manuscripts it wasn’t as helpful for me, but a couple of my friends really enjoyed it. (I apologize for the lack of photos, we weren’t allowed to take any inside the exhibit!)
When it came to the actual books, I really don’t want to use the “d” word, but I felt as though I perhaps should have lowered my expectations just a wee bit. Two pages are displayed at a time and unfortunately, both of the pages were text heavy pages. We didn’t get to see one of the more ornate, illustrated pages. I was really hoping to see one, but the text heavy pages were still beautiful and had some ornamentation on them.
Once we saw the Book, the exhibit the led us up to the old Trinity College Dublin Library. Now that was beautiful! I didn’t know it was part of the exhibit, so it was a pleasant discovery. The library is all wood with beautiful vaulted ceilings and is lined with marble busts of famous politicians, authors, and politicians alike.
I would say that overall, I would recommend going to the Book of Kells if you are interested in art and architecture. Definitely not a place to take children or people that don’t enjoy museums, but ended up being a highlight of my trip. That, and they have a really cute gift shop!
After the Book of Kells, we headed through the center of Dublin for about 25 minutes via Dame street.
What was next on our list? Getting drunk, of course!
I have heard from friends who have traveled to Dublin or studied there that the Guinness Storehouse tour, although it sounds like a gimmick, the tour was an absolute highlight. Armed with my camera and freshly purchased ticket, I began my way into the Storehouse.
At first, it really did see like a gimmick. You enter and immediately you enter a large atrium, which happened to actually be the world’s biggest pint glass! Sadly, it was not filled. I appreciated the architecture, but was a little miffed by the large souvenir shop to my left. Aren’t those usually at the end? Had they never heard of Disney? Turns out the atrium was both the entrance and exit to the exhibit, so I suppose it was my bad.
The Guinness Storehouse is a self led tour over at least 7 floors of different exhibits, interactive displays, and cafes. At first you explore how Guinness is made from the barley to hops to yeast. It was pretty cool to actually see what hops are, which are these vine-like plants! From there, you see some of the machines, then how Guinness has been marketed, the Guinness harp, how the barrels are made, and then you can actually participate in a tasting class where you learn how to properly drink Guinness. The class starts in a room where you can smell all the different ingredients that go into a pint, then you learn how drink. You get tiny little pint glasses to drink from, too! What’s the technique? Deep breath in, drink, swallow. You can actually taste all of the different flavors!
At the end of the class, one lucky person is allowed to ring the Guinness bell and guess who that lucky person was? Yours truly, naturally.
After I gave the bell a good ring, we headed up to the top of the Storehouse, which is the Skybar. Included with your admission is a free pint of Guinness! There are two options to get your pint: Learn to pour your own or enjoy one at the Skybar to soak in 360 views of Dublin. I personally wanted to learn how to pour but the line was very long, so the Skybar it was. Don’t worry- I was not disappointed! The views were stunning and we ended running into some other Fordham students and… J.J. WATT! I didn’t know who he was at first, but learned quickly that he plays for the Texans. Obviously I sent my brothers a photo and they were much more excited than I was!
We finished our pints, which I actually really liked, and headed back down to the atrium. I think I’m slowly learning to actually enjoy beer! Overall, I would definitely recommend the Guinness Storehouse to anybody over the age of 18! After picking up a postcard and a few other things from the gift shop, we set off to our next stop: Kilmainham Gaol.
Our walk to the historic prison was about 20 minutes long from the Guinness storehouse heading west. This was one of the things I had heard the most about and was really excited for as a history nerd! Kilmainham Gaol is infamous for housing many of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, an attempt by Irish Republicans to end Britain’s rule. Although marginally unsuccessful, the Easter Rising is key to Irish history and politics.
Unfortunately, things did not go to plan. We weren’t aware that you had to buy tour tickets at the beginning of the day and since the 100 years anniversary of the Rising is so close, tickets were completely sold out by the time we got there (which was three hours before the last tour!). Even after we begged to get in, still no luck. Saddened and wet from the rain, we decided to cheer ourselves up with some food and headed to the nearby Patriot’s Inn. Not much to say about this place. It was what you would expect from a pub, pretty okay food at a fair price.
Since we couldn’t get into Kilmainham Gaol, we decided to check out the Museum of Modern Art Ireland, also known as IMMA. The museum was fairly small and lots of the galleries were closed, but it was free and I like to go at least one museum in every country to see the local art and how galleries are set up. Not for nothing, the actual building it was in was gorgeous! We stayed until the museum closed and then headed back to our AirBnB.
We were pretty tired by the time we reached our AirBnB and knew that we had an early morning in store for us due to our day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, so what better way to spend the night then watch a movie? Comedy was what we needed so we settled on Zoolander 2. To be honest, I thought it was hilarious! There were a bunch of cameos from famous fashion designers and lots of reference to the original film. After we got back from the movie, to bed we went!
The next day was an early, early day. After waking up at the lovely time of 6:00 in the morning, we headed to to the Molly Malone statue near Trinity College Dublin in order to meet our tour to the Cliffs of Moher.
We booked ours via “Irish Day Tours” and it was 40 euro a pop- very cheap and SO worth it!!! Our tour guide was amazing and even sang songs! He obviously knew the route and history very well, was extremely clear with directions, and was beyond kind.
The tour itself lasted from 7:00 am till about 7:20 at night and included admission to the Cliffs of Moher and multiple other stops along the way. The first stop was probably the funniest of all: the Obama Plaza. I kid you not. The plaza is a rest stop and had a little Obama museum in it! I only had time to pick up snacks and water so I didn’t get to go in the museum, but the whole concept was pretty hysterical.
From then on out I pretty much slept until our next stop because it was still dark and I was tired as anything. The next stop was in Limerick, one of Ireland’s largest cities. It used to be more popular before the highways were built because you were forced to go through it on your way in or out of Dublin, but the city has since then felt the burn of industrialization. The city itself was nice, from what I could see from the bus, but the best part was King John’s Castle. Situated right on the banks of the River Shannon, this imposing castle was absolutely stunning. We didn’t get to go in, but I did get some good pictures of it and the river!
Finally, it was time to get to the Cliffs! I ended up falling asleep again (whoops), but woke up just in time as we started to get close to the coastline. Once we did, I couldn’t stop looking. It. Was. STUNNING.
All of the sudden...
You guessed it...
THE CLIFFS OF MOHER.
HOLY MOHER OF GOD THEY WERE AMAZING.
I am not over them and I don’t think I am ever going to be.
All of the rain, cold, and wind was MORE THAN WORTH IT.
Okay I’ll stop teasing you, here are the pictures!!!
To be honest, there isn’t much to say about them besides GO. DO IT. To be in the presence of such preserved, natural beauty is breathtaking. We were there for two hours and I feel like I could have spent the whole day just watching the ocean crash upon the Cliffs. For those worried, there are barriers all around the Cliffs (well, at least in the areas that you’re supposed to stay in…) so you won’t be taking a tumble off the sides! Overall, pictures do not do them justice so please just go.
After our time at the Cliffs was up, we headed to a town right nearby to get some lunch! We stopped at a place called The Dooliner which was pretty okay! It was cafeteria style where you go up to a counter, pick your main course, and then watch the cook plate it with the standard sides. I ended up getting the chicken and mushroom pie, which came with potatoes and veggies, and it was the perfect hearty meal I needed after standing on the Cliffs for two hours.
The rest of the tour included a stop at some mini cliffs and an old Abbey in ruins! The mimi cliffs were awesome because you could see the Cliffs of Moher and actually get close to the edge. That, and I found a shell! It’s currently sitting on my nightstand. The last stop was the Abbey and I freeeeeaked out. I really like ruins for some reason?? That and architecture. The whole thing was beautiful.
At last it was time to return home! The trip back took about 3 hours and I slept for most of it. Once we had returned to Dublin and thanked our tour guide, we had one goal: Find a pub to drink a pint.
The one we had scoped out on google maps was closed, but thankfully we were in Dublin so there’s a pub about every five feet, give or take. The one we settled on was called the Vat House! Not a classic pub, but it was perfect for us. Lively enough without being intimidating, well lit, and not too expensive! I settled on the fish and chips and a black and tan due to my dad’s suggestion. Both were great and a perfect end to our stay in Dublin.
I think I’m going to give Dublin/Ireland a solid 8.5. To be honest, not being able to go to Kilmainham Gaol was a big bummer for me, there isn’t too much to see and do in Dublin, and the AirBnB situation wasn’t great which detracted from my stay, but the Cliffs and culture were a solid 100/10. I would absolutely go again, but more for the countryside and to see other castles!
This week has been a rather busy one for London site seeing so I shall be posting about that, as well as my trip to Oxford tomorrow! Speaking of which, I had better get ready so…
Until next post, see you later!