There is so much to say about Ireland. We all agreed that we felt like we were in a time warp here; the city of Dublin is dated (not necessarily in a bad way) and gives off this sort of 90’s, punk vibe. It isn’t cosmopolitan or flashy like London and the buildings are understated yet sophisticated. Everything is a little bedraggled and maybe a little dirty but the city has such a warm charm that you can’t help but love it. Everyone is friendly, quiet (during the day) and have a certain ruggedness & realness about them that makes them kind yet also like they’ve been in a few barfights. Ireland is like a little kid that’s been bullied and beat up on for awhile by a bigger, louder classmate (England) and you just want to give it a hug and tell them their old clothes and slight weirdness makes them special. Because it does- Ireland is a real gem.
Getting there: I’m not sure we could’ve taken a more difficult series of transportation to get there short of if we had hitchhiked then swam the Irish Sea. We departed London on Thursday night after class and after taking a train (Virgin Trains, really good, also what doesn’t Richard Branson own?) through Wales, we found ourself at Holyhead Dock Station on the coast of Wales at 2:40 am. After finding the only pizza place open at 3 am in Holyhead, we boarded a ferry to Dublin. The ferry was big and weird and had an arcade and a movie theater and it was all very surreal.
We arrived in Dublin at 5:30 am and took a random bus into town from the ferry docks. We begged the bus driver to drop us at the famous Temple Bar hoping it would give us some sense of direction towards our hostel (nope). After wandering around the deserted streets of Dublin for about 30 min, I finally asked a taxi driver where we could get breakfast AND THIS GLORIOUS EVENT HAPPENED:
After acting like orphans that hadn’t eaten in days, we set out to explore Dublin. I would highly recommend the Avalon House hostel for anyone traveling to Dublin on a serious budget. While it’s not the Ritz obviously, it’s charming and centrally located & most importantly, had free Wifi (life lesson: never take Wifi for granted). Carly & Tyler slept in a 12 person room and “met a really friendly guy, besides the fact that I’m pretty sure he was rummaging through someone’s stuff when we walked in.” I also wore socks in the shower and disposed of the socks after. #hostelife
The greatest part of the trip to Ireland was our day trip bus tour through the Irish countryside. After realizing that our hostel’s “Free Breakfast” was toast & water, we got on a bus to Limerick, Galway & the Cliffs of Moher. Best 40 euro I have ever spent. Besides the fact that our bus driver’s voice almost lulled everyone to sleep within 15 min of getting on board, there wasn’t one portion of this tour that was boring. Highly recommend Irish day tours with Extreme Ireland tour company.
After returning back to Dublin, we headed out to a pub crawl with the rest of our group. Three words: Bulmer’s Irish cider. The pub crawl was very worth it and we stumbled upon a Beatles cover band in a little underground pub, all members 75 years+.
The next day we departed Dublin by ferry and bus, returned to London at 7:15 am and we were in class at the Tate Modern by 10 am. The crankiness level was at an all time high.
What not to miss in Ireland:
(1) St. Stephen’s Green – We actually fell asleep (like REM sleep) in St. Stephen’s Green for two hours on Friday & awoke to screaming schoolchildren and swans all around us. Not a bad place to fall asleep at all.
(2) The Stag’s Head pub – Established in 1770 and a rather local spot, with an authentic Irish ambience. Get the Fish & Chips or the Irish stew with a Bulmer’s Cider. Live music right outside & an incredibly friendly waitstaff.
(3) St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Sneak onto tours being given and learn the perpetually troubled history of Ireland. Light a candle for Irish ancestors and marvel at the stained glass.
What to skip in Ireland:
(1) The Guinness factory: Might be a matter of interest level, but I regret paying 13 euro for this cold, rather boring, extremely touristy, self-guided tour of a beer factory. I think it might be different if I liked Guinness but definitely not worth it, in my book. Get lost in Trinity College or browse Grafton St. instead.