Top o’ the mornin’!
I spent three fantastic days this past weekend in Dublin, Ireland and the surrounding countryside. It was strange being back in such a cold climate, not to mention a place where everything is in English! I have to say that I suffered a bit of reverse culture shock and missed Spain a lot while I was there. Some of the other students that have been here all school year told me that they usually feel that way when they travel outside of Spain. It will be a rough adjustment going back to the US!
But….let’s not talk about that now.
Ireland. It’s very….Irish. I say Ireland, you picture…what? Endless rolling green countryside, rainbows, leprechauns, people speaking in Irish accents, everyone bundled up in the city, “rubbish” in the “car parks“….yes. Spending three days there by no means makes me an expert, but I’d say that Ireland was quite like what I expected it to be. However, that’s not to say that I knew much about Ireland before going there. I learned quite a bit on my trip there, in fact….
On our first night in Dublin, we checked out the bar scene. I think it’s totally legitimate to claim that as a educational cultural immersion of sorts, considering the importance of pubs in the Irish culture. You’ll back me up on that, right? We ventured to the very famous Temple Bar District and sipped some of the most expensive beverages of our lives in pubs with fun names like “The Foggy Dew.” We ended the night at the most famous bar in Dublin, “The Temple Bar Pub.” It was a fun atmosphere with great music, but after a Guinness or two we were all full and sleepy and decided to head to bed. I should mention that we squeezed 15 people into the 7-person flat we rented this weekend. Crazy and crowded, you say? I say “economical.”
On Saturday a handful of us made it out of the house relatively early and explored the city all day. We started at the Dublin Spire on O’Connell Street, one of Europe’s widest streets. The Spire provided an easy way to find our way back from where we came since it can be seen from almost anywhere else in the city. We found our way to Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral and Dublin Castle. The historical sites were fantastic, but one of the highlights for me was just the amazing variety of coffee shops, bagel bars, candy shops and pubs. They each seemed to have such individual character and style.
We topped off our self-guided tour of Dublin that day with none other than the Guinness Factory Tour. The tour is very well-done and totally worth the 11 euros for a student pass. I certainly wasn’t a big fan of Guinness prior to this tour, but the tour definitely caused a change of heart. In a way, it’s like one giant hour-long advertisement for the beer, and it just makes you want one so badly! The tour is topped off with a trip up to the 7th floor of the factory, the Gravity Bar, to enjoy a complimentary pint of Guinness. The views of the city from that height are fantastic, and the free beer isn’t too bad either.
On our final day in Dublin, we took a fantastic tour of the countryside. Somehow we managed to get 14 of the 15 of us up, ready and out of the house by 8am, and we headed onto the Dublin metro to find our tour bus stop. Our tour guide was quite the eccentric fellow, but he knew his stuff and (although he was a little long-winded for my taste) he kept things entertaining. Just outside of Dublin we laid eyes on the very picturesque rolling hills of Ireland. Our first stop was at Glendalough, the famous site of an old Celtic monastery.
The Celtic people believed that God could be seen in everything in nature, so they nestled their religious grounds in a breath-takingly scenic valley. There, they worshipped God by walking through the grounds and “seeing” him in the trees, birds, mountains and all else that surrounded them. This was a huge contrast to the rigid Roman Catholic religious practices that were taking place in most of the rest of Western Europe at the time (because, as our tour guide proudly told us, Ireland was never conquered by the Romans.)
The next major stop was Killkenny, a medieval Irish town dating back to the 6th century. The Kilkenny Castle, once home to Ann Boleyn (second wife of the infamous King Louis VIII), was quite beautiful and, being the castle connoisseur that I now am (ha), I would have to say one of the most impressive castle’s I’ve seen. We also visited the Black Abbey of Kilkenny, a small but charmingly beautiful cathedral, and one of Ireland’s oldest pubs, Kyteler’s. It was established in 1324 and is now said to be haunted. We enjoyed lunch and a Kilkenny’s ale at Kyteler’s before heading back to the bus to return to Dublin.
Three days in Ireland is not enough, but as I was feeling quite traveled-out, I was thrilled to be home. I’m spending this weekend at home in Getxo, hoping to find a few new fun little cafes and restaurants to decide where to take my guests who will be arriving in the upcoming weeks 🙂