When Irish eyes are smiling, they steal your heart away.

Just a disclaimer: I’m going to try and cover my whole weekend in Ireland in this one post – so it may be very, very long! Brace yourselves!

Day 1: For the Easter weekend, I jetted off to the lovely Emerald Isle – Ireland! Thursday morning I got up at dark:30 (4 am to be exact) and made my way across London to catch my 7 am flight out of London City airport. While the airport is nearly in the middle of the city, I still had to take two tube lines and the DLR to get to it, hence the early alarm clock. I flew British Airways, so I got breakfast and tea on the flight, which is always lovely early in the morning.

I landed in Dublin around 8:30 and was into the city center within the next hour and a half. It was chilly and rainy when I arrived, so I was pretty worried that there would be bad weather all weekend (which would normal for Ireland apparently.) I dropped my bags off at my hostel, which was easy to find because xDSCF0318its bright purple and covered in painted flowers – and its right on the River Liffey opposite the famous Temple Bar area. From there, I began my journey into Dublin!

I bought a ticket for one of those hop-on hop-off bus tours, the ones with the very funny drivers. My first stop was Trinity College to see the old library and the Book of Kells. The library was stunning! The walls were covered in beautiful old books up to the ceilings.

xDSCF0340From then, I headed off to one of Dublin’s most popular attractions – the Guinness Brewery! I’ve done brewery/distillery tours before, but this one was the first one I’ve ever done where I could participate in the tasting of the beverages, as the drinking age in only 18 in Ireland and the UK. I learned to pour my own Guinness, which is a pretty complicated process for pouring a beer, and I participated in the ‘sensory experience’ where we smelled the ingredients and tasted the beer. I met a new friend, Karl, while in line for the beer pouring lesson too! He is on a 3 month solo traveling adventure across Ireland and the UK and then on to India. We enjoyed the views of Dublin from the 7th floor of the museum and drank our pints (well, I had a few sips and he drank his.)

From then on, I took the bus back toward Dublin. We went through/past some of the sights of the city, like Phoenix Park, home of the Dublin Zoo, the American Ambassador and the Irish President. After checking into my hostel and taking a quick nap, I ventured into Temple Bar for a ‘musical pub crawl.’ We followed two musicians to a few different pubs in the area, where we learned all about traditional Irish music. It was so much fun!

xDSCF0378Day 2:  Today I ventured out on a bus tour of the west of Ireland and the Cliffs of Moher! We left Dublin (in a giant, obnoxious green bus) around 8 am and headed towards Galway. I made a new friend today too, Shannon the Kiwi, also on a traveling adventure around the world and headed to Italy. (Is everyone more adventurous than me?) We stopped in a cute little village called Kinvara, a fishing village on Galway bay, and got to spend a few minutes shopping at their local market. Our next stop was Corcomroe Abbey, which was an amazing old stone building in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It was surrounded by a cemetery, some headstones dating back to the 1800’s, and beautiful green hills.

xDSCF0386From there, we drove along the Atlantic Coast and the bay, through an area known as The Burren, and made a stop at the ‘mini-cliffs,’ which are probably not even half the height of the actual Cliffs of Moher. They were amazing though and the ocean looked so blue! I think the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Ireland is the bluest water I’ve seen, even compared to the water we saw on our cruise to Cozumel.

We stopped in Doolin for lunch, where I had some nice, hearty pork and potatoes. I don’t know if it was “Irish,” but it sure was good. Our next stop was the big one of the trip – the Cliffs of Moher! They are absolutely breathtaking. Not only is the view beautiful, but it is so windy it actually blew the breath out of me a few times. I spent a good hour wandering around the cliff top and every view was pretty darn great.

I took my very windblown self back to the bus and we all headed back towards Dublin, winding our way through the beautiful, green Irish countryside. This was definitely the best bus ride I’ve been on because most of the time, we were driving though the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. Ireland really is a beautiful place.

xDSCF0462Day 3: Today I spent more time exploring Dublin. My first stops were Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Both buildings are beautiful and grand, with intricate ceilings and ornate decorations. Churches are always a good place to visit in a city, because they’re always bound to be beautiful places and have plenty of stories to tell. I also toured the State Apartments of Dublin Castle, which were also beautiful and ornate, but in a different style than the British palaces, which I quite liked. I’ve also decided, that after visiting all these grand palaces, I need a chandelier in every room of my house.

xDSCF0512My last tour of the day was of Kilmainham Gaol, the old jail in Dublin. The main part of the jail was closed for renovations, but we got to tour some of the cells and yards used to hold the leaders of the Easter Rising rebellion of 1916, which started a lot of changes in Ireland becoming a Republic (which happened in 1922.) I grabbed some traditional Irish stew for dinner in Temple Bar and stopped by a pub on my way back to the hostel, just to catch a few songs from an Irish musician’s set.

Day 4: I’m set to leave Dublin today, but my flight doesn’t leave until 8pm. My first stop of the day was the Old Jameson Distillery. They don’t make the whiskey in Dublin anymore, but out in County Cork, but they still have the old distillery set up as a museum. The tour itself wasn’t too in-depth, just a good description of how they make whiskey. I had been on a bourbon distillery tour before, so I had gotten to see the process in action already.

xDSCF0529At then end of the tour, we did a whiskey taste test. We were given three samples of whiskey, one Jameson Irish whiskey, one Johnny Walker Scotch whiskey, and one Jack Daniels American whiskey. Our guide explained the different flavors of each and why they taste that way. I learned that the barley for Scotch whiskey is malted using a smoky fuel, so it has a smokier taste. The American whiskey was oakier because they use new oak casks to mature it. The Irish whiskey was smoothest because it was distilled three times and had a hint of oak and vanilla taste because it is matured in bourbon casks. I also learned I’m not really a straight whiskey drinker, but the Jameson was pretty nice on its own. We also got a complimentary whiskey drink at the end of the tour. My drink was Jameson and ginger ale with a lime and was pretty darn delicious. I might have to try one back home this summer (when I will be old enough to legally order beverages!)

xDSCF0518I grabbed lunch in a pub in Temple Bar and then wandered the city to kill some time before I had to head to the airport. I walked up Grafton Street, Dublin’s shopping area and visited a few of the free museums. I went to the Natural History museum, which is filled with thousands of stuffed animals. Cool and creepy. I stopped by the National Gallery, but if I’m being honest, I don’t really find art interesting, so that was a quick stop. I also went to he National Museum of Archaeology/History, which was pretty neat. They had all sort of  ancient artifacts that told the story of Ireland. Their big exhibit was all about the things they had dug up in the bogs, including some pretty preserved bodies. Again, creepy and cool.

I then headed back up O’Connell Street, the main street of Ireland. (I got thirsty, so I popped into the McDonald’s. I discovered that McDonald’s sells Cadbury Caramel and Crème egg McFlurries, so of course I had to have a caramel one. (Do we have crème eggs in the US? I don’t remember seeing them ever. Just the mini and caramel eggs.)) On O’Connell Street they were having a big show (exhibit, concert, rally? Not sure what to call it.) to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916, which took place on Easter Monday on that same street.

My final adventure of the day was finding the bus station, because the airport shuttle bus stop near my hostel was closed because of the Easter rally thingy. I then made my way back home to London and finally made it back into my flat around 11 that night. I’m pretty glad I had today off, because going into work this morning would have been rough. My trip to Ireland was exhausting!

I really hope that I get to go back to Ireland some day. It really was a beautiful country and there is so much more that I’d like to see, like Cork and Northern Ireland. The culture, the land, the food, and everything was really great. If I ever have the chance to come back, I will definitely take advantage of it.

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

 

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