It was November, and I was really exhausted at this point from working constantly and not really getting to see as much as I would’ve liked. I found out that there was a 3 day weekend coming up in December and immediately began thinking that this would be the perfect time to travel. However, I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes either in case my host family had already planned something for that weekend.
One day, the host mother came up to me to let me know that they would be going to Italy that weekend (sin me). I was a little bummed, but then also realized that this meant I officially had the OK to go somewhere. I began planning vigorously (no exaggeration) and found some cheap flights to Dublin, Ireland. The girl I had met the first day I was in Spain was also down to go, so it was perfect.
Unfortunately due to culture differences, I got into a little bit of an argument with the host family when I told them I had planned the trip. I figured it wouldn’t be a problem since they’d be gone that weekend anyways, but they viewed it as I had been planning all of this secretly behind their backs for weeks (which wasn’t anywhere near true). Luckily we hashed it out and things returned to normal quickly, and I was extremely excited to have this amazing opportunity. I mean seriously… the idea of a weekend trip to another (awesome) country (besides Mexico) is like a dream for a Californian like me!
We took a late flight on a Thursday night and landed in Dublin around 11pm. We found some cheap transportation into the city and were dropped off right in front of Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university. We needed to find our way to the hostel, so we asked people if they could point us in the right direction.
A quick side note here… I cannot begin to tell you how amazing it was not to have to pause and think about what we were going to say before saying it. It felt so strange being able to just walk up to someone and speak in English and to have them understand. I cannot describe just how exciting this was for us after 3 months of broken Spanglish.
Anyways, one young guy we asked for directions said “Oh, sure, I’m heading that way. Just come with me!” He proceeded to tell us he had just finished a date with a girl he had met on tinder, that it went really well, and he was super stoked about it. At one point we were crossing the street on an orange light (a completely foreign thing to us – what does an orange light even mean?) and we began jogging across because it looked like the cars were about to get the green light. One guy yelled out the window of a taxi “Yeah, you better run… You mischevious little devils… On an orange light, oh, you better run!”
At first I was REALLY taken aback by this and took his actions as threatening. I guess that is the typical American response, to be afraid of everything. The guy we were with started laughing and continued the banter, and this lasted at least a minute… a back and forth, loud banter yelled out from the street corner to some random guy in a taxi. It was hysterical. I immediately decided that Ireland was an amazing place with fantastic, friendly people.
We said goodbye to the nice guy who helped us and went into our hostel. There was a laughable sign at the front desk of our hostel that said “Absolutely no alcohol allowed inside the hostel.” HA! Did they not get the memo that they were in Dublin?
After dropping off our things, we tried to find a pub to have our first beer in Ireland (a big deal, of course). Surprisingly (and sadly) many places were already closed past midnight on a Thursday, but luckily we did stumble upon a nice bar called The Porterhouse in Temple Bar. They had an awesome beer tasting flight for €5 that we tried, all with their own craft brews. It was fantastic to be sipping a cold one in Ireland, a place I had dreamt about visiting my entire life. Their specialty is the Oyster Stout which is made with actual oysters! Not vegetarian friendly, but even my pescatarian friend really enjoyed it.
We tried walking around some more to find another bar, but we could only find one place open right across the street. We popped in because hey, we were super excited to be in Dublin and weren’t quite ready to go to sleep yet. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the place, but it was very nice inside! They had everything decorated in mosaics (it reminded me of dear ol’ Gaudi) and eclectic decorations.
A side note… when most people think of Ireland (sorry, Irish people), they think of loads of beer and drunken people in the streets. However, that was not our experience at all. Perhaps some new measures in Ireland changed everything because you couldn’t even buy alcohol at a store after 10pm (or something around there, my memory is faulty). Also, I can’t remember ever seeing a crazily drunk person wandering the streets like my host mother had warned me there would be. Everyone was extremely friendly and responsible.
Christ Church Cathedral
The next day, we woke up and took a free walking tour around Dublin. It was beyond cold. Like, to the point where we couldn’t feel our toes and fingers and had to awkwardly jog around in circles to stay warm. Despite that, it was a beautiful day with only a few clouds in the sky (I guess a rarity in Ireland), so we lucked out.
We walked around Dublin Castle, the gardens, and then meandered our way through the Temple Bar area and then over to the famous Trinity College. Unfortunately with free tours, you can expect quite a lot of self-advertising and less sight-seeing… but oh well, it was still very nice to see everything, learn the history, and hear the perspective of a native Dubliner.
Sweet Molly Malone, who has a song named after her. We’re touching her boobs for good luck, I promise.
Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university, and there’s a lot of pride for an Irish person if you are accepted. They have some fun traditions as well… Most notably, if you pass a certain exam you have the right to ask test proctors for a glass of Guinness during any other exam for the rest of your time as a student. The university is also a popular place to get married, but one (or both, I can’t remember) spouses have to have graduated from the college… and so on. It is a huge university, and it was actually the first thing we saw upon arriving in Dublin.
After that, we ran on over to the Guinness Museum. Before going, we had heard a lot of different opinions on the place. Some said it was fun and good to see, if for nothing else than to have a Guinness at the top of the Gravity Bar for lovely views of Dublin. Others, our tour guide included, said it was a waste of time and money. My friend and I were also a little wary because neither of us remembered liking Guinness all that much when we had first tried it years and years ago.
But hey, when in Dublin… go to the Guinness Museum, right?
And we are so happy we did! We were blown away by the museum itself and all of the information we learned. And it’s state of the art, too… You’re not just walking plaque to plaque reading boring information. They have activities and virtual boards that talk to you. It was super cool!
Unfortunately not the highest quality photo, but it is a giant pillar of hand-carved wood and a chandelier at the top to form a giant glass of Guinness.
They also had a special tasting experience, which was like nothing I had experienced before. They guide you through a dark tunnel with neon orange lights and then it opens unto this room in all bright white. They said it’s supposed to challenge your sensory experience. In the white room, there are 4 (or were there 6?) pillars with smoke coming out of them. You could go up to each one and smell the unique aromas of the hops, barley, etc. so that you could discern all of the different elements that go into a good glass of Guinness.
After that, they lead you into a darker room with special glass holders and portraits of important Guinness family members on the walls. There, they show you how to properly taste a Guinness (we are adorable mini Guinness glasses). From what I remember, you have to raise your elbow in the air as you hold the glass then swallow a sip while breathing so that you can both taste and smell the beer. It was quite interesting!
Up at the very top of the museum, 7 stories or so up, is the Gravity Bar. It is a circular room surrounded in all glass so that you can see Dublin all around you, and you get a pint of Guinness included in your ticket. A professional pourer gets you a glass and draws a shamrock into the foam… it was such a nice experience!
And even better…? We LOVED the taste of Guinness! I don’t know if it was just because we were in Ireland and we felt like we had to, but it was absolutely delicious. We came to the conclusion that perhaps the bottled Guinness you can get in the states does not come even close to comparing to the deliciousness of a professionally poured draft Guinness with that creamy head. And the view from the top was so beautiful… unfortunately I didn’t have a camera to do it justice!
After that amazing experience, we explored Temple Bar with a girl we had met at our hostel who was currently living in Germany. Temple Bar is such an eclectic area, you really never know what you’re going to find. It is also famous for being a tourist trap but hey, when the shoe fits…
There were many bands playing out on the sidewalks (in the freezing cold!) and people dancing, it was so fun to see! Drinks in Dublin are pretty expensive wherever you go… we ended up going to multiple bars/clubs that night and the average price we paid for a pint was about €5.50… ouch! But hey, we tried not thinking anything of it because beer just adds to the Irish experience.
We danced SO much that night, it was fantastic. At one point we found ourselves in a bar when there was a party in another room just finishing. They still had a lot of food on the table and it seemed like they were about to just throw it away. My friend is extremely ballsy… she has no fear. We were hungry so she just waltzed in, grabbed a handful of fried onions, mushrooms, and sausages, and waltzed on back like no big deal. It then became a game… who could pull it off best? I was the wuss of the group; after much anxiety and backing out, I finally ran over and got a small handful of some food. Those people must’ve thought we were crazy!
This girl also somehow snuck out 3 guinness glasses from the bars, one for each of us… oy vey! XD
At one of the last bars we went to, a local Irishman approached me for a dance. But not the usual club grinding dance, an actual classy dance that consisted of swing and the cha cha… I have never in my life danced like that with someone I had just met, it was so much fun! We must’ve danced for at least 30 minutes. I had enough Guinness in me not to care what other people were thinking or how horrible of a dancer I was, we just danced and danced… that is probably one of my happiest memories in Dublin!
The following day we woke up early for a tour to nearby Glendalough County (pronounced Glendalock) for some beautiful nature views and hiking. Post to come 🙂