Reading Week Part 3: Dublin, Ireland!

I landed in Dublin, Ireland at night (11/7) and easily met up with Raleigh at baggage claim since our flights arrived at the same time (perfect planning!). We took a bus to the center of Dublin where our hostel was only a few blocks away. We stayed at the Ashfield House hostel, which was probably my favorite of the three I stayed in over the reading week trip. It had a large common area on the ground floor and offered a free breakfast every morning (toast, jam, hard boiled eggs, cereal, coffee, tea…) which we took advantage of for the first morning. So when Raleigh and I checked in, we didn’t realize how late it really was (a little past midnight) and the guy at the desk gave us our room key telling us we were the last ones to check in for the night and to look for the two open free beds in the 18 person co-ed room… we didn’t realize that he was basically saying “good luck with that,” but when we opened the door to the room we got the hint. The room was pitch black and filled with people sleeping in the bunk beds. Raleigh and I didn’t want to turn on the light, knowing that we’d have 16 angry sleepers hating us for waking them up, so I pulled out my iPhone to use the flashlight (really handy in this situation)! All of a sudden we heard a whispering voice saying our names, and realized it was Eliza who had a bed in the corner of the room! She helped us settle in and make our beds (which happened to be an empty bunk bed right next to hers, I got the top). Let me just say this: if you’re going to check into a hostel, try to plan on arriving during a time in the afternoon where you can actually make noise and have light to put your stuff somewhere. It was a nightmare trying to not only do all of this in the dark, but we had to be silent in fear of getting shushed by those angry sleepers.

Day 8 (11/8)

We woke up the next morning and ate the free breakfast at the hostel, which was actually really good! After that, Raleigh, Eliza, and I ventured out to into the city to roam around a little and see the main streets of Dublin. We walked down a main street, called O’Connell Street and did a little browsing in shops before grabbing lunch at a really good restaurant called Salamanca (thinking of my roommate Taylor who is studying abroad there in Spain!). We had to rush through lunch, which was delicious, to make it on time to a free walking tour of the city. We learned about the Dublin castle, history of how the city had developed through the years, walked through the Temple Bar area (which was my favorite), Trinity College, saw the street where U2 got started and where Bono owns a hotel (Clarence Hotel), and ended the tour at St. Stephen’s Green park. Our guide also told us some amusing stories of Irish mistakes in war and monument construction. For example: they built a large pointy monument in the middle of the street on O’Connell which looks absolutely out of place in the city, which some like to call “the erection at the intersection,” but it’s actually called the millennium statue. Our tour group was really amused by that. The only good thing that the big pointy structure is good for is finding a central spot of the city when you’re lost (most helpful when you’re drunk, says our guide). Too funny!

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After the tour we walked around a bit more to revisit some places on the tour, then headed back to the hostel to get ready for a pub crawl that night. We bought a pub crawl ticket for 10 euro each and it included a free pint of beer/cider at the first bar and then lots of discounts/offers for drinks at the other four bars, then free entrance to the club as the last stop of the night. The pub crawl is hosted by the same company who does the free walking tours of the city, and our guide had told us that over 200 people were signed up for that night. We were so excited because it was Raleigh’s 20th birthday at midnight that night and we wanted to go a little crazy to celebrate! We met a guy named Mike on our tour (also studying in London and visiting Dublin for the weekend) and another two girls from Canada (Molly and Mika, doing a big Europe trip this semester) who all agreed to do the pub crawl as well.

Eliza, Raleigh and I got to the first bar where we got our free pint of Bulmers (alcoholic cider, really popular in Ireland) and hung out until our new tour friends got there. We then learned that the 200 people who “signed up” were doing their own separate pub crawl so it was a lot smaller than they had told us. Nevertheless, we still had a decent sized group of maybe 30 people, mostly adults in their later 20s, but it was still so much fun. I won’t go into every single detail about each bar we visited, but it was one of my favorite nights going out through this entire abroad experience. I ended up spending a decent amount of money on drinks but it was definitely worth it. Because it was Raleigh’s birthday, she got a free ticket for the pub crawl all together. However, the leader of our pub crawl made Raleigh get 20 birthday kisses and document each with a picture (which ended up being mainly my job!) by the end of the night, or else she had to buy the pub crawl leader a drink. Throughout the night we were shoving random guys to kiss her on the cheek which was so funny. She was a little hesitant about it at first but the guys were harmless and it was too funny to watch. At the third pub of the night, my personal favorite, we got on a microphone there and made everyone sing happy birthday to her. That pub happened to be a traditional Irish pub and they had a band playing Irish jig music and we learned some drinking/cheering songs from the staff. It was awesome. The night ended at a night club with music and dancing once we hit all five bars. We ended up staying at the club for maybe a half hour until we decided it was time to call it a night. By the way, Raleigh really did get all 20 kisses! I wish I could go back and relive that night again… it was insanely fun!

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Eliza, Raleigh and I had a little creepy encounter after leaving the pub crawl that night when we went to get some food before going back to our hostel. We were sitting in a SuperMac’s (pretty much a knockoff McDonald’s) and were eating some food when an older homeless guy came in and stopped at our table grunting and pointing at our food (he didn’t really speak words, it was weird). Raleigh tried to wave him off but he kept standing there with a scowl on his face and then reached for some of our food! Raleigh and I deflected his hands, saying “no” repeatedly and asking for him to go away. Finally I stood up and got the attention of the cashier guy working, who finally kicked the old (probably drunk) homeless guy outside. It was definitely a moment I will remember from Dublin.

Day 9 (11/9)

The next day, we definitely needed to sleep in a little from a crazy night out. We woke up around 10:30 and decided to go to a pub for lunch to get Irish beef and Guinness stew, something Eliza and Raleigh were really craving since we saw it being served the day before. I also ordered the traditional Irish dish, and it was really good!

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After lunch we walked around some more, saw the Molly Malone statue (one of the most famous in Dublin), and went back to the hostel. Raleigh had to register for next semester at UNCW that day, so she got wifi in the hostel and signed up for classes. Eliza had a flight out later that afternoon so she ended up leaving just a little after that. The rest of the afternoon Raleigh and I walked around and revisited Trinity College and St. Stephen’s park. Trinity College is just an absolutely beautiful little campus in the middle of Dublin. It is very prestigious, modeled after Cambridge and Oxford in England, and is the oldest university in Ireland. There was something about being on campus that just seemed really proper and high class (I guess kind of like Harvard, Princeton or Yale in comparison). I loved people-watching on campus. We even saw a graduation going on in the main square of campus.

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That evening Raleigh and I went to see a movie, For A Good Time Call, which ended up not being the best but we definitely needed a relaxing night. We then had dinner at a really good burger place that served massive sized burgers and sandwiches. We went back to the hostel after dinner to have a chill night before waking up really early the next morning for another tour…

Day 10 (11/10)

We had to wake up at 6:00 AM the next morning to be at the start of a bus tour through other parts of Ireland. The main attraction of the tour was the Cliffs of Moher, but we also stopped and visited some other cool sites in the Irish countryside. Although a large portion of our day consisted of sitting on a bus, the views from the window were incredible, and the bus driver was really entertaining to listen to. They played some Irish music as we journeyed into the countryside, which was funny too. Our first stop was at Dunguaire Castle, which overlooked a beautiful bay area. We also travelled to a Burren geosite, Poulbrone portal tomb, with some old limestone. We stopped for lunch at another Irish pub where I got a caesar salad and an Irish coffee (which is another Ireland staple beverage). Irish coffee is basically hot coffee, but with Irish whiskey, sugar, and topped with thick cream! It was strong, but still pretty good.

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We made our way up to the Cliffs of Moher (the main attraction of the tour) after lunch and a two more hours of driving. The Irish countryside really was breathtaking as we got higher up the mountains. It was so green and bright, and the animals on the fields were cool to look at (we saw alpacas, cows, and tons of sheep… so cute)!

The Cliffs of Moher were absolutely incredible. They are located on the middle of the west coast of the country and are presently Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction. A few popular movies were also filmed at the cliffs: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Runaway Bride, and Leap Year all had scenes there! It was amazing to stand right on the edge of the cliffs and look down into the ocean. It was insanely windy up there and I really felt like I almost got blown away! At one point Raleigh and I had to hide behind the big castle at the top (O’Brien’s Tower) to shield our bodies from the wind. However, we did get some beautiful pictures and it was worth enduring the freezing cold wind for a little to see it all!

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We had a nice long bus ride back to Dublin, arriving at around 9:00 PM in the city center. Needless to say, Raleigh and I were exhausted when we got back to the hostel, so we went to sleep at a decent hour once again. We had to wake up super early once again to catch a flight back to London the next morning so a little sleep was much needed!

So that’s what I did during my 3(ish) days in Dublin!

Things I LOVED about Dublin:

The accent, nightlife (and cider), the busy city, Trinity College, variety of food options, & Irish pubs, and the pub crawl, of course.

Other things I noted about Dublin:

–          The stereotypical drunk Irish people really do exist… everywhere. I really felt like there were plenty of crazy drunk people walking around at all times of day/night in the city. We encountered a girl in her 20s in McDonald’s who sat near us and actually asked us to take a moment and do a cheers with our French fries. Hilarious.

–          While the city isn’t the most beautiful one I’ve visited, there were some really pretty monuments and buildings scattered around, such as City Hall, Dublin Castle, and a few pretty cathedrals

–          The night life was the best of all the cities I’ve visited… especially the Temple Bar area with tons of pubs all in a few blocks!

–          Overall, I’d say the Irish can be sometimes “blissfully oblivious” (a term Raleigh and I came up with after listening to some funny stories from our tour guide) because of the foolish way they go about things.

–          Guinness was the most popular drink (probably because the Guinness Factory is stationed in Dublin, which we didn’t get to) and people LOVE it. I tried it too, it wasn’t that bad actually!

–          Ireland has the best souvenir shops to buy gifts for people. They really play up the luck of the Irish things, with leprechauns, sheep, and beer items. I loved it! I also found my mom’s family crest on some things… Higgins is an Irish last name! I loved being part Irish in this city.

–          There really were more gingers in this city than anywhere else I’ve been! Haha.

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