And my big summer trip was… Ireland! It was a last minute trip as I had first planned on going to Mexico to save money, but then I couldn’t find a travel partner and drinking at an all-inclusive resort by yourself is not that appealing, so on 4th of July I changed my plans and bought a flight to Ireland for pretty much the next day. I just figured that since I will have an Irish last name next year then I should get to know my future kids’ roots. Although the last minute flight was pretty expensive, I found a bus tour and hostels for the whole 2 weeks I was there and the trip ended up being very affordable.
My first stop was at the capital Dublin. I arrived at the airport and took a bus that dropped me off downtown near this big silver spire called The Monument of Light. I knew my hostel was somewhere in the vicinity and I did have a map, but I am just horrible with directions, so all I did was walk around towards one direction and, just by luck, I found my hostel a couple of blocks away. I hadn’t stayed in a dorm for over 10 years, but as soon as I got to my room, my roommates were super nice. They were all a little older and staying in Dublin for a couple of weeks to learn English. Since I was off to explore the city right away, I didn’t see them again… until that night when everyone was snoring…
As I mentioned, a map on my hands is not much help, so I just walked and walked in Dublin until I got somewhere. Luckily, there are street signs everywhere, so first I found the Liffey river and all its bridges. The most famous one was Ha’penny Bridge. Then walking past O’Connell Street there was the compelling Famine Memorial and a replica of a famine ship that took Irish immigrants to the US. My goal now was to get to Trinity College since that’s where the Book of Kells is and that was the only thing in my must-see list of Dublin. Trying to find my way there, I walked a lot and passed St. Andrew Catholic Church, but I finally made it.
Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university founded in 1592, is right downtown, but has a nice open campus. Its Old Library has over 5 million books and you can visit part of it any day if you are prepared to stand in line. It’s definitely worth it since the main room is beautiful with books from top to bottom and moving stairs. The most important document in the library is the Book of Kells. An illuminated manuscript written in Latin, it has the first four Gospels of the New Testament. Since it’s believed to have been made in Ireland in 800 A.D., it is a national treasure and very important to Christians. It comprises of almost 400 folios, but only 2 of them are displayed at a time to visitors. The pages were beautiful: the calligraphy work and the drawings were very well preserved for such an old book.
My walking tour of Dublin continued and I passed Grafton St. and its many shops and street artists, and the parks Merrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green. I tried stopping at a 5 star restaurant to have lunch, but the hostess looked at me and said “Sorry, we’re closed for lunch today”… As I walked away, I saw some people seated. Maybe it was just because I was all sweaty and in yoga pants instead of being dressed up for a 5 star place? Luckily, Merrion Square was having some festivities and I had a burger from one of the food stalls. I then walked to the free National Gallery of Ireland to take a quick peak at the impressionist artwork they have there.
My next stop was Dublin castle and its medieval surroundings dating from 1169. Really cool to have a medieval castle in the middle of the city, but inside there are 18th century decorations since it has been the seat of the parliament for many years. The Chester Beatty Library is on its grounds, but I had to leave it for the next time I’m in Dublin as I had more medieval buildings to visit. Christ Church Cathedral was founded in 1030 and it’s absolutely impressive. The crypt is also very interesting with all the historical artifacts, such as a Magna Carta, the burial place of invader Strongbow and a mummified cat and rat. The last church I visited was St. Patrick’s Cathedral from 1191, which was also very beautiful. It still has the well used by St. Patrick to baptize his followers.
On my way back to the hostel, I found, by chance of course, the Temple Bar area. Lots and lots of pubs and live music, but since I’m not a beer fan, I just strolled the streets and watched the street performers. All was very lively! Although I had gotten back to the hostel at almost 10 p.m., I decided to add a run to my itinerary since it was summer and the sun was still out! I jogged for a few miles all the way to Phoenix Park on the other side of town. The sun was setting but the huge city park was still had some people walking their dogs. When I looked at my pedometer, it said I had walked for 14 hours, over 40,000 steps, and 16 miles! Well, I think I covered Dublin very well by foot on my first day there!
The next morning I met my tour mates and we took a bus tour of the city. It only lasted a few minutes and that’s when I realized Dublin is really small and that the only reason I walked so much the day before was because I kept getting lost! As a group we went to Guinness Storehouse, which besides a factory for the famous beer, it is also a high-tech museum. We watched them make beer, all the way from choosing the ingredients to bottling, shipping, and advertising. We had smell and taste samples and spent hours learning. Who knew a beer museum could be so entertaining! The last floor is where Gravity Bar is and had a 360 degree view of Dublin – that’s where I sipped on my one and only pint of Guinness for my Irish trip. I knew my trip was off to a good start!
My last night in Dublin was devoted to eating. Not that Ireland is known for gourmet food, but I felt I had to try a Guinness stew and an Irish coffee, so I chose one of the many pubs with live Irish music to enjoy some dinner. The stew was okay and the coffee wasn’t very good since I don’t really like coffee, but I devoured the soda bread! The music, however, was top-notch.