A Blurred Two Weeks in Ireland
Ireland came and went as quickly as saying ‘1,2,3’. Literally, I blinked my eyes and I was already grumpily dragging myself out of my hostel bed at 4 am to pack up my two overstuffed bags and head to the airport to fly to Scotland. I guess the only way to brief you on two solid weeks of nonstop adventure is by breaking it up in to sections. It only seems fitting by starting off with night number two of Ireland.
Night 2 of Ireland:
By night two, I was ready to experience Ireland nightlife once more, the night in which I had met this girl named Rachel. I first left my hostel with my new Brazilian and French friend to head to this club Dicey’s, a place where many college students and tourists flock to for their 2 euro drinks. Walking into the place, you are satisfied with the front area which is made up of two separate bars and three dancefloors, but upon walking further to the back, you realize there is a whole other section that is the outside. From a San Franciscan’s standpoint, the outside area closely resembles a bar in San Francisco called Zeitgeist, where benches are lines in rows for outdoor seating. Except in addition to the outdoor seating, there is a third bar and even a covered dancefloor packed with locals and tourists alike. I sat at a bench in the back, first observing all the Irish and how hard they party. In every direction you looked, there was entertainment to watch from beer chugging to dancing to singalongs, the Irish were all just a happy bunch of people- experts at having a great time. That was when Rachel came and sat down across from me and I asked her for her lighter. From that opening line, we quickly began chatting away, me noticing she was a local and her noticing my accent was clearly not Irish. It was such a flowing conversation, so much to relate between us both that we quickly decided we were now best friends. We stood up and ventured all around the club where Rachel introduced me to about 50 different people, giving me background information of who they were and how they were friends. I felt like I was with the celebrity of the night with not one single person not knowing who Rachel was or wanting to next to her. I was truly getting the Irish experience at that point and to think it was only my night two in Ireland. We left the club exhausted and in search for an after-club snack. It was there that we decided to have a sleepover and so, like the daring person I am, I went home with a complete stranger who was now my best friend from Ireland. I met her roommates and discussed what I was to do over my stay in Ireland. Being so fond of one another, Rachel invited me on a trip over the weekend to a town called Athlone where I would then meet her family. I accepted the offer, stunned how great of a start I was having to my Ireland adventures.
I spent my days in Dublin engaging in a free walking tour of the city, doing pub crawls, a tour of the Guinness factory and bonding with the people at my hostel and the locals on the street. During the walking tour, I found out so much of the humor that surrounds the Irish. From drunken shootouts for craic (Irish slang for fun) at Trinity College, to a celebrated ‘Father’ who doesn’t exist but the people of Dublin lay flowers on his fake plaque annually, to even creating The Spire as a monument which glows at night and therefore serves as a navigator for lost drunks at night, the Irish culture seemed to speak to my soul. At night, Alyssa and I went out to bars, some taking on the look of an old Victorian house furnished with plush seats and carpeted floors, others like a chill hangout area with benches side by side and lined in rows for people to gather for drinks and a chat. The most interesting bar I had seen while in Dublin was literally in a house, with one room being the bar where you collected your drink to go through a doorway and listen to music in the following rooms throughout the house.
That weekend Alyssa and I headed off to Athlone to meet Rachel’s family. We met Rachel at the train station where we drove out an hour West to the city where she was raised. We passed by greenery, sheep and cows, stopping on the way to avoid heavy downpour. During the drive, we told Rachel about visiting the ‘oldest pub’ in Ireland, called the Brazen Head. She retorted with a laugh before telling us that the actual oldest pub in all of Ireland was in her home town called Sean’s Pub est. in 900 AD and verified by Guinness Book of World Records. I met her family, who were nothing less than absolutely charming. Rachel and her mother tag teamed cooking us a ‘proper Irish dinner’ while Alyssa and I sat back stunned by such generosity shown towards two strangers. While dinner was cooking, we decided to take a tour of Athlone heading to Sean’s Pub, walked around the lake and finishing with a viewpoint. By dinner time, we sat around the table to enjoy lamb in which came from her boyfriend’s flock ( though I’m a vegetarian, I did break my diet in order to try some of Ireland’s famous all organic meat), pickled cabbage, potatoes, parsnips and carrots. The dinner was absolutely superb and the conversation that went around the table was lively, each of us giving a glimpse into one another’s cultures and background. We finished the night by heading back to Sean’s Bar for amazing live music, headed out for clubbing, and like any Irish night, your night is never done when the club is finished so we headed to a Casino where I dreadfully don’t want to admit what I had lost.
It seems at this point we were in a daze coming from spending time with an Irish family and meeting an endless array of nice people all throughout Dublin. Alyssa and I were now off to see Galway, a place where we were only focused on adventure and needed rest during the night in order to go on the tours that we had planned. The first day we set off on our very own walking tour of Galway. The Latin Quarter was absolutely charming where people walked around and peered into shops and different pubs for shopping and some food. We walked around the canal, saw the famous church, defrosted our hands with a bit of Irish tea before wandering about for some Irish soup (trust me, I basically lived off Irish soup during my two weeks). We went to bed and woke up for a tour of the Cliffs of Moher. I chose to revisit these charming cliffs because of their beauty. This time, however, they added a barrier to keep people from falling off the cliff due to the strong winds. Taken aback, I showed up wishing there no barriers, remembering the pictures I had taken on the very tip of the edge just years back and feeling completely safe. I did not think, however, just how strong the winds were at different parts of the year, this day being in particular. The wind was so strong the second you stepped off the bus that it blew you every time a gust came about. It’s like you were pushing against a heavy boulder in order to keep you standing on your two feet. The times the wind blew me from the side, I would be hurled into the barrier and automatically thank it for being there because of what my fate might have been without it there. Despite the wind, that adventure day was so spectacular and by the end of it I already felt pained to be leaving just the next day to head to Northern Ireland.
We arrived by train to Belfast, all the way in the North from just experiencing the South. There was a tension here that didn’t exist in the South due with remnants of the Protestant-Catholic war (English vs. Irish). Graffiti murals painted on the peace walls told a story of wanted independence from Britain while other parts spoke of their deep desire for peace. Walking along these walls you get the feel of the tension with the gloomy weather adding an even more defining mood as we read all the comments along the walls. People yelling out their car windows at us for standing in the street to take pictures of the walls, (an experience that did not happen in happy Dublin). We walked around and thought about just how brutal it must be to live in this area by the wall, an active reminder of all the bloodshed and hatred in which this wall was formed from.
We returned from our days about to an Air Bnb that we had rented. It was nice to just be sprawled out in our own living space, putting our toiletries in the bathroom, our groceries in the fridge without fear of it being thrown out because of forgetting to put your name, room and checkout date on each item and being able to enjoy our dinner over episodes of Pretty Little Liars. We took a tour to the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, these amazing trees seen in Game of Thrones and the famous Giant’s Causeway. Each stop we had held so much beauty that by the end of the day, it felt we had just experienced multiple days all in a matter of hours. The trees were enchanting. A road leading to someone’s property were lined with these bare trees that after 150 years, have began leaning into one another, entangling the neighboring trees with their outreached branches. The next stop was to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Giant’s Causeway. This site is on the water, where millions of years ago a volcano erupted and somehow formed a series of basalt pillars that range in size, all in the same hexagon shape. Alyssa and I had not experienced cold like here. We toughed it out, through periods of rain trying to keep our spirits high in order to take pictures at this famous sight. By the end, we were both gripping my sweater that I had taken off in order to warm our finger tips that were stinging with every little movement we made, rushing towards warmth up a hill. We warmed our bodies there with some potato leek soup then proceeded to our last stop, one of my favorite places thus far Cerrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This bridge spans 20 meters across, dangling 30 meters above the water. I crossed the bridge, excited to be on it. Immediately I felt how the bridge swayed and rocked with each step taken which added to the excitement of the experience. About midway through the bridge, my new iPhone 7 plus in hand snapchatting my walking experience, I began to get visions of my phone flying out of my hand and into the waters below. I walked the rest of the way cradling my phone, still determined to complete documenting my experience. I made it to the other side, tucked away my phone and walked a few more times across the bridge, staring at the blue waters below and on either side with the green cliffs in every direction. A smile took form on my face and stayed, not wanting that moment to end. At night, we headed to a spot called The Harp Bar, where we ordered Hot Whiskeys and enjoyed live music, meeting the locals once more. Our last day, we walked all around town to get a feel of Belfast during the day.
Back to Dublin:
I met this Irish lad named Johnny in The Philippines. We had spent a wild two weeks together, from hopping boat cruises to cliff jumping to raves in El Nido. He now lives in New Zealand so it was quite the surprise when we both learned we would be in Ireland visiting the exact same time. Alyssa and I headed back to Dublin for a night out with him and his friends at the famous club Coppers. The story behind Coppers is that a police officer opened the club as a place where cops and local nurses can meet and hook up. I didn’t believe this story at first but after hearing it from different sets of locals, I’ve chosen to believe this was true. We walked into the place expecting a room or two, but as we explored the club, we found room after room, room and then a stairs leading to a downstairs with more room. The place was manic and stayed open until 5 am every night. I forget what time we even left but the party didn’t end until two days later after we all took a train back to Johnny’s hometown Portarlington. We went to a railway bar for what we thought would be a quick stop for a drink with all of our luggage in tote. After a few drinks and more people showing up at the bar, we realized going home would only come into play when the last call was called. Closing time came along and the bar with everyone still wanting the night to continue, so like a herd, we all followed one another in stumbling footsteps and large backpacks all the way to Johnny’s mom’s house. We danced, drank, sang songs, told stories and made drunken munchies.