Over the past few months, I’ve seen a ridiculous number of cathedrals, castles and panoramic views of cities I wasn’t sure I’d ever cared about. After a while, some of these tourist attractions begin to look the same.
My anticipation for Ireland convinced me that I was building it up to be something it wasn’t – I was ruining it by being too excited or looking too forward to it. I thought that by watching P.S. I Love You just days before takeoff was maybe a bad idea – maybe Ireland wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. But the Emerald Isle was everything and more I had hoped for.
I flew from Madrid to Dublin with a few friends. On Friday night, our Ryan Air flight landed (or fell) onto the tarmac, the way most Ryan Air flights seem to do. We were supposed to land at midnight, but when we turned our phones on, we realized it was only 11. Silly us to not have known there was a time difference. How lucky, we thought. That added on an extra hour to our night we didn’t know existed.
We got in the taxi line and hopped into a cab. I was excited to sit in the front (on the opposite side of the car) …and the driver’s name was as perfectly Irish as it could be – Patrick Sheridan. He had a lovely accent and actually engaged in conversation with us – something we’re not used to in Spain. He gave us a small tour of the city; meanwhile we were all gawking at the Celtic writing on buildings and pubs lining the street.
We never ate dinner so after the cab driver dropped us off, we ventured out to find something to eat and went to Bad Bob’s, a nightclub in Temple Bar, which was a convenient 7-minute walk from our hostel.
After a night of the Dublin pub scene, we said farewell for a few days and headed out west. The next morning, we took a 7:30 am train to Galway. It was a gorgeous ride and even though I promised myself I would stay awake, I fell asleep for most of the trip. I figured there would be plenty of goats and grass to see in the next few days.
After settling into our hostel, we decided to venture out and find some breakfast. We sat down at a café that had normal-sized coffee and scrambled eggs. With only a breakfast, I quickly decided that Ireland was a good country.
We stopped at the tourist office to get a map, and one of my friends started leading us toward what she had on her list – she usually plans our sightseeing and it’s excellent. We got a little lost and ended up at the coast, which was on her list and absolutely beautiful. The skies cleared away and we got to see the sun shining on the rapids that were the Atlantic Ocean combining with the Corrib river.
A few minutes later, the skies darkened and it was hailing, then raining and then sunny again. So people weren’t exaggerating when they talked about the weather in Ireland, huh?
After taking some much-needed pictures of the coast, we started to walk back kind of aimlessly. That’s when we found the Spanish Arch, and then the center of Galway City, and then the Galway Market, and then we saw a rainbow… And that’s when I realized how small this place actually was. We didn’t need a map. We could just walk around and find leprechauns without actually looking for them!
We had our first Guinness right by Lynch’s Castle at a place called Galavan’s Pub. It looked exactly how I had dreamed a pub in Ireland would look.
Everyone that I met in Ireland — and especially in Galway — would ask where in the States I was from and would become full of excitement when they heard Boston. Many of the people I met usually had a relative or two who had moved there.
We woke in a panic on our second morning in Galway as my friend realized she had pre-booked our Cliffs of Moher tour tickets for the wrong date. In any other country, this would have been inexcusable. But it was Ireland, so we thought we would give it a shot. We packed up all of our things and rushed down the street to the meeting point at 10am. We explained our situation to one of the bus drivers and he seemed a bit amused by us. He said he would have to wait and see if there would be enough seats on the bus. Even though this waiting went on for a few minutes, I really think he was just giving us a hard time, because not only did he allow us onto his bus, he welcomed us with open arms and wanted to know where we were from and what our itinerary was.
The bus tour lasted all day. We drove from Galway through the countryside on the West coast of Ireland. The driver would pull over any time we saw baby goats or horses or sheep – which was often. He asked where everyone was from and then at one point pulled the bus over and shouted, “Who’s the one person on this bus from Boston? Come on up here and bring your camera.” He pulled over so that I could hop off the bus and take a picture of a street sign that said Boston.
We stopped for lunch in the small village of Doolin at a pub called, Gus O’Connor’s Pub. The guide informed us that this was JFK’s pub of choice when he visited Ireland. With this anecdote, he again singled me out. It was great to visit a country where Boston was such a well-known city.
After seeing the Cliffs of Moher – which was absolutely insane and basically completely indescribable – we stopped at a few more spots, such as a Cathedral, a medieval tomb and the ruins of a family’s 1600s estate.
Then our bus driver dropped us off in the village of Kinvarra, where we had booked a B&B for the night. The house was incredible, owned by a man who builds everything seen on his property:
We had dinner at the ONLY kitchen open in town, which was in the hotel, since it was a Sunday night. It was my favorite meal of the whole trip. I was excited to order a hamburger that was actually 100% beef, and not questionably gray like they tend to be in Spain.
It was amazing to be able to stay in the countryside in the middle of complete nowhere in Ireland. Everything was so comfortable and quiet and our host kept the fire lit for when we returned from dinner. We had tea and all fell asleep by the fire and it was just as quaint as it sounds. It was just what we needed after a long day of traveling.
We slept late in the morning and woke to the pitter-patter of the rain. We bought eggs and toast at the market down the street and made ourselves a lovely breakfast before hitting the road for Dublin. The man who owned the house offered to call his friend, a cab driver, who had a flat rate of 10 euro a person to drive us into Galway city so that we could catch a bus to Dublin.
In a cab with a meter, this ride would have cost at least 60 euros because we were actually pretty far outside the city. But when he pulled up in front of the bus station, he told us he was giving us a discount and we only had to pay 8 euros each. I liked Ireland more and more every minute.
Even the bus was easy to figure out. Only 12 euros paid on-board and you had yourself a three-hour bus ride with Wi-Fi from Galway to Dublin.
When the bus stopped in Dublin, it was, of course, pouring rain. I didn’t mind at all. Our hostel was just across the river, about a three-minute walk from where the bus left us off. We checked into Abigail’s Hostel, which was located in Temple Bar. We hung out in the hostel for a while, freshened up and went to dinner at The Porterhouse. We got a table right in front of where the band would begin playing at 10, so we stayed there from 8 until midnight. The music was great and it ended with a cover of Hey Jude. I literally had to pinch myself so I could believe that this was real. I was in a pub in Dublin listening to a live band perform The Beatles.
After having spent two nights out in Temple Bar, I was excited to see what Dublin looked like in daylight. The next morning, we grabbed our free breakfast downstairs and headed out to do some sightseeing. We went to St. Stephen’s Green, a gorgeous park, saw Trinity College and got lunch at a little sandwich shop just outside the university. From there, we went to the Guinness Factory, which was just as awesome and touristy as you can imagine. We were taught to pour the “perfect glass of Guinness,” and we all succeeded!
My last night in Dublin was amazing. We walked around Temple Bar for a while until we heard live music coming from a pub. We walked inside and proceeded to order our last 6-euro beers. I was standing at the bar waiting to order when an American couple, who looked to be in their late twenties, started joking with me that the bartender was hung-over and they would get her attention for me.
It turned out the couple, who were both beautiful, by the way, were from LA and were in Ireland for the week for the guy’s 34th birthday. They insisted on buying my beer, and then my friend a beer, too. They told us they were living through us because they missed college. We ended up talking to them for the entire night. They asked what we were studying and when I said journalism, the guy said, “Oh, I’m sure your parents are real proud of you. What’re you gonna do with that?” It was like being at a bar mitzvah and having a distant relative ask me the same questions. “Well,” I said, “I’m actually doing pretty well with it so my parents don’t mind. They like my major.” (What do you say to that?) His girlfriend cut me off and said, “Don’t take him seriously – he’s just giving you a hard time ‘cause he’s a writer!” A good-looking writer from LA cracking jokes to a young girl at a bar – is that you Hank Moody?
They bought us another round and asked us questions about studying abroad, college life today and the modern dating scene, as if they were dinosaurs who didn’t graduate from college within the last decade or so.
As they were leaving, we thanked them over and over for being so nice and the guy pulled me aside and said, “Make the world a better place.” I will never forget this encounter and decided the only way I can repay back is to return to Ireland when I’m older and have a job so that I can buy drinks for a couple of college students.