16 January, 2016
Day 9 in London/Dublin, Ireland
My last class of the day ended at 5 p.m. and as soon as it was over, I ran to the tube with my packed backpack, ready to start my journey to Dublin, Ireland.
I took the tube to Victoria Station and from there sped walked my way to where the trains to the airports and surrounding cities left from. I boarded the Gatwick Express at 5:30 p.m. bound for the Gatwick Airport. On the way I was stressing out about making my flight, it was scheduled to depart at 7 p.m. and the gates were supposed to close at 6:30. I would have to sprint through the unfamiliar airport in order to make my flight in time.
The Gatwick Express pulled into the airport at 6:05 and from there, I was off. I first had to get my boarding pass stamped and my visa checked at the baggage drop off, then I flew through security. Almost every other person around me got stopped.
I made it to my gate by 6:25 p.m. I still have no idea how I managed that.
Then, I sat. And sat.
7 p.m. came and went. Then 7:30 p.m. Finally, an announcement was made that due to the snow, (yes, it was snowing in London, very lightly, but there was snow), the plane we were scheduled to leave on still had not landed. Once it did finally land at 8 p.m., we were allowed to board but were told that the plane needed to be de-iced so we wouldn’t be leaving for another 20-25 minutes. Great.
Well, 25 minutes later, we were still sitting in the plane and no one had come to de-ice yet. At 9 p.m., still no one was there to de-ice. The pilot came on to tell us they would be there soon. Soon did not come soon enough. We sat on the plane until 10:30 and then finally took off for Dublin.
I landed in Dublin, Ireland just before midnight. From there, I made my way to the taxi stand and soon was on my way to the hostel.
My taxi driver was a nice middle-aged Irish man and we had a great conversation about politics both in Ireland and the United States. He told me about his concerns over the state of the U.S., especially his fears of what is to come when Trump becomes president. Friends and family of his had immigrated to the U.S. a few years earlier and he, as well as other Irish citizens, are worried for those in the U.S.
The taxi driver also went on to tell me about the presidents from the U.S. that the Irish people really appreciated. He mentioned John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and President Obama as three presidents that the people of Ireland truly appreciated. He said despite the “poor choices” Bill Clinton made concerning Monica Lewinsky, he made a lasting impact with the people of Ireland in 1995. He helped to bring peace and stop the fighting between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
I really enjoyed talking with him on the way from the airport to the Generator Hostel. I’ve been abroad for just over a week, but in that time I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a couple of individuals from both England and Ireland and see what an outsiders perspective of the state of the United States is.
In under 30 minutes, we made it to the hostel and I checked in, met Annie and Allie, (two girls from my flat that I would be traveling with), found our room and promptly went to bed.
Day 10 in Dublin
Woke up bright and early (not so bright but very early) at 5:45 a.m. We left but 6:20 to walk a mile to where we were getting picked up for our bus tour! We had a day trip planned to travel across the country to Galway, Ireland and then make our way through the countryside of Ireland to our final destination of the Cliffs of Moher.
We were riding in a nice coach bus and made a pit-stop in Galway, which was about a two hour drive from Dublin, before heading through the narrow country roads through the hills to the Cliffs of Moher. Our tour guide Aman talked almost the entire time. He told us about the places we were passing, some of the history of Ireland and many old Irish stories. Many of these stories involved the Irish belief of fairies and magic.
He pointed out circles of trees that we passed called fairy Hawthorn trees that are illegal to dig up, move or build buildings or roads through in Ireland. They believe that anyone who chooses to disrupt the trees will have bad luck and so the circles of fairy Hawthorn trees, as well as any single fairy Hawthorn trees are protected in Ireland. It was so interesting to learn about these beliefs and how seriously the people of Ireland take these beliefs to this day.
The night before, it had both snowed and rained in Dublin, so every time we made a stop to get out, take photos and explore, Aman warned us to be careful and watch our step so we didn’t twist an ankle before making it to the cliffs.
Along the way to the cliffs, we stopped at a castle and were able to get out and walk around it to take photos. We also stopped at a small graveyard that had a really old church in it. It was cool to explore the old building associated with Ireland’s history.
We stopped in the small city of Doolin for lunch. There, we went to a small pub where the members of our tour bus greatly outnumbered the locals. It was evident that the locals were always at the pub though, as the two women working the bar area and taking orders served the locals first and called them by name.
After lunch, it was back to the bus and then we were headed for our final stop, the Cliffs of Moher!
As we were pulling in to the parking lot of the Cliffs of Moher, it was raining, but luckily it stopped just as we were getting off the bus. As we made our way up the path to the cliffs, it consistently got windier and windier. It was really a struggle to walk up the steep incline against the wind, but eventually we made it to the top. And it was absolutely beautiful.
If you ever happen to find yourself in Ireland, it is completely worth it to make the three hour drive from Dublin to the Cliffs. You will not regret it.
As soon as we left the cliffs, it started raining. What are the odds. The luck of the Irish was really with us that day.
It was another three hour drive back, and we took a different road back that allowed us drive along the coast. It was so cool to see the cows grazing in the fields right next to the ocean. We were even able to get out at one point and walk right to the edge of the cliffs and look down at the ocean. It was kinda freaky but amazing at the same time.
Then we began the drive back and luckily I was able to sleep most of the way back. We were getting up early again the next day to go explore downtown Dublin.
Day 11 in Dublin
We left the hostel by 9 a.m., went across the street to a small cafe for breakfast, and then made our way across the river to Dublin’s City Hall. We were meeting in a square near the hall for a free walking tour of Dublin provided by Sandemans. For a free tour, the tour guides were so enthusiastic and provided really good information.
Sadly, it was freezing outside during our tour and our guide, while very nice, liked to talk A LOT and not move much. So after an hour and a half of being on the tour, we hadn’t move very far from City Hall and Dublin Castle so we decided to leave the tour and walked through the Temple Bar area by ourselves.
The Temple Bar area of Dublin has a pub every 50 ft. and is a great place to find shops for touristy gifts. We spent a while just walking through the streets and then we stopped into some stores to do some shopping. I ended up buying a Dublin sweatshirt mainly because I was freezing in my thin rain jacket and needed another layer. I put the sweatshirt on right away! I also ended up getting a cute purple scarf made of aran wool. I also put that on right away and started to warm up right away.
We wandered back across the river and found a cute little baking supply shop. It literally had every color fondant you could ever wanted and every baking supply ever created. Needless to say, it was heaven to me.
After lunch in a cute little restaurant, we walked through Trinity College. I used to think that UW-Madison had old buildings on its campus until I walked through Trinity. Each building looked so old yet beautiful. The grass of each quad was so perfectly green even though it was the middle of winter. It was such a cool campus.
We then walked through the streets of Dublin to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. By this time, it was dark out and the gates of the cathedral were locked. We were still able to see it though and it looked very pretty at night.
On our way back to the hostel, we stopped at a little shop for ice cream. The owners were very nice and their shop was the cutest!
In order to catch our flight the next morning, we needed to get to sleep early so we headed back to the hostel and had a quick dinner then went to sleep in order to be out the door by 5 a.m. the next morning.
The next morning, we made it out of bed, out the door and made it to the airport by 6 a.m. Our flight was on time so we left by 7:35 am and made it back to our flat in London by about 11 a.m. It was a great trip, but also incredibly exhausting. To say I slept well on Sunday night was an understatement!
While my two days in Ireland were great and I saw so much, there was so much more I could have seen and would love to go back some day in the future.