And now for the exciting conclusion to my last two weeks: my trip to Dublin! So, last Thursday was obviously spent packing and getting everything settled, but I managed a bit of time for exploration before we took off. I hit up the Museum of Childhood for my Devising London class and got to wander around and be reminded of all the toys I grew up with. Also, children. Eeeeeeverywhere. Seeing the little ones clinging to parents or running and screaming and just generally overtaking the museum oddly made me miss working with kids. Man, I am an ED major at heart, what can I say.
I also made a quick trip to Cyber Candy in Shoreditch, a little candy shoppe that sells American candy. You see, dear friends, I came to London with about 15 packs of Extra Strawberry Shortcake gum. I’m down to two. Yes, I have a problem and that’s all well and good but until I lose my strange addiction, I’m in a bit of a predicament. They had a knockoff version of my gum, but one pack cost about $4. UM I could get six packs for that, Walmart style in the good old US of A. SO I’ll keep exploring. But if anyone feels like being generous and sending me emergency packs of gum, this would be a lovely gesture and remembered forever :D
Okay, enough about my first world problems. Onto Dublin travels! So, we took a bus on Thursday night and traveled about six hours to Wales. I made a feeble and rather unsuccessful attempt to sleep (have you tried sleeping on a coach bus? I don’t recommend it). From there, it was time for the ferry, named “The Ulysses” in honor of James Joyce, the highly Irish writer. Again, sleepy times tried to occur. I mean, it was around 1 in the morning. When we got to the shore, it was 5 am, and we made it to the hostel at 6 am. Of course, we couldn’t actually check in until 2 in the afternoon. Meaning the idea of taking a short nap was limited to the couches in the lounge.
WELL I was pretty sleepy at this point, but I was also a bit delirious. I somehow convinced my friend John that we should go out and about all day until 2, then nap, then wake up and do stuff. Seemed logical at the time. Quick question: can you guess how many places in Dublin are open at 6 am on a Friday? Answer: Very VERY few. We ended up grabbing our first bite of Dublin at The Cinnamon Cafe near our hostel. It was a DELICIOUS breakfast.
Now, fair warning: I did some great eating in Dublin and will probably mention everything I tried. At least I didn’t instagram anything? As John says, good food is a sure sign of a good vacation. I made sure to always go for the more “Irish option,” using the logic that I could try some foods anywhere; I wanted a purely Dublin experience. So, I skipped the American pancakes in the morning. Instead, breakfast consisted of a toasted croissant with goat cheese and walnut syrup. So messy, so sweet, so worth it.
During the day, we trolled around Dublin quite a bit, taking our trip guide’s advice that we could virtually walk anywhere in the city from our hostel. We saw the outside of a few churches (again, nothing open yet) and marveled at the river Liffey (which proved to be a great landmark to get us anywhere). We ended up sneaking into City Hall (accidentally!) and saw some great architecture. Next was a trip to the Dublin Castle, which, SURPRISE, is closed because of political goings-on. Instead we visited the museum and the library nearby, which had a giant collection of ancient books.
At this point in the day, probably around 11 or 12, my energy was completely gone. John, however, perked up with a coffee and now it was he that was dragging me along from place to place. We stopped by Trinity College, which was one of my potential study abroad schools. All the buildings are beautiful, but I’m glad I chose London and Westminster –the campus there was so touristy! Definitely something I’m not used to. It makes sense though, the campus does house the Book of Kells. John was really down to see it, but I was feeling grumpy and very unwilling to pay 8 euro. So he went on his own and showed me pictures, and I guess I just vicariously visited it through him!
By the time we finished there, we were ready to head back to the hostel. After a very satisfying nap, we were eager to go exploring again. John wanted to do a literary pub crawl, but it seemed like a lot of outdoorsy performances and walking. Did I mention that Dublin is colder than London? Not by much, but enough where I did not feel like standing outside to watch an actor pretend to be Oscar Wilde. Instead, we went to a pub in the heart of the city and grabbed some dinner. I ordered cauliflower fritters, mostly because they sounded like the breaded cauliflower we have for holidays with my family. They were way less breaded, but with the combo of aoli and some, erm, mayo, it was delicious. Also, chips (like, the fry kind) with mayo is one of my new (shameful) favorite things. For what it’s worth, I also tried John’s mussels (my first mussel experience) and kinda liked it! Overall, it was great to relax for the night and just sit back and chat. There was also bread pudding with heavy cream for dessert. The bread pudding at Michael’s has been forever shamed, I’m afraid. Plus, we got to see traditional dancing and hear some traditional Irish music! John knew most of the songs, but I learned my share by the end of the night –including the one about giving your heart to a Galway girl. See, I know stuff.
We headed back that night, slept in a bit, grabbed some basic free hostel breakfast, and were ready for the next day. Okay, but this one might need some more explaining. So, the amount of planning we did for Dublin was limited to an hour in John’s kitchen while eating homemade grilled cheese. I basically googled the top tourist attractions. I found a place called Phoenix Park, which apparently had a free-to-visit castle. Ah, Ashtown Castle. I thought it sounded cool, so John and I were set for the day. The trouble was, the park was only mentioned on our main map of Dublin. Like, it had an arrow pointing a bit West, making it seem like the park was right on the outskirts of the map’s vicinity.
Falsehoods. Falsehoods everywhere.
We found the park easy enough, but had no idea how far along in the park the castle was. So we walked and walked and walked and kept thinkig, “Okay, it’s a castle, we definitely won’t miss it.” Eventually, I gave up and asked a local if we were heading the right way. He had never heard of Ashtown Castle. Whelp, that’s a bad sign. Oh, and it was hailing, which was also a pretty bad omen, if I do say so. We kept on, feeling like we had gone too far to turn around without stumbling upon something. And indeed we did! We accidentally found the President’s house. Which looks suspiciously like the White House.
Eventually, we made it to the tourist center. And right beside it, what do you know, Ashtown Castle. The smallest, saddest looking
castle I’ve ever seen. I think you could fit about 10 of these in Grey Towers. I was not pleased. But, at least the adventure was a success.
We were a smidge crunched for time (and super tired of walking –we apparently did about 4.5 miles) so we took a bus back into the city. From there, John went off to his tour of the Guiness Storehouse (my distaste of beer sadly still holds true in Ireland) and I did some independent exploring of the National Gallery of Dublin. Also mostly closed (you’re sensing a pattern here?) but I managed to find a few things worthy of photos. The gardens in the back were incredible enough for me.
When we met back up, it was at the Kilmainham Gaol (or jail), where we signed up for a tour of the restored grounds. The cells were super creepy in the best way, and it reminded me a lot of a slightly smaller, more Irish version of Eastern State Penitentiary. Following the tour, we only had a bit of time before our pub crawl with Westminster, so we grabbed some quick food. I was very tempted to get myself a felafel sandwich, but I resisted! Instead I got a nut roast, because I had no clue what it was and it looked pretty good. See, mom and dad, I finally got over all that picky eating. I’ve gone a long way from the girl that ate mac and cheese every day (though I would not say no to such a lifestyle, if offered). The food was pretty good, kinda like a meat loaf but nuttier. I more enjoyed John’s croque monsieur, which I’d remembered trying in Paris on preview.
And then it was pub crawl time! We went to five different pubs and saw some great live music (some traditional, some just hardcore rock). Plenty of dancing and friendships occurred, but we were plenty tired by the time we needed to walk back from Temple Bar (the social scene of Dublin). You would correctly guess that we again slept in the next day.
For our last day in Dublin (Sunday, if you’ve been keeping up), we again resisted the temptation of free walking tours; we’d already covered most of the locations on our own. We hit up O’Connolly street, saw some monuments and the Post Office where a battle had taken place (again, John was far more knowledgeable than I), saw the Spire of Dublin (biiiiiiig pointy monument, not sure of the purpose), and finally made it to the Writer’s Museum. It was cool to see the works of W.B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde, and to learn a bit of why the world loves James Joyce so much (Dubliners remains on my bookshelf at home, but I will certainly read it this summer!). Then we went around Stephen’s Green shopping center (which had a really cool giant clock) and made time for a Johnny Cupcakes salted caramel cupcakes. SOOO good and there was caramel in the center like HEY SURPRISE and it was probably one of the best moments of the day. Judge me as you will. I also finally tried a piece of Butler’s chocolate that had some hazelnut-Nutella-like creme in it –wonderful and I now understand why Butler’s is highly loved (it’s basically the Godiva of Dublin). And I stole some of John’s cookie hot chocolate, so no complaints there (except from him).
Alas, the day was not yet over! We still made time to swing by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was gorgeous. We made it there exactly on time (unplanned, of course) for evening song, meaning we could attend services and be tourists without doing the standard admission. Parents, you are reading this correctly: I attended church for the first time in a while, probably since my little cousin’s baptism. It was actually a beautiful service, filled with singing and me staring in awe at the painted glass masterpieces.
The night concluded with a final trip to Temple Bar to grab burgers at a Dublin-famous restaurant. I had a chicken sandwich with pesto and cheese and a whole bunch more stuff, and even tried (and enjoyed) John’s burger. Which had beef! That is a rarity for me. By the time we finished though (with leftovers), it was time to return home. The trip back was much like the trip there, but with even less sleeping. Though I did try a fruit scone while on the ferry and finally get time to grab souvenirs. I was exhausted by the end of it (and still had to go to class later in the day) but it was a great trip and I’m glad I treated myself to it. And I spent less than I even planned on! I took out 70 euros and only spent about 55, which includes all the admissions to churches/museums, the pub crawl, souvenirs, food, etc. My thriftiness is a testament to my upbringing, and I feel way more comfortable about doing weekend trips. That said, I’m hoping this weekend is a bit more calm, I do have papers to write!
Well, eventually. First, I’m set to go to the Westminster Variety show with some friends, and should probs be leaving, um, now.
Gotta go fast,