As our first post-study abroad destination, we arrived in Dublin around 11pm. From there we set off to Dublin City University, where a friend of mine from high school was gracious enough to offer us a free place to sleep in the otherwise spendy city. We unfortunately only had one full day in Dublin, as our real goal was to see the countryside and villages, so we set off to see all the sights early the next morning. As this was the first country we’d been to with English as its first language since leaving the US four months prior, we were uneasy and even a bit appalled with words like “library” and “exit” that suddenly felt foreign to the now comfortable “biblioteca” and “salida.” Luckily this aversion to English quickly subsided by the time we reached the city center, even though we remained bored without the challenge of speaking in another language.
One thing we noticed immediately about Ireland is that the rumors were true: the people here really are incredibly friendly. They frequently went out of their way to see if we needed help and, in contrast to Spaniards, freely smile at you on the street. That is not to say that Spaniards are unfriendly people (quite the contrary, actually), just that they aren’t in the habit of smiling at strangers. In Dublin, we started off at St. Stephen’s Green, a lovely park situated right in the city center. While the most enjoyable part of this for us was making small talk from an older couple from Ohio about their travels (Spaniards aren’t known for small talk either), the park itself was filled with beautiful flower gardens, ponds, and lots of ducks and swans (being chased by plenty of children who misinterpreted what it means to adopt a pet). After the park, we made our way to trinity College campus. While we opted not to take the tour, the campus alone was beautiful and picturesque. We wanted to make sure to leave time for the Guinness Storehouse tour, so we headed there next. At 13€ with a pint of Guinness included, it’s well worth the trip. Especially considering how expensive we found it to dine in Ireland, we often opted to substitute a meal with a Guinness as it’s nearly as filling, just as enjoyable and cheaper (if only slightly), or perhaps just a good excuse to drink a pint of beer for lunch. While not an especially strong beer, it certainly has a kick when used as a meal substitute…
That evening, three other girls from our study abroad program in Granada had also planned to be in Dublin. We met up with them at a pub in the Temple Bar neighborhood with live music, but it was too packed to actually see the performance. Regardless, it was a nice last meet up for CEGRI students before splitting up for the summer.
The following day, Tori and I made our way to Galway by Bus Eirann. We arrived just in time for a torrential downpour that lasted almost exactly from the time we got off the bus to the time we arrived at the hostel, when it immediately cleared up. We stayed at Barnacles Quay hostel, which I would absolutely recommend as it is cheap, centrally located, includes free breakfast and has a nice kitchen and overall atmosphere, sans a few strange but unavoidable guests. While not the hostel’s fault, the abundance of gross sweaty guys We wandered around Galway and saw just about all of it in less than an hour and found a nice place for a sit-down meal (the hostel offers a deal here for a free drink with any entrée). Afterwards, we headed over to Crane Bar for some great live music with the locals.
For our second day in Galway, we were deciding between a general tour with Galway Tour Company to the Cliffs of Moher and one that included a farm tour that appeared to have good reviews. With a forecast of 100% rain, we went with the former and loved every second of it. Although the weather was spotty and rainy for the majority of the day, we were able to enjoy the sights from the comfort of a warm, dry bus that included stops in various small villages. While the weather wasn’t going to stop us from seeing the Cliffs and it obviously would have been better with more sun and less wind and rain (and stronger umbrellas), it was still worth the trip.
Having seen what there is to see in Galway, we decided to end our trip with a third city. We had heard good things about both Cork and Killarney, but the hostel worker recommended Cork hands down, so off we went. Go to Cork, they say. It’s pretty they say…false. While it ended up being a good base to do a Ring of Kerry tour, the city itself doesn’t have much to offer. We went to ring the Shandon Bells, the biggest tour attraction there, and arrived at a closed church without a proper entrance door or sign to indicate opening hours. Cork itself looks as though it is stuck in the industrial age which, although interesting, is an eyesore and gives the city a feel of being thrust to the side and ignored as though it just wasn’t important enough to clean it up. The hostel worker warned us against the second biggest attraction, the Butter Museum, which she actually did go to when she lived there briefly. Considering our already disappointing bout in the city, we happily passed that one up. Despite our dissatisfaction with the city, it surprisingly offered a lot of good dining options and live music venues in the evenings. We shared a plate of vegetable fritters with a yogurt-pesto sauce and sesame crusted potatoes before finding a live music bar playing both of our dad’s favorite tunes.
As we weren’t too keen on staying in the city center for another whole day, we booked a Ring of Kerry tour for the following day. This may actually have been more enjoyable than the tour to the Cliffs as it included more stops along the Ring of Kerry including a brief jaunt in Killarney and the Killarney National Park, the other town we had considered staying in. While we immediately regretted passing it up, we were happy to at least have visited it briefly. For dinner we scored by splitting nachos and a 6€ burrito and finding another impressive live music venue for our last night in Ireland, and wished it goodbye as we hopped on another bus to the Dublin airport.