In Dublin’s Fair City…

Yes, we went to Dublin! It was my first trip out of Spain since I’ve been here and it was amazing. In order to get the best ticket prices, we ended up spending five days there (including the travel days), which worked out really well. We didn’t have to rush all over the city, and we had time to take a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, which was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. And on our way back to Spain, we got to spend 24 hours in Madrid, which was an absolute treat. Click here for pictures of Dublin, and here for pictures from Madrid.

Some of you international travelers out there are probably familiar with the budget airline Ryanair. It is basically the equivalent of flying in an old school bus, but it is dirt cheap. Ryanair doesn’t fly out of Oviedo, but adding a 50 Euro round-trip bus ticket between Oviedo and the Madrid Airport still made it considerably cheaper than flying with any other airline. So, on Thursday night Shannon, Catey, and I got on a bus and spent the night trying desperately to sleep on the way to the airport. When we arrived in Madrid, groggy but excited, we quickly discovered we were in the wrong place and had to take a shuttle bus to our terminal. But, without any further mishaps, we eventually made it to our gate with time to spare. The two and a half hour flight in the old school bus was not terribly comfortable, but it went by quickly. By lunchtime, we had made it out of the airport and we were in Ireland!! It was pretty much everything I had hoped it would be. Our bus into the city was a double-decker, everyone had an adorable accent, everything was so green, and there were redheads everywhere you looked. We checked into our hostel (which apparently is the most famous and best rated in Dublin), and quickly fell into a tourist trap for lunch. We paid too much for our fish and chips, but man were they good. I think any hot food tastes good when you’ve been traveling for 12+ hours, but there’s nothing like real fish and chips (with malt vinegar-yum!).

We had a fantastic time exploring Dublin. We saw Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Grafton Street, the River Liffey, the Spire, Temple Bar, Christchurch and St. Patrick’s Cathedrals- all of it. On Saturday, we decided to take a free walking tour about  Irish myths and legends. Free walking tours are common in many European cities and I would highly recommend trying one. Our guide was fantastic! The tour was over two hours long and we learned a ton. He was very engaging, and we couldn’t have asked for a better way to be introduced to the city. (We tipped him well.)  Actually, all of our tour guides on this trip were fantastic. We really lucked out. When we visited the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail), our guide was an awesome lady who was not only incredibly knowledgeable, but very passionate about the history. She turned a tour of an old jail into an inspiring lesson about learning from the mistakes of the past and how we can keep history from repeating itself. (We learned a lot about the Irish Civil War, and the War of Independence, which was fascinating.) Our Dublin Castle guide was an adorable lady who could be the poster girl for the country itself, between her blue eyes, blonde curls, and accent. And our guide for The Cliffs of Moher tour, who we were with all day, was also great! He was very funny, and thought that Shannon, Catey, and I were hilarious. He also had the ability to drive a huge tour bus through roads that I couldn’t comfortably drive a Honda Fit through. Classic Pete.

cliffsofmoher.jpgThe Cliffs of Moher was definitely one of the coolest part of the trip. On Sunday, we had to be at the bus by 7am, and we didn’t get back to Dublin until 10pm or so. The bus was very comfortable, and we stopped along the way to see various beautiful sites. We ate a delicious lunch in a tiny fishing village before spending two hours at the beautiful cliffs. I knew they were going to be amazing, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It was breathtaking, and we happened to be there on a particularly clear day, so the view was fantastic. The selling point of this tour for me was that this is where they shot The Cliffs of Insanity for The Princess Bride, which anyone who knows me knows is my favorite movie. It was totally worth the drive and the money. I will say though, that it is a pretty steep 5,000 foot drop off the edge. The grass and mud were pretty slippy, and although the rational part of me knew that as long as I didn’t do anything stupid I would be fine, there were some parts of the walk that definitely made my hands sweat. I am not afraid of heights in places where I know I can’t fall (ie lighthouses, airplanes), but when there is nothing between me and a long drop, I get a little nervous. Even so, this was a great experience-I just didn’t get the aesthetic “sitting on the edge of a cliff” picture that Shannon and Catey did.

I fell in love with the overall vibe of Dublin. There is history, culture, and folklore, there are cute, funky stores, bright green grass, vibrant fall leaves, and tons of adorable pubs. It was cold and occasionally drizzly, but to me the city was downright cozy. One of the nights we were there, we went to this pub that was all decked out for Halloween. We were drinking cider at the bar and we ended up making friends with this older couple sitting next to us. They asked us to watch their drinks/save their seats for them while they got up. We got to talking and they welcomed us to Ireland, and they were interested to hear about what Northern Spain is like, because they had only visited “the hot part” of the country. They also teased us and told us we didn’t look old enough to be drinking. We talked and laughed for a long time, and they ended up buying us a round of cider. They were a great example of all the people we met in Ireland. Everyone is nice and many will go out of their way to help you, but they are also constantly making fun of you in the best way. It is so different than the people you meet in Spain, and in the US for that matter. It was delightful.

I was sad to leave Dublin. I could totally see myself living in the city, with the greys of the sky and the river being balanced out by the warm fall leaves and the crisply green grass. I could live with the cold and rain, as long as I had adorable wool accessories and lots of good Irish tea (and cider!). The people are simultaneously proud to be Irish and exceedingly self-deprecating, willing to help you but ready to tease you. I loved the contradictions of Dublin. We did all the touristy things in the city, seeing the castles, doing tours, trying Guinness, but what I will remember and love the most is the feeling of the city itself, and its people.

On our way back to Oviedo, we had 24 hours to spend in Madrid. We used it to the best of our ability, seeing The Cathedral, the Royal Palace, and just a tiny bit of the Museo del Prado. We did not get nearly enough time in the museum, but I got to see my favorite Goya pieces, so I was happy. I will say, the cathedrals in Ireland pale in comparison to those in Spain. If I had seen St. Patrick’s Cathedral three months ago, it would have been the most beautiful church I had ever seen. But to me at least, nothing can compare with the staggering architecture, attention to detail, and complete ornateness of Spanish cathedrals. So, our short time in Madrid was well spent.

This trip was such a great time! It really built my confidence about travelling internationally (although inter-EU travel is only sort of international). Catey, Shannon, and I had a great time together, and I am so excited to see more of Europe with them. So thank you, Dublin, for an amazing trip!