Ireland part 2: Wicklow County and Galway

Wednesday, December 19: The Irish Pink Eye Experience

Cassy left early Wednesday morning and I was on my own. It was good timing for my pink eye epidemic because I was alone and didn’t have any prior plans. My eye had been bothering me the night before and then I woke up that morning with my right eye so swollen I could barely open it! It was all goopy and crusty and looked awful. I looked like a monster! I went to a walk in clinic and got prescribed eye drops and antibiotics from the doctor. They began to work immediately and I was starting to look better the next day. Thank god! That night I met some people in the lounge of the hostel, including a kid from Alaska who had been traveling around the world for some months. He and I chatted and he let me cook some of his pasta and eat his pesto which was nice. I went to bed early that night even though people from the hostel invited me to go out with them. Traveling alone really isn’t half bad! Like I said before, hostels are a great way to meet people.

I signed up for an all day Wicklow Tour on my own on Thursday. We left on a bus from Dublin in the morning with a classic Irish tour guide who had a very strong Irish accent and sang songs while he drove the bus. Our first stop was a small town called “Enniskerry” where we went into a little family-owned bakery. Next we traveled through the Wicklow mountains and went to Glendalough, the Sally Gap, Lough tay, Guinness Lake, and famous film locations PS I Love You and Braveheart. We went on a tour of Ireland’s oldest mill called “Avoca Mill.”

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On Friday my friend Maggie arrived! I took the bus from Dublin with Maggie and her friend. We went to the Christmas market in Galway and walked around. It was so good to be with Maggie after being solo for two days. We explored the nightlife in Galway and were really impressed by the staff at our hostel, called “Barnacles” hostel.

On Saturday we did a day tour of the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren Region of Ireland. The Burren region is in County Clare. The hills of the Burren are composed of limestone pavements with criss crossing cracks that the Irish call “grikes.” It’s really unique because instead of pastures, the ground is covered in huge pavements of limestone. The word ‘Burren’ means ‘stoney place.’ We also saw Poulnabrone portal tomb that dates back to the Neolithic period.

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The Cliffs of Moher are magnificent and supposedly one of the top tourist attractions in Ireland. Unfortunately for us, the weather was awful and extremely cloudy so we could barely see a thing. But it also made the whole experience much more dramatic. I had a good time climbing up the cliffs in the fog even though the view wasn’t great.

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I ended my Irish adventure with a nice dinner at a restaurant in Galway that evening. The next morning, I took the bus from Galway to the Dublin airport and sat next to a wonderful elderly Irish gentleman. He told me all about his life and his favorite parts of Ireland. He asked me if I would ever come back some day. I told him I must.

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A very belated IRELAND: Rivers, Roads, and Loads of great “craic”

Part One: Dublin, Mumford and Sons, and Howth

I Left Toledo at 6:30 am on Saturday, December 15 and flew to Dublin on a flight with Claire, Matt, and Rachel! Right when we entered the Dublin airport after landing, there were huge groups of people with welcome home signs for their families as well as group of carolers singing Christmas tunes. It felt like we were in the movie Love Actually. I embraced the moment as I realized this was the first English speaking country I had been to in 3 and a half months.

We checked into a very cute and funky hostel (The Times Hostel) then met up with a girl Claire worked with who lives in Ireland. We met her on Grafton Street, where the movie Once was filmed. We went to the temple bar area (it’s an area, not a bar) and went to a pub with amazing food and live music! I had my first taste of Guinness beer. The live band in the pub covered a Mumford and Sons song which got us excited for the concert the next day.

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We were told that everyone would be dressed up for Christmas that night, so we went on the lookout for Christmas Jumpers (sweaters) because all the young Irish folks wear tacky Christmas sweaters during the holiday season. They were pricey, but we went to a Party Store and bought ribbons, bows, and tinsel and decorated our own sweaters. We went out to a couple pubs and gallivanted in our Christmas gear!

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The next day was great. We walked around the city in the morning, explored the campus of Trinity College and Saint Stephen’s Green Park, went into George’s St. Arcade, and walked around a cute Christmas market/festival with live music. The weather was lovely so we were lucky! We also visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. After the Christmas market, we got ready for the Mumford and Sons concert and headed to the Guinness Factory!! It’s Irelands number 1 visitor attraction with TONS of info about how they brew their beer, advertising, and the history of Guinness. On the top floor you can learn how to pour your own pint of Guinness and then you can drink it. Even though I don’t love beer, it was a good time and very interesting to learn about the history. After the tour, we took a carriage ride to a famous fish and chips place called “Leo Burdock.” They have a plaque on their wall with the list of numerous celebrities who have eaten there! With our fish in chips wrapped up in brown paper bags, we wandered around the city looking for a way to get to the O2 Theater where the Mumford and Sons Concert was.

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We ended up just taking a cab, and got to the concert with PLEANTY of time. It was a great venue. The concert was amazing (of course,  I wasn’t surprised) and I loved their ending number, a cover of the Beatles “A Little Help From My Friends” sung with Dawes, the band who opened for them. Great show, and it made it 1000 times better that it was in Dublin! After the concert I bought a 5 euro shirt (it’s huge, a medium was the only size they had). But a good memento!

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FISH N’ CHIPS!

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Monday the group left to go to Galway and I stayed in Dublin. I went souvenir shopping in the morning, then I came back and took a nap which felt great. After I napped I went on a free walking tour of the city that was really informative and had a great tour guide. We saw some of the major sites of the city including the Dublin Castle and City Hall.

I was alone the whole day but it was fine. There was free ice cream/cookies in the hostel at 8 so I went down there and started talking to some people. Hostels are cool because you can interact with people from ALL over the world. So I was talking to people from France, Brazil, and two men who work in the hostel, one from Spain and one from Italy. Everyone is really friendly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012: Howth!

I’m so lucky that Cassy was able to meet up with me in Dublin. Even though we didn’t spend a lot of time together in Toledo, I had such a good time with her and it was awesome to have some company. We walked around Dublin on Tuesday morning, saw a few things that I hadn’t yet like the Jameson Whiskey Distillery and the oldest pub in Ireland called the Brazen Head.

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Then we took the train to Howth. Howth was beautiful! It is a little peninsula off Ireland with seafood restaurants and a nice bay. We walked out to a lighthouse while the sun was shining, then stopped for lunch at an adorable cozy home-style restaurant called The House. We got broccoli blue cheese almond soup that totally hit the spot. After lunch we took a hike up around the peninsula and climbed up to see a great view of Dublin bay. That night we went out again to a few pubs in Dublin and heard more live music. The live music is something I could really get used to.

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