Luck of the Irish

This weekend was one I had planned for a very long time: meeting up with my school friends in Dublin, Ireland in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day. I had booked my flights and hotel back in October, so I was excited to finally experience an Irish St. Paddy’s celebration with so many people from school.

I landed very late on Thursday night, and I had planned to take an AirCoach bus to the hotel, as it was a cheaper option than a taxi. However, people were pointing me in different directions as to how to get to the bus line, and it was dark and pouring rain, so I decided to take a cab anyway. Luckily, the hotel was pretty close to the airport. My roommates had gone to sleep by the time I got there, as I arrived well after midnight, and we were getting up at 5:30a.m. for a day trip we had booked. I knew I was going to be exhausted, so I planned to sleep on the bus.

Sure enough, I woke up very tired on Thursday morning, but I was excited about our adventure. It was still pitch black as we walked to the bus stop, but we were able to board at the front of one of the busses, and I was able to curl up next to a window. As we pulled away, our (very ecstatic, coffee-hyped, and thick-Irish-accented) tour guide, Phil, explained the schedule for the day, laying out exactly when we could use bathrooms, when we would stop to eat, etc. It seemed like we would have a very full day, and I also knew we had gotten lucky with our bus driver. The bus company had dozens of busses we could have gone on, and Phil was not only enthusiastic but extremely knowledgable about all of Ireland. Additionally, Phil was obsessive the entire day about “beating the other tour companies” at each of the stops, and that made a huge difference in our day: we were first for the bathrooms, the lines at lunch, and the first to see all the sights, minimizing our time spent waiting in the cold. Phil briefly told us about Dublin as we left the city, pointing out some of the major landmarks like the cathedral and Trinity College. Then, he was quiet for a bit, and I was able to fall asleep!

The first leg of our trip was a three-hour ride, but we stopped for a bathroom and convenience store along the way. This was a perfect stretch and breaking point, but I was happy to have plenty of time to catch up on a little sleep I had missed the night before. Phil started talking again about a half hour before we reached the Cliffs of Moher, our first stop, and he explained some of the history behind them. Here’s a fun fact: scenes from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince were filmed there! Additionally, Obama’s great-great-great (Phil didn’t remember how many generations) grandparents were born in a small town of Western Ireland, and he pointed out this village as we passed. We also passed a “Leopercan Castle,” which was so tiny it was pretty funny. Also, Phil mentioned that the Cliffs overlooked the Atlantic Ocean, which I hadn’t realized. It’s amazing to think that I was looking at the same ocean I can see from Long Island.

As we got closer, I was talking across the aisle to Emma and her home friend, who was also on this trip with us. She’s very nice, and Emma talks about her a lot, so I was happy to spend time with her. Then, two solo-travelers joined our conversation, and we small-talked about where we were all from. John had just finished his term in the army, and he was on a 6-month travel adventure before he starts USC in the fall, while Justin currently serves in the navy and he was just taking a weekend trip to Ireland.

Although muddy and very wet, the Cliffs were absolutely beautiful. I felt like I was on the edge of the world, and the foggy atmosphere made it especially interesting. We walked all the way to the top. I was incredibly happy I had brought my gross sneakers to wear on this expedition, as they got so muddy. Phil told us that it is basically always raining on the Cliffs, but that we were very lucky because that day it was only a slight mist. We were given a little over an hour to explore the area, and we took in the scenery, as well as taking some pictures. Then, we went into the gift shop, where I got a postcard of a sunny version of the sight. As I paid for it, I realized that for the first time since I’ve been abroad, I was in a country where the predominant language spoken is English. Although it’s cool to hear so many different languages, it is very comforting to know what everyone is saying around you, so I was looking forward to that aspect of the weekend.

We boarded the bus to head to lunch, where we had the option of buying food in either a cafe or a pub. My friends wanted to eat in the pub, but I decided that the cafe would probably have better gluten-free options, so I headed there to be first on line, and after buying a salad, joined the rest of my group in the pub to eat. Then, we had another long drive to see Galway, another city in Ireland. On the way, we stopped at another look-out spot called DOOLEY CLIFF, which was beautiful as well. It was super windy, and I was glad I had so many layers to wear. Something that was especially unique about this trip in comparison to my other weekends so far is that because Ireland is such a small country, I was able to see three out of four of the main regions in the entire country during my stay, whereas I usually just focus on one city.

When we got closer to Galway, Phil started talking about all the things there were to do, and he gave us a few suggestions of how to spend our 90 minutes to explore. I remarked to Emma that Phil was incredibly animated about his description of Galway, despite driving the same tour multiple times every week. He said we would love the city, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if we decided to stay there instead of coming back with him. Galway is a small city with a hipster-vibe, and it has a lot of good shopping and food. I asked Phil if there was a relation to the song Galway Girl by Ed Sheehan, and he explained that the music video was actually filmed in a pub there! We stopped inside to take a picture, which is pretty cool. We also got a snack in an indoor mall and walked around the shopping streets. The forecast had been for rain all day, but we were super lucky in that it was clear the whole afternoon.

We met back at the bus for our last three-hour drive back to Dublin. I took another short nap after admiring the scenery for a while, including rolling hills and cattle, sheep, cows, and horses on the grass. We arrived in the city at 7:30p.m., avoiding most of the traffic that Phil had been concerned about. He gave us a few suggestions of where to have dinner and go out that night, but we had already decided that our first stop after the bus was the hotel: we wanted to freshen up before heading back out. I also hadn’t been drinking a lot of water that day because I knew the bathroom opportunities would be limited, so we bought water bottles from a grocery store and drank them on the way back.

We changed for the evening and I decided to bring my umbrella, as it had started to pour. On the way into our hotel, we met up with Amanda from Cornell, who was also staying with us. Then we headed to dinner at one of the suggestions we had gotten, but it turns out that they only took people with reservations. The main area of Dublin called Temple Bar was packed with people eating and milling around, even though it was raining. We looked around for other dinner places, finding an Italian restaurant called Milano that had a very big menu. It turned out to be an incredible last-minute find, and after snacking on random chips and bars the whole day to stay fueled, it was nice to have a filling meal. We headed to the bars straight after dinner, and I was surprised when we were carded at our first stop. Although I’m 21, not everyone in the group is, so we had to find somewhere else. Luckily, there was a pub called Buskers just down the road, and it was apparently hopping.

As soon as we walked inside, I saw three people from high school as we made our way to the bar, which was super weird. We waved quickly, but it was pretty crowded and loud to start having a conversation. I also ran into people from camp and others from Cornell, as well as Lindsay, my second cousin. We had been texting because we knew we’d both be in Dublin for the weekend, and somehow, we found each other in this incredibly crowded pub. We caught up for a few minutes, and then we were pulled away by our respective travel groups. I was meeting up with Rachel (finally!) and Ben from school, and I was super excited to see them. It took me and Rachel a long time to figure out how to describe where we were in the bar, but our reunion was so much fun when they arrived. Throughout the night, I continued to run into people from all different walks of life, which was crazy! I mostly hung out with the Cornell people there, and it felt a little like a school mixer, especially with all the aephi/sammy people: a taste of home. The music was good and the environment was fun, and we ended up staying there until we were all yawning and ready to turn in. We walked back to the hotel (again in the rain, yuck), and went to sleep. Just as I was falling asleep at 3a.m., people in the room next to us started BLASTING music, which was super annoying. Emma’s friend even went out to ask them to be quiet, and they weren’t too nice to her. I finally fell asleep when they quieted down. It was a super long day since I had gotten up before 6, so I was very tired.

I woke up Saturday before my alarm to more people screaming in the hallway. I should mention that aside from these crazy neighbors in the hallway, the hotel was super nice and in a prime location for the weekend. It was a close enough walk to the Temple Bar area but far enough from the parade on Sunday that the streets to the airport weren’t affected, which meant we didn’t have to leave an insane amount of time to get there. Anyway, our first booked activity of the day was the Guinness Experience, the famous beer company. Although I can’t drink beer, I decided it would be fun to learn about the process anyway, and so I headed there with Emma and Rachel. It was a 45-minute walk, and it was pouring…again. Although I had my umbrella, the wind was so intense that the handle kept whacking me in the face and nearly knocking me out several times, so Rachel and I decided to buy cheap green, ridiculous-looking rain panchos at a store we passed. I was glad not to be the only one in this get-up, as we got very funny looks. But, we stayed dry, so I thought it was a worthwhile purchase. We also stopped to grab breakfast foods in a grocery store along the way.

We learned about how Guinness is made and processed, and there were interactive parts of the storehouse as well. I happened to think the “experience” was a little underwhelming, but I’m also not a beer person. I was glad that my ticket allowed me to get cider at the rooftop bar while my friends got the famous beer. The sky bar was a nice view of the city, and we hung out there for a while before going back down all the escalators—the building is enormous. We were starving for lunch, and since we were four people and it was still raining heavily, we split a cab to get back to the main area. We got lunch at a place called Taste Food Company, where I had a phenomenal gluten-free sandwich.

There was no set agenda for the rest of the afternoon aside from enjoying the St. Paddy’s festivities, which was a super nice change of pace to the rest of my weekends, which have been jam-packed with tourist sites. Although we passed a few of these in Dublin along our walks, there aren’t too many well-known places to explore in the city itself, so this weekend was more about spending time with my friends. After lunch, we planned to meet up with a few Sammy people and some other friends back in the main Temple Bar area, and the weather alternated between super sunny and pouring within seconds. During one of the rains, we went inside and I got an Irish coffee. We also popped into a few other pubs and bars, and I saw many people I know again.

Someone had spilled an entire beer on Rachel’s jacket, and as she is traveling for a full month with this one jacket, she was not a happy camper. Then, we walked outside, and a bird promptly pooped on her head, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. We were all able to shower and hang out for an hour before dinner and the evening, which was relaxing.

We decided to have dinner at our hotel’s downstairs restaurant before heading back to Temple Bar. The menu didn’t have a ton of options, but we actually all ordered the same thing, risotto, and it was probably the best risotto I’ve ever had. It was butternut squash and pine nut flavored, and it was very filling. Then, we headed out for another night, and our first stop was Buskers. I knew from texting Lindsay that she and Taylor, another second-cousin, were hanging out there, so I met up with them for a while. As we introduced each other to everyone’s friends, we surprised people by explaining that we were all cousins. It was so much fun to see them, and I wish I was able to see them more. I also ran into Adina’s best college friend’s roommate abroad, and we figured out that we actually worked at Sunrise together in 2017, which is why she looked so familiar. Everyone was in a great mood that night, and I saw a lot of people that I know, so it was a fun few hours. We decided to check out some other bars afterward, although it did take us over an hour to actually leave Buskers, as we hugged and chatted with so many people on the way out.

Rachel, Emma and I walked through the Temple Bar area, and it was finally not raining, so it was nice to walk around and get a better feel for the nightlife of the city. After spending a few minutes in other heavily-populated bars, we decided we were hungry, so we met up with a bunch of the Sammy guys at a nearby fastfood restaurant and ordered a ton of food. As I was sitting there at 2:30a.m. eating ice cream after a night out with my Cornell friends, I felt like it was freshman year again and we were back at Nasties. Then, we walked back to the hotel, and I fell asleep almost immediately. I said goodbye to Rachel, as she had an early flight the next morning. It wasn’t too sad, though, as I see her again in a few weeks, and we will have a lot of time together then.

I woke up before my alarm again on Sunday, as everyone staying in the room aside from me and Emma had to go straight to the airport. Emma and I decided to get up and pack up our stuff to get ready for the day. When you only travel with a backpack, that doesn’t take too long. We left our bags at the front desk, and we started walking towards the parade streets. Although I planned to throw out my rain pancho before leaving Dublin, I was happy I still had it, as the rain was pretty strong again. We stopped at an Irish breakfast place for brunch, where I had an omelet with potatoes and coffee. Emma and I were talking about how well we travel together, and how many cool memories we now have together from our time abroad. It was said to say bye, as now I won’t see her for the rest of my time in Europe. Her program ends fairly soon.

After we finished brunch at 11:30, we had a perfect amount of time to find spots to watch the parade starting at noon. The sun was finally shining. We stopped in an apparel store to buy these fun and cheap green clover glasses, and when we exited the store, we had a very amusing experience. For whatever reason, several tourists came up to us and pointed at our glasses, asking to take a selfie with us. Hysterically laughing, we crouched to get in a picture with these people; we felt like celebrities of some sort. Then, they began clapping. It was particularly funny because many people were wearing far crazier accessories along the streets. Feeling festive, we walked to the parade and planted ourselves within the crowd. We weren’t right up front, so we had to look into people’s raised phones sometimes to see what was happening, but only when the floats were short. We were able to see the taller ones just fine. The parade was different than I had pictured it, as the floats seemed kind of random and not related to St. Patrick’s Day. However, it was fun with everyone cheering, and the sun felt amazing. We stayed there for about an hour before we had to head back to the hotel to grab our bags. Emma’s flight was an hour earlier than mine, but we traveled together to the airport, so I ended up with extra time to wait there. It wasn’t a bad thing, as I knew I’d lose an hour on the way back to Copenhagen, so I started my homework for Monday.

I got back fairly late on Sunday night, but luckily, my first class on Monday was canceled, so I was able to sleep in a little later than I typically do. Between my varied sleep schedule this weekend and the short time difference, it was tough to fall asleep. I have a few papers due this week as well as a Danish assessment on Thursday, so I’ll definitely need to do a lot of work in the next few days. However, I am so happy to have shared this weekend with my Cornell friends, and I’m glad I got to see so much of Ireland!

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