Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Ireland

I’m finally back from a long weekend trip to Ireland, and I basically have no free time whatsoever! I had such an amazing time, Ireland really is such a beautiful country with some of the best people in the world. The Irish know how to live life to the fullest and are always up for a good time.

I caught an early flight from East Midlands Airport to Dublin, managing to catch all my buses but unfortunately forgot my watch, my number one travel essential. I was scared that the trip would be doomed without it, but I managed. I was welcomed into Dublin with blue skies without a cloud in sight. A miracle. I met up with one of my best friends, Kiersten, who is studying in Galway for the semester, and it was so awesome hanging out with her! I hadn’t seen her since August, before she left for school and I left for England, so it was so great just catching up with her and sharing stories. We took advantage of the nice weather and wandered around Grafton St. and St. Stephen’s Green, until I couldn’t wait any longer:

The Old Jameson Distillery.

Heaven
The Jameson Distillery was one of the few things that I’ve wanted to do for years (since my first trip to Ireland, where I fell in love with whiskey) and finally getting to go was a dream come true! Definitely one of the highlights of my Ireland trip and of my year abroad in general. The tour is pretty informative, a guide walks you through several different rooms, each one explaining a different aspect of the whiskey distilling process. I’ve been to the main three now: Scotch whisky (most are distilled twice), Welsh whisky (Penderyn is distilled once), and finally Irish whiskey (triple distilled). Obviously, I have all types of American whiskey to conquer next! Thanks to much prior advice, I made sure to raise my hand when the guide asked for volunteers—and I was the first one chosen, since my “hand shot up like a fucking bolt!”

I got to do the special whiskey tasting at the end, which included a little sample of Scotch whisky, Jameson, and American whiskey (Jack Daniels). All were delicious, of course, and I got a certificate with my name printed on it! Everyone got a free Jameson drink, which was, of course, perfect. Kiersten dutifully took my picture for me everywhere in the distillery and didn’t seem embarrassed or ashamed to be seen in public with me! Best friend status right there. Next stop: gift shop! Nothing stopped me from blowing my money and I am quite satisfied with all my purchases, which included a real flask and a shirt, among others.

It's official!
Kiersten and I outside the distillery
 Kiersten and I walked to Phoenix Park and saw the obelisk, dedicated to the Duke of Wellington, I believe. It was such a beautiful day and so nice to be outside! That night we went for a pint at one of my favorite pubs in Dublin, The Celt, and listened to traditional Irish music. They played Galway Girl, which I know is super annoying and overplayed, but it’s one of my favorites.

Thursday morning we caught a bus to Galway and Kiersten showed me her town! It is so quaint and cute, really gave me that small-town feel. We saw the main drag and I finally saw Galway Bay! We walked for a super long time along Galway Harbor to Salthill, before we decided that we were tired and bored with walking and went back. That night Kiersten took me out to some of her favorite pubs and bars, and it was such a fun night! Seriously, Irish people know how to party like no other. It was also “Rag Week” at the uni in Galway, which isn’t officially sponsored by the uni anymore and I’m not really sure what it is, except that everyone drinks and parties even harder than usual. Regardless, it was super awesome! We went to a pub and listened to more trad music, and then went to a bar that was packed, but a lot of fun. Kiersten and I said bye before she got in her taxi home, and I wish I could have had more time with her! It’ll be fun being back and Luther next year and getting to hang out with her all the time.

Galway Bay
  Friday was a pretty relaxed day, I was tired from going out the night before so I kept it simple. I hit up St. Nicholas’ Church (circa 1320) and Galway Cathedral (a disappointment from circa 1957), as well as the museum. I got a great deal on kebabs and went to bed early to try to catch up on sleep. It was not meant to be, because that night I lived out what I think is my worst hostel experience to date: at 4:00am a guy threw up in his bed, and then (since our room had an en-suite bathroom), stumbled to the toilet where everyone in the room got to listen to him puke for the next 20 minutes. #soberandunamused

I left early Saturday morning to catch my bus to Cork. I dumped my stuff and had a nice time wandering around the city centre, checking out the English Market and the main sights before catching a train to Cobh for a quick half-day trip. Cobh has a beautiful 19th century cathedral, St. Colman’s Cathedral, which was my first stop. It’s up at the very top of a hill overlooking the town and the harbor. Cobh was also the final stop of the Titanic on her maiden voyage, so I saw the original pier that the Titanic passengers walked on! The museum (in the original White Star Line ticket office building) was too expensive and I didn’t feel like spending the money. But Cobh is a beautiful little town, right on the water. And seriously, the water is so gorgeous and unlike water I’ve seen anywhere else.

St. Colman's Cathedral in Cobh
Saturday night I met up with Hayley, who is a friend of a friend who’s studying in Cork for the semester. She’s super awesome, and I’ll be living with her next year so it’ll be lots of fun! We went to a pub and listened to trad music (literally I’ll never get bored with it) and listening to Shouting Guy and Shouting Guy’s Friend do their thang.

Sunday I walked and saw Shandon in Cork, which is a tower you can go up and ring the bells. However, the tower was closed so I couldn’t go up. It gave a nice view of the city though! I headed to Blarney via bus 215 and headed to Blarney Castle. The grounds around the castle are so beautiful! The castle reminded me a lot of Pembroke Castle, lots of towers, steep winding stone stairs, random rooms you can peek in, everything. The view at the top was also super great, and I’m happy to say I finally kissed the Blarney Stone! And since Winston Churchill kissed the Blarney Stone, and I kissed the Blarney Stone, that basically means I kissed Winston Churchill, right?!

Blarney Castle
Kissing the Blarney Stone!

 I spent a lot of time wandering around the Blarney Castle grounds, walking by the river and around the lake, exploring the caves, and wandering through this rock close with a bunch of famous rocks. It rained for a little bit, but for the rest of my rambling the weather was pretty nice! I got the bus back to Cork after I was castled out, and saw St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral (which unfortunately was closed, assholes). I trekked for a long ass time uphill to see the Cork City Gaol, which was cool and interesting—they had a lot of information about the individual prisoners that were held there, which I thought was a cool personal side of it. After that I got food and killed some time at the bar below my hostel before I left for the bus station (to get the bus to the airport). My last meal in Ireland: McDonalds double cheeseburger, candy, and a Bulmers. Keepin’ it classy.

I got back to the flat in Notts pretty late, but it was so worth it! I seriously had an amazing trip, I only wish it was longer and that I could have done more and seen more in Ireland. It really is a country I want to explore more, and I feel very at home there. The people are wonderful and I will never get sick of Irish traditional music and someone singing Galway Girl. If only I had more money and more time and less school! It’s been pretty busy for me getting back, I have a ton of homework to do for Polish, I need to read for my history essay, and in general I just have so much stuff to catch up on. I pretty much only have tomorrow, since Thursday I’m going on a day trip to Durham (my name is Maja Proescholdt and I will go anywhere for a good cathedral) and then Friday morning we have a flat trip to Hadrian’s Wall and York. And then next Wednesday I’m headed to Holland for another long weekend! So I’ll be pretty busy, but I’ll try to keep up to date with everything!

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