I KNEW there was something I was forgetting to do – write about the trip. I’ve been incredibly scattered (more so than usual) since we got home, for reasons I am vaguebooking about. All will become clear soon, but in the meantime: hey, we went to Ireland!
Our flight(s) there were long but uneventful, with the exception of some EXTREME TURBULENCE between Toronto and St. John’s. Seriously, I have never experienced turbulence like that. It was fucking terrifying. People screamed, like in movies! Me, I almost ripped the back off the seat in front of me because I was gripping it so hard. Scary stuff. F——, would not turbule again.
We arrived into the Dublin airport just after 7am local time on Friday morning, and made our way through customs. Because of the early hour it was easy to grab a cab – lucky for us, since there was a bus strike going on and options into the city were limited. We were at the door of our AirBnB around 8:20am, perfectly on time.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a Mega Planner. I like to have everything arranged and accounted for before I leave, so there are no surprises or unpleasant situations. Knowing that we arrived at butt-ass early in the morning and that the check-in time was noon, I opted to pay for an extra day so we could get into the flat as soon as we arrived. In retrospect, I’m sure I could have plead my case and not had to pay the extra, but whatev – it was just nice knowing that we could fall onto surfaces when we arrived, instead of struggling to remain conscious for an additional 5 hours.
The owner of the flat met us there, and she was awesome. She brought along her very tiny, very Irish baby boy named Finn, and even left him with us for a few minutes as she ran to re-park her car. This was understandably terrifying for me, but I’m happy to share that everyone survived with minimal scarring. Marie showed us around the flat, which was perfect – a very spacious 1-bedroom with all the comforts of home, including ice cubes in the freezer. The location was also amazing: three blocks from the River Liffey, and 1.5 blocks away from the loathed Spire. It’s even right above a Tesco Express, so our grocery needs were readily met. If anyone is thinking about going to Dublin, hit me up for the URL. I absolutely recommend the place we stayed to anyone.
Our first official day in Dublin was kind of a wash. Ed and I have a bad habit of acting like we’re at home when we’re on vacation, which means we laze about and act like cats – I’m actively working on fixing this. We were also hella tired from the long day/night of travel, and there was a lot of sleep. We did eventually rouse ourselves to go to a pub down the street, which was awesome: we had the most amazing Irish stews and excellent conversation with a couple of locals. Okay, Ed did most of the conversing; I was content to sit and listen and watch all the activity around me. They were old miners and even older friends, and this was clearly their favourite local. They had lots of stories and opinions about the going-ons in the US (Europe is rightfully baffled by the rise of Trump), and it was a very enjoyable start to our Irish vacation. Ed would end up going back to that particular pub at least three times this trip for Guinness and stew (made with Guinness), so I think it’s safe to say that he liked it.
Saturday was ADVENTURE DAY. As per my MO, we had hop-on-hop-off bus passes. They technically were supposed to be for Friday/Saturday, but because we didn’t use them on Friday, we got a Saturday/Sunday start. This worked out well, for reasons explained below.
The tour gave us a good view of the city and a general idea of where all the things we wanted to see were. It rained on and off all day, but no big deal because we are part frog and also from Vancouver. I don’t much remember what we did that day other than riding on the top of buses – I’m sure it was something exciting, but I’m at a loss as to what.
Oh wait I know! We got caught up in the big pro-choice demonstration! We made our way through the massive crowds, admiring all the signs and chanting before finding a dry pub to stop for some lunch and to watch the march. It was kind of awesome (the sheer number of people demonstrating, not the reason they had to demonstrate in the first place. wtf, ireland. get with it.).
On Sunday, we did more of the same minus the massive protest. This was our first major diversion from The Plan: we were supposed to rent a car and drive south to the Wicklow Mountains and Victor’s Way, but due to the amount of rain that fell the night before we weren’t entirely sure Victor’s Way would be open. It’s a private park with hours and a summer-only schedule, no way to reach anyone there, and a somewhat cantankerous caretaker who does whatever he wants, including not opening the park if a lot of rain had fallen the day before. It was also the last day of the year the park would have been open. Not wanting to risk the drive for no reason, we opted to use the bus tours again and wander the city. It was a surprisingly nice day, so we very much enjoyed seeing the other parts of the city. We wandered around Temple Bar and Trinity College, found Oscar Wilde, narrowly missed a torrential downpour, and bought a few souvenirs (including this Claddagh ring because I’m in Ireland damnit and also I like secrets). I’m kind of sad we didn’t get to go to Wicklow and the private park, but this won’t be my only time in Ireland. It’ll happen.
Monday was Guinness Day! I had made a deal with Ed: in Dublin, I would drink a Guinness. I really, really don’t like beer, so while this is a dumb thing to have to promise, for me it was full of trepidation.
The Guinness Storehouse, while totally touristy, was really cool. It’s 4 storeys of exhibits topped with a 360-degree bar where you collect your free pint of Guinness and look out over the city. This was my favourite thing in Dublin, because I love me some city views:
We had lunch at the Storehouse, which was delicious. I wanted a full stomach before I attempted to beer, and the kitchen did not disappoint. I got a dumb potato or something, but Ed had some sort of Guinness Roast covered with Guinness Gravy and Guinness Potatoes and it was fucking amazing. I wish I had gotten that instead, but my potato was very fancy. Ed did share and I got a free Guinness Brownie because they forgot about my potato, so all was good.
During the tour, we learned how barrels were made and now I feel slightly guilty about all the ones I destroyed in every video game ever. On the other hand, it keeps all the coopers in work, so I guess it balances out. There was a floor dedicated to Guinness advertising, including the Fish on a Bicycle and other mascots: great for the kids! It was, though. Sorry if that sounded sarcastic.
The tasting room was a neat experience. There were smell tunnels of the four ingredients, and you got to breathe in the essence of beer parts before learning how to properly drink Guinness, which was served in shot-sized glasses. I did very well with the tiny Guinness, drinking it smoothly without making a face. It was pretty good, too – it had literally been made by fancy elves that morning, and was super fresh. I could totally drink shot-sized glasses of Guinness all day, or for like half an hour before I became so drunk I couldn’t stand.
The end of the tour takes you to the Gravity Bar, where you collect your free pint. It was very crowded, and Ed was eager to have some Guinness since it had been approximately 23 minutes since his last Guinness-infused experience. I was filled with apprehension, but was open to the idea as long as the pint was served in shot-sized glasses. Unfortunately, it wasn’t: they were real 20oz pints. Well, shit. Ed took pity on me at this point, and ordered his pint with a half-pint for me. Look at these adorable beers:
Ed drank while I darted around taking pictures. I had to squeeze myself into small openings that had unrestricted window access, but it was worth it. Once I was done gaping at the sun-drenched landscape (we had great weather for our gaping), it was time: I had a beer to drink.
I gave it the ol’ college try (assuming that college was filled with people who never learned to deal with strong flavours), but in the end I was only able to stomach half of a half of a pint: 5oz of beer. I’m officially giving up at this point, because if I can’t stand drinking a Guinness right from the friggin’ tap, I am never going to be able to drink beer of any kind. I can’t handle the bitterness, which is why I also don’t drink coffee or brussell sprout smoothies. My tongue is immature. I am okay with that.
We spent all the money in the Guinness shop buying stuff for ourselves and my co-workers, and then we were off: more wanders. More pictures. I think we ate some fish. My throat started to get sore, which sucked because I knew it meant I was getting sick.
On Tuesday, the second big part of our adventure started. We rented a car around the corner from the flat, and drove west towards Galway. Ed had never driven on the left hand side before, and I accidentally guided him into oncoming traffic within the first 5 minutes of our trip. Oops. He got the hang of it quickly though, and from then our only problem was my bladder. Petrol stations in Ireland DON’T HAVE BATHROOMS! We stopped at three gas stations with no luck before becoming desperate: Ed pulled into the parking lot of retirement home, and begged the lady at the front desk to let us use their bathrooms. She took pity on the ridiculous, squirming Canadians, and we were allowed to pee in relative (if smelly) luxury. Ahhhhhh. With the bladder issue managed, we continued our drive.
Our hotel was on the outskirts of Galway, so we didn’t go into the town that day. After we had checked in and scoped out our (really nice) hotel room, we hopped back into the car and drove south towards the Cliffs of Moher and a random coordinate Shan had sent me before we left Canada.
Okay, time to gush. Dublin was cool, but the countryside? It was fucking AMAZING. I didn’t really know what to expect, but when we got to a spot with a vantage point, I almost cried. It was so wild and beautiful and green. I grew up in a dang rainforest and I thought I knew green, but I knew NOTHING. I was the Jon Snow of greenery. Just look at this shit right here:
We found an old abbey with an ancient but still-used graveyard, drove down roads so narrow I could have reached out and grabbed some rocks, and saw many cows and sheep and epic, stunning land. The highlight of the afternoon had to been a random spot literally in the middle of nowhere, right on the coast: a field of limestone (apparently called a karst) that ended in a sheer 60-foot drop to the frothy, angry ocean below.
It was such a stark difference to being in North America. There were no fences, no signs – just a wild, open area that will kill you the instant you stop using common sense. It was terrifying and beautiful, and we both got closer to the edge than we had any right to be. We got foolish, and both laid down on the rocks on our stomachs so we could get right up to the edge. These pictures were taken with my head and arms hanging off the edge of the cliffs you see above, so enjoy them:
I really wish we had spent more time here, but I was pretty sick at this point and we still wanted to get to the Cliffs of Moher before close. I took a zillion pictures of the crazy landscape and we headed back to the car. I’m coming back here someday soon, because it was so cool.
We drove along crazy narrow and rock-lined country roads and finally made it to the Cliffs. They were really cool, but honestly I think I liked the first place we had stopped more. Fewer people and less commercial. No caves, though.
We didn’t walk the length of the whole park, because it was getting late and I felt like hell. I kept reminding myself that I’ll be back when we have more time and fewer germs, and tried not to let the shortened visit bum me out too much.
The coolest area we DID visit wasn’t part of the park at all. It’s just on the other side of the grounds, with big signs warning you that you can walk along the cliffs here but you are not within the park limits so, you know, be careful. And maybe call this number if you’re feeling like jumping.
We had our fill of cliffs, then drove back towards Galway. Google Maps was intent on murdering us, and sent us down a series of even narrower, totally haunted, no-one-will-ever-find-us not-really-roads. I took a video of the drive, but it looks totally easy. It wasn’t. Google was trying to kill us, but Ed’s driving skills prevailed.
We got back to the hotel, but were too tired to go exploring for food. We decided to try the restaurant in the hotel and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food – it was one of the best meals we had in Ireland. Sleep was had soon after, because we were both sick at this point. Go go vacation colds!
The next day we spent in the town of Galway, which was cool. It reminded us a lot of Banff and me of Bath: a small touristy city with a centralized, pedestrian-only area. We had lunch in a local cafe, wandered around, then headed back towards Dublin. Next time we go to Ireland, I’m planning on spending most of my time on the west coast – there was so much more to see, but we ran out of time and healthiness.
Thursday was our last full day in Dublin. Ed had plans to have lunch with some co-workers, so I took myself shopping in the mega district a few blocks from our flat. I met up with Ed for an early dinner, and after walking around the neighbourhood again we returned to pack up our many, many things (way too many things) in preparation for the return home, which you know all about.
In summary, Ireland was great. Dublin was a lot of fun, but the countryside and west coast blew me away. Hopefully we’ll get to go back sooner rather than later – Ed’s work has an office there, which is awesome – and I’m already thinking about changing our anniversary trip next year to a driving tour of Southern Ireland instead of whatever we’ve discussed so far. Who knows. I’m spoiled as fuck when it comes to travel, and I am perfectly okay with that.
It was a good, good time. Even if we didn’t see a single fucking Mr. Mime.