Unsurprisingly, I’ve fallen a bit behind here. I’m writing my blog about Ireland in a hostel in Madrid, having just come from Geneva, and between Geneva and Ireland I made stops in London and Paris. And I’ve learned my lesson, when I don’t keep up with this people literally begin to worry that I’ve died. That being said finding the right balance of maintaining this and sight seeing is tough, but no excuses, I’ll be doing my best to catch up in the coming week.
I’m beginning to realize there are two kinds of backpackers. There are those who practice the ukulele at 7am in the airport while their friends do barefoot yoga around them, and there are the kinds of backpackers who are angrily awakened by it. There are those who walk into a hostel and find a “feel free to use” courtesy of the hostel guitar and immediately begin rounding up a group for a big sing along and there are those who think, “dear god, please no one pick up that guitar.” Anyone who knows me probably realizes which of these two categories I belong to.
So, having had that ukulele experience in the airport, cranky Chris arrived in Dublin with high hopes for the city. I’d expected two things; for everyone to say “top o’ the mornin to ya.” (they don’t) and for every old man to have a cane, a limp, and one of those Irish tweed hats (they do). As it turns out Dublin is surprisingly modern, and I say that because in my head I stereotyped the hell out of it and imagined it closer to just being a lot of potato farms really close to one another with the occasional leprechaun nipping at your ankles hocking Lucky Charms. The city itself isn’t all too remarkable with the exception of the occasional historical building, I visited the Dublin Castle and St. Patrick’s cathedral on my first day, but what really jumped out at me was the number of pubs there.
There were pubs on every street corner, and on the streets in between. They were on the second floors of buildings, and in the basements too. They were multi-leveled, many with the classic black wooden exterior with a Guinness logo painted like runway lights leading the thirsty to a safe landing. And despite having seen a castle that was hundreds of years old (I wasn’t paying that close attention) and a cathedral that was also probably hundreds of years old (safe bet), the thing I was most excited for was drinking with the Irish. With this, some new hostel friends and I headed out to the Temple Bar.
Now, I’d heard about the Temple Bar about every ten minutes since I’d gotten there, so I’d assumed it was a staple of Irish culture. It was packed out to the street with a huge number coming and going. Through the doors I could hear traditional Irish music like “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey blasting. I even ordered a traditional Irish beverage that dates back to the days of the vikings; the vodka red bull. All jokes aside, it was a great bar, but it was more like a night out in NYC then the happy-go-lucky and quickly angry, red faced and red haired, Irish experience that I’d expected. Again, stereotypes, but I’m pretty sure they’re quite proud of those things.
The next day I took a quick stop at Trinity College, but skipped The Book of Kells because of the hour and a half long wait paired with the fact that I had no idea what it was. I decided the rest of my day would be best spent garnering a better understanding of what it truly meant to be Irish, so I visited the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery consecutively. I highly recommend both of these locations: The Storehouse is huge and provides a great insight into the world of Guinness and how important it was to the development of Ireland (the Guinness Harp is actually the symbol of Ireland but in reverse). The Distillery is a bit smaller, but teaches you how to taste whiskey for flavors rather than downing it, and also provides a unique timeline for the product as it goes up against history with war and prohibition. That all being said, maybe if you do both in a row, you should consider taking a taxi home instead of walking, cause I got pretty lost for a pretty long time and ended up in a neighborhood where a lot of people were yelling.
My final day in Dublin, I took a day trip out to Howth a small fishing town about 9 miles outside of Dublin where you get great views of the Island of Eyre as well as an excellent cliff side hike (thank you to Eric Lee for the suggestion). But upon my return, I decided that my pub efforts hadn’t been sufficient thus far and I signed up for a pub crawl. It was at our first stop that I did finally get what I want, the type of Irish experience that you think only exists in Hollywood. A live band played old IRA Rebellion songs while locals step danced in front and and angrily stared at the twenty or so tourists that had temporarily occupied their bar. One watered down shot of whisky later and we were onto the next, but I was happy cause I had gotten my fill.
Having spent a few nights in Dublin, I hit the road to see the Cliffs of Moher. I trained my way out to Galway which is on the West Coast of Ireland, and is located about an hour and a half away from the Cliffs and the Aran Islands. I took my first guided tour of the trip here which I’ve been avoiding to save some money. The tour consisted of a bus ride to a ferry that would take us to Inisheer, one of the Aran Islands, then under the Cliffs, then back so we could walk atop the Cliffs, and then back to Galway. Inisheer was like going back in time. I rented a bike for the two hours we had there and made it out to the shipwreck of the MV Plassy which had crashed upon the rocks just off shore in the early 60’s and was eventually shifted onto the shore where it had been left to give tourists tetanus. At the assurance of my tour guide that if I were to get cut, the ocean’s saltwater would stave off tetanus, I did manage to climb aboard to find that looking at the inside of a rusted ship is a lot like looking at the outside of a rusted ship. It was a cool experience nonetheless, and I spent the rest of my few hours biking around exploring, and passing the same farmer 200 times. This island is really small, only about 200 or so people live there and about fifty tourists are on the island at any given time.
Oh, also, shout out to my fellow Long Islanders that despite having been born and raised no more than fifteen minutes away from a beach, still managed to get sea sick on the ferry and puke. Then later sit next to me on the bus and puke. Lotta puke, but in fairness it wasn’t just them and I may or may not have started to get a bit queezy myself. The trip back was pretty rough as we were just outside the rocky waters beneath the Cliffs of Moher. And just when it seemed that the entire boat was focusing on the horizon and pounding Dramamine like it was baby aspirin, I spotted something in the water and looked a little closer. As I pressed my face against the glass like a two year old at the aquarium, a dolphin came hopping out of the water, then another, and then another. A pod of dolphins followed us all the way back to the ferry port. They were like sea-sickness curing angels, the whole boat livened up again.
But onward to the Cliffs of Moher. Our tour guide, Tom, who was excellent, began to answer the question he assured us everyone asks. How high are they? 700 feet. How deep is the water? At its deepest 200 feet. And of course, the question he probably got from every thirteen year old boy that I was also thinking; how many people die here every year? The answer for last year, according to Tom, was eight deaths ruled not to be suicide. Six of them had one thing in common; they had selfie sticks.
Can you imagine?
What I love is that everyone of my friends that I’ve told this has had absolutely zero sympathy for anyone who passed, most common thing in response was, “that’s Darwin at work.” But, 700 feet! That’s a long way to fall, enough time in my opinion to run through the entire five stages of grief. I’d imagine it would go a little something like this.
Denial- “If I do one of those pencil dives, I can probably make it.”
Anger- “I didn’t even hit post yet!”
Bargaining- “I’ll never take another selfie with my back turned to a 700 foot fall ever again, I swear!”
Depression- “Think of all the likes I missed out on, the tinder profile picture I could’ve had. The emoji’s people would’ve commented.”
Acceptance- “Cannnnnnnonnnnnnnnn Balllllllllllll!”
And I think the worst thing about the whole situation is that they have a little memorial plaque to those who have perished at the cliffs. Like the people who passed due to sheer lack of awareness would want to have something commemorating their stupidity. Every year having family members to come back and visit and remember the time that Scarlet took a tumble. I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t peak over the edge, but I also felt the tiniest breeze against my back and ran away from it as if someone were trying to push me into the pool.
Other than returning to my hostel to find that someone was practicing the guitar in my room, that was pretty much it for ol’ Ireland. Loved it though, one of my favorite stops thus far.
Recommendations: Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands, Town of Howth & the corresponding hike
Trump tracker: It’s up! We’re up to 9 so far. I’ve been here 18 days, 9 might not seem like a lot but bear in mind I’m not meeting new people every day.
What’s coming up next? Well I owe you guys blogs about London, Paris, and Switzerland. Will probably come in the form of two blogs. You can expect one on Thursday. And apologies, no pictures today, the wifi won’t allow it.