Even before I embarked on this SAS journey, I had a strong desire to visit Ireland. I know numerous people who have been there and have heard so many wonderful things about the country and its people that I had high expectations for this port visit.
One thing that I was especially excited for was a field program that I had signed up for our first day in Dublin, which was kayaking on River Liffey. Kayaking is one of my favorite activities to do when I’m home especially when the weather is nice, so I was beaming when the moment finally came and we put on our lifejackets before climbing into our kayaks. It was difficult paddling upstream against the current, but we took a break after we passed every few bridges to listen to our guide who told us a little about the river, the bridges, and the different buildings on the riverside. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, but the best part was flowing downstream on our return trip because I was able to better observe my surroundings and take in the beauty of the area since I didn’t have to focus on paddling as much. Before we left, our guide gave us some awesome maps that he had marked with all the best places to eat and drink in the area, which of course came in handy during our travels in Dublin.
We ate at a lot of delicious restaurants during our time there including O’Neill’s near Trinity College, the Ruby Duck for breakfast, a seafood place in Howth, and some places off of Grafton Street. But of course one cannot truly experience Ireland without spending some time enjoying a few beers in a genuine Irish pub! Therefore, we spent multiple nights out going from pub to pub in the Temple Bar area, where we met many locals who greeted us with a welcoming smile and friendly conversation. The sound of live music surrounded us as we entered each new bar and even in the streets as we passed by performers outside in the crowds of people. I heard plenty of great music every night we were there including a lot of U2, some traditional Irish songs, Wonderwall by Oasis, and a few of my favorite classic rock songs. I couldn’t help but smile and tap my feet as I sang along with the performers and other audience members in each bar. The sheer happiness of everyone present was both palpable and contagious.
But of course, as with all of the other countries we’ve visited, there was so much to see in so little time so we spent our days going from one thing to the next. In our time in Dublin, I saw the Spire of Dublin, the Molly Malone Statue, Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, shopped Grafton Street, crossed many of the iconic bridges over River Liffey, and saw the Dublin skyline from the Skybar at the Guinness Factory.
Although I was originally looking forward to visiting the Guinness Factory because Guinness just so happens to be one of my favorite drinks, the self-guided tour and various information sessions turned out to be much more educational and all around more fun than I had expected them to be. I drank more samples than I could keep track of throughout the day, definitely living up to my dad’s favorite phrase: “if it’s for free, it’s for me.” But I also really enjoyed walking through the process of how the drink is made, learning how to properly drink one (hold it at an equal level to your face – never look down on a Guinness! Then take a deep breath in through the nose, let it out through your mouth and swallow a swig to get the full effect of the flavors.), snacking on and learning which foods compliment the taste of the beer the best, and collecting multiple recipes to use including that for Guinness pot pie and Guinness chocolate mousse cake. However, my favorite part of our day there was learning step by step how to pour the “perfect pint.” So if any of you are in need of someone to pour you a Guinness, I’m your girl. 😉 Haha I even received a certificate to prove it! But before we left, we climbed to the top of the building and took in the beauty of the Dublin city below from the view of the Skybar and then practically bought out the entire factory store.
However, one of my favorite adventures in Ireland was hiking the coastal cliffs in Howth. My friends and I took a train from the Dublin city area to Howth and spent the day in the beautiful seaside area. We triumphantly hiked the steep slopes to the top of the cliffs and enjoyed the amazing view of the town below and the blue ocean in the distance as the wind blew at us from every direction. I felt like I was on top of the world!
Throughout our time in Dublin, I observed a few things about the local culture. For instance, we happened to be there for a match of Gaelic Football where the Dublin team played and won. The pride that the entire city had for the home team was obvious, as the streets were covered in people sporting blue shirts and various accessories. The game was playing on all of the TVs in every restaurant, pub, and store and loud cheers could be heard from the streets whenever the Dublin team was doing well. Even being an outsider, it was impossible to avoid taking part in the excitement. I also noticed a few differences in Ireland from many of the other European countries that we had already visited. For example, the Temple Bar area was the first time on this voyage that we were carded so some of us were caught off guard without our driver’s licenses on our first night out since we were so used to not having to have anything but our SAS id on us. Also, we were happy to find that there is somewhere in Europe where you don’t have to pay to use a restroom! Furthermore, I was surprised by how easily they seemed to notice that we were American even more so than other Europeans were able to. One instance when I particularly noticed this was when I was walking down a sidewalk with a small group of my friends – we weren’t even talking to one another nor were we doing anything touristy like taking pictures – but right away this Irishman looked at us and said “God Bless America!” I’m still curious about what gave us away…
In the end, the day we left Ireland was sad enough, even though I plan to return one day to see more, but now reliving our time there through writing this post has made me miss it even more. Well, until we meet again Ireland…just know that it shouldn’t be too long from now. 🙂
*Craic (pronounced as “crack”) is a common Irish term that refers to gossip, news, fun, entertainment and enjoyable conversation. It is often synonymous with the word “party” and generally means “to enjoy oneself” or “to have a good time” in Irish culture.