Today was the stuff of storybooks. Everything you have heard or seen in pictures of Ireland, take it up about 15 notches and you still won’t get there but you will be a lot closer. On the flight coming in from Edinburgh, I thought that Dublin would be this completely magical place and that I would fall completely and utterly in love with the city immediately. But to be honest that was not my first impression. I took the AirLink bus from the airport (very impressed, only 10 euros round trip) and luckily realized that the driver wasn’t stopping at every stop on the list in just enough time to catch my stop. I hopped off and was immediately lost. Fun fact: Dublin only marks about half of the streets with signs and odds are the streets that are marked won’t be found on a map. So it’s kind of like a game! With the help of a local, I finally FINALLY found my hostel tucked in an alleyway.
I am staying at Issac’s Backpacking Hostel and actually got a really good deal for the three nights I am here. Overall the hostel is really great for the price. It is most definitely a hostel for meeting people and has exactly the youth hostel vibe you would expect. The Wifi is only available in the common areas, forcing you to at least sit with other people, so it can be a great way to meet people. The flip side of that coin is that you are in Dublin and will have to deal with people in your dorm room coming home when the pubs close. Last night wasn’t so bad, but it is something to keep in mind when booking in Dublin. If you aren’t booking a private room, you will have to put up with some late night stragglers, (unless of course, you are a late night straggler).
The location isn’t too bad either, we are a good ten minute walk to most major attractions. This seems to be the standard trade off in Dublin. Either you stay in the heart of it all and never sleep because you are right next to Temple Bar, or you are able to sleep because you are removed from all the action. I am not big on pub crawls or going out at night when I am traveling because it gets very expensive, very quickly and a safe situation can become unsafe even when you are doing everything right. I highly recommend if you are traveling alone or feel uneasy about having to take a cab back after a night out, skip the party scene and simply head to a pub for a pint and a soccer game with the locals. That is how I spent my night and I loved it.
Last night after finally finding the hostel, I went for a walk and to find some supper. After walking all over, getting lost again, and caught in a rainstorm, I decided on the pub on the corner by my hostel. It was adorable, run by two older men who were best friends and the only people there were Manchester United fans watching for the FA Cup Final. I ordered a pint of Guinness (it honestly tastes better in Ireland) and took a chance on a Greek quesadilla (delicious by the way) and settled into a booth to watch the game. It was so much fun and absolutely perfect. I don’t want to say too much about the game since I doubt my dad has watched it, but it was a great experience for my first night in Dublin.
After the game, I was soon in bed. I had an early bus in the morning for my Cliffs of Moher tour. That made for an early morning, and a rough go of getting out of bed. I stayed a bit too long in bed and had to rush to get ready to get there on time. Of course the “10 minute walk” the guy at the hostel quoted me took more like 20 minutes, but I got there just barely on time. We left promptly and began our journey to the cliffs.
In Dublin there are about four major companies doing day tours out of the city. I was able to use my USAA Credit Card points to book mine through Extreme Ireland, and after today I cannot recommend them highly enough. Our tour left at 7am and didn’t return until about 6pm, it was a packed eleven hours! Our tour guide and bus driver, Gerard, was spectacular. He was so passionate about Irish history, explaining everything throughout the tour. Everything from the provinces and counties we were driving through to the legends around each castle and wall.
Seeing the Cliffs of Moher is something that have been on my bucket list for a very long time. I had Ireland on my list of places that I wanted to travel to during my semester abroad, but when the time came that all of my friends were going, it was just too expensive. I remember regretting it when I went home and vowed to go the next time I was in Europe. The trip to the cliffs took about three and a half hours, but with a couple coffee breaks and the information from Gerard, in no time we had arrived.
I was jittery with excitement stepping off the bus. I thought I knew what to expect but there are no words to explain it. Even pictures could never do this wonder justice. There is a neat visitor’s center that has won awards for its environmentally friendly and innovative design, as it is built into the hills themselves. It was really an impressive structure, but I bypassed it only returning briefly on my way out. I was focused on the cliffs.
Walking up to the cliffs you have two options of paths. If you head to the right, you have access to the views of the cliffs in their entirety. This is the best place to get pictures of all of the cliffs at once. Also if you follow the path, you can walk the coastline through fields of sheep and cattle. If you head to the left, you stay on the coastal trail for a short while before “leaving the Cliffs of Moher official coastal trail”. Essentially this is where you can cross the fence and get the best pictures of yourself with the Cliffs. Both give amazing vantage points and are worth the time to explore.
The beauty of doing a day tour from Dublin to the cliffs is all that comes with your ticket. Like I mentioned, I booked mine with credit card points, but paying for it outright would only cost about 30-35 euros. This includes the bus, ticket into the Cliffs of Moher, spending about an hour and a half just at the cliffs, and all of the stops along the way. Additionally, Extreme Ireland is different from other tours that go to the Cliffs of Moher because they actually take two different routes to and from in order to show more of Ireland in a variety of stops throughout the country.
Departing from the cliffs, Gerard gave us all of his information regarding their history. He explained everything from how they were formed and protected, to their use in movies as the Cliffs of Insanity in Princess Bride and the cliffs that hold a part of Voldemort’s soul in Harry Potter, among many others. We continued only maybe 15 minutes the small town of Doolin, right on the coast and stopped for lunch. There was a restaurant that many people took advantage of, but looking for something a bit lighter and cheaper, I continued down the lane to find a small cafe.
The cafe had all sorts of sandwiches and salads, but something else on the menu caught my eye, “homemade sausage rolls from scratch”. My mum makes sausage rolls during the holiday season and it is one of my favorite treats. At only 2 euros a piece, I ordered two, heated up, to go, found a spot overlooking Galway Bay, and enjoyed my taste of home. They were so so delicious. The breading was flakey and buttery with the tiniest hint of anise (spice that tastes like black licorice) and the sausage had all the flavors of a summer sausage and breakfast sausage mixed together. An odd combination that, had it been explained to me prior I would have been skeptical of, but it worked beautifully.
After lunch, we piled back in the bus and continued up the coast to stop at Burren Cliffs. This was the most bizarre land formation I have ever seen. It literally looks slightly lunar and appears out of nowhere. Walking off the bus and towards the sea was like you were walking on lava rocks because of the porous look. However there were all sorts of grasses and flowers sprinkled throughout. Gerard said that this is the only place in the world that plants of the Nordic Forests and the Mediterranean grow in among each other. It was truly fascinating to experience. It looked like a movie set because it was such a difference from the emerald green hills of the rest of the country.
Throughout the rest of the drive we made about 3 more stops. First was at Corcomnoe Abbey, nestled in among the hills and stone walls. It was an abbey that was converted to a private burial ground as it fell to ruins. Legend has it that this abbey is protected by a fairy ring. When you enter and exit a fairy ring you must wave to the fairies or else misfortune will fall not only on
you, but all of your descendants as well. Next stop was a small town called Kinvara on the most inland part of Galway Bay. Here we were given sometime to explore the city and the pier. Gerard suggested getting ice cream, but we had to ask for a “99”, in our best Dublin accents. I think it was the brand of ice cream, but whatever it was it was good! It was the creamiest vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted, with a chocolate wafer on top. The perfect midday snack.
After one final bathroom stop we returned to Dublin around 6pm. We were blessed with a simply gorgeous day out at the cliffs, we could not have asked for better visibility. However, we were greeted with a torrential downpour upon returning to Dublin. To top it off, I got lost, again. I walked all the way to Trinity College, which is the opposite direction of my hostel. I finally found my way back and ducked into the neighborhood grocery store to pick up some dinner. When I am traveling in Europe and eating on the cheap, I usually choose between two options. Crackers and whatever lunch meat is on sale, or crackers and a flavored cream cheese dip. I know the latter isn’t very healthy but it is totally acceptable for two reasons. First of all, you are walking miles and miles everyday, trust me you can afford the extra calories. Second, a small container of both will usually cost about 4 euros or so, and last you a couple meals. I went with this and some Cadbury buttons for dinner. Not healthy but yummy and cheap.
If you are staying somewhere for a few days in your travels, I highly recommend finding a way to see the countryside. I haven’t had ample time to explore Dublin (that will be tomorrow) but at first glance its much like any other European city. It took going through the countryside and out to the Cliffs of Moher today that made my fall in love with Ireland. It truthfully is everything you see in the movies or books. Its absolutely breathtaking. From the rolling green pastures of sheep and dairy cows to the more rough, smaller coastal farms lined with over 250,000 miles of free standing rock walls. This country is incredible and I highly recommend visiting. The Cliffs of Moher especially are a sight that will make you so in awe of the wonders the world has to offer, you may never quit traveling.
-The Very Hungry Traveler
P.S. Do you have specific questions about a certain destination or part of how I travel? Send an email to TheVeryHungryTraveler@gmail.com, send a message through “Contact The Very Hungry Traveler”, or through facebook. During my stay in Torino (a full 2 weeks) I will be answering your questions. My hope is to dedicate a post each to one or a few questions in order to share my expereinces and tips to help you travel. I will be in Italy in about two weeks, so email your questions,