“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.” – Irish ProverbMy time in Ireland was brief but magical; 5 days, 4 major cities, 3+ hour bus rides, 2 countries, 1 amazing experience. We hopped on our coach in Liverpool, briefly passed through Wales (checking another country off my list) to get to Holyhead, and boarded our ferry to Dublin. LONGEST FERRY RIDE OF MY LIFE!!! Unfortunately, we got caught in torrential wind & rain on the way, so that boat was rockin’ like nobody’s business and my fragile little stomach was not happy about it. I tried Dramamine, even one of those motion sickness bracelets, but nothing was helping! After growing up on boats back in California I knew I had to force myself to sleep for the remaining 3-hour ride, so I borrowed three travel pillows, built a barrier, got 2 blankets, and hunkered down.
We finally arrived in Dublin, on a gorgeous sunny day, to explore the bustling Grafton street before heading over to the Guinness Storehouse. Now, I like Guinness but, in memory for a friend that I lost a few years ago, I don’t drink outside of St. Patricks Day, but it was great to take the tour and learn about the process! I attended the “Guinness Academy”, where they teach you to pull the perfect pint. Our teacher said I poured the best pint she’d seen all day ( I don’t care if it was a lie, it made my day haha). After a long day of travel & seasickness, I was ready to crash at our hotel for the night.
The following day we met up with our (gorgeous) tour guide who took us around some highlights of Dublin. Starting at the stunning St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I lit a candle for my Memé, sat on a pew and took in the beauty. We continued to drive through Dublin discussing the sites, its history, and their country’s war for independence.
Naturally, the place to go after visiting a church is a distillery so that’s where I went! Anyone who knows me knows that I pretty much exclusively drink Jameson, so I was beyond excited to go on the tour and tasting experience. I was even more excited when I found out that most of the girls in my tour group had never had Jameson before! I took the girls with me and introduced them to what whiskey is supposed to taste like, and now they’re never looking back. Our tour guide was amazing, they let us try the 12-year which tasted like heaven, and the free drink at the end of the tour gave us a nice buzz that we kept going into the night.
I don’t drink very often, but when I do I have a great time…tonight was no different. The tour group hit Temple Bar district for a pub crawl, where we sang along with the band, were taught how to do a traditional Irish jig, and whiskey shots were flowing. A group of us broke off from our tour and I somehow hijacked another tour group’s pub crawl, where we tricked them into including us with free shots/drinks which kept the fun moving to the next bar where I ended up meeting “this handsome, charismatic Irish madman who proposed to me instantly….”, we pushed through to 2 other pubs where we danced to our heart’s content before calling it a night.
The next morning I dragged my exhausted, slightly hungover self onto a bus headed for Belfast, to cross the last country in the British Isles off of my list. Belfast was beautiful but full of pain; you could still see the lingering effects of the war on the architecture and on the resident’s faces. There were barricades, barbed wire, and beauty, all simultaneously existing and it was a site to see. After we toured through downtown Belfast we went to the Titanic Museum for the full experience tour. It was amazing to see artifacts and hear stories from survivors, without the Hollywood lens or spin on it. As our bus pulled away from the city, I was filled with a sense of hope; Belfast will continue to grow and to rebuild a city full of peace and respect for future generations to coexist in. They’re in no rush because they want to do it right.
The next day we left Dublin for Galway but not before stopping by “Ireland’s most visited natural tourist attraction”: The Cliffs of Moher. I don’t have much to say because I was struck with a level of speechlessness that I have never experienced.
Galway was our final stop of the tour. This adorable city by the sea is filled with cute shops, live music, great food, and smalltown generosity. We did another pub crawl, played drinking games I haven’t played since university, and had a blast trying to steal each other’s potato (explaining this would require another blog post on just the pub crawl haha). The next morning we headed off to The Aran Islands for our final excursion before we all went our separate ways. We boarded a quick ferry to the islands, toured the beautiful fields, went to the “beach”, hiked to the Dún Aonghasa ruins, got into trouble for dangling our feet off of the edge of a cliff, and bought all the last minute souvenirs we needed. We closed that evening with our farewell dinner, hugged it out and said our “goodbyes” and “see ya laters”.
The next morning I was up at 4 am and off to Shannon Airport, landed back in America where the combination of sleep deprivation and grief caused me to sob uncontrollably to my mother. I couldn’t believe it was over.
That was the happiest I’d been in at least 5 years; I had such a feeling of contentment and peace that nothing could have taken it away from me…except the plane ticket home. Now I hold it in my heart, an ever-burning ember, counting down the days until I return to where the rain falls and green hills roll. I left a piece of me in the UK, and I intend to retrieve it.