A Weekend in Dublin, Ireland

This past weekend I went to Dublin, Ireland with seven other friends for a quick weekend getaway and our first international trip via plane while over here. I had already been to Ireland before in the summer between 4th and 5th grade with my family for two weeks where we traveled all around Ireland (the Republic of Ireland, not Northern Ireland which is part of the UK). I had already seen all of the countryside as well as Dublin before, and was at first hesitant to spend the money on going back to Dublin with my friends who had never been there before when there are so many other places I want to go in Europe. I ultimately decided to go as I figured this trip would be in addition to the other trips I want to go on not in place of them, plus I am well on track to see all the destinations I want to see. Luckily, the flight ended up being less than £100, and we found a decently priced hostel as well. We decided to catch an early morning Saturday flight as it was more cost effective to only stay in a hostel for one night, plus the Friday night flights were way more expensive. Going to Dublin with my friends as an adult was definitely a different experience than going with my family as a child so I am glad I decided to go. I went so long ago that it was hard to remember everything clearly.

We woke up at 5 AM Saturday to travel all the way to the London Stansted airport to catch our 9:55 AM flight. I got less than 2 hours of sleep since I didn’t end up packing until around 2 in the morning. Flying on the budget airline Ryanair via London Stansted was actually pretty easy, nice, and cheap. I got randomly upgraded to priority seating and got to board the front of the plane. I had to take a picture getting on the front of the plane since I had never boarded straight from the tarmac before.

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After a rough landing in Dublin (I thought our plane was going to crash on both landings, I swear they must put the novice/amateur pilots on the short London-Dublin flights), we got a fancy green stamp in our passports and took a coach bus into Dublin’s city center.

We first walked along Grafton Street, where we ate lunch at historic Bewley’s Oriental Café (which is not actually oriental at all but an over 150-yr old establishment frequented by Dublin’s writers especially James Joyce). I had delicious fish and chips, my first time this semester. The place was huge, historic, and gorgeously decorated! I got to see the James Joyce room where the legendary Irish author of Ulysses and Dubliners used to hang out. Joyce is everywhere in Dublin; I was so inspired that I felt a need to buy Dubliners later while in Dublin.

After lunch, we went to Dublin Castle, a beautiful castle in the heart of the old city. It did not seem that impressive inside after seeing Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace last week, but it was still a must-see. We enjoyed playing tag in the gardens after and accidentally discovered a circular look-out area/amphitheater with perfect acoustics.

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Next, we took a cab to the Guinness Storehouse (it was too far away to walk), where the famous Irish beer has been made for centuries. We did the full tour of the breweries, went to the tasting room, and finished at the Gravity Bar for our included pint of Guinness. The Gravity Bar is famous for its 360 degree view of Dublin. I had been to the Guinness Storehouse before and tried a sip of Guinness for the first time at the Gravity Bar with my family but going with friends was a much better experience as I was actually able to appreciate the experience.

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We then took a cab back to Grafton Street area and found our hostel, Times Hostel – College Street, right next to Trinity College. Our hostel was decent: it came with breakfast, was centrally located, and we had our own room with 8 beds. It was my first ever hostel experience, and I thought it went well. The less money I spend on accommodation, the more money I have for travel. After checking into the hostel, we went to dinner at O’Donaghue’s Pub. Then, we went on our Dublin pub crawl to see some really nice traditional Irish pubs. Pub life is a cultural experience in Ireland so we had to do the pub crawl. We joined the group at a pub with live music right next to the famous Ha’penny Bridge. Our tour leader led us all through Dublin’s favorite Temple Bar district, the hip, trendy, nightlife district in the heart of Dublin next to the River Liffey. We went to four pubs, a pizza place for a snack, and finished at a club from where my group went straight back to the hostel to sleep because we were so exhausted from our long day of sightseeing and our early morning flight. The various pubs were lively and full of local Irish folk. Most also had live music and dancing. It was a good introduction to Irish pub culture and we met fellow travelers from all over Europe in our group.

The following day, Sunday, we woke up early to eat our included breakfast and then check out of our hostel. We briefly visited Trinity College across from our hostel but decided to return later that day when the Book of Kells would be open. We walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Sunday morning service. The St. Patrick’s boys choir sung the prayers and hymns. The cathedral was beautiful inside and out, and constructed in gothic style in the shape of a cross with high vaulted ceilings. I had been to it years before and even climbed up the bell tower to ring the bells, but I had forgotten what it looked like inside. Oddly enough, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, named after the Catholic saint who christianized the Celtic Irish at the same spot back in the 5th century, is the Protestant Church of the National Church of Ireland. As Catholics, we found it very strange that Catholic Ireland’s grandest church is Protestant, but we still attended service. It was my first Protestant service, and although Anglican or Episcopalian services are fairly similar to Catholic masses, I was still confused at times, especially when I was receiving the Eucharist and instead of waiting in line for it, I kneeled down with a dozen or so others while the Eucharist was brought to me. I was trying to just follow what everyone else was doing. I am glad we went to the service, though, as it was a really unique experience in such a beautiful cathedral.

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After service, we had planned on going on a free walking tour, but it mainly went to places we already went and took three hours so we decided to skip and go to Christ Church Cathedral and then the Book of Kells instead. As our group’s unofficial tour guide, I read excerpts from my Ireland travel guide to the group when we passed important landmarks on our own walking tour. We took a peek into Christ Church Cathedral, which was pretty but very similar to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and also Protestant before we continued to Trinity College.

I loved visiting the gorgeous campus of Trinity College last time I was in Dublin and enjoyed going back again. In fact, I almost applied to Trinity College due to how much my family liked the campus when we visited. Trinity College Dublin is Ireland’s most prestigious university and also home to the Book of Kells. The famous Book of Kells is a beautiful book of the four gospels illuminated and handwritten by monks hundreds of years ago. The exhibit also took us to the Old Library, which had high vaulted ceilings and thousands of old books. It also held the oldest harp, Ireland’s national symbol. In the book shop after, I bought James Joyce’s Dubliners which I am inspired to read after spending the weekend on the same cobbled streets that Joyce walked on in Dublin, the very city he usually wrote about. I read the first short story in the collection on my flight home.

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By the time we finished seeing Trinity College, the rugby match between Ireland and Scotland, huge rivals, was about to start. Over 70,000 people were attending the game outside of Dublin and others flew in to cheer on the Scottish team. We had seen Scottish men wearing kilts and Royal Bank of Scotland jerseys in the airport and all over Dublin and were very confused until we were informed that all these people were in Dublin for the rugby match. We too decided to crowd into a traditional Irish pub filled with cheering Irish and Scots. We watched part of the game and soaked up the atmosphere but for us the main attraction was the delicious traditional Irish food. I had Guinness beef stew topped with an assortment of vegetables including three different types of potatoes. It was definitely one of the most amazing meals I ever ate. We also enjoyed our booth overlooking a quaint side street in Dublin. Image

After our delicious meal, we walked to the River Liffey and walked around. We took pictures on historic Ha’penny Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Dublin where pedestrians used to have to pay a halfpenny toll to cross. After that, we had some of the best gelato I ever had in my life, brownie and Kinder Bueno flavors, yum. By that point it was time to catch a bus to the airport for our flight back.

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As my souvenir I bought a Claddagh ring! The Irish ring with the hands holding a crowned heart. The direction of the hands and heart indicates whether the wearer is in a relationship or not. It is a traditional Irish symbolic ring that many of my friends had in high school, and I always wished I bought one last time I was in Ireland although I did not want one at the time. So I was very glad to get one as a momento of my Ireland trip and my Irish heritage.

It was a great weekend in Ireland! Next stop Prague!

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