About a year ago one of my best friends, Alexis, and I realized that we would both be abroad in the following fall semester. This is something we had both dreamed about for years and had often joked about the possibility of meeting up in a foreign country. Through those years, it all seemed silly and impossible. What were the chances that we would 1) both be studying abroad at the same time and 2) actually meet up somewhere foreign?
Despite all of this, Alexis and I managed to beat all odds and figured out a way to make it work. In late October we solidified plans to meet over thanksgiving weekend in the beautiful country of Ireland. Words can’t describe how excited I was. On the night of Black Friday I boarded a plane to Dublin, ripe with excitement for the weekend to come. Alexis was arriving a few hours before me with her friend Taylor from school. We were staying at Taylor’s family friend’s home and so they headed there to drop off their things and headed downtown.
After a few minor mishaps, we were finally reunited on the streets of Dublin. We ended up meeting near the train station and did some exploring around the area. However it wasn’t long before we ended up on a train to Malahide to rest for the night.
The next morning Joe (whose house we were staying at) offered to drive us downtown so we could stop at the local Malahide castle. The castle itself is small, but beautiful. It even features a helipad that has been used only once, to let Margaret Thatcher land in Dublin.
From Malahide Castle we headed to downtown Dublin. After Joe dropped us off we grabbed some Starbucks and set off to find City Hall, where our walking tour of Dublin began. I was excited to get a feel for the city and learn more about its history as well.
At City Hall we met our tour guide, Jack, and we went on our way. Our first stop was Dublin Castle, conveniently located right behind City Hall.
From Dublin Castle we stopped by Christ Church Cathedral. Inside you can see a mummified cat and mouse they found in an old organ if that interests you.
Continuing on, we headed towards the Temple Bar area, learning about how to know when the pub you are in is a tourist trap and about some of the cultural work U2 has done in the area.
After a short break, we were on our way again, this time to Trinity College. Located in central Dublin, the college campus is a beautiful site and is also the oldest university in the country.
After a few more short stops, our walking tour ended. Following the tour, Taylor, Alexis and I stopped at a pub for some lunch before walking to the Guinness Storehouse.
Going through the tour, we learned how Guinness is made and what apparently makes it great. The tour had many interactive exhibits that taught you the history of the beer and its role in pop culture. Not all exhibits were historical, however. One exhibit in particular gave you small samples of the beer and had guides teach you the proper way to enjoy a pint of Guinness.
One of our final stops of the tour was a spot where we could learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. Here a guide taught us how to ensure that we pour a perfect pint of Guinness every time and gave us all the chance to pour our own.
After perfectly pouring our pints (and receiving certificates for doing so!) we headed on upstairs to the top of the storehouse where the “Gravity Bar” was located. Here you could enjoy your freshly poured pint while simultaneously enjoying the 360 degree views of Dublin.
Upon leaving the Storehouse, we headed to the shopping area we were near the previous night. Unfortunately for us, we did not realize that almost every store in Dublin closes as 6pm. Although we walked around for a bit longer and found a few souvenir shops that were open. When we bought what souvenirs we wanted, we walked around a little bit more before finding a nice pub to grab some food in (it was actually the second pub we stopped at – the first one had already stopped serving food). It wasn’t too long before we were heading back to Malahide for the day.
The next morning we had planned a day trip to Howth, a town about 20min outside of Dublin. The day trip was actually another walking tour, done through the same company from the previous day’s tour and we ended up with the same tour guide as well.
From downtown Dublin, we took a quick train ride to Howth. Almost as soon as we got off the train we began our walking tour, headed just up the road to Howth Castle.
Although the castle is privately owned, the gates are always opened and (legend has it) there is always an extra place set at the table for visitors. This was an effort to save their reputation from many years ago when their closed gate gave them a poor reputation for refusing to help a passerby in need. This worked out in our favor, giving us a chance to see the castle up close and personal.
Our walking tour continued past the castle and up a golf course. We followed the path we were on behind the golf clubhouse and up the bluff located behind it. It was a steep climb upwards, but it was also 10000% worth it. The views from the top were unreal and my pictures do not give it enough credit.
I think our tour guide, Jack, was giving us information on what we were seeing, but I was honestly so in awe of the beautiful sight that I honestly could not tell you a single thing he said at the top of that bluff. We hung around here for about half an hour before making our way down. The trip down really made me feel like we were in rural Ireland and it was just unreal. Despite all of the cool places I went all semester, few seemed as unique as this.
When we got back on ground level, we headed towards the coast to a pub for lunch. Here our group enjoyed a delicious meal and got to know each other a little better. It was also a nice respite for our surely sore legs.
Following lunch, we headed to the coast. While I thought the views at the top of the bluff were outstanding, they were in a tough competition with the views from the coast for the best views of the trip.
Alexis and I were consistently holding up the group, trying to linger in the moment and fully embrace the views.
We were headed back to the train station (and back to Dublin) much too quickly. As much as I loved the city, nothing truly compares to the serenity of the Irish coast.
When we got back to Dublin, we rushed to do what little shopping we wanted to do before the stores closed at 6pm again. Thankfully we were able to get everything we wanted and also got to enjoy the city some more before leaving. After grabbing a quick bite for dinner, we headed back to Malahide one last time.
The next morning Joe took us all back to the airport. The three of us could not be more thankful for the Zortman’s hospitality during our weekend at their home.
Taylor and Alexis’s flight departed a few hours before mine so I spent my free time doing some school work and reflecting on the incredible weekend I had. As I waited for my flight to depart, I resolved to definitely make my way back to Ireland some day. There is a whole lot of Irish countryside calling my name.