Friday, August 9, 2013

The Emerald Isle

Where to even start with the unforgettable trip to Ireland? It truly was the Emerald Isle- so lush and green, even the ocean was its own shade of mesmerizing green. It was one of, if not the best, vacations I've ever had. Between the Irish accent, the locals referring to you as 'love' (couldn't get enough of that) and the insane beauty of the country itself, I was already planning a trip back while I was there. 

When I think of Ireland, I think of two things in particular: castles and alcohol, Guinness to be exact. Safe to say, those are the two things we spent most of our time on. My tolerance was at an all time high after I left there. The Guinness tasted much better in Ireland than it did back home. I don't even like dark beer and didn't mind drinking it. We stayed in Dublin during our time there and it's such an awesome city. So full of life. It reminded me a lot of New York City: buzzing with people and not the cleanest of places, but a fun environment nonetheless. One of my good friends I played club soccer with happened to be staying in Dublin at the same time as me, so we got to venture around Ireland, of all places, for our reunion!

Two of the best things about Ireland are one, there is free wifi located throughout the entire country and two, their train and metro system are extremely affordable. We paid 13 euros (around $17) for an all day train pass. Hop on and off as you please. The Euro isn't too far off from the US dollar and it was really nice to see prices that I am used to. Swedish Krona uses much higher numbers and even though it's reasonably priced, it gives you the feeling that you are shelling out a bunch of money. 

Aside from the literally hundreds of bars and pubs located within two feet of each other in Dublin, there are quite a few other things to see while you are there. We visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity College and Dublin's castle. I do have to mention that navigating the streets in some European countries is rather difficult because, depending on the country, the street signs are located on the sides of buildings, instead of the typical street signs you see in the States. They blend quite nicely with the walls they are located on. Any who, I can't even describe in words the beauty of the inside of St. Patrick's Cathedral, so I'll use a few pictures to do it for me. The detail is indescribable. My mom said it best: it makes you want to go to church.

St. Patrick's
St. Patrick's
St. Patrick's

Trinity College is another amazing piece of history that we were able to visit. Got quite wet in the process, but it was worth it. Some of the buildings seriously look just like Hogwarts. Ireland is a pretty rainy place, so the constant grey skies and rain added even more to the feeling of being in real life Harry Potter world. Getting up to go to class definitely would have been easier if you went there. Wouldn't have minded it as much. 

We were lucky to get to visit so many different cities in Ireland. Before we got there, we planned a visit to do a tour of the Blarney castle in Cork, which is a little under 3 hours away via train. It was an all day tour, starting at 7am, but very worth it. The Blarney castle was built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy and definitely looks its age. A lot of the castle has crumbled over the centuries, but there is still quite a bit of it standing. You are allowed to walk around the castle via the extremely old, narrow staircases and get a feel for how people lived back then. The myth behind the Blarney stone, which is inside the Blarney castle and is actually from Scotland, is that when you kiss it, you supposedly gain the gift of eternal eloquence or great flattery. Interesting theory. Had to do the tourist thing and plant one on it... I can now say I've kissed literally thousands of people. More fun to say? The Blarney castle also comes with a Gothic mansion, made by the father for his son. Tough life. The mansion is absolutely beautiful. It had a somewhat purple hue and was just really striking sitting in the green hills of Ireland. And to top it all off...someone actually lives there a few months out of the year. Again, tough life. 

The Blarney castle

Gothic mansion

The visit to Cork also included a bus trip to Cobh (Cove). Cobh is located at the southern tip of Ireland and is quite the historical town. History lesson: it is the final port of call for the Titanic, where survivors were taken after the Germans torpedoed and sunk the Lusitania (another massive cruiser) and where 3 million Irish people emigrated to mainly the United States from, including Annie Moore, the first person to ever come through Ellis Island. Aside from all its amazing history, Cobh is also beautiful. Another picture Esq town, with colorful buildings lining the cliffs. 

St. Colman's Cathedral 

Our tour guide for this trip was hands down the cutest little Irish man I've ever seen. Exactly what I think of when I picture a little old Irish man. Wanted to take him home! He loved to talk so we asked him for details on where to go for fun things to do for the rest of our time in Ireland. After our trip to Cork and Cobh, we didn't have any set plans for the rest of our time in Ireland, so we took his advice and visited a few cities for the day. 

First, we traveled to Howth, which is a really small fishing town. I'm absolutely in love with this little town and hope to make it back someday! It's only about a 30 minute train ride North East of Dublin, with a population ranging somewhere in the 8,000's.  It also has colorful buildings built along the cliffs, looking out to the sea. I seriously can't get enough of places like that. While we were there, we first went to a cute little restaurant right near the ocean. They had really good sea food and wines and a friendly staff working there. Our cute little tour guide told us there was a castle there, so we asked one of the servers from the restaurant how to find it. Luckily, it wasn't far and it couldn't have been a more perfect day. They said it was quite hot for Ireland. Only down side to the countries in and around the UK is the constant grey, chilly days they so often get to experience. And that we did most of our days there. The castle in Howth was cute and was turned into a cooking school for students. 

Howth restaurants

Howth castle
After Howth, we stopped in Malahide, another town on the East coast with beautiful churches and a castle to visit. I really wonder how many castles are located in Ireland. There was one in every city we visited. Funniest thing happened while we were there. We got off the train and immediately got suckered into riding this little children's train that took you to look at the ocean and then dropped you off at the castle. The man who owns it got the idea when he visited Key West. Being that we are all from Florida, he named us his VIPs for the day. He was a really fun guy. The castle in Malahide is the oldest one we visited- from the year 1185. Surprisingly, it's been really well looked after, so it doesn't look old in the least. 

Malahide castle


Pints in every city

The day we were visiting all of these cities along the coast also happened to be the 4th of July! I've noticed that the more I travel, the more patriotic I've become. Nothing against any other country, I just have realized more how good I have it back home. Anyways, since it was the fourth, we only felt it was right that we get a pint in every city we visited. 

We ended our last night in Dublin at a fun sports pub where the championship football team's owner (or something along those lines) just so happened to be showing off the championship trophy. The pub was celebrating that Dublin had won, which they hadn't done in years. The owner brought the trophy right over to our table and let us take a picture with it. It seemed to mean so much to the locals, which was fun to see. They said it was the equivalence to our NFL leagues back home, but I can guarantee that trophy isn't brought to pubs and passed around the locals like it's worth $5! 

I'm so glad I got the opportunity to visit our homelands and I cannot wait to make another trip back some day. I loved everything about Ireland and hope to someday figure out our family tree and where exactly we come from and which family members made the trek over to start a new life in the US of A. 

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