It’s been a week and three days since I returned from the Emerald Isle. Needless to say, I still haven’t regrouped or processed the amazing adventure it was. But if you need a little bit more than that in order to live vicariously through me, I’ll try my best to process it and give you my tips for exploring the beautiful, historically and culturally rich island.
But first, a little context…
I went with CCU as a 3-credit psychology class, and we hopped on the Education First Tour “Irish Heritage”. First thing I learned during those 9 days: I do not like bus tours. Every traveler will have different preferences to how they get around and see the sites, and now I know I will never do another bus tour. Personally, I’m too independent to enjoy something that rigid and controlled, but it definitely provides structure if you’re a traveler who wants to see and do the usual tourist stops with a trained guide on its history.
This was my second educational trip with classmates, but my first out of the country; what a cool way to share those precious memories with lifelong friends! I know independent travel is the trendy way to do it now (which I’m all about and have dreams to do), but there’s also a safety and sense of companionship to be with others from “home”. The seven of us below (just call us Wolfgang) had so many adventures and laughs that we can reflect on wherever we are in the world.
Day 1: Land in Dublin; wait at airport for 3 hours; groggily follow your tour director around downtown Dublin.
Friday afternoon was filled with walking around Temple Bar Area, grabbing lunch, taking a million pictures of the charming architecture and buildings everywhere, and Becki, Cassidy, and I bonding over our first latte’s in a European café. There were some exhausted tears shed (by that time, most of us had been up for over 24 hours with maybe an hour or two of airplane sleep.)
We were troopers, though, and had the delicious Irish stew and cheesecake the hotel restaurant made for us. And then we crashed.
Day 2: Dougie in the house, Guinness, and last but not least, fish ‘n chips.
Saturday’s itinerary began with meeting our tour guide for the day, the amazing Dougie. And of course, I couldn’t help but ask him if he’d teach us how to Dougie…apparently, he’s not current with American hip-hop to know what I was referring to. He was still great and told us all about the history of the buildings we were seeing, identified the time periods of the eclectic architecture depending on the block, and let us stop to take artsy (or gangster) pictures in front of the famous Georgian doors.
We toured St. Patrick’s Cathedral, followed by Trinity College, seeing the Book of Kells and the Long Room. The tale of the Book is just fascinating, how it’s been maintained over the years and the amount of time and resources dedicated to it. Check out this link for more info on it: https://www.tcd.ie/Library/manuscripts/book-of-kells.php
After Trinity College, our tour obligations were over, so the Wolfgang headed to a little Irish restaurant in Temple Bar Area. No surprise that it was called O’Shea’s, right? After all ordering sandwiches and fries like the Americans we are, we trekked a mile to the Guinness Storehouse for the infamous Guinness tour with the free pint at the end. I enjoyed learning how they make the beer more than I liked the actual beer…sorry, Ireland. The tour was well worth it for the amazing views from the 7th floor Gravity Bar overlooking Dublin.
Dinner on Saturday was our first experience with fish ‘n chips. We never turned back.
Day 3: Up and at ’em. Drive. Queenstown with your everyday, average Summer Swing. Drive. Blarney=Party.
Sunday was a full day of driving to get to the county of Cork by evening. On the way to Cork, we stopped at the most precious, quaint little town called Cobh Port or Queenstown (I still don’t quite understand why there are two names for the same place.) Queenstown is the last port the Titanic docked before its fateful journey across the Atlantic. We toured the little museum there about immigration, which was quite fascinating and sombering.
At the little restaurant there, I was feeling adventurous and ordered the Great Island Pudding, consisting of sausage meat and black and white pudding in a flaky pastry. I had no idea black pudding means blood sausage! I still don’t know if I’m okay with what I ate…I know it was tasty and I felt brave for eating out of the norm. One of the many lessons I learned: research the content of your food; or be oblivious and you might enjoy it even more!
While in Queenstown, we explored the town for a couple hours. This was a highlight of the trip for me. So many random, hilarious things happened that will always stay with me. Hillary, Becki, Cass, and I had gone up these outdoor stairs from the road by the water to a road overlooking the entire bay (pictured below). As we were walking along the stone wall taking pictures of everything in sight, we caught up to these Irish teenagers just messing around with each other like all teens do. It was a mixed experience of adorable and horrifying because they would jokingly threaten to jump off the edge or throw one of their friends over, all the while laughing and dropping the f-bomb every other word. But their young Irish accents were just too cute to be offended or bothered by the whole thing! They even asked us if we wanted to parkour with them. We just laughed.
The buildings in Ireland are so unique with all their different colors. We looked ridiculously touristy taking pictures of people’s business fronts, but when you paint them oranges, purples, blues, greens, pinks, literally any color you can think of, on the same block, you have to expect the Americans to capture the moment forever.
One of my fondest memories of Ireland is when we stumbled upon Cobh Port’s very own local “Summer Swing” event. It’s one of those small town food and music festivals on the shoreline that all the locals come out too, but we just happened to enjoy the day as well with the Irish. After a few of the girls grabbed homemade ice cream from a sweet Irishman, we ventured through the vendor tables toward the gazebo with the live Irish folk music blasting. Little did we know we’d be commandeered into learning how to dance by the cheerful old Irishman there with his music students. Several other CCU students were already up there dancing away, and when they gestured us up to learn too, I practically threw my stuff at Hillary to watch while I took this chance to learn something new. I know I looked awkward and downright horrible at Irish folk dancing trying to follow the quick steps of this old lad, but we were all laughing with glee the entire time as the Irish culture seemed to surround and seep into us as we were immersed in this age-old tradition.
If the day wasn’t eventful enough already, we drove another hour or so to the village of Blarney in the county of Cork where the infamous Blarney Castle and Stone reside. After settling into our very nice hotel, frolicking through the grassy town square, and enjoying Irish stew for dinner again, the Wolfgang decided to be social and hit up the local pub.
There’s a term in Ireland they use for a party or get-together that is really fun. They say, “The craic was ninety last night!” or “Let’s go have some craic” on a Saturday night. (Yes, it’s pronounced crack.) It really just means, in American terms, the party was banging, awesome, off the chain, etc. Well, Sunday for the Wolfgang in Blarney was a night of great craic! We enjoyed a drink or two at our little booth in the back before heading to the front where we bobbed to the live American classic rock music being played by the Irishman on his makeshift stage.
That wraps up 3 of the 9 days! Second installment coming within the week!
the tall girl