Before I update you on how Ireland went, I just wanted to say: I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT TO MENTION I SAW SHAKIRA before Christmas in Manchester. Haha… Well, I did. It was an awesome concert.
Now, on to Ireland. I’m going to do this day by day…
Friday, January 14th: We arrived to Dublin about 7:45am, ate breakfast at McDonald’s, slept for an hour and then quickly headed to catch our bus to Galway (a university town on the southwestern coast of Ireland). We asked an airport employee as well as a few coach drivers where our bus picked up, and they all gave us the same answer–the coach park. Well, after 45 minutes of waiting in the FREEZING cold we saw our bus pass by us, as in it left us behind. We were pretty furious, but what were we going to do? I had only paid €0.60 for the tickets, so it wasn’t a big loss, but we had to pay another €10 to catch another bus.
After about 2 hours on the bus, we arrived to Galway, where another Rotary scholar (Mike Henry) met us at the bus station and gave us a wonderful walking tour of Galway, helped us settle into our hostel and book some tours, and invited us over for dinner with some of his friends and flatmates. Touring Galway, we saw the town square and park, we walked down to the port area (Galway used to be a Spanish-Portuguese port), and we went into the Galway Cathedral. It’s a really charming little town. Definitely a must if you go to Ireland.
Saturday, January 15th: On Saturday, we had booked a tour of the Aran Islands (a set of three islands off the western coast of Ireland, and a famous spot for tourists). Our tour started with the boat ride from Galway to the islands. Little did we know we were going to feel like we had gone through a hurricane. The water was SUPER choppy and we thought the boat was going to capsize at any moment. People were throwing up the whole way and it was pretty terrible. I went to sleep to avoid getting sick.
Once we actually arrived to the biggest of the three islands (Inis Orr, sp?), the weather was MUCH better than that of Galway. It was less windy and not raining. We quickly found a mini-bus tour for €10 and hopped in (this is the best way to see the island–the bus takes you around telling you about the island and makes stops pretty much wherever you want for pictures and walking time). Since it is low season for tourists, they were only 5 of us on the tour and it was pretty amazing thanks to our great tour guide 🙂
On the island, we made several stops. The first stop we made was at Don Aungus (sp), a fort that is over 2,000 years old. As we began to climb up the hill to get to the fort (it’s about a mile up or so), we realized we were in for something–the wind was so strong it almost knocked us down. The view was AMAZING, as the fort is on the edge of some tall cliffs. The wind was so strong it would actually push the waves up over the cliffs, BUT once we were in the fort we had to be super careful because the wind was literally almost blowing us over–it would definitely push you forward/backwards it you were walking.
After the fort we went to a nice little cafe and had some great homemade soup and our first taste of Irish brown soda bread. YUM! We also got our first taste of listening to the Irish language, as people on the island learn to speak Irish first and then learn English at school.
Following lunch, we continued our tour around the island. We made stops at an old church and the island cemetery, several beaches (one where we were able to see seals swimming and leaping in the water), and different spots where animals were hanging about 🙂
The whole tour last about 3 hours, and if left us back close to where the ferry departed for the mainland. We had an hour to waste so we headed to the only place open–The American Bar. Haha. That’s right, an American Bar on a very small island off the coast of Ireland.
After living through a small hurricane, we headed out for Mexican food (not comparable to REAL Mexican food) and then to an Irish pub to hear some live Irish music. It was brilliant.
Sunday, January 16: On Sunday, we headed to the Cliffs of Moher (about 2.5 hours from Galway). We took another tour to get out there. On the way to the cliffs, we made several interesting stops to see Stone Age tombs, fairy trees (yes, where the little people supposedly live), and to a few pretty picture spots.
Around 3:30pm we actually arrive to the Cliffs of Moher and it was incredible. It was a shame the sun was already setting, because there was a glare on one side of the cliffs. Even so, it was definitely worth the day trip and the cost of the tour. I totally understand why it’s been placed on the list of the 7 modern wonders of the world.
After spending an hour and a half at the cliffs, we headed back to Galway to catch our bus to Dublin.
Monday, January 17: We arrived to Dublin late Sunday night and were picked up from the bus stop by Tom O’neil, a member of the Dublin Rotary Club. He and his wife were kind enough to let us stay with them throughout our stay in Dublin.
On Monday, we took a whirlwind tour from Tom’s car of Dublin proper and then headed to the Dublin Rotary Club’s weekly meeting where we each spoke for about 5 minutes. After the meeting, a member of the club took us on a tour of Trinity College and got us admission to see the Book of Kells. Pretty neat.
Once we finished at Trinity and with the Book of Kells, we spent a few hours in the Naitonal Gallery. There were loads of works by Irish artists with some other nationalities mixed in. I really liked the works by Jellet and Opren they had, as well as the Carravagio.
Before heading home (to Tom’s), we stopped by Temple Bar and found a nice cafe for dinner.
Tuesday, January 18: On Tuesday we took a bus tour of Dublin for an hour and a half, and then hopped off to see several points of interest. We went inside Christchurch Cathedral, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and had lunch in St. Stephen’s Green. It was a fun, but long day.
We ended the day by attending a concert of the Dublin Baroque Orchestra inside Christchurch Cathedral.
Wednesday, January 19: On Wednesday, we spent the morning sleeping in and the afternoon frolicking in Phoenix Park (the largest enclosed park in Europe). I got to see a herd of deer, the president of Irelands’ house, as well as the U.S. ambassador’s house, which are all located within Phoenix Park.
After a great day in the park, Tom took us for a pint of Guiness (you must try it when you’re in Ireland) before taking us to the airport.
We arrived at the airport with 2 hours anticipation, wanting to eat and buy a book before our flight at 9:30pm. However, our hopes of getting back to Leeds were crushed when we went to check-in and the Ryanair attendent informed us our flight had been for Tuesday night. We were devastated…
So, we ended our holiday in Ireland with a night in the Dublin airport 🙂