20 May to 10 June 2015
*Throwback Post Alert*
Read Part 1 here.
So, I arrived. Then what?
Thankfully, I have a large family, which means that I hardly ever have to book hotels when traveling. I rarely have to book transportation either, as was the case with this trip. My aunt retrieved me from the airport and put me up in her spare bedroom for the first couple days of my trip.
My first day in Ireland consisted of only sleeping. Jet lag can be killer.
I knew I couldn’t sleep away my whole second day in Dublin, but I sure could spend it drinking beer. My aunt and I went to the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’ Gate in Dublin. Beware of parking if you visit: it is limited. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there, both as an educational time and a family bonding moment.
What did I do at the Guinness Storehouse? you may ask.
Drank Guinness, of course! Sláinte!
We toured the first level where old Guinness artifacts were displayed for visitors’ enjoyment. My most favorite part was the Guinness Academy, where I learned how to pour the perfect pint. For about $20 USD, you can learn how to pour your own. It’s absolutely worth waiting in line! BTW, at the end, you get a certificate that you can rub in your friends’ faces. Not everyone can pour the perfect pint of Guinness. It is a science, after all.
Other things to check out at the Guinness Storehouse are the Gravity Bar with a panoramic view of Dublin, the restaurant with Guinness-infused dishes (give the stew a try), and the extensive gift shop.
Donegal was my next destination. My cousin, who lives in Dublin, was kind enough to take me back to her parents’ home with her in Donegal. On the way, we made a pit stop for her to vote in the Referendum vote happening that day. Ireland was voting on whether to legalize gay marriage or not. I did not realize how big of a deal it was for the Irish to vote for this, but it is a majority Catholic country, so it did make sense. The referendum was approved, and it was cool to witness such a historic event.
The drive to Donegal was incredibly scenic (cue Benbulbin, Atlantic Ocean). Driving along the coast was picturesque and a great introduction to the area. The area is much different than Dublin, which is a busy metro area. The rural roads can be quite intimidating: windy, rocky, narrow, you name it. Farms galore.
My family’s hospitality was heartwarming. I wasn’t hungry or thirsty at any point of my time in Donegal. My cousins took me to see the beach, which was so cold!!! Even though it was May, it was frigid compared to what I was used to.
They also took me to visit Glenveagh Castle, part of Glenveagh National Park. Located on Lough Veagh, the castle dates back to the late 19th century and featured beautiful gardens, tearooms, and a restaurant. I would definitely visit the Castle again and be sure to visit the restaurant.
I spent a few nights in Sligo, my mom’s hometown. It was great to return to the place of many fond childhood memories of my grandparents’ and aunt’s houses. I also got an opportunity to explore downtown Sligo’s nightlife with my cousin. We went to several bars and clubs, including the Garavogue Bar, which is situated along the Garavogue River. It was a great night, filled with laughter and enjoyment. The only drawback was wearing high heels in both the rain AND on cobblestone roads. Just don’t… don’t do it.
Castleisland, Co. Kerry
After driving about 4 hours south with my cousins, we arrived in Castleisland, located in the southwest of Ireland. The sightseeing for this destination was done during the drive, not when there. This trip was just to see family I hadn’t seen since 2003. It was great to see my cousins, my uncle and my now-late aunt. I’m grateful I was able to see her when I did, not knowing it would be the last time I would ever see her. We spent the night doing what the Irish are best known for: drinking and having the craic (fun).
Back to Co. Donegal
After Sligo, I had another quick overnight in Donegal, while waiting to leave for London. After some drinks, we went to the pitch (Gaelic football field) and celebrated the win of the local Ardara team! It was very cool to see the community rally around the team and be immersed in the Irish football sensations.
An all-nighter at the pitch ensued, which was well worth it. The long hours and (freezing) cold were easily ignored amidst the experience and chance to spend more time with my family.
Back to Co. Dublin
After returning from London, I had a few days left in Ireland before my trip home. There wasn’t much more I had wanted to do, except for one thing.
I gathered a handful of souvenirs during my three weeks in Ireland and England. The major souvenir I had yet to get was a shamrock tattoo, which I had been formulating since before I even left the States. My cousins in London had joked around with me about getting tatted when I was there, but I ultimately decided to wait until I was back in Dublin.
Two days before I was to return home, I talked with my aunt and we arranged to go downtown. I Googled some tattoo parlors nearby and called around about who was available for walk-ins. Thankfully, one parlor, Reinkarnated, had both great reviews and an opening. Located in the Temple Bar, a bustling area of downtown Dublin, provided me with a great first tattoo experience and my favorite souvenir to date. If you’re ever in Dublin and want to get a tattoo, be sure to give them a call! Kim, @kimdoodles on Instagram, was my artist. She made me feel incredibly comfortable and created a unique piece just for me. Kim is no longer at the studio, but I still recommend them for some ink!
Did I mention that this was a secret tattoo? Yeah, I didn’t tell my parents (who are not very supportive of body modifications) that I planned on getting inked when I was away. The middle image is what my foot looked like when I arrived back in New York. My mother was completely unaware that my Godmother (her sister!) had taken me to get a tattoo. She said I was lucky that it was a shamrock LOL. My dad could hardly believe what I had done. But, there was no reason to stay mad because the tattoo was here to stay.
Getting a tattoo wasn’t the only thing I did on my last day in Dublin. My aunt took me to Trinity College, just a short walk from Reinkarnated. I won’t lie and say that my foot was pain-free after just getting stabbed with many needles over the previous hour, but it was bearable enough to see one last attraction in Ireland.
Trinity College, a research university in central Dublin, might be best known for having an original manuscript of the Book of Kells, a book containing the Four Gospels, written in Latin and originating from around 800 A.D. The college is grand and definitely a sight to see when visiting Dublin. We were able to book a tour of the campus with a student worker, for less than €10 per person. It was cool to see where the students currently study and to understand part of the history of the school and city.
My final tour of downtown Dublin concluded my first adult trip abroad. But I have a few more highlights to share with you:
- Visiting W. B. Yeats’s (famous Irish poet) grave
- Trying (and loving) Baby Guinness (Kaluha & Bailey’s) shot
- Trying (and hating) an Irish coffee
- Being interviewed by a radio station in Ardara, Co. Donegal
- Visiting another very chilly Irish beach Strandhill, in Co. Sligo
My trip was filled with family, fun, and education.
It ignited a fire in me that made me want to travel as much as possible to wherever possible.
Make sure to check out Part 3 of this series, detailing my week in London.
Thank you so much to all the family that hosted me and made me feel at home during my time away.