If some of you did not already know, I love traveling. My first trip to Europe was to Belgium in 2013. Since then, I always wanted to travel more in Europe and eventually live here for some time. Flash forward to 2018, and here I am living in Europe and having more opportunities to travel! I’m going to try to write a blog about all of the places I have visited since living here (but I forgot to write about my trip to Amsterdam so that one will come later). What I want to share with people is not only my personal experiences there, but also recommendations for transportation, tours, restaurants, places to avoid, etc.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Ireland and reconnect with an old friend of mine, Alexa. She was living in Ireland for a few months since her dad is located there for work at the moment. They were wonderful hosts and I was so grateful I was able to spend the weekend with them.
Travel: If any of you have ever travelled between countries in Europe, you may have taken a Ryanair flight. Ryanair is an Irish airline that offers affordable flights to many destinations in Europe (and even in North America, South America, and Northern Africa). I paid about 60 Euros in total for my flights, which is not bad considering you can’t even fly from LA to San Francisco for that cheap 😂. However, Ryanair imposed a new rule at the start of this year that you have to pay for priority boarding in order to bring a carry on bag with you (which doesn’t cost too much). If you don’t want to pay the extra fees, pack wisely and bring your backpack as your personal item. Upon arriving in Dublin, I took the Aircoach bus to Alexa’s place, as the airport is a little bit out of the city. The one way ticket cost 8,50 Euros and it was quite practical because the busses leave frequently and are right in front of the arrival terminal exit. However, it is not like a regular bus with a button to push for stop, instead you have to listen to what stops the driver calls out and then tell them if you’re getting off. For traveling within Dublin we used the busses to get around. There are these cards called “Leap Card’ (see picture) and you can purchase one of these cards and load credits onto them. You can do so at different outlets around Dublin. When you get on the bus, you have to tell the driver which stop you are going to because the price of your trip is calculated by how many stops you pass until you reach your stop. (You can also pay in cash).
Things that stood out: I wouldn’t necessarily say being in Ireland is so much of a culture shock, at least not in Dublin (the rest of the country I haven’t seen). It’s quite modern, they have a lot of the same shops and restaurants as in Germany and America, and they speak English. One of the first things I noticed when I got off of the plane was that the signs are in English and Gaelic. As I went through the city, I noticed the signs were like that everywhere, and even the bus stops are said in their Gaelic name and English name. I found that to be very interesting, because although English is the predominantly spoken language in Ireland, the Gaelic language is still an official language and they preserve it even through something so simple as a street sign. Another thing that was sort of strange for me was driving on the other side of the road. As in the UK, in Ireland they have left-hand traffic. It was my first time being exposed to that and it was also difficult sometimes as a pedestrian because I was expecting the cars to be turning from a different direction. Pedestrians were another thing… in Dublin almost no one waited for the pedestrian light to change from red to green. Pedestrians just cross anywhere at anytime. However, in their defense, and as I started doing it too, the stop lights are on terrible timers and do take a while to change. So I get it… but still watch out for pedestrians!
Sights to see: On Saturday, Alexa and I started our day by going to see the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We thought about going in, but the entrance fee was 7 Euros. If you’re not interested in paying to get in, right next to the Cathedral is St. Patrick’s park and from there you get a beautiful view of the church. It’s also a nice place to hangout and relax for a little while. We then enjoyed a nice mid-day snack, and then made our way to the Guinness Storehouse (the walk from the Cathedral to Guinness was only 20 min.). We bought our tickets for the Guinness tour online, and that includes a complimentary pint. I recommend buying the tickets online because the price for students and adults is 17,50 Euros vs. 20 Euros for students and 25 Euros for adults at the store. The store is set up in levels, and you literally learn everything from the ground up. The first level is about what ingredients they use, a little bit of history, and then as you go on you learn a bit about the brewing process. Further on in the tour you get to do a tasting (and learn how to really take a sip of beer). We were also lucky enough to see an Irish step dance performance in the bar on the same level. At the very top they have the Gravity Bar where you can redeem your free pint and enjoy a beautiful view of the city. Overall, we were very pleased with the tour and I now love Guinness! (Yes, I had never tried it before…dark beers scare me…)
The Tour: On the last day of my trip, Alexa and I decided to do a tour bus trip to Northern Ireland. We booked our trip through a company called Wild Rover Tours and it was 60 Euros per person. There are also cheaper tours out there, but we chose this one because it went to the locations that we wanted to see. The day started early with boarding the bus at 7:00 AM and then we headed straight for Belfast. Included in our ticket cost was the opportunity to either do a Black Taxi Tour, which was a tour in a taxi through Belfast and learning about the political history of the city and Northern Ireland, or we had the chance to go to the Titanic Experience. Alexa and I opted for the Titanic Experience (because who doesn’t love James Cameron’s Titanic?). We had about an hour and half to tour the museum, which was a down side because we definitely would have liked to read more thoroughly through everything there. A lot of information is presented in the Museum, from the city of Belfast, to the White Star Line Company, the constructing of the ship, the accident, and the aftermath. I certainly learned more than I ever knew about the Titanic. The most moving experience for me was entering a room where you heard the personal anecdotes of survivors playing over a loud speaker. In that same room were all of the messages being sent to and from the Titanic, from the first message when they hit the iceberg, to the last message that was ever sent.
op on the tour was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge along the coast of Northern Ireland. It’s a rope bridge connecting to a small island off of the mainland, originally constructed by salmon fishermen that fished from the island. Unfortunately, the winds that day were too strong and they closed the bridge for safety reasons. We still got to see the bridge, the small islands off the coast, and an area that was used for filming Game of Thrones.
Our final stop on the tour was a landmark called Giant’s Causeway. It’s an area on the coast that has basalt columns that look like steps leading into the ocean. It was formed by an ancient volcanic eruption. It’s free to view, but be prepared to walk a long way down to the causeway. There’s also a shuttle that you can talk for 1 pound each way. Giant’s Causeway has to be one of the most beautiful natural phenomenons I have ever seen. I ventured out to the “wishing chair”, which on a dry, sunny day you can sit on the “chair” and enjoy the breathtaking view.
Overall, I truly enjoyed my time in Dublin and the tour to Northern Ireland, and I can’t wait to go back again to explore the rest of Ireland.