Ireland is a bucket list destination. It’s one of those places that I’ve always felt a calling to. Perhaps I was a witch in the 17th century with unfinished spells. And even after this visit the mystery remains as to why I’m drawn to the Emerald Isle.
My journey began on a Friday afternoon with a window seat on a Ryanair flight to Dublin. The seats are tiny even for a short person like myself. There are no TV screens and the menu is little but expensive. I didn’t care though, this was the first trip I had booked since living in London. I was excited to be going somewhere new and on my own, a place where I didn’t know a single soul. The flight was under 90 minutes so I figured my bottle of water and iPod were more than sufficient. After a quick snooze we were preparing for landing and not long after I was walking the long curved terminal in search of customs and immigration. The lady scrutinized my passport and visa, and after handing them back to me insisted I give Guinness a try and checkout the Gaelic football final that Sunday. Her thick Irish accent and warm smile were a lovely welcome.
My shuttle transfer was easy to find and within 30 minutes I had been dropped off on O’Connell street in the heart of Dublin. Green reigns supreme and Irish music could be heard coming from the souvenir shops and bars. Perhaps corny to the locals but my smile probably out shown Julia Roberts, I was happy to be here. My bearings were fairly easy to get in order and before long I had found Bachelors Walk along the River Liffey and checked into my hostel. This was another first experience for me and as an introvert I was both nervous and excited for the hostel experience. I was bunking in a female dorm with 3 bunk beds. All the girls were very welcoming and I felt immediately at ease. The walls and doors of the hostel were lined with amazing paintings of heroes, celebrities and iconic movie characters. The recreational rooms had a bohemian feel and I was in love.
After a shower and some glamming up I was armed with my phone, bridge camera and my hand bag. I walked back up O’Connell Street in search of dinner. Once my sugar levels were restored I was back on my way to the heart of the city. I walked along the River Liffey and crossed over Ha’Penny Bridge and got lost in the Temple Bar area. Oh so wonderfully lost. The bars were spilling with people, the atmosphere was amazing. One cobblestone street led to another then on to another. Without knowing I had passed the Trinity College and museums and stumbled on a free art festival. I watched short film projections on building walls and walked by crazy long lines for the wax museum. I had spent hours walking, my feet ached but I didn’t want to go home. I ducked down more cobblestone streets and wondered into the souvenir shops listening to the Ballad of Molly Malone, Catholic ornaments juxtaposed against whisky and Guinness paraphernalia. I was exhausted by the time I got back to the hostel but over the moon to be in this small city. Dublin I’m in love.
I was up bright and early the next morning with a ticket in hand for the hop on/hop off bus. The route took 2 hours and I stayed on the entire time. We travelled through the city taking in Trinity College, the animal museum, Oscar Wilde’s statue, St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Guinness factory and Phoenix Park. I learnt a lot of fascinating facts on the tour; Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde are Irish, whisky is distilled 3 times in Ireland (to be sure, to be sure, to be sure) and I learnt the words to the Ballad of Molly Malone.
By the time the bus arrived back I had just enough time to grab some lunch and head to my afternoon excursion to Malahide Castle and the coastal fishing village of Howth.
The trip to Malahide Castle was just over an hour. I found it fascinating to be in the house of the Talbot family. The original furniture is still intact, the marble fireplace immaculate. There is an eerie family picture where the children’s eyes follow you no matter where you are in the room. The final room, the dining hall, is apparently haunted by one of the jesters Puck. I was a little disappointed to not have picked up his ghost in my photos.
Soon after we were on our way to Howth. This little coastal town is beautiful, with the sun shining, clear water and cloudless sky; I could not have picked a better day. I bought myself fish and chips and sat along the pier listening to a busker lose his Irish accent as he made beautiful music. This is what I pictured Ireland to be, and while only a short distance out of Dublin I was glad to be away from the city noise.
By the time the tour arrived back in Dublin it was dark and my legs made the executive decision to stay in at the hostel. I grabbed myself a coffee and chocolate and lazed in the lounge room watching a group of guys play table tennis, before finally heading to bed.
I was up early again for my final day in the Emerald City. The streets were decorated with the colours of the 2 football teams set to clash that afternoon. I jumped back onto the hop on/hop off bus, this time on a different route into the docklands area. Eventually the route found itself on yesterday’s path and this time I got off at a couple stops to snap up some photos. After wondering through the Temple Bar area and along the River Liffey I was back on O’Connell Street waiting for the airport shuttle. While I waited the streets started spilling over with football fans. There were a lot of pints in people’s hands, jolly singing and banter flowing back and forth between the groups of people. It was good to witness this friendly rivalry between the groups and I couldn’t help but smile at my Dublin farewell.
Once check in and security were out of my way I settled in at my gate with a bar of Baileys chocolate waiting to board the plane back home to London. While I didn’t get to taste Guinness or be swept away in a Riverdance, I did find the craic and was glad for my first solo trip.