Monday, December 6, 2010

The Emerald Isle

So I just got back to Barcelona from my very last European weekend trip.  I would like a moment of silence please, haha.

Any who, I spent the weekend in two cities in Ireland, Dublin and Cork.  It was a very busy weekend with flights every day (Barcelona-Dublin on Friday, Dublin-Cork on Saturday, Cork-Dublin on Sunday, Dublin-Barcelona on Monday), which was very hectic since we had to worry about the air traffic controller strike in Spain (which thank God ended Saturday/Sunday) and all the ice in Ireland.  This got me thinking, why the hell did I book a trip to Ireland in the first weekend of December, why didn’t I go sooner?

Regardless, it was still a good weekend, just a very cold one.  The one thing about Ireland that was different from all the other places I’ve been to is that there were really no major monuments/landmarks to visit; it was more about walking around and enjoying the company of the Irish.

The first thing we (John and I) did in Dublin was go get something to eat at an Irish pub near the hostel, called “The Hairy Lemon.”  Right away we came into contact with the Irish culture.  We ordered a pint of Guinness with our lunch (as did everyone else in the pub) and bantered with the waiter.  The Irish are incredibly friendly, just a step above the British, and I love their humor.  They frequently pull your leg, tease you and banter back and forth with you as a way to be friendly; this is my favorite type of humor/social interaction so I really felt at ease and comfortable talking to the Irish. 

After checking into the hostel, we went to the first Guinness brewery at St James’ Gate.  Now, I’m not that big of a fan of beer but I do have to say that I’ve grown to like the taste of Guinness.  The tour of the brewery was pretty cool but the part that everyone goes for is the chance to have a free pint at the Gravity Bar.  The bar has the best 360° view of Dublin, probably because it’s the tallest building in the city (guess that shows you the Irish’s priorities).

Rest of the day was just walking around Dublin, enjoying what little sunlight we had left (it did get dark at around 4:20ish).  We walked through Temple Bar, the well-preserved medieval section of the city that’s filled with pubs.  We didn’t stop and get a pint though because we already some earlier in the day and we had a very early flight in the morning to catch. 

For dinner, we dinned in Hell.  No not the real hell (it was about 20 degrees in Dublin mind ya), it’s a pizza franchise based in New Zealand.  We stopped to eat there because they had one hell of a deal (12 inch pizza, potato wedges and two glasses of wine for 20€!).  The pizza was soooo good, but I mainly wanted to go there because of the endless possibilities for puns.  Here’s the website if you’re curious.

The next morning we took a flight to Cork, mainly because of it’s proximity to the Blarney Castle.  This is of course the site of the world-famous Blarney Stone, the rock that will give the gift of gab to anyone who kisses it.  Now when I got there, there were two things that I was surprised about.
  1. The castle was actually pretty smaller but the grounds were huge.  I thought it was going to be this grand old castle that had a million rooms and dungeons but it was actually very smaller.  That being said, it was still incredible.  We got to walk through pretty much the entire thing and the place was definitely designed for midgets (or possibly leprechauns, as a friend pointed out), cause John and I had to duck our heads through every doorway.
  2. The actually stone was part of the castle wall.  Originally I thought it was big rock off to the side on the castle grounds that everyone would just leisurely walk up to and kiss it.  No, you actually had to be somewhat brave to make the effort to kiss the stone.  As it’s on the side of the castle wall and there’s a yard gap between the stone and the floor you have to sit down, hold onto two bars and lean backwards to kiss it, as you’re looking at the ground 70 feet away.  Luckily, there were two iron bars there so that if you feel you wouldn’t fall to your deal but it was still pretty unnerving. 
After touring castle we took a stroll on the castle grounds, which I was happy about because I finely got to see “green” Ireland (as all the snow in Dublin prevented me from doing).  After that, there wasn’t much to do in the town except to walk around and see a few local points of interest (like the English market and two churches).

We flew back to Dublin the next day and it was pretty much the same as the first day, walking around seeing the sites.  The best part of the day was sitting down at a pub and enjoying a nice pint.  While we were there, an Irish guy did strike up a conversation with us starting with the apparently popular phrase “what’s cracking?”  We talked about the States (apparently he spent some time in San Diego), what we were doing in Ireland (What the f-ck are you doing here?), and sports (he surprisingly knew a lot of NFL teams).  He was really friendly and it was cool to talk to a local.  In Spain it’s a little more intimidating trying to talk to a local in a bar because you’re not on the same language level as them, but when you travel to other English speaking countries of course it becomes much easier to do so. 

I liked Ireland, and if I were to go back I would go back in the summer (even though I’m from Ohio I’m not made out for cold weather) and I would definitely try to tour more of the countryside.  I guess we’ll save that for another time…

Pictures can be seen here :)

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