In March of 2012 I was a junior in college and I was completely miserable. I kept myself busy by being an active member of my sorority and studying for organic chemistry (which despite my perseverance, I would not pass that semester). I had met Brandon, my husband, about 4 months prior playing beer pong in a college dorm room, but we still didn’t have a label and it had been 5 months of seeing each other. My roommates bailed on me for my midnight 21st birthday plans and I was devastated that I wouldn’t have any plans. I was going to be missing my entire 21st birthday because of the time change flying to Ireland with my study abroad class, so I really wanted to do something over night in Atlantic City. Luckily, my friends from home pulled off a great night despite all the set backs.
One thing I don’t recommend doing is getting on a 7 hour plane ride to Ireland hung over. I puked at least 7 times on what was arguably the worst plane ride of my life. Since my roommates bailed I had a few friends from home that promised to take me out. I got plastered and ended up face down in a plate of chicken tenders double fisting margaritas in a buffet in Atlantic City at 4am. We ended up stuck in the city because there was a storm and the road leaving the city to go home was underwater. Upon hearing this from my friend who was a bit frantic I yelled, “YOLO” and continued to chug my margaritas. Needless to say I felt like death for the 24 hours that followed. I tried to sleep on the plane but that was not working because I was puking every 45 minutes. I barely remember the airport in Dublin. The first vivid memory I remember having was on the bus to the first hotel. I looked out my window and saw a side street, the sun barely past the tops of the row homes, and I felt like I was in a movie because it looked so cliché Europe. I snapped a photo so I wouldn’t forget and posted it to my Instagram account with an embarrassingly terrible filter.
I remembered in middle school my French teacher talked to us about elevators being a luxury in hotels, but I forgot about it until we got to our first hotel in Dublin right on the River Liffey. I hauled my two suitcases up to my room on the 3rd floor while I tried not to vomit. Our professor told us not to go to bed so we would get use to the time change but screw that. I slept for a good six hours until dinner and I was not sorry.
We ate in the hotel that night and the food was better than literally anything I’ve ever eaten in the United States. There aren’t words in the English language that could describe the mashed potatoes I ate. Perfect. God. Delicious. It might have been my hangover talking, but I would trade my arms in for a plate of those mashed potatoes right about now.
After dinner we went out. By “we” I mean about 6 of the girls. We all walked down O’Connell street and found the temple bar district. One thing I learned is to order rounds if you are with a large group because the bartenders are ridiculously overwhelmed. They get really pissed when you order 6 different ones drinks at once. Also, if you can stick to beer and shots, do that. Skip the cocktails. It’s customary to take turns buying the rounds rather than everyone paying separately. So if you’re with a group suck it up and take turns buying rounds, the bar tender will thank you.
After 3 beers and however many slippery nipple shots we ended up in a McDonald’s where we were soon escorted out by police. My friend Megan was (as the Irish would say) langered and jumping and dancing on tables inside. The customers seemed to find it amusing, but the manager and the angry bald headed cop did not. So we finished drunk eating McDonald’s cross legged on the statue out front.
The next few days we walked around the college, saw a few monuments, saw an old prison Kilmainham Gaol (I write a little bit about that here!) which was terrifying and probably haunted by little kids from the famine, St. Patrick’s cathedral (if you haven’t been there, GO.) and went to the Guinness brewery (which is a must see! There is nothing like drinking a Guinness and looking out over all of Dublin!).
We went to Belfast next from what I remember. We saw Bushmills distillery and drank 30 year old whiskey and bought a phone cases in a local “pound shop” which is the UK version of a dollar store. Coincidentally it was much nicer than any dollar store I’d ever been in. We also went to a really cool bar/night club there where the ground floor is a pub and the first floor is a night club. I had a beer spilled all over me and we got in a fight with some guy who kept calling us “dumb fat Americans” so he got a few drinks thrown in his face. Around 11pm the lights turned on and we watched as a skinny pale guy ran through the crowd butt naked with 3 policemen struggling to run after him. He was ultimately tackled to the ground. #OnlyInIreland
We ended up in Derry next which was really cool too. Another thing I learned is that as a tourist just call it Derry. Do not call it Free Derry or London Derry because then you are picking a side in a heated argument you don’t want to be a part of. Most of our teaching moments came here. If you aren’t familiar with Ireland and it’s recent history, Derry is the site of the Battle of the Bogside between the Catholics and Great Britain. This was one of the very first conflicts during “the troubles”. We received a tour starting at the church where the Catholics descended on their march and then ended down to where the blood bath took place and then into a museum which contained artifacts from the battle as well as letters from the British army to the families of those killed. The buildings along this path are painted with controversial and political murals by Bobby Sands who led our tour. The tour was amazing and extremely well done.
On our way back to Dublin we stopped at Giant’s Causeway which is made up of beautiful cliffs and strangely shaped rocks surrounded by legend. There are a few different versions of the story, but the one I was taught says that a giant named Finn McCool was angry at another giant in Scotland Benandonner. Finn decided to take huge chunks of the cliffs and throw them into the water so he could cross and teach him a lesson. Benandonner turns out to be much bigger than Finn and so Finn retreats. When benandonner shows up to challenge him Finn’s wife disguises him as their child and Benandonner leaves assuming that because the child is so large, Finn must be gigantic. The rocks are what was left over of the crossing from centuries ago. In reality, the rocks were probably formed from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, but locals continue to tell the stories and believe the myths. This was, by far, the most amazing part of my travels. There is just something about millions of years old natural rock formations that get me every single time.
We shortly thereafter returned to Dublin and we packed for our journey home the next morning. I was devastated and did not want to leave. We had so much fun with our tour guide, I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but he was fantastic. One of my favorite moments includes him taking a coffin off the wall, jumping inside, pretending to be dead, and reenacting an Irish Funeral in the middle of a restaurant in Dublin. I had fallen in love with the city of Dublin, the people, and the history of Ireland. I knew that I had to return.
Fast forward 8 years later and here I am. Planning a return visit with my Husband Brandon, my parents, and my in-laws for Brandon’s 30th Birthday. I am so overjoyed that I will get the chance to share this country with the people I love. We have a lot of really fun things planned and will even get to explore a little bit of my husband’s ancestry.
If you have had any experience with Galway, Hook Head, or the Cliffs of Moher, OR if you know any really good places to eat in Dublin comment below! We would love to try them.
Check out my gallery of all of my Ireland photographs below. I apologize for the poor quality. It was 2012 and the iPhone camera wasn’t the greatest.