Two weeks ago, Crystal and I left the country for the first time since our arrival in Spain. We didn’t have classes because of La Semana Santa (Holy Week), so we made plans to go to Dublin, Ireland and after I would go to London, England and she would go to Liverpool, England. We booked our flights for the Thursday before break, so we would have to miss class that Friday, but doing so would save us a ton of money. Flights on that day were only 40 euros compared to the 100 or more euros that other flights cost. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. There was an incredibly valid reason that flights were so cheap on that day, and we were unaware of it until a few weeks before the actual flight. Mind you, we booked them back in February. The date we picked to fly out was the same date as a nationwide huelga or strike. Everyone in the country was boycotting work in protest of the lack of jobs and of the unemployment rate, among other factors. Because of this, half the flights were cancelled for that day; there weren’t enough workers for them to fly out. We spent a week going back and forth to the airport, emailing people, and trying to figure out whether or not our flight would be one that was cancelled. We couldn’t book our hostal until we knew when we would be arriving to Ireland, so we needed to figure it all out. Luckily, two days before we were suppose to leave, we finally got confirmation and found out that our flight was actually going to be on time.
We quickly booked one of the last hostals available: Dublin International Youth Hostal. The room in the hostal was dorm-style, which meant we would be sharing the room with six other people. Uncomfortable but cheap. When we go there, the quality of the hostal exceeded my expectations. It used to be an old church, so everything had an eerily old and sacred feel to it. When you walked in the front door, there was a small lounge and a long reception desk. The people were incredibly welcoming and friendly, all of them eager to help us with our questions. Beyond that room was another small room with a line of vending machines to the left, a line of computers pressed against the back wall, a couple chairs and a pool table in the middle. Crystal and I had the chance to shoot a couple rounds when we were there and show off our not-so-professional pool skills. Our actual room was pretty bland and normal. There were four bunk beds in a line, each divided by a bright blue locker. At the far end was a sink and a window shaped like half a canoe and the paint was peeling. There were red and blue comforters on each of the beds and blue sheets that weren’t of the cleanest quality. Thankfully, we were given fresh white linens to put over them and a new pillow case for some of the flattest pillows I’ve ever seen. The showers were amusement-park style with a pull curtain and a push-button to operate the water. It was so much fun to push it every three minutes, especially when there was conditioner in my hard (oh the joys of sarcasm!). The coolest part of the hostal, however, was the dining area. It was the chapel part of this old church, and it was fully intact with stained-glass windows and a confessional booth against the far wall. The food was pretty standard, with toast, jam, cereal and drink options. We ate most mornings pretty quickly before heading out on the town.
The first thing I noticed was that the Irish people are some of the NICEST people you will ever meet. The second I got off the plane, I felt welcome and at home. It might have been their chipper attitude or the fact that they spoke my language or maybe there was something in the water, but it was a nice contrast to the stern etiquette of many people here in Spain. People were singing on the streets and playing their guitars or dancing. Night life was a mix of older generation people and younger generation people, which I thought was a bit strange. In Spain, the nightlife is all “jovenes,” but in Dublin, there were quite a bit of middle-age and elderly people out and about on the town, quite the refreshing mix. When we left the airport, I also realized, as we were riding on a double-decker bus (that’s right a real-life double-decker!), that people drive on the left side of the road, which got confusing every time I wanted to cross the road. When you’re in your own country, you definitely take advantage of the fact that you know the rules on how to cross. In Ireland, I had no clue and almost got hit by a couple cars.
Our first full day there, we went to the Dublin Zoo with one of Crystal’s friends from high school who is studying there and saw a tiger up-close and some penguin procreation. From there, we went to the Temple Bar area, which is the main strip in Dublin. There are bars, restaurants and ice cream shops to make everyone’s heart content. That night, went to the original Temple Bar, and I had my first Guinness beer in honor of my dad who has always dreamed of having one beer in an Irish pub 🙂 We also toured the Guinness factory, which was awesome, and I got to pour the “perfect pint of Guinness” behind a simulation of an actual bar. I ended up getting a certificate for it and felt proud of my sham achievement (they gave certificates to everyone!). There were at least seven floors to this factory, and we got to see old advertisements, follow the fermentation process (oh chemistry!), and sample little things of Guinness. I couldn’t help but laugh at one of the sign in the factory that said, “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”
We also went on a free walking tour of Dublin, with an energetic Irish man named Richie. We learned all about the history of Dublin and the constant struggle for freedom, as well as a lot about Oscar Wilde, an Irish native, and Jonathan Swift and his Modest Proposal about eating babies. On the tour, we passed a club owned by Bono of U2 and heard the story about how he was once kicked out of that same bar back in the day. On the tour, I also heard the story about how “the luck of the Irish” is actually quite the ironic phrase, because Irish people are just about as unlucky as they come, or so Richie said. So the ancient stereotype about little men running around with pots of gold is actually a hoax, though souvenir shops definitely exploit the image and Ireland is one big shade of green.
I also got to try this traditional U.K. sandwich, called a pasty and Guinness beef stew 🙂 Yum. On the day we left, I got my hair cut at a sketchy little Chinese place, but it turned out fabulous and made me super happy. The city was pretty expensive, and I ended up spending more than I would have liked it, but it was worth it to feel the Irish ambiance. My favorite part was probably walking along the river at night, because it was all lit up with green and red light, and was absolutely beautiful 🙂 Another of my favorites was this little bar called The Quays (pronounced The Keys). There was live music every night by two guys on their guitars and they played some of the best classic rock sounds surprisingly well. The only drawback that it was crowded every time we went, even Sunday, but hey, I guess the people know when they hear something good.
Hasta la próxima!