This past weekend was my final weekend abroad, this weekend I will be heading to Florence to catch my plane back to Seattle. Fortunately, time and money permitted me to visit many places while I’ve been studying. My original plan was to stick to Siena, and only travel with the AHA program for pre-planned excursions. But, I’ve been blessed to be able to make it to my top three European countries. I’ve been studying in Italy, I traveled to Spain only a couple of weeks ago and this past weekend I made my way to Dublin, Ireland.
Weekend trips aren’t enough time to fully enjoy a city, but going for two days is better than none. The trip was short, but extremely sweet. I went with a few friends of mine and we all had the same agenda: eat good food, visit the Guinness factory, visit the Jameson factory and see what the Dublin night life is all about. I am proud to say that in two days, we accomplished all of these tasks and more.
Day one, we settled into our hotel and headed out early to catch a nice Irish breakfast. Let me clear something up before I go into detail about our delicious meal; I love Italian food. However, being American, I’m a big fan of large breakfasts, I’m talkin’ sausage, eggs, biscuits, potatoes, the works. In Italy, the daily coffee and small pastry really doesn’t cut it.
We found a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with a delicious spread of breakfast foods: meat, potatoes, and sweets lined up in a buffet style. This wasn’t your average, run of the mill buffet where most everything tastes like the grease and preservatives that the food has been swimming in, on the contrary this food was very fresh and palate pleasing. I’m craving it now as I type this. My plate included some classic sausage links, potatoes, scrambled eggs, some thick cuts of homemade Guinness breads, some English tea and these little dark patties that I was told was bread pudding. Everything looked phenomenal, the boys and I were in an Irish-breakfast heaven. The place was so good, that we made sure to wake up early the next morning to try it a second time before leaving.
Next on our agenda was a quick train ride to the coastline in a small port-town called Howth. It’s a beautiful little salty sea town. It reminded me of the Puget Sound back home, the smell of the northern coast, seagulls flying every which way and the sound of boats rumbling by. It was beautiful. Luckily there was a Saturday market happening this weekend, so we made a quick stop to check things out. Although we had just stuffed ourselves at breakfast, we found enough room to buy a couple of these delicious hand-made cupcakes, I bought the sinfully good red velvet cake one and Michael got himself a coconut vanilla raspberry one. With our desserts in hand, we walked out to the boardwalk to stare out into the water and soak up the sights and smells. We only stayed a couple of hours but after snapping a few pictures and walking around we had taken full advantage of the time we had.
Our last obligation was to head to the Guinness factory. When we arrived, I seriously felt like Charlie when he spotted the gates into Willy Wonka’s factory. I could barely contain my excitement. Guinness is my favorite beer, and I’ve waited over six months to even have one, just so I could try the real thing in the factory. We easily spent several hours touring the factory, learning about all of the ins and outs of the company; from its history, to its influence and importance to the city of Dublin. It was all very interesting and the tour was very interactive and modern. My favorite part of the tour –besides the free pint of Guinness at the 360 degree bar at the top — was probably the advertising and marketing section. Guinness has had some of the most influential marketing campaigns in ad history and it was very cool to get an inside look at all of these tactics at the source.
The night was coming to an end, but we still needed to finish off strong. We made our way downtown to a stretch of pubs and clubs that we wanted to see. The first pub we went to was straight out of a movie. It was a small little pub with a group of old men and women playing fiddles and flutes in the corner, singing Irish drinking songs, while the bartender stood on the bar screaming out orders and collecting money. The place was perfect, everyone was cheerful and the mood was just right. We even had a chance to meet a group of people, around the same age as us, that were doing their own sort of pub crawl. They called it the “12 pubs of Christmas”. They all dressed up in ugly Christmas sweaters and were making their way through 12 different pubs, grabbing a Guinness in each one and making sure to make themselves known along the way. It was a memorable night that I will cherish.
The second day, after eating breakfast, we headed to the Jameson factory. It was in the early afternoon, but we had a game plan to stick to, and besides, when in Dublin! So we made our way to the factory, took the tour, had a nice Jameson tasting session which was very interesting and it all ended so quickly! At this point we had the rest of the day to make a plan, we made our way to Europe’s largest park, Phoenix Park, where we walked and talked enjoying the scenery. Eventually we made our way to a restaurant to get a late lunch. We were welcomed into the place with smiles from the bartenders. We placed our orders, and were lucky enough to get the bartenders to dial the TV’s onto all the soccer games playing that day and even the American football games. We ended up staying there for nearly five hours, eating, drinking, playing darts and watching sports. It was one of the highlights of my trip abroad. It was so simple but it really encompassed everything that I loved about this trip. The sweetness of doing nothing, really staying in the present moment, not worrying about what’s coming next but just enjoying the ride along the way. We had plenty of laughs and made some great memories here.
The next morning we were headed on our Ryan Air flight back to Rome to make our final stay in Siena. The Dublin trip did not disappoint. Every time I go to a new city it seems like it always one ups the one before. But truthfully, Dublin was my favorite city of all the major ones I visited. Mainly due to the people. The people there are so ridiculously friendly, helpful, and caring. We were often asked by random people if we needed any help getting around — because for some reason they thought we looked like a bunch of tourists, I wonder why — and whenever we asked for help or directions, people were always so kind and patient. The city wasn’t the most active, and didn’t have the most elegant buildings or fancy museums or anything, but it was just right. It is how it is, it’s beautiful in its own way, it’s fun, the food is great and the people really make the difference. I can’t wait to go again. I think that the next time I’m in Europe, Ireland will be my main destination.
Only one week left, but I’m glad I’ve been able to see and do all of the things I’ve done while I’ve been in Europe. Cheers.