Adding to the series of posts about my travels, this post is all about my time in Ireland. If you’re looking for specific travel advice, check out these Overview tips I wrote here: So You Wanna Go To Europe? Admittedly, we (my traveling companion @BrianBosen and I) did not get to see ALL of Ireland, so most of this post will be about several nights in Dublin, one day in Galway, and a quick trip to Howth. Also, because this is the first chapter of SYWGTE and Ireland was our first (and last) visit in Europe, many of the tips will include first arriving in Europe.
(“cheers”, but.. more on this later)
Our first day in Dublin was purely figuring out our arrival and lodging. We mistakenly thought that Bosen’s phone would work on Wifi to keep communication on Facebook or WhatsApp. Not the case, so we had a bit of an adventure trying to figure out what we think the other person would do in the case of zero communication. WWBrianD ? (insert VideoGameHighSchool joke here) So the first piece of advice traveling with other people:
Luckily, we’ve traveled so extensively together that we were able to accurately guess each other’s actions despite planning on meeting at Temple Bar, which we thought was a bar, but is actually an entire area of bars. We would have definitely benefitted from having a better plan, so if you’re not meeting at the airport, make sure you have a solid meet up location (know the address, the area of town, and close by landmarks in case you have to explain yourself). Once you’re settled:
Visit Temple Bar area.
What’s great about this touristy area of bars is that there tends to be live music at most of the bars. It’s full of tourists. Who cares? Go grab a Smithwick’s, don’t pronounce it phonetically, and enjoy live music in an area that embraces it. (Bonus points to whoever can tell me why John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” is so popular over there. Definitely caught me off guard.) Almost every bar we went to had talented musicians playing covers, several local drafts to choose from, and people out who are pretty friendly and like to drink beer. Dublin is the most expensive place to be in all of Ireland, so don’t be surprised if beer costs more than you would think. I was actually really really surprised that Jameson and Guinness wasn’t cheaper, but it definitely does not cost any less while you’re over there. Oh, and not really a tip, but:
Tipping is not the same as the United States.
The first night we were in Dublin, we tipped 4euro on a 12euro round of beers, and you would have thought we either transformed into small children who can’t be alone for more than 2 minutes or international VIP rock stars who must not be ignored by the bartender. This was a very normal tip for us in the States, but much more odd in Dublin (and when it happens, they love to bleed the tourists dry of their tipping cash). If the bar is really busy and you want to make sure you’ll continue getting service, tip away. Though, every time I chose not to tip, I could feel my American bartender friends smiling for every time a European has stiffed them tips.. From what people told me, bartenders in Ireland (and Europe?) are paid a “living wage” and tipping is not as socially normal as it is in the States. If you order food, then I think it was the standard 15-18% .. but feel free to ask for yourself.
It’s worth it. It’s only 18euro (probably cheaper if you order online or go in the morning). It’s a 7-story brewery, museum, beer experience. Skip pass the massive, mall-sized merchandise and souvenir shop and get straight to the tour introduction. The rest of the tour is at your own leisure with multiple options of what you want to do. Armed with our single drink tickets, we trekked through the history of Guinness, the business, aromatics, tasting room, and rooftop bar. Definitely visit the aromatics and the tasting room, where they teach you what to look for in smell and how to appropriately drink/taste this stout. We had the option of getting an official pour certificate but didn’t feel like waiting in the long line. Furthermore, we were excited to get upstairs to the Gravity Bar, which has the best near-365degree view of Dublin in the entire city. I recommend grabbing your most delicious, best-tasting Guinness ever (I’m ruined. I don’t think I can ever drink it again.) while up there. And then write about! I met a New Zealander journalist taking pictures upstairs, and he mentioned how he gets paid to travel and write about his experiences.. (uhmmm.. *cough* dream job? Did I mention, please share this blog?) Anyway, since you’re spending money seeing the Storehouse and drinking beer, you should try to save money where you can:
Go to the Grocery Store and Cook Your Own Food
Sorry, Ireland (and most of our Eurotrip).. we found your food to be terribly underwhelming (why is there no hot sauce anywhere?). And fairly expensive compared to what we can get in the States. Going to any grocery store in any foreign country is already kind of a fun, so go do it to see what different products they have, how much price varies from us, and any unusual foods that you notice. There are definitely a handful of dishes you should try that locals can tell you about, like a traditional “fry” with black pudding (not what you think it is) and a late night trip to a Chipper (french fries.. and, you’ll notice a theme across Northern Europe). Otherwise, if it’s possible, go grab food and cook it up. It’s so much cheaper, and I think the cost of eating out isn’t worth the cost of the food you’ll get.. (at least during our budget-conscious trip). There is ONE food we ate that must be done:
Some of the best food we had during our entire trip. We knew that we wanted to have authentic fish n chips, and we asked around for where that may be.. we were informed that a small fishing town north of Dublin is the place to go, and wow, we are so happy that we chose to do so. To get there, we were fortunate enough to get a ride from our wonderful friends, Emer and her boyfriend Garret. It was roughly a 40minute drive with quaint Irish roads with views of the water and little buildings.. It’s right on the harbor, which has countless postcard-esque picture opportunities, so walk along the seawall after you’ve enjoyed these daily caught breaded delights. You can choose the type of fish you want, how you want it cooked, and the dipping sauces that you want to come with it. There are no wrong answers. Other than the traditional cod fish n chips, we particularly liked the smoked haddock..
Take the Bus
Take public transit in general. The experience alone is a comfort zone expanding adventure. It’s definitely more difficult than just jumping into a cab or Uber, but what’s the fun in that? Try challenging yourself to get around and risk getting lost. Who cares? You’re on vacation.. you’re on an expedition. And it’s cheaper. With phone apps and the internet, it’s relatively easy to figure out how to get around and how much transportation costs. I was suggested to use CityMapper, but mainly just used Google Maps.. Ideally, order your ticket from a bus stop kiosk/machine/stand, or keep a little cash on hand and be ready to drop it in the counter up front for the driver. Even if you hold up the line like the tourist that you are, whatever. Go find a spot to sit in the middle (fairly close to the door), smile as you fight the urge to take selfies, and offer your seat if someone elderly gets on the bus. And if you get to a stop that looks like a fun place to explore, by all means.. Go make memories.
If you’ve ever partied with me before, you know that I love a good “cheers” and take this part of social drinking a huge priority of my #PartyLife experience (excessively so, at times). When you go to the Guinness Factory, they’ll teach you to say “slainte” (sounds like “slahn-cha” kinda?). And this is great and all, but if you just yell cheers and smile and clink glasses, you’re pretty much always going to be okay. I’m pretty sure that this “cheers to good health” is in old Irish (Gaelic), but is more just novelty than actual usage. If you meet fun people, strike up a conversation, buy them a beer, and ask them what pub you should all head to next. We met so many fun, wonderful (funderful?) people while out and about.
Fall in Love
I made the decision to fall in Love every chance I got in Europe. Sometimes with fellow travelers, or from people we meet out at the bars, or sometimes with a certain place that made my decision to travel seem right, even sometimes from a 5minute conversation with a server at a pub. Keep falling in Love. I think it opens up your heart/mind for the experience of travel whether from a certain beer or food that reminds you you’re on an adventure or maybe from that beautiful blonde in Dublin whom you have a great connection with.. Love is openness, travel is experience, so I chose to Love the experience and all the people/places that came with it (more on this in a future post). While out on a Thursday night, we were told we had to do this:
So the next day, we took a bus and checked out Galway for a night and day. Do it! It’s smaller and feels like a more authentic Ireland experience. All of the restaurants, bars, hostels, and everything are all within walking distance of each other, and everyone is really friendly and on vacation. It’s very much a weekend destination, so be aware of what day it is and book your hostel early (or couch surf). We met a number of incredible people and laughed the evening away. The night life is fun, but remember that partying can be done anywhere.. make sure you get rest so that you can:
By far, this was the most breath-taking natural wonder that I witnessed during my trip. There is some amazing footage of the cliffs that I’ll post another time (Thanks GoPro!), but you must go see it for yourself. These cliffs are the second tallest in all of Europe, and from what we were told, they have the most spectacular view. (Though, we did almost go to the Aran Isles instead of Cliffs of Moher solely because it sounded like people were saying “Iron Isles” and we love Game of Thrones, so yea.) Anyway, these cliffs are gorgeous and at the top of my list for something you must see while in Ireland. Seeing these cliffs and listening to all the history and stories that we were told on the tour bus rides definitely felt touristy but felt right. Go see the Cliffs of Moher!
If you’ve been to Ireland and have any other suggestions, please add them in a comment or contact me!
Travel Safe. Travel Fun.
Love Life. Live Your Dream.
Go check out Ireland, Friends!