After a jam-packed first week in Amsterdam, Budapest, and Vienna, I was very ready to let DIS take over the rest of my travel break. DIS offered trips to places like Portugal, Istanbul, Mallorca, and Russia during our two week travel break, so I decided to sign up for the “Outdoor Ireland” trip for the second week of my break.
Outdoors in Ireland.
I am half Irish and my dad and brother have both visited Ireland, so I decided I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go on an organized trip to a country I had always wanted to visit. I have to admit I wasn’t the most excited about the outdoor aspect of the trip because I don’t like being cold, wet, exercising, etc., but after I spent my first travel week eating an absurd amount of food, I was definitely ready to get moving!
Hiking wasn't so bad when this was the view.
The 30 people on the trip met at 6 a.m. at the Copenhagen airport on Sunday and flew to Dublin together. We would spend the first half of the week in Connemara National Park on the western coast near Galway, and I booked a separate flight so I could stay for the rest of the week and weekend in Dublin. When we got on the bus to Galway, I quickly realized that I had left my Kindle in the seat pocket on the plane. There went all of my reading material for the week. I at least hoped that getting one semi-disastrous incident out of the way would mean that the rest of my week would be great.
The beautiful lodge we stayed at!
It was. We arrived at the Delphi Mountain Resort in Connemara on Sunday and spent a little time wandering around the area by the hotel and taking pictures of the unbelievable scenery. Delphi was literally in the middle of nowhere with mountains on all sides and not another house to be seen. We were pretty tired after our early start and a day full of traveling, so I was looking forward to having dinner at 6 and heading straight to bed pretty soon after that. Oh, was I in for a surprise. Dinner was the most glorious three hour affair I have ever experienced. To all future DISers: if for no other reason, sign up for DIS trips for the food. DIS paid for all three meals a day for us at the lodge, and dinner was the highlight every night. We got to choose from four options for an appetizer, main course, and dessert, and the options changed every night. While it was stressful to decide what to get, knowing you might not get to order it the next night, it was by far some of the best food I’ve ever had.
A typical scene in Ireland.
So much for my “week of healthy exercising”. After completely stuffing myself at dinner and going to bed, I woke up on Monday feeling mostly ready for our first activity. I was concerned we were going to be hiking up one of the nearby mountains, but we actually just did a hill walk around the Killary Fjord and took in the countryside. I got very muddy but survived my first outdoor challenge, mostly propelled by my thoughts of dinner that night.
This was the actual color of the water in the fjord.
My friends Amelia, Toby, Leigh Anna, Erica and I on the hike!
Tuesday was another story. I started my morning by going surfing. In Ireland. In November. I’ve surfed once before in Maine in August and I thought that was bad, but Ireland in November definitely beats it temperature-wise. I really like surfing, but when your entire body is numb after 5 minutes of being in the ocean, the rest of the time isn’t so fun. I was able to ride the first two waves in, but soon after that my muscles were too frozen to do anything except flop onto the board and lie there. When I finally headed in to try and get warm, it took me about 15 minutes to get out of my wet suit. I highly recommend surfing as an activity, just not in very cold water during the winter.
My friends Chelsea and Amelia were a little more enthusiastic about surfing than I was.
Luckily, my afternoon activity of rock climbing was more low-key. We did a climbing apparatus called Jacob’s Ladder and climbed the outdoor rock wall at the lodge. I was just happy that I could feel my hands and feet for most of the time. After another delicious dinner, the group went into the closest town of Leenane to go to one of the two pubs. Most of our other nights were spent reading or doing work on the couches in the lobby/library of the lodge, so we were excited for our “first night out” in Ireland. It was one of the more subdued nights I’ve had since we were pretty much the only people in the pub, but I had fun hanging out with the other DIS kids on the trip.
Amelia and I at the top of Jacob's Ladder.
Wednesday was both one of the hardest and one of the most exciting days I’ve ever had. My morning activity was something I had never heard of before: coasteering. The premise is this: while wearing a helmet, wetsuit and sneakers, scramble along the rocks by the coast of the water and attempt not to fall to your death. Do a shallow dive into the water and swim along the coast a little bit, then let the waves push you in so you can climb back onto the rocks and scramble along some more. Do two very high cliff jumps into a narrow gorge and swim into a cave, where you will be slammed around as waves rush into the cave. Panic and scream for help and have everyone pretty much ignore you, then follow the group out and climb back up the rocks. Walk back to your starting point with your hands in your armpits, trying to stay warm. Ponder how you are still alive.
Climbing along the coast during coasteering.
Cliff jumping during coasteering!
That was my morning. Once again, the freezing cold water had a bit of a detrimental effect on my state of mind, but coasteering was still the craziest activity I have ever done. A few of my friends did it again in the afternoon, but I couldn’t face the cold water again and went kayaking instead. That was probably a mistake because I am the world’s worst kayaker and really don’t like it, but we kayaked in a beautiful area and I at least got to appreciate the scenery.
Part of the lake we kayaked on in Connemara.
On Thursday we woke up early to drive to Dublin. I was sad to leave the delicious food at Delphi, but I hoped the atmosphere of Dublin would make up for it! After arriving about four and a half hours after leaving Connemara and checking into our hotel, we went on a walking tour of the city tied to the 1916 Easter rebellion of the Irish Repubican Brotherhood against the British. That event began the Irish struggle against the British that finally led to their independence in 1922. It was nice to get oriented to the city and hear some of the history. After the tour, I walked through Trinity College Dublin, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world.
I felt so famous.
I wouldn't mind going to school here!
The group met up again at a pub that night for a Musical Pub Crawl. Two Irish musicians took us to three different pubs, played a variety of folk songs, jigs, and reels, and told us about the history of the instruments and the music. The musicians were really talented and personable, and it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. When the official tour was over, one of the musicians told us he was playing a jam session at another bar. Most of us wanted to go hear him play some more, but I would up with the group that was given completely wrong directions. After wandering far away from the nightlife of Dublin for 45 minutes, we figured out where we were actually supposed to be and made it to the right pub just in time to see everyone else leaving. The night still turned out great. A group of Irish youth took us to a trendy bar/club that my friend Sarah and I turned into our personal dance floor for the rest of the night.
Sammy, Chelsea and I at the start of the Musical Pub Crawl.
The DIS trip ended on Friday, so most of my friends went back to Copenhagen. A few weeks earlier I had decided to stay in Dublin until Sunday with a few friends on the trip, so I was glad that I had more time to explore the city. We saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral, the two most famous churches in Dublin. I had another typical Irish lunch of delicious and hearty food before visiting the Dublin Writer’s Museum. Dublin was home to writers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and W.B. Yeats, so as an English major I was excited to learn more about the literary history of the city. The museum was interesting but had so much information that it was overwhelming and a little monotonous.
Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.
Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
The rest of the night was definitely not boring. We went to a sports bar to have dinner and watch the Ireland vs. Estonia soccer match to determine which team would go to the European Championship next year. Even though we were new fans, it was so much fun to watch the game in a bar filled with extremely enthusiastic Irish people, especially since Ireland won! We stayed at the bar to celebrate and dance after the game, then went to the Temple Bar district to wander for the rest of the night. Temple Bar is an area filled with pubs, bars, live music, and tourists. I would understand not wanting to go there if you lived in Dublin, but if you’re looking for a lot of lights, sounds and people then it’s a good place to be.
My friends Amelia, Julie and I at the sports bar to watch the soccer game.
On Saturday I met up with my friend Emily that was also in Dublin for the weekend. We walked around St. Stephen’s Green, a really pretty park near Trinity College, then I met my friends I was staying with at the Guinness Storehouse. I’m not a beer drinker, but the Storehouse was great! I learned all about how beer is made, saw Guinness advertisements from all different eras, and learned how to pour the perfect Guinness.
By a fountain in St. Stephen's Green.
The beer I poured at the Guinness Storehouse!
We somehow stayed at the Storehouse for almost three hours, so I only had a little time left in the afternoon to see another attraction. I found my way to the house that Joyce set his story “The Dead” in, then noticed a branch of the National Museum across the river. There was free entry so I saw some exhibits on the Irish and war through the ages, typical country furniture, and Irish fashion. I met up with Emily again on one of the main shopping streets to do some browsing and ate a quick dinner before heading back to the hostel. We had run into another DIS girl the day before that had told us how much fun she had had on a pub crawl she did, so we decided to sign up for that. In general, I don’t really like pub crawls because of how touristy they are, but if you’re going to do one then the Ireland pubs are the place to start!
15 Usher's Island- where James Joyce set "The Dead" from Dubliners.
I woke up on Sunday and couldn’t believe I had already been in Ireland for a week. I wasn’t ready to leave! As a last hurrah, I convinced Emily to visit the National Leprechaun Museum with me. It was hilarious. We learned about Irish folklore and fairytales, got to sit in giant chairs, and had to draw pictures at the end based on what we learned (I made a Lepre-Quinn). For lunch we met up with some of Emily’s friends from her university and went to a pub for lunch. I got an AMAZING turkey and cranberry sauce (my obsession) sandwich and carrot soup. While I didn’t want to leave Ireland, the size of my stomach by the end of the week convinced me that it was time to go.
Emily and I in one of the giant chairs at the National Leprechaun Museum.
We made it to the airport with enough time for me to pick up my Kindle from the lost and found (yay!), and I was back in my room in Copenhagen at 11:30pm that night. Being abroad has made me realize how much I love traveling, but I can’t tell you how happy I was to be in my own bed after two weeks of craziness. But the traveling doesn’t stop there… my Thanksgiving weekend adventures are coming soon!