In honor of one of my favorite holidays (duh.) St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve decided to put together a little list of some of my favorite memories from Ireland. I’ve been to the Emerald Isle almost 10 times in the last 3 years, so it has definitely become like a second home to me in a lot of ways.
Coming from a very proud Irish family, I’ve always celebrated St. Patricks Day to the extreme including a lot of green, a lot of shamrocks and eating a very not Irish, but traditional nonetheless, meal. For as long as I can remember, we had a list of ‘Irish’ traditions we would do every St. Patrick’s Day and it wasn’t until I got to college (#homeschooler) that I realized it wasn’t everyone who was so extreme about the holiday. This year is going to be one for the books, since last year I was living in a very non Irish location: France.
But this year, I’m so excited to go hang out and listen to some traditional music, eat some fish and chips, drink some Guinness and celebrate with the other 39 million Irish Americans. Cheers to another year of orange, white and green!
Favorite Ireland moments (in no particular order):
1. First time in Dublin: The first time I ever travelled alone, I touched down in Dublin alone and completely disorientated. I was trying to find the train station, on my way to Belfast, and I was completely exhausted from jet-lag. I remember getting off the bus from the airport, at a crossstreet which is now as familiar to me as where I grew up, and having no idea what to do with myself. At this moment a man from the station came up to me and asked me if I needed help (crying lamb that I probably looked like). He led me up to the right station, all the while talking me through my anxiety, jet-lag and referring to me as ‘love.’ Having that first taste of Ireland really imprinted on me (to this day) and set me up for falling in love with Ireland. I didn’t even have to spend 24 hours there before I was completely taken in.
2. Cliffs of Moher: This was on my Spring Break trip last year, and was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. It was like ripping a page out of a Jane Austen novel and replaying it in real life. The cliffs were insane – as beautiful as if they had been painted, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be that in awe of something, again.
3. Couchsurfing in Galway: After an unfortunate episode of being robbed in France, I had little to no desire to be there anymore, so I bought a plane ticket to Ireland for a few days (cheaper than flying home). I met one of the most amazing German/Irish couples and got to spend the day with them showing me around Galway. It was a truly one of a kind experience living with the locals and I loved the bus ride across Ireland, on the way there.
4. Traditional Irish Breakfasts (always): Can I just say, the way to my heart is through Irish food. I don’t care who down talks it, it is my favorite thing and I’ll take it any day to the elaborate dishes of France. To be specific, I love Irish breakfasts and every time I’ve visited the country I’ve had my share of beautiful ones.
5. Pub Crawl: I never thought I would be someone who would enjoy a pub crawl (mainly because I’m allergic to alcohol), but I really loved the going on pub crawls while I was staying at Isaacs Hostel (which is, in fact, the best hostel in Ireland to stay at). The best part of the crawl is definitely meeting people from all over the world. I love meeting new friends and hearing their stories – it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of solo travel, and one of the reasons I insist on continuing to do it.
6. Book of Kells: This comes with another tale of hospitality in Ireland and my broke little au pair self wanting to see some beautiful monk artwork. In short, the Book of Kells is one of the most beautiful (and oldest) works of illustrated literature you’ll ever see. But it is kind of pricy to get it. Luckily there was an angel of a hostel worker who had a free pass she had been saving and she gave it to me, to go see the book. I was so in awe and so grateful.
7. Dunmore Caves: Definitely one of the creepier things I’ve done on my travels (right up there with The Catacombs in Paris) mainly because walking underground where there was a mass murder of women and children generally isn’t an uplifting experience. But the scientist in me needed to examine the stalactites and stalagmites so down down down I went. The story of the Dunmore cave is basically a story about how the Danes, Norwegians and Irish were all fighting each other and slaughtering each other and bad things happen. All three of my kinfolk – lovely, huh?
8. Trying Guinness for the first time: As I said, I don’t drink. My body does not like alcohol and I have no interest in killing my liver in order to satisfy the masses. BUT. I do drink Guinness while I’m in Ireland. I may only be able to make it (baaaaaaarely) through a half-pint, but I actually do really enjoy it and I’m more than happy to order as long as I’m traveling through Ireland. NOTE: It DOES NOT taste the same in the U.S.
9. Getting a tattoo: Once upon a time I met a very beautiful tattooed ginger man who was very much in a relationship, but still counts as the best 30 minute investment in my tattoo ink I’ve ever decided to have done. That sentence didn’t really makes sense, but you get the point. There’s something perfect about having a tattoo from Ireland. I love the idea that I’m carrying something from there around with me, always.
10. Sitting on the banks of the Liffey: It isn’t always sunny and warm in Dublin, but when it is, it’s one of the most beautiful moments you could ask for. One of my favorite things to do when I travel there is to just go sit on the banks of the river Liffey and ponder life. It sounds corny, but it actually is a necessary step in traveling – having those spots to reflect. I’ve always said that my mind is the most clear when I’m in Ireland, and I’ll hold true to that, to this day.