The Luck of the Irish

Peterson_1_1Apologizing ahead of time for the long post… Hi Guys! I’m Sydney and I am studying abroad in Rome this Spring Quarter. Before that (well currently) I am traveling around Dublin and the UK for Spring Break. So without further adieu, Dublin!

Woah. I can’t believe it’s Thursday already and I’ve been on my own for almost a week. It’s weird to think about it. Anyways, I may as well start at the beginning. After going to my last class and saying goodbye to my preschoolers I headed off to the airport. I was running a bit late and was a little worried, but it turned out my flight was delayed 45 minutes anyways. Once on the flight I figured I’d do my normal thing… watch some movies, browse the internet if possible and read some books, but nope. I did exactly the opposite. I slept the entire 8 and something hour flight. The only other time this has ever happened to me was on the trip home from China where I slept 13 hours straight. I guess dead week must have really kicked me in the butt. Plus, after getting off my plane and practically getting lost in Heathrow since it’s so large, I slept on my hour or so flight to Dublin as well. I guess I was just crazy tired.

Once I got to Dublin a very nice woman at the information desk informed me I needed to catch bus 41 to get to the city centre where I was staying. However, she did not tell me there were two bus 41’s and that their bus stops were literally right next to each other. So there I am, walking to the bus stop (which I got lost trying to find as well) and watching the bus pull away from me. I’m just thinking great, I’ll just sit here a little longer. So I ended up chatting up some nice elderly couple who asked me why I was there and told me a bit about themselves. I watched a different 41 come and go (not knowing that was my bus) and eventually “my” bus pulled up and I stated where I went. The bus driver was so nice when he told me I was at the wrong bus stop and I’m just thinking great, here we go again. So after finally getting on the right 41 and heading into the city center, I found my hostel.

Now, you must know I booked my accommodations in Dublin, 2 months before getting there. Since it was St. Patrick’s Weekend that was still way too late so my accommodation options in my price range were almost non-existent. I ended up staying in a single room with a shared bathroom, the price was so not worth it for the room itself but for the location it was great. I was literally three blocks away from O’Connell Street (which happens to be one of, if not the widest street in Europe) and a 5-10 minute walk from Temple Bar. So, for that, the Avondale Guesthouse was perfect.

My first night in Dublin was a blur, none of my friends had warned me that there was a major rugby game going on so I had no idea until I tried to get food and every restaurant and/or pub was filled with people watching the game. Eventually I finally found a restaurant in Temple Bar that had something I could eat and available seating. I ended up getting vegetarian lasagna which was quite good, and quite Irish. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was definitely a great first meal. After that I wandered around and saw the craziness that is Temple Bar. There were people in the streets dancing and singing. It was quite interesting.

Peterson_1_4The next day in Dublin I set out determined – I was walking to the zoo and that was that. I ended up leaving around 9:30 or so I think which was interesting because nothing was open yet since it was Sunday. The streets were almost completely deserted as I walked toward Phoenix Park, I wasn’t expecting the city to feel quite so empty. I ended up walking along the water and at some point along the walk I started hearing this crazy shouting and I had no idea what was going on. I still don’t really understand what I was seeing. But there seemed to be some sort of bike race going on in the city and they had the double-decker buses with fans on them screaming at their favorite racers. I had never really seen anything like it. I know there had been a 5k as part of the festivities for St. Pat’s on Sunday but I didn’t hear anything about a bike race.

Peterson_1_2After who knows how long I made it to the zoo! I didn’t really know what to expect from the zoo, but I did know it is one of the oldest in Europe or the World (I forget which). The zoo was quite expensive for my tastes, but hey I was already there so why not? It is very smartly set up, the zoo is literally one massive loop so if you don’t pay attention to the map you will miss some exhibits, but not many. I thought this was pretty cool since I have always found most zoo’s to be pretty complex and I always had my map in hand. What I thought was so incredible about the zoo while I was walking around was how much effort it puts into conservation. Almost every single animal in the zoo is endangered on some level, and the zoo puts huge amounts of money into either its own foundations to save these animals or other existing ones. As soon as I realized this I know longer cared about how much the entrance fee cost, it was clearly going towards a good cause. I was also quite surprised by how nice the zoo itself was and how good the enclosures were. Zoos in Europe are kind of hit or miss on how they treat their animals and such. Afterwards I literally meandered my way around the city. I didn’t really have a destination in mind and I didn’t care where I ended up. I did end up having lunch at this noodle place which was delicious. Other than that I walked around the city and then ended up going back to my hotel to rest for a bit. I spent the rest of my night finding dinner and heading off to bed.

Peterson_1_3The next day, was of course – ST. PAT’S. Now I know many of you have been asking me “what was it like and do they really celebrate like we think they do or is it not as cracked up as everyone says it is?” Well, I had a grand old time on Monday. I woke up late, thinking I missed the parade when in reality it started at noon so I got dressed in some shamrock gear and walked around until I found a decent spot to see it from. Now, everyone, and I mean absolutely everyone, was dressed up in some fashion. Whether it be a shamrock sticker on their face, or a green body suit with white shamrocks on it, everyone was showing their spirit. This had actually been going on all weekend, I had seen people out with green hats on and face paint. Now, the majority of these people were tourists, but there were many Irish among with them.

The parade was quite — something. I didn’t really know what to expect, but this was something like I had never seen before. It’s hard to describe in words, so you’ll just have to look at the pictures but these different organizations had gotten together, come up with a theme that had something to do with Ireland and built some sort of float to describe it. The thing is, these floats are nothing like the floats back home. They clearly look handmade, but in a good way. There are people pushing them and most of them contain people inside of them as well. For example, one of them was about the vikings invading Ireland so there were viking ships with vikings on them. However, some of the others were not so clearly defined. My favorite float though had to be this clock tower that had this guy pop out of it at various times, he reminded me a lot of Robin Williams. So, St. Pat’s turned out to be a ton of fun!

Stay tuned for my next post – Cork, The Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher