Sunday, October 22

For those of you who don’t know, my dearest friend Charlotte is living in Ireland from August to December of this year so I decided that was cause enough for a visit to her temporary home. The news spread of my trip and it has turned into a whole family occasion, but it began with just her and I.

After getting through customs in Dublin, Charlottes beautiful face was the first thing I saw. I practically jumped into her arms and we squeezed each other until we couldn’t squeeze anymore. We headed straight for our bus into Dublin City Center so I could drop off all my luggage before walking around the Temple Bar area to check out the sights and hunt down something to eat. We found a cafe in a square and grabbed a seat on the patio to people watch while we ate our fish and chips. In a matter of 30 minutes I watched someone snort cocaine and a fight break out that almost plowed right into the back of Charlotte and ended in a bloody nose for one dude. Luckily, that was all the eventfulness we would have in our night as I was not ready for this - I’m quite mentally and physically exhausted. We took a few minutes to check out the Temple Bar area (and of course scope out our brunch spots) before retreating to the hostel. We curled into bed and caught up on life as we do every year when we get together, meanwhile hearing some life stories from the people we shared our room with.. It was a perfect low key night to start the adventure.

Monday, October 23
Dublin to Cork

Our first night was a rough one. One of our hostel mates caused a little bit of drama beginning at 4 AM and lasting until we decided to leave at 7 AM. He came back to the room incredibly drunk and tried to climb into bed with me. I sent him along his merry way to his own bed where he began punching the wall, yelling and cursing in his sleep, talking about how large and great a certain body part of his was, and eventually peeing in his bed. The poor guy in the bunk below him was the person to discover that had happened. So after that lovely experience, we got out of there as quickly as possible and found a cozy cafe to sit in until other things opened up for the day. There are few problems that can’t be cured with a good cup of coffee or tea and a rest. I was happy to have some peace and quiet, and had the best time watching the morning commuters go about their busy lives. Once it was a more reasonable hour, we popped just a few doors down to KC Peaches to have some real breakfast. The place we found had a very cozy second story with a view of the street and some delicious avocado toast and buckwheat pancakes. They were also playing all the music I listen to on a daily basis, so it felt like it was meant for me. If I lived in Dublin, they would have a new regular customer. After a little meandering in the Temple Bar neighborhood, we grabbed a bus to Cork and tried to keep our eyes open for the next four hours. I hate to miss the view on public transport, and I was trying to hard to fight through the jet lag.

We arrived in Cork, the town that Charlotte calls her temporary home, and trekked through the town to her house where I immediately dropped my bags and felt relieved. I was very happy to know we would not have to do another night in a hostel right away. Once the luggage was gone and I got a shower and some hot tea, I felt like a new person. We did make a few stops along the way to try some nice cafes in the area. She showed me bits of Cork’s university and city center before we grabbed dinner with a German gentleman she met here named Niels. After finishing the best veggie burger I’ve ever had, Charlotte and I headed to a beautiful hotel in the city to attend a talk. Because Charlotte is in Cork studying abortion politics and social views, we attended a talk by a Dublin politician on the laws revolving around abortion, as it is currently illegal in Ireland. It was so fascinating to hear how politics and Catholicism come into play with this issue, and how this group of feminists is fighting to make abortion legal in an upcoming vote. I was inspired by this group of people, and also felt lucky to have been able to hear this discussion and learn a little. I enjoy being intellectually stimulated and expanding my understanding of different cultures. It seems as though getting sick is a tradition for me when I travel and this trip is no exception, so we did make a trip to the pharmacy for me to get some medicine. We walked back to Charlotte’s house after the talk and were finally able to sleep soundly.

Tuesday, October 24th

I woke up still feeling under the weather, but I didn’t want it to slow me down. We started back into town stopping at a very cozy coffee shop called Alchemy on the way (tea #1 of the day). It was eclectic and mellow, so naturally I quite enjoyed it. From there, she took me to the English Market, which is an indoor market with many different stalls. I’m sure there were other things, but all I noticed was the chocolate stalls. Yum.. We headed upstairs and ate our breakfast with a view down on the market (tea #2 of the day). Today was going to be a low key day for us to kind of adjust and relax. The city center has several streets with shops, restaurants, and churches that we wanted to explore. I’m so impressed that I refrained from buying anything, because the vintage clothing, books, and jewelry were really fighting for me to take them home. It’s a rainy day today though, so we tended to duck indoors as much as possible. We popped into a beautiful catholic church in town and sat enjoying the silence for a bit.

We visited a few more shops before finding a cafe I could wait for Charlotte in, as she has an afternoon interview with someone involved in abortion activism, and I had yet another tea (#3). We had to run a last minute errand, though, so we left and found yet another place to eat afterwards....we may be going a little overboard on the cafes, but I love it. I decided to mix things up and grabbed a coffee to enjoy while I wait for her to do her interview. After a day of walking around in the rain, I am perfectly content sitting indoors and watching the gloom while I catch up on my blog and take advantage of some WiFi. Charlotte picked me up after her interview and back into town we went. We were just around the corner from a church I had seen, and I wanted to visit. The church was very quiet and there was a friendly priest inside who came to chat with us. I spend a good amount of time admiring the massive stained glass windows before we moved on to something else. We quickly went into HomeSense to get out of the rain and look for a gift for Charlottes host family while we waited for friends of Charlotte to join us. Her friend Andresa found us while we were shopping and we all went along to a pub to get to know each other.  Two others, Carlos and Jean, joined us at the pub before we went off to grab some dinner at Uncle Pete's. We got to know each other and had some great laughs over pizza in a little restaurant. Carlos was raving about how ecstatic he was to have gotten his motorcycle from Spain that day, Jean was telling me about all the interesting courses he is taking in Cork, and Andresa was teaching us a bit about Brazilian culture. I really enjoyed meeting charlottes friends here in Cork, and we headed home to get some rest.

Wednesday, October 25th

Of course every day of ours begins with a cafe. We slowly rolled out of bed and readied ourselves before going to The Bookshelf In the city center. It was a very calm, eclectic cafe where we had some drinks and breakfast before popping into a doctors office. Somehow, Charlotte managed to get shingles (again!). It is so rare for a young person to get it at all, and this is just one year after she had it when she visited me in California...poor thing. After getting her seen by the doctor and picking up some medicine, we were back to our day as normal. We tried shopping for a coat for me (being that I am from California, I was not at all prepared for the weather here), but we had no luck. We were both feeling quite scatterbrained, so we decided to take a minute to sit at a Costa cafe and soak up the beautiful weather while we got our heads straight. After working out some personal stuff, we came up with a plan for the rest of the day. Our first stop was the English Market to get some goodies to hold us over for the afternoon. We decided on some little tartlets from a little bakery in the market and I got one for my sister as well, since she was set to arrive today. I also picked up a fig for myself and we grabbed some veggies and a veggie tartlet for later in the day. We made the trek back to Charlotte's house for the last time to pack up our things because we were back out into the world starting today. We lugged our belongings (which will soon be a daily occurrence) all through town to the other side of the River Lee where the bus would leave my sister. She didn’t look too happy when we found her, and she soon told us that she had badly hurt her ear because of the pressure while she was flying. We were sure feeling like an unfortunate bunch, but we make the best of our situation. We grabbed Julie and headed straight for our hostel, Sheila’s Hostel, so we could dump our luggage and eat the goodies we had picked up at the market in the common room. Julie’s first request was a hot cup of tea, so out we went to a frilly pink afternoon tea shop. The lady working in the shop recommended us Seventh Heaven tea and made us a pot to share. We were all relieved to be able to sit and relax for a minute. Because Julie didn’t have long in Cork, I wanted her to see as much as possible and we went walking through the city center. We took her down the streets we had been wandering the last few days, pointing out things here and there. She had to pick up some supplies at Dealz and Carlos found us while we were there. I thought Julie would enjoy seeing the university, so we headed off in that direction. We made a detour through Fitzgerald's park on our way and found some amazing Mario street art. We happened to be walking through the campus during the masters program graduations, which was really fun to see. Andresa told us a legend that if you walk on the grass in the quad on campus, you won’t graduate, so there were a few students out in the grass being silly to celebrate their graduation. We went back into town and ducked into a few pubs to end our night. We had drinks at the first and got dinner at the second place, Oliver Plunkett. Jean and Niels met us for dinner where I had the biggest plate of fish and chips I’d ever seen. We had yet another fun night laughing (mostly at Carlos’s silly GIFs) an listening to live music. The Hecklin’ Dogs played a mix of R&B and Rock music while we finished up our dinner. On the walk home from dinner, we heard some street artists singing and stopped for a listen as a drunk cyclist crashed his bike into Julie. We said goodbye to the boys (I’m finally getting the hang of the cheek kiss goodbye, rather than the usual American hug) and headed back to our hostel. We all basically melted into blobs as soon as we hit the couch in the common room. We had to do some planning for the next few days of our trip before heading off to bed.

Thursday, October 26th
Cork to Killarney

Today is the day we move onto a little town called Killarney to the Northwest of Cork. We started our day quite early and clumsily in the hostel before making it to the city center. We tried to get Julie in to see a doctor with no success, so we went for breakfast instead with all our things on us. We all had porridge with flowers and coffee in the corner of a perfect cafe before booking it across town to catch our bus.

There were some beautiful views of the Irish countryside on our way from Cork to Killarney, but all I could focus on was having to pee. What can ya do... we arrived in Killarney at the bus station/outlet mall and walked towards the city in search of our hotel. Our mom treated us to a nice hotel for a night and we were all beyond grateful to be able to stay here at the Arbutus Hotel. We all really needed some peace, quiet, and space. We wanted comfortable beds and a place to shower where you don’t have to leave the lights off or try to be silent as to not wake other hostel mates. We dropped our bags in what would be our room and made our way further into town. We checked out a few shops and grabbed some snacks before finding the path that led out to Ross Castle. A friendly gentleman told us of the short main route or the long scenic route (about 3 miles), and we chose the longer route. It took us through fields and parks and trees with gorgeous views of mountains all the while we were having perfect weather. We came to a path that had a fallen tree and we all managed to climb through it only to find that the road had deeply flooded past that point. We were thinking about risking it and walking through until we saw a cyclist try to ride through and hit water all the way up to his knees, so we and he decided to turn around. We eventually found the main road and followed that to the castle. Ross Castle sits on a lake and is part of the Ring of Kerry. It was the perfect spot for our little afternoon picnic, so we had our goodies in a bench in the shade and explored the grounds a bit afterwards.

After our little out of town excursion, we were ready for our second helping of caffeine for the day. We stopped at Lir Chocolate Cafe for some tea and chocolates to refuel us for our day. After a break from all the walking, back down the streets we went. We first stopped at a church yet again because I just have to see all the stained glass I possibly can. Then we took our time weaving in and out of sweater shops (pun intended), Celtic jewelry stores, and bakeries. I wasn’t ready to buy anything to take home with me yet, nor would I have room. We took an afternoon break in the hotel where some of us squeezed in a nap and shared some photos we had taken on the trip so far. After getting some rest, we were back on our feet just in time for dinner.. We had found a place in town called The Smoke House that looked great, so we went there and had some of the largest portions of food I’ve ever had. It was a cozy atmosphere and a really enjoyable meal - their katsu curry and their mushroom risotto were both incredible. We needed an after dinner treat, so we popped into Murphy’s a few doors down where we had flavors like brown bread and sea salt ice cream. We snacked on our desserts while walking home to the sound of some street artists singing beautifully. It felt surreal for a minute, between the music and the quaint city and the best company. I am very content with it all. We capped the night off by historically laughing at a few too many silly YouTube videos in the hotel room.

Friday, October 27th
Killarney to Limerick

We started our day by making a doctors appointment for Julie and picking some things up at the pharmacy for Charlotte and I. We’re all hoping we can get it together in the next few days and be back to 100% from here on out. We had a little breakfast at a place called Jam we found in one of the alleyways in Killarney. This town had lots of hidden gems down side streets. From breakfast, we walked Julie to the doctors and spent a little time getting that straightened out. She has some microtears on her eardrum, so we picked her up some medication for that on our way out. We spent our last few hours in Killarney just strolling the streets. Julie found a dainty ring in a jewelry store we went into, and although I was tempted by everything, I managed to not get anything today. We knew we had to head out of town soon, so we popped into another alleyway to get some lunch at a bakery and shop at a vintage store before going to the bus station.

Charlotte caught a bus back to Cork while Julie and I got one to the town of Limerick. I went in and out of sleep the whole 2+ hour ride. We arrived at the Limerick bus station in the late afternoon and walked down to the river where our hotel is. We dropped our bags and took a minute to rest before quickly heading into town. We arrived just as everything had started to close, but we got the chance to go into some shops. I managed to pick up some simple cat ears to use as a Halloween costume as I am completely unprepared for that and it’s in just a few days. We looked into some other shops for a bit, but our next stop was a castle that happened to be across the river from our part of town. We walked through a neighborhood to get to King John's Castle, which was closed for the night. I watched some people try to go inside and a security guard pointed them around the corner, so I decided we should follow them. They went into the castle from a different entrance and again I decided to follow them in. We stumbled into the castle and right into an Oktoberfest event, so we figured we should stay and take advantage of this happy accident. We got ourselves some drinks and watched the craziness ensue for quite a while. After we had our fill of yodeling, drinking anthems, and beer, we went back towards town to find some dinner. We managed to find a restaurant still open in town and grabbed some tasty treats (sticky toffee pudding mmmm) before coming back to the hotel. We spent the end of the night watching random tv shows while laying in bed, and it was just what I needed.

Saturday, October 28th
Limerick to Galway

Our first challenge of the day was to find breakfast before most things in Limerick were open. We had to meet at the train station at 9 and luckily we managed to find a place to eat, Cafe Waffe, on the way to the station. We had a tour planned for the day so we hopped on the bus and off we went. I knew virtually nothing about the tour except that it went to the Cliffs of Moher at some point and ended in Galway. The first place we stopped was at Bunratty Castle. We got a full tour of the place and walked around the grounds for a bit too. We got some beautiful views from the bus as well when we managed to keep our eyes open. We took a quick lunch break in Doolin and inhaled a huge salmon meal before jumping on the bus again. The cliffs were our third stop, but gosh you couldn’t see a thing. It was so foggy you could barely see the person standing in front of you. Worst weather our guide had ever seen there actually, so that’s saying something. I’m trying to not let myself be disappointed about this, but it was one of the two biggest things I had wanted to do while I was here. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you plan.

We made some other stops along the way that I really enjoyed, including a stop at The Burren. This is a part of the costs that is mostly flat shiny rock that has been polished by the salty air coming in from the arctic for thousands of years. Julie immediately recognized it from scenes in the Harry Potter movies. We were able to walk out to the ocean, so we were now at the farthest West Point in Europe looking out to the States. We drove through a few more towns as our guide Jonathan told us folklores about Ireland, including how you should definitely never cut down a fairy bush, how leprechauns are evil and will steal your luck, and that four leaf clovers and corn beef don’t exist on this island....I'll take all that with a grain of salt.

We were dropped off in Galway, which was hustle and bustling at 5 PM when we arrived, and walked down the main streets of town to arrive at our hostel right in the center of all the action. We got settled for a bit before finding some Italian dinner close by. We had a few ideas in mind for that to do for the night based on what we had seen while we were our. We could actually very clearly hear live music from our hostel room, so we started off in search of where it was coming from. A few doors down, there was a crowded pub where a young guy was singing and playing guitar like a regular rockstar. We grabbed some drinks and enjoyed listening to him play before farting across the city center to a comedy show. The regular show had sold out, but there was a double decker bus that had a venue inside, so we joined in for some impromptu songs and a show in the bus. We made our way back to the hostel, stopping to listen to street artists or to watch people try to win money hanging on a poll. We have a friend who tried several times, but couldn’t manage to do it. We called it a night fairly early since Sunday is supposed to be some big Halloween festivities.

Sunday, October 29th

We got a little extra sleep this morning, as we weren’t in a hurry for anything. We leisurely got ready and went out for a morning walk. The entire trip, we have been seeing Claddagh Rings everywhere and I had been considering getting one as my souvenir for the trip, and I had no idea that the village of Claddagh where the ring comes from was just across a river from the part of Galway we were staying in. We decided to cross the river and take a look at the neighborhood, but there definitely weren’t as many shops and things as there were near our hostel. We took our walk out to a strip of land that goes along the river and then went back to explore our part of town. We passed several spots I had found online and was excited about trying.. We just had to wait for Charlotte to arrive from a Cork to really get our day started.

I have been excited about a brunch spot called Ard Bia for weeks, so we went there straight away when she arrived. We had really tasty brunch in the quaint little building along the river and mapped out our day. Bus station. Comedy. Ring. Tea. That was our plan for the near future. We wanted to purchase bus tickets for our trip to Derry right away and from there, buy tickets to a comedy festival that was going on in town. We got tickets to a comedy circus show for the afternoon and decided to do a bit of shopping while we waiting. We walked up and down Quay Street in and out of the little shops and I did find myself a ring, although not a traditional Claddagh Ring. I tend to like to march to the beat of my own drum. We had accomplished everything we set out to, so our last stop on our list was tea. I had seen Cupán Tae while researching the trip but also in the city earlier in the day and I couldn’t resist. We crammed in (there wasn’t much space for us as it’s a popular place) for a pot of tea and some pastries. I chose my tea purely for the name, which was Storm in a Cup, and it tasted like liquid licorice. It had a heavy amount of Star Anise in it, which is a strange theme that keeps popping up throughout the trip in one way or the other. Charlotte and I have also been talking about and looking for synchronicities in our lives lately, but especially since we have been in Ireland. You can google synchronicity, as I’m not great at explaining it.

From tea, we went to the circus show at the same place where we had been in the double decker bus the day before. We found our seats and slowly began noticing that we were surrounded by children. We had known this was a ‘family friendly’ show, but no one told us it was actually for children. After an hour of total ridiculousness, we left dumbfounded. It was not at all what we had expected and to put it nicely, we weren’t the biggest fans of it. So we called it a loss and went to crash at the hostel for a bit. There was a big Halloween parade happening this evening, so we grabbed a coffee and a pistachio cinnamon muffin from Coffeewerk + Press and found us a spot in the street to watch. We stood for what felt like a year before the parade actually reached us, but it was quite an experience. There were spooky creatures and boats and huge animals crawling down the streets of Galway with ominous music playing and bursts of fire every so often.

It was shorter, but better than I had expected and I was really happy to have been there for it. The streets of Galway were filling up very quickly with people in and out of costumes, so it took us several tries to find a restaurant that would seat us for dinner. We ended up grabbing pizza in a hole-in-the-wall place with the sweetest staff. We went to the hostel once again after dinner to throw on our Halloween attire before going out for the night. We started at the place we had been the night before and grabbed drinks. There was no live music here tonight, so it wasn’t as enticing to stay. Julie made a friend there who recommended us a few places to find music and we went on our way. Our guide from our Saturday tour had recommended Taaffs for some traditional Irish live music, so we went over there next. The place was packed like a can of sardines, but we somehow wiggled our way in three rooms deep where we could see the gentleman who was playing music. It sure felt traditional, as everyone in the pub (90% extremely tall Irish dudes) was screaming along with the words. Charlotte and I were dressed as cats and Julie was dressed as a pirate wench, and we got several comments on our costumes. There weren’t too many people dressed up, but I spotted a cowboy across the pub and decided to strike up a conversation. We ended up hanging out with him, and a few of his friends popped in and out to dance or chat or sing Irish drinking songs to us. At one point, Julie was doing ballerina twirls while six drunk Irishmen pointed at her sounds weird as I write it, but it was almost the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. I was having so much fun in this crowded noisy pub, but it was time for us to move on and check out the next place. We said goodbye and headed off to The Quays for more live music, but some we actually recognized this time. The band was on a stage above the bar and we danced and watched from across the room for a bit. Julie decided to call it a night, but Charlotte and I stayed long enough to hear WHOAAAAA WERE HALFWAY THERE, WHOAAAAA WERE LIVING ON A PRAYER. We decided to end it on a high note and left after that. It wasn’t too late, so we took one more stroll around the walking streets soaking in the energy of the night and enjoying all the costumes and drunk shenanigans along the way. We got back to the room and got all tucked into bed when the door opened and someone stumbled into our room - none other than the cowboy. He climbed up onto the top bunk across from Julie and was out like a light, still wearing the full cowboy getup. I imagine it’s not very comfortable to sleep in a cowboy hat or boots, but suit yourself. It gave me a good laugh. 

Monday, October 30
Galway to Derry

Julie had to leave for the airport at an ungodly hour and unfortunately missed her flight. At a more reasonable hour, Charlotte and I packed our gear, left a note for the still sleeping cowboy, and left the hostel. We had to have another coffee from Coffeewerk + Press since it was the best cappuccino I’ve  ever had.

It took us a while to wander the town and find an open breakfast place, as today is a bank holiday for Ireland. We quickly ate and bought some snacks because we have a 5+ hour bus ride to Derry in Northern Ireland ahead of us today. Right off the bus in Derry, we were bombarded by crowds of people and noises. We walked up to a gathering outside what I thought was a church to see a group of drummers dressed in LED lights putting on a show. We made our way to our hostel, but we’re eager to get back into town to see what other activities were on for the night. We dropped our stuff at Hostel Connect in our room filled with three layer bunk beds and went back into town. The inner city is surrounded by a castle wall that you can walk around, and from it you get a beautiful view of the city. Halloween celebrations had been going on since Saturday, and we were able to catch the tail end of most things going on. There were street stalls everywhere, live music every few blocks, and around the castle wall there were performances and art installations. We found dinner at Willy Nilly’s near Waterloo Place to give us some energy for the night. Across the river from where we were, we saw a carnival type thing, so we walked across the bridge and took a little ride on the ferris wheel. After watching some of the performances and trying to run from some of the creepy creatures running about town, we decided to have an early night.

Tuesday, October 31st

We had an interesting Halloween in store for us, as we could tell from the minute we got to Derry. We had a slow start with some breakfast in the hostel before venturing out. We started our day at the building we thought was a church from the night before. The Guildhall is actually more like a town hall building, and we went in to try to get some information on the events for the day. A lovely fellow shouted as we came in "Do you want to see the moon?!" and I was a little confused. He asked again "Did you come to see the moon?" and me being the person I am, I said 'Sure!'. He pointed us up a staircase and another man opened the doors at the top, and we walked into a large room with the moon inside, whad'ya know? It was the moon! A glowing inflatable moon larger than my car was hanging from the ceiling in this beautiful dimly lit hall. There were maybe one or two other people in the room, so Charlotte and I took our time getting some photos and lying on the floor underneath the "moon" before a swarm of people came in. When it got too crowded for comfort, we figured that was our cue to explore elsewhere.

We managed to find the actual information booth and get some help with the schedule for the day so naturally it was time for a coffee break. We spent the day walking around all the street stalls they had spread throughout the city as well as popping into all the lovely shops around town. We made a quick trip back to the hostel to get our Halloween attire on before watching the main event - the parade. We both dressed as cats because of course that is my go-to costume, but I upped my game this year with cat eye contact lenses that proved to be a bit irritating but very entertaining all night. The parade in Derry was much more grand than the one we had seen in Galway, and longer too. After the parade had marched on by us, we waited for the fireworks. They were a bit delayed and everyone seemed quite confused, but they eventually made their appearance and seemed to go on for days. It was quite a spectacle. My favorite part of the night, though, may have been the people watching and seeing all the adorable children dressed in different costumes. I fell in love with a baby dressed as the devil as he fumbled back and forth over a curb. Way more entertaining than fireworks if I do say so myself, but Charlotte would strongly disagree.

We had heard about a 'graveyard rave' in a massive old building, so we thought that would be a fun way to spend our night. We thought wrong. The building was a little ominous, but we headed inside anyways to find a basically empty room with maybe five people awkwardly dancing around. We both chuckled and figured we would make the best of the situation, so we danced and jumped around and twirled each other for about five minutes and then bailed on that plan. Lucky for us, there was a pizza place open just down the road and we decided to get some dinner. It was relaxing after the day we had spent walking around the city, although the waitress jumped every time I made eye contact with her. She couldn't get used to the fact that I was wearing the cat contacts, but I found it quite entertaining. We figured when you've got nothing else to do, you go to pubs, so that was our next task. After trying out a pub or two and realizing most of them were full of shwasted teenagers or older folks, we didn't feel the need to hang out in any of them. So we made a game of it and went into as many pubs as we could that night, staying for about one song in each place. We had begun making a playlist of every song we heard while we were in Ireland together, and the pub songs made it on the list as a funny reminder of a strange, strange evening. Appropriate for Halloween, I guess. When we got tired of squeezing ourselves into pubs, we found a little perch on a main street and watched the shenanigans from afar until we got sleepy and walked back home to our triple bunk beds.

Wednesday, November 1st
Derry to Belfast

It was time for us to leave Derry, but if course we couldn’t go without breakfast. The only thing open that morning was Nero, so we found some cozy chairs and got some food before our bus to Belfast. When we got to Belfast, we did our usual routine: check in, drop our bags, and go find food. We ended up at a little place called French Village just down the street from our hostel and had some really nice salads and sweets. I’m impressed we got up the energy to walk around town and do a lot of book shopping (as there was basically a book store at every third shop), but afterwards we went back to the hostel to vegetate, do laundry, and watch some Riverdale on Netflix. After we had been as lazy as we could bare, we went back out into Belfast. We found a place called Town Sq that looked very inviting and relaxing, so we set up camp there for the evening. We had some coffees while I read and Charlotte worked on logistical things to round out our night. 

Thursday, November 2nd

This wasn’t the best morning for us, I’d say. We threw all our stuff in our bags and went for the hostel kitchen to have some morning munchies. Charlotte stopped to tell me that she found out her grandma had passed away, and that she would have to go back to the Netherlands soon. We spent a good part of the morning working out the details of that before going about our day. We grabbed coffees and snacks to take along on our trek, because we had a bus tour planned for the day. Our first stop was at the Dark Hedges, that are now very well known because they appeared in a whole 30 seconds of Game of Thrones. Oooooooo. What I found more interesting though, is that people have been coming to se these threes for entertainment for years. It was undoubtably beautiful, but I mean it is just a row of trees. What I loved most about this stop was the little fairy doors that were hidden along the path to the hedges.

From the hedges, we went to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It was the first sighting of the sea we had on our day tour, and it was breathtaking. We walked along some cliffs at the ocean edge to get to the rope bridge and took the wobbly little thing to a small island not too far off the shore. On our way back across the bridge, there was a massive line for all the people waiting to go across and I was very thankful we had beat the crowd. I sure didn’t want to be standing on a shaky bridge with 100 other people, or be stuck behind them. I was so pleased with what we had already seen in the day that I had forgotten the best part was still ahead.

The next stop on our journey was the Giant’s Causeway. It was (besides Charlotte) the main reason I wanted to come to Ireland. After a less than perfect experience at the Cliffs of Moher, I tried to not get my hopes too high, but boy were they high. We made it to the visitor center and it was a bit of a walk down to where the geometric rocks were supposed to be. The anticipation was growing as we took this walk down to the shore, but when we turned the corner around a hill, it was as beautiful as I had hoped it would be. There were people everywhere of course, but Charlotte and I hopped around the rocks until we tuckered ourselves out and then sat down to have a little picnic. We took a moment to be present and soak up the fresh air while we had our bread and homemade Nutella. We fiddled around a little longer on the rocks before heading back up the hill and getting ready to go. I popped into a little shop that is on the verge of closing down and found myself a ring and some Mars bars that Charlotte said I should try. We had one more quick photo stop at a castle that had partially fallen into the sea before making our way back to the Belfast bus station.

Charlotte and I had enjoyed Town Sq so much that we decided to go back. We had dinner, then drinks, then dessert in our new favorite cafe. We had purchased tickets to see some local artists play live music, but had time to kill beforehand, so we walked around the city a few times working off all the sticky toffee pudding. The event began in a book bar, which is a place where you purchase a book in order to get a drink. From there, we spent the night in a very intimate venue just downstairs that had maybe 12 people in the audience. We watched three local artists play music and tell stories and joke with us, and it was my idea of a perfect night. 

Friday, November 3rd
Belfast to Dublin

This was quite an uneventful day for us, and sadly it was the day Charlotte and I parted ways for a bit. We got something to eat at Kaffe-O before jumping on the bus to Dublin. We had time for a quick coffee in Dublin before Charlotte had to get her bus to Cork and I was on my own. I hauled my stuff over to where I would be staying and crashed in bed for a bit. They had Netflix after all, and I was quite sad about Charlotte leaving so I wanted a few hours to do nothing. I managed to get up some energy to go find dinner, and oh I'm so glad I did. I was lucky to get a table at Sova Vegan Butcher where I had some amazing gnocchi. That was about all I could manage for the evening, so I went back to my awesome room to watch some standup on Netflix and plan out the next few days of activities for when my mom was around.

Saturday, November 4th

Today is the day my mom arrives in Dublin. I woke up before the sun was even up and made my way across town to the bus stop so I could grab a bus and meet her at the airport. Two minutes into the bus ride, a fire alarm starts going off and we come to a stop. Our bus has shut down for whatever reason, and everyone trying to get to the airport was very antsy. We managed to catch the next bus and I stood the whole way in the aisle because it was so full. I met a lovely girl from Berkeley as we were squished together. We made it to the airport in one piece, although I did squish some toes on the ride over - oops! I found my mom and we hopped in a cab to head back to the city center. I figured the Hop-On Hop-Off bus might be a good way for my mom to start her time here, so she could see a bit of everything. It was a great idea in theory, but she was snoring before we even made it to the first stop. We did manage to see many sights throughout the city, including the Guinness storehouse and its very long line. Of course my mom perked right up at the idea of shopping, so we spent a large chunk of time in Brown Thomas and up and down the other shops on Grafton. We did manage to make it to Trinity Library and Bewley's Oriental Cafe somewhere in between all the shopping.

I had heard great things about the restaurant in the hotel we were staying in, The Dean, so we headed up to the top floor to give it a try. I was overwhelmed with a gorgeous panoramic view as soon as we walked into the restaurant, and we had a nice dinner while we watched the sun set over Dublin. I wanted my mom to get an authentic experience on her first night, so I took her down the street to a pub even though she barely held her eyes open. We quickly had some drinks and went back to The Dean to crash. The hotel was hip and amazing other than the fact that every other building on that street is a club, so it was noisy to say the least. I mostly slept like a rock, but my mom didn't have such an easy time.

Sunday, November 5th

We spent another full day walking around the city shopping. Always a focus when my mom is traveling, but she enjoys it so it's okay. She did pick up some lovely things for herself and some for me as well before we burned out on shopping. We dropped our bags and tried to find some food. It was that awkward time of day where everything has closed after lunch and doesn't open again until dinner, so after trying four different place, we ended up having fish and chips in The Dean lobby. I wanted to show my mom the Temple Bar area, so we walked that way. We popped into an old fashioned candy shoppe where my mom bought them out of fizzy candies before we found a couple pubs. We caught just the end of an amazing Irish band in The Temple Bar before grabbing drinks in The Norsemen and watching a guy play some absolute classics on his acoustic guitar. 

Monday, November 6th
Dublin to Cork

Back to Cork I went, only this time it was with my mom instead of Charlotte. We dropped our bags in our room at The River Lee Hotel, which had a really nice view over a little stretch of the river.

I wanted to show my mom around St. Patrick's Street and through the English Market first and then we went to The Bookshelf cafe to meet my dad, who was in Cork for work. We had some coffees and walked around the city center for a while before my dad decided to head back to his hotel. Mom and I walked him back to his place before heading towards our hotel. On the way back to our place, we found a crowd gathered around a stage celebrating something. My mom stopped to ask a police officer what the occasion was, and it turned out to be that the Cork women's team had won a championship the night before, and this was the celebration for them. My mom highfived the cop and bought a souvenir scarf which made her very popular with people around town for the next few days. We stayed with the crowd for several songs and watched the women's team be announced before walking over to SpitJack for a light dinner. The hotel had a patio over the river where we grabbed a pot of tea before bed. 

Tuesday, November 7th

My parents and I started our day with a bite at Ali’s Kitchen before getting the bus out to Blarney Castle. It turned out to be absolutely gorgeous, and nothing like I had pictured. I knew Blarney was famous for the castle and the Blarney stone, but the gardens and the house on the property were absolutely gorgeous. We explored for hours, and every turn we made lead us to something more beautiful. There were several gardens and some caves and some of the largest plants I have ever seen. If our time in Cork hadn't been so limited, I would have spent much longer there. So I picked up a smashed penny for Julie and we went back into Cork.

I had had my eye on The Market Lane since I got to Cork, so we had a really tasty lunch there before exploring the center more. We went through the English Market again so I could grab an almond tartlet for the long walk we had ahead. We went across town, through Fitzgerald's Park, over the River Lee on the Shakey Bridge, and up the hill to the Cork City Gaol. We made it just before the Gaol, the old city jail, closed. We had a bit of time to walk through the old cells and learn about the people who were once inmates there.

After we had our fill of touring the jail, we headed back to our hotel for some drinks. We had a very full day of walking, and I decided to have a nap before heading out for the evening. My mom went for dinner with my dad and his coworker while I went out to meet Carlos. I walked into the city center to meet Carlos, and just as he walked up, so did Andresa! She happened to be walking by and saw Carlos and I, so she joined us for some dinner at Soho, which was fully decked out in Christmas lights. I was happy to be able to see them again.

Wednesday, November 8th

My dad had to work for the day, so my mom and I went off on our own. We had booked a day tour out to the Cliffs of Moher of course with a few stops along the way. I decided to give it another shot after it didn't go so well when I had gone with Julie. We left from Cork and made a quick stop in Limerick to pick up more people on our way to the cliffs. They looked completely different on this clear day, and it was breathtaking. We walked along the cliffs taking photos and fighting the wind for a while. On our way back to the bus, we found a little jewelry shop where I showed my mom a style of ring I had been eyeing in different shops my whole time in Ireland. This ring was made based on the design of a chalice that had been found in a potato field. There happened to only be one ring of this kind in the store and it only fit my mom, so she bought it after making me promise I would find and get a matching one before we left Ireland.

After the cliffs, we stopped in Doolin for some lunch. We stopped afterwards at The Burren, which was still a favorite of mine, and at Bunratty Castle, where my mom found some trinkets in a shop. She bought some nice cotton pajamas, a fairy door, and some other knick knacks. Our guide for the day was an older Irish gentleman who had been quite mellow and dry the whole trip, but he decided to tell a joke about a snail just as we drove into town and it definitely ended the tour on a high. My mom went back to the hotel to have a relaxing night in and I went off to find Andresa, Carlos, and Jean for dinner. It was a really nice way to spend my last night in Cork and I was sad to have to say goodbye to them after I had enjoyed spending time with them so much. Jean and Andresa had to leave after dinner, but Carlos and I found a cozy pub called An Bodhran where we had a drink and listened to some live music. I wasn't ready to leave Cork or say goodbye to the people there, but eventually I got tired and I knew Carlos had work the next day, so we said goodbye for now and parted ways.

Thursday, November 9th
Cork to Dublin

To start the day, I wanted to try out Idaho Cafe. They boasted on their menu that they have been rated best cafe in Ireland twice, so I felt like I had to try it out. I had a lovely scone and some tea and it was a beautiful morning. We had some free time before heading to Dublin in the afternoon, so we checked out a few more shops unsuccessfully. I found the coolest rain jacket in the world, but it was a men’s large so that didn’t work out. We collected our luggage from the hotel and grabbed a few drinks from Cork Coffee Roasters. As I walked out of the coffee shop, I saw a man with a green mullet walking past me on the street and it took me a second to register that it is one of the guys from the comedy circus! I told Charlotte, and she said she immediately remembers having seen him around town....small world but also, synchronicity! We arrived in Dublin and checked into our new place, the Conrad. We settled in a bit and relaxed before going out in the evening. My dad hadn’t spent any time in Dublin yet, so we walked him past St. Stephen's Green park and down Grafton Street. There was a Celtic jewelry store just at the end of Grafton that we decided to check out and they happened to have the matching ring that we had been looking for perfectly in my size, so we got it before dinner. I had done quite a bit of research on nice dinners in town for my moms last night in Dublin and ended up deciding on The Greenhouse. We chose the 6 course dinner and I have no complaints at all. Especially since two of the courses were dessert. Just my style. My mom had decided she needed to have a Guinness before leaving Ireland, so the three of us sat in the bar at the Conrad and got her her Guinness.

Friday, November 10th

Mom had to leave for the airport early, so I got up and had some breakfast with her before the sun had even come up. We said our goodbyes and I went back to bed until it was time for my dad and I to have breakfast. We spent the first part of our day checking out some of Dublin's museums before picking up Charlotte at the bus stop. I was so happy to have her back with me. The three of us went to Bewley's for some drinks and sweets before going back to the museum area. We went through the Natural History and Archaeology parts of the National Museum of Ireland. The chalice that the rings my mom and I had bought was inside the Archaeology was a different chalice that I may have thought was the chalice that the ring was based on. Silly me, I may have taken a photo of the wrong chalice before finding the right chalice.

We also got lost in the National Gallery of Ireland for a while until we decided we were ready for some down time in the suite back at The Conrad. We made dinner plans for Matt he Thresher based on the recommendation of one of the Conrad staff, and it was such a great choice. Their sticky toffee pudding won me over, and we finished off the night by taking advantage of some free drink coupons in the hotel bar.

Saturday, November 11th

Dad left quite early for the airport, but Charlotte and I took advantage of the beautiful room we had and slept in. Jean had messaged Charlotte saying he would be in Dublin for the day for a seminar and that he would have time to grab lunch with us beforehand, and I was so excited to get to see him again. We threw our stuff together and went off to meet Jean at The Pepperpot. He had grabbed a table for five and told us that some people he knew who were attending the seminar would be joining us when I turned around and saw Carlos and Andresa sneaking up behind us. These wonderful people had woken up so early and driven three hours to surprise us on my last day in Ireland. I had a permanent smile on my face for the rest of the day because I was just so happy to have them there. I couldn't imagine a better way to spend that time. We had some drinks at Pepperpot and went to find our hostel so we could leave the bags we had been lugging around. The five of us wandered around the city in the rain for hours. I haven't felt so carefree in a long time. We spent some time in St. Patrick's Cathedral, hanging out in pubs, and walking through Dublin's parks and alleys. At the end of the day, it came time to say goodbye to Jean, Carlos, and Andresa. Charlotte and I walked them to their car park where we shared a few more hugs and took our last few goofy selfies. I know I'll see them again someday, but I hope it's soon.

After saying goodbye to the Cork crew, it was time for us to get back to what we had originally planned for the day. I was going to read The Celestine Prophecy and Charlotte was going to work on a paper proposal. We shared some dinner at Cornucopia and went to a coffee shop that we knew was open late called Accents. Just as Charlotte started to work on her project, her laptop started acting really strangely. We fiddled with it for quite some time with no success, so we decided to put it away and enjoy our last few hours together. So we finished up our coffees and walked over to Temple Bar area for the last few hours of our night. We ended up in The Norsemen watching live music and chatting with a group of guys celebrating some birthdays. As nice as they were, Charlotte and I just wanted to spend the last few hours we had with each other, so we went off to walk around town. We walked up and down O'Connell Street before making our way back to the hostel and saying goodnight. 

Of all the traveling I have done, this was the most difficult it has been for me to leave a place. I don't know whether it was so hard saying goodbye to Charlotte or to new friends or to Ireland in general, but it wasn't easy. But ready or not, it was time for me to come home and get back to my daily life. I am so thankful for the time I spent in Ireland and am already brainstorming when I can make it back there.


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