Relaxing at home one evening, feeling that sudden travel bug itch (again), we began the usual “all hands on deck” search for flight deals and hotel steals. My school schedule had changed slightly for the following week and that meant an extra long weekend. Naturally, we wanted to take advantage of our free time so we set out to plan a UK adventure – with the exception of Dublin. I’ve been corrected a number of times referring to Dublin as a part of the UK, oops! Sorry mates. After scouring the internet for flights, we decided traveling by bus through Ireland, England, and Scotland would be our best option. Financially, that is. Little did we know, it would be one of the worst travel decision of our lives. Nevertheless, after a couple glasses of wine, I had a bus from London to Glasgow and a flight from Glasgow, home to Alicante booked. Now where to go from here? A lot of our travels, being completely impulsive (which is totally in our Aries nature) are booked spontaneously and figured out after the fact. Sometimes this is a fantastic adventure, and other times, Joey wants to strangle me – being the more controlled Aries of the two. A couple of days and a lot of hunting later, we decided it was in our favour to fly from Alicante to Dublin and bus from Dublin to London. Finally, another adventure was set and all we needed to do was pack our bags and head off. You’d think packing your bags was the easiest part of this story – not the case for two hot-heads with different packing opinions. We finally settled for my theory and scurried off to the Murcia bus station with two bags and a backpack in tow. There was no way the blowdryer, flat iron, face essentials and both our clothes were fitting in one bag, hello!
We ended up meeting Paul at the bus station – the man who helped us begin this Spanish adventure from the UCAM Admissions Department. He is from Dublin and was heading home to visit some family for the weekend, so we took this as an opportunity to get a lay of the land and enjoy some travel companionship! After a nearly three hour flight to Dublin and only twenty-nine hours to scope out the city, we made our way to the Avalon House Hostel, freshened up, and left in search of a delicious meal and some traditional Celtic music. The hostel was comfortable and clean, but we’ll revisit that experience soon. On our way out, we asked the front desk for some dinner suggestions. They recommended Pitt Bros BBQ – a smoked BBQ style restaurant with a delicious selection of pulled pork, beef brisket, BBQ ribs, and smoked sausage. We went for the the Three Meat Combo with a side of mac n’ cheese, onion rings, and fries! We topped our meal off with some free ice cream and nearly rolled ourselves out of there.
After devouring that monstrosity of a meal, we decided to walk it off by exploring some of the downtown core and checking with a nearby information desk where to go to catch some good old fashioned Irish music. The local suggested a number of different pubs, so we made our way to two of them before we realized it was a Friday night and these places didn’t have a bare seat in the house. After walking half way around Dublin for an authentic Celtic experience, we decided we would try the Temple Bar area, after hearing about its popularity and hoping we didn’t have to ring up a steep bill to enjoy a beer or two. As we passed The Oliver St. John Gogarty Bar with its many country flags, bustling crowd, and loud music, we decided we’d take our chances at finding a table, a chair, or even a space to stand. Surprisingly, we were welcomed in immediately and guided upstairs where there was some room in a small corner across from the bar and near the band. We weaseled our way through the bar and settled in before I went to grab us some drinks. Our hopes of enjoying some cheap drinks like we do in Murcia came to a screeching halt as I was handed a bill for one pint of Carlsburg and one single Captain and Coke at a price of 18,00€ – that’s about $25.50. We obviously milked those drinks as we enjoyed some live music for an hour or so before heading back to the hostel for what we hoped would be a quiet and roommate’less night in.
Despite checking in after 5:00pm and thinking we would be the latest ones to arrive, we were greeted with two roommates – a quiet Asian girl and a rather unfriendly man who looked shocked to see he had to share a room with such creatures in a hostel of all places (eye roll). There was a strange smell coming from this unfriendly being, who looked freshly showered as he hung his wet towel wherever he pleased. However, we sucked it up and tried to cozy into our opposite bunk beds for a restful night sleep while he made his way out the door without a word. Ah – why I’ve ever imagined the words hostel and restful would end up in the same sentence is still a mystery to me. Joey hopped up into his top bunk, while I got comfortable in my bottom bunk on the other side of the room. Our Asian bunk-mate didn’t say a word to us as she bounced around the room in her matching, pink and flowered, fleece pajama set. The room was warm to begin with. How this woman was going to sleep in what seemed like a parka was beyond me. I thought the outfit was the best of it, but she began doing other strange things as we got ready for bed, like picking at her feet for a solid five minutes before falling asleep flat on her face in a plank position. I turned the light off, assuming she was somehow comfortably asleep until I got back into bed and she was up standing in the dark corner of the room texting for twenty minutes. I couldn’t figure this chick out, so I let myself fall asleep, anticipating a late night wake up call from our male roommate. Not to our surprise he came wandering in after what must have been a night of partying around 2:30. He tossed and turned, and sniffled his way to sleep – I could have killed him! I know I’ve said it before, but this time I’m serious when I swear we are never booking a hostel again.
After another restless night, we woke up to get ready for our Guinness Brewery Tour. We grabbed a quick breakfast at a cafe on the street we were staying, complete with eggs, sausage and toast – something we’ve been deprived of in Spain. After breakfast we decided we’d walk to the brewery. Luckily, Dublin is fairly small in size and everything is in walking distance. We stopped along the way to check out some painted Irish flags and Georgian style doors on homes en route. After a fairly short, twenty minute walk, we had made it to the entrance of the brewery. It felt like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for adults, with its grand gates embellished with the Guinness name and logo. It was a simple looking factory on the outside, but as we entered we realized there was so much more than meets the eye. We were greeted by a man a woman who checked our tickets and advised we begin up the stairs, as an introduction was beginning at that moment. We made it just in time to catch a brief description of the self-guided tour and building layout. We made our way from floor to floor, learning the history, ingredients, production process, and how to pour the perfect pint. After completing our short pouring course at the Guinness Academy, we considered ourselves pro pourers and proudly brought our pints to the GRAVITY® Bar – the highest floor of the Guinness Storehouse and home to a 360 degree bar where visitors can enjoy their pint of Guinness with a view of the entire city.
Our Guinness Tour was quickly followed by our own walking tour of the city. We walked towards St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where we took in the sight from the outside. On our way back towards the centre of town, we explored Trinity College and its incredible campus. The buildings were impressive, and although we contemplated taking a peek at The Book of Kells, we decided we’d continue on our way, since there was a long line. We ended up stopping for lunch in the Temple Bar area where we had been the previous night enjoying live music. We had lunch at a restaurant called The Quay’s Irish Restaurant. It was nothing special, but hit the spot after our morning brews. After lunch we wandered towards the Dublin Castle, stopped at an old-school candy store, and spent some quiet time in the (rare) Irish sun at St. Stephen’s Green. It was time to head back to the hostel for our bags and get ready to make our way to the bus station. We had a long trip ahead of us, since we had opted to take the bus and ferry towards England to save a night of accommodation expenses. Our trip in Dublin wasn’t complete without a stop at McDonald’s. I am not ashamed to say we are avid McDonald’s goers and have compared the food in nearly every country we’ve visited. Might I add, Dublin received a 10/10!
It was nearly time to leave, so we continued towards the bus station, grabbed a coffee, and boarded our coach bus. It was less than comfortable, but we were lucky to snag half of the back row which made stretching out slightly easier. We were accompanied in the back seat with a girl who smelled a little questionable and whipped out an entire sleeve of Oreo cookies for her self. As we approached the port, the ferry proved to be much larger than I or Joey had expected – similar to a cruise ship in size. We drove on, disembarked the bus, and made our way up to the passenger area of the ship. It was beautiful and fully equipped with multiple washrooms, grand staircases, a restaurant and cafe, a large store for shopping, a gaming centre, and a cinema. We even managed to find Nutella crepes on board! Unfortunately, the enjoyable three hour ferry ride came to an end and at this point we were ready for some sleep. We boarded the bus and amusingly watched grown adults argue over their original seat seat selection. Little did we know, we had to exit the bus for a second time with all of our luggage for customs inspections. You would have thought we were UK citizens ourselves by the measly peek the officers took at our Canadian passports, waving us back towards the bus as others were held behind. It was 2am at this point, as we entered into England. London felt so close, yet so far. The rest of the night was spent restlessly attempting to find comfort in a cramped space, surrounded by strangers, with what felt like no heat.We dozed off and on in sleeping positions I never dreamed possible and counted down the hours until we were greeted by the morning London sun.