My guest blog for Jered on Live Declared.
Traveling to Ireland soon? Are you struggling to pin down the sites you want to see? Consider these places for your trip. You can visit them all in a week!
1. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
Known as the “glen of two lakes”, Glendalough boasts a scenic landscape that is hard for anyone to resist. The Upper Lake is a nice place to take pictures and skip rocks, and the walk to the 6th century monastery is both peaceful and mysterious. The graveyard is interesting, as several of the tombstones are indecipherable due to their age and St. Kevin’s Cross and the Round Tower are part of Irish folklore. Glendalough is also kid friendly, as there are grassy areas with natural features to scramble around on. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a hike up to the waterfall. I highly recommend the Wild Wicklow Tour–my guide was friendly, flexible and knowledgeable. You’ll see much more than Glendalough itself.
2. O’Neills, Co. Dublin
One of the most handsome, traditional pubs in Dublin, O’Neills is a gem that not every tourist knows about. It’s not far from St. Stephens Green and Trinity College. O’Neills is a great place to meet up with friends or to soak up the ambiance–they do traditional music every night and the food is pretty impressive. The Carvery is excellent (come hungry!) and the main menu offers something for everyone. While you should also experience Temple Bar, if you like to get away from hordes of people and always wanted to hear traditional music in a pub, this might be the place for you. I took my study abroad friends here and since then we’ve all returned numerous times.
3. Galway City, Co. Galway
You haven’t seen Ireland if you haven’t been to Galway in the West! They hold the biggest arts festival in the country and 20% of its population are college students. The main city is walkable–you can see most of it in two hours. Don’t rush, though, as you’ll want to enjoy a meal here and listen to street music. They have a farmer’s market, several fun shops and some beautiful attractions. The Spanish Arch area out by Galway Bay is a must-see, as well as Galway Museum right behind it and the Galway Cathedral close by.
4. Connemara, Co. Galway
Words can’t really express this place. The views are incredible. Driving around the peat bogs and seeing the idyllic-looking horses in the tall grass is essential to the Irish experience. My family drove quite close to Connemara National Park, which I hear is a must-see as well.
5. The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
Though the Cliffs are probably the most popular tourist destination in Ireland, they are stunning. You can take a hike along the cliffs, called the Burren Way–for hours if you like. I had two hours to explore the Cliffs, and it was plenty of time for me. I would’ve liked to walk along the Burren Way for a considerable amount of time, but since I was on a tour I made a point to take photographs I’d love and study the various angles of the Cliffs. A word of caution: people do fall off the Cliffs, so stay AT LEAST three feet away from the edge. I’d double that amount in the event of strong winds and rain, because you have a higher chance of losing your balance and slipping. Just use your common sense and don’t risk your life for a picture! I recommend the Wild Rover tour for those of you who will not drive in Ireland: you’ll get two hours at the Cliffs, some time to stretch your legs and enjoy The Burren and two hours in Galway. The guides are fantastic, and the value is excellent for the price. I took the Wild Rover tour to Belfast, the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which I also recommend because unlike the Cliffs, there are no stone barriers at all–you get to walk around it all.
Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts: did I miss something people have to go see? What was your experience like in Ireland?
My apologies for it being a month since my last post. I appreciate your patience. Finals were stressful (the good kind of stress) and I wanted to prepare as much as I could. I survived my semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland, so now I just have to wait for my grades! I’ll elaborate on study abroad in a future post, I promise. I’d love to share a final set of experiences with you before I do.
Last Saturday was my first day of summer. I was so excited to go to Skerries in North Dublin I couldn’t sleep much the night before. Two months before I had read about Skerries in my guide-book, and while it didn’t go into detail about the town, it did mention Skerries Mills. Also around this time the international and Erasmus student society I was a part of on campus gave us the opportunity to do a clean up project in Skerries. I wasn’t able to participate, but once I started Googling Skerries I became more and more intrigued. I learned that they hold an annual Traditional Music Weekend there, for three days in May filled with dance and instrument workshops in the morning, street music in the afternoon and concerts at night. My host mom took one look at the lineup and said I had chosen well. Clearly, this was a cultural opportunity I wasn’t about to miss.
I decided to plan a trip out to Skerries once my finals were over, as a reward for finishing strong and as a chance to see another seaside town before I left for the States. (I leave this week. It’s bittersweet). My Irish friend Nwanne and I couldn’t have picked a better day to go. The journey was simple, as I took the DART (Irish Rail) towards Drogheda, and the route led me directly to Skerries. The weather was quite balmy, the sky a pretty blue mixed in with a few clouds. I talked with a very pleasant elderly gentleman on my walk into town. He seemed dedicated to the music festival, as he had been there before and knew which bands at the pubs I shouldn’t miss. He’d listened to all their music as well, which made him 100% more of an expert than I was.
I had to laugh at myself soon after when I went on a wild goose chase for a tourist office and a public restroom. Signs in the town pointed in the opposite direction of these facilities, which was at once very frustrating and humorous at the same time. After heading in the wrong direction for the monument (I was one street over), I finally met up with Nwanne. It was so good to see her, as she was also recovering from our chaotic finals schedule. When I asked her what she wanted to do, she let me decide what we’d do that day since this was the end of my study abroad experience. She was up for anything I wanted to do, which I really appreciated.
The first place we went to was Skerries Mills. There are three mills at Skerries; two windmills and a watermill. It is famous in part because it was one of the few mills with both wind and waterpower. I found them marvelous structures, and I desperately wanted to take pictures of them to seal it forever in my memory. We went on a nice tour of the Mills and really enjoyed it. In the huge watermill the guide demonstrated how workers would turn grain into flour, their pulley system to haul the bags of flour up to the next floor and then powered up the mill to show us how all the parts worked together. I thought it was pretty neat. Then we got to tour the inside of the Small Windmill. It was drafty inside, and we could hear the wind howling outside (it was not actually that windy outside, but inside the mill sound became more amplified). Anyway, it was my first time in a windmill! I liked the Small Windmill better than the Great Windmill because it had a more rustic look and the red door with a fence surrounding it was a nice touch. When we got closer to the Great Windmill, however, I loved how it seemed to effortlessly work with the landscape. The thing that amazes me about these mills is the back-breaking work the men did everyday to earn a living. To think that they faced many trials in order to make the mill more efficient showed their dedication to work. Their jobs were very dangerous and the monotony, I assume, made it difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment.
After we’d snapped several selfies and soaked up the sun, Nwanne and I headed back into town. We went to South Beach and sat down in the sand. We looked out to the islands there and had fun watching children chase their parents around in circles until we were nearly dizzy ourselves. We wanted to make it to Keane’s Bus Bar by 5 PM for live music, so we skipped the harbor and went to get dinner and wait.
Keane’s Bus Bar has the kind of ambiance that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the early 20th century. The seats were cushy, the tables tiny and several paintings of the Dublin area hung on the walls. We ate our meal with gusto and settled in for some good music. While the band that played was fine, the guitarist was the only one who sang for us. Still, the harp, the fiddle and the Uilleann pipes made the music legitimate and quite colorful. The gentleman I had talked to earlier sat at the table closest to the band, and when he saw me he explained that we had missed a fantastic traditional music session at 3 PM–apparently the whole town went to that one! While I was a little sad, I did not regret any moment spent in Skerries and I happily listened to the music playing. The three small children trying to out-dance each other at the pub stole the show! The band enthusiastically invited them to “play” the Uilleann pipes. Spending time with my friend and with the kind people of Dublin made my day. On my next trip to Ireland, I’ll make a point to return to the quiet and peaceful town of Skerries.
I stumbled across Limerick-based Hermitage Green on Spotify a little over a month ago, and I am so glad I did! Had this not happened, I wouldn’t have been at The Academy in Dublin at their gig on April 17th. The guys are brilliant musicians and have a great sense of humor (they were all for going to the pub with audience members before Good Friday started!) They’ve performed in Australia and recently did a tour in North America and Canada. What I appreciate about this band is their distinct sound: it’s not just guitars. They also pay banjo, djembe, dobro, harmonica, bodhrán and keyboard. Besides the plethora of musical instruments, their voices blend together in an a cappella style that really brings out the harmonies. So in other words, their music is complex and exotic. If you think about the popular Avett Brothers or Mumford and Sons, you can think again when you listen to Hermitage Green. I’m not saying the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons aren’t good, but I am saying that Hermitage Green offer top-notch quality music, and they don’t sound like the typical folk rock bands out there. Give them a listen (I’ve included videos below) and see what you think. Then spread the word if you like what you hear!
With its history dating back to a viking invasion in 819, Howth is one of Dublin’s main out-of-city attractions. Howth sits north of Dublin Bay, and the views from Dalkey and Dún Laoghaire harbors in South Dublin are particularly neat. You can reach Howth by DART (Irish Rail) from the city centre in about 30 minutes.
My friend Anika and I got a great first impression of the village as soon as we stepped off the train. We went into Howth Market, a farmer’s market with mouth-watering bread, sweets and other goods. Anika’s delicious bread had cheese, tomato sauce and jalapeño in it. We really liked seeing the array of shops and restaurants near the habour. Howth Harbour was wonderful! We walked along the west and east piers and saw a seal pop his head out of the water for a minute. It was so refreshing to feel the wind blow into our faces and to breathe in the salty, slightly fishy air. We watched kayakers paddle out to Ireland’s Eye and white sailboats floating far off at the edge of Dublin City. There are few things that are more relaxing than sitting pier side and watching the waves.
While we each had a map of Howth with us, we weren’t sure how close the sites in town actually were, and nothing sounded that intriguing. Anika suggested that we walk for a bit past the harbour, which I thought was an excellent idea. As we started our climb we passed beautiful homes and looked back to see views of the village now and then. We hiked up Howth Head, which is a sprawling peninsula that you could only dream of covering completely if you had the proper footwear, food and water to keep you going. Our boots got muddy but we didn’t mind–running shoes just didn’t seem ideal. I got tired early on mostly because of lack of food and hydration, but Anika seemed to have an endless supply of energy! I liked hiking with her and I’m glad that she motivated me to press on. Plus, the *views only continued to improve the higher we climbed. We figured that we were close to the turn that would lead us to a car park and back down to the village about an hour and a half in. We were right, and we didn’t have to walk far past Howth Summit to find a warm pub to refuel in.
We headed back into town and sat down on a bench to contemplate our trip and rest our feet. We drank some warm cocoa at the first cafe we had seen outside the train station to end the day. We both agreed that while the harbour area and the coastal views from Howth Head were amazing, the village itself wasn’t as beautiful and special as we thought it would be. My advice is to visit Dalkey over Howth, as there is much more to see and it is far nicer as a town. Still, Howth is worth seeing.
One of the things I learned about myself from my trip to Howth was that I don’t have to always travel alone. Here in Ireland I’ve planned most of my sightseeing and so far I haven’t minded doing my own thing. My hope in this is that I get to develop an awareness of Dublin without limitation. Sounds lonely, doesn’t it? Sometimes it feels that way, but I like to meet people outside of my friend circle and learn about the things that I find interesting here. Having a friend to share yesterday with meant a lot to me. It’s hard to make friends when you’re at a new school and have deadlines to meet, but it is great to have a friend who takes the time to get to know you. Hopefully I can see Anika a few more times before the term ends!
Note: Hover over the photos to view captions, click to view larger
*The view changed rapidly. One moment there was mist over the next 100 meters ahead of us, and then it was clear. No time to take off your jacket!
If you are in the Dublin area for a few days or are staying for an extended period of time, do visit Dalkey Heritage Town. Hint: go on a sunny, non-blustery day to get the best impression. From the city centre simply take the DART (Irish Rail) towards Bray. It should take approximately 35 minutes. I went on Saturday after an attempt to go finally seemed possible. I couldn’t have picked a better time to go! The sun was out, people looked ridiculously happy and it was actually warm. (For the first hour I was there, anyway).
I skipped the medieval tour at *Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre and took off on one of the heritage trails listed on my map. I’ll admit, I overestimated just how far I’d walk in total: I think it was about 3.5 miles by the time I left at 6 pm. Still, I can’t complain; it was excellent exercise. I went on a scenic stroll to Coliemore Harbour and marveled at the variety of housing gates and styles. While some homes in Dalkey are quite modest in size with plain gates, most of them had this giant personality to call their own. Let’s just say it wasn’t condominium central, or dull looking.
At Coliemore Harbour I got an excellent view of Dalkey Island. There is a telescope that highlights the island–St. Begnet’s Church and Martello Tower. The seagulls seemed content to call it home. I continued south on Coliemore Road and a woman who saw me boring my eyes into the map smiled and said “How can I help?” The hospitality in Dalkey, and in Dublin, never ceases to amaze me. I told her I planned to see Vico Road. I didn’t even ask her for help, but I appreciated it all the same. Before I went to Vico Road, I realized I was at Sorrento Park. I climbed a few rocky stairs and stood amidst large brown shrubs. I’m guessing it’s nicer when it has actual color. I also got my first glimpse of Killiney Bay.
Next up was Vico Road in Killiney, the next town over from Dalkey. Impressive views of the bay, yes, and fancy estates for the rich and famous. You’ll see expensive sports cars and Mercedes and Audis zoom by you. U2 band members Bono and The Edge live here! It’s not hard to see why. The further you walk down the road, you catch glimpses of the inter-town liveliness. However, Vico Road stretches out way too far for the average person to walk. I almost had to huff and puff my way down that road, which was embarrassing. I made myself sit down on a bench once because my feet hurt.
Here were the two things I wanted to see in Killiney: Dolphins and Bono’s house.
Just guess what I didn’t see in Killiney.
That’s right, dolphins and Bono’s house! Both were nowhere in sight, though I suspect Bono’s house was half a mile to a mile further down from Killiney Hill or so, or I overlooked it on the part of the road I’d walked down.
It was not a wasted trip, but I did feel sad for a moment. I knew that if I wanted to see more of Dalkey and Killiney I’d have to keep trekking. Killiney Hill was neat, it felt like I was hiking in the woods almost. A long ivy-covered wall led me to a junction, where I took a left and climbed up to the summit and saw Killiney Obelisk and caught views of Dublin, Bray, Wicklow Mountains and Killiney Bay. Can’t beat it–urban Dublin with touches of countryside in the background (and this is not the city centre side).
I took a right down from the Obelisk and headed back into town via Killiney Hill Road and Dalkey Avenue. By the time I made it back to Dalkey I treated myself to something sweet and rested before I found the energy to go on another heritage trail. I went to Bulloch Castle, Bulloch Harbour and finished up with James Joyce Tower in a quiet residential part of town. The castle was neat, it’s now a private Nursing Home. The real treat was the harbour, though. I scrambled up and down magnificent rocks and made a few photographs of my view of Dublin Bay on the tallest, orange algae-covered rock. I sat and contemplated my day at the tower, chuckling to myself at the power a little town had to make me feel…so full.
*I’ve heard this tour is worth it so if you have the time, see it. Plus the people at the front desk are extremely friendly, and genuinely so.
Hope you like the photos and the tour of Dalkey and Killiney! Hover over the photos to view captions.
Silver hair. Black boots. Miniskirt. Mile-long legs. She is fashion herself. Elegant. Graceful. Shoulders back, head up, she faces the Dubliners in front of her. She is ready to do more than an album or an MP3 can do. Create, visualize, dance, deliver a performance that sways the audience into the inner workings of her mind. This is St. Vincent.
From the moment St. Vincent strides onto the Olympia Theatre stage, the energy changes in the room. It is February 21st, Saturday night. The audience is a combination of younger and middle-aged people sipping their beer. They fall under her spell. They’ve waited so long to go to one of her shows, this feels a bit unreal.
“I bet I have something in common with you,” she confides. “When you were young you built a fort out of tin foil…it was perfect. When you were a child you walked down the street and wondered what people looked like as babies.” And one of her best lines goes like this: “When you walk down the street without your contacts or glasses on, sometimes you superimpose people’s heads with the heads of Irish rock stars!” She plays the role of artist and comedian, with unhurried, articulate speech.
Annie Clark, the face of St. Vincent, incorporates a series of gestures and dance moves while she plays. It looks so effortless as she moves around the stage and on her giant pink staircase in her heeled boots. She packs in several guitar solos with her slender hands as well, which proves she is not as dainty as she looks. At one point she positively slithers from the top step of the staircase down to the floor, the strobe lights flashing wildly.
The repertoire covers her new self-titled album, which will be out February 24th in the UK and in the US a day later, along with the old hits from Strange Mercy (2011) and Actor (2009). Her audience loves ‘Cheerleader’, ‘Surgeon’, ‘Birth In Reverse’ and ‘Prince Johnny’. She addresses love, sex, conformity and belonging in her music.
Right when it seems that the show is over at 10:33, St. Vincent comes back onstage after the crowd gives her a standing ovation; she proceeds to play three more songs to wrap up the night.
By the time the audience trickles out of the theatre, they learn something else about her: St. Vincent is fearless, and this girl can rock.
*TOM WOLFE, a literary journalist, inspired the style of this review. I’ve waited to try my hand at something like this. One article I love of his is “Girl of the Year”. As always, thanks for reading.
Did school really start last Monday?
University College Dublin is foreign to me. There are a few things I’m still adjusting to–the campus layout, getting comfortable with the library, finding the best places to eat. I find that most days I feel lonely because I don’t have my friends from back home to hang out with. I wouldn’t mind even sitting in the library and not talking; just being with friends is what counts. I also feel continuously aware of my international student status–look, newbie alert! So far my classes seem stimulating and challenging. The scariest part of school is that I am attempting to pass six upper division classes and get credit on my home campus. This requires a new sort of studying: going through a reading list and selecting what I think is the most beneficial. The “research focus” is such a wonderful idea, in my mind, as it encourages self-initiative. In the U.S., professors guide their students through the course every step of the way in terms of exactly what they’ll teach (the good ones, anyway). Lecturers and professors abroad give suggested further reading lists to their students and expect that the students will prepare themselves. I guess it’s sort of a mixed bag; you get more independence in Ireland but that means that you have to come up with a study strategy, and fast.
It’s OK. Besides the Newman Building, where I have all my classes, I spend the rest of my time in the library. T_T
I signed up for the Belfast Trip today with an international society so that’s making progress, I guess. Time to make friends and put myself out there.
-Missed UC Irvine. No microwaves in the common dining areas? Come on.
-The bitter cold almost strangled me when I cycled home.
-Felt some anxiety and frustration about school and living away from the States.
-Sat in between two friendly Irish girls in my Millennium Development Goals class.
-Visa Debit Card came in the mail.
-Did a decent amount of studying and sat with my friend Sangeeta for a few minutes.
-Made Angie’s Clam Chowder recipe! (Minus the clams, but now I know where to buy them). Shrimp made a perfect substitute–I chopped the ingredients, put them into the soup pot and prayed that it would turn out. Fifteen minutes later the soup was thicker, the potatoes cooked well and the cream I put in made it look delicious! Simple, filling soup, and the smell was fantastic. Trying new recipes is so fun. Cooking is art, and when you make something new it is rewarding. Do browse Angie’s WordPress Blog! She writes memoirs from her life and the recipes she creates from her own garden tie in well. Seems effortless, but I know she takes time to work on her Blog. 🙂 Also, her food photography is better than mine!
Goodnight! As always, thanks for reading.
- The Irish people are friendly. Yes, the stereotype is true. If you’re trying to find your way, Dubliners are more than happy to help you. Most of the people I’ve talked to give excellent directions and they take the time to listen to you. If you greet a complete stranger, you’re likely to get insights into their personal lives before you part ways with them. Also, public service workers and shopkeepers will chat with you and offer their honest opinion on a product if you ask for it. Though they like customer assertiveness, if they don’t have it they won’t guilt you into buying something else.
- The Irish people are laid back. They just don’t rush. I notice that the average Irish person will enjoy life’s pleasant moments, whether it’s laughing, dancing, eating or drinking. If they complain, they don’t generally do it in public.
- That said, the Irish drive insanely fast. Sounds like a contradiction to number 2, doesn’t it? People are certainly in a hurry to get places in this country. Drivers tend to speed up when they see the red stop lights. Pedestrians beware: jaywalk with caution! When in doubt stay at the curb, even if you miss your bus across the street. Once I saw a woman and a child casually skip halfway across the street two seconds before a car whooshed by them.
- They don’t refrigerate their chicken eggs at SuperValu. Apparently it doesn’t matter whether you choose to refrigerate or leave them sitting out.
- You will hear Bruce Springsteen and U2 nearly every time you go to the city centre. I love it. It’s not “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, that’s for sure.
- Irish pubs are some of the best places to meet with friends and enjoy delicious food on the cheap. Many of them offer live, traditional music. Since living here, being at the pub is teaching me to sit and relax and not worry about things. Eating a meal with deliberation is a lost art in America, but here you can take a bite of hearty food and get lost in the pub environment. The older pubs have a cheeriness and an atmosphere that makes you think about the lively conversations that took place there, and the gleaming beers on tap and the whiskey bottles give it a rustic feel.
- Travel within Ireland is relatively easy. Car, bus, train, rail and plane–plenty of options. You can hit the coast in all directions in 3-4 hours from Dublin. Belfast in Northern Ireland (UK) is only a two-hour train trip away.
- The rain is bearable. I was very surprised that for it being winter and rainy almost every day, it’s not bad. Since precipitation actually warms the ground, it’s better than it being bitterly cold outside. If it rains early in the day it usually clears up and sometimes you can see the sun.
- They have an odd sense of humor in TV ads. While they portray the fresh and happy lifestyles of the Irish, they will say something humorous and go on like it is the natural thing to do. For an American abroad, it’s comical.
- Getting away from the city centre is good for you. Being away from the frantic shoppers, traffic congestion and touristy places allows for a well-rounded experience of Ireland. Go outside, ride a bike and explore the little towns.
I can’t get away from water.
Maybe it started when I went on my first paddleboard tour with Jerry. Or perhaps last summer when I visited three of the main beaches in Orange County. I don’t know. I’m lucky to have lived in places close to the coastline. If there were any place I could concentrate and do my best thinking at, it’d have to involve water.
A few days ago I talked to an elderly gentleman who recommends going to the Dún Laoghaire Harbour for something to do. I’m a big fan of boats. The sleek elegance of a yacht, the put-put-put sound of a Duffy. Sailboats are my first love, though. The other day was my first time in Dún Laoghaire. Located in South County Dublin, it’s about 7.5 mi away from Dublin city and is easily accessible by car and public transportation.
I took the DART train from Pearse Station in Dublin and showed up here in the morning. It’s a nice place to practice photography and relax. You are also likely to meet friendly Dubliners going on their morning walks. Of course, you start to feel the chill! In that case, wear your gloves and go for a mini walk to the pier.
The Commemorative Tower to the Hobblers is close by. A band of five men helped dock and moor incoming boats. They were called “Hobblers.”
The west and east piers, respectively. There’s a lighthouse at the end of the east pier.
The moss stands out against the rocks! I like experimenting, especially when I have time to focus on location for a long period of time. I was here for three hours, which seemed about right. (The cold won).
I’m proud of this one.
Close up of a gazebo.
This woman and I looked out at the bay together with her dog.
Bicycling never goes out of style.