An Irish Weekend

I apologize this post is long and detailed, but a lot happened in just a few days.

This past weekend was incredible. I can't express in words how lovely Ireland is but I'll try to do my best by sharing the highlights of my trip. I went with two fun girls named Maddie and Madelin. Our flight got delayed (of course) so we left Scotland around 9 pm. I thankfully got a window seat for the 50 minute flight and witnessed the most spectacular sunset I've ever seen. I learned some really devastating news about a tragedy back at home last week, and so I felt pretty unsettled the rest of the week. However, while watching this serene sunset, I really poured my heart out to God and felt at peace. "Wait" by M83 was playing in my earbuds, and the entire sky just looked like it was praising its Creator. I think that may have been one of the most tranquil moments of my life.

We arrived in Dublin and took an airport bus to the city, where we then walked the streets to our hostel. Dublin was not what I was expecting. I actually wasn't a big fan of it -- I didn't find it too pretty and late at night it was very sketchy. We thought we saw a woman being robbed by a scary-looking man, but when we passed by them a second time, we realized they may have just been a fighting couple. Creepy men were smoking against the walls of buildings, trailing us with their eyes. It was just an unpleasant night. The actual hostel we stayed at (which had the word 'Palace' in it and I thought was ironically hilarious) was blah. The service was terrible and I was in a room with 11 strangers -- half were already sleeping when I arrived and the other half just stared at me the whole time I put my bags away. When I asked the man at the front desk for a towel, he said it would be 2 euro and I said heck no! So I sacrificed a shower that night because I'm cheap. I managed to get a few hours of sleep, though my nose suffered greatly from the foul BO odor coming from the man below me in the bunk bed. We originally were gonna stay there again on Sunday night once we got back from our 2-day tour... but Maddie's mom graciously bought us a nice hotel room instead. Yay!

In the morning we set off on our tour in a bus that fit about 20 people. Our tour guide was a 17 year old Irish guy. For 2 hours we drove across Ireland (because our tour was for the west) and I slept on and off. First we stopped in this quaint little town called Cong. Population: 175. For 3 euro we got a short walking tour from a family-run business. A cute, nervous 10 year old boy with braces was our tour guide. The tiny town was adorable and we got lunch from this place called The Quiet Man Cafe. Cong was used for the filming of an old movie called "The Quiet Man," which now I feel like I'm required to watch.

Next we drove another 2 hours until we reached the B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L landscape of Connemara. I can't even fathom how artistic God is. The rugged scenery and dramatic mountains were jaw-dropping. It was so incredibly green in Ireland! I also loved seeing all the sheep, horses, and cattle grazing in the wide open fields.

I never wanted to leave Connemara, but we had to keep going. We briefly stopped by the pretty, rocky coast before making our way to the city of Galway in the late afternoon.

Galway was wonderful. Definitely a very fun and vibrant city that had an amazing vibe to it. For an hour we walked the streets, bought some souvenirs, soaked up the first day of sunshine that we've had since coming to Europe, and watched all the different street performers. Our hostel was snazzy and extremely better than the one Friday night. I chatted with the 2 other girls in our room who were also on the tour. They had been backpacking since early May and I was so fascinated with every word that came out of their mouths. I strive to do that one day. We ate dinner in a nice Irish pub (eating out is killing my wallet so I try not to as much as possible) and then I went back early to get a good night's sleep while the others went to find a pint.

Sunday. was. marvelous. The morning was a little rough because we ended up having a new person added to our tour, which messed up the number of seats we had on the bus. The guy in charge split our group in half, dropped my group off on some random street, and told us a new bus would come get us in 10 minutes. Welp 30 minutes goes by and we literally started thinking, "Ireland is where we are going to die." But FINALLY the new bus came and we joined another group. It was so interesting meeting people from all over the world on just one bus. Sitting there, I could hear 3 different languages being spoken all around me simultaneously. I sat by this friendly, attractive guy named Mario from Spain who had been living in Ireland the past 3 years. We talked a lot throughout the day and he told me about Spain, while I told him about North Carolina. The cutest part was that he was traveling with 2 old ladies -- family members that wanted to see his new country of residence. I also met a woman from Italy, a mother and son from Malaysia, a guy from India, 2 women from Spain, and a couple of backpackers from America. It was a very interesting mix that I thoroughly enjoyed.

We drove through the scenic Galway Bay and the Burren. Fun fact: the Burren is the only place on earth where Mediterranean, Arctic, and Alpine flora grow side by side. We also made a short photo stop at Corcomroe Abbey, a 13th century Cistercian monastery. Our tour guide showed us an opening under a grave stone where a skull could be seen.

We continued our drive along the Wild Atlantic Way. Oh man, I thought the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC was the most beautiful road I've ever been on but this one topped it. Everything is so much prettier here than in America. I never wanna go back. The scenery was phenomenal -- water to our right, jagged mountains to our left, and a curvy road ahead. Handmade rock walls (created during the potato famine) lined the roads and pastures. We briefly stopped at a site called the Mini Cliffs.

We finally made it to our main destination: the Cliffs of Moher. I've seen numerous pictures online of them but it was crazy to see their size in person. They were enormous! It was an incredible sight and luckily/surprisingly it wasn't rainy or foggy during our stay. I spent an hour walking around the cliffs, while most of the group took photos for ten minutes and then went inside the nearby restaurant/shop. I didn't ever wanna take my eyes off the cliffs. I got a little carried away and ended up hopping the wall barrier to get a closer look (tons of others had done the same). I can only imagine how gorgeous that site must be during a sunset.

We made it back to Dublin around 8 pm Sunday and rested up in our hotel. We grabbed some New York pizza because none of the pubs were serving dinner that late anymore. Then we walked the sketchy streets until we found the Temple Bar. It was a nice little bar and we listened to some live music. Afterwards, Madelin and I were waiting outside a store while Maddie bought something. Three Irish men approached us, who smelled like alcohol, and asked us about where we were from, our names, etc. Then one asked us, "Do you ladies have any Irish in you?" We both replied no. Without missing a beat he smiled and said, "Do you want some?" Madelin and I were cracking up and turned him down. He and his friends left us alone after that. The rest of the night was uneventful and we made it back to Scotland with an hour to spare before my class started on Monday afternoon. Ireland was so, so lovely.

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