Ah, Ireland! I can honestly not tell you how long I have wanted to go there, and this past weekend I finally did! (Although I'm sure my mother has wanted to go there longer, but only because she's older than me...)
Cassie and I flew out Friday morning and arrived around lunch time in Dublin. (And by lunch time, I do not mean the middle of the afternoon like in Spain - Yes! A country with normal meal times!) It took a while to find our hostel though due to the fact that, unfortunately for us, neither of us has ever figured out how buses work. In any country. Seriously. We thought we were on the main street...turns out we were quite a ways away. Luckily a number of Irish men took pity on us as we stood on the sidewalk looking at our janky map torn out of Cassie's Europe guide book and pointed us in the right direction. I do say a number of Irish men though as each time we were only able to follow their directions for about two blocks before we got confused again...
At any rate, we finally arrived at our hostel and took the afternoon to visit the National Gallery, which was free (it was apparent why), get the best Chai Tea Latte I have ever had, flirt with the two guys working at the coffee shop and explore Trinity College in the rain, hitting up a couple of pubs in Temple Bar later that evening.
A few words about our hostel: It was not until the middle of the night on Friday that the words "12 person mixed dorm" actually connected in my brain when I woke up to the sound of a man coughing. It was at that point that I became concerned about the shower situation. The reason was this: there was one bathroom for the 12 people, with one toilet (luckily with a stall door), one sink, one shower that had a clear glass door (no curtain, nothing to block you off from the sink or toilet area) and no lock. As I was the first one up I was able to shower quickly with no issue of men walking in on me. Unfortunately poor Cassie was not quite as blessed. That's all I'll say about that.
Although they did serve a really good breakfast.
So Saturday we had reservations to go on a bus tour through Wicklow County. I was so excited to be getting out into the countryside; granted, we gave up seeing the touristy sites in the city, but I really have probably seen enough castles and cathedrals to last me a lifetime. I wanted to see some of what God created. It was amazing. The tour stopped at DunLaoghaire (Dun-Leery) Harbour just outside of Dublin, a coffee stop in Avoca where we had the best Pear and Vanilla scones with the best raspberry jam, a stop in Sally Gap where a number of films have been done (and at which point our bus driver/tour guide was handing out shots of whiskey...), a lunch stop and a tour of Glendalough, a 6th century monastic settlement. Glendalough included such things as this incredibly old cemetery (they didn't start labeling the graves until 1720 and there were a ton of unmarked ones), the remains of a church built in the 600's and one of the only buildings left in Europe with a stone roof. And the oldest Celtic Cross standing in Europe (erected in the 800's or the 8th century, I can't remember which. Either way, it's really old). Did you know that the Celtic Cross has never been acknowledged by the Vatican because the circle originally represented the sun, as the sun god was one of the pagan people's main gods and pretty much all of Ireland was pagan before they started converting them to Catholicism (the point of the monastic settlement, in fact). Now you know. Oh, and we drove through the peat bogs. I had never seen a bog before (and really, where would I have?) and it was pretty cool, though I did find the idea of a bog hole kind of freaky. It was sad that the heather wasn't blooming or else everything would have been gorgeously purple. But it was still amazing as it was. All of it. I have never seen such shades of green in nature before. God's creation blows my mind.
That night we spent a large chunk of time camped out at this tea and coffee place (a different one from before), then decided to call it an early night. Sunday brought a wee bit of shopping, napping in St. Steven's Green and walking around the city a bit before flying back to Spain.
So to sum up why I am in love with Ireland: Gorgeous green everywhere. The Irish people really are some of the nicest you will meet. Their scones rocked. Loads of tea. Peat bogs make the world a more interesting place. Lots of sheep and brown bread.
On a slightly less jolly note, this will be my last weekend in Spain as we fly home next Friday morning. At least one final blog to come before then.