My heritage is mixed. Like most western’s we’re a mix of many other great countries. However my family name is Irish. From Gallagherclan.org: “The O’Gallaghers are the senior and most royal family of all the Kinel-Connell (the ancient rulers of what is today the greater part of Co. Donegal, Ireland)”, said John O’Donavan, the great Irish historian of the nineteenth century.
Is there a better fitting place to go than Ireland on my first solo backpacking trip? I didn’t think so either. I flew from Toronto to Dublin directly. The flight seemed longer than it should because the movie was from the early 90s and boring. Good thing I enjoying reading (especially spy novels) that and my ipod helped move time forward until I landed. By the way, I cannot, no matter how hard I try, sleep on a plane. I’ve tried a lot of tricks but feel free to share any in the comments section of how you trick your body out of jet lag.
I have a few set tasks that I do when preparing to go to a new city. Those will be in another post. But I arrive and I get a second wind from the long flight. I get my bus and I start heading in to the city to my hostel. Not too far in, I see my first pub. Woohoo! Oh, there’s another. Oh, and another… and, well you get the point. I heard a riddle in the city that you cannot cross Dublin without crossing a pub. What do you think? Well the answer is simple, you just have to stop at every one!
The bus makes it’s way to the main quays (pronouned “kee”) on the river Liffy. I’m so excited with being here that my eyes are glued to the window. Now I have to admit, while not perfect I have an astonishing sense of direction…. However, my cryptonite of this ability is judging where to get off on a bus. More than once I have used my intuition to say “ah, this must be it” only to end up walking several more blocks then I needed to or grabbing the next bus to continue on my way. This was the case in Dublin. I got off entirely too early and even though I was jet lagged I couldn’t hide the smile on my face. The sun was bright, the streets where alive and I felt in my element. I knew my hostel was straight ahead it was just a matter of how fast I walked…. I took my time to let where I was in the world sink in.
I booked a six bed dorm at the four courts hostel. http://www.fourcourtshostel.com/ very close to the template bar district and all the fun stuff Dublin has to offer. The hostel staff was very helpful and accommodating. The crowd was a bit young(Am I too old?). I’ve come to expect that from most hostels but these seemed younger than your usually college-party crowd. They had lots of information around the hostel on stuff to do and no curfew.
My first day was an exploring day. I wanted to check out the neighbourhood and figure out my internal compass. I found one restaurant I could not help but stop and try. Gallagher`s boxty house http://www.boxtyhouse.ie/ The menu is traditional which was exactly what I was looking for. I learned something about Irish cuisine. Even though my meal tasted great it`s not there to make your taste buds go wild. It`s there to fill you up so you can work. I googled “boxty” later and learned it is in fact “A full and satisfying meal”.
In my wondering, I came across a sign for a free walking tour. Free? Now that’s what I’m talking about. I arrived at the sign and was informed it would be about fifteen minutes to start. I introduced myself to a few other people who where taking the tour. A few Americans, a few Aussies and some Britts. Looks like this Canadian was riding solo. Here we met James our tour guide. He said the tour is free but he asks for a tip at the end if we enjoyed the tour. I got to say, I really like this kind of business. Here, you judge for what was of value and pay accordingly. Their website is: http://www.newdublintours.com/
Dublin Castle Courtyard
We started next to Dublin city hall & Dublin Castle (located right next to each other) and got some general history of Dublin and it`s role during and after the English occupation. The tour went through many other aspects of history and Irish culture that helped shape Dublin in to the city it is today. We ended at a pub (surprise!) But we got a discount on food and got to watch a world cup game.
Walking tours are great, I would recommend them in most cities since you get a great background about the place you’re in. The company always carries the reputation but it’s the quality of guides that really makes a tour worth while. In the case of New Dublin Tours however, I would highly recommend them just because of the way they do business. James earned a great tip from me. And also, offered to come along with us to the pub crawl the same company was hosting that night. He also gave us 10% off the cost since we went on the city tour today. Score!
I got back to my room at the four courts to discover my room has been filled with three more, very out going and fun Tazzies. They are a special breed of Aussies (but from Tasmania) and they welcomed me with a big hello and a cup of Irn-Bru (pronounced iron-brew) and vodka. What is this insanely sweet drink I ask? Apparently it is banned in the west because of a colourant that is used. “Interesting… “ I say, as I take another sip. I talked the Tazzies in to going on the pub crawl with the people I had met on the city tour. This turned in to an amazing, fun and drunkin experience. I learned to play beer pong and got to share a great time with people I had known less than 24 hours.
Now, I decide my time is up. And as I head out I just started walking. Silly move. I ended up in some part of Dublin I had never seen before. I’m pretty buzzed but somehow I got back to my hostel and made it to bed. Day one in Dublin completed.
I wake up late with a big hunger and an even bigger head ache. I pop some pills, drink lots of water and head out to grab some food. This time, it’s to the grocery store for everything I need to make sandwiches.
A Guinness Hurler
My belly filled (and a few made for later), I wanted to tour the Guinness store house. This is pretty cool. You learn the history behind the legendary brew as well as how to properly pour a pint of Guinness. You do (only) get one free beer for doing the tour and it ends at the top of the building with a great few of the city. This is where it would have been great to be with your buds.
View from top of Gunniess Store House
I spent the rest of my time in Dublin discovering the city and in the temple bar district. I met a bunch of characters along the way and was welcomed in so many circles of people.
Dublin is toured by so many people most Irishman say you`re not getting exposed to the culture. However, I would argue that the welcoming and friendly nature of the Irish culture brings those attributes out in everyone who visits Dublin.
Will I be back? No, wait. That’s the wrong question. When will I be back? Soon isn’t soon enough.