Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ireland ;-)

After me last exam last Friday, I began packing for my last trip.... IRELAND!! On Saturday, we flew to Dublin first and got in at about 7 pm. Our hostel was pretty easy to find. We stayed at Isaacs Hostel, which was pretty nice, but we were in a 16 bed female dorm! Lots of people in one room! That first night, we went on the Dublin Pub Crawl. At the first pub, we got a free pint of Guinness. I drank it... but did not enjoy it in the least bit. Not a fan. There was a huge football match on that night, so the pubs were full of men screaming and cheering. We went to 4 pubs and ended with a nightclub. There was live music at each of the pubs and I absolutely loved the atmosphere! Everyone was so friendly and everyone was dancing to the Irish music and singing. We definitely saw a guy dressed as a leprechaun walking along the street at one point too. One of the pubs we went to, called Whelans, was used to film a scene for PS I love you. Need to watch that movie now! On the dance floor, they had a big screen that was playing ET... a little strange and creepy but at the same time kind of cool. By the time we got to the club (called Dandelion) it was pretty late. We stayed for a little while, then left and got some chips (aka fries for the Americans) on the way back to our hostel.

The next morning, a free walking tour picked up from our hostel, so we decided to go on that. It was really good, we got to see all the major sites of Dublin: O'Connell Street (with the Spire), Dublin Castle, Temple Bar District, Dublin Wall of Fame, Trinity College. I learned that there is in fact, an Irish language. Irish Gaelic is the same as Irish. Theres also a Scottish form of Gaelic. He spoke a little to us, it was really interesting! All the signs in Dublin have both Irish and English. But everyone speaks English. They have to learn Irish in school, but everyone kind of grows up hating it (like how we all hate learning Spanish in school). Theres apparently a few parts of Ireland that regularly use it, but overall everyone speaks English. Later that afternoon we went back to Temple Bar to do some shopping and check out the pub. It was huge, with several rooms and live music pretty much round the clock. We walked from there to St. Stephen's Green, a huge park. It was such a sunny, perfect day we just laid in the grass next to a lake for hours. We may or may not have fallen asleep for a while.... woops :-) There were baby swans in the lake! It was a really relaxing, lovely day.

The next morning, we got on our train from Dublin to Belfast. The countryside was so beautiful from the train, everything was so green. Note: Dublin is part of the Republic of Ireland and Belfast is part of Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. They're two different countries. We got to Belfast around noon and walked to our hostel. The hostel was adorable, I think my favorite one all semester. It was like a cozy house with several hang out rooms. The staff were all so friendly and everyone in our 14 bed dorm was really nice. It just felt like a little community! They told us about a Mexican place that we went to for lunch, kind of like a Chipotle, but it was better and THEY HAD QUESO. First time I've had queso in months. Later at the hostel, one of the ladies that worked there asked me what queso was.... what a sad life. After eating, we went on a black taxi tour. Its actual taxi drivers that take you around Belfast in their cars. They were all taxi drivers during the conflicts only about 20-30 years ago. Our guy took us to the giant wall built to separate the Protestant and Catholic sides of Belfast. The Protestants are in favor of British rule, while the Catholic would rather be part of the Republic of Ireland. The tour was really interesting, I had no idea these things happened so recently! Our guide dropped us off at City Hall, where there was a big market set up for the bank holiday. Tons of food and shops! We wondered around there for a while and the nearby shopping centre. On our way back towards our hostel,  a bird somehow managed to poop on all 3 of us. It had kind of been raining on and off so I thought it was water, then I look down and I was like OH NOOOOOOO!! So we hurried around trying to find a bathroom until we found some guy who gave us some napkins. We went immediately back to the hostel and took showers. I guess its good luck right? We went to a nice, nearby pub for dinner. Back at the hostel for the night, we were hanging out, watching a movie, when the fire alarm started going off at about 10:30. We all huddled in the quietest room (there was actually no fire). It ended up taking like an hour to turn all of them off. It was actually kind of hilarious (once they turned off the alarm in the room we were in). It turned out there was some dust or something that had set them off and kept re-triggering them. We went to bed once they turned them off and got a wonderful nights sleep :-)

Next day we set out for Titanic Belfast! The new museum, the largest Titanic museum in the world, opened only a year ago on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic. The Titanic was built in Belfast and then shipped to England to sale from there. The Irish always say: "An Irishman built the Titanic, an Englishman sunk it."The building itself was really cool, it looked like an iceberg. It was the best exhibition/museum thing I've ever done. There was a ride that took you through a shipbuilding yard and showed you how they built it. There was a CGI tour through the Titanic that surrounded you on 3 sides (so cool!). There were full size replicas of first class, second class, and third class cabins. There were only 2 bathrooms for all of the third class passengers... and there were hundreds of them! They had original documents and records of the passengers. It was crazy how much the actors in the Titanic look exactly like the people in real life. It got really sad when we got to the part about the sinking. On display were all the messages sent to and from the Titanic asking for help. At the same time, there were voices playing over the speakers describing the sinking by actual survivors. There were 713 survivors out of 2,999 total people on board. Most of the fatalities were third class people, but their stores go untold. There was a life size lifeboat there, which had the capacity to hold 65 people. Most of the ships were not filled. The first lifeboat only had 29 people in it! They talked briefly about the movies made about the Titanic (theres actually a ton of them!). James Cameron came up with the character of Jack Dawson from his imagination, but later discovered there was an actual J Dawson on board. He was a third class man who drowned in the sinking... The last bit of the museum had actual footage of the wreckage of the Titanic and they had an interactive exhibit where you could explore the debris field around the sunken ship. Overall, the experience was absolutely unbelievable!!! Afterwards we walked back and ate at the Mexican place again :-) We ventured to the Botanic Gardens nearby and walked through the greenhouse, rose gardens, tropical house, and fields of flowers. We found a nice patch of grass to lay in and I fell asleep again for a bit... That night we headed to the airport and flew back to London (for the last time!).
I absolutely loved Ireland, it was so beautiful and everyone was so friendly! People are friendly in London too, but typically are more reserved and don't openly talk to strangers. They don't make eye contact or talk to strangers at all actually. When I first got here, I was so used to smiling at strangers that walked by and they thought I was a total creep. Ireland was much more open with strangers and especially in Dublin, there was such a lively atmosphere. I can't believe that was my last trip of the semester! I have 9 more days here in London until I head back home...

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