European Adventure 2019, Leg 4: Ireland, Part 2 + Retrospective

Leg 4, Day 5: Dublin, Part 1
June 26th, 2019

The previous night after we returned from the Cliffs of Kerry, we ate with a hostelmate from the US named Kelly. We told her about our trip and that we were now engaged. She told us why she was travelling, explaining that her trip was much less planned than ours was, and when we told her we were going to Dublin the next day, she asked if she could tag along and we agreed to bring her with us on our drive across the country.

The drive from Killarney to Dublin was unfortunately more boring than I thought it would be, but I suppose these things happen on major highways where the focus is function, not scenery.

Four hours later, we were on the outskirts of Dublin, navigating our way towards the western edge by the sea to return our rental. Our car was a very new hybrid car, and with all of the driving we had done in Ireland, from to Cork to Killarney, Killarney around the Ring of Kerry, then to Dublin, we only had to fill up the tank once right before we returned it.

We took the train deeper in Dublin closer to downtown, which is where we parted ways with Kelly. After a little bit of trouble we finally located our AirBnB, and we hastily and sloppily unloaded everything we would need for the next two nights just as we had done what felt like countless times before in the past two weeks. We took some comfort knowing this was the last time we would need to settle into a new temporary home, but that comfort did not translate to a second wind of energy, and we crashed on the bed for a couple of hours. It was at this point I began to realize just how long we had been away from home, how long we had been travelling from one place to another. It was just beginning to feel like slightly too long, but again, I knew in a couple short days we would be heading home, so the feeling did not bother me.

Similar to her coworker during our time in England, Danielle’s friend from college was also visiting Ireland with a relative, so we met up with them at a fantastic tiny restaurant a mere block away from where we stayed. The restaurant boasted Dublin’s best fish n’ chips, so it is an easy guess what I ordered.

After we ate, we walked towards downtown and then across the river to the social and bar district. Dublin, for all of its history and culture, had one identifying feature that was modern in origin and misplaced in theme with the rest of the city that interested me the most. In the middle of downtown there is a 400 foot tall steel spire that pierces the sky, dwarfing all other heights in the city. It is so amusingly out of place and frankly a bit awkward, but what bewildered me the most is that before visiting the city I had never even heard about it.

We eventually made our way to Temple Bar. From what I gathered it is a very well-known destination, and is easily the largest bar I have ever been to. Again, I am not really one for bars, I don’t even feel like I drink very much, but we were in Ireland after all, and I do enjoy them from time to time. The most lively and satisfying aspect to me was the ubiquitous live music. From Temple Bar we went across the street to a dark venue with a much smaller bar where a solo artist captivated all of our hearts for the next two hours.

We ended the night walking across town to another bar where we met another one of Danielle’s friends from when she studied abroad in Cork, who lived in the city. I was very ready to go home by the end of the night, but did not regret a single thing.


Leg 4, Day 6: Dublin, Part 2
June 27th, 2019

We went to the same restaurant for breakfast the next morning. Two main events were scheduled for that day.

The first was a hop-on hop-off bus tour taking us through all of the city’s major sights. There was much more we did than I can remember, but the highlights were the Oscar Wilde memorial statue which was amusingly difficult to locate, and The Little Museum. To be honest, much of this day was a blur, I could tell Danielle was exhausted, possibly from the drinking the previous night but more likely it was general fatigue from the trip being almost over. I could tell because I was feeling the same way. This is not to say we did not enjoy ourselves, but it prevented me from processing my experiences as I had in Iceland or Scotland.

After a long afternoon of walking around the southern part of Dublin, it was time for the second event, the tour of the Guinness Storehouse.

We must have eaten a very quick meal that I have non memory of before hopping back onto another bus to bring us to our final major sightseeing endeavor of our entire journey.

If the spire towered over the northern half of the city, the Storehouse dominated the southern half. The Guinness Brewery was an entire massive campus, but where tourists go is the visitor center of sorts. We scheduled our tour time at the same time Danielle’s friend and her cousin had scheduled theirs, and the extra company was quite welcome to keep us motivated through our tiredness. It was an unguided walking tour which gradually worked its way up to a skydeck bar at the top, each level of the tour covering a different aspect of Guinness, including its history, the brewing process, and everyone’s favorite, the sampling center and pouring tutorial.

The top level bar provided an unparalleled view of Dublin, from the spire, to the seaside docks, the Trinity College, and beyond. We were content to savor the experience for as long as possible, drinking the freshest possible Guinness you can find on the planet, enjoying the view, and accepting the fact that our time in Europe was coming to an end.


Leg 4, Day 7: The Journey Home
June 28th, 2019

For the last time, we gathered our belongings and sneaked out of the room we had been staying in. Waiting for another bus to take us to another place where we would go to another place had grown to feel like the new normal. There we were, doing what we had become experts at: Danielle once again napped on a relatively short bus ride while I captured as many sights as I could, mundane or otherwise, through the often claustrophobic bus windows.

Dublin airport was smaller than I thought it would be, and quite frankly it was difficult to find a halfway decent place to eat. For the last time I made a barista look at me like a ghost because of how much coffee I drink, and we managed to be as settled as we could become in plenty of time before our flight. 

Soon enough, we were on our way back to Keflavik airport in Iceland for a layover. It was a very fitting and satisfying bookend to our trip. I longed for one last glimpse at Iceland, and even though it was marred by a runway it was enough to satisfy me. The air in Iceland is so pure and it is possible to tell that even from inside an airport terminal.

Soon enough, there we were on a flight back to MSP airport. Our flight route took us over Greenland, but I never was able to see it. It was an overnight flight to Iceland so it was too dark, and on the return flight Greenland was overcast. I settled for a flyover of Baffin Island, which was enough to satisfy the geography nerd in me. In terms of local time we arrived only an hour or two after we had left, meaning there was plenty of time left in the day when Danielle’s mother picked us up from the airport.

Just like that, our journey had come to an end.


Retrospective:

I am thankful quite often that we were able to take this trip when we did. Nobody could have foreseen the utter chaos that 2020 has brought, especially regarding international travel. We have thrown around the idea of planning another trip to Iceland with our fathers, but there really is no knowing when a vacation like that will be feasible again. Millions are financially struggling during the pandemic in ways that most people cannot even imagine, but I think of Iceland, and how with each passing year an increasing percentage of its GDP comes from tourism, and I hope that they as a country are able to financially recover in that regard.

I am by no means a seasoned world traveler. My thoughts are not original, and many of them are probably not even very interesting. I wrote this blog mainly for personal documentation, a permanent record of where we went and what we had done. I also hope this is a much more down-to-earth and accessible account than you would find in a guidebook, and helps people shape their expectation of what a trip of their own could realistically look like.

There is one thing that became abundantly clear to me during the trip and afterwards. Due to the short length of time we stayed in a particular area, we always came just barely shy of truly understanding the feel and energy of the country and landscape we were in. I tend to not really regret this; the point of this trip was to take a bite-sized sample of Iceland, England, Scotland, and Ireland, and I feel we absorbed a decent mouthful. I would love to return to Iceland or Scotland sometime in the future for a week or longer to see more sights, meet far more people, and more deeply immerse myself in a different world.

The other main goal of this trip was for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to propose to Danielle, and I can guarantee this trip is still at the forefront of our minds over one year later. We are always seeking the next adventure.

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