The Emerald Isle

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Since Dayna and I had spent the majority of our time in Europe traveling through the big cities, we decided we needed to get back in touch with nature. So, we took a side trip to the lucky land of Ireland during our free weekend in London.

We booked our flight in advance, but that was all we had planned. We flew into Dublin with only a backpack and a general idea of where we wanted to go. We flew Ryanair, one of Europe’s most popular budget airlines, but it wasn’t a comfortable experience.

As we were walking through passport control in the Dublin airport, we met a group of three young Aussies. Since we had such a positive experience with the Australians we met in Amsterdam, we decided to strike up a conversation. We decided to join them, and together we took the bus to their hostel.

The hostel was called Abbey Court, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Although it had a relaxing patio area, cool art on the walls, and hammock room, the breakfast was measly and the hygiene was seriously lacks. We stayed in a sixteen-person room, but for the majority of the women there, it was their home. The room was covered in piles of other people’s belongings, which kind of made you feel like you were invading their space. It was uncomfortable. Although some were welcoming, this set-up defeated the purpose of a hostel: to bring travelers together in a feel-good environment.

Despite the unplanned accommodation, we still had a great time in Dublin. We headed to the Guinness Factory, where we learned all the steps for brewing a proper beer. I saw hops for the first time; never before realizing that they are actually an attractive flower and not a grain. We did Guinness taste tests, played interactive and historical games, and learned how to do the perfect pour! I tried Guinness back in the states and thought it was a little heavy, but in Ireland, its absolutely delicious. Our guides toasted us with the traditional Gaelic word “Sláinte”, meaning “cheers and good health.”

The Guinness Factory

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At night, Dayna and I went on a pub-crawl. I had never been before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it was really fun! You get complimentary shots at each bar and you get to know most of the other travelers in your group. One of the bars featured some Irish performers doing covers of American songs, another had beer pong, and the last stop was a club playing throwbacks of American rap, hip-hip, and edm. Our music and influence is everywhere!

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The next morning, we rented a car and planned to drive to Northern Ireland. If you didn’t know, Ireland is separated into The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. These two regions are considered different countries, with different customs, allegiances, accents, and lifestyles. The car rental was a lot more expensive than in America, but it was absolutely worth it. At first Dayna had some difficulty as the driver in the passenger seat driving on the other side of the road, but she got the hang of it pretty quick. The thin roads had no medians or margins between the shrubs, so she was a little jumpy when cars were passing.

Dublin to Ballycastle

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The route was so scenic and remarkably beautiful. As we drove to a bed and breakfast that we booked on airbnb.com just the night before, we saw a vast expanse of green rolling hills, the loveliest patches of yellow flowers, and the cutest Irish farm animals. There were herds of sheep, fields of cows, groups of wild horses, and even some goats!

Northern Ireland had a rustic feel, undisturbed by capitalism. The roads were small, the buildings spread out, and the color of green was wonderfully overpowering. There is no imposing modernity.

We arrived at the bed and breakfast as the sun was setting. The view from the house was breathtaking. It’s natural beauty was almost unreal, unparalleled by anything I’d ever seen in photos. A fog-dusted ocean met with seaside cliffs far out in the distance, and the foreground was marked with green, orange, and yellow brush speckled with sheep and lined with happy cows.

The Bed & Breakfast

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We came across wild black horses, which were so calm and majestic. Then, just a moment later, I laid eyes on a real-life donkey. All I could think was, “where’s Shrek?”

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As we explored, we saw a cemetery, a swing set, and even a telephone booth. The telephone booth was a great reminder that although we were in Ireland, we were still in the UK!

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Early the next morning we headed down the road to cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This bridge is a simple wooden rope suspension bridge nestled inside stretches of seaside cliffs, mountains, and trails. Learning into the brush to photograph a tiny island, I felt my knee rub against something sharp through the hole in my ripped jeans. My knee started itching with a slight burn that wouldn’t go away for about ten minutes. Dayna realized what it was… Nettle! A pesky little plant that stings you with poison when you come in contact with it. It wasn’t too bad though, it went away pretty quickly.

The Rope Bridge

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Next, we headed to a geological anomaly called The Giant’s Causeway. The Causeway is 40,000 miles of perfectly patterned geometrical basalt rocks, caused by an ancient volcanic eruption. As I climbed the Causeway, it felt like I was on top of the world!

The Giant’s Causeway

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Dayna and I headed to some of the other Game of Throne’s film sites along the causeway, such as Ballintoy Harbor. We stayed and explored until we had to get back to Dublin to catch a flight. We were sad to go, but I will definitely be returning to Northern Ireland at some point.

Ballycastle to Dublin via The Giants Causeway Coastal Route

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Although I didn’t fall in love with Dublin, Northern Ireland was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I will never forget the Irish hospitality and kindness, the attractive-yet-hard-to-understand accent (speaking phrases like “grand,” “hiya” “ye”, and “me”), and the fresh, crisp smell that epitomizes the color green. On our way to the airport, it started raining, which made Dayna nervous while driving. Shortly after, a rainbow softly emerged from the gray sky. A perfect end to our Irish adventure!

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Majority of Photos by: Dayna Lazarowitz

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