*Warning-didn't proof read yet, so sorry for poor grammar or spelling errors.
Last week I took a trip to Ireland with two other girls. Luckily I had a couple classes canceled so I did not feel guilty missing a couple lectures. I have always wanted to go to Ireland and was excited to finally get the chance to do so! Since the cost to fly from the west coast of the USA to Europe is quite high, I am taking advantage of the lower traveling prices. As I have mentioned before, Norway is very expensive. A roundtrip ticket on the train from Bø to Oslo alone costs about $80 USD (and that is the student price). My roundtrip ticket to Ireland cost $52. Ridiculous, right? We flew out of Oslo-Rygge airport on Tuesday night and arrived at the Dublin Airport where we took a 2.75 hour bus ride to Galway. Arriving late, we decided to find a grocery store before going to our hostel. We were able to just ask people on the street where to find a store. Everyone was so friendly and outgoing, a welcomed change of pace. Finally we found the store and it was heaven. All of a sudden everything was affordable. There was hummus, soy-yogurt, quinoa, vegetarian spring rolls, tofu, etc.. (foods that are regular staples in my diet at home in WA but can't really get in Bø). Exploring the store ended up being a fun trip in itself. On our way out of the store we stopped to ask the guard if he could direct us toward our hostel. He replied, "No I can't do that." So we just figured, OK, thats fine. We all took him at his word but then he quickly said that he was just joking and of course he could help. At this moment I realized something...I'd forgotten about sarcasm. In Norway, for the most part, people (strangers) are direct and matter of fact. I've gotten so used to blunt replies that I didn't even notice the guard joking. I felt silly. We made our way back to our hostel, settled in and went to bed.
DAY 2: Cliffs of Moher tour. Cliffs of Moher= Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride.
We decided to do a tour to get the most out of seeing the landscape of western Ireland. The tour bus picked us up at our hostel and on board we met a lovely couple from Arizona, Jim and Jolene. They were super sweet and fun to chat with. Our bus driver was also a hoot. One of my favorite quotes, "In Ireland you know a man is gay when he prefers a woman over Guinness." Unfortunately, the tour company ended up putting the 7 of us that were on that bus onto another bus...which became full once we were added. It was very crowded and not so comfortable. If it would have been a smaller bus or less people I think the tour would have been a lot better. The weather was also not on our side. Rain poured and the skies were gray, making it hard to see the landmarks our tour guide/bus driver pointed out while driving. On the way to the Cliffs of Moher we stopped by a church ruin, an ancient tomb and the fishing town of Doolin for a lunch break. Finally we made our way to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The weather cleared up a bit for us, but even with the fog it was an amazing sight to see. No picture could capture the experience.
After returning from the tour and running some errands we went out to a pub for some live music. The musicians had mentioned to shout out requests if we had any, but instead I got a pen and started to compile a list of my favorite irish songs to choose which to request. To my surprise, the guitarist/singer just grabbed the list from our table (we were sitting right beside them). He didn't know all of them but played a few: Whiskey in the Jar, Wild Rover, and Galway Girl...very appropriate since we were in Galway.
Thursday morning was a bit more exploring then Hannah and I took the bus back to Dublin city.
This is my favorite story of the entire trip:
We arrived in Dublin at the last bus stop and as I was getting off the bus I asked the driver if he could direct me towards the Mountjoy neighborhood. He asked why I needed to get there and I shared that thats where our hostel was. After a quick glance back the driver asked if the one remaining passenger on the bus was with me, I said no and pointed to Hannah who had already jumped off the bus. To my surprise, the driver said, "Get your friend, I'll take ya there." Still in disbelief I called Hannah over and soon enough we were on the bus, Hannah sitting down beside the driver locating our hostel on a map to show him exactly where we needed to go. I asked if he had any recommendations in Dublin, and boy did he! It felt like having our own personal tour guide. The hostel was not close to the bus station, driving it took at least 10-15 minutes. I just could not believe he went out of his way at the end of his shift to do this amazing favor for us girls. We got dropped off not even a block away from the hostel. I am so disappointed I did not catch his name, but without a doubt I will never forget him.
After checking in Hannah and I walked up to our room which was huge! Tall ceilings, hardwood floors and a cute window-seat-thing with a table and two chairs, looking out over the street. The best part was that we had it all to ourselves the 1st night (which was a relief since the last two nights were not great experiences with our hostel roomies). We headed off shortly after to the Guinness distillery for a tour. The tour was mostly self guided with a "how to drink Guinness" tasting, followed by a free pint. All in all it was a fun thing to do. We made our way back to the hostel and ended up calling it a night. Got to watch some awesome Justin Timberlake videos while eating chèvre and crackers and be in bed by 9:30pm. Couldn't have been better for us exhausted ladies.
The next day we went to the Book of Kells at Trinity College, St. Patrick's Cathedral and saw a bunch of other fancy sights. Before reuniting with the girls again at 1pm I got to wander around by myself. During that time I found some cool vintage shops, met a nice chap at The Quays Bar, found some people dressed as elephants and wandered through many colorful alleyways. I've come to realize that I rather enjoy wandering around on my own.
One of my favorite parts of Friday was when we accidentally stumbled into what I like to refer to as Dublin's black market. While on the hunt for a grocery store that a local woman gave us directions to we found ourselves in a part of the town that was not on any of the tourists maps...perhaps close to the big blank area that just says "antique stores" (tho earlier the tourist lady informed me there are in fact no antique stores over there...). Suddenly knock off bargain bins and side alley open shops that resembled local markets in Guatemala were appearing, but with the soundtrack of brash Irish people instead. It was sketchy and I loved it. Got some good cheap finds at charity shops too!
While planning this trip I had wanted to go to the Jameson Distillery. Unfortunately, the other girls were not very interested in doing the tour. Not really wanting to go alone and being plagued by indecision I figured I would forego the experience. As we made our way to the other side of town closer to our hostel I still couldn't settle on completely not doing the tour. Wishing I had someone to make the decision for me I imagined if I was talking to David, my go-to advice giver, and realized he would just tell me to go and do it. So I did it, and it was fantastic! I had doubts because it wasn't as heavily advertised as the Guinness one, but it was in my opinion much better. From the personal experience, to the building and information, it was for sure something I would have regretted not doing. On the tour I was picked as one of the volunteers that got to do a whiskey comparison tasting, and I also met another woman from California who was there alone so we got to pal-around the tour together and talk a bit. And to continue my good luck, on my way back from the tour I ended up meeting another cool dude who directed me to a store where I was able to buy goat cheese, crackers and vegetarian spring rolls to bring back to Norway! It was very rewarding to learn that I could have fun on my own. Alas, I still love my travel ladies and returned with a bottle of wine to the hostel to share. We made the trek back to the city center for dinner with one pitstop on the way. Hannah had to return some tights she had bought earlier, so while waiting for her Clare and I goofed around and tried on ugly Christmas sweaters and accessories. Luckily, we were in Ireland so we didn't look as crazy as we would have if we did that in Norway. Dinner was delicious, the vibe of the city was great and we made it back to our hostel in time to schedule the airport shuttle to pick us up at 4am.
Saturday was a long long long day. Waiting forever at the airport, bus stop, bus station...cold, tired, sore back from a pack full of duty free goods and sore feet from walking everywhere. When we finally arrived in Bø via train our friend Jørgen was already at the station in his car waiting to pick us up and take us home. Not having to walk up that blasted hill in the rain carrying heavy bags was the biggest blessing. I am so lucky to have made friends like him here in Bø. While I really liked the trip and enjoyed the contrasting personalities of the Irish, I am glad to be back. It really does feel like home here and I find myself growing more fond of Norway and Norwegian every day. I'm tired and going to go to bed now. Later!