As what is in common with the rest of the posts in this blog, here’s a post on a series of back log entries for our trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland, back in August 2013.
After what seemed like an eternal first half of 2013, I have finished Riding School and done Mounted Season. I participated in my first Queen’s Birthday Parade, or to the layman’s and ‘street liners’ term, the Trooping of the Colour. I think I deserved a well earned leave to catch up with my mates and just relax.
Initially, I wanted to go back to Slovenia to see Lake Bled, possibly to white water raft and just chill in the Mediterranean sun but my Ginger Friend (Alex) suggested we should try somewhere closer to home and visit Ireland. I wasn’t very fussed about where to go so we booked the flights, hostels and the Giant’s Causeway Tour from ToursBelfast for three – the third person being David.
✈ Ryanair: LDN Gatwick to Dublin 19 Aug
✈ Ryanair: Dublin to LDN Gatwick 24 Aug
€168 for 3 adults
We all met up at Victoria Stn at about 7am and bought ourselves a group return ticket for 3 on the Gatwick Express from the ticket booths. I normally buy my tickets from the machines but as far as I’m aware, we could only get the discount when tickets are purchased at the counter so that’s what we did. 15 or so minutes later, we arrived at Gatwick with plenty of time before our flight, so we went and grabbed some breakfast. David went to McDs to get a sundae (lol); while Alex and I went to Whetherspoons. I ordered Eggs Benedict but it was very disappointing for the price I paid. £8 for a very runny hollandaise sauce with no tang to it and an egg that may as well had been hard-boiled. I know it’s not the Ritz but there could have been more effort put on it. We killed time for a bit and I didn’t realise the time was about 09:20… and a panic’d look at the screen said the Dublin flight was closed! SO WE RAN DOUBLE TIME. When we got there, people were still queueing to get in the gate. Panic over, seats found and an hour later, we arrived in Dublin.
Day 1 – 19 August 2013
We didn’t really research Dublin before we went so we were clueless as to how to go on about this holiday. Thankfully, there’s a Tourist Information Counter just before you exit the doors of the Airport. They had a promotion on the Dublin Pass so we bought a 2-day pass each for €44, saving us €11 off the normal price. This included the ticket for the Aircoach to Dublin Central, which took about half an hour. At 1200, we alighted at Trinity College and walked back to Aston Quay where our hostel was conveniently located.
🏠 Abigails Hostel
3 persons for 3 nights: €153 ( €17 pp each for one night in a 6 man mixed room)
I booked the hostel from HostelWorld. We were pleasantly greeted by a sweet Irish girl and her male colleague. They were very helpful and welcoming despite the rather rushed and hectic in and outs of other guests and phone calls. We couldn’t get in the room yet as the occupants hadn’t left so we walked around the town for a bit. We found a Leprechaun Museum as guided by the brochure that came with the Dublin Pass. We were promised a free gift so we seized the opportunity…despite having to pay €10 entry.
On a side note:
I DON’T RECOMMEND THE DUBLIN PASS. I FOUND IT A WASTE OF MONEY OVERALL.
The tour was not until about half an hour after we got the ticket so we went (I dragged them) on a quest to get me a little notepad to jot down little snippets of the trip. We were told there was an Easons (their version of WHSmiths/National Bookstore) at the end of the road so we went and back. Some metres away, we passed by a Filipino restaurant on the same street and I was surprised to see one there so I suggested to have lunch here after our Leprechaun Museum tour.
The museum guided tour (no self-guided option) was in the style of traditional folk story telling. Our host and guide Darren was a young lad in his early 20s, enthusiastic and very relaxed with engaging his guests. He led us into dimly rooms and told us the lores about leprechauns, fairies and other Irish legend figures. Overall, the kid in me was entertained and filled with wonderment. It wasn’t particularly very exciting but it was pleasantly laid back and insightful. At the end of the tour was the gift shop. I asked the attendant about free gift … and she said feel free to take 9 small pin badges from the little basket which they were selling for €1!!! OH! How very anti-climatic and disappointing.
We headed back to the Filipino restaurant called Cafe Manila and ordered some food. Alex had a Palabok, keen on trying some noodles. I had Lechon Paksiw and it had that authentic taste of real liver sauce. It was a tad on the expensive side (~€18 a meal) but I hadn’t eaten a Filipino restaurant in Europe so I thought it was a nice treat. After lunch, we went back to the hostel and checked in.
It was about 15:00 when we finally dropped our bags and left the hostel again for the Guinness Brewery. The locals call it as a very expensive pint of Guinness but it was free and we managed to go past the long queue with the Dublin Pass. This had saved us quite a lot of time. I didn’t particularly find the Brewery very exciting as it was PACKED. Still, we ticked the box of getting that Guinness Pint, straight from where it was brewed. We left the Brewery and had a gander westward of the River Liffy and ended up chilling in Phoenix Park.
There were these three little kids, maybe about 6 or 7 years old and they were hauling rocks at each other. They were useless at throwing so neither of them got hit. It was very entertaining to watch because they swore a lot to each other in a heavy Irish accent e.g:
“I’ll fookin slaughter you…”
Oh the locals!
We didn’t really move from where we laid on the grass for a while. David snoozed, while Alex and I caught up on news about each other. I hadn’t really seen Alex while I was in riding school but I was always on the phone to him complaining, moaning and generally ranting all the time so it was quite refreshing not having to whinge about horses and kit.
With stomachs rumbling and as we grew increasingly hungry, we got up and headed back towards the hostel. We walked through Temple Bar where there’s plenty of pubs with live music, scouting places where we could go after dinner. We found an Italian place called La Gondola at about 20:00 and ordered food. I had a chicken wings and Minestrone soup with slices of bread, Alex got pepperoni pizza, while David, limited by his budget got garlic bread with cheese. I paid about €15 for dinner and it wasn’t that bad.
We all agreed that we were satisfied with how the day went and thus were all equally tired so we just headed back to our hostel and had an early night. Better to have a full day the day morning after, prepared to be bright and breezy and ready to take in what Dublin has to offer. At about 2130, we all kipped, trying to block the noise from the very busy streets outside. If you are an absolute light sleeper, you’d probably find this hostel not for you.
Our alarm rang at 0700 on David’s phone but he didn’t really wake up. I had to get up off bed and turn it off… only he jumped as I was about to take his phone. He must have worried someone was going to rape him while he was asleep. Hahaha bless.
We had breakfast at 0830 at the hostel, included in our stay. Cereals, toast, coffee/tea and juice. Something cheap and cheerful to start our day exploring. We first picked up some sandwiches at the Tesco just behind our hostel and then took the 42 bus to Malahide Castle… about half an hour out of town. With our Dublin Pass, we got the €12.50 ticket for yet again another guided tour for free. Nobody seems to do self-guided tours in Ireland for some reason.
We weren’t allowed photography in the rooms but in a nutshell, the Castle was perhaps more of a mansion, rather than an actual castle. There were about 5 or 6 rooms in total and we were led into each one by this rather humourless woman. She pointed out various interests like the very ancient chair, interior décor pieces and where would Irish cultural (or castle tours for that matter) without the gothic elements of ghosts and supernatural lore associated with the place. Overall, again, it wasn’t a very thrilling experience but beautiful nonetheless.
We later walked around the Castle Grounds and chilled out by in the Botanical Garden behind where we bought the tickets. I bought a Irish Music book of lead sheets. We found a bench to sit down on and complained at each other by the lack of excitement thus far. We had intended to visit the Zoo back in town but we were struck by laziness so we decided to stay put around the area. We left the Castle and headed over to Malahide Beach, where we ate our sandwich lunch. It was refreshing for me to listen to the waves crashing on the sandy shores and feel the soft sea breeze. Certainly nothing to complain about here.
Before the sun set, we headed back to Dublin and reach it by about 1700. We walked around the surrounding area behind our hostel and found a Mongolian eat all you can BBQ restaurant. Again, I’ve not really tried Mongolian food before so we all agreed to go there, especially when they had a reduced price if you go in before 1900. Both David and Alex like to eat meat and there was an unlimited supply of meat there so it was a done deal.
With tummies filled to the brimmed, we headed out and ended up walking through Trinity College Dublin and venturing to a Comedy Club at the International Bar in Wicklow Street. We had a couple of pints of Guinness at the bar underground first and headed upstairs afterwards for €5…………. There were about 6 acts of about 5 minutes stints each and after the break, they had a mock the week type of competition against 2 teams of 3. It was a very entertaining evening especially that Alex will now not forget about Sharknado. Our night ended at about midnight. We all topped it off with a McFlurry as that was the coolest thing in town, I’ll have you know. After a satisfying day, we headed back to the hostel and slept.
We had a later reveille of 0920 after copious amounts of Guinness last night, our heads were thankful for it. We grabbed a quick breakfast and decided to go out of town again after decided there wasn’t much to do in Dublin during the day time, especially when our Dublin Pass run out the day before. Alex suggested we go to Wicklow and walk there. I googled the way at the free WiFi at the hostel and planned a route. We took the train from Tara St to Wicklow for €5.80 return ticket. It’s worth noting that the trains in Dublin have WiFi! Very grateful and equally very forward! London take note! We walked to the high street some 5 minutes uphill walk from the station to find the Tourist Information at the Council House. The helpful lady gave us info about the local Wicklow beach walk and the Glendalough Tour about an hour by coach away. We got there at the right time as there was only one coach at 1210 to Glendalough. The coach return ticket was €15. I noticed that Dublin Sunshine FM 106.8 is the same as Magic FM 105.4! It felt just like home.
We were dropped off and walked following the same route as most people did. I suggested we go off on to the hillside parallel to where the rest of the walkers were heading… just to be different. Up and under branches, over and sideways of rocks, these made our little walk a little bit more interesting. We walked towards a lake and on to the hillside of the glacial trough. Magnificent views and reminiscent of the time when Alex and I were both undergrads in field trips. The only coach back to Wicklow was at 1615 so we didn’t venture far.
When we got back to Dublin, we walked around, passed MANY street buskers (what a very musical place) and sat down for dinner at TGI Fridays. I tried to wrangle us free drinks and starters from our expired Dublin Pass (the cheeky little Pikey that I am) and to our surprise, the managed said yes!
Intrigued by the music from the pubs at Temple Bar, we headed back there and I wanted to experience traditional Irish music. We went into Fitzgerald and there was a 3 piece band: flute, fiddle and a guitarist. It was very lively and packed. The drinks were quite expensive but everything seemed to be very expensive in Dublin. We had beers all round and swayed and sang along to some Irish tunes we knew from the Dubliners, Westlife (of all things lol) and other pop covers they put their Irish twist on it. I bought a tin whistle while we were waiting for the coach in Wicklow and took it out. We gigged for a bit and that was very fun.
The night before, we had a new room mate – a rather excitable Chinese girl from Australia. She said she had to go to hospital because she was impaled by a gate as she tried to escape a llama. To this day, I still couldn’t tell if she were on drugs but her prescriptions of antibiotics and dressing on her arm seem to suggest she was telling the truth. Oh the people we meet!
We checked out of our hostel after grabbing breakfast. The same receptionist girl helped us book train tickets to get to Belfast on her computer. It cost us €37 each for a return ticket and we took the train from Connolly St, across the river.
BRB Dublin, just popping over up north.