I definitely consider myself an adventurous person, but I don’t consider myself a spontaneous person. I always prefer planned adventure, but it’s always good to step out of your comfort zone. On Friday, the girls and I planned a SPONTANEOUS trip to Dublin for the weekend. When in rome, I guess. We took a bus from Belfast to Dublin on Saturday morning, and then spent the day walking around and enjoying the city.
Once we got off of the bus, we decided to go to the Guinness Storehouse because that was the furthest away from the other activities that we planned on doing. The tour was interesting, and I am glad that we went, but all of it was awfully commercialized. It was very, very crowded, and almost all of the information was presented on TV screens, which I didn’t love. I would have preferred to see the actual brewing process, but oh well. I still don’t regret going. The coolest part was at the end of the tour, you get a free pint of Guinness in the Atrium Bar, which is on the top floor of the factory. All of the walls are glass, so we got a 360 view of the city, which was really neat.
After the Guinness tour, we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and toured the grounds. St. Patrick’s is a Church of Ireland cathedral, and is the biggest church in Ireland.
After St. Patrick’s, we needed to find some lunch. I had a traditional Irish breakfast like sausage, a fried egg, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, and something called black pudding. The sausage was okay. I just don’t think that I should be able to describe meat with word “creamy,” and that sausage was creamy. The fried egg was good. The mushrooms and tomatoes were delicious. If the waitress had not told me what was in the black pudding (also known as blood sausage) before I ate it, it might have been alright, but I had an idea of what I was eating before I tasted it, so that was distracting. It didn’t taste bad, but I didn’t feel the need to keep eating it. For those of you who are intrigued with the idea of blood sausage, here is a cool video about how they make it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo3jWunxnkI At that same lunch restaurant, some lady was having a bridal shower. There was a live band playing and live Irish dancing as well, so we stayed for a little while and watched that. I had heard Irish music before, but this band only used a guitar and a fiddle, and it was live, so we all thought it was really fun.
Some interesting things about the city: All of the signs have both Gaelic and English translations. There are giant planter boxes with beautiful flowers everywhere. The crosswalks tell you which way to look (which was very helpful in the beginning).
After lunch, we set out to find the room that we had rented for the night. We ate lunch in the middle part of Dublin, and our room was in the more residential area, outside of the city center. It took a little while to get there, but once we found it, we were able to drop off our toothbrushes, extra clothes, etc. which was great because we had been carrying that stuff around since we had gotten off of the bus that morning. The man that rented the room to us was really nice and cool. It turns out that he had been a pilot for Aer Lingus (the biggest Irish airline) for a long time, so he had been all over the world. More recently, he had graduated with degrees in history and philosophy, so he was able to tell us a lot about the historical sites in Dublin. He also recommended a local pub for us to try. Once we were done there, we tried the pub, and it was great. It was really small compared to the pubs in Temple Square in the tourist-y part of Dublin, but the bartender was really nice. The TVs had a Gaelic football game going, and he explained a little bit of how it works to us. I’m still confused, but I appreciate the effort.
When we were finished there, we went to go find some dinner in town. We walked around and explored the town for a while before settling on a place to eat, but I think that everybody liked walking around the city and seeing all that we could. Dinner was fine. We were all pretty sick of eating out at that point, but the food tasted good. After dinner, we walked around downtown Dublin, particularly Temple Square. There were lots of street performers, which was fun. We also got to see a couple of live Irish bands, which was really, really exciting. It seems like the standard Irish band is a guitar and fiddle duo. We walked around Temple Square for a while, and then went back to our room around 11:00.
The place where we stayed provided some cereal for breakfast, which was great because we didn’t want to eat out. My grandpa always says “It’s time to break the fast!” at breakfast time, so I took a picture of this cereal box.
After breakfast, we walked back into Central Dublin, where most of the attractions are. Our first stop was Trinity College, one of the oldest universities in the UK. It was founded in 1592. The campus was beautiful, but it seemed very dead and bland without any students there. It also might have been better if we had taken the guided tour, but we were short on time, so we just walked through the grounds by ourselves. I’ll save the guided tour for next time.
The next stop was Kilmainham Gaol, a former Irish prison, most famous for holding political prisoners involved with the Easter Rising. The Easter Rising occurred in 1916, while Ireland was still under British rule. The rebellion was organized by Irish Republicans fighting against British rule in Ireland. The tour and museum here was probably my favorite stop in Dublin. Since we’re students, we only had to pay two euro for the tour, which was great. After we bought our ticket, we had some lunch at the tea room inside, which was surprisingly delicious. After lunch we walked around the museum that they have built inside the prison. The exhibits that they have are excellent. It gave great detail about the events leading up to the rising, and the history of the prison, as well as the different prisoners that spent time at Kilmainham. After we looked through the museum, our tour started, which took us inside the prison. Some parts of it reminded me of the old Idaho State Penitentiary for some reason. I’m not sure if the old pen is limestone, but Kilmainham is made of limestone, and the tour guide said that whenever it rained or got really cold, the limestone absorbed a lot of the moisture, making it perfect for harboring diseases.
The last stop was Dublin Castle, which was beautiful. We only walked through the courtyard because we were pressed for time, but I would like to come back and take a tour.
After Dublin Castle, we got on the bus back to Belfast. While on the bus, I did a lot of thinking about identity. Earlier in the week, we had a conversation with Dominic about crowds and how the people in crowds often have very similar ideas or objectives, but the crowd as a whole doesn’t necessarily have one collective identity, rather all of the individual identities in a crowd are intensified while in that situation. I kept thinking about this because I felt very Irish and very Catholic while in Dublin, which is weird because I’m less than 25% Irish, and although the majority of my family is Catholic, I am not religious at all. Could it be that heightened identities are common in crowds because of the human need to “fit in” is heightened when you are with people who are similar to you? Is that why football games are so wild – because you are will so many other people who are excited about the same thing, so, in turn, you get more and more excited? I don’t think that every single person strives to be at the very top of their social ladder (football fan, Irish, Catholic, etc.), but if the bar is raised higher when in a crowd, then wouldn’t the individual would have to work harder to maintain that mediocrity? I feel much more aware of my identity that I ever have in the past, and I find myself thinking about it in all different situations. I’ll have to do some more thinking about apathy as it relates to identity, though. I’m curious as to why apathy exists if the heightened identities theory is correct.
On a final note, as a part of the Good Friday Agreement (beginning of the peace process in NI) there is no physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There are not checkpoints or fences or anything at all to indicate that you are in a different country. This means that we didn’t get our passports stamped when we went to Dublin this weekend, which is a bummer because I want as many stamps as possible. The trip was well worth it, though. I really enjoyed traveling by bus because it allowed us to see a lot of the Irish countryside, which is as beautiful as they say. I tried to take some pictures out the window.