I can officially say that I have driven on the wrong side of the road without dying or breaking any laws (that I know of). I successfully drove the nearly three hour trip from Dublin, Ireland, all the way south to Cork. The drive was incredible, completely surpassing the stereotypical ideas about Ireland. Yes, there were cows and sheep everywhere, miles of impossibly green rolling hills, and scattered castle ruins, but being in the countryside made it so much more surreal than any Ed Sheeran music video could ever capture. Unlike California, Ireland has no issue with a lack of water. As we were driving southbound, passing the extensive green hills, it began to rain, and our car was soon filled with the smell of wet wool because of all the sheep that were in the pastures around us. We finally arrived in Cork (almost dying twice), the only word I can describe this quaint little town is charming, leaving you feeling welcomed and at home.
Liz and I checked out a famous castle in Cork called Blarney Castle. More known for a stone that you have to bend over backward (literally) upside down, over the edge of the building on the top floor and hold on for dear life to kiss this infamous rock. Liz could not wait to lay her lips on a piece of sediment that thousands of other have kissed, I, on the other hand, was not as inclined. She and the peer pressure I received from the man who was making sure no one died while doing this and the photographer, I was eventually convinced risking my life to kiss a stone was worth it. The legend says that you will become more eloquent from completing this task (I don’t think it has helped).
The castle itself was beautiful, however, and the acres of land the castle was surrounded by was mesmerizing. Each room was labeled, and as we walked through the great hall to the wives room, we found ourselves marveling at the idea that a family had actually lived here at one point.
We only stayed in Cork for one night, which was not enough time to truly appreciate everything the city had to offer. Our hostel had a bar downstairs, which just so happened to host an open mic night while we were there. Liz and I met up with our new roommates downstairs after dinner to enjoy the talented strangers who went up to perform. It was incredible to hear every artist’s different take on some of my favorite songs. As “Sweet Caroline” was being sung by a local kid who didn’t seem old enough to be in a bar, we started to get to know the Aussies we were sharing a hostel room with. The night went on, and open mic ended, so we all headed downtown together to grab a drink and see what the city center had to offer.
There were only a few pubs open later than midnight. We stumbled upon a classic pub, with hazy yellow lighting, maroon walls casting an orange hue down the dark wooden bar stools. I experienced my first Guinness, which was fitting since I was in its motherland. Everyone seemed to be stuck in the early 2000’s, which was apparent from the music we heard in almost every bar or club and by the way everyone dressed. The fashion choices were some that you would see in shows like “Gilmore Girls” or “Friends,” denim everything, and everyone sported a leather choker. As the pub part of the bar closed and everyone else evacuated the upper level to go downstairs to where the night club was opening, my accomplices, and I figured it was best to depart to wander the city more and see what sort of trouble we could get into. We stumbled across a small bar that was down a side street where I convinced one of our new partners in crime to go onto the nearly empty dance floor and salsa to the blasting 90’s music.
Driving back up to Dublin was much easier than our trip down, even though Liz slept the whole drive. I was exhausted, but my view of the Irish countryside was enough to keep me awake. As we arrived back into the city, Liz and I decided to tour Guinness where we learned that the barley used to create the dark coloring of the beer is from it is toasted at 232 degrees. Guinness is also packaged with nitrogen to give it the creamy taste and adding the exact right amount of bubbles which according to them is three-million. The very top floor of the Guinness building included its own bar with a panoramic view of Dublin and featured paraphernalia from every Guinness advertisement created. As the tour of the facility came to an end Liz, and I were able to learn and pour our own perfect pint of Guinness, enjoying it in the very building the beer is created in every day.
For our last night in Dublin, we stayed in a hostel that was completely different than the others, mainly in size. The Abbey Hostel in Dublin, Ireland has about four hundred beds in the whole property, which was designed like the Labyrinth. Every wall was covered with spray painted art, and we were right on the water across from Temple Bar (the part of the city the houses all of the pubs and night clubs).
Liz wasn’t feeling well, so I went out alone for the first time since our adventure began. I wandered down through Temple Bar and found a night club that seemed to be popular. It was a typical nightclub: very hot, dozens of people sardined into a tiny room and lights so dim you weren’t really sure who was touching you. As I stood in this crowded club waiting to order a drink, a guy behind me commented on how I had been throwing shade at the drink choices of the drunk girls next to me. We began talking about the ridiculous orders that featured more sugar than actual alcohol. After our drinks had finally reached our hands, he invited me outside to meet his friends. They all happened to also have just graduated from University like me. After hearing that I was from California, they couldn’t stop themselves from asking me about the palm trees and the beach. Little did they know there are very few palm trees in California and I hate the beach. The friendliness was welcoming, and it was nice to know that no matter where I am, good people are not far away.
Ireland lets you feel like a local, even if you’ve never been there. I cannot count the number of times I was asked where things were. This country is like a small town: everyone knows everyone, regardless of what part they are from. This country has left a clover-shaped mark on me (not a tattoo. I’m not that basic).