Note: Prior to studying abroad in London, I spent 10 days in Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of the prequel class “The Pale and Beyond.” We spent five days in Dublin and then five days in Belfast learning about Irish culture and identity. For more about my time in Ireland, check the Ireland category tag on the right.
The jet lag definitely made it difficult to get up for my first full day in Ireland. After breakfast, we had the first of many lectures we would have over the next few days about Ireland. This lecture happened to be on the Irish economy and the Celtic Tiger. After it was over, we had time to venture outside Trinity for lunch.
Walking the streets of Dublin is a very interesting experience. First of all, there are always a lot of tourists here. About 4.6 million people live in Ireland and there are more than 6 million tourists annually. This, combined with the crazy way people drive here (and in Europe in general) is probably why they paint “look left” and “look right” on the crosswalks. I couldn’t help but think that New York City, or any other American city for that matter, would never be so accommodating to its European visitors.
We eventually found a cheap café for lunch and ordered paninis, which turned out to be a mistake because the Irish have a very different idea of paninis than I do. They put it on a weird poppy seed roll and even put stuffing on it! Neither of us were big fans of this interpretation, so we went to the Spar’s across the street afterwards for candy. (Spar’s is basically the Irish version of a 7Eleven.) They take their chocolate seriously here; the store had a whole area just for “luxury chocolate.” Some of my favorite candy here so far are Aero Bars, Malteasers, Galaxy Bars and Mars Bars. With apologies to Hershey, the chocolate really is much better over here.
We then went on the walking tour of Dublin, which was very interesting and helpful in getting our bearings. There is so much history in Dublin everywhere you look. The only cities I can think to compare it to in the U.S. are Boston or Philadelphia, but even those cities are only hundreds of years old, not thousands. Some of the tour’s highlights were the Bank of Ireland, the Temple Bar area, Dublin Castle, the new Dublin City Council Building, the Four Courts and the Liffey River.
There were some flags flying by the river, which our tour guide said were there because of an upcoming gaelic football tournament. All the counties enter a team and the Dublin County team had made it to the semi-finals. All the athletes are professionally trained and though they don’t get paid, our tour guide said the athletes are pretty much guaranteed a job for life because of the prestige that comes with playing on the team.
After the tour ended, we made our way to a section of Dublin where there were a lot of Irish pubs and restaurants. We ended up eating at a place called O’Neil’s and I had some of the best fish ‘n’ chips I’ve ever tasted. A few of the others who were with me had Shepherd’s Pie, which they said was fantastic as well.