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Ireland

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The seaside town of Howth lies approximately 29 minutes east of Dublin. It’s been a trip two and a half years in the making, and the end result was worth the wait.

No matter how much the city of Dublin captures my heart and undivided attention, I need breaks from urbanity. Ireland is renowned for its spectacular coastal villages, and Howth is no exception. It is a haven of a peninsula, a collection of centuries-old nobility and ruins, endless views of the water, and the best fish and chips you may ever have.

We boarded the DART train from the Pearse Street Station and rushed away from the city center. Howth’s impact was instantaneous. It’s the perfect small getaway when you don’t want to travel too far. Here’s a quick guide on how we spent our time–and stomach space.

**Note: These photos were all taken in the same 2-hour span of time. Some were taken moments apart. That sort of weather is the cheeky play normal on the Emerald Isle. 🙂

Along the shining sea

From a break in the main road, the peninsula unfolds. Inch along the railings, past seafood restaurants and cafes, until you reach the end. All the way is the harbor, and the further you trail from the town the more of its shades of pastel homes and shops. Overlooking the lighthouse and stretch of beach to the left, we stood and witnessed the seagulls ducking in and out of the sky, swooping over the sapphire waves.

We meandered around for about an hour, the sun’s poking out from behind the cloud kept us lingering along the breezy edge. For a place to sit with a book or excellent company, look no further than this point!

The cliff walk, Howth Castle, and lighthouse are well-known ways to visit the village. It was extremely windy that day, and our tired feet didn’t want to traipse on. (I don’t totally blame them, and now I have more reasons to come back!)

At the weekend market

On weekends and bank holidays, Howth hosts craft and food vendors in an enclosed outdoor space, sectioned off by shops to weave in and out of. It has become a permanent fixture in the town after years of having a more pop-up status. Peruse inside for artsy trinkets and outside for antiques, organic produce, freshly baked bread, and sweet treats. We saw some lovely local artwork and woodwork for sale. I was enamored with wooden coasters that were carved with the names of Irish cities, as well as a heart filled with its colors. Now it’s another item of Irish decor in my room.

Kaylee and I couldn’t help ourselves, and despite having devoured a large breakfast at the Queen of Tarts earlier in the day, we bought cupcakes. They were right at the entrance, beckoning out to us, demanding that we buy one…

Buns is Ireland’s first full-fledged cupcake bakery, selling cakes in small white cups and decorated with a creamy swirl of frosting, my favorite part of any dessert. I picked out a vanilla 99, inspired by Ireland’s famed 99 cones. What a classic goddess it was.

If we hadn’t been flying back to Boston the next day, odds are that we would have left with armfuls of bread in tow–and a big box of cupcakes.

In the Beshoff Bros. Restaurant

We got a bit confused about the Beshoff Bros. takeaway place, not venturing past the front door to order our fried haddock to be delivered in a piece of newspaper, but we were very happy in its connecting restaurant next door.

As a New Englander, my pride in our seafood is unmistakable. I have no bones about spreading the word that we are the face of Good Seafood. Ireland knows how to do fish and chips like no other, though. I’ve never had it as good anywhere else. You can taste the freshest, highest quality ingredients in every bite. Beshoff Bros. is the place to be for all of your fish and chips fantasies, and we were certainly swimming in them. Fear not, for they serve a whole range of seafood delights to rock your world.

Initially, I didn’t feel dressed up enough for the occasion, but surrounding us were enough parties dressed similarly casual to us that I didn’t feel out of place. Kaylee and I split a plate of their fried haddock and chips, which was the perfect amount for two people already slightly bursting.

I’m drooling just thinking about the crispy outer skin of the fish, the breakaway into flavorful meat, and the added zest of tartar sauce. You guys, there was just nothing like it.

So there you have it! A half day or full day is absolutely worth your time. The quickest out you might find from Dublin, and the most delicious. With its intimate downtown and natural beauty in tow, you can do no wrong.

Are you adding Howth to your list?
The water has always been a close friend, and swimming my summertime joie de vivre. I am an urban gal at the core, but nothing brings me happiness quite like the ocean blue.

My family and I, all probably made up 90% of water, tried our hand at the paddle with City Kayaking in Dublin, a 2-hour kayaking round trip on the River Liffey. Congregating at the company’s small trailer near the Samuel Beckett bridge, guests are provided a group locker for storage, a vest, an oar, and, in cooler temperatures or on rainy days, a waterproof jacket and pants. The Saturday we went was splendid, a rare cloudless day teetering on 70 degrees, so sunglasses were in order and later, red skin caressed our hands and necks.

My mom packed us all water shoes, which was a life-saving choice. We purchased Barerun quick-dry water shoes from Amazon, which you can find here. Our sneakers, in turn, stayed dry, while we paddled in lightweight comfort. I would absolutely wear them more if I could. (Summer 2018 may seen the advent of my new style choice…)

We were part of a group of thirty two, so the surge of kayaks hitting the water must have been a marvel from Dublin, above. My mom and I matched my dad and Brady in little green-streaked yellow canoes. Our guides helped us slip safely into our kayaks and gave quick directions on steering ourselves out of the passageway we were in.

Like many long distance relationships, mom and I were doomed from the beginning as we attempted to latch onto the splintering wood boardwalk to our left, and instead collided with the tail end of three kayaks and regretfully let the current drag us away.

“Sorry in advance,” my mom said to our victims as we drifted past. “Oh, don’t worry,” a few replied, laughing, “we’re not going to be great at this!”

They were great at it, the narrator said.

As for us? Not five minutes after we were officially cruising, mom said from behind me, “I should have gone with Brady.” Yeah, you should have, I thought, aggravated and already wishing we could turn around. Every time our paddle returned from below the rippled surface of the water, we splashed Liffey in our hair and laps.

Kayaking is about unison. It requires two paddlers to become one, to disregard all but the direction of the oars and the timing of their strokes below the surface. My mom and I are extremely close, often riding on the same brain waves; still, we just couldn’t locate the key. We were moving with the current and somehow, the water was a barricading force, a nightmare of being chased by something and not moving at all. In our case, mom and I crashed with the cement sidings along the Liffey and once in a while with others. We ended up far enough behind that our pauses of frustration turned to admiring the bobbing boats ahead. Eventually, the guide bringing up the tail of the group asked if we wanted a lift to catch up with the others and, with slight defeat in our voices, said yes, please.

Brady and my dad, among the other bobbing boats, were tranquility personified. Dad did a majority of the paddling, while Brady occasionally lifted his paddled from his lap and, with an old-pro’s hand, stroked the water. They steered straight. They didn’t wish they were with mom or me.

The problem? We observed too much.

And not only observed too much, but questioned our own skills too much. We watched what everyone else was doing and followed it up with, “Why can’t we do this?” Without actually implementing the tricks we were noticing, we continued on disjointedly. It was like neither of us wanted to not be able to do it. We wanted to be able to latch on naturally, without help from anyone, and sort of without each other.

That’s just not how things work.

As we hung onto the red lifeboat, our guide gave us the simple solution. “Paddle on either side until you start to turn. Then paddle on the opposite side to straighten out.”

After being deposited at the edge of the group and thanking the guide, it started to work. Mom and I still faced scrutiny of one another and our inability to get the full hang of it, but we plugged on. It’s really not as easy an activity as I’d imagined it would be, current in our favor or no. Before the group was ready to turn around, mom and I were still a bit of a ways away, but we weren’t alone.

On a kayak, my love for Dublin bloomed in exquisite freshness.

As my initial irritations melted away, all I could see and feel was Dublin. The cityscape etched into my veins found me in the center of it all. Floating past landmarks of the city’s and my own making, I was witnessing a place so familiar to me with new eyes. With my family, remembering how insignificant our kayaking talents were in the grand scheme, I was smitten by Dublin almost as if for the first time.

We turned around just before reaching the Guinness factory. There, mom and I sighed and began our attempt at turning the boat around. Our anticipation of it was worse than the act itself. As if saying, “Abracadabra!,” mom and I were facing the opposite direction. I remember thinking, “That went well…” and wishing the jinxing thought away.

Smooth sailing immediately was our middle name.

I’m still perplexed by the fact that water rushed against us and we so deftly paddled against it. It didn’t comply with the laws of nature, which mom and I laughed about the entire way. Maybe fighting the current is smoother than it sounds. Sometimes I believe my mom is wired to swim upstream, doing so with immense grace, and maybe we just understood its riffs. However it happened, we didn’t put up any sort of battle as we paddled. The Liffey almost did the work for us.

Sun on our backs, water soaking our clothes, chuckles chasing their way out of our throats, we kayaked on.

To kayak is to be in unison, in stroke and joy. We found our rhythm, and as we jetted ourselves swiftly across the river, discovered new swells of love for where we were.

Yeah, we were one of the last people to dock. This time, we hadn’t even noticed.

Visiting Information

I highly, highly recommend a tour with City Kayaking. To purchase your tickets, visit their site here. Definitely get your water shoes ready.

Hello hello!

It’s hard to believe that my family and I came back from Europe three weeks ago. Kaylee came home from Dublin nine days ago. As sad as I know she was to be leaving home there, I’m very, very happy she’s back.

My parents are the root of my travel bug, raising Brady, Kaylee, and I to seek out the cadences of culture and nature from a young age. I never forget how privileged I am be part of a family who has always prioritized travel. And I’m grateful not only for the places we have been able to go to together, but that we love one another’s company enough to travel all together, even with **mostly** adult children in the mix. There’s the occasional brawl, but would a family trip be complete without frustration? Confined to ourselves for a majority of the time, feelings can’t help but build up sometimes.

Still, they blow over quickly, because they’re stupid things, like someone (don’t look at me…) doesn’t get the directions to a restaurant before heading out and everyone is hungry and tired and sunburnt, and a snap comment is made that the responsible party only worsens. Arguments are a form of love, right? We always laugh about them after, a memory as fresh and valid and memorable as the happier times. For that I am also so fortunate to be part of something that, to me, is one of the most precious things in the world.

There’s never such thing as being too old to travel with your family.

I like it even more as an adult, because the five of us are pals. Only in those heated instances do I remember they’re my family. We’re always bound by blood, but so too are we bound by our fierce liking for our pack.

For the first leg of our trip, we were Kaylee-less. Her group took a weekend trip to the west of Ireland, organized by Champlain Dublin (where I studied and where Kaylee now is finishing her semester), and as we flew into Dublin on Thursday morning, while her day had already begun, we really had no time to see her.

Dublin Airport, Co. Dublin → Ballycastle, Co. Antrim

We arrived at Dublin Airport just after eight in the morning, and from there picked up our rental car to drive up to Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. The flight was one of sleep deprivation, to a desperate point that I suggested to my mom we find something boring to put on and see if that helped us nod off. (Fun fact: an episode of Ice Holes will, indeed, help for a little bit; but the sheer humor of one particular ice fisherman kept me awake. His dog, Bubbles, locked him out of their mobile home, and stood at the window calling for Bubbles to open the door.) Needless to say, the four of us were groggy and the thought of three hours in a car was hellish. Even more so for my dad, our driver.

Along the way we stopped three times, all at the country’s beloved Applegreen rest stops: once for breakfast, and two separate times to park and nap for fifteen minutes at a time. The intermediary (driving) was spent singing along to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a Maher family classic. So much so, we listened to it twice through on the way up, because Brady fell asleep and, when he woke up, asked if we could re-listen. Maybe we were initially begrudging, but you can only be disgruntled for so long before the possessing powers of “Go, Go, Go Joseph” take hold.

The combination refreshed us, surprisingly, for the entire day.

The weather played into that a bit. Ireland is unpredictable, clear and cloudy skies both nimble and fleeting. Carrying an umbrella at all times is a safe policy. But on both ends of the spectrum, you just never know. What started as a cloudy, chilly morning almost magically dissipated into a gloriously bright, sunny afternoon and evening.

Ireland was even more an ethereal beauty than before. And it was otherworldly to begin with.

My mom and I planned a majority of this trip together, which was a lot of fun. We built it on a “flex plan,” leaving for lots of wiggle room and open-ended possibilities for our schedule. As two lanes became one, drifting deeper into the island’s humble narrative, my mom suggested going to the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge now, while the weather was nice. So we plugged the address into my dad’s phone and continued along the Antrim coast, leaving us breathless at every new turn.

But on arrival, at just after 2:30pm, we were told the bridge was closed. They would reassess at 3pm.

“Closed for weather?!” I exclaimed, incredulous, once my dad had rolled the window up. “Look at this!” I said, gesturing to the turquoise waters glittering under a golden sun. We learned the next day that they check the weather three times daily–at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm–to determine whether they will be open.

You just never know.

Sticking to the original plan, we visited the Giant’s Causeway. It’s truly amazing what a little shift in the sky will do for the soul: it makes everything sing. Even more than that, what the world will do for you. The four of us clambered along the road winding downwards, admiring the yellow buds bursting among the brush, interlocking arms in pairs to keep up and steady, staggering under the sight of the stepping stone-esque kingdom of giant-constructed basalt columns. I had stood in its presence before, enamored with the fairytale of it all, the magic that nature and folklore had stirred together. It simultaneously felt familiar and fresh, but ever a wonder.

In the car, mom and I munched on a bag of cheese-filled pretzels bought at Logan Airport in Boston as we made our way to our guesthouse, stopping once to capture the coast.

Ballycastle and the Irish coastal charm

After dropping off our luggage, mom and I grabbed our cameras and walked around the property. Just look at this! Then and there, I didn’t want anything else.

Because we’d skipped lunch, we drove into town around 4:30 for an early dinner. It was relatively empty at Finn Patrick’s, aside from the few middle-aged men sipping pints of Guinness and a pair of children belonging to one of them, running into the late afternoon day with pool sticks. It was at least twenty degrees warmer than it had been for us up to the day that we left Boston, but we still relished in the crackling fireplace beside us.

I ordered their beef and Guinness pie, delighted to find a puff pastry baked on top of the stew. My mom and I shared our meals, and we all gasped at the haddock she ordered, as long as my arm from wrist to elbow.

“Why didn’t we just share this?” She laughed, cutting it in half. Though we all chipped in to eat some, the plate was still full with fish. Delicious fish, I-live-in-Massachusetts-and-we-still-don’t-make-fish-and-chips-like-this fish, nonetheless.

Ballycastle at first impact is magnetic. Town of color and seaside shops, it is a point on the Causeway Coastal Route and a treasure among the dazzle of the Antrim coast. It teems with a joyful, freeing bustle. The four of us spent some time along the water and, the next night, explored the local grocery store for some pale ale-d goods. Town gives way to land, gives way to the heart being blown away.

Stories and poems wrapped themselves around my imagination, squeezing tight and asking that it never forgets them there.

It won’t.

The Causeway Coastal Route

On Friday, we remained on the Causeway Coastal Route for a majority of the day. It began at the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, which was open on that cloudy, windless morning, and where we were some of the first guests to cross. The walk to the bridge from the ticket booth is about twenty minutes, but it isn’t without striking views of the cliffs and, on a clear day, the edge of Scotland thirteen miles away. This is one attraction I would recommend visiting as soon as it opens, because the crowds come in. We passed a nearly endless cluster of people headed for it on our way back. This way, we had the luxury of time on our side, to walk over waves colliding with rock without being rushed and take photos along the bridge without other people in it.

I’d forgotten the way the bridge can make your stomach plummet a little bit, but in the most thrilling way.

Andrew Jackson’s Ancestral Home

We’d mapped out the day to continue at the furthest end of the route, in Carrickfergus, and wind our way back. Fittingly, the ancestral home of President Andrew Jackson’s parents resides there.

Anyone who knows us know that Brady has turned us into living, breathing presidential flashcards. In the last few years, we’ve made numerous pit stops at presidential homes while on vacation, and as a family of history lovers, these have always been fun. What luck it was when, one afternoon, mom was scouring the interwebs and came across this information. “You’ll never believe what’s in Northern Ireland,” she’d said. I hadn’t.

We arrived at the whitewashed thatched cottage to discover that this isn’t the Jackson’s homestead, but their former neighbors’ and friends’ land. It was after their home had been demolished that people realized who they were and planned to maintain the house next door as a replica.

The guide at the house, Paul, greeted us warmly as we ducked in. He moved so breezily between the story of the Jacksons in Carrickfergus, Darby’s Rangers (whose museum is behind the home), and tips for our route. At the end of our visit, he’d whipped out a few maps of the coastal route and his words blended as he circled, starred, and drew arrows across the green and blue. He even circled the location of his newly purchased home for us.

The Darby’s Rangers museum was interesting. My parents gushed about the film based on this group of American soldiers, sent to Northern Ireland to train during World War II. About 1/7 of the troop survived the end of the war. And it painted a new picture for me of the war that wreaked havoc on Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom who was deeply involved in the war, and the Republic of Ireland, which remained neutral.

Choose Your Own Adventure

With nearly thirty stops and a labyrinthine of off-the-path spots, the Causeway Coastal Route was. My mom and I sat in the back of the car and fanned out our maps, for the first time in my life acting in part as the navigator via paper.

In Carrickfergus, we stopped for lunch at Ownie’s, a recommendation from Paul. I warmed up with a cup of coffee, a cup of broccoli cheddar soup, and a chicken salad sandwich which, in its literal sense, was grilled chicken and a bed of lettuce and vegetables between slices of wheaten bread. We sat among a handful of couples sipping wine and catching up over plates of fish and chips.

Outside, the rain was spitting, and the rest of the afternoon was cast in misty gray. But it was ours; and though we didn’t step out of the car too much, we traipsed the coast and counted sheep.

We erased a few places on our list, like the Glenarm Castle, whose signs we missed somewhere along the way. We ended up at other places, like the Glenariff Forest park, where we stood above the foggy Glens of Antrim. We stopped for dinner at the Peppermill in Cushendall, then picked up some treats for the last leg at the local Spar.

The Causeway Coastal Route is wondrous along every turn. And sometimes, around a bend you’ll catch a waterfall hidden behind the trees or a pair of goats standing on the rise of land by the road.

The Iron Islands and Ballintoy Harbor

Recently, in transferring the contents of my phone to a replacement one, I lost 200 photos, almost all of which were from Ballintoy. I suffered a few moments of self-pity, until I remembered I had plenty of photos on my camera. Maybe it was part universe telling me to remember it through the visions constructed in my memory, not on my phone, and that I hadn’t needed to take so many anyways. Either way, Ballintoy Harbor was our second to last stop on the Antrim coast, and with the hues of magic sprinkled over the place.

It’s the site of the Greyjoy’s harbor in Game of Thrones, and slightly unrecognizable but chilling with the awesomeness of it.

It’s one of those places so sharp, so full of color and movement, so dreamlike lovely, that you feel like you’re transcending the earth. Like you’ve just jumped into the middle of a postcard, wondering how this can be real while also falling into a trance so deep it tastes like love.

Wherever I go, I focus on the way the air feels, and the way the sun falls on me. Here it was bright, unfading, a balance to the whipping winds.

Stay: Crockatinny Guesthouse

The Crockatinny Guesthouse was off of the road, in a small cul-de-sac that included the guesthouse and the owner’s home. Our room was a cozy nook on the ground level, overlooking the rise of the property’s greenery. It’s the sort of place I dream about when I’m stressed at work: quaint, dressed in the attire of home, offering sweeping views that settle the mind on first glance.

The Irish are overtly friendly, and our host was the embodiment of hospitality and kindness. We all shared lovely conversation with her, and struck a quick and effortless bond. We don’t have (many) qualms about staying four to a room anyways, but this was a superb place for us to lay our heads at night–and we conked early the first night, waking up ready to seize the day. On our second night, we sat in the sitting room, tried but failed to figure out how to turn the TV on, and drank pints of the Irish lager, Harp.

Though Ireland always leaves me wanting more, I was content to come back and actually do nothing.

Breakfast was included, allowing us to choose items from a traditional Irish breakfast: eggs, sausage, black and white puddings, bacon, soda bread, and potato bread, alongside a buffet table set with yogurt, cereal, fruit, coffee, tea, juice, and milk. HOST’S dog basked in the morning light, a fluffy white husky. Every morning I left happily stuffed with fresh eggs and meat, and if I could have ordered four times the potato bread, I would have happily done so.

Guesthouses make a getaway really feel like one, with the added component of home and connection. There was, I believe, one other couple staying while we where there; possibly two. Whether we were alone or among others, the peace and solitude coupled with the buzz of welcome was needed and loved. And on the Emerald Isle, it’s one of the sweetest authentic experiences to have.

Northern Ireland is, to me, one of the most stunning sights in the world. Have you been? Where else would you suggest a stop?
Happy April!

Whooooo whee, how are we already three full months into the year? I feel like these days I blink and the work week is… over. And in nine days, my family is traveling to Europe to visit my sister, Kaylee, in Dublin! We’re spending some time in Northern Ireland and Krakow, Poland, and I’m so excited to be reunited with my best friend and to get some much-needed time away.

Today I’m going to celebrate by sharing some of my favorite places to get a bite in Dublin. Now I’m hungry because A. I ate a bowl of cereal at 6:30 this morning and cereal, no matter how much I wish it did, does not tide me over until lunch. :\ and B. Because I’m ready for all of these things in my mouth right now–definitely with at least an hour or so between every meal. From now until we leave, I’ll be prepping my stomach for the copious amounts of fish and sweets I’ll be eating. When it comes to food, Dublin has choices for all taste buds–it’s just a matter of deciding which buds are protesting the loudest. Here are my favorites in the city.

House

27 Leeson Street Lower, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin

Opt for the enclosed patio, calibrated to create the atmosphere of a polished botanical garden. Nearby St. Stephen’s Green and the Iveagh Gardens, it invokes those natural muses and adds cushiony garden chairs and a sleek bar for the finish. This is a great spot for brunch. My personal favorite is their poached eggs with smashed avocado and chili jam toast. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea as well, so be sure to find time for this quiet enclave.

Burritos N’ Blues

2 Wexford St, Dublin 2

Dublin’s love for the burrito has apparently witnessed a surge in the last few years. Leading the charge is Burritos and Blues, a brightly colored space with generally short lines and fresh ingredients. They offer student deals for a burrito and soda pairing, and a better-than-Chipotle experience. Truly. If you’re a spice fiend, try their Blow Your Head Off or XXX Salsa. I wasn’t brave enough to, but if you’re feeling crazy, do it. Even the mild has some good kick.

 

Mannings Bakery & Cafe

39/40 Thomas St, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8

From between Tescos and Lidls appears Mannings Bakery and Cafe, looking the part of an old fashioned sweets shop and with the treats to boot. Their location on Thomas Street also has a sit-in cafe, meaning you can delight in the marble tabletops, checkerboard tiles, and pink detailing longer. The lunch menu is expansive and their sandwiches wholesome, fresh, and HUGE. I’m a fan of their mediterranean and tuna herb sandwiches.

 

Church

Jervis St, North City, Dublin 1

For an upscale dinner experience, head over to the Church on the north side of the Liffey. Yes, it was once a church! The family-owned restaurant prides itself on a team of exceptional chefs, and for including a bar, cafe, nightclub, and barbecue area. Enjoy the wooden pillars that reach to the sky, arched windows, and the organ-turned-half-ceiling as you wait for your meal. Their chicken ala brassa is a masterpiece. And don’t leave without ordering the Bailey’s cheesecake–it is seriously divine.

Simon’s Place

22 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2

In the Georges Street Arcade “hides” a social canteen that serves up cinnamon buns to rival my trusty Cinnabon. (I’m a girl of simple pleasures.) They’re made fresh daily, along with the slew of sandwiches, soups, and salads offered at Simon’s Place. It’s a very sociable place, one that milling about and eating one (or three) of their cinnamon rolls will stir up conversation and ease and the idea that you could hang out here every day. It could be your place.

O’Neills

2 Suffolk St, Dublin 2

Your more typical Irish pub experience can be found here at O’Neills. Order your food at the counter cafeteria-style, and find a place to park yourself for the night. It fills up quickly, but even sitting in the thick of the bustle doesn’t take away from the lulled atmosphere. I spent some wonderful nights among the darkly wooded walls with friends, listening to music and watching dancers grace the tight space in floor. After a long day (or not!) it’s an excellent wind-down location. The beef and Guinness stew is my favorite, and they make a killer burger.

Bobos Burgers

50-51 Dame St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Do you ever just crave a good burger joint? Enter Bobos Bugers, a gourmet eatery that uses the highest quality ingredients to ensure the highest quality dining experience. Their menu is overwhelming in options, between beef, chicken, lamb, pork, fish, and vegetarian selections, but there’s no wrong way to choose one. My pick is with their bacon cheeseburger, but their sex on the farm burger? Mmmmmmhm. And their cheese fries are eyes-rolled-to-the-back-of-your-head yum.

Queen of Tarts

Cow’s Ln, Dame St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Queen of Tarts in one word (and there are many to choose from!) is whimsical. A counter stacked high with sweets is the first thing you’ll see, and the only thing you’ll need to. You might have to wait for a table, as it’s small, but once you are seated you will feel tucked away into an Alice-esque tea party. They serve breakfast, brunch, and lunch as well. Try their chocolate fudge cake, feeling an occasion of its own, and be sure to go for breakfast, where you should opt for the Queen’s Delight: a scone of your choice (blueberry, blueberry, blueberry!) served with cream and raspberry preserves, orange juice, and tea or coffee.

Milano

38 Dawson St, Dublin 2

I can’t go anywhere without finding a good slice of pizza. Milano, originally opening its doors on Dawson Street, has reached across the country with chain restaurants in Temple Bar as well as in Cork, Limerick and Galway. They offer a range of pizza styles and creations, the classic margherita crisp and perfectly cheesy, and the fiorentina makes my mouth water just reading about its free-range egg cracked on top of mozzarella. 

The Brazen Head

20 Lower Bridge St, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8

Ireland’s oldest pub impresses with a homey vibe and meals to match. Take time to explore each room before settling down–each offers a collection of photos or memorabilia from anywhere. One room displays United States police officer badges! The expansive menu provides Irish classics that you wonder if they can’t possibly be as good anywhere else. Fish and chips, Irish stew, and daily soup fill you up with warmth and cheer, alongside a nice Bulmers. And they host live music every night!

O’Sheas

2a Lower Bridge Street, Dublin 8

I come for the fish and chips and stay for the craic. O’Sheas is a quiet, two-room dining establishment with an enclosed outdoor place to get some air when it crowds up for music sessions. They serve up traditional dishes, like stew, steak, and plenty of seafood, and have trad sessions seven nights a week. Dinner and performance mingle oh so lovely! And the Irish History Hub is located at this pub, meaning you can while away some time digging into your family’s ancestry.

 

Where are some of your favorite places to eat in Dublin?

On the southwestern coats of Ireland lies a seaside town with a dolphin-in-residence and one set of stoplights. Dingle is unassuming on first glance, but, like a charm, it wraps you around its finger and exudes an unmistakable warmth and unique flavor. “You’ve decided to stay in the real Ireland, as we like to say,” my driver into town said, a playful crease around his eyes. Even in the darkness cloaking the views, I could make out the defined rise and fall of its rolling sentinels of shelter. I glimpsed the town and, suddenly, we were driving away, shrouded again in the darkness as we pulled up to my hostel.

The splendor of Dingle is born out of its hideaway nature. Built precariously on the westernmost point of Europe, it suffers from more rainfall than really any other region of Ireland but, in return, is rooted in exaltations of mountain and valley, of the wild Atlantic Ocean, of small-town glory. The local craic intangibly pulsates through its rounded streets of corner shops and pastel exteriors. And they have been labeled Ireland’s number one foodie town. What sort of marriage of elements could be better than this?

Two days in Dingle is the magic number–long enough to soak in its vivaciousness, short enough to remember you’ll be back. Here’s a breakdown of my suggestions for how to spend them.

Getting Here

Renting a car would be the easiest way to get here. If you’re unable to do that, book a flight into Kerry Airport and hire a shuttle straight to Dingle. It isn’t the cheapest option, but it saves a lot of time. Visit their site here to contact for price quotes.

Where to Stay

The Rainbow Hostel, a 15 minute walk outside of town, was reminiscent of summer cottages in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I arrived on a Thursday night, the hostel’s open mic night, and waited to check in while a group of four sat around a table conversing with their guitars and renditions of Beatles songs. It smelled like a winter night, a fire crackling in the corner, and my pillow and bed were criminally comfortable.

Typically, hostels are cheaper than their B&B counterparts and the experience reflects that. But I was pleasantly surprised to be in a hostel that was so cozy and so unlike other hostels I had been in. I was in a 6-bed female dorm with a cast of characters that changed nearly every night, and all of the guests forged a lively, tiny community I was happy to share in. There was always a buzz whenever I was coming or going, and the hosts were so welcoming. I ran into one of them downtown and he suggested a few things to do over the rest of the afternoon. Would absolutely stay again.

Reserve a bed here.

What to Do

Cycle Slea Head

I came to Dingle for this specifically, which found me lying on my bed at the hostel, coat and shoes still on, for thirty minutes before I could gather the strength to put my pajamas on. But it ranks as one of my favorite experiences ever (outerwear and all). You can read my tips here on preparing for this long and stunning ride.

See Fungie the Dolphin

She dives among the waves and swims beside sightseeing tour boats out to see her. She’s Fungie, Dingle’s unofficial mascot and beloved phenomenon. While I was there, nearly everyone I talked to, including the co-owner of the Rainbow Hostel, asked if I had seen. “You have to!” They’d exclaim when I said I hadn’t yet. I did, indeed, see her cheekily poke out a couple of times.

Now I am giving you the same demand: Go see Fungie. To get to her, you’ll find a lovely walk parallel to the beach that starts on a side street lined with houses. It looks like it can’t be correct, but it is. Eventually, the land will open up and there, the closet to Narnia can be found in a set of steep stone steps. (Say that ten times fast.) And once you get to the end of the line, a craggy cliffside with stones that double as thrones, sit back and wait for her to appear. Even if you miss her, the distanced view of Dingle is unbeatable.

Visit An Díesart

I found Dingle’s spiritual and cultural center on Google, and decided on a whim to go. Showcased here is revered stained-glass artist Harry Clarke, twelve of whose works are set in a small chapel. They are seriously gorgeous, huge, and hushing. Upstairs are floor-to-ceiling murals that share the story of Nano Nagle, a wealthy Catholic woman who devoted her life to educating poor children and founded Ireland’s first convent in 1777. As the Penal Laws enacted at the time disallowed Catholic practices, she formed hedge (secret) schools and was referred to as “The Lady of the Lantern.” Religious or no, the center is a pocket of Irish history with intriguing contents. The gardens around the back are a must-see, too.

Go to the Dingle Farmers’ Market

On Fridays from 9am-3pm, the Dingle Farm Produce and Craft Market is set up at Holyground with an assortment of vendors. Take your pick from organic fruits and vegetables, fresh pastries and baked goods, cheese, beeswax products, or crepes, and peruse the stalls of handmade crafts. I purchased a couple of signs refashioned out of roof shingles found in Dingle, and purchased a rockin’ quiche. Sit at one of their long plastic tables set up between booths before another few laps around.

Walk around downtown

Because:

I went in for an Irish coffee. It was serendipity.

Where to Eat

Danno’s

Enter through the white and blue archway that leads you into a small courtyard, all of it reminiscent of a Santorini, Greece I have yet to see, and adjust your eyes to the dim setting at Danno’s. They sell the classic burger, sandwich, and seafood dishes. I thought I was going in for a sandwich, but something in my brain was hardwired for their homemade cheeseburger, and the words were out of my mouth before the waitress could ask what I wanted. None of the food pictured below lasted long.

Tree House Cafe

Off of Main Street is this little gem, with its selection of sandwiches, soups, and pastries. The orange hues and patter of chatter made it a really chill spot. I succumbed to their carrot and coriander soup, with a slice of brown soda bread on the side.

Harrington’s

At first, I was only here for the fried Mars bar my writing professor in Dublin recommended. However, a starter (dessert is the main attraction for me, always) of fish and chips now goes down in my book as some of the best. Brightly lit with playful pastels, and serving take away as well as in-house dining, Harrington’s caters to both location and locals.

And the fried Mars bar? Lick-the-plate-clean fantastic. I unabashedly scraped every last bit up with my spoon to savor it.

Murphy’s Ice Cream

Originating in Dingle, Murphy’s homemade ice cream is straight from the cow, it’s so creamy. Pine after their many tempting options, from 2-scoop cones to one of their magical sundaes. My favorites are Kieran’s Cookies and Irish Coffee which, yup, you can taste the whiskey. The flavor even has a small disclosure listed under it.

Equally important: they have locations in Dublin and Killarney. Major score.

So there you go! For a quintessential Irish escape, Dingle is the place to be.

Have you been to Dingle? What are your favorite spots?

Cyclists near and far, beginner and intermediate, this one’s for you.

I’m an amateur rider at best, having spent a summer learning how to confidently bike from my home in Everett, Massachusetts to downtown Boston in order to feel secure in cycling through Dublin for four months. When I arrived, the left lane driving and bike paths that wound in and around traffic shattered any stitch of self-assurance I’d previously had, and settled on renting bikes here and there. But I am a fervent lover of the mode, and it is probably my favorite way to see the world.

Along the Dingle Peninsula is the Slea Head Drive, a roughly 30-mile loop with views that still give me shivers to think about. Rugged, green, dramatic in its shifting landscapes, it  is one of the country’s most spectacular scenes. The way the road ribbons around the coast, formations of rock rising on one side and out of the ocean, which rolls and explodes below, is exquisite and truly a wonder. It passes through villages, around mountainous bends, and eventually, lands you back in lovely Dingle. I spent two days there for a weekend solo in mid September and was immediately caught under the spell of its mystique. It was an opportunity to stretch my legs without the fear of upsetting the rules of the urban road.

My arse was sore for a week (yes, the aches wore off after seven whole days) but it was worth it.

I would go back again and again because the land beckons like a harmless siren. It frees you; the hours spent alone on a bicycle among nature’s bounty gave me the space to unload my mind and to reflect on the the moments I was creating. Slea Head is surprising, daunting, and in its total glory. Honestly, I didn’t know much about the following beforehand. #unsavinessatitsfinest But I definitely learned them along the way. Here are some tips for your cycling trip!

Pack plenty of water and snacks

This one should be obvious for a long ride, and a slightly challenging one at that, but it wasn’t obvious to me. I didn’t have enough (read: really any) of either with me, which made the final leg of the ride difficult, and then even more difficult because I was grumbling and considering hitchhiking and kicking myself for not being in a better mood. Save yourself the hanger and a parched throat with granola bars, fruit, and 1-2 bottles of water.

Clock in early the night before

Dingle’s pub’s doorways pour into the streets with trad music, but don’t let them tempt you for too long. Even if you don’t start the ride until the late morning or early afternoon, you’ll want to go forth with a clear head and rejuvenated body. Dingle is a nice town in itself to ride around if you so choose before or after your ride.

Check the weather (and dress appropriately)

But remember where you are. Ireland isn’t as rainy as it’s made to seem; really, the country sees showers and the occasional spitting of rain, but the skies can (and will) clear just as quickly. And then cover up the blue again. It’s a rhythm that you have to be prepared for. Pack a rain jacket, wear sturdy shoes, and expect that you’ll go from chilly to hot to chilly–perfectly in time with the clouds.

*The above photos were taken on the same horizon within 10 seconds of each other. It was like the ocean had split in two and here I was, standing in the middle of polar opposite forecasts.*

Allow 5-6 hours and no bike lanes

In total, it took me about five and a half hours to return to Dingle, with numerous stops and a handful of bike-walking breaks. The terrain won’t let you just zip over it, and anyways, why would you? Arduous and jaw-dropping all in one, Slea Head is an entire day’s trip. And so worth that pint you’ll be craving afterwards.

The loop is also rather quiet, meaning you won’t have to worry about too many drivers honking at or skirting around you. There are no bike lanes, so you have to cycle either in the road or, when prompted, on the edge of the broken yellow lines and the shrubbery. It’s probably best this way, though. Once in a while I joined their prickly ranks, but generally speaking, you can burn rubber in stress-free solitude.

…And traffic jams

Because it gets narrow. The excitement of watching a tour bus make it through the twisty-turvy road is priceless.

Rent from Paddy’s Bike Shop

For €15 a day, you can rent a bike from Paddy’s, which includes a key, a lock, and a map. Visit their site here to see their rental options.

Keep on the straight and narrow

The road hugging the water is one straight shoot. The further inland you trail, the more breaks in the road you find, and the more you second guess your direction. Signs do crop up, not regularly, which is a good sign; if you haven’t seen anything directing you towards the next right, you’re good to keep on going where you are. It’s like the when in doubt, choose C rule: when in panic mode, go straight. Odds are you’ll see a sign shortly thereafter that sets your breathing back to normal.

Stop frequently, and cycle leisurely

I said it once and I’ll say it again: stop frequently, and don’t rush. This is a journey that demands your full attention, that you will fall in love with, that wants to and almost definitely will recharge your soul. With sights like this hard to come by, don’t squander the opportunity to just stop along a wooden fence and admire the view. Watch cows and sheep meander through their fields, enjoy wind-torn hair and the ocean air, and take pride in this adventure.

Cycling Slea Head is, to date, one of the most thrilling adventures I’ve had and one I intend to conquer again. Because that’s what you do, you and your trusty bike: you conquer the ride.

Still, nature claims its total victory.

I hope these tips helped! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Happy spring! It is far from the season here, as we’re expecting more snow today. *face palm* I thought that I would start an Ireland series here, because I am SO excitedly returning to visit my sister, Kaylee, as she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester. We both are now honorary Champlain College students, and both Champlain Dublin alum who are going to join in the program’s 10-year anniversary celebrations in Burlington, VT early this coming June. As Ireland is on my mind nearly all the time these days, I’m here to continue to spread the love I have for that country.

This is around the time of year people, mainly college students and recent grads, embark on a new, Great Big Adventure that includes backpacking across Europe or simply solo travel. Dublin is an ideal place to spend time alone; here’s why.

It’s easy to navigate.

Dublin is a walkable city, meaning you don’t have to concern yourself with the public transportation system. It’s contained for the most part, and there are plenty of landmarks (the River Liffey, St. Stephen’s Green, Christ Church Cathedral, Trinity College, the Spire) to keep you on the right track and that serve as excellent points of reference. No, street signs aren’t always noticeable; but a map will get you where you need. If not, as for directions.

The Irish are friendly people.

Which is to say, they are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. You’ll find camaraderie in pubs, in the park, on the street asking for directions. Irish people love to chat, and will befriend you instantaneously.

 

It is a safe and welcoming environment.

You probably don’t want to hang around Temple Bar at 2am on a Saturday alone, but then, where would you feel safe doing that anyways? Dublin proper doesn’t give you many reasons to believe you are in danger, considering pickpocketing isn’t a major issue, and people are pretty genuine. I spent an evening in pubs with an older gentleman who I got to talking to, who engaged me in wonderful conversation, and who I bid goodbye and promised I would be fine getting back to my AirBnb alone. I didn’t feel threatened by him at all, but I know my comfort level. Like I said, the Irish love to make new friends, and the whole country wraps you up in its people’s true warmth.

 

It’s a great place to set your own pace.

Dublin is dazzling in historic charm, between its museums, Georgian homes, and scones (Queen of Tarts, you guys). It’s also very laid back, and you’ll want time to see it all on your own schedule. Don’t follow a timetable; have an idea for what you’d like to do, but know that a burrito joint (Burritos and Blues) might catch your eye and you’ll have to wait until later to visit that museum. It’s okay. Whatever you decide will give you a good sense of both city and local culture. That’s the best way to see it.

Dublin is a meditative, homey escape.

The calming energy you’ll find here is exceptional, and with every passing hour you’ll feel less like a tourist and more like you’re at home. It’s somewhere that demands you sit with a cup of tea, some Butler’s hot chocolate, and/or said scone in one of Dublin’s parks or green spaces and people watch. Or read. Or walk and drink in the vision of beauty that this city is. Though it’s a metropolis, there is a huge element of quiet, of thoughtfulness, of peace that contrasts its business. It’s not an island retreat, but it provides retreat nonetheless. And probably some of the best rejuvenation there is.

Have you ever traveled to Dublin solo?

James Taylor knew what he was talking about. Except instead of sunshine and moonshine, I can see the flourishing clouds covering and uncovering the sky and feel the drunken ecstasy.

The mountains are one of my favorite things in the entire world, and though Ireland isn’t mountainous, per se, the terrain is rugged and craggy and, of course, green. Strung with valleys that cater off into the distance, and sheep that dot the landscape, it is a storybook fantasy come alive.

While in Galway, Sam and I booked a tour through the Connemara Valley with Viator, an eight-hour bus ride with stops at Kylemore Abbey, Ross Errilly Friary, the town of Cong, Lough Corrib, and Loch Na Fooey. Since neither of us was prepared to rent a car and try our hand at navigation, and Viator is highly rated, we went for it.

Worth it.

Our tour began at the bus station in Galway City, and Sam and I boarded around 9:30 with cups of Butler’s hot chocolate and porridge/yogurt items. If I can side note this for a second, I would like to say that Butler’s hot chocolate is everything your chocolate-craving mind could ever want. It’s so rich, it’s basically melted chocolate. You know how most times, hot chocolate is the best at the bottom, where the deep flavors pool up and give actual meaning to saving the best for last? That’s Butler’s, but all the way through. Yes. I know.

We were slightly sickly full from the drink, neither of us able to finish our small cups, but promptly at 10 our driver, Mike D., as he had introduced himself, pulled away from the sidewalk. He kept us entertained all day, cracking jokes about how the Irish eat their potatoes and informing us of the (real estate-prime) lands that cannot be built on.

Our first outing was at Lough Inagh, an hour into the trip, where it was spitting rain. We marched along the squelching earth along with everyone on the bus, mirroring the army of sheep that kept their distance.

From there, Mike D. went over our options for Kylemore Abbey, the next stop on our itinerary. We could either receive our ticket from him on the bus and pay him with cash, or purchase a ticket with the group rate inside with card. We could either begin at the gardens, which we would take a shuttle to, or to the home and chapel’s grounds. Sam and I handed our eight euros over to Mike D. on our way out, hit the restroom, gawked at the sight of the abbey rising almost naturally from the ground, and waited in line for the shuttle to the gardens.

Kylemore Abbey was designed in the late 1860s by Mitchell Henry, as a gift to his wife Margaret. This was a token of Mitchell’s affection for his beloved, and probably the most romantic gesture I’ve ever witnessed. An estate nestled into a valley, seemingly built by fairies, and literally jumping out of the pages of a Victorian novel, Kylemore Abbey is a dreamscape, just in the way it was meant to be. Add in the colorful legends of the land and you’ve got yourself a fairy tale to end all fairy tales.

When Margaret fell ill and passed away, her bereaved husband built a Gothic church in her honor and remained on the estate until 1903, where he sold it to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester. In 1923 it was opened as a benedictine and remained an operating boarding school until 2010.

The clouds that hung over the estate were a piece of the story, making it even more magical and exposition-worthy.

Sam and I went to the perfectly manicured Victorian walled gardens first. It was stunning neatness, secretive and surrounded by the mountains drenched in light fog.

Just outside the walls stand 10,000 oak and ash trees planted by the Benedictine community here in a reforestation effort.

Guests can also sponsor a tree here to contribute to their initial work. And Kylemore is derived from the Gaelic coill mor, meaning big wood that was found on the north side of the area’s lake.

And after touring the few rooms open to the public at the estate, we followed the road down to the Gothic chapel, featuring the Ironing Stone where children can make a wish and sculpted giant’s fingers crawling out of the earth.

We were allotted two hours at the abbey, which was the ideal amount of time to explore without feeling rushed. Sam and I stopped at the Tea House by the walled gardens for scones and protection from the sudden onslaught of rain as we waited for the shuttle back.

Back on the bus, Mike D. led us further into Connemara:

Killary Fjord

The only salt water carrier we’d pass and the place where the sun burst out from behind the clouds with gusto. It was like some god was looking down on us, knowing we were stepping into a trap of glory, and said, “let there be sunlight.” The view was a poem, verses as valleys and refrains in the lake’s stillness. I still look at my photos and immediately lose my jaw.

These photos were taken not five minutes later. This, my loves, is the glory of Ireland.

Sam caught me clicking my heels in the air, but I think this photo is a more accurate celebration of my awe.

Cong, Ireland

For 45 minutes, we spent leisure time in Cong, the filming location of The Quiet Man. It is a quintessential Irish town in its pastel buildings, quiet shops, and remains of a monastery all living in harmony. The walkability is a lovely plus.

Ross Errilly Friary

The final leg of the tour went to Ross Errilly Friary, one of the country’s best-preserved medieval monastic sites. There was time here, too, to sit, to admire the cows roaming the land, to climb up the ruins, to weave through rooms-turned-burial grounds and apologize to the remains of people you are walking all over.

I followed someone up around this set of ruins, and was kept up there like a Rapunzel whose Mother Gothel liked to live on the edge by a boy who decided to sit and relax right by the makeshift stairs back down.

And we were so excited about this threshold! The perfect size for Sam, and making me feel slightly like a giant! I banged my head off of it after picking up the comb that fell from my bag (and, as Sam said: you know we’re best friends because while other people looked on and called out to see if I was okay, Sam was doubled over laughing.)

The day was long, but it was an excellent way of seeing Connemara. The drive was enough to keep us enthralled, staring out the window for hours, and every stop was like another slice of cake granted to me. I loved being handed information and exploring knowingly, and the timing of everything was right on.

Since then, I’ve been squirreling away my money to share in the cost of a Connemara estate with my eventual Prince Charming. See you there in twenty five years.

Booking Information

Visit Viator to book your Connemara Day Trip from Galway. Prices range from $30-40 USD. Tours leave from the Galway Coach Station at 10 am and return at 6 pm.

I hope you’ll tour with this group!

 

 

I love Dublin. Which many of you already know. I’m currently tapping my fingers rapidly against the keyboard, hoping to drum up some new way of writing out my love for the city, but I keep coming back to the word home. There’s a low key wonder to Dublin, not asking of itself and only presenting its heart on its sleeve. My memories there are encased in a halo of buttery yellow, because it’s just so dang lovely in sights and manner. I always felt safe and happy there. I feel safe and happy when I return to moments spent there, as you may have read in my post here about returning over the summer.

Dublin is historic, quirky, youthful, delectable, clever, and undoubtedly gorgeous. It is the sweet and the sour, a juxtaposition of past and future, and in many ways a boundless determination to linger in this balance. These photos don’t capture it fully, which is like Dublin itself: pleasantly complex.

Champlain College, Dublin, where I studied in the fall of 2015.

Sometimes, the best method of persuasion is through visuals. I hope these photos inspire your trip to Dublin!

One night in October or November of 2017, my best friend Sam was sleeping over and we began talking travel. I was in the hypothetical phase of a trip to Europe in the coming summer to celebrate my graduation from college, and as the thought cropped up we laughingly sighed, “What if we just go to Europe this summer?”

Then we looked at each other, a serious glint in our eyes.

What if we just go to Europe this summer?”

This time, planning a trip as a passably-fledged 21/22 year old adult and with my best friend was exciting. It was one of the saving graces of my final semester, taking (too long) breaks in between writer’s block while working on my thesis and exploring the endless possibilities that lay ahead. I decided on one week solo, and then Sam would meet me in Ireland, where we would begin two and a half weeks of silly, thrilling, cider-filled adventures. It was another milestone to put in the friendship books, featuring a rainbow of gel pens and shiny gold stickers.

We were in Ireland for 10 days, eating our weight in scones, listening to trad music and bubbling over with a happiness that truly couldn’t be contained (resulting in some tipsy, loud remarks about how we wouldn’t be leaving the country), feeling humbled by the hills and valleys and water like glass that filled our sights, and running into Americans who swore Titanic was actually pronounced Titantic.

Sam and I split our time between Dublin and Galway, the urban and the removed, all charm.

From Dublin, we hopped on an already packed coach bus to Galway, sitting across from each other and popping our earbuds in for the ride. When we were deposited at the bus station two and a half hours later, on the edge of Galway city, I accessed the public WiFi and took screenshots of the directions to get to our AirBnb, arriving by the 409 bus.

Before that, though, I went to the restroom, which charged 20 cents to use, and required you to pass through a turnstile that turned against the flow of bathroom users. A cluster of people who had just gotten off of their buses was growing, all of us milling around for a second confusedly as one, then another person, pushed to no avail. So I stuck my 20 cents in, pulled the bar towards me, and shimmied around it to get in.

About twenty minutes later, we were on the 409 bus, studying the ten or so screenshots of our route and, where it only vaguely noted we had twenty stops before ours, counted down those being rung.

“Twenty,” we began to chant quietly.

“Nineteen.”

“Eighteen.”

The problem became that stops weren’t being called out, or listed on a digital scroll above the seats, so we didn’t have an accurate tally.

“Okay, this must be sixteen,” One of us said.

“Or is it fourteen?” The other asked hesitantly.

“Shit.”

Sam realized that the bus had WiFi, and once I logged in and plugged our information in, Google kindly informed me that we had missed our stop and were about a twenty minute walk to our lodging. (Twenty is probably not my best number. Good year of life, bad number.)

Immediately we rung the button for the next stop, grabbed our luggage from the designated storage right by the door, thanked the driver, and hopped out. I had quickly taken more screenshots, these even more vague than the last ones, and we stood stranded for a moment.

“Um. I think we go this way?” I suggested, pointing to the way we had come from. We were in a bustling spot, a main drag with rotaries and traffic lights that went red after maybe ten minutes of said traffic had zipped through.

Ireland doesn’t like signposts.

Street names are usually denoted on a small sign placed on a low wall, or, in city centers, high up on corner buildings or just not at all. We took estimated guesses as to where we should go, putting to use the sense of direction I inherited from my dad, backtracking the route of the bus and turning off onto a slightly inclined street that I cross-examined between the two sets of screenshots. It looked like it could fit the bill.

Both of us looked confused enough to attract the attention of a girl about our age, who noticed us either from across the street or who was quickly approaching from behind as we, probably stopped, were staring futilely at directions that simply said, “Turn left onto the road. Continue up the road for 340 meters. Merge onto the destination road. Arrive.”

We didn’t even know if we were on the right road.

“Are ye’s lost?” She asked a yard away.

“Yes,” I sighed gratefully, giving her the address and shoving the bare directions that we had at her. We were, indeed, headed the right way; it would be on our left.

Sam and I arrive shortly after that, once we had stopped to confirm with a neighbor tending to his lawn that the address was around these parts. Our suitcases vomited some of their contents, which we pretended was unpacking, and flipped through the pile of snacks, maps, and guides that our lovely host left for us.

When we were content with our “settled” state, Sam and I decided to head into Galway City for dinner. With the hopes of getting it right this time, we heeded the advice of our host, and the internet, to take the 403 bus that picked up right down the road from us. Since Ireland drives on the left side, we waited at the bus stop opposite our AirBnb, since that was the direction they would head into town. Right?

Wrong. The bus came relatively quickly, and we found seats in the front row of the second level to slide into. At the bottom of the street, the bus veered left, back towards the highway-like area we had mistakenly found ourselves only an hour before, and at the rotary continued up the road parallel to our AirBnb.

Sam and I looked at each other and didn’t bother containing our laughter.

“Where are we going?”

“Who knows!” We giggled.

The bus did get us to the city center, but in a very roundabout way. It returned to the bus stop that we had decided not to wait at, the one on the same side of the road as our stay, and we made a note to throw logic to the wind and get on at that stop for the rest of our time. But it was an industrially scenic extra ten minutes we were given, and that, contrasting with the imagery of Ireland’s west coast being so rural, so green, so not this picture of industry that we were seeing. And I loved it.

In Galway City, we sat outside in the cooling evening, along the main, medieval street, blankets across our laps and pizza steaming on the table in front of us. The street hums with people coming in and out of restaurants, potential eaters perusing the menus listed outside front doors, street performers and band members preparing for that night’s set. At Trattoria Magnetti, I sung the praises of my carbonara pizza and Sam relished the margarita.

We decided to walk around a bit, two buzzes along with that evening hum, and on our way back to catch the bus, stopped at the only store open, a small Tesco’s where we each decided to buy a sleeve of digestive cookies. They looked tasty, their bottoms coated in rich chocolate. While abroad two years ago, I’d always seen them, but never tried them. Why? I kept asking myself from that night. Why would I do that?

It began to rain while we stood at the bus stop, but we didn’t care. We tightened the hoods around our faces, did a jig over the cookies in our hands, the warmness in our stomachs, and the lightness in our hearts. We knew our way back.

The thing about getting lost is that you’ll regain your footing. Even when directions are vague, or cities/countries don’t indicate streets with signs, or you just don’t know where the hell you are or what you’re doing there (in cases like this, specifically). It’s okay not to know it all. Or, purchase an international plan if you’d feel safer doing that. But that ruins some of the “it’s kind of out of my hands but I’ll get back eventually” humor. Sometimes, it’s just really fun to end up at the wrong stop. It’s even more fun when you’re sitting with your best friend, replaying the day while eating through a roll of dark chocolate digestive cookies, and savoring the way the late June light over Ireland lingers past 9 pm.

Cheers to detours!