Continuing my mini-Europe tour – Republic of Ireland
I was there for a conference trip for 7 days(?) in early October and got to stay at the Dublin Westin, which was interestingly located across Trinity College and the Irish Houses of Parliament and oddly near the National Wax Museum. Basically, it was right downtown so I was smack in the middle of Irish nightlife near the Temple Bar area — and within walking distance of my conference.
Random buildings and ship along my route to and from the conference
Let me begin my Irish travels with more rave reviews of my hotel. Essentially, they put me on the top (5th) floor for more privacy because I was staying so long. Fluffy pillows, large bath, and an amazing Irish breakfast buffet were included in my stay. The hot breakfast bar included eggs, bacon, blood sausages (blood pudding is a UK/Irish thing?), roasted tomatoes (delicious!), and eggs benedict (made-to-order). Coffee, fancy coffees, milk, and 5 juices : fresh grapefruit, apple, orange, cranberry, and pineapple juices were available. Cereals and pastries were abundant and could be topped with fresh Irish yogurt or berries or butter or honey from a honeycomb. And Irish yogurt is amazing! Very much like freshly made Greek yogurt. During my stay, I also enjoyed the cold meats, including smoked salmon and cheese spread and Irish soda bread. Overall, an amazing hotel breakfast!
I was jet lagged most of my stay so I didn’t go to the Temple Bar area much, but I did try lots of Irish food. Traditional Irish stew and Guinness stew. Fish and chips with mushed peas? Yeah, that pea mush was interesting…well I think I like my fish and chips sans peas. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time during the day to take English tea, but I did have the best scone ever at a Irish gas station. That means that English afternoon tea must be amazing, yes?
And more food!
The best petrol station scone ever!
Also, I went to my first Michelin star restaurant. Forgot the name so I guess it wasn’t that memorable? Well, I was slightly disappointed by it. It wasn’t too expensive (~20-25 lbs), good food with lots of variety. Enjoyed some escargot, pate, hake (Irish fish related to cod). Not phenomenal but well plated!
On the topic of food, I ate quite a bit of potatoes. You can literally eat potatoes at every meal. In fact, I went to a carvery where I ordered roast beef which came with a side of mashed potatoes and bonus fingerling potatoes. Way too many potatoes for me. The Irish love for the common spud is indeed true.
Compared to Zurich, Dublin was quite trashy — pun very much intended. One of the major off-putting things about Dublin was the trash collecting. It appeared that people put their trash bags outside near the street for trash collection. It made the streets feel dirty and smelly. Not pleasant at all. Luckily, trash collecting is in the wee hours so the trash doesn’t begin to litter the streets until ~8 PM.
I escaped the city briefly and went to see the Cliffs of Moher on a tour bus. Along the way, the guide told us about Barack Obama’s ancestry in Ireland. Someone traced it back to a small village outside of Dublin and named a plaza after him. Apparently, Obama visited it sometime ago..
After a fairly long bus ride, I reached the Cliffs of Moher. I’ve dreamt about the Mists of Avalon and King Arthur’s court and Medieval life and fantasy realms as a kid and so I felt as if I entered a very mythical site standing by the cliffs. Misty and windy. Completely magical.
At the entrance to the cliffs were little shops and the visitor center built into the hillside; I couldn’t help thinking about Hobbits and Lord of the Rings during my visit as a result. Past the visitor center is a path that takes you part way along the Cliffs of Moher. To the left and right of the path, you can walk past the curated park paths and enter, at your own discretion, trails without a safety wall. I walked somewhat adventurously along one and thought the views were splendid, though thought best not to take a selfie too close to the edge for fear of tripping and falling to my death.
After about 1.5 hours at the Cliffs, the tour guide picked us back up and swept us back to Dublin. Along the way, we stopped by the pretty Irish coast to look at natural limestone rock formations, saw some very cute Irish hamlets and countryside, and old castle ruins.
I absolutely loved the rocky coastline.
We took a detour at an abandoned monastery that had been in ruins since the reign of King Henry VIII and the English Reformation. Interestingly, I did notice some of the graves were well maintained so I wonder if the locals still use and view the place as sacred Catholic burial grounds.
Lastly, we stopped by a gourmet Irish chocolate factory for a mini chocolate tour. Apparently, this shop is the only place in Ireland that makes chocolate directly from cocoa beans.
Picturesque Irish chocolate factory in the middle of the countryside. Note the grass growing on the roof and sheep in the wee distance.
Ireland was nostalgic for me. I kept hearing Celtic music in my head. I’ll have to go back again one day. Next time, I’ll take friends.