13-20th July 2016
Ahhhh, Dublin. The Republic of Ireland. You feel like home, yet you’re not even park of the UK. Your expensive hostels (and scarcity at the weekends), expensive travel and expensive food. It hits me hard having just come from Asia where everything is both plentiful and cheap. It’s going to take some adjustment. Then again, that’s why I’m here. My plan is to spend a week relaxing in Ireland to prepare myself for a normal routine again in the UK.
My first day is spent doing some sight-seeing. The local parks are fabulous and I find a site dedicated to Oscar Wilde which makes me love the place even more. On the sigh seeing bus I hope and I feel obligated to get off at the Guinness factory. I am in Ireland, after all. Again, not cheap. The ticket comes with a free pint of Guinness though, so it’s not all doom and gloom. One I even get to make myself, according to the Guinness rules of pouring. Each pint should take a minimum of two minutes to make to perfection.
Sightseeing over. I start to feel a tad homesick now. If I wanted a week of not really doing much, why am I paying £15-25 a night at a hostel when I could be at my parent’s places for free, I ask myself. I decide that I do in fact need the time to catch up on these posts but to fill the time I will go on Meet Up and Couch Surfing events. With the first Couch Surfing event marked as going I’m on my way. On my way not very far it turns out. The pub is right next door. That was easy.
What happened next was not something I expected. I entered the pub as a slightly bored, torn individual, wondering how best to spend my time in Ireland. I left the pub with four new acquaintances and a gentleman’s agreement that we were going to rent a car together and explore Ireland for the weekend.
Now how did that happen? Whichever which way it did, I’m forever thankful that it happened.
The next day I find myself a quiet bar (The Library Bar, Central Hotel, which happens to be one of the top 100 bars outside of America according to some survey) trying to catch up on my diary before the days run away with me here.
I manage to get a few done and in walk two of the guys; Marvin and Hector, later followed by a third: Drew. This is our first real bonding time together, planning where our trip will take us and how it will all work logistically. It was all starting to get real. We still hadn’t rented the car so I was still a little sceptical. The planning session was an absolute laugh though where I ceased to be able to control myself and had pains from the fun of it all. We were even in tears over how bad a hostel was, only to find it was left as our only choice!
Today, we entered the bar as guys getting to know each other. We left as The BIGAM Crew. It felt like the road trip was on.
The afternoon passed quickly. We went to a burrito joint which a fellow traveller from China had recommended to me and then scurried around trying to sort out the car in time. Before we knew it, we were at Enterprise trying to come to an agreement just as they were shutting. Either their impatience or Drew’s well-chosen words lead to a slight discount which then lead to an immediate agreement. Unfortunately, as the only person who’s used to driving on this side of the road I also happen to be the only person not old enough to be insured on a rental car!
Regardless, we entered as four men on foot. We left as four men with wheels.
The night was ended with another meetup group and finished with a live rock band (the occasional, uncharacteristic, emo song). Later some pro wing manning from Marvin, the American, (classic Marvin) I’m walking a girl back to her place, saying good night in a high pitched tone and walking back to my dorm. Classic James. Meanwhile, Hector, the Mexican, decides to sleep in the car for the night. Genius. Classic Hector. Drew, on the other hand, has found himself a Grindr date and a place to stay the night. Classic Drew. Feliciano, the Italian, or fellatio as we’ve decided to try calling him, is nowhere to be seen because he has a proper job. Classic Fellatio.
The next morning I’m glad to have been awoken by my roomies as I’m in a rush to meet the guys back at the car. Then myself, Marvin and Hector go to meet Drew. Without an address we’re just using Marvin’s mind-map which is scarily accurate. Unfortunately, we’re a road off and catch see Drew. Cu-coooo! Hector’s making bird noises. It’s the group’s new signal. Sadly, we haven’t mentioned this to Drew. Even if he can hear it, there’s nothing to say he’s just going to assume it’s just a random bird noise.
We’re back in the car trying to get wifi as none of us have international roaming. PING. Wifi’s connected. It’s with a bus though. There’s only one thing to do. FOLLOW THAT BUS. For the next five miles, in the opposite direction to Drew, we manage to feed a message through on where to meet each other. Essentially it’s where we were. Oh well.
Last stop is picking up the Italian about an hour later than planned. Finally, we’re on the road out of Dublin.
The first stop on our trip is an accident: Jerpoint Abbey. A nice accident. It was cheap to get in (as a student!) and there was a friendly free guide there also. It hit us as a bit of a surprise to find out we weren’t actually in the centre of Kilkenny, as we thought, so we got back into the car before too long and headed to Kilkenny Castle.
This was very pleasant indeed. Lots of rooms to see inside but nothing too draining. After a slight issue trying to escape through a fire escape (Marvin made it and so had Drew before he came back and we got ushered away) we soon found our way back outside.
Next stop was Cork. We thought it was going to be a fairly Irish historical town. Instead, we found a fairly nondescript shopping district (sorry, Cork!). A friendly shop worker suggested we should try the Titanic exhibition, as it’s excellent, or a quirky little seaside town called Kinsale. With the Titanic museum closing we headed to Kinsale. It was definitely worth it!
We had a pleasant wander and found the famous Dino’s fish and chip shop. Hector being non-classic Hector today decided to splurge out for the Dino Special. He really wanted to try their fish and chips. When the lady said do you want to make it the King Dino Special he said “but of course!”. The rest of us collected our grilled seabass and we all sat down. Hector’s looking at his box thinking it’s an odd shape. He opens it to find he’s somehow ordered a King Burger at a famous fish and chip shop. Now that’s Classic Hector.
Next stop is Tralee. Our layover for the night. The hostel with one star out of five and only bad reviews. We check in and I quickly jump on the only available lower bunk. When we investigate further we find I perhaps didn’t make the best choice.
The bed’s about to fall in on itself! Not wanting to die I go down to the friendly receptionist who I had a bit of banter with on the way in (Hector kindly refers to this as Classic James). I explain the situation of not wanting to die and she looks agitated. I ask about the empty beds in the other room, room 16. She shakes her head. “You can….”, this looks good. “But….. there’s four guys who are pretty unsavoury in there and I wouldn’t recommend it”.
I point out that my choices are now to either get crushed by a bed or to get mugged in the other room. She agrees that is the situation. Righttttt…… She helpfully explains that I may be too drunk to care when I come back tonight and forget about the condition of the bed. That’s comforting to know.
We go to a bar to have some more Guinness and Marvin starts chatting to a girl on the way back from the loos. Classic Marvin. We switch seats so he can be next to her and then he manages to get us an invite to a local club. We head there next and party for the night. I start dancing and a girl pulls me into her and proceeds to uncomfortably stick her tongue down my throat as far as it will go. Classic James.
When we head back to the hostel, I grab the mattress and put it in the middle of the room to avoid my sleep with a chance of death. Turns out my life matters to me even after a few beers. Who knew!
In the morning we head to the rings of Skellig / Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher. Finding a cheap boat ferry helped us access the rings quickly and we made an extra stop off by a very scenic lighthouse to eat our quiche and cheese from a pit stop at Jack’s Deli. Included in the finds was an Irish whiskey cheese which was scrumptious!
Drew, often the source of much energy, ended up doing a handstand with the mother of some other tourists. Classic Drew.
In the car, Drew, also a life coach, starts a conversation of deep meaning. We all get to know each other a lot better and this point and really bond and start to trust each other. Everyone agrees how surprisingly well this has turned out.
Now at the cliffs we park down a dirt track to avoid paying extortionate parking fees for what is a very cloudy day. Eventually we battle our way through mud, cows, bulls and horses to be standing on the edge of the cliff. It’s a long way down. That never stops a good photo opportunity though.
Thankfully, just like the song friends, everyone’s here for each other.
Before we know it the journey has come to an end. We’re back at Fellatio’s house and doing one last group selfie.
We head back into Dublin, check into our hostels and hit the town for another night. Myself and Hector have managed to pick up a French girl to join us and we agree to play wingmen for Marvin. It’s a crazy night where I stop another guy from approaching the French girl and then Drew has to stop the same guy from then approaching me! It’s a fantastic night all round though and Hector pulls out his amazing dance moves to the amazement of everyone. Classic Hector. Marvin walks the French girl home, myself and Drew leave Hector to his new lady and we head back to the hostel all smiley from a night of fun.
The next day, Drew’s got another Grindr date. Of course he does. Classic Drew. The day is fairly uneventful, I cooked us some pasta with red sauce, tuna and salad but the night is spent at Fellatio’s for a farewell dinner which is lovely. Pasta, red sauce and salad. We should communicate more.
Having missed the last train home, we hug farewell and begin our walk, now that we have no car, having returned it the previous day. Catching a few Pokemon on route and a few beers to boot, it’s an enjoyable walk. We drop Marvin and Drew back and myself and Hector begin our walk. There’s a bar open playing loud music. It’s a sign. We go inside. We dance. Hector finds his dancing muse and is there raising the bar once more. Classic Hector. It’s a joy to watch. Eventually we make it to my hostel where some loud, but lovely, girls are. We say hello. I go back to my hostel to sleep and Hector has some company for the last bit of his walk. We’re all winners here.
The next day I’m flying back to London for my brother’s birthday. This is it. This. Is. Good bye.
Or is it?
Two of the guys are going to Scotland. If you go to Edinburgh, I’ll join you there. Sure. Then the third guy can make it too. Reunion time!
I leave Ireland, come back for my brother’s birthday and the day after I’m back on a plane to Scotland.
The adventures never end.
Bye Ireland. You’ve been a pleasure.