Guinness, Jigs, and Castles


Guinness was splashing about, voices of accents all over the world were singing along, and a handful of us were attempting our best Irish jig. 

This was my favorite night in Europe. 

We were in Dublin, Ireland and it was our last night before heading to Northern Ireland. The pub was called Oliver St. John Gogarty in Temple Bar and we had been there a couple of other nights but were unaware of the upstairs. (Yes I know Temple Bar is super touristy, but it's a blast and I was a tourist so who cares.)

northern ireland-2776.jpg

This night we made our way up the stairs to see what it was all about, and man am I glad we did.

Kacey and I walked up to where the band was performing and the Irish singer automatically welcomed us even though the room was FULL and gave us a hard time for being from Arizona, all in good fun. 

From there I was hooked and began to let my very American feet loose on the dance floor. 

Did I look like an idiot? Yes. Did I care for even a second that night? Absolutely not. 

We sang to "Hallelujah" with our hands around the locals next to us and watched those who actually knew how to jig, and even had a few try to teach us. 

I told everyone I met that I was moving to Dublin and to keep an eye out for me. (Still haven't totally thrown that idea away, by the way.)

Kacey and I visited Saint Patrick's Cathedral the day before and while we were about to leave, Kacey noticed a Claddagh ring in the gift shop. She talked about how she's wanted one since she was a kid and all her friends had one from when they visited Ireland.

The ring was first produced in the 17th century and is a traditional Irish symbol meaning loyalty, friendship and love. The way you wear it can also imply if you are single or married and they are particularly popular with Irish Americans.

When Kacey and I went on our first road trip together, she bought us beautiful matching rings from the gift shop of the Grand Canyon to symbolize our friendship and the amazing time we had on the trip. So sitting in a place of such history together a year later, we knew we needed to buy these rings.

Now both of the rings sit on the same finger, and every time I look at it I will remember the feeling of bliss and wanderlust I experienced while in Europe with my best friend.

My mother's side is Irish, so something about being in Ireland really struck a chord with me. My grandma called my mother crying while I was there because she was so happy I was able to see where our family came from. I made sure to send her a video of the band singing Hallelujah while I was there. Not only did I have a connection because of my heritage, but the people are just so fun and friendly and the landscape was something I'll never forget.

After Dublin we made our way on the train to Portrush, a small town on the coast of Northern Ireland. Mind you we had just spent a week in cramped hostels, so when we got to our Airbnb overlooking the ocean, we had never felt more grateful and actually shed a tear or two in front of our host.

Every morning we slept in a wee bit because this bed was basically a cloud and we had been sleeping on bunk beds the nights leading up to this and our legs were legitimately so sore from dancing in all night in Dublin the night before that walking was not an easy task. I'd go downstairs, make some toast and some Irish breakfast tea, and sit outside on the deck and just stare with gratitude and disbelief that I was actually in Ireland. 

Our plan for Northern Ireland had been ready for months before. We had a friend who knew a taxi driver there that said he would take us on a tour of all the sites on the Northern coast so we wouldn't have to take a tourist bus or pay a ridiculous amount in individual taxi fees. 

The day before we were supposed to take this trip, he texted us to cancel. Unsure of what to do, I texted the same friend, and she reached out to a few people she hung around while studying abroad in Northern Ireland to see if there was any chance someone would help out. Thinking no one would do such a thing for two americans they had never met while being asked a day in advance, I was prepared for the worst. 

Then only about 10 minutes later a guy named Nathan messaged me on Facebook saying he'd love to show us around. We were elated.

He picked us up the next morning at 11 am and off we were. We went to The Dark Hedges, Giant's Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, and Dunlace Castle with a few pitstops on the coast just because everywhere was pretty. Not only this, but his father owns the biggest candy business in Northern Ireland, so he gave us a ridiculous amount of candy to try and then we all went to dinner in town. I can't thank him enough for essentially saving our trip and for making it better than we could have imagined!

The rest of our time in Northern Ireland consisted of walking down the beach into town, dancing to Florence in the Machine while stuck in the rain, and relaxing to the sound of the ocean.

All in all, I could talk forever about Ireland, and there are countless gems of stories to be told of our adventures there.

I'll leave it at if there is somewhere you've absolutely always dreamt of going, PLEASE do it. And don't wait for the perfect time because it simply doesn't exist. Go go go, because the warmth of being there and achieving this will stay with you forever. 

Thank you Ireland. I will be back. 

Alyssa SmithComment