We may be 4,000 miles away, but nothing stops Unofficial.
There were a lot of uncertainties when we were accepted in to this study abroad program, but one thing we knew for sure was that we would be spending Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland. This year Unofficial fell on Friday, March 5th, and all of the Illini studying abroad in Europe flew to Dublin for the weekend.
Priority number one was getting something green to wear (in Milan we don’t really wear colors…just lots and lots of black). Then we met up with a group of other U of I kids staying at a different hostel and a group of us went to the Guinness Storehouse.
The Guinness Storehouse is the museum inside of the St. James’ Gate Brewery. As you work your way up through the building, you get to learn about the brewery (which, fun fact, is the biggest brewer of stout in the world), how Guinness is made, the founder of the brewery Arthur Guinness, and how to properly drink Guinness. On the very top floor is the Gravity Bar, where you can enjoy the best view of the city and a complimentary pint. I do not like beer, but it’s Dublin and it’s Unofficial, so I gave it a try. Guinness is definitely the best beer I’ve tried – you can definitely tell it’s high quality – but I could still only manage a few sips. Everyone else was more than happy to help me finish it, so don’t worry it didn’t go to waste!
At this point, we were incredibly hungry, and since we were celebrating a University of Illinois holiday we wanted a little taste of home. There’s a restaurant called Tolteca in Dublin, which is literally Chipotle just with a different name. It had been over a month since our last Chipotle, so we were desperately missing Mexican food and Tolteca’s made us very happy!
Something I always try to do when I travel is eat the local food, and I promise that Tolteca’s was our only unauthentic meal of the trip! Originally I was a little worried since traditional Irish food doesn’t really sound like my kind of thing – I’m not a potatoes and meat kind of girl. But luckily they’re big on fish as well since they’re right on the Atlantic, so during the trip I was able to find some wonderful local meals. For dinner on Unofficial we went to an Irish pub called Murray’s, and I had some absolutely fabulous Irish Cod fish & chips. And not only was the food great, Murray’s had a great atmosphere and I loved the live Irish music!
The rest of the night was hopping from pub to pub and exploring the city center. The Irish pub scene is so different from the clubs in Milan, it was nice to have a change of pace and I absolutely loved the live music! I’m convinced that if you don’t like Irish music you’re not human because it’s just so happy! Sorry I can’t figure out how to upload the videos I took to this blog, but here’s a link to a song that we heard frequently and I still can’t get out of my head. Enjoy 🙂
So we were up very early the next morning to go to the Cliffs of Moher. We took a bus through Paddywagon Tours, which was fantastic! I was expecting it to just be a shuttle to the cliffs and back, but it was much better – our bus driver took us to a bunch of different sites along the way and told us a lot of the history as well. We literally had to drive across the entire country to get to the cliffs, so we got to see a lot of the countryside (gorgeous, and exactly what you’d expect – stone walls, sheep, and the greenest grass you’ve ever seen!). We went by Corcomroe Abbey and Bunratty Castle, and once we got to the Atlantic coast we drove by fishing villages and the Mini Cliffs in The Burren. It was a great way to get out of the city and experience the rest of the country!
And of course the cliffs were absolutely incredible! There are paths that go along the length of the cliffs, so we walked around quite a bit and enjoyed the view. It was super windy and it’s a 700ft drop down to the Atlantic so I was going no where near the edge, but it was still breathtaking – definitely one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen!
When we got back from the tour, we grabbed a quick fish & chip dinner and then went to bed since we had to get up at 3:30am the next morning to catch our flight back to Milan. Our hostel was very nice – big and clean and safe. It wasn’t the most centrally located, but that gave us a chance to walk around the city and do some more exploring. Dublin feels like such a quaint city, so we loved wandering around.
When we left in the morning we yet again found ourselves wishing that we had more time in Dublin. We really enjoyed our time there – this was actually my first time leaving Italy all semester, so it was nice to experience a completely different culture, be somewhere that spoke English, and catch up with some friends from other study abroad programs!
Also, the fact that I’ve got some Irish blood in me made the trip even more special. I absolutely fell in love with the country, and can’t wait to go back some day!