We took the train to Holyhead, Wales, next to a family celebrating their parents 25th anniversary, from Maryland. The son was telling some odd story for 20 minutes with water bottles in a sluggish monotone, while the Brits behind Jes loudly made jokes about “slags” and “taking the piss.”
I have never seen so many sheep as I did on this train ride, dotting the fuzzy verdant blankets of land. And Wales, oh, Wales is so very pretty from the window of the train. I would love to come back and explore Wales and hear the Welsh language.
Then we took the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. Three hours long ahh! The Irish ferry was called Ulysses and it was more a mini-cruise ship than a ferry, as least by New York standards. There was a restaurant, an arcade, a cinema with TWO movies, a club lounge, and a bar.
We sat next to these two social studies teachers from Maryland who were chaperoning a group of high school girls through England and Ireland. They were super nice! I felt a bit nauseous so the lady teacher and I went up to the deck. It was so windy! It was the longest boat ride I’ve ever been on. Jes agreed that it felt like a cruise. The teachers were asking if I was feeling okay because I looked very pale and I assured them that, oh no, I’m just a vampire basically.
The hostel we stayed at was brilliant compared to its London counterpart. The beds were almost illegal in how comfortable they were for a hostel. We walked around Dublin for dinner and then we had drinks at the hostel’s packed and lively bar.
We went on a walking tour like the one in London. Only caveat was the dreadful weather that couldn’t make up its mind between gusting, cold rain, and faint patches of teasing sun. But it was really amazing! I wasn’t aware of how little I knew about Ireland’s history and culture until we took the tour. We went to St Stephen’s Green, Dublin Castle, Trinity College and more. As our tour guide said, “Anything pretty you see here was built by the British. Our Irish architects… Not so much.”
Like the remainder of Dublin castle (British) is now connected to some violently bright slabs of concrete buildings (Irish) for example.
I was also really surprised by the juxtaposition of rainbow flags all over for the upcoming pride festival next to the extreme anti-abortion signs on nearly every lamppost. Change is always a struggle wherever you go, I suppose.
I liked our brief view of Dublin, though I ended up sick with a sore throat and fever. Hopefully the rest of our trip goes smoothly. To be honest Dublin didn’t amaze me nearly as much as our destinations Monday and today, Cork and Waterford counties. My great-grandparents were from these two places and I felt much more in Ireland here than the city of Dublin. Dublin seemed more the place to drink, while the southern shores of Ireland feel much more Irish and interesting at least to me. But it’s like comparing New York and California, or even NY and Boston, probably. They are barely the same country.
Today we took a reaaaaally long bus trip through Cork county to the historical city of Waterford. I have never seen so much green. You think you’ve seen green – you really haven’t until you come to Ireland. Green isn’t just one colour of the rainbow here. There is an entire rainbow devoted just to green in the hillsides and sprawls of trees. It’s an ocean of emeralds, chartreuses, olives, and limes as far as you can see and then farther still. Smudged with all the other colours breathing through the greens, you won’t believe how bright the earth can be. And if Wales was full of more sheep than I’ve ever seen, the Irish countryside had the most cows. (As a veg*n, I just want to add that I bet factory farming and hormone-poisoned meat isn’t a big concern here!)
Anyway, we got to Waterford, which was founded in 914 by Vikings. We went on a tour of the most famous attraction there – the Waterford Crystal factory. It’s incredible to watch how humans have figured out the precise factors to turn sand into beautifully blown glass. To see this glowing, molten orange ball become a long clear vase before my eyes… Wow. Of course, being Waterford Crystals, there wasn’t exactly an affordable souvenir shop at the end haha.
We were wandering Waterford afterwards, marveling at all the beautiful churches and towers when we saw three high school age girls having cupcakes and we asked them where to get them. One asked if I knew to how to get to this one street. I laughed back, “We’re from New York… We kind of don’t know how to get anywhere.” They were super sweet though, in fact, all the people there were, from the lady at the gift shop who warned us not to get ripped off at other places, the gentleman who gave me a 20 cent for the loo as I rustled fruitlessly through my wallet, and the little old lady visiting her childhood home of Waterford who told me and Jes that we were sweet girls and that I looked like a Greek singer from the 1960s, Nana Mouskauri.
This view into Ireland felt so much more genuine to me than Dublin, but perhaps we just didn’t spend the right amount of time there, or I just have more of an emotional connection to down here. Like London, I really want to come back and spend more time exploring. One day. The Travel Channel really needs to give me a celiac/vegetarian themed travel show.
It’s incredible just passing through all these different places and thinking of all the different lives that are lived here. There are so many choices and paths we have in our own hometowns that can vastly decide our lives – how infinite the possibilities are across the ocean, or different countries, or even just a rock’s throw from where you started.
It’s humbling and yet poignant, because there is no way for us to ever really know every story, happy or sad. But I’m thankful for these glimpses.