This weekend I finally got the opportunity to stay in Dublin. With nowhere to be, and nothing set to do, I had every right to shamelessly do all the touristy things I wanted. On Friday my friend and I decided to be spontaneous and go take a hike outside of the city. We got directions from a local Dubliner and then took the Luas (kind of like an aboveground subway) to the Dart (train). The Dart took us to a little town where the man had told us the mountain would be. Well, turns out there was no mountain. We looked all around the little town and only saw one church and a few residential neighborhoods. So, feeling pretty defeated but getting a good laugh out of it, we hopped back on the Dart and headed back home. Moral of the story: when you’re abroad, any situation can be a fun learning experience. Yeah we didn’t end up hiking like we would have wanted, but we did learn how the Luas AND the Dart work, so I think that’s got to count for something.
For weeks I have been begging my friends to go to the Dublin Zoo with me, so of course that was next on the list. My friend’s family is here visiting, so we all decided to take a walk to Phoenix Park and see the zoo on Saturday. We first got breakfast at Queen of Tarts (the scones are unreal) and then walked to the north side of the city to see the park. Phoenix Park was absolutely beautiful. You could look out and see far into Dublin and the mountains just outside the city (yes it stung a little seeing the mountains so close when we had traveled so far the day before). The zoo is located just inside the 1752 acre (!) park, so it was easy to find. It was so much bigger than I could have imagined, so all of the animals had plenty of space to roam. There was everything there; huge pigs, little monkeys, tigers, penguins, and everything else you can imagine. The whole zoo took a few hours to walk around and I loved every minute of it. The best part was a section that was built to look like an African Savanna. The giraffes, rhinos, and ostriches were all free to roam around the huge landscape. Overall, the zoo outdid all of my expectations and I highly recommend going if you ever get the chance!
After the zoo, we headed over to see a live hurling match in Croke Park. The stadium has existed for over 100 years and fits over 82,000 people, definitely an overwhelming thing to step inside of. Hurling is a super interesting sport to watch. I’ll admit I was pretty lost most of the time, but the sport is so different from anything else I’ve ever seen. I won’t even try to describe it to you, but basically it involves a lot of running, pushing, and they carry a paddle. We saw Dublin win the finals (which we weren’t even aware that we were at) and then decided to stay for the Gaelic football game after that! Gaelic football seemed to be a lot more popular sport for people to watch. The crowd increased a ton, and the energy was immediately lifted. The Dublin and opposing Kerry fans were definitely really into the sport, and it was so cool to see them enthusiastically cheering on their county. Gaelic football was a little easier to follow, and I can really see why people love watching it so much. There’s one ball, about the size of a soccer ball, that the players can kick and pass until they make it into one of two goals. A goal resembling a soccer goal is worth 3 points, while another goal resembling a football field goal post is worth 1 point. The sport is fast and gets aggressive, and the crowd really does get so into it. I definitely plan to go to more if I can! Prices were super cheap to go to both games, and I really loved the atmosphere. Maybe one of these days I’ll catch on to the rules.
Later in the weekend we decided to take a day trip to see Wicklow County. There are a lot of bus tours that take you right through Wicklow and make stops at different locations along the way. The drive was absolutely beautiful, it almost felt like the scene I was looking at through my window wasn't real. The bus made stops along the mountain path; first at the PS I Love You bridge (named because of its appearance in the movie), then at a spot overlooking the Guinness home right off of a beautiful lake in the valley. The wind was crazy strong, and the rain picked up a bit at some points, but I still had the most amazing time. We made one last tourist spot at St. Kevin's monastery in Glendalough. Here we hiked to a beautiful lake, saw a centuries old cemetery, and got some great pictures along the way. Our very last stop was at a local pub a few towns over, where a famous Irish soap opera called Ballykissangel had apparently been filmed. The whole day lasted from about 9am to 5:30pm and was definitely worth it. The tour guide was hilarious, as most Irish tour guides seem to be, and I learned so much throughout the day.
Long story short, this weekend in my "home" city was a huge success. There is so much to do in Dublin, and I am so happy that I have time to fit a lot of it in. This city is definitely suited for all types of people. They’re a community built around sports, the arts, food, good beer, great tea, and everything else you can imagine. Basically, if you’re looking for it you will find it. I love Dublin more and more each day, and I look forward to finding more things to love about it in the time I have left here!
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<p>Hi! My name is Rachel Marini and I am a Junior at Penn State University. I'm majoring in Elementary Education (with an English focus) and plan to minor in special ed. I am a huge book nerd, but when I'm not reading I like to hang out with my family and friends, go to the beach, and just spend time outdoors. Traveling has always been a big part of my life, because I love exploring new places. Going to Dublin is something that I know I won't regret, and I can't wait to share my experience with all of you!</p>