Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Some Where Over The Rainbow- Ireland, Dublin/Belfast

Holiday mode has been switched off and the real adventure has begun. Flying into Dublin, Ireland it was the first time this entire trip that I had felt nervous about travelling. This time we were truly on our own. There was no safety net, no one to come to our rescue and look after us, like we had the luxury of in Dubai. It was the first time self doubt ran through my mind, what was I doing? I must be crazy!  But as soon as we landed and I walked out into the refreshing Dublin air I felt instantly relieved. All worry had vanished as I drove past the rows and rows of  picturesque houses and open green park lands towards the city centre. Arriving into the hustle and bustle of the Dublin city life I had never felt better, but who really could feel anything other then wonderment in a place that was this delightful. We choose to stay in a hostel that we found online called "The Times" which was conveniently located smack bang in the city. It was the perfect location and had all the essentials. A clean bed, helpful staff and great facilities, all for a very reasonable price of 9 Euro per night. Before we started this trip we had decided that we would budget ourself immensely on the little luxurious of life in order to see the bigger picture. The little luxuries being hotels with a view and the bigger picture meaning the world at our finger tips. After all I believe the finer things in life only build a wall between you and the true experience each city and its local people have to offer you. 

We spent our first few days in Dublin exploring its history. We headed to a number of museums and cathedrals where we were lucky enough to stumble upon free tours by local volunteers. I think the luck of the Irish had rubbed off on us because we were truly blessed to have such passionate guides that not only where very educated on the history, but each guide had their own personal experiences and family history to add to it too, making it truly special. Just as my head was about to explode with an overdose of historic facts we took a day to explore the two major breweries of the town, The Guinness Store House and The Jameson Distillery. Both factories were great in their own way-The Guinness factory was extremely interactive and cleaver in its design. Standing at the bottom of the worlds largest pint glass the idea was to work your way through the many levels learning about the different brews, how they are produced and advertised through the ages of time. Working the Australian summer in a winery James was particularly interested in what the Guinness store house had to offer, where basically I was there for the drinking side of it. Ending the tour at the very peak of the pint glass was a breath taking panoramic view of the entire city, the perfect spot to enjoy a delicious pint of self poured Guinness. The Jamison distillery had a completely different feel and was run slightly different. Completely run by your own personal tour guide, who was a lovely local Irish man. The Jamesons tour basically consists of three parts. A movie, a walk through tour and my personal favourite, the bar. Jamesons being my all time favourite whisky I was extremely excited to have been chosen as one of the groups volunteers, which meant I got to sample an extra three whiskeys. It was a tough job but somebody had to do it. Being my preferred drink I found it interesting to learn the history behind how it is brewed and just how much hard work goes into each bottle. Personally I found the Jameson distillery a lot more rewarding then the Guinness store house. That being said they are both a must see when travelling through Ireland. 

Dublin is full of hustle and bustle and the best place to be after the day is done is down at Temple Bar. Full of quirky bars and funky little cafes and pubs we spent every night exploring the many ally ways getting lost amongst the rhythm of the cheerful Irish beat. Bad Ass Cafe, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Elephant Castle and Cracked Chicken are a few great little places we found. Ironically Cracked Chicken was one of my favourite places. The menu consisted only of chicken and delicious salad sides. Coming from a vegetarian it seems a little odd for this to be one of my top choices, but the atmosphere was amazing. Any place that serves delightful drink concoctions out of jars the size of my head is fine by me. Speaking of drinking Garage Bar is a great little spot to start your night drinking away in its chilled atmosphere with some sweet indie tunes. Just a fair warning, the Irish do know a thing or two about drinking. So do as the Irish do but be weary. Whatever seems like a good idea at the time always comes back to haunt you the morning after.

If your after the more traditional style of Ireland dining then you can't go past The Brazen Head. After a few to many Jamesons and a couple cheeky pints down at the Guinness Store House we managed to some how stumble across Irelands oldest pub. Its a great place to head for a few drinks and of course a lovely Irish meal. Warm and cosy it was just what we needed after a heavy day touring through the breweries. It was the perfect end to our day and an even more perfect end to our Dublin adventure. 

Next stop Belfast, an interesting little spot to say the least. Belfast is apart of Northern Ireland, which although is in Ireland its technically apart of Great Britain. It all started in the 1960's when the Republic of Ireland announced it wanted to run separately from Great Britain. Before long war was declared and Great Britan and The Republic of Ireland went into battle. The War Of Independence or as the Irish call it 'The Troubles" was and still is one of Irelands hardest ordeals. Coming into Belfast automatically the entire feel of the city was extreemly different to that of Dublin. As we wandered through the town centre there was something in the air, something that Dublin didn't have. It was the feeling of pain and devastation, although it was still a very lovely scenic city with beautiful botanic parks and monuments. There was no hiding the ache that came with this small city. 

We stayed in a little hostel called Vagabonds, which I highly highly recommend! If I could descried Vagabonds in one sentence it would be 'It looks like Alice in Wonderland went shopping in IKEA to furnish an old boarding school' Upon arrival we were greeted by a very out there bubbly Australian girl called Ash. Being the first fellow Aussie we had met since leaving home we hit it off straight away. The staff at Vagabonds are more then just workers, they are more like a disfunctional little family and Vagabonds is more then just a hostel its there home, and for three days it was my home too. When meeting the owner Curt for the first time he walked in pointed straight at us and said "I know you two, I spotted you down in Dublin two days ago"…. enough said!  To all the staff we were known as 'Those Australians, you know the cool ones' Its quirky urban vibes gives out the best ambience that by the end of our staying it felt like we were just all one big family.

With so much history to consume we spent most of our days further exploring the prevalent political side of the town regarding its war and devastation. The hostel were nice enough to organise a Black Taxi tour of Belfast which took you on a step by step ride on the personal effects and depredation of the locals and all those effected in the time of 'The Troubles'. Our driver Patty was a humours Irish man who grew up in Belfast and witnessed everything this town has gone through. As Patty took us to one effected area after the other walking us through the many shootings and bombings that occurred, I couldn't believe the devastation. The fact that it was still an occurring problem and to this day a touchy issue in the community was most evident when pulled up to the front of the peace wall. A fence that was built to keep the Cathloics separate from the Protestants, and to help prevent any further violent attacks. As a tribute we all made our our mark on the wall and left a little piece of history behind.

Spending most of our time hoping to and from museums we were lucky enough to stumble upon a little gallery called The Mac. Where the luck of the Irish continued. as we managed to catch the last day of artist Andy Warhols exhibition. Andy is one of my favourite artists so it was a great opportunity to view some of his pieces. Including his famous pop art and a range of his movies. I could have spent all day getting lost amongst his work studying his abstract pieces.   

Our last night in Belfast was meant to be a quite night at 'home' where we planned to have a few drinks and make some dinner. But before we knew it the team of staff had dragged us down to a local hotel to where they had their Sunday special of beat the clock and £2.50 cocktails. After a great cheap meal and few to many cocktails it was time for desert. Not willing to waste our alcohol money on anymore food Ash developed a cunning full proof plan, its Toni's birthday! Before we knew it Happy Birthday was belting out of the hotels speakers and all the waiters had joined in with our table to help sing-a-long a Happy Belfast Birthday to me. Ending the song was an array of sparklers carefully bought out in a huge SUNDAE! VoilĂ  we have desert. The rest of the night quickly spiralled from there. Rallying up some hostel guests we crawled from pub to pub, ending our night at a local Irish spot Filthy McNasty. Where the name really does say it all. 

Our stay in Belfast was better then I ever could have expected. Promising we would be back one day soon it was still sad to leave behind Belfast and the Vagabonds family. The curious don't stay bound for long so I must keep on wandering, some where over the rainbow. 

The Wanderers Daughter xx

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