What I saw, where I went and what I did when I descended into the Land of Leprechauns.
I’ve always felt the ‘Emerald Isle’ call out to me from afar. The land of centuries old castles, hills dotted with sheep, lakes from another heaven and quintessential men with that typical Irish charm, called out to a brown girl from another continent. Fast-forward to a few years, and here she is.
Journeying to the far west of the European continent from the south of Asia, I expected to be jet lagged and dog-tired, though not as much as when I landed in San Francisco the year before after 21 hours! Disappointed at having chosen a flight that would land in Dublin after sunset, I still had that spring in my step as I exited the aircraft with my heart bursting into a thousand petals of happiness.
Here I was, without a home, without a friend, just myself and this country from my dreams – Ireland! I still wonder about where and when did this longing arise, and of all other countries, why Ireland? The answer to this, I don’t know yet, but it was nine years ago, when I first hoped to visit this country. This desire to be here may have arisen when I worked for 3 Ireland in Bombay, but I can’t be sure if it was then or at another time. I travelled elsewhere, but Ireland was always on my mind. The feeling to come here would swell every time I watched a flick with Irish actors, Irish music, the Irish accent or just Ireland. 2016 has been that year. I arrived in October and instantly got chatting with everyone I met. First, a store guy at the airport, then the cab driver, then the hostel guys. None of these people however, were Irish. It then felt incredibly good for a moment, to be tossed into a salad with populace from all of Europe, and then, me.
The first thing I did the next morning was hop over to the Liffey. I cannot explain the satisfaction I felt to view this river. It’s not the cleanest stream of water you’ll see, but it’s incredibly assuaging if you’ve desired to stand on one of its many bridges and look out over the horizon. The Liffey divides the Irish capital into North and South Dublin respectively.
Post my meeting with the Liffey, I turned to my favourite pal on all my solo trips – Google Maps and check for walking directions to St. Stephen’s Green. I head to this oasis of green in an otherwise bustling city of black. The walk is one through several by-lanes, crossing the Temple Bar area with its many pubs, stopping at the many traffic signals, and basically navigating my way through the several people on Dublin’s roads. What I love about the city is that most people walk. It certainly is faster to sprint across should you be running late.
As in most European countries, black seems to be the one colour everyone decides to wear almost every day. Sometimes I wonder whether it is to preserve heat amidst temperature drops, as the colour does absorb all of light’s wavelengths and converts them to heat. Science aside, this park is where I run to, to be by myself, to clear my head and feel the feeling that otherwise, only the mountains ignite in me.
After strolling through this mini forest, I walked into a kit of pigeons, descending to be fed by a man a few yards from the entrance. In all of fifteen seconds, I had 6 pigeons sit on me and leave me startled. The kind man explained how pigeons only sit on those whom they trust, and handed me some seeds. Soon I had more pigeons balance themselves on my arms and eat from my palms. I wondered why the pigeon on my head didn’t budge at all. Then the man said, “That’s their leader. He won’t eat, but will guard the rest from up there.” When they were done eating, he gestured to me to keep walking, and they would fly off from my shoulders to be back with their group. I thanked him and did just that. I’ve never cared much for pigeons before, but after meeting this man who feeds them thrice a week, it definitely developed a soft spot for these birds in me.
I then decide to visit Trinity College in the city centre and Google Maps comes to my rescue again! Who hasn’t heard of this beautiful college? It was always a wish to stand on it’s manicured lawns and stare all around at the stone buildings. It took me about 15 minutes to walk to the college grounds, side-stepping the construction work on a new LUAS line towards the college’s front. The LUAS is Dublin’s own tram system, that’s convenient to travel on vertically across in the South City and horizontally in North City.
I gawked at it when I arrived. It was all so beautiful! As I ate my tuna sandwich on those grounds, I felt the breeze in my hair, the chill on my skin and even felt my taste-buds work efficiently, helping me relish the sandwich that I would have otherwise greedily devoured. Suddenly, all my senses were heightened. I strolled through the grass patches and stupidly stood watching some workers use leaf vacuums to pile autumn’s fallen friends.
The streets of Dublin are lined with inviting pubs and cafes, one prettier than the other. It’s a pleasant walk around the city centre, provided the weather stay pleasant as well. There’s a lot more to see and experience in this European city – museums, myriad pubs and restaurants, short tours to neighbouring counties and more parks.
My favourite pub is The Quay’s Bar in Temple Bar for the foot-tapping LIVE music played there, all enhanced while downing pints of Guinness with the lads.
Dublin has great many picturesque walks all around town. I’d recommend the walk along the Grand Canal that runs round the city.
I walked from Grand Canal dock all the way to Dolphin’s Barn and loved the sights throughout. Autumn colours certainly enhanced the beauty of the whole area that’s lined with several trees and the glistening waters of the canal. The sun danced on the tree tops too as it readied to retire for the night, and I was just too pleased to wish it ‘Goodnight’ as I played with a dog along the way.
I also managed a trek to Glendalough in county Wicklow, with a great bunch of people! It is the valley of two lakes, and one of them resembles a giant pint of Guinness. Take a look!
It certainly didn’t take me time to get my feet trekking again! Glendalough is where the movie ‘P.S. I love you’ was filmed. I’d recommend a weekend trip with an overnight stay at the Youth Hostel or the Glendalough Hotel.
Another fantastic trek that’s not too far from Dublin, is the cliff walk from Bray to Greystones. I took the DART to Bray and walked toward the back of the train station to the beach. From here, it’s a straight walk to the cliff and up to the cross. It’s a 45 minutes trek to the cross and back down. From there you can continue for about 7 miles, walking along the path of the DART, over tunnels and pretty bushes onward to Greystones. Decide to do this, and you’ll be rewarded with majestic views all around.
Just in case you don’t fancy hiking for a couple of hours, hang out around the beach in Bray, and the sunset won’t disappoint.
I was mesmerised at the sky’s colours. Sunsets have always fascinated me, but this cold blue sunset was a first that I’ve witnessed.
From the massive Phoenix park in Dublin to the many cathedrals marking the city and the finest Japanese restaurants across cobbled streets onto the sidewalks, Dublin is a melting pot of cultures, yet impressively retains its Irish charm.
There’s still a lot more to be explored, and I certainly hope to find quaint villages and hidden gems when I journey through the Irish countryside, into counties far and beyond.