So I may have arrived in France one day before my visa began, which, according to French bureaucracy, messes everything up when activating and confirming the visa…
Time to take a trip outside the Schengen Zone and get a new entry stamp!
Two weeks ago, I did my first-ever international solo backpacking trip! I’ll be sharing more tips for solo and budget travel later, but today I want to focus on how I spent my two days in Ireland and what I recommend for your potential visit.
Once I arrived in Dublin, I booked some tickets and went straight to the main attractions. I started with fish and chips at a classic pub, then headed to Grafton Street for some window shopping and exploring. I loved checking out the street performers especially, despite the cold and drizzly weather (I guess they’re used to that in Ireland)!
Then, I walked over to Trinity College to see The Book of Kells (a very old book) and The Long Room (a library many movie sets are based on). If you’re a history nerd like me, both of these things are incredible to learn about and then see in real-life. You can reserve your visit here.
Once I left Trinity, I ran over to Abigail’s Hostel to check in for the weekend. While it isn’t the most exciting or social hostel, most likely because it just reopened after COVID-19, it’s clean, safe, and in a great location. I grabbed a bottom bunk and headed over to my next spot.
If you don’t know already, Guinness is kind of a big deal in Dublin. I could explain the history to you, but it’s probably best that you just check out the website yourself if you’re interested. While I don’t necessarily consider myself a Chill Beer Girl (I’m definitely more of a Type A Wine Gal), I wanted to take advantage of my time here to the fullest. After all, beer is easier to stomach than whiskey is, and Jameson is the other big boozy attraction in Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse is a giant interactive museum, and obviously, a tour finishes up with a pint. It was fun to explore this cultural phenomenon (though I probably enjoyed the Guinness Marketing Throughout History floor more than the Guinness itself)!
Dinner time in Dublin means it’s time to check out another pub, and where better to go than the oldest pub in Ireland?! I waited for just a few minutes to get into The Brazen Head, and upon entry, I enjoyed some beef stew, soda bread, and yes, another pint of Guinness. I was trying to fully experience the culture, after all!
I had had a long day but felt lame calling it a night after dinner, so I decided to stroll around the Temple Bar district before heading to bed. Bars and restaurants all currently close at 11 PM, so even at 8:30 PM, there were tons of Irish high schoolers wearing tight neon dresses screaming Despacito in the street. I found this humorous but also incredibly annoying, so I found some gelato and headed back to my hostel for the night.
Day Trip: Cliffs of Moher & Galway
Knowing that there aren’t tons of can’t-miss attractions in Dublin and that I wanted to explore as much of the country as possible during my weekend excursion, I opted to spend Sunday on a full-day trip. I booked this tour and highly recommend it to any solo travelers or groups of travelers looking to check out other parts of Ireland!
I boarded the bus at 7 AM and was greeted by a cheery and very stereotypical Irish woman ready to get our day started. She pointed out some Dublin landmarks on our way out of the city, and then our first stop was the Barack Obama Plaza. It’s literally just a gas station stop, but I definitely felt some American pride as she explained the story and we checked it out. Apparently, I also felt some French pride, as all I purchased was a pack of three croissants and a coffee.
A couple of hours later, we made it to the Cliffs of Moher. We were advised to walk around for as long as possible to “breathe in the fresh Atlantic air,” but we quickly learned this is close to impossible here. I felt winds like never before, to the point where I was literally stuck in one place and all I could do was laugh at the situation. This being said, the view was quite spectacular and it’s a great place to go for a walk and meditate a bit (when the winds are a bit calmer, at least).
Not far away, our tour group also made a quick stop at the Burren in County Clare. It looks eerily like a moon landscape, so it was a fun place to explore for a few minutes before heading along on our way.
The tour guide shared some Irish history and culture with us, as well as some traditional music, as we made our way to Galway. Once there, we took a mini walking tour into the city center and got lots of food and shopping recommendations. I was strongly encouraged to get the fish and chips, as it’s incredibly fresh on the coast, so I couldn’t say no to that and went for it again. Delicious fried goodness. Then, I stopped in lots of stores, wandered around a market area, and found the cathedral by the river. Galway is a quaint but bubbling city with lots of charm and excitement, so you should definitely be sure to check it out during your next visit to Ireland!
On the way back to Dublin, I played Galway Girl on repeat (sort of but not totally joking) and tried to get in a nap.
To finish up my weekend, my new friends from my hostel, who were originally from Italy and Germany, and I all headed out to dinner together after our busy day of sightseeing. We chatted about our experiences in Ireland, our au pair years, and cultural differences, and it was pretty magical how people from around the world who you randomly get assigned to stay with in a dorm quickly become close friends.
I’ll preface this section by saying that I had lots of early mornings during this trip. I found a super cheap flight (€34 round trip!) from Paris to Dublin, so of course, this meant leaving at 6:30 AM and taking a 1h15 bus to a far-away airport before even boarding the flight.
Once I got to the Beauvais airport, I checked in and had my COVID-19 documents and visa/passport screened at a few different stops. Then I was off to Ireland!
I somehow met Americans my age with mutual friends at the Beauvais airport before we even depart, so they helped me navigate the Dublin airport upon arrival. Because I’m a ~savvy budget traveler~ I opted to take bus 16 from the airport into the city, and then when I returned to the airport in the middle of the night Monday morning, I took bus 46. For just €3.30 each way, this is definitely your best option!
Other than transport between the countries and to/from airports, the only other travel I paid for was my tour to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. Other than that, I got plenty of steps in!
Going on this solo trip was a huge milestone for me and definitely made me feel more confident as a traveler and a global citizen. People have responded since then saying “You’re so brave” and “You’re such a girlboss,” which I LOVE, but I also want to use this experience and others to make solo female backpacking more accessible and less scary. New posts are coming soon about this!
One of my most positive experiences from this solo trip was being open to making new friends along the way. I met other Americans with mutual friends before I even boarded my flight to Dublin, and then at my hostel, I met two Italians and a German that I eventually went out to dinner and drinks with. These new connections undoubtedly added a unique richness to this visit.
Whether you’re heading to Ireland on your own or with friends, for just a couple of days or a longer stay, it really is the perfect place to soak up a new culture (and some Guinness) and meet lots of friendly people along the way. Slainté!
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