As most of you guys know, I visited Ireland for the first time in 2013. I spent a week in Dublin, poured pints at the Guinness Storehouse, walked on the Liffey Bridge, visited Trinity College, took bus tours to Howth and Wicklow Mountain National Park, saw St. Patrick's Cathedral, and ate a lot of great food. When Kyle and I started planning our backpacking trip, I figured we'd skip Ireland. I fell in love with Dublin during my first visit, but it felt repetitive to travel there a second time. However, I realized it would be awesome to show Kyle my favorite spots around the city, so I spontaneously added it to our itinerary. That's the great thing about Europe -- When you're already there, travel is so affordable!
We spent the entire drive from Galway trying to outrun a storm, but we weren't successful. It rained the entire time, and our windshield wipers were swishing back and forth like mad. We were so relieved when we reached Dublin.
Our first full day was for exploring and sightseeing. After breakfast at our flat, we walked to the Jameson Distillery and bought tickets for a guided tour. Our guide was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about whiskey, and we really enjoyed learning about the history of the distillery, which is now a museum. At the end of the tour, we sampled and compared Jameson, Jack Daniels, and Johnny Walker Black Label. After that, the bartender gave us each a whiskey ginger ale with lime, which was so refreshing. I highly recommend the Jameson Distillery if you're visiting Dublin! (I also recommend the Guinness Storehouse, but we skipped that one since I had already been.)
Our next stop was Christ Church Cathedral. I didn't get a chance to go inside during my first visit to Dublin, so I was really excited. The interior was absolutely stunning, with high ceilings and stained glass windows. We also went inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, which had very similar and beautiful architecture.
Dublin Castle, Temple Bar, and the Liffey Bridge were next on our list, and we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Dublin and soaking up the city's warm, cozy vibe.
Dinner was the highlight of our day. We walked to The Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub. It was crazy crowded, but we got lucky and snagged a table quickly. The rooms were dim, the ceilings were low, and traditional Irish music crooned around the restaurant. We ordered the Irish lamb stew (and a Guinness, of course), and it was delicious.
The next (and last) two days of our trip were filled with bangers and mash at The Church, a visit to Trinity College Library, a quick visit to the Irish Whiskey Museum (in search of Irish whiskey dark chocolate), drinks at the infamous and rowdy Temple Bar Pub, Nutella crepes at Lemon Jelly, coffee with Baileys, and lots of walking around Dublin's spirited cobblestone streets.
The highlight of our last day, my 25th birthday, was afternoon tea at The Westbury. I told Kyle I wanted to partake in afternoon tea while we were in London, but the timing was never right. He ended up planning lunch at The Westbury, and it was incredible. Our reservation was for 1pm, and I felt extremely underdressed. The downside of packing super light for a five-week trip? Outfit options are realllllllly limited! I tried to look somewhat put together, but my hair was bigger than Hermoine Granger a la The Sorcerer's Stone. I was dreaming of my hair dryer and straightener by that point. ANYWAYS. Afternoon tea. It was delightful. We sat on plush, velvet couches, and started off with a kettle of tangy lemon tea. Within 20 minutes, our server came out with a three tier platter that held small sandwiches on the bottom, buttermilk scones with clotted cream in the middle, and miniature desserts on the top. Everything looked and tasted amazing. When we finished eating, Kyle ordered a Nutella hot chocolate that literally had Nutella dripping over the edges of the mug. I am obsessed with Nutella, so you can imagine my glee. I was really grateful that Kyle planned such an awesome birthday for me, especially since it was our last day in Europe, and I wasn't looking forward to the flight home.
That night, we stuffed our belongings in our packs for the very last time (and it was a miracle everything fit, considering the souvenirs we accumulated along the way). The next morning, we flew back to Virginia.
Our backpacking trip was an incredible experience. Last summer, I would have never predicted that in the spring, Kyle and I would catch a flight to Paris and explore Europe and the United Kingdom for five weeks. Our trip taught me that anything is possible. Where there's a will, there's a way. Last July, I was fighting for my life. And today, a year later, I'm writing about countries and cities I never thought I'd be able to see. I used to doubt my strength and determination, but ever so slowly, I've learned to silence that little voice in my head and embrace my courage. And if I can do it, anyone can do it. Seriously.