Posted by: francescacoviello | December 5, 2010

Dublin, Ireland

My travels around Europe have come to an end. During the month of November I visited the city’s of  Dublin, Prague and Vienna. As much as I adore Florence, it is always nice to get out and experience the customs and traditions of  a different country, especially since Italy has such dominant culture. My grandmother “Nonnie” is supremely proud of our Irish heritage. We believe that my love of potatoes (and salt) is in my blood because of my Nonnie, who’s Irish accent is almost believable. When my mother informed Nonnie that I was traveling to Ireland her reply was “It’s about time!”

My two roommates, Jenny, Lauren and I ventured to Dublin for Lauren’s 21st birthday. We had a flight out of Pisa at 7am, which meant we had to leave Florence at 3:30am to be in Pisa on time. The plane ride was exhausting, and when we arrived in Dublin at 9 in the morning, but we couldn’t check into our Hostel until 2pm. It was breakfast time and we were starving, and what we looked forward to the most was eating lots of potatoes in Dublin. We were anxious to find a nice diner type place, because in Italy a big breakfast meal is impossible to come by. Our taxi driver from the airport was super friendly and gave us advice on places to go, but when we asked him where to find the best hash-browns or home fries, he was very confused. We explained that we like to eat our eggs with potatoes and he responded with “that can’t be healthy.” Not the answer we were expecting from an Irishman! Apparently, a well balanced breakfast in Dublin consists of porridge; and the traditional “Full Irish breakfast” includes beans, black pudding (blood sausage), white pudding (fat sausage), fried tomato, eggs, bacon and toast. No thank you. It was extremely disappointing to hear that our high hopes of eating potatoes for breakfast were now slim-to-none. As we approached our destination, Jenny had one final question for the taxi driver… “Do the McDonald’s here serve shamrock shakes year round!?” He actually knew what she was talking about but unfortunately, McDonald’s only honors the shamrock shake on St. Paddy’s day, just like in the states. We managed to find a little breakfast spot in the Temple Bar area, and to our dismay – no potatoes on the menu, not even french fries. Upon chugging our coffee to stay awake, we hoped that the future meals would provide a more promising selection of potatoes. We ate at The Shack for dinner and indulged in fried potato skins and fried brie as an appetizer, amazing! I had the Irish stew for my main course, which reminded me a lot of the beef stew my mother makes during the winter.

This was my first time staying in a hostel, and probably my last. We shared a room with 6 girls the first night, then had our own 3-female dorm for the final 2 nights. It wasn’t the worst, but by the time we left we each had developed some sort of illness, sneezing and coughing due to the air ventilation in the room (or lack thereof). We spent our days wandering around with STARBUCKS coffee in hand – something Italians don’t believe in/something I had desperately missed. We lucked out with the weather, and although it was chilly it didn’t rain, which it often does in Ireland. The Guinness storehouse was a must-see, so we went there for a few hours on our second day followed by dinner at Gallaghers Boxty House. Potato pancakes were the first thing I noticed on the menu, then I asked what “filling” meant and decided not to order – a crepe with potato grated into it wrapped around a piece of salmon with fish sauce. I got the soup and a side of champ instead – mashed potatoes with green onion, which was tasty. We ended our meal with Irish coffee, then headed out for a night on the town because at midnight Lauren turned 21! In our attempt to pack lightly – we brought only daytime clothes, figuring that the pubs at night would be casual. We were wrong. The girls in Ireland get DECKED out for the night life, wearing little black dresses and high heels to the bars with no jackets! I felt like I was in South Beach on a Friday night, watching all the girls strut down Collins Avenue. It made me cold looking at them, and we laughed because we were under the impression that Dublin would be much more laid back.

The next day we had a late start – initially we planned to take a train to Wicklow, the countryside where P.S. I love you was filmed. The train brought us to Bray, and the ride was very scenic next to the Irish Sea, which we thought was a part of Wicklow. We immediately realized this was not the “countryside” and the sun was beginning to set. After an hour or so of walking around aimlessly in the cold air, we hopped back on the train to Dublin. After a long day we decided to take it easy and grab dinner at the Elephant Castle in Temple Bar where we loaded up on birthday desserts – crème brûlée and death by chocolate ice cream. Our transportation to the airport was expected to pick us up at 6:30 the next morning, and we were warned that the driver would leave without us if we were 1 minute late. That night we set our alarms for 6am and went to bed early.. to be woken up by an abrupt knock on the door at 6:30. How 3 people with alarms “set” overslept.. I don’t know. But  14 minutes later we got our ride and made the shuttle driver late – he was not very happy with us.

Ireland was a refreshing place to visit, with mostly english speaking people and genuine hospitality. I look forward to revisiting Ireland someday to check out Galway on the west coast, and Cork in the south. A few things that I learned from my weekend adventure in Dublin… The Irish LOVE their Guinness, they have more respect for U2 (Bono) than anyone else, and that everyone is Irish on March 17th.

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