It’s safe to say Ireland has been on my bucket list for several years now. Back in 2017 when I was planning my Europe/UK birthday trip, I had originally planned to visit England, Scotland, and Ireland. However, some great advice from a friend pointed me to Paris instead, which was ultimately the best decision and then gave me the chance to see family again in The Netherlands.
Ireland was still on my mind though, so when I was looking ahead to my next overseas trip, I knew it was finally time to make that dream a reality.
Initially, I had hoped to meet up with a friend from New York who would be running the Dublin marathon, but I couldn’t get that time off with my TV producing job, which meant I’d be traveling on my own a month earlier instead.
At this point, I find it rather amusing to see people’s expressions when I tell them I’ve willingly traveled on my own - mainly because they just don’t realize how many people (including young women) actually do it. I could wait years trying to make plans with friends, so why not just go and meet new friends over there? Well, I ended up meeting quite a few fantastic people along the way, but more about that later…
The perks of my insanely early morning work schedule meant that I could still go to work and fly out that same day. I flew Iceland Air, and while other airlines are going for entertainment or comedy for their safety videos, these folks went a completely different route. Iceland Air’s safety video was like one of those prescription drug commercials. Am I learning to use the life vest or being sold Abilify?
I had a 45-minute layover in Iceland, and to be honest, I was super nervous about it. In my mind it was near-impossible to try and clear customs and get to the next plane in that amount of time. I’m sure even the McAllister family in Home Alone 2 didn’t have it that bad. Well, it turns out I didn’t have to worry about customs until Dublin and barely had to walk to the next gate. What began as a source of stress turned into relief – especially considering I wouldn’t have wait around at another airport. I literally walked off one plane and right onto the next one. So, if you find yourself with a tight layover in Iceland en route to Europe, don’t worry, you’ll be just fine. They’ve got a convenient system set up. Leave it to the Europeans to make even the littlest travel moments more fabulous.
Once I landed in Dublin, I was able to catch a shuttle bus into the city for just 7 euros right outside the airport. They have several options available as you exit the airport that are easy to find. After that, it was just a short walk from the bus stop to my hostel, Sky Backpackers. I know what you’re thinking: hostel? Seriously though, they’re not bad at all, I promise. Plus, it’s the best way to meet fellow travelers AND stay in a great part of the city.
Sky Backpackers is one of Dublin’s top-rated hostels, and based on its location, cleanliness, and what they offer, I’d recommend them in a heartbeat. Heck, they even have a hair straightener on hand that you can borrow . Win! Well, unless it’s a rainy day…
When it comes to hostels, you don’t have to worry about towels either. You usually pay a deposit for the towel during your stay and then get your money back at the end. It’s never more than like 5 euros.
Since I had some time to kill before check-in, I decided to grab a much-needed Guinness and meal at a restaurant/pub nearby called O’Connells right on Bachelor’s Walk. It was a gorgeous day, so I decided to sit outside. Probably a big mistake on my part though, since this non-smoker underestimated just how many people there smoke – and naturally they went outside too. As I was about to get up and remove myself from Lung Cancer Expo ’19, a trio of Guinness truck drivers sat down next to me and immediately struck up a conversation. This hilarious trio of heavy-set dudes were probably the most interesting introduction to Ireland I could get. What they lacked in teeth (I kid you not), they made up for in humor. These guys were a blast to talk to and they even gave me some great ideas for things to see and do. Here was I was having a Guinness with some of the fellas who deliver the stuff.
After I said goodbye to my new Irish pals, I was able to officially check in to my hostel. I was running on zero sleep and pure adrenaline, so after unpacking, I immediately went out to catch a free walking tour. It was a great decision because not only is it free, but I also got to learn about the city and Ireland’s history as I saw some of Dublin’s best spots. The tour was through a company called Generation Tours. They meet right off Bachelor’s Walk along the river. Even though it’s free, it’s recommended to give a tip at the end. Shout out to our tour guide, Dan. He was 28 with the soul of a 60 year old, dressed like some sort of fisherman/hipster combo, and was exactly how I’d imagine an Irish tour guide would be. Say what you will about the Irish, but they are definitely bad-ass.
I even met some other American girls on the tour, including two from LA. Needless to say, I was pretty envious I couldn’t also say I was going back home to sunny California after my trip. Now, when I say there’s a lot of American tourists in Ireland, it’s not an exaggeration. We are everywhere! Still not sure if I met more Americans or more Irish during my time there.
Afterward, one of the girls and I agreed to head out on the town later that night. After connecting with some other girls who were staying in my hostel room, we made it a group outing. That’s the cool thing about traveling and hostels: everyone’s up for making new friends and connecting with people.
We ended up at a really cool, historic bar called The Norseman. One of the girls in our group was from Perth, Australia, and I can still recall the look of horror on her face when we described vacation time in the U.S.
The next morning, I packed up my things, checked out of the hostel, and walked over to the Jameson distillery for a tour of that venue. Their general tour is actually pretty cheap. It only cost me 15 euros, which is roughly about the same in dollars. Plus, it’s only 40 minutes long, so it won’t take up the majority of your day either. Contrary to the title of this Ireland blog series, whiskey isn’t exactly my thing, so when we were given three different shot-size whiskey samples, I could barely handle a sip. That being said, if you do enjoy whiskey, prepare to get totally hammered on this tour. The idea was to compare Jameson to other whiskey brands, but when they asked the group what they smelled like, I simply replied “alcohol”. I don’t think that was the answer the Jameson rep was going for, but I did make them laugh, so there ya go.
Basically, the tour teaches you about the history of Jameson and how they prepare the whiskey. Afterward, you can enjoy a complimentary drink. I ordered their mix of Jameson, ginger, and lime. It was really good! I would definitely recommend that combo, especially for those who aren’t big drinkers.
After the tour was done, it was time for me to catch the bus to Galway, and based on the experiences of friends, I was in store for something special…
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com