My hair whipped wildly around me, my curls twisting against the Irish wind. The ocean stretched out lazily amidst the afternoon sun, and the enormous, jagged cliffs met the sea proudly. My hands grip the railing tighter as my chest swells with each breath of chilly air, and it hits me.
It nearly doesn’t feel real: how much I’ve seen and experienced in my short twenty years of life. March has been the month of travel, each weekend filled with the excitement and stresses of traveling to a new city or country. As you may know from my last blog, my first weekend in March was spent exploring London’s many opportunities. What you may not know is that the next weekend I traveled to Ireland and Barcelona the weekend after that. This coming weekend I’ll be taking a trip to the alluringly exotic Morocco!
As much as I’d love to unload all the details all at once, for brevity’s sake I’ll merely tell you some of the main points and experiences.
1. 1. Dublin during St. Patrick’s weekend is a little crazy, on the expensive side, and is mostly celebrated by tourists. I thought Dublin was very interesting (and cold), but the Irish countryside was by far the best and most beautiful part about Ireland. Seriously, it’s the kind of thing you remember for ages. I was so glad that I got out of Dublin and saw much more of the country. I learned that it’s not a matter of if I go back to Ireland; it’s just a matter of when.
2. Sometimes booking an official “tour” is actually best. While I love exploring a city on my own terms, it was better to relinquish control for one day in Ireland. With our short time in Ireland, figuring out transportation on our own to all of the places we wanted to visit would be too much of a hassle, and without knowing better, probably more expensive. With our day tour we were able to visit Kinvara and the Dunguaire Castle (just outside of Galway), the mini cliffs, the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, and Limerick (to see King James’s Castle) and still be back to Dublin around 7 or 8pm. Not bad, right?
3. When something bad happens, there’s generally a silver lining. So we all know that cliché pretty well I’m sure, but it’s a cliché for a reason. It’s true! Due to the possibility of the Dublin Airport strike, our flight was delayed almost an entire day later. Based on availability and cheaper prices, our plan was to take a train to Málaga, take a bus to the airport, and then fly out of Málaga by 2pm so we’d at least get to Dublin by 4:15pm. With the new flight itinerary, we wouldn’t leave Málaga until around 9pm and with our train already booked to get to Málaga at 10am, we had the entire day in Málaga. At first we were disappointed that we’d essentially miss an entire day in Dublin, but if that hadn’t happened, I never would have had the opportunity to explore Málaga!
4. It is very possible to book cheap flights, but you get luckier finding them if you look early and often. Our flight to Barcelona was only about 40 euros! However, we also booked it in February. Almost all of our trips were planned out before the end of February, so if it’s possible, I suggest planning early! (Though we found out that’s not always possible with booking trains.) Remember that you’ll be spending money on transportation within the city though! That and food. It adds up quickly, so be mindful of that!
5. You don’t need language to make friends. It had been a great day in Barcelona, visiting La Sagrada Familia, Ciutadella Park, the Arc de Triomf (the Spanish version of the one in Paris), the Gothic Quarter, street vendors (one who carved my name in a block of wood on a bracelet for two euros by the way), la Boqueria (incredible fresh market where we frequently bought fruit), and we were on our way to the cable car that takes you up to Montjuïc to see the National Palace and the Magic Fountain show. Seems simple enough, right?
Well after a faulty conception of how far away the cable car was, we had a long walk to take on sore feet and a 70 minute wait in line when we got there. And of course it started raining while we were in line. We were just beginning to question our choice of transportation when the family behind us pulls us under their umbrella without a word, just a smile. Seeing Megan shivering, the woman took off her scarf and wrapped it around Megan, trying to keep her warm. We spent the rest of the wait attempting to communicate without knowing each other’s language (they didn’t speak any English, and we weren’t entirely sure what language they spoke). It was a sweet and funny experience, and we eventually discovered that they were Russian. Unfortunately, none of us knew a word of Russian. That didn’t stop us from having a few laughs with them and taking a picture together! By the way, our decision was spot-on: the view from the cable car was the best view of the city yet, including the amazing view from Park Güell.
Despite the occasional stresses of preparing and executing travel plans, this month has been incredible and truly unreal. Sometimes I worry that I’ve dreamt all of my memories into existence, but it seems that every time I open my eyes in the morning, I’m still here.
It’s not just an illusion.