Ireland Day 1 (and Only): Leave it to the Universe
Getting to spend a full day in Ireland was not initially on our itinerary, but it was a clear example that sometimes when things don’t go according to plan it’s because something better is on the horizon. About a month before our trip, I got a text out of the blue from WOW Air. It said that our return flight was cancelled. This is not exactly the news you want to hear when you already have rental car and accommodations booked. However, I immediately got another text saying that I had two choices: either cancel my flights for a full refund or change to either the day before or after my original flight if anything was available. As it happened, although the 29th had not originally been available to us, suddenly there was a return flight at the exact time we wanted. The choice was clear.
I filled out the necessary paperwork and a few days later, got a text that our reservation had been amended - we would not have 36 hours in Dublin! I’m not particularly sure why I hadn’t booked our Ireland accommodations yet - probably because I’ve never minded doing things at the last minute - but this also meant that I could just book our stay in one fell swoop rather than having to change the reservation with the flight change.
As excited as I was for Spain, there was a part of me that would not have minded “accidentally” missing those flights and just staying in Ireland, so I was thrilled when we landed back in Dublin, heading straight to the pub from the airport in true local fashion. We’d been talking about fish and chips all flight, so we didn’t even need menus, although we did opt to start our dinner with dessert. Apparently this phenomenon has still not fully caught on because we had to educate our waiter.
That night, I was reminded exactly why I love staying in hostels. Even for $17 a night, we lucked into the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in; our room even had a jacuzzi tub right there in the bathroom. As soon as we walked in after a very long day of traveling, we saw half the girls in our ten person room running for the tub, excitedly laughing and squealing as they plunged in. Another lady, not herself indulging but no less giddy, informed us that no one actually knew each other. They had all just met that evening upon arriving in our room, but - of course - immediately bonded over their travels and quickly became friends. One girl was having some sort of difficulty with her luggage (I was only half listening) and her bunk partner who she was venting to said “I’m sorry, I don’t really know how to help but here’s some chocolate!” And, while I was changing into my pajamas another lady commented in heavily accented English “You have a beautiful tattoo!” It turned out she was from Toures, Frances, so we chatted about each of our favorite attractions in the area. I’ve had some weird hostel experiences, but this one was definitely a reminder that a new friend is just a conversation away.
The next morning, in order to make the most out of our Ireland day, we awoke before sunrise and headed straight for the train station. Well, we did make one detour - there was a doughnut shop along the way. The half hour ride to Howth treated us the a beautiful sunrise over the city, becoming more and more vibrant as the buildings gave way to quiet landscape.
Once there, we found a spot along the dock to perch and scarfed down our pistachio and caramel doughnuts, all the while trying to avoid the numerous gulls flocking around us begging for handouts. Sugar rush acquired, it was time to hike.
When planning how best to introduce Erin to Dublin, I could not think of a better place to show off its natural side. Somehow, even though I’ve only been there one other time, as soon as our feet hit the dirt path I felt like I was coming home. Though we ran into one pack of runners, we were otherwise the sole inhabitants of the trail. We’d traded the rumbling and constant conversation of the city for the tranquil sounds of the breeze softly blowing through the grass, the waves crashing against the rocks. The sunrise showed off for us, welcoming me back by remaining painted in the sky for almost two hours (we aptly dubbed this “perpetual sunrise”) so give my photos an extra punch of color.
We didn’t talk much on our walk. The single track trail commands visitors’ silence both because of the treacherous footing and the single-file necessity. This seemed nature’s design as I became much more aware of my surroundings as I simultaneously became lost in my own daydreams. Something about Ireland (and Scotland, too) send my already active imagination into fantasy hyperdrive.
Thus far, I’d been able to navigate us throughout the entire day without a map. This was a point of pride for me - I used to be terrible with directions so being able to navigate through a place I’d only visited once before was quite the feat. Unfortunately, somewhere along our way back down into the village I made a wrong turn. The best part? This particular part of the walk was well-marked for guidance.
However, just as our cancelled flight led to a beautiful day, our navigation error provided its own gift. We had both wanted to light a candle in a church to send up our hopes for the new year, but none of the churches we had yet visited had resonated. Suddenly, we came out of a turn to stop dead in the middle of the road in front of a rosary window. We wordlessly looked at each other and pushed the door open. We stepped in and were immediately bathed in a warm, ethereal light streaming in from the colorful glass. As the door shut behind us, all sounds of the village died away leaving us captivated by the light.
Some time later, we were startled by a pair of nuns walking in, so we quickly went about our task, each lighting a candle with our own particular hopes and prayers before quickly getting out of the nuns’ way.
When we arrived back at our starting point, I think we both needed some time to ourselves to process all the reflecting from our walk. I’d written a letter than I’d planned to toss into the ocean - another “manifesting by putting this out into the universe” moment - but hadn’t actually been able to get close enough to the water to carry out my little ceremony. I contemplated sliding down the concrete pier until I saw a much safer option - a rocky beach just to the right of the pier. As I began rock hopping, I discovered that I wouldn’t have to stand on the stones closest to the tide hoping for the best, but could hop on over the an actual beach where the crashing waves would pull my note into the depths.
Immediately after performing my ritual, a puppy nudged my leg, carrying with her a tennis ball she wanted me to toss. I’m always on the lookout for signs, and this one was hard to miss.
We capped off our Howth morning with a lunch of Beshoff Bros’ fish and chips, a meal I had been drooling over since discovering we’d have time to make the trek.
After more coffee, we spent our afternoon photographing in Temple Bar and souvenir shopping. I managed to finish off the last of my film just as the daylight waned, stuffing my cameras back into my pack now stuffed full of new books for my travel collection and gifts from Erin to her family.
In December of 2017, I sat in Madigan’s pub and write out my goals for the coming year. Perhaps it was the whiskey or the rich shepherd’s pie, but it has since stick out in my mind as my favorite pub. Unfortunately, by the time we’d arrived in City Centre the evening previous the kitchen had already closed (a far sight earlier than the Spanish timetable we were now used to!) Luckily, it was open for our last evening’s dinner. The whiskey went down smooth, the shepherd’s pie was as delectable as I remembered and the atmosphere of the quaint establishment warmed me to my core. From start to finish, this was the perfect day to end our vacation.