Ireland and the beginning of winter break

We are officially done with classes and ready for winter break!

This last week was full of stress, I had to write a paper that is 100% of my grade and pack up my dorm room completely. But it was also full of excitement because for the next month I will be traveling Europe.

Saturday my mom will arrive in Nottingham and we will begin our holiday exploring the UK. Even though I spent the last few months here, there is still so much that I haven’t seen, and so much that I am excited to do with my mom. More on this to come later.

The weekend after Carmen and spent 40 hours to get to Loch Ness and back, our little group ventured to Ireland. We flew from East Midlands to Dublin early Thursday morning. When I say early I mean early, we caught a bus from campus to the airport at 4 am.

The flight was only 40 minutes, give or take, and so by 8 am we had landed and made it through customs with another stamp on our passports. We took the bus to our hostel where we left our bags so we could explore the city. Not knowing what we really wanted to do in Dublin, we wandered around. Our first mission was to find bagels, a staple we were all craving since the Starbucks on campus is seriously lacking in bagel options.

The Grand Canal in Dublin
The Grand Canal in Dublin

After that we made our way to Trinity College, as it was on the list of places that you should visit in Dublin. As we were wandering the campus, admiring the amazing detail in the buildings, we happened upon a graduation ceremony. As we were walking across a courtyard, people in caps and gowns poured out of the building opposite as us. Deciding that was a sign to leave, we headed in the direction of the Cathedral.

Trinity College
Trinity College

After visiting two churches and Dublin Castle we headed to the National Botanical Garden. With three greenhouses and plenty of picturesque gardens outside, we spent hours wandering the grounds. It was so beautiful and by far was one of my favorite spots in Dublin.

The grounds at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin
The grounds at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin
A cool looking tree at the botanical gardens
A cool looking tree at the botanical gardens

Later, after we had eaten and managed to find our way back to the hostel, Carmen and I decided that we should go to a bar and get a flight of beer, because if you don’t try beer in Dublin, where you really there? After going to three bars, we finally found one that offered a flight, instead of just pints. As neither of us have really had beer, it seemed like the best way to really try and see if we liked any beers, unfortunately, we don’t.

Friday morning we headed to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. Again, the first thing we did in was check into our hostel so we could drop our bags. We wandered around the city centre, managing to run into a Christmas market. We went to Victoria Shopping Centre to avoid the rain and to see the famous dome on top of the mall. We found a cute vegan restaurant for dinner and then headed back to our hostel, calling it a night early so we could wake up early Saturday morning.

A view of the ocean during the hike to Giant's Causeway
A view of the ocean during the hike to Giant’s Causeway

The only thing I really wanted to do on this trip was go to Giant’s Causeway, a formation of naturally hexagonal rocks, on the coast of a village called Bushmills. Luckily, it took no convincing to get my friend’s to agree. So Saturday we got up early, checked out of our hostel, and made our way to the bus/train station. The Causeway is a little more than an hour away from Belfast, and a train plus a bus ride away but it was totally worth it. We spent the majority of the day walking around, climbing the rocks and hiking the cliff next to the causeway.

A small formation of the rocks at Giant's Causeway
A small formation of the rocks at Giant’s Causeway

Although it seems like the only way to access the causeway is by paying £11 to get into the visitors center,  we did some research and learned that there are paths that lead to the causeway that don’t require you to pay. The only downside of not paying is that if you want souvenirs, you have to have a ticket. We got one and took turns going inside to look at the gift shop.

We made our way back to Belfast that afternoon/night and grabbed dinner at a knock-off Chipotle, yet another craving satiated. Then we opted to spend the night in the airport since our flight was early the next morning.

Sunday morning we caught our flight from Belfast to Manchester and then took a train back to Nottingham. As soon as I was back in my room I passed out, exhausted from the weekend’s adventures.

In the two weeks following the trip I worked on my essays and researched how to pack and looked at travel tips, preparing for my month long trip where I would be living out of a backpack. I packed my entire dorm room up, as we have to move out for winter break. Luckily, this wasn’t that difficult as I only brought one checked bag in the first place.

Now I am waiting for my mom to get here, so my break can really start.