Tag Archives: see the world

Travel Diary: From Dublin to Rostrevor

I was rather tired the morning I left Dublin, because I’d been out all night at a backpacker’s pub crawl. Before leaving the hostel, I stripped the bed, balled up the sheets, and double-checked that I hadn’t left anything. My hair dryer occupied the tiny wastebasket (the voltage was just too much for my American hairdryer…may she rest in peace). My backpack felt even heavier than my day of arrival, but I strapped it on and headed out the door.

As I flung open the brightly painted  door, I saw what awaited me outside: a torrential downpour. I immediately shut the door, wondering what I was going to do. I hadn’t packed an umbrella. I didn’t bring a raincoat, let alone a coat. I decided that the only thing I could do was just forge ahead, rain and all. Within two minutes, I was completely soaked, raindrops trailing down my nose and my hair slicked to my head. I accidentally stomped in a puddle while hurrying along, soaking my trainers. By the time I made it to the bus centre, I was miserably hungry, tired, and soaking wet. After purchasing a ticket to Newry, I sat down at a cafe and devoured a small breakfast and sipped a gritty, bitter Americano.

FullSizeRender (13)

Rostrevor, Northern Ireland

The bus was comfortable, and included free wifi. I listened to Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s while watching fields of sheep graze, occasionally glancing around at the other passengers. The Newry bus centre wasn’t as nice, and the bus was dingy. The driver was a kind old man, though, and that’s what matters. He dropped me off directly in front of An Cuan (which means “The Habour”). I walked up to the old building, noticing a scattering of children’s toys, and a few parked cars. I opened the front door, but no one was in the hall. I called up the stairwell, but received no answer. After several minutes of wandering around, I grew fearful that I was stranded. I called my best friend back home, as well as the friend that recommended I stay at An Cuan. Finally, I ventured around the enormous house, and walked up to the backdoor. A little boy answered, and I asked for his mum. The lady, Jen, came and we quickly settled the confusion. She led to to my room, sparely finished but comfortable. The house was a hodge-podge maze of the original structure and additions made in the 80’s.

After settling in, I took a walk to Kilbroney Park, which is a beautiful forested park that houses the Claughman Rock, the Narnia Trail, and Fairy Glen. I walked through Fairy Glen, past storybook homes, and a gentle river. The sun was shining, and I felt truly at rest. I remember smiling to myself, feeling proud that I was brave enough to come to the middle of nowhere in Ireland. Upon arriving back at An Cuan, I decided to take a shower and go to bed early. The shower, while slightly bigger than the one in the Dublin hostel, had barely any water pressure, and trickled out lukewarm. After a long day of bus travel and getting caught in the rain, all I wanted was a decent shower. This trip has made me realise how spoiled I am back in the States. I appreciate how the inconveniences are developing patience and thankfulness within me. The tight spaces, limited options, and budget accommodations are helping me realise how little I truly need to be happy.

unnamed (5)

At the end of this street is the YWAM base, An Cuan.

My second day at An Cuan, another American girl arrived at the base. We chatted on the couches after the community meal, and she then invited me out for dessert and coffee. We walked down the street to The Church, a lovely old church that was converted to a cafe. I cheated on my diet and indulged in a toffee pudding with ice cream and berries. I am dairy-free and usually attempt a vegan lifestyle, but I just decided to go for it. We chatted about our faith, our struggles with doubt, and a little bit about our lives back in the States. After a couple days of being alone, it was such a blessing to make a friend!

When I got back to my room, I popped a couple of Benadryl to counter the affects of my indulgence. The next morning I awoke with a terrible ache throughout my body, a sore throat, and what felt like an ear infection. I had planned on a day trip to Belfast, and decided that I wouldn’t allow being sick to keep me from exploring. I was also in desperate need of a warm coat. I rode two buses to Belfast, and by the time of my arrival I was terribly hungry, grumpy, and ill.

FullSizeRender (14)

The beginning of the Narnia trail.

My guidebook suggested I visit Kelly’s, a three-hundred year old pub that once catered to Irish rebels. I walked in and sat down. No one served me, so after about fifteen uncomfortable minutes, I chose to move closer to the bar. After more uncomfortable minutes of waiting, I flagged down the bartender and asked if I could order. His accent was thick, so after a little difficulty, I was informed that they were serving only beef stew. I hate beef stew, and I didn’t want a drink, so I left.

I was then directed to a hip cafe, where I ordered “The Big Fish”. I assumed it was akin to fish and chips, plus that’s the title of my favourite Tim Burton movie, so I guessed it a safe bet. The waiter brought out a platter with a battered, deep fried fish the length of elbow to fingertip, with a serving of chips and mashed peas. It was an enormous amount of food. I ate everything though, because I was so hungry and past the point of caring.

After lunch I wandered around different shops in search of a coat. All the shops were featuring  spring attire, so all I could find were paper-thin raincoats. It began to rain, so I popped out my umbrella that I purchased in the village for about three pounds. The heavy winds immediately folded my shield from the  inside out, and I stopped to wage war on the cheap thing in front of a small cafe. After realising I was at a loss, I walked inside. “Having trouble with your umbrella, are you?” The comment came from a smiley barista with a red beard and vivid blue eyes. I laughed and replied yes, that I wanted to throw it in the trash. I ordered an Americano, and he hospitably told me to sit down and he’d bring it to me. I was relived to find a kind person. We chatted as I sipped on my coffee (which was delicious). He’d travelled through the Middle East on his own several years back, which I found impressive.

I told him I was in need of a coat, and he directed me to a TK Maxx (their version of the States’ TJ Maxx). After browsing, I chose a black down jacket. It was lightweight but warm, though not my style. After my jacket mission was complete, my desire to wander around Belfast died completely. I just wanted to go home to bed. I nearly cried multiple times, mostly from disappointment and feeling so poorly. I didn’t expect I’d have bad days while travelling; I thought that I would be so overjoyed and in awe that I would be immune to every difficulty.

When I returned to the base, I was feeling so ill that I just showered and went to bed. I awoke the next day fairly early for how sick I felt. I dressed for church, went on a walk to Kilbroney Park, and picked up some coffee before heading to the service. When I arrived, I saw a couple of girls from the base. I stood with them and chatted with the elderly. The service was beautiful, with various Scripture readings, organ-led hymns, and a celebration of the Trinity. I thoroughly enjoyed the traditional service, and felt so apart of the village community through the experience.

unnamed (6)

Fairy Glen, with my dream house over yonder.

The next morning, I visited the local physician. As I had suspected, I had another ear infection. He prescribed the routine antibiotics, and told me not to fly for a bit. “That’s impossible…I have several flights that I cannot cancel!” He shook his head, but said to take care. I waited in a tiny pharmacy while the two women behind the counter gossiped and filled plastic bottles with various pills.

The remainder of my time in Rostrevor was spent resting, taking long walks, and chatting with locals. By the time the bus came to whisk me to another destination, I cried at the thought of leaving such a peaceful nest of a village.

Travel Diary: From the States to Dublin

I arrived in Dublin shortly after six a.m. I was so disoriented and overwhelmed after my flight that I shuffled to the bathroom before going through customs. I waited in a long line with my passport ready, with a customs officer who was less than thrilled with his task. He told me I needed to sign my passport, and asked my reason for being in the country. “Holiday”, I replied cheerily.

unnamed (3)

I then walked down towards the bus and taxi service. I knew the bus would be significantly cheaper, but as I was so exhausted and uncertain, I chose a taxi instead. It felt positively luxurious having a cab all to myself, after two days of zero privacy and limited space. The cabbie didn’t make conversation, but I was glad. All I wanted was to check in to the hostel and collapse into bed. He pulled up to a bright blue door where a man on a ladder was adding a second coat of paint. I gave the cabbie a crisp one-hundred pound bill. “We don’t see these every day,” he commented.  As he handed me my backpack, he warned me to be careful. He seemed concerned that I was on my own, and didn’t want me walking around at night. I smiled at his concern as I walked through the bright blue door into the hostel office.

A slight man with a thick accent informed me that I couldn’t check in until three p.m., but offered to stow my bag and allow me to hang around until then. I was hesitant to leave my bag, so I walked down to a cute little coffee shop. I ordered an iced quad shot Americano, which resulted in a furrowed-brow from the barista. “We don’t have iced drinks,” she replied. She offered me hot americano instead, along with an almond croissant. After sitting a bit in a sun-spot, perusing my phone, I decided on a refill, since I needed to stay awake. We chatted about coffee for a bit before I sat back down, next to an elderly gentleman with a newspaper.

unnamed

I drained my cup and ventured out on the street. I decided to turn right, past the hostel, and up the street. I passed a series of colourful doors, which were made especially delightful because they were attached to grey stone buildings. I came upon the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral, and decided to venture inside. I purchased a ticket that allowed entrance into the cathedral as well as the museum across from it. Up until this point, I had never been inside a cathedral. I was overwhelmed by the detailed beauty, even in my blurry-eyed state. The priest invited me to attend morning prayer, so after exploring the crypt, I sat alongside two Russian women. The priest led us through prayers, and then shared some history of the church, with trademark Irish humour.

unnamed (1)

The museum across from the church was called Dublinia, and focused mainly on the medieval and Viking history of Ireland. The doorman offered to keep my backpack, but I was still hesitant. My back ached, but I didn’t want to trust anyone. Halfway through the first floor, I was so miserable that I returned to the front and asked if I could stow my pack. The man led me around to a Viking boat replica, and hid the bag there. “It should be safe there.” I still can’t get over the humour of hiding my backpack in a replica of a Viking boat. I continued through the museum, light as a feather, but very tired.

By the three p.m. check-in, I was overwhelmingly exhausted. My private room was three floors up a spiral staircase, so I dragged my backpack behind me, too sore and tired to actually carry it properly. After two days of zero privacy, closing the door to my own room felt like entrance into heaven. The room was plain, but very clean and comfortable. As I was in desperate need of a shower, I ventured down the hall to the washrooms. I was shocked by how cramped the space was, smaller than my closet back home. I fiddled with the shower, attempting to turn on its flow, to no avail. I stood wrapped in a towel, swearing at the shower head, until I realised it must be broken. I hauled my things to the next shower, nearly giddy when the water jutted out full and hot.

unnamed (2)

I am a fairly small person, but in that tiny shower, I struggled. I had to hike my leg up and prop it against the wall in order to shave, and kept bumping the door open. I made wet footprints on the old wooden floor as I whisked my clean self back to the room. Since I was far too exhausted to find anything to eat, I went to bed hungry. I slept like the dead until late the next morning.