I can say with full confidence that after less than 24 hours that if it never rained here in Dublin, I would pack up and move here after college in an instant. The beautiful 54 degree weather, fahrenheit of course, and cloudless blue skies made my first day in the city even more picturesque. Even though we had another busy day planned, I don’t plan on wasting a second here in Dublin. Even though it is the international center of Ireland, it is everything I dreamed of. The River Liffey runs right past our hotel and the cobblestone streets and quaint, colorful buildings make me want to walk around all day, which luckily I get to do.
This morning we didn’t have to be out of the hotel until about 10:30, so we were able to sleep in a little bit before we headed off to RTE studios. This is the premier communication, radio and television broadcaster in all of Ireland and is comparable to NBC in the United States. Apparently it is a highly sought after tour by Irish schools and visiting tour groups and in order to try to have a tour, your group has to petition to be on a list and then must wait until there is an opening. Fortunately, our coordinator was able to bypass this and schedule a tour, so we are quite lucky that we were able to visit.
The head of news communication told us that Ireland has a population of around 4 million and that the ratings for the broadcasts are around 40%, meaning that around 400,000 people are watching their news programs each night. While this does not seem like a large number to us, ratings of 40% are a statistic that some companies only dream of in the United States. We talked to the head of news, head of communication, arts correspondent, visited the main news studio, and the on set location for the soap opera called “Fair City.” While the walking tours are very informative, I’ve found that when we stand in an area for ten of fifteen minutes to listen to our guide talk, the exhaustion sets in for everyone, myself included. It is much better when we are walking because it keeps me awake and focused.
After our tour we took a quick bus ride to the city center and walked down Grafton Street, which is the city’s premier shopping district. We just walked through because everyone wanted to get to lunch, but we have a free afternoon tomorrow so I’m sure all of the girls will head over and get our fix of shopping in. For lunch seven of us went to a cute cafe and we sat on a window bench and since it was a beautiful day the entire window, which was half of the wall was completely opened. Since we knew we had to power through the rest of the day, my friend and I both ordered Bailey’s Coffee and it definitely hit the spot.
After lunch we met at Trinity College, which is right near city center and were able to walk through the middle of the campus quickly before meeting our guide for the next walking tour. This tour focused on the 1916 Easter Rising Rebellion where the Irish citizens came together, along with the army, to try to kick the British out of Ireland. Unfortunately, this was not successful, but the people involved in it are still remembered for their actions. The main area the rebellion took place was in the General Post Office. We walked from Trinity, stopping along the way, and eventually made our way to the Post Office where you can still see the bullet holes on the pillars outside. Our guide was enthusiastic and passionate about the history of the event and was able to crack some jokes and keep our attention along the way. I took the time to listen to what he had to say when we stopped at different checkpoints, but while we were walking I took in the beauty and charm of Dublin.
None of us were hungry for dinner so we hung out at the hotel until we left for a soccer match in a nearby town just outside of Dublin. The match was an optional event and even though I’m not that interested in soccer, or understand it that well, I knew it would be a great opportunity to soak in the true Irish culture. The game was at Richmond Park and was St. Patrick’s vs. Derry City. It was a third tier team so it was quite a small venue, but the fans were rowdy and ready to cheer. The St. Pat’s fans had banners, flags, drums and a plethora of chats ready to employ.
As soon as the game started, they were chanting and hitting the bass drum and it was unlike any type of minor league sporting event in the U.S. Sarah and I tried to catch onto the chants, but just as we would get the hang of one, they would switch to a new one and every fan in the stands knew each chant. I also noticed that regardless of the play or call, the fans clapped. This was a stark contrast to sports fans in the U.S. as they seem to get more of a rise from putting down the other team than cheering on their own. We saw 4 goals by St. Pat’s and although we ended up leaving 3/4 of the way through the game, it was a great experience. Our coordinator was especially excited that a least a handful of us wanted to go to the game as he had not been to an Irish soccer match in five years.
When we got back from the game, my friends and I made a quick decision to head to Stag’s Head Pub, which was suggested by the owner of the restaurant we had eaten at earlier that day. We got a tad lost on the way, but ended up finding it pretty easily after we were redirected by the nice people on the streets. The area that this pub is in is a few streets back from Temple Bar, but is a much different atmosphere. There are many more locals and everyone overflows onto the cobblestone as the street is tucked away. We talked to a group of people who we found out were from Galway and they told us a few places to visit while we were there. We weren’t out very long, but it is so great knowing that whenever you go, you can meet new people and have a fantastic time even if you aren’t out all hours of the night.
Tomorrow we have the afternoon free so everyone is planning on visiting the Jameson and Guinness distilleries and probably strolling down Grafton Street to do some much needed shopping. I don’t think I can put into words or photographs how great this city and its people are. While I’m learning a lot from the lectures and tours, I learn just as much as restaurants and pubs. The nightlife here is indescribable and is leaps and bounds better than what is the norm in the states. It is much more of a social and cultural experience that you remember and want to be a part of and I think that speaks to the people. They are so proud of where they come from, regardless of if it’s the country or the city and remain loyal to their town, county and most importantly country. It is easy to feel welcomed and loved even if you are just saying hello to a stranger on the street. I’m learning how to get around using a map instead of my phone, imagine that. I could walk around this city for hours and find a new picture to take and a new person to meet and that’s what makes Dublin special. It’s not about the tourist attractions or the pubs, it’s about feeling accepted by the locals and that you can be Irish, even if only for a day.
All photography by Emily Houston