So the time for the break has finally arrived. No more classes finally. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to study anymore because the exams are after the break. The amazing thing is that the break here is one month long. You can call it Easter break or Spring break.
I went on a trip to Ireland with three friends, Fiona, Karina and Magda. I got lucky as I was included into the plan almost last minute while having dinner at Karina’s place with Fiona on the Saturday of the first weekend of holidays. Our trip included two days in Dublin and then two days in Belfast.
Dublin: We took a flight to Dublin from Birmingham. Flights here are really cheap. This one thing I love about Europe. The flight from Birmingham to Dublin was just £16. Which is like $20. We stayed in a hostel near the famous Temple bar. It was the first time that I got a Visa stamped on arrival. There is a special on arrival Visa scheme for Chinese and Indians, which states that if you have a short term visa for either of the countries, you can go to the other without needing to apply for a visa. Here is the link for the U.K. government website which states the scheme:
The immigration officer asked us what we were doing in Dublin and how we knew each other. To which we replied, two of us are from Canada, one from India (I added that I studied at ISU, but I carry an Indian passport) and one from Sweden, studying at University of Birmingham as exchange students. Love this part of Exchange program, where people from different countries and culture come together to explore a new place and culture!
We went for a walk in the city in the evening. Although Dublin is a capital, but the city center of Dublin can be covered just by walking. Except a few places Dublin is a peaceful city, no hustle and bustle of the big metros can be felt here.
Next day we went on to some more places in the city including the famous Trinity college in Dublin which is also the alma mater of Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde’s house, the Vikings museum and Grafton street which is sort of the main market with all the big and expensive shops. In the afternoon though we split and saw what interested us the most as we had limited time in the city. I chose to see the Dublin castle. It is the most weird looking castle I have seen so far, but it is good and worth a visit. One part is modern, other of Victorian times and then there are medieval towers in the corner. The best part of the castle is you get to see the room where the newly elected president takes his oath. I took a guided tour.
I have a unique incident to share related to the dinner of that night. You could say, I am showing off at this point but believe me it is true. After going through the menus stuck outside many restaurants around Temple bar, we settled for the British burger chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen. It was my first time trying the chain. While ordering my food, the waitress handling the billing counter asked me if I wanted to order something to drink. The waitress was wearing a batch which said Amazing Alice, Alice must be her name. I asked what non-alcoholic drinks were available. She replied that they had the usual sodas available and they had their own squash kind of drinks made of lemon and strawberry. I asked her what they tasted like or what’s her recommendation. I laughed a bit after asking, I don’t know why but I felt a little silly asking her for recommendation. Obviously she guessed I had never been to Gourmet Burger Kitchen and smiling she said that since it was my first time at the restaurant she’ll give me discounts on the drink and although they don’t give free refills on drinks they’ll provide me that so that I get to taste both the drinks. I accepted that, why won’t I, or in fact why won’t anyone for that matter? But the special treatment continued even after the discounts, as promised they offered refills and during the whole time I was eating as far as I remember, the waitress asked me how was the food and if I needed anything. I enjoyed the special treatment although the downer is that my fellow travellers, the three girl were not offered any such treatment. Fiona asked me at one point if I had tipped them heavy, to which I said no (you are not required to tip in Europe, service charge is included in the bill and waiters are not depended on tips, it is more of a rich people thing, that they if they feel happy, they tip. I was more than happy but I am a student so well, tipping is out of question). The girls remarked that they were jealous of the free special treatment. We all laughed. Here is the picture of the receipt mentioning discount as “generosity”, I found that funny as I had never seen generosity written for discount on any bill!
The waitress gave me a small piece of printed paper which gave details of how to give her a good rating on the restaurant’s social media pages as a waitress of the restaurant. I agreed to do so happily. But I regret now I lost the piece of paper shortly after I got back to my hostel room. Sorry Alice! I don’t know if you are from Galway (a beautiful place in Ireland), but you are my Galway girl (reference to the song Galway Girl, by Ed Sheeran). Haha!
It was our final night in Dublin and we went to the bar named “The Celt”. It was a big bar having multiple sections, in the form of open rooms, all of them cozy and having decorations which gave it a very old look. The bar is famous for its setting as well as for the authentic and excellent live Irish music played in the bar daily in the evening.
Our bus to Belfast was next morning around 11:30 am. Before leaving Dublin I had got some postcards ready to be sent to friends and family, especially friends at ISU! As Fiona had some postcards she went along with me to the General Post Office to send them. The post office building was huge and quite old. The post office started in 1818. It had a post office museum within it. We did not have the time to see it but I read a bit about it and it was an important monument during Ireland’s freedom struggle against the British Empire.
As soon as we got to Belfast, my phone signal came back as it is politically under U.K. so my U.K. sim card started working again and we went to our hostels. This time we were living in three different hostels as there was no availability in a single hostel for all four of us. Fiona and Magda were in the same hostel. Magda, Fiona and Karina were more interested in taking the black cab tour, which takes you around all the sites where Catholics and Protestant
I being more interested and informed about Titanic, chose to go for the Titanic museum. Also I felt that being an engineering student I should learn about one of the greatest ships ever made. Belfast is called the Titanic city, obviously Titanic being built here. I reached the museum around 3 pm and started the tour of the museum. I had taken an Uber (taxi) to the museum, on the way the driver pointed at an old building which was right next to the museum and said that it was where they made all the blue plans of the ship and designed it, it was their main office. I was really excited to visit the museum. I am pretty sure that probably 80% of the young crowd including me become interested in seeing the museum because they have seen the 1997 epic film with an imaginary story, Titanic. Haha! The museum provides each and every detail from building of the ship to the sinking. It was a truly dedicated museum to RMS Titanic. It took me 2 hours to see the whole museum. I read the details as much as possible. At the end of the museum tour they show the clips and photographs of the remains of the Titanic hundreds of meters below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Coming back from the museum I took a rental bike which offered half an hour for free to reach the city. I saw some other spots in the city before meeting the others.
Next day we set off for the World Heritage site – the Giant’s Causeway. We took a day long guided tour. Thanks to my three friends who let the driver of our bus know I was still remaining to catch the bus. I got a bit late. I feel glad and lucky that I had such caring travel buddies. Giant’s Causeway is a collection of millions of years old rocks with hemispherical surface. The lava from the volcano which erupted millions of years ago formed these rocks when it solidified. This place for its uniqueness has been regarded as World Heritage site by UNESCO. I had never seen something so unique. We also saw Carrick-a-Rede, a very old rope bridge that was used by fishermen to go to the shore of the sea from the plateau sort of land we were on. It was a mesmerizing view.
On the way we also got to see the Dark Hedges, famous as the shooting location of the popular TV show Game of Thrones. Although I am not a fan of the show as I have not seen it. I think the site was extraordinary and marvelous. The place had a sign board indicating its relation to the TV show. If you are a Game of Thrones fan and you’ve not been here, yes you could be jealous! Hahaha!
With this special day trip, our time at Belfast was over. Next morning we took a flight back to Birmingham. Fiona remained at Belfast and went to the Titanic museum. She stayed there as she was going further into Ireland to explore Cork and Galway. These are the most naturally beautiful places of Ireland. I wish I could explore those places if I had more time, exams are less than a month away for me. Fiona you are so lucky to be able to see those places!
It was my first trip in Europe outside, U.K.
Until next time!