It’s almost the end of February and I don’t where the time is going. At the University of Edinburgh, I’m lucky because my classes end on April 3rd – how crazy is that? But it also means I have a ton of papers and presentations to do in a very short amount of time. I think that’s part of the reason we have a week off, for no particular reason, in the middle of February. Like the calm before the storm. It’s called Innovative Learning Week, and lots of societies and schools offer fun little week-long courses you can take to learn something new while all regular classes are suspended. But students being students, most people do not use the time off to learn things. That’s what classes are for. So, like most of my peers, I took off on a week-long trip. I have a friend who went to Chamonix, another to Barcelona, and another to Germany. The main idea is getting out of Scotland in winter.
I, clearly not thinking this decision through very well, decided to go to Ireland. Not that going to Ireland in itself was a bad idea, but going in February was not the best choice. Maybe. Well, it definitely wasn’t if I was hoping to experience warmer weather than I’d been getting in Edinburgh. Because if I was hoping those nice Gulf Stream currents were going to keep me toasty warm, then I was wrong. Dead wrong. The thing about northern Europe in February is that it just doesn’t get warm. It just doesn’t. That’s not how seasons work.
I arrived in Dublin bright and early on Monday morning and almost immediately panicked after realizing that the bus I was supposed to be taking to Limerick didn’t exist. I asked bus drivers, people in tourist shops, even a nice-looking police officer. No one had heard of the bus company, the route number, and the bus stop it supposedly stopped at did not have the route listed. Great. I had to be in Tralee by six or I was not getting the last bus to Dingle, my final destination. So I whipped out my phone, thanked anybody up there who was listening that my data worked in Ireland, and frantically Googled how I was going to be able to get to Tralee. With seven minutes to spare I found a bus to Cork which had a connection to a bus to Tralee, bought a ticket, and I was on my way. Rome2Rio to the rescue again.
Once I’d completed my eight-hour journey to the very west coast of Ireland, I was finally able to relax. After that little panic attack, everything went pretty smoothly. Dingle is a cute little town in the middle of nowhere on Dingle Bay. My second day in Ireland, I rented a bike and cycled the Slea Head Drive – a 46-or-so-kilometer route that goes around the Dingle Peninsula. It goes by some truly dramatic coastline full of cliffs, beaches, and bays. And the water is the bluest blue you’ve ever seen. Like robin’s egg blue, or cyan. The kind of blue you don’t think exists in real life, only in the delightful world of Photoshop. Seeing it almost made the six-kilometer uphill, into the wind, raining stretch at the end, worth it.
After Dingle I headed to Killarney, a mid-sized town a ways from Dingle next to Killarney National Park. Thanks to some strategic questioning, I managed to get a ride with a girl driving around the Ring of Kerry, a 176-kilometer drive that goes all the way to the sea and circles the National Park. It’s really quite impressive. The whole time we drove we were just ahead of the rain, and several times it drove us into the car while we were stopped to take pictures. At one point the sun finally made an appearance just as we turned a corner into a valley and there in front of us was a rainbow, and the end of the rainbow was in the valley. It was absolutely one of the most magical moments of my life. And I mean that literally.
The last stop I made was in Dublin. It’s a weird sort of city, like it hasn’t quite figured out what it’s doing yet. It doesn’t have the old-world charm of Vienna or the gritty vibe of Berlin, but it’s not a cosmopolitan city like London or Paris, either. It’s a little urban, a little quaint, a little gritty, and a lot of fun. It’s easy to forget that Ireland hasn’t been independent very long, but in Dublin, you can feel the tension. Maybe that’s why they drink so much Guinness. Well, a toast of the black stuff to Ireland. Sláinte!