One of the main perks of choosing the University of Bristol is the city’s immediate access to multiple transport and travel options. I’ve been able to travel by bus and train to other countries within the UK with ease to see everything each city has to offer. Several weeks ago, I took my first international flight of this study abroad trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland, two countries I had yet to visit, which made my study abroad experience all the more special!
I flew out of Bristol Airport to Dublin, where my family friends were eagerly awaiting my arrival. We drove to the southern region of Ireland and visited Waterford, Tramore, and Annestown. The city of Waterford is where Ireland’s history began with the invasion of the Vikings over 700 years ago. The city had stone walls built along its borders as protection, and the ruins of the wall, towers, and original church still remain. I took my time wandering the cobblestone streets and reading the many plaques honouring notable historical figures. As many of blog posts have suggested, I love history, and learning about the history of the cities and countries I’ve been able to visit have been so much fun for me. I enjoy learning all about where I am and its significance at the local and global level. Waterford is right by the River Suir, and we spent the afternoon walking along the docks while admiring the boats before heading to the main part of town. With the holiday season in full swing, Waterford’s winter carnival, Winterval, was set up and filled with people and twinkling lights. Like the other Christmas markets I’ve visited, this one had a giant Christmas tree on display surrounded by lots of stands selling holiday treats and souvenirs. After walking around town for a bit, we hopped back in the car and continued our sightseeing journey.
We drove along the eastern coast of Ireland and stopped at Tramore and Annestown, which are both cute little beach towns. Tramore had a long boardwalk running alongside the sand and even though it was incredibly windy, there were still many people walking around. The beach at Annestown is a pebble beach with big cliffs jutting into the Irish Sea. As soon as we got out of the car, the sun peaked through the clouds at the perfect moment and the rocky shoreline was glowing. We didn’t spend much time at either town as the sun was setting and we had to head back to Dublin. There were two route options for our return trip, a more scenic drive through the hills or the motorway, there was no contest. The scenic views of the rolling hills in Ireland were never ending. While the University of Bristol has more greenery than Drexel, but neither will ever compare to natural wonders that make up Ireland.
My journey in Ireland finished off by taking a tour from Dublin to the western coast to see the Cliffs of Moher. During the colder months it’s difficult to predict what the weather will be like on the coast, which means that many tourists reach the cliffs after hours of traveling only to realize that everything is fogged over or dark clouds are covering the view. I knew that this could be a real possibility but I took the risk and booked the tour anyway. From Dublin we drove through the farmlands of Ireland where we passed many sheep, horses, donkeys, and cows along the way. The tour guide was very informative and told us stories about the Irish fairies and banshees, and repeatedly emphasized how the ice cream in Ireland was unbeatable.
By the late morning, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, and to my absolute surprise, it was bright and sunny. The views were absolutely stunning and I stood at the observation deck taking in the beauty for two whole hours. It was windy and cold, but I came prepared with many layers and winter coat. It’s difficult to describe just how beautiful the Cliffs of Moher are, and leaving the site was incredibly difficult. I could have stood there for days watching the rough waves crash into the base of the jagged cliffs. I took as many photos and videos as I could before heading back on the bus to our next destination—Galway!
The Wild Atlantic Way is a coastal drive that goes through limestone geological parks and small towns alongthe ocean, and that was the route we took. We reached Galway in the late afternoon and had a couple hours to explore the city centre. My first stop was at an ice cream shop where I ate the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had—no offense to my hometown’s farm! The shops sourced their ice cream straight from a local dairy farm, and I loved that I was supporting local farmers with my incredibly large sweet tooth. I spent the rest of the day admiring the Christmas lights and decorations while exploring the Christmas market. For a weekday evening, the city was very busy and everyone was either coming in and out of shops or enjoying a treat on the many roadside cafes. Before I knew it, it was time to head back to Dublin and say a “see you later” to the western coast, as I will definitely be back someday.
During my stay in Ireland, I took a trip up to Northern Ireland to visit Belfast. The plan was to travel to the western region of the country to see Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO site, but severe storms halted all tours to that area for the entire week. Instead, I decided a day trip to Belfast would be just as fun. I took a roundtrip coach from Dublin, which was the quickest and most economical way to travel between both countries. My bucket list was pretty big, so the first thing I did when I arrived in Belfast’s city centre was purchase a public transportation day pass. That way, I didn’t have to worry about walking in the cold. I did end up walking quite a bit, but the buses made it possible to take a break from the freezing temperatures for a bit of time. Just like in Bristol, the transport system in Belfast was simple and efficient; I was able to easily navigate it using the coordinating app.
I started the morning off by visiting the Linen Hall Library, Belfast’s public library. It was small and cozy with big windows that had a brilliant view of City Hall. After exploring the library for some time, I took the local bus to the Titanic Exhibition Hall. The Titanic was constructed in Belfast before it was transported to England for its infamous maiden voyage. The exhibition hall and museum are in the same location as the build site, and the original cranes used for its construction are still there! I was even able to walk around another ship built during the same time that was on display for visitors. Later that afternoon, I headed to the Queen’s University of Belfast to walk around the university’s botanic gardens. Even though it was cold and windy outside, there were many people going on walks or enjoying a cup of coffee on one of the many benches surrounded by the greenery. By the time I was back in Belfast’s City Centre, the sun was already beginning to set, which meant that it was the perfect time to explore the Belfast Christmas Market! Out of all the markets I’ve visited, this one had the most lights and light up figurines around the town square, so I’m glad that I waited until the evening to visit. There was every sweet treat I could ever imagine being sold in the various stands including crepes, churros, doughnuts, hot chocolate, and more! Even though I was there on a Monday night, there were tons of families at the market soaking in all the holiday magic. Belfast was a lovely city, and while I didn’t get the opportunity to explore much else of Northern Ireland, that gives me the perfect excuse to come back!
My spontaneous trip to Ireland will be one that I remember and cherish forever. Experiencing the scenic drives and seeing the rolling hills in person were more beautiful than any photograph in a travel magazine. In true Irish fashion, I lucked out with perfect weather, and hopefully my next trip can be just as wonderful.
A Message from the Office of Global Engagement:
The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.