Two weeks after the Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) holiday, students living in Sevilla also get a whole week off for Feria de Abril, or the annual spring festival. After spending just one day riding Ferris Wheels and snacking on the traditional pescaditos (pieces of fried fish, basically), I was off to Dublin, Ireland, and Edinburgh, Scotland. After visiting England and Wales, I had to finish my tour of the entire UK, of course!
I arrived in Dublin on Thursday night, so most tourist attractions were already closed. The lovely gay couple I stayed with had two adorable cats, Betty and Joan, who actually deigned to let me pet them. That’s a huge deal, since cats usually hate me. My hosts suggested I visit a pub called The Cobblestone, which is known for its traditional Irish music. After a long and confusing trek through the poorly lit Dublin streets, I finally made it to the pub.
Settling down with a pint of cider with black currant (a much sweeter alternative), I listened to a group of fiddlers, a flautist, and a drummer stomping out lively tunes. The pub was packed–standing room only. My favorite part was when an older gentleman stood up, called for silence, and belted out a song called “Northwest Passage” that turned out to be Canadian, oddly enough. I loved how engaged the audience was in the music, stomping their feet and sometimes clapping along with the beat.
The next morning, I woke up bright and early to catch a bus to the Galway, which is about three hours away from Dublin, on the other side of Ireland. From there, I caught a tour bus to the Cliffs of Moher, my true destination. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the itinerary, or I would have realized that the Cliffs were an all-day affair–and I only had one full day in Ireland. So I didn’t visit Dublin Castle, the Guinness factory, or any other tourist destinations. Just the Cliffs. Luckily, the Cliffs were so beautiful that I didn’t feel like I missed out on much. We stopped at some other locations along the way, from an ancient dolmen (passage grave) to a nearby castle.
For those who don’t know, the Cliffs of Moher are cliffs rising nearly 400 ft from the Irish sea, and were the filming location for both the Cliffs of Insanity in The Princess Bride and the seaside cliffs where Dumbledore goes to retrieve Regulus Black’s locket/horcrux in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
The Cliffs of Moher were breathtakingly beautiful, even though the weather was cloudy and drizzly. Seagulls and other birds crowed loudly and circled a large rock off the coast, while the breeze smelled unmistakably of salt and brine.
A low stone wall encircles most of the Cliffs, preventing tourists from plummeting to their deaths after an ill-advised attempt at a selfie, but past O’Brien’s Tower (known as “Horny Corny’s Last Erection” by the locals–what a story our tour guide told us about Cornelius O’Brien, father of Irish tourism) there’s a section of cliffs owned by a farmer where you can get right up to the edge. Despite my fear of heights, I gathered my courage and followed everyone else, getting my boots incredibly muddy in the process. Looking down at the waves crashing on the rocky shore hundreds of feet below made me feel a little queasy, but the view from the other side of the cliffs was worth it.
Sadly, I returned to Dublin late at night and had to get up early the next morning for my flight to Edinburgh. My short time in Dublin, land of Artemis Fowl and James Joyce, had come to an end. I definitely want to come back someday and visit all the other tourist attractions I missed this time.
I arrived in Edinburgh at a much more reasonable hour, so I got to tour the city even before I checked into my Airbnb. The bus from the airport dropped me off right next to the Scott Monument, a towering Victorian Gothic monument to the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. Then I visited the Scottish National Gallery and saw some Van Goghs, Titians, and Monets.
After meeting my Scottish host, a lovely artist and mom who gave me helpful directions and maps, I headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens nearby to look around a bit. The Fort Worth Botanic Gardens are nice, but they’ve got nothing on the ones in Edinburgh. The UK is just so wonderfully green.
I rushed over to the Royal Mile because I didn’t want Edinburgh Castle or the Palace of Holyrood to close before I got there. I climbed all the way to the top of Edinburgh Castle, which has a wonderful panoramic view of the entire city. There’s a memorial to all the Scots who died in World War I in the center of the castle. It was crazy to see hundreds of names, all of the men who gave their lives for their country (I’ve never been to the memorials in Washington, D.C.)
After a peek at the Scottish Crown Jewels (which paled in comparison to England’s), I set off on the Royal Mile once again. By the time I got to Holyrood Palace (Queen Elizabeth II’s residence when she’s visiting Scotland), though, it was closed. I was consoled by the huge extinct volcano called Arthur’s Seat, which rose high above the city. I wasn’t about to climb it on foot, though. My feet were dead from running around the city all day.
My last stop in Edinburgh was Elephant House Café, the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling famously wrote the majority of the Harry Potter series, sometimes jotting down ideas on napkins. I was surprised to find that Elephant House is actually a Japanese café, or it’s at least owned by Japanese people. I had some chili con carne (they gave me nachos instead, but whatever) and a giant mug of hot chocolate with pink marshmallows called the “Mallow Delight,” and it was heaven. The tea room (where J.K. used to sit) has a view of Edinburgh Castle, but I didn’t get a table in the back.
After a long and satisfying day in Edinburgh, I returned to my Airbnb, where I finished a book I found in a Scottish book shop for a pound and a half (!!!) and passed out at 11 pm. I was exhausted after a weekend of travel. My host let me cook my own eggs in the morning, which was a real treat for someone living in Spain, where they don’t eat protein for breakfast.
I was sad to say goodbye to Scotland after a weekend filled with history, friendly locals, and gorgeous landscapes. Out of all the places I’ve visited in Europe, Edinburgh has got to be one of my favorites. Dublin is a close second, only because I didn’t get to see much of the city itself. I hope I get to return someday, maybe when I can afford a nice cozy Aran sweater.