You Get the Best of Both Worlds

Written by Swati

March 30th 2023

At dawn we break. Well at dawn I break to go find my tour bus through Wild Rover Tours for my day trip to the Cliffs of Moher! Our tour guide is effectively an enthusiastic elementary school teacher, sprinkling in fun facts about Ireland and Irish history throughout the tour and her light hearted commentary distract from the fact that we have a 3 hour bus journey starting at 7am to reach the cliffs. We take a quick pit stop at the Obama Plaza, a gas station dedicated to Barack Obama, who apparently is a descendant of the Moneygall Obamas. When we make it to the cliffs around 11, I’m struck by the pure wonder of the thrashing waves against cliffs that go on for miles. I only have 2 hours there before we head off to Galway, so I immediately start down the path to the right. 

Let me say it here first and foremost: I’m really not a nature gal. I’d rather spend a day in a bookstore or art museum than go on a hike, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. I endured snow, rain, wind, and slivers of sunshine at the cliffs and every minute felt like a new adventure. Even if I took my eyes off of them for a second, I’d gasp when they entered my line of sight again. I felt a sense of camaraderie with fellow travelers who were whipped by the strong wind and fought against nature to witness its beauty. It felt like walking through a wind tunnel, but being rewarded with more waves crashing in at every stopping point. The Cliffs of Moher truly feel like a wonder of the world. I walk my way over to the end of the official path and find a castle at the highest point. Arms outstretched, it feels very Titanic, but I say a little “I’m king of the world!” in honor of Leonardo DiCaprio’s legendary film and start the cautious trek up the treacherous path. The unofficial walking paths to the edge of the cliffs aren’t technically endorsed by the tourism office, but there are safety precautions and a trail, so I take the leap and make it about halfway up either end before reaching puddles too large to cross. 

I eventually make my way back to the bus begrudgingly for the last leg of the trip to Galway and our tour guide teaches us some words in Irish and tells us of Irish hospitality. She tells us it used to be illegal to refuse housing to a traveler in Ireland and that food and entertainment, including an evening of  storytelling and songs, were expected. I find Irish hospitality and gentleness to strike a chord in my heart. There’s such an affection for new people hidden in their sing-songy accents. When we reach Galway, I find another bookstore I want to visit and pick up a boba, a box of chocolates, and a Claddagh necklace on the way there. The Claddagh ring, a ring with a symbol of a heart held by two hands, has a unique history in Galway where women wore them on either hand and turned in different directions based on their relationship status. If it was worn on the left hand facing outwards, it meant a woman was single and ready to mingle. Left hand turned in meant she was seeing someone. Right hand turned outwards meant she was engaged and right hand turned inwards meant she was married. The ring’s code was a way for men to approach women on a night out, which the tour guide joked helped the awkward Irishmen land dates. On the way to the coast, I grab a box of fish and chips, and an order of oysters, to enjoy a seaside picnic. I’ve never had oysters before, and while I doubt I’d go out of my way to eat them again, I enjoyed the new experience and the splash of lemon juice. We culminate the tour with a round of old Irish pub songs that she sings with hints of melancholy and cheer at sunset and we part with a list of Dublin recommendations. I snapped a picture, but knew that the tour wore me out and I had a flight to catch in 10 hours back to Luxembourg.

Upon my arrival in Luxembourg the next morning, I felt like I’d just woken up from a dream. Even looking back at the pictures now, I can’t believe I saw the cliffs with my own eyes. And I had 2 full days to rest and recuperate, a first for the semester! If this stat homework and physics lab ever get done, I really get the best of both worlds this weekend.

Books, Books, Books, and.. Oh What Was It? Oh, Yeah Books!

Written by Swati

March 27th 2023

(Trinity College Old Library)

Another weekend. Another solo trip. Except this time to the incredible city of Dublin and to the Cliffs of Moher! At this point, I consider my travel life a pendulum. When I travel alone too much, I crave company, and after a few hours of company, I’m ready to set out on my own again. These past two weekends I paired and trio’d off with small groups to Germany and Belgium but I was able to snag round trip tickets to Dublin for just 2 days at around 40 euros on Ryanair! Truly the best of both worlds as I’ve been needing some time and space away from campus and the recent onset of everyone collectively hitting the wall, but also rest and time to recuperate from the go-go-go lifestyle. 

I love solo travel. I truly do. Gosh it’s so romantic. It’s so freeing. It’s incredible, it’s lovely. It makes the globe feel like a bead. Spin the top and go where your finger lands just because you can. And it provides so much more opportunity to seek out hidden alleyways and street murals. Every minute feels like a movie. While I didn’t have nearly enough time in the beautiful city of Dublin, the time I spent there was magic. Several of Dublin’s historic tourist sites are going through a period of refurbishment, the Dublin Castle and the Trinity College Old Library, but I still appreciated the ability to see them in transition. 

The Trinity College Old Library and Book of Kells were historic, beautiful, and so calming. Worth the 15 euro entry fee? Maybe debatable. But when I entered that room, I knew there was nowhere else I’d rather be. A beautiful oak room filled floor to ceiling with the oldest copies of Irish history (but not currently, they’re in the process of tagging and scanning sections of books for their digital collection) and busts of historical figures like Shakespeare, Plato, and Ada Lovelace. I sat on the corner of a wooden bench and just took it all in. I don’t consider myself much of a giftshop person but I made an exception at Trinity College when I found the most beautiful copy of ‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce, a notable author from Ireland. I couldn’t resist the gold lined pages and robin’s egg blue hardback cover. And the Irish bookstores! They’re truly a world of their own. I dreamt of being a writer for so long as a child and literary cities strike a chord in my heart. It’s why I harbor such affection for Edinburgh, whose many famous sites are in honor of Sir Walter Scott, a household Scottish writer, and Porto, for their famous bookstore and literary sites throughout the city. 

Sprinkled throughout Dublin are gems of bookstores and storytellers. I popped into The Winding Stair and picked up a copy of Letters to A Young Poet and browsed through Books Upstairs, another bookstore right next to my hostel. It was quite freeing to wander these English bookstores and stop myself from buying books not out of a lack of understanding but out of respect for my credit card. I’ve been having the opposite problem in Italy, Portugal, Belgium and France where I pick up copies of books and translate the pages individually, attempting to piece together stories before realizing that I can’t keep collecting books that I can’t effectively understand. Every bookstore proudly boasts copies of books written by James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and WB Yeats, three of the most notable Irish authors. I was also pleasantly surprised to find Salley Rooney, the author of ‘Normal People’ amongst the Irish bestsellers section! The next morning I woke up at 6am for my Cliffs of Moher Day Tour! I had originally planned to spend both days of this short trip in Dublin, but I booked a Cliffs of Moher Tour through GetYourGuide at the recommendation of another group from GTE who went to Ireland last month. Best. Decision. Ever. Stay tuned to find out more!


Written by Lilian

November 29, 2022

This weekend, I flew to the capital of Ireland – Dublin – to visit my cousin who attends medical school in the city! We spent our first day together walking around downtown Dublin and touring his medical school. I saw the bank where the Harry Potter’s Gringotts scenes were filmed and the Trinity College campus. Dublin’s downtown consists of low rising buildings filled with Irish pubs, stores, and residence buildings. Almost on every corner was an Irish pub! For lunch, we ordered “Spice Bags”— a paper bag filled with French fries, fried chicken, and a magnitude of different spices eaten with chopsticks— from a local Chinese takeout restaurant. The dish is truly an Irish classic. After finishing eating, we stopped to listen to some of the live music at the Temple Bar. 

From left to right: Irish Spice Bags, Grafton Street, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 

Later that night, we watched his school’s production of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” which is about 10 people who get mysteriously invited to a mansion on a remote island. One by one, members of the party get killed off, and the remaining survivors must try and figure out who the murderer is all while protecting themselves. It was really good and the actors were amazing. Additionally, the production can say someone flew from abroad to see their play! 

The next day, we ate brunch— I ordered the poached eggs and squash— and then headed to Howth Island via bus where we completed the Howth cliff walk. We hiked to the top of one of the mountains near the shore, and the wind was so intense. We could lean into the wind and be completely supported; it felt as if we were in a hurricane. The waves which crashed on the rocky shores were almost six feet tall, and the wind brought a cold misty spray as we walked along the slippery and muddy path. Despite the bad weather, the Ireland coast was gorgeous and well worth the chills. After Daylight Savings this October, the sun sets very early in the day (in my opinion, too early in the day). Starting at 4pm, we were required to run the rest of the trail— approximately 3 km— in order to reach the lighthouse by sundown; we finished panting, tired, and thoroughly satisfied. As a reward, we chowed down on ice cream at a dessert bar, fried dumplings, and carbonara ramen (which did not taste like carbonara if you were curious). 

The Howth Island Cliff Walk. Located about an hour via bus from the Dublin city center, it’s very easy to find and complete! 

On the last day, we ate breakfast together, and I was able to try the “Full Irish breakfast” which consists of sausages, ham, potato wedges, eggs, mushrooms, beans and toast, and black pudding. Black pudding is a sausage made of sheep’s blood and oats, and against most people’s opinion, I personally did not think it was that bad (although, I did not like the beans and toast). Afterwards, I took the bus to the airport to fly back to Luxembourg. 

Full Irish Breakfast. I find it quite fascinating how different countries’ breakfasts are so different from one another! 

Ireland was absolutely gorgeous. Howth Island was amazing to hike despite the running and the bad weather. If I had to come back to Ireland, which I hope to do in the future, I would love to see more of Ireland’s coastlines and towns! I also loved spending time with my cousin and catching up with him, and I cannot wait until he is back in the States! Also, not to brag, but I totally beat him, a med student, in the game “Operation”— €2700 to €2600. 

Semi Solo Traveling

Sunday, October 17, 2021 | Written by Mira

I’ve been told by previous GTL students that you must do a solo trip at least once. While some people go hiking by themselves for the weekend or do a day trip to a neighboring city, I opted to do a trip to Ireland to visit a friend from high school who goes to university in Dublin. The solo part was the actual traveling from point A to point B and back, but I did have someone to stay with, so it was a “semi-solo” travel weekend.


The best part of not having class on Thursday is that it gives me an extra travel day, and in this case, more time to reconnect with my friend in Dublin! However, my 4am wake-up call was not ideal and caused me a lot of stress because when traveling alone, no one is there to hold you accountable to actually wake up that early to catch the bus. 

If you’re trying to go to Charles de Gaulle from Metz, you might have to take a bus to Lorraine TGV station and then a train to the airport. This bus from Metz to the Lorraine TGV is located behind the station, and I’m glad I had enough time to find it as I wandered around the Metz train station at 5:45 in the morning. But I found it! The bus was on time, the train was on time, and I made it through the very confusing Parisian airport to get to the gate on time. 

The leaves are just starting to change colors!

My friend in Dublin recommended a few options for me to get from the airport to the city center. I took the Dublin Aircoach to Kildare Street near Saint Stephen’s Park, which had immaculate autumn vibes. After almost getting attacked by a flock of pigeons, I made my way to Beanhive (26 Dawson St, Dublin 2, D02 FY28), a coffeeshop my friend recommended to me. Beanhive claims to have Dublin’s most famous coffee art, and while my latte was pretty standard, their Instagram feed is pretty impressive.

 DAY 2

I was off on my own due to my friend having lab all day. I took this opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and do a solo excursion to the west coast of Ireland. After much research into day trips from Dublin and looking at reviews by solo women travelers, I decided to go for it and book an excursion through TripAdvisor. I woke up at 5am, my second early morning in a row, to walk to the pick-up location for the tour to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. 

The whole view was postcard worthy.

The Cliffs of Moher may be, without exaggeration, the windiest place I’ve ever been to. The farther up you went, the better the view, but the windier and colder it got. The Cliffs of Moher are one of those places where no picture can do it justice. To one side is the blue Atlantic Ocean that blends into the blue sky (we had great weather, no dark rain clouds!), and to the other side, is the country of Ireland, and you can clearly tell why it’s called the Emerald Isle. After walking up the north side of the trail for the postcard view, I headed back down and started on the southern trail. This part was less accessible, with a steeper incline and overall was more of a hike.

I felt like I was walking on the moon!

 Our next stop was the Burren Walk, a rocky coast that looks like the surface of the moon. I didn’t go all the way to the edge, but it seemed other-worldly. From there, we went to the ruins of an abbey and there was a cute Irish cow on the other side of the stone wall. One really cool thing about Ireland is that there are casually thousand year-old ruins on the side of the road, a sight unimaginable in the relatively young United States. The last stop of the day was Galway, a quaint town on the west coast. After walking around a little by myself, I got a cup of coffee and sat in a park until it was time for the bus to depart.

Ireland captured in one image: various shades of green, ancient ruins, and a fluffy cow.

Once back on the bus, my seat neighbor asked me where I was from. I said I was from the US but studying in France for the semester. He said he wasn’t sure if I was British, which I’ll take as a compliment, especially with an American couple belting the Star-Spangled Banner in front of us (the punishment for being late on the bus was singing your country’s national anthem). 

 DAY 3

Since I had already been to Dublin before, about 4.5 years ago, my friend wanted to take me to some smaller towns in the Dublin area. We walked across Dublin to the Dart; a train that took us to a small Dublin suburb called Dún Laoghaire, where we walked along the pier to a lighthouse. It was incredibly windy, so we walked back to the city center and found a lunch spot – The Sunshine Café (107 George’s Street Lower, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, A96 X771, Ireland). This café was the cutest, and they had a beautiful outdoor garden that we would’ve sat at if it were warmer.

The coffee cup imitating real life with the smoke stacks.

From Dún Laoghaire, we made our way back north, stopping in Sandymount, another residential suburb of Dublin. The town square reminded me of Gilmore Girls. My friend told me that they hold festivities in the town square every so often. We grabbed hot chocolate from Strand Fare (4 Seafort Ave, Dublin 4, D04 FC80, Ireland), a “gourmet grocery store,” one of my friend’s favorite places to grab a warm drink. After spending some time relaxing by the beach, we headed back to Dublin city center to her apartment before dinner.

 DAY 4

Our reservation was for when they opened, so we had a calm start to our meal.

My flight for France was in the early afternoon, which gave us enough time to have brunch before I had to leave. Brother Hubbard (153 Capel St, North City, Dublin, D01 V9V0, Ireland) is a very popular Sunday brunch spot for Dubliners, and it did not disappoint. I had a delicious latte with french toast, as recommended by my friend.

Before I knew it, my weekend with her was over, and I was headed back to the airport. Out of all the travel I’ve done so far, this trip was the most meaningful, as I was able to get outside my comfort zone and reconnect with a friend from high school. It definitely won’t be a trip I’ll forget.

To Dublin We Go!

Noa has one last travel blog for you! Read her starry-eyed account of her lovely trip to Ireland!

Hello all,

At the beginning of the month, I visited Ireland, where my friend Elle (the one from CU with whom I spent time with in Portugal) is studying abroad. I wasn’t really feeling like staying at a hostel, and they were weirdly expensive so I found a quaint Airbnb at this grandpa’s house. Initially, when I told my mom I was staying with an old Irish man in some random neighborhood she was not super impressed with my decision making, but he had excellent reviews which made me a little less worried. Most decisions I’ve made are definitely motivated by cheap prices, but a most have also been well researched. I’ve already made it obvious in past blogs which situations were not… which usually resulted in some sort of hike, an unnecessary amount of money spent, and sometimes nudity.

Luckily when I arrived to this kind old man’s house in Dublin none of the above occurred. I took a bus about an hour from the airport and after a delayed flight it was a nice surprise when Gearoid met me at the bus stop even while it was pouring rain. He walked me home and told me he felt bad about the weather being so crummy so he prepared me dinner! It was so sweet. I immediately told Elle that I would have to just see her the next morning since I was too busy watching BBC news with my old Irish friend and chatting about our lives over eggs, tomatoes and hot tea.

It wasn’t too bad that I couldn’t see Elle that night because I had arrived so late, and she was able to spend that evening with her brother, who was also in town. The week before I was supposed to come, Elle and I texted a lot to try to decide where to visit other than Dublin, but we weren’t really coming to a concrete decision so I texted her that we should finalize the plans since I land around 5pm and she replied, “you’re coming next weekend right?” After some back and forth we realized that Elle had accidentally planned for her brother and I to come on the same weekend. I wasn’t even phased by this sudden mix up, having experienced way stranger situations this semester. And it all worked out since Elle was still able to see me on the next day of my trip and I even got to meet her brother and his girlfriend during the evening.

That morning Elle and I met up in Dundrum where she lives and took the light rail to downtown where we had some yummy chai tea latte’s and caught up on everything. The whole day we both felt so incredibly lucky to get to see each other twice this semester.We walked all around Dublin, sat at some nice parks and even had burritos for lunch. Sidebar – I find it strange how many Mexican restaurants there are in Ireland? But I also am not questioning it. Afterwards I got boba, (obviously I’ve decided that I am doing a world tasting tour). We all had a very fun dinner together and then they drove me home, which made for a perfect first day!

The next morning I woke up early and took a bus to downtown, where I was going to be picked up by a tour bus to go visit the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. This was my last day in Dublin, and I spent it alone since Elle and her family went on a camping trip. It’s been my dream since high school to visit the Cliffs. I honestly had a wonderful experience even while being alone. Bussing through the Irish countryside was surreal and it felt like somewhere I would love to end up one day. When we got to the Cliffs, it was breathtaking, and I cried happy tears pretty much the entire two hours. After everyone finished hiking all around, we bussed to an interesting town for lunch, stopped at another mini cliff, and then made it to Galway. It was a very special, lively town, and while I only spent an hour there it is definitely a goal of mine to come back.  I didn’t expect to like the tour bus experience but I actually would recommend it since I learned so much about the history of Ireland and liked not having to worry about any of the details of the trip. I would love to visit Ireland again and try to do a road trip all around the country – although driving on the other side of the road absolutely terrifies me, so if anyone wants to come with, let me know.

Ireland was something straight out of a movie. The people were incredibly friendly, the places I visited were unique and colorful, and I felt really really happy. The only other place that made me feel this content was probably London.

Stay tuned!