When I stepped off the plane and onto Scotland ground I was instantly greeted by a penetrable wind that made me realize how unprepared my only jacket was for the adventure ahead. I was definitely not under Barcelona blue skies anymore. The adventure continues…
As we walked through the darkened streets of sleepy Glasgow I turned to ask my backpacking buddy, Cinnamon, where we would be staying tonight. At this point I knew we would be couch surfing, which I highly recommend to those budget backpackers in and around Europe. Cinnamon replies that we would be staying with a couple of Glasgow University students and that she responded to the couch surfing host, “creepy couch.”
That’s right, we travel weary americanas would be crashing with members of the creepy couch crew for a two day duration. I will admit, I wasn’t all too keen on the idea but, hey, when in Rome…or Glasgow?
Who knew that Faheem and his non-creepy couches would be such an experience. Not only did we learn a lot about Faheem and his journey in life, which I may say is an interesting, inspiring one, but we also received some great local insight about the city of Glasgow. There is nothing like directions and suggestions from locals, something Trip Advisor or any suggested link could never provide.
Glasgow is known for its underground music scene, never ending nightlife and may I add some of the best curry I have ever tasted, besides mine. Instead of jumping from club to club and dancing until the sun rose and we couldn’t see straight, we decided to take a low-key local route.
We started with an incredible little teahouse called the Chai Ovna. This little spot is a tough find without asking someone on the street, which I highly recommend instead of Google Maps. This sweet smelling establishment, tucked behind a wall of buildings is a must go for early mornings or lunchtime. Not only does its inviting, warm environment remind you of a small cabin in the woods, but its assortment of teas and chai from all over the world will leave you feeling replenished and relaxed. I recommend getting the plate of cookies for an even better experience.
Next, Café Phoenix, why another café? Well, we were lost. It was the perfect café to stumble upon for we received some excellent insight on some local bars that were a must see, for example The Squid and Whale and The Sparkle Horse, which turned out to be my personal favorite with a huge selection of Irish and Scottish craft beers and incredibly friendly service.
I can’t forget to mention the variety of vintage shopping which I believe is a never-ending weakness for us ladies.
Next stop Edinburgh…
You know you have to check out a city when every local in Glasgow recommends it. Though we were only there for a night, the energy the town produced was something that will make me come back. There was live music in almost every pub we walked by, people from all over, with pint in hand bobbed to the same rhythm and enjoyed each others company. Spanish, Welsh, Irish, Scottish and American, you name it, they were there and we were all having a good time.
When we woke up with a jolt we realized this good time might have cost us our flight which turned into a cancelation and a six hour wait in a cold airport, non of the less we were headed to Dublin for it’s world famous Saint Patrick’s Day celebration.
If you are like me who walks head up and eyes forward, let me just saying during this celebration I advise you to keep your head down and watch your step for with large consumption of alcohol and public intoxication comes the horrific, unwanted outcome. I think we all know where I am getting at here.
So, straight to the hostel we went dodging and weaving through walls of people. If you are a hostel kind of person I highly recommend the hostel, Generator. Though it seems to aim for a younger crowd the rooms were clean and the environment was energetic and comfortable. Unpacked and ready for the night, with what little green we had on, we took the streets. It was incredible the vibe the city was pumping off. It bordered the lines of the Apocalypse but no one was worried kind of party. The city was alive. Everyone and their red-faced, pint-nursing mother were there, from every part of the world.
We started with something easy and less crowded, or maybe we were just lucky. This bar, The Black Sheep, hidden from the tourist trap streets provided a variety of tasty brews at a reasonable price. It was a good pre funk bar for the rest of the evening. Next stop, the famous Porterhouse Bar, located in Dublin’s famous Temple Bar area was by far my favorite hangout, with it’s famous Oyster Stout, I was a singing, dancing fool all night long. After meeting numerous men named Patrick and dodging several, bearded Irish kisses, we grabbed a giant slice of greasy pizza and headed back to the hostel. It was a late, successful night. I survived Saint Pat’s in Dublin; do I get some kind of reward?
An early morning and one whisky hangover later we were on the bust to Galway. Apparently Galway is the place to be for St. Patrick’s and I can absolutely see why. This city, known for being the cultural heart of Ireland is oozing Irish music, tradition and culture. I was in love with the town immediately. Despite the nipping, cold wind, the street music was energetic and the bar entryways were warm and the beer was always a reward for braving the cold. Go to Galway, stay in the hostel Barnacles, drink the Galway local brews and talk to the Galway locals. Check out Quay Street, The Salt House and The Pie Maker, made by L.A. local Stephanie Dicks, her homemade pies and inspiring stories and ideas will make you not want to leave. I will never forget The Pie Maker crew and how those pies melted in my mouth. Definitely going back.
Wait, there’s Moher.
Many of the hostels provide trips to the Cliffs of Moher and other surrounding famous attractions at a great price. If around this area in Ireland and staying in a hostel you absolutely must go to the Cliffs of Moher. Seeing these cliffs before your eyes truly makes you feel so small in this world, at the mercy of nature. These cliffs are massive, green, healthy and intimidating. The bus driver wasn’t kidding comparing these winds to those in a hurricane. I have never had to combat wind like that, it was incredible and the photo ops were even better. The bus ride up was just as beautiful as well. The Irish country side with its man made stone walls and lush green fields accompanied by cows, calves and sheep really add to the Irish feel.
Returning back to Galway with a homemade veal pie from The Pie Maker made for a perfect day and the creamy stout that followed by a wild night with two, salty Irish locals, Patrick and Thomas made for an unforgettable evening. May I add Patrick had been to my home state Montana? Small world we live in.
In the morning Galway had sun, finally after rain and wind we were…back on the bus and on our way to Cork, in the south west of Ireland. Known as the “Rebel City” referring to the last strong hold that was against the pro-Treaty Free State. Corkonians refer to their city as the “Real Capital of Ireland,” and have a rivalry with Dublin for this reason. Cork is also home to an incredible market called The English Market, which provides locals and tourists with fresh produce and traditional dishes of the region. Cork is also close to the kissable Blarney Stone as well as hosts numerous music, theatre and film festivals. Feeling artsy? Go to Cork.
What I learned and what you need to know:
1. Drink Guiness, yeah sure, you may feel like a tourist but Guiness is their pride and joy. Ask for it in a straight glass, best Guiness you’ll taste.
2. Don’t be a health freak in Ireland, it’s annoying. Just go for it, chocolate stouts and hoppy ales. Mashed potatoes and loads of gravy, curry and caramel, chocolate shortbread, Irish coffees and much more. You won’t be disappointed.
3. Get to know the locals; these people make Scotland and Ireland what it is. If you need to ask for directions, ask the hunched over women in the street, you will feel so tickled inside when she calls you “love” in her heavy accent. Know your bartenders and the man sitting to the left or right of you, the advice and stories you will take in is something you won’t forget.
4. Learn some Irish words, according to an Irish local:
“Póg Mo Thóin.”- Kiss My Ass
5. Dance, sing, enjoy and explore Scotland and Ireland, there is so much to see and experience, either town you will most likely not be disappointed. Make the experience your own.
I definitely enjoyed mine. Cheers and Póg Mo Thóin!