🍀 Fascinating Ireland 🍀

In a short period of time, less than a week, it’s a little rushed to cover two cities and a gorgeous island. Still, I felt that I explored those places piece by piece, letting place for getting connected with nature, eating in interesting restaurants, meeting wonderful people and getting tipsy in Irish style. That being said, my advice  would be: pack and go! In as short as 5 days time, you’ll get to discover a lot more than you would expect.

Start in Dublin

Landing at 10 pm on a Saturday evening in Dublin doesn’t leave you many options, so yes, it’s a good idea to spend the night in the capital. Dublin is a rather small city and as I noticed immediately, it’s very compact in the centre. That means that most probably any of the hostels you choose to stay at it’s very likely to be surrounded by at least a couple of bars. That can be pretty annoying if you had a long day and are looking to get some rest in a calm ambiance. Forget about it, it’s not going to happen, unless you are willing to pay much more than just 15 euros/night somewhere else.

I think you got the point: Dublin has great nightlife, vibrant, noisy, full of life city centre, packed with tipsy, but friendly Irish and dozens of tourists from all around the world.

The next morning though it’s exactly the opposite. Sunday morning around 9ish you can barely see some early birds wandering around. On the other hand, unfortunately you can see a lot of waste on the streets, such as empty beer cans, bottles and basically all you could imagine that a few hours before served for making someone’s party mood. 

That shortly will be cleaned away ( already should have been though) and you get to discover a pretty city in a rather grumpy day. 

     
Weather is just a detail however, which  changes quickly in Ireland, luckily this time to better. During a day you might experience various seasons, switching just in a minute from rain to sun and so on. For a short time while the sun is up Dublin becomes bright and refreshed.

  
  
  The Dublin Castle, right in the city centre is beautiful and hard to miss while walking along the river.

   
Temple Bar area is cute and diverse, plenty of bar, pubs, boutiques and options for eating and also accomodation. I especially liked the fact that in particular this area is full of flowers. The facades of several buildings are nicely decorated with colorful flowers, giving a special charm to the narrow streets and a romantic touch to the whole district. 

  
  
  
Allocate for all above aprox 3 hours, that’s the average time you need for a relaxed discovery of downtown, attractions visit excluded. 

Galway

From the very beginning I thought about visiting the charming city of Galway, which is just a 2 h bus ride from Dublin. July is a great time of the year, lots of events going on during the festival of arts. Galway is small, but hosts plenty of cultural events and I personally think that on it’s main street are busking the most talented amateur artists I’ve heard performing in Ireland and not only. 

During the summer there is a small market, where I found my speciality for the day: crepe filled with strawberries, maple syrup and whipped cream and a mix of white and  dark Belgian chocolate. Absolutely, dangerously delicious!

  

 In two steps you get away from the main street and you have the option of following the river for a stroll or just walk along the coast. I did both, aprox 2-3, short stops included.   Along the way you meet people who cycle, walk the dog, jog or just wander around. 

  
  
  
  
  
Galway is as much vibrant at night as Dublin, many pubs have live music on a daily basis and the atmosphere in such places is incomparable. Irish hospitality is definitely present, it’s not unusual at all that people come over to you in the bar to cheer and ask you what brings you to their country. The funny view is when you spot the ginger Irish dude’s face turning into lobster color after a few pints of Guiness. The atmosphere is fantastic, beer is good, prices are acceptable – I don’t even wonder why pubs are full every night.

  

    

  
Inis Mor
The following day is looking to be exciting since I booked a scenic flight, which means I fly in a tiny plane just above Aran Islands and Cliff of Moher. The excitement fades when I receive the call in the morning, announcing that it’s cancelled due to low visibility, but instead I can still take the regular flight to the island, spend a few hours there and after fly back to Connemara. A bit dissapointed, but I’ve chosen to go and it turned out to be a great day. I hopped on right next to the pilot in the mini plane and in less than 10 minutes we were landing on Inis Mor, the largest of Aran Islands.

  
 

 I took a bus tour together with some fellow travelers I met just in the bus stop. Our guide introduced us to the rich Irish culture, which is so alive on the island and took us to the most picturesque sights. Inis Mor is mesmerizing, even the sun came out to greet us. 

   
There are several bed and breakfasts, hostels and one single hotel and one supermarket on the island. On the question : ” is there any hospital on the island?” our funny guide’s proud answer was : ” no,we are healthy: we eat fish and drink Guiness”. Locals live their simple lives, keeping traditions and the language alive, having a few cows and going fishing. It’s admirable how happy and satisfied they are, away from the agitation of the mainland, having the ability of finding the fulfillment in the beauty of the nature that surrounds them.

  
  

  

  

End in Dublin

Since Dublin has an international airport, most likely the majority ends the holiday there. If time allows you I would include also Howth. It’s a short, 30 min train ride from the centre and it’s a real treasure if you are a seafood fan. 

  
Otherwise, The Bank on College Green, right in the heart of Dublin, is the best choice. A former bank transformed into a high class restaurant nowadays, serves a variety of delicious meals and a selection of Irish beer and whiskey in an elite ambiance. Finishing your Irish adventure must include a bar hopping and you have where to choose from for sure. If you :checked out some pubs, had a few more beers, listened to the typical music and ended up strolling around the city at 1 am with your Australian mate trying to find the right way – you did well in Ireland!

Belgium in 6 days

Belgian beer and chocolate attract for sure many tourists from all around the world. Most of them land in the capital and unfortunately many don’t make their way out of it to the less well know towns. Belgium is not just about Brussels! Just a 20 minutes train ride from the airport and we are in:

Leuven
This cute university town is my first stop in my Belgian backpacking trip. On a Sunday it’s very quiet and relaxed,but I don’t mind as the weather is nice and I can soak up the sun in the Botanical Garden of Leuven next to a Belgian beer.

  
Leuven is a university town and you can notice this while walking around and seeing at every corner the bars and restaurants advertising their special student menus at low,student prices. Though no student on a Sunday! “The city is empty of students during weekend” – locals say – ” here,in Belgium students still like to go home for the weekend and spend time with their parents.” Nice of them I would say… I have to just imagine how crowded it gets during the week and the now almost empty Oude Markt probably is murmuring.

  
I can still notice some movement around the city hall: a huge group of elderly tourists posing with the beautiful landmark. Conclusion: Edit come back on a weekday if you want to see the other face of Leuven!

  
Brugge

Before going to Brugge I watched the movie In Brugge and the town is so small that I didn’t need any direction to find the places presented in the movie. It’s loaded with tourists facing their cameras in every direction, because in every direction there is something pretty. Brugge, although is very touristy, was my second favorite town in Belgium. With it’s canals and those eye catching medieval architecture, Brugge steals your heart in an instant. 

 Walking around Brugge is more than relaxing, it’s a real cuddle to the soul and also a perfect ambiance to endulge in the delicious variety of Belgian chocolates. You can find any shape and flavor you desire, just at a hand stretch towards the chocolate and of course your wallet.
 
Ghent

From the second favorite I made my way to the first favorite. Ghent has the perfect vibe, the friendliest Belgians, the funniest Monday night out and I bet that many other – est-s. I didn’t expect so much from this town, I’m sure that also the company made a difference, but man,I really liked this place! You actually have the impression that you are wandering around a big city ’cause it’s active and full of energy. If you ask me to describe Ghent in one word, I’ll just say: alive. Let me add also: divers. It has chill riverside, busy shopping street, medieval castle, artistic grafitti and my super awesome friend, Cindy. 
   
 

+ 10 for Ghent!

Antwerp

Biking in Belgium is a pretty popular way of getting around and Antwerp is a good place to do so. It’s a rather small town but with fairly enough to offer and a gorgeous train station.

   
  

 

You would think that the pics above are from a cathedral,right? Well, that’s the main station in Antwerp. It’s ranked as the worlds most beautiful train station and no doubts about that.  

Not only the train station is beautiful in Antwerp. The city hall and various buildings in the central area worth checking out too.

   
  

 

We are in the country of beer, so let’s pay a bit of attention to this detail and find out that Belgium has more than 375 types of beer. Basically you can treat yourself for a whole year every day with a different kind of beer and that still leaves  you for New Year’s Eve with at least another 10 different flavores to try out. Cool, no?

  
Brussels

Arriving to the capital might sound exciting, but in fact it isn’t. For me Brussels was rather disappointing and from far not the prettiest place in Belgium. Such a pity that many tourists visit Brussels only and miss so much by not checking out the others.

However, Brussels is a city as any other capital, with it’s multicultural mix and the best waffles in the world. 

Grand Place is not as grande ( = big) , but not too bad for hanging out , there are many shops, restaurants, bars and waffle vendors closeby. 

  
Mmmm, did I tell you that in Brussels you have the best waffles in the world? Right, I did, but it’s hard to focus when you remember that taste. Don’t – and I mean DON’T – skip that! Waffles are a must! 

Ok,getting back to Grand Place – which is still not as exciting as waffles – it’s nice to walk around and make your way to the famous Mannekin Pis.

 
Of course, Atomium is nice to see, there’s also a cute park next to it with lots of rabbits jumping around freely in the grass.

   

 And you can admire the beautiful flowers all over, but after that rush out of Brussels and discover the real beauty of Belgium. In less than an hour train ride you reach:

Liège

Laidback, small town, perfect for a daytrip from Brussels. Besides the center there’s not much to see or do, but it’s great for a day when the motto is : “take it easy “. 

 For church lovers there are a few to check out, as I had enough time I walked in a few and were quite nice, all just a few steps from each other.

The Liège Guillemins train station is another masterpiece Belgians are proud of, being also in the top 12 most beautiful train stations in the world.

 
  


In order to put an original print on the whole trip I ended it in a Romanian restaurant in Liège. No matter where I am, for me the best food still comes from home, so I’m sorry Belgium, you might have the best beer and waffles and fries, but my yummi ciorba de perisoare doesn’t have any comparison grade. Though it’s not much appreciated by locals, says the restaurant owner.