Two weekends ago, Emily, Kim and I headed to Ireland for a couple of days. Just in case you’ve never seen the phrase that I used for my title before, it is Gaelic for “Ireland Forever” and is a very common saying in both Irish and Irish American families. For Emily and I, it was like returning home, as both of our families have their roots in the old country. We took an early flight out on Thursday and landed in Dublin with plenty of time to spend the day exploring in the city. After dropping off our bags at our hostel, Paddy’s Palace, we took off into the city, equipped with a map and a guide book.

During our trip I liked to consider myself the resident Irish expert. Due to an accidental 10-day vacation to Ireland when I was 17 (thanks a lot, ash cloud from Iceland), I had already toured the entire country. Needless to say, I was pretty confident I had the country on lock. However, when I first toured the country, I missed out on a pretty important part of culture in Dublin due to being underage, and traveling with my high school… the Guinness factory! We had bought our tickets for the tour weeks ago, and they were worth every penny. The Guinness factory has seven floors, and each floor is dedicated to a different aspect of the Guinness production process. There’s a taste testing floor, a floor dedicated to Guinness in the media, a floor about the science of preparing the perfect pint of Guinness and then there was my personal favorite – the Gravity Bar! The building itself was constructed to look like a pint, and in the bar on the top floor, you get an absolutely incredible view of the entire city. Not to mention that it is a great place to mingle with other Guinness connoisseurs, and we even met fellow Americans who lived in the towns next to us at home!

That night we headed into town to get the true Irish experience by checking out the pubs for some live music. After dining at the delicious Badass Cafe in the Temple Bar area (thanks for the recommendation, Prof. Bracken!) we took our talents to possibly the most touristy bar or pub in Dublin, Temple Bar. It was beyond crowded, but the live music was great, and we happened to run into a friend who is studying in London but was visiting Ireland with her dad for the weekend! Totally unplanned, but such a fun surprise to see Meag.

The next morning we boarded our Paddywagon Tour bus, which would bring us on a two day tour of Western Ireland, stopping in Connemara, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher before returning to Dublin. Our tour guide, John, was the absolute best and such a riot. He was beyond accommodating of our boneheadedness, too – we had booked a flight home at 9:30 p.m. out of Dublin airport (40 minutes away) when we were due to arrive back from the tour at 8 p.m. Not our brightest move. But John was the absolute best and made sure we caught our flight with plenty of time to spare – he had another tour guide drive the entire tour bus all the way to the airport for us! Can’t thank him enough for that one. You’re getting one helluva TripAdvisor review, John and Paddywagon Tours, let me tell you.

Unfortunately, the weather left quite a bit to be desired in Connemara, but that was to be expected as Ireland is known for its temperamental and rainy forecasts. When our group arrived to Galway, we all dropped off our things in the hostel before meeting up again for a group dinner at a local restaurant and complimentary pub crawl! We really lucked out with the group of people on our tour. They were from all over the world, and everyone was so friendly and interested in learning about one another. Emily, Kim and I ate our dinner with an old Hungarian woman, Judith, who was traveling Great Britain on her own. She was so interesting, with an incredible amount of stories regarding her life and travels to share with us. After dinner, we started the pub crawl with everyone at the restaurant we ate at before heading out on our own to meet some Boston College friends who were studying in Galway for the semester. They definitely showed us a great time, letting us experience student life in Galway, off the tourist beaten path.

The next morning, we all boarded the Paddywagon bus for the last time to head to the Cliffs of Moher. If you have never heard of the Cliffs, I suggest you do some googling right now. They are absolutely incredible, and when we were planning our trip, I insisted to Emily and Kim that we visit them. I had already seen them, but I swear I could go every single day and they would still take my breath away. The whole ride there, the rain was brutal and admittedly, we were all feeling a little down, thinking that the weather would be too horrible to have a good experience. But we must have had a little luck of the Irish, because just as we were pulling into the parking lot, the skies cleared and there was even a rainbow! That didn’t stop the wind, though, as Kim can attest to…her Barbour hood flew right off of her jacket and into the ocean!

After a lovely day at the Cliffs, we called an end to our trip, as we all headed back into Dublin. I can’t thank or praise Paddywagon Tours more – they truly made our experience in Ireland into what it was! It was a fantastic weekend in the homeland.