My sister and I began our second full day in Ireland with a hunt for an “Insomnia” cafe. Instead we ended up at Cloud Nine, across the street from the legendary Temple Bar, for coffee and donuts. I still have not developed a taste for European coffee but this was as close to a good cup of coffee I think I had any hope of finding. It was definitely still burnt, but tolerable with a bit of milk and sugar. My sister enjoyed herself a donut. Though I was not able to partake in the pastry eating, I was enjoying the cute-sy presentation of the donuts. The shop itself was pretty cute, with clean white brick, vibrant pink accents, and a modern finish.
Once we had our caffeine and sugar fix, we tried going to the Trinity College Library, but I got us lost trying to find the entrance. We ended up walking around the entire college (a bit over a mile) before we found the entrance exactly where we had started. I had the ironic experience of having several travelers ask me for directions, unaware that I myself was lost. My sister found this to be rather funny and asked why so many people (three separate groups) assumed I knew where I was going. I told her that through traveling alone as a female, I had very quickly learned to walk everywhere with confidence regardless of if I truly had it. As female travelers, it’s important for us to walk with our shoulders back and heads up and to never let any fear or confusion we might experience show in our faces.
The Long Room was a dream come true with thousands of ancient books filling the space with aromas of decomposing ink and dust. It was such an indescribable experience, so instead, here are some pictures.
From Trinity College, we set on our way to Belfast. We missed our bus by just a few seconds but ended up getting perfect seats on the next bus an hour later. We sat on the second level in the front row and received a glorious view of the Irish coastal countryside, even through a bug splattered windshield. Though I was exhausted, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the view. The journey took around an hour and 45 minutes and during the drive my sister noticed that many of the Northern Irish traffic signs showed distance in miles. We found this quite odd considering the UK uses the metric system. Upon doing a little research, we learned that both Ireland and the UK use miles to mark distance on their highways.
Once we’d settled into our hostel, we popped into a restaurant around the corner for a nice sit down dinner. On our way back from dinner, we stopped to check out a painted garden wall. The stretch of concrete was painted with accomplished people of the neighborhood and historic moments from the area. The neighborhood we were staying in was near empty but for a few locals and hostelers. We saw less than a handful of people while walking several blocks to the market while daylight still shone. On this walk, we saw a few more murals commemorating the lives of people from Sandy Row. I got a strong sense that it was a community rich area. For some reason, it also seemed like every British flag hung, was hung with aggressive patriotism, showing agreeance with the historic divide.
There were local elections going on while we were visiting Northern Ireland. During the drive, we were able to learn a little about Northern Irish politics through the campaign posters. We were able to discern two clear political parties, “Unionists” or those who wished to remain with the UK and “Alliance” or those who were motivated by reunification with Ireland. Even in just the few hours we had spent in Belfast on our second full day in Ireland, we were able to see that tensions are still high between the two groups, even decades after much of the violence, from what is referred to as “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, has calmed. Even just walking around and overhearing conversations, we were able to see that this tension is again on the rise with the presence of Brexit.
Overall, this day of casual travel and exploration showed us that there are learning opportunities everywhere, so long as you keep your ears and eyes open. Just being in a new place, whether it be a foreign country or a new city, offers the chance to broaden your understanding of the world. While I enjoy the grand adventures I have embarked on in the last few years, it is days like these that show me how much I love travel.