Summer Vacation Part 1: Barcelona

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After finishing my dissertation, a few friends and I jetted off for a few days of vacation and, man, did I need it. I’m the kind of person that takes a long time to decompress from long term stress, but I discovered that changing my surroundings did wonders for my relaxation – it really helped me realize that my dissertation was actually over! Woohoo!

First off, we headed to beautiful Barcelona. I’ve been craving hot weather all summer since summers in Dublin are typically mild and wet so this leg of the trip totally hit the spot. The city has so much energy and the siesta life is definitely something I can get on board with. I tried to unplug for the most part (so I didn’t take a ton of photos), but wanted to share some of my favorite bits from the trip.

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Where we stayed: Our beautiful AirBnb was perfect. A 3 minute walk from La Rambla, spacious enough for everyone to hang out and eat dinner or play cards, and had glorious air conditioning in each of the main rooms. The only complaint I would have is the stairs: you have to walk up 5 flights of stairs to get the apartment, so definitely not accessible, if that’s a consideration. Other than that, though, we had a wonderful time staying there and between the 5 of us it was about 20 bucks a night, which was cheaper than the hostels!

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Where we ate: La Boqueria is the market off of La Rambla and was hands down the best food we had the whole trip. I would not shut up about how amazing the oysters are – the shopkeeper literally cracks them open and hands them to you to eat with lemon and tabasco. Heaven. We also got fresh fruit smoothies, prosciutto sandwiches, cheese croquettes, and cups of aged ham for cheaper than anywhere else. Best food no matter your budget.

Other great places we ate were: Makamaka was perfect for post-beach burgers and beer since it’s so close to the ocean. And you have to get the truffle parmesan fries, they might be the most delicious things I’ve ever had. Another great spot we went to was Story, a chill, hip spot with great homemade pasta and unique tapas. Think bearded hipster waiters and classic 1950s tunes – great atmosphere.

We totally caved and ate dinner at one of the touristy outdoor restaurants along La Rambla, but I would recommend going once. Great people watching and they have all the tapas and paella you could want. And order the black rice paella, it’s seriously the best!

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Where we drank: Since we were on a budget for the trip, we opted for the cheapest drinks humanly possible and oh did we find them. Two of my friends had stayed at the Kabul Hostel the last time they’d come to Barcelona and, although we weren’t staying there, they welcomed us to their dirt cheap rooftop bar. Like €2 cups of sangria and €1 shots dirt cheap. Obviously these aren’t the most delicious drinks ever, but when the clubs and restaurants charge €12 for a beer, it was a relief to find somewhere affordable. Plus, Kabul does fun bar crawls every night if you’re looking to go out and meet some new people.

In terms of nightlife, we joined Kabul on their bar crawl on the first night, which was great since we hadn’t really planned anything yet. Although the “free shots” and “party games” were a bit lame, it was nice to not worry about where to go and just go along for the ride. We also had a great time at Opium along the beach, but I would steer clear of Bling Bling which was unreasonably snobby and overpriced.

P.S. If anyone knows of a great hip-hop club in Barcelona, please let me know! We were searching for this place that the boys had been before that played great rap and r&b music, but struck out. We’re still so curious, though!

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What we did: Believe it or not, we did more than drink on our trip and actually got some sightseeing done while we were there. We visited the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, which had a beautiful collection, and walked around the deserted Olympic Village, which is just behind the museum. We toured the completely beautiful Sagrada Familia, which was my favorite because I’m a sucker for big, elaborate churches. And on our last afternoon, we rented paddle boards from a beach side shop and had the best time floating along (but mostly falling into) the ocean – just look out for jellyfish!

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Definitely a successful first leg of the journey! Although pretty steeped in tourists given it was the high season, we still had a great time – a good mix of relaxing, sight seeing, and partying. Just what the doctor ordered after a summer stuck in the library… Keep your eyes peeled for the Vacay Part 2: Berlin, coming at you very soon!

Galway & Cliffs of Moher

I’m back y’all! To say this month is crazy would be an understatement – between finishing my master’s degree, having friends come to stay, going on vacation, and prepping for a big move life has been nuts! But before I even begin to think about wrapping things up here in Dublin, I’d like to share a few of my recent adventures…

For the last two weeks, our good friend Mario has been staying with us and before embarking on our trip to the Continent (which you’ll be hearing about soon) we decided to show him a little bit more of Ireland. So we hopped on a bus and headed out to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.

It’s amazing how quickly you realize that Dublin is so different from the rest of the country – rich, green landscape with houses scattered along country roads is way more the norm here than life in the Big Smoke. It’s my biggest regret that I haven’t gone out into the country more, but glad to have finally checked the Cliffs off my list!

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We first stopped in Galway for a little walking tour, highlights include: Galway Harbour, drinking cappuccinos on the main street, and discovering that the one-armed pan flute player (pictured above) had moved to Galway! He’s our absolute favorite street musician – I even bought his Christmas album – and we’ve been wondering where he went so imagine our surprise!

This is my second quick trip to Galway (see my last post here), but this time around the weather was WAY more beautiful and the whole town seemed so lively. We were told several times about the numerous festivals in the area, so if you’re headed out that way make sure to check out the festival schedule. Would love to stop by the oyster festival some time… 😋

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After leaving Galway, we took a few rest stops on our way towards the cliffs for photos and some delicious pub food. We used the Dublin Tour Company for our trip, which was good and ran us about 50 euro for the whole day. I’ve also taken Paddywagon Tours before, which is a little cheaper, but seemed generally the same, if you’re in the market. I do wish we’d brought our own snacks and water, though, because the rest stops throughout the day were by far our biggest expense.

None of that mattered though when we reached the Cliffs of Moher, themselves. They were as striking as I’ve been told and you seriously have no concept of how tall they are until you’re really looking over them. Some people were crazy getting super close to the edge despite the fact there was a huge landslide just a few weeks before… But even from the safety of the path, the views are spectacular.

From the visitor center we went toward the tower to see the Right Cliff first, which was smaller but very beautiful. It’s also an easier and shorter walk than the Left Cliff, if you’re not up for a hike. Then we walked along the Left Cliff (pictured directly below), which is the more popular of the two sides. Although the weather was beautiful, it also brought along the crowds, especially around midday when all the tour buses arrive. I would recommend staying nearby and getting there early if you want to avoid the masses.

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But seriously though, no complaints here. It was totally amazing and I’m so glad I got to see one of the most iconic landscapes in Ireland. Unreal stuff.

On our way home, we took another quick photo opp at The Burren, which is a national park in Ireland with a particularly unusual landscape. So unusual, in fact, that NASA used to bring astronauts to it to simulate the surface of the moon. A gorgeous spot with its bumpy rocks and jagged shoreline and kind of refreshing amongst all the lush, green landscape.

All in all, our trip took 14 hours so it was a day. And I may or may not have come home and worked on my dissertation for another 3 hours afterward. Great time management there, Maddie… But it was definitely worth the time, so if you’re looking for a great day trip out of Dublin I would definitely recommend it!

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