Cliffs of Moher, What You Didn’t Know Harry Potter Lovers

Cliffs of Moher, What You Didn’t Know Harry Potter Lovers

There’s no doubt that if you are planning a trip to Ireland you’ll miss the numerous recommendations to visit the Cliffs of Moher. If you want my honest opinion, the cliffs were stunning no doubt, with there being 5 ledges you can see from afar…. but (yes, there’s a but) there are many places in Ireland that replicate the area and that are more serene, I think.

When you arrive, because even if this isn’t planned you’ll end up being convinced to go, you have two route options.

If you want the beautiful panoramic view, go right. This trail leads you to a small castle you can pay 2 euros to climb and you can get the views you’re looking for, which include the view of the 5 cliffs from the distance to give you the shot you’re looking for. Plus, there are places here where you can connect to Wifi and have seating options for a nice lunch.

I do encourage you, though, to go left. This trail takes you toward paths near the edge of the cliffs, and in my opinion, gives you the full spirit of how truly beautiful this place is. There are parts of the path as you walk you’ll see how massive these natural ledges are and how scary the fall could be. But, if your adventurous and unafraid of heights could pose a good place to find a flat piece of land and eat a packed lunch, which is what I did!

As I ate there and stared around I couldn’t help but be grateful to have come to Ireland. It’s beautiful natural landscapes, and wonder what secrets these cliffs held, considering the cliffs were so massive.

My answer was pleasantly answered while on the bus leaving the cliffs…

The tour guide went over all the movies the cliffs were featured in, and honestly the list was so long I tuned out, then she said it… Harry Potter.

Harry Potter lovers continue reading…. do you remember in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Harry and Dumbledore try to find the horcruxes, and one of those found in the potion of despair, located in a cave with crashing waves? Guess what cliffs they passed to get in the cave, and where the cave was located? Yes, the Cliffs of Moher, in fact, the entryway of this cliff is in front of the third cliff where there is a large rock emerged from the ocean floor, as shown in the image below.

Cliffs of Moher

From Harry Potter & the Half-Blood PrinceThe_Cave_entrance

Let’s just say, until that fun fact was thrown out I was a bit underwhelmed by all the hype…mostly so because the number of people swarming around, where I found myself more worried about bumping into someone than appreciating the gorgeous views. But, if you’re a Harry Potter lover and end up here… now you can be pleased to know it’s very likely you’ll be walking on top of the set of one of the final films! You’re welcome!

How to Get from the Dublin Airport to Downtown Dublin

How to Get from the Dublin Airport to Downtown Dublin

I generally plan transportation in advance to/from where I am going when landing to a new place. This time, however, I refrained because booking in advance was extremely extensive $60/each way, and I knew if I procrastinated when I got there I could find a cheaper option. And yes, even looked to see how long it would be for me to walk to the hostel if needed (1 1/2 hours).

When arriving to the public transportation section the typical methods, taxi, shuttles, and busses were available.

  • Taxi estimated cost 50-70 euros
  • Shuttle bus 25 euros
  • Bus 6 euros each way

Do you want to guess which one I chose? You guessed it!

Okay, so the bus… walked to the bus pick-up area. I arrived at 4am, so you can imagine the resources available to answer my questions were limited so I had to figure out. The map of which buses go to which cities and locations was of no help unless you know the district you’re staying. That said, I aimlessly wandered for a good 15 minutes, probably looking like an idiot to those who I thought had it figured it out (more to come). I finally found a website listed on one of the bus signs that noted “avoid the lines book your ticket in advance.” That website: http://www.aircoach.ie. Here you can book online.

Second obstacle, where are you headed? Again, it listed all these districts, but this time it had several “Downtown District” options. I could have researched where my hotel was relative to these district locations but at this point I was just in a hurry to get Downtown and away from the airport, so I selected the “Downtown District O’Connell Street.”

I headed back to the bus stop area, again passing by the people who I found out were waiting for the ticket office to open, which was not until 8am. Again, this was 4am…. uhhhh! I did let them know of the website, but they insisted that the ticket office would have to open soon… I hope they made it alright. Us stupid millennials and our technology (I’m just saying, we are resourceful!).

Okay next hurtle, buses started to come, but none of them said exactly where they were going. So like a true tourist I entered every bus asking the driver by showing my receipt if I was on the right bus. After 2 wrong ones, I found the right one.

Also, luckily, the ticket I bought to O’Connell Street ended up being the right one.  Thank goodness too because they don’t take credit cards on the bus. However, I will say all the people in Ireland are extremely hospitable and willing to help, so knowing that now that I have returned, if I hadn’t picked the right stop I am sure they would have taken me as far as I needed.

I used the same website to book my trip back to the airport, which is a hell of a lot easier since it blatantly lists DUB Airport as the destination. I will say if boarding from the O’Connell area there are about 5 stops to the airport, so plan at least a 45 minute trip (30 mins to get there and 15 mins worth of stops).

Resources:

Air Coach Bus Link

Abbey Court Hostel, Downtown Dublin

Abbey Court Hostel, Downtown Dublin

On this trip my most common question was how and why do I stay at a hostel. The answer is really quite simple… it is the cheapest way to stay somewhere, generally is safer since surrounded by many people, and because it is a great way to meet new people from all over the world.

Trust me I have had my fair share of bad hostels, but I have found recently that trusting in the ratings by people who stay at hostels has been to my benefit, even if for a little more per night, for the stay.

My Rating:

I would rate this hostel a 10/10! Nothing negative to say!

I highly recommend to anyone staying in Dublin to stay at the Abbey Court Hostel!

Location:

The hostel is located near the city center, and in walking distance to nearly everything, including all the tourism agencies, so that you can make best use of your free time!

29 Bachelors Walk, North City, Dublin, D01 AX90, Ireland

Cost:

Each night at the hostel was 94 euros (~$110) for 6 nights, approx. $18USD/night.

Cleanliness:

The hostel was very clean! They have signs throughout the hostel noting that they clean between 10pm-5am. All the bathroom, toilets, and showers, were extremely sanitary. Although they didn’t have cleaning signs up for day cleaning it was evident someone was keeping up with general maintenance throughout the day.

Number of Bathrooms & Showers:

Each floor had 3 general bathrooms, and at least 6 showers. The only time I found it difficult to get in was around breakfast time at 7:30am.

Breakfast:

The cost per night also included breakfast each morning served at 7:30am. My recommendation is arrive about 15 mins early so that you can get dibs on the fresh and best food available. Choices included: cereal, fresh meats, cheeses, pancakes, oatmeal, and fruits.

Accommodations:

  • All women bunk options:  I stayed in 10-bunk room. It was actually quite nice as all the girls were extremely respectful of space, and turning off the lights early at night, and quiet when leaving each morning.
  • Luggage Drop- Off: if you are in between places, or you arrived earlier than the check-in time you can leave your luggage at the front desk for 8 euros.
  • Free Walking Tours: This hostel, among some others, had free walking tours daily generally with two time options, 11am and 2:30p
  • Lots of Common Areas: This hostel had a smoking section that was nicely decorated that had some outdoor access located near the basement of the building, a study area with access to the Internet for free, and a large kitchen area where people often played games, met for dinner etc.

 

Top 8 Bars to Visit in Dublin

Top 8 Bars to Visit in Dublin

Here’s a quick top 8 countdown guide to the best bars in town!

8. The Meltdown

Located centrally in Temple Bar this bar is perfect for a good drink and has a huge stage for live music, that also converts into a sports bar with a large TV for futbol games.

The average drink was 12 euros, but unlike other bars you’re not obligated to buy a drink to stay and take a table!

7. PantiBar

7-8 Capel St, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland

If looking for a liberal crowd of 30-somethings this bar is for you. This is a gay bar that has “fabulous” drinks all for 7 euros! Good place to get started with lots of people showing up early.

 

6. The Arlington

23-25 Bachelors Walk, O’Connell Bridge, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland

This bar has a secret located downstairs! You can purchase for 35 euros for a 3 course dinner, 2 hours of live music and traditional Celtic dancing!

If looking for something more affordable, since there are bars that have free live music and dancing options, you can stay upstairs and their main bar area has a live band from 8-11pm–plus during intermission of songs Drake often comes on…LOL.

5. The R.I.O.T

4 Aston Quay, Temple Bar, Dublin, D02 VP93, Ireland

Located in the midst of the Temple Bar district is this small bar that has up and coming artists playing requested songs, and good drinks!

Average cost 10 euros.

4. The Bachelor 

This pub is a small hole in the wall pub located near the city center, next to O’Connells Bar Dublin (next recommendation). This place has new artists looking to get the spot light, playing a lot of American rock tunes.

The average drink is 6 euros.

3. O’Connells Bar Dublin

This bar is closest to most hostels in the area located right at the intersection of Bachelor & O’Connell St.

If you’re into a good karaoke night this is the perfect bar for you! On the weekends after 10pm they have open mic karaoke. This bar exceeds the customer service of all the bars I visited during my trip! This is one of the bars that has both outdoor and indoor seating too, if you want to people watch with the live music!

2. The Church 

Junction of Mary St. and Jervis St., Dublin 1, Dublin, D01YX64, Ireland

Talk about a hidden gem! This bar is little off the beaten path, but worth the extra 5-10 min. walk. This bar is a former church that was converted into a bar, and a dance club in the basement. Here they have live music, live dancing, free cover, and relatively affordable food/drinks!

Average Drink 8 euros & average meal 13 euros!

1.Murray’s Pub

33-34 O’Connell Street Upper, Rotunda, Dublin 1, Ireland

This pub was recommended to me by one of my tour guides. When I asked for live music, Irish dancing, cheap drinks, was open later, and in walking distance to central downtown she raved about this bar.

Average Drink costs 6 euros & average meal 13 euros!

If you do the Do Dublin bus tour there is a buy one get one meal before 5pm, which can make for two dinners! Just saying’!

 

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

1. Irish Currency

There are two currencies in Ireland. If visiting the Republic of Ireland (Dublin, Galway, Cork, etc.) the currency is the Euro. If visiting Northern Ireland (Belfast) the currency is the English Pound.  If visiting each side they do not take the other currency so come prepared.

2. Credit Cards

In most main cities in Ireland credit cards are accepted. The most common credit cards include Visa and MasterCard. They do not accept AMEX in most places.

3. Weather

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but according to the residents in Ireland it rains 330 days of the year, with it being unheard of that there is no rain for more than two days at a time. So, plan accordingly!

4. Food

There is no material change between US food and Irish food. The average meal is 8 euros for breakfast, 10 euros for lunch, and 14 euros for dinner. If you’re looking for authentic Irish food I recommend their Fish & Chips, and Corn Beef and Cabbage!

5. Drinks

Being the home of Guinness and Jameson those drinks are often the cheapest. Drink are on average are 8 euros, more if venturing off to the Temple Bar area and cheaper if willing to go to the local pubs.

6. Chargers

You must buy a wall adapter to charge your devices! You can buy these before you leave in Target’s travel section for $10 that includes many different adapters for each continent. If you wait until you get there you can purchase for 8 euros at your local hostel, or if you go to the travel agencies they sell them in their dispensers for 4 euros!

7. Tours

If looking to book a tour I recommend you plan ahead! Many of the tours I went on were fully booked, and did not have same day availability. You’ll find if you book through the same agencies they will give you a 5 euro credit if you book more than one tour through them; something to keep in mind when planning ahead. Popular tour groups were: Paddywagon Tours, Finn Tours, and Dualway Coaches.

*The tour busses leave on time, and are very serious about arriving 15 minutes before our scheduled time. I can tell you firsthand they left people behind.

**Most hostels set up free walking tours. I paid for mine in advance and attended both. They were nearly the same. I’d recommend taking the free one.

8. Temple Bar Trap

Temple Bar area is popular among 30-somethings and most tourists visiting… it’s where the parties are at night. This area is known for increasing the cost of drinks as you drink and the night goes on, so be mindful of that!

I will have a separate blog for my top 5 bars in Dublin of those looking for good spirits at night.

9. Closing Times

To make most of your time while visiting you should know that most museums close at 5pm, restaurants stop serving food around 10pm, the bars during the week stop serving alcohol at 11p. Coffee shops opened around 7am, and places with food generally an hour later. No wonder why they were all skinny!

10. Popular Places to See for the Day

If you’re time is limited don’t leave without visiting the following places:

Trinity College with tour to see Book of Kells

Guinness Storehouse

Walk around Temple Bar

Dublin Castle

O’Connells Street

 

 

10 Things Not to Forget

As I plan for Ireland I thought I’d share top 10 things not to forget!

10. Travel Size Toiletries, if Doing Carry-On Only

9. Trip Itinerary Printed Out, Along with a Map

8. Water Bottle with Purifying Water Tablets 

7. Walking Shoes 

6.  Pre-arrange Pick-Up Plans 

5. Your Phone Charger, Battery Pack, & Foreign Wall Converter

4. Converting Your Cash to Foreign Currency

3. Calling Your Cellular Phone Company

2. Activating Your International Credit Card (Visa/Mastercard)

1. Your Passport, Visa & I.D.

10 Places to See While in Beijing… COUNTDOWN

10. Chinese Doctor 

If you’ve never been to see a traditional Chinese doctor, it is an experience whether you choose to believe their practices or not.

I remember walking in a school of medicine downtown Beijing with my mom (as part of a tour) and sitting waiting to this doctor to do a free consultation. I was hesitant at first since the room they put us was not of a traditional US patient room it was more like a movie theatre (sketch or no?). I mean… comfortable chairs and a big screen tv in the front. We watched a movie for 5-10 minutes going over traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and the ways they tell symptoms: through examining your tongue, and feeling your pulse through your wrist.

After the movie the doctor came in with his students started his consult with the person closest to the door… first feeling her pulse, then looking at her tongue. The translator asked a couple questions “are you in pain now” and “what is your stress level 1-10.” After 30 seconds the doctor diagnosed her with two herbal solutions to her back pain, and left shoulder problem. Total cost for those herbs ($500+ USD). I looked in shock. In 30 seconds this lady bought what was recommended. He moved next to my mom, said she was healthy then moved to me. I had made up my mind before even being consulting my answers to his comments were going to be no, because I wasn’t going to try anything from a man who couldn’t even speak my language to tell me what was in what he would recommend. He commented “you work in an office,” “you are happy…that’s good,” then asked,”do you have menstrual problems in your lower stomach?” I laughed and said no. He gave me a look like he could tell I was lying. Afterward I had asked Danielle (the lady who was with us on the tour and spent so much money on the supplements) why she trusted him. She mentioned that she has had terrible shoulder pain and when she is stressed it causes her arm to not go higher than her chest. She added that she was amazed that someone who didn’t know her could have known that so she wanted to try it. After her story I reflected back on what the Chinese doctor told me…. he was right, I do work in an office, I am happy (most of the time), and he was spot on about having troubles with my menstrual cycle. Now, looking back I will always wonder how he knew.

So, not say you have to go– but if looking for an experience and in China you should see what the Chinese doctor would say to you. Share with me if you do!

9. Silk, Jade, and Pearl Stores 

Do you know that silk comes from a worm? And that when layered across each other it is not humanly possible to break real silk? And, did you know to tell whether or not you are buying silk you just twist it, and if it wrinkles it’s fake? This is the stuff you’ll learn by going to a silk shop. I made the mistake in coming here as the last part of the trip, by then I hit my budget for what I could spend and did not have the $50 for the pillows that were softer than a babies bottom!

As for pearls… I GUESS if you try scratching a pearl with a knife and you wipe away the residue and it looks like it was never scratched then it’s real. I don’ know they are super cheap anyway, so if this style of jewelry is your thing get you some!

AND did you know that jade is the stone of China, since it brings luck, happiness, and longevity. Lord knows I needed it. And, it’s true if you go to the actual Jade factory they have the cheapest. I was a skeptic on how prices would jump up/down based on where I was and ended up missing the chance in buying a real jade from the factory, and instead bought a knock off that ended up costing the same (the Jade factory was too far to go back).

These thee places are traditional Beijing visits if looking to wander and be more immersed in culture.

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8. Beijing Zoo- Panda Exhibit 

I had seen koala bears in Australia, so I had to go see the pandas in China right?!

I am so conflicted in how I feel about zoos. The millennial in me hates the idea that we catch animals and put them for showcase and encourage the capture by paying an admission ticket. Then the other half of me rationalizes in saving animals in the wild that are going near extinct, nursing them to health and then mating them to increase their population, for future release. I’m on a tangent….

If you’re about the zoos, go see the biggest pandas you can imagine! You should see these!

7. Ming Tombs

I made the mistake in not researching this place to understand the historical importance, because I thought my tour guide would help bring me to speed. But when you can’t understand the tour guide you quickly learn the importance of knowing where you’re at before you go!

Let me fill you in… in China there is a rich history of many emperors and other government powers that have made lasting impressions to current cultures and traditions.. A lot of these have been dated back to the Ming Dynasty which spanned for nearly 300 years starting in the 1300s. The relics, clothes, replicas of goods (clothing, silvers, jewelry, sketches) found, buried, and treasured from this time cane found at the Ming Tombs.

The tour starts above ground where you can see the original brick and cement walls from the Ming Dynasty. As you walk toward the back you can start to enter different sacred buildings, prayer temples, and toward the end can go underground to see replicas of the tombs. If you’re at all a history guru, you should check out a tour here to feel a part of a history very different than our own.

6. Tea House

I have always enjoyed a good cup of tea! Little did I know that China is one of the main distributors of tea; I had thought it would have been India.

If you’re in China it is tradition in their culture to serve your tea to welcome you to their home, store, or hotel. Most commonly you’ll be served Jasmine. But, at the tea houses throughout Beijing you can enjoy Rose, Citrus, Jasmine, Black and Green Teas. They show you how to property pour tea, how to blend tea with cut-up fruit, and how to greet guests by using tea. This is an experience that had me wanting to return home for a tea party! This is a perfect stop if you’re looking to add some balance and zen in your trip to Beijing!

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5. Shopping Center 

If Time Square tickles your fancy, the Beijing shopping center will not disappoint! This city center was full of people, street food/venders, shops, and also the entrance way to the city center plaza where you can get a bunch of authentic Chinese delicacies including  living scorpions on a stick.

This was one of my most memorable stops of the entire trip to China, and one I would highly recommend! Food recommendations: caramelized strawberries, fresh mangos and pork buns!

4. Temple of the Heavens

This beautiful temple is located on Beijing’s south side, where many ceremonies occur. The temple was made to represent the balance between heaven and earth. If you visit I’d recommend going early, otherwise you’re bound to have someone if your perfect shot!

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3. Summer Palace

If you’re looking for the best IG photo-worthy photos, here is your place. And, you must go near sunset. This beautiful park is situated along the water and has many tiny treasures to find as you walk through, over and under the many trails and paths! It is here, too, that many of the locals fly their kites, make prayer/wish ribbons, and go to enjoy the tides that come and break near the bridges.

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2. Forbidden City/ Tiananmen Square

Have you seen Mulan? The large square at the end of the film you see where Mulan saves the emperor from the Huns… that’s near Tiananmen Square and part of the Forbidden City. If you’re going to China this is a MUST. What I didn’t know was the limited access one has to enter the Forbidden City, especially during Chinese New Year. Luckily for us (mom&I) we planned months in advance for this tour which allows us within the walls of the 100+ acres totaling 999 buildings (why not 1000? They count earth as the last room).

Spending the time/money to make it here won’t disappoint, just ask the 15 million annual visitors!

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1. Great Wall of China

What is a trip to China without seeing the iconic Great Wall of China. Yes, it is as beautiful and as grand as you see in photos. Yes, it’s worth the journey to go! Yes, it spans over the eye can see, and yes, this made this trip to China 100% worth it. So much so I will have a separate blog dedicated just for it!

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