I have a few tips of advice for any one planning on doing a backpacking trip through Europe:
1. Don't wait until 8 pm to try to find a place to stay for the night, especially on a Saturday night. And don't book really really cheap hostel rooms. There is a reason they are cheap. I learned this lesson the hard way. After getting back from my day tour to the west side of Ireland, I tried to book a bed at a couple of good hostels that I stayed at the days before. Unfortunately, all they had was a expensive private rooms and I really did not want to spend the money on that. All I needed was a place to sleep for the night, and if I could save 50 euros by booking a dorm bed in the sketchy hostel across the street. Bad bad bad bad bad idea. First, I walked over with girl that was also forced to stay at that hostel due to all the other hostels being full. I probably should have listened to her when she said that she was scared to sleep there because there she had to deal with people doing drugs in the dorm room. Since I really had no other choice, I booked a bed in a male dorm room thinking that it could not be THAT bad. Boy, was I wrong. I walked into my dorm room to find a guy sitting at a desk listening to Godsmack ( a really scary yelling band) super loud and smoking despite the multiple 'No smoking' signs. I just kept telling myself that I only had to sleep there for a few hours since I planned on going out to Temple Bar that night and I had to leave for a plane flight to London at 6 in the morning. I brought all my valuables with me for the night because I definitely did not trust them in the room. I thought for sure that there was at least a 20 percent chance that the rest I my stuff would not be there when I returned. So I went out, had an awesome time (I'll tell you about that later), and got back around three in the morning. Needless to say, I did not sleep very much that night. First, the room reaked of smoke. Second, people coming in after me made so much noise. Third, I was sharing my top bunk with my all my luggage because I did not even trust it on the ground. Fourth, I was worried that I did not set my phone alarm right (the time on my phone is still stuck on New York time, the last time I turned my phone capabilities on) or that the alarm was even loud enough to wake me up. And fifth, and the most scary of all, there was a guy screaming obscenties and death threats in his sleep the entire night. Well, I was hoping that he was sleep talking and not awake because that would be even scarier. I maybe fell asleep for 20 minutes max that night. Looking back, I would have rather slept on the streets that re-live that experience. I was so happy to leave that slum of a hostel (and I did not even tell you about the bathrooms) for the airport. And that leads me to my next travel tip.
2. Never book a flight while NOT being fully coherent, i.e. hungover and sleep deprived. Otherwise you might run the risk of booking your flight for the right day but the wrong month. Yes, maybe some of you were observant enough might have realized that I am writing this blog from Dublin, and not London, where I planned to be this week. I did not find out my mistake until I was at the airport. Although my ticket to London was only 20 euros, the only way for me to exchange my ticket for a flight that same day would have cost me 250 euros, or about 350 dollars. That was something I was not willng to do. So now, I am in Dublin until Wednesday when the next reasonably priced flight was (35 euros). That is the thing with the cheap no frills airlines like ryanair and air lingus that fly european destinations. Some flights are really cheap, even free (but with taxes), if you book it at the right time. Otherwise, the prices vary dramaticly. They also have very confusing websites that make booking a flight as difficult and as painful as possible as they try to add on extra expenses for everything. You might remember that ryanair, the company that I planned to travel with, made news a few months ago for suggesting that they were considering putting a fee on using the bathroom on the plane. Their confusing website, the way that european dates work (mm/dd/yr instead of dd/mm/yr), the fact that the website automatically resets to a specific date (5/5/09) every time I tried a new search, and my incoherent state of being all lead to my little mistake. I'm just glad that I made the mistake with a 20 euro ticket and not something more expensive.
After reading my last couple of tips, you are probably thinking that I have had a terrible last couple of days. In fact, that can not be farther from the truth. Despite the minor issues described above (I'm too carefree right now to dwell on anything), I am having an awesome time exploring Ireland and interacting with different people from all over.
On Saturday, I took a bus tour to the west side of Ireland to Limerick, Doolin and the beautiful Cliffs of Moher. Oh man, the Cliffs were awesome (check out the pics!). At their highest point, they are 204 meters high! It is kind of daunting walking the path just a few feet or some cases inches from a really long fall with the wind blowing you about in all directions. On our lunchbreak in Doolin i I found a cool donkey that loved me. He was really cute and reminded me how much I miss Owen. During the trip, I also made friends with a couple of really nice Spainish girls from Barcelona. We ended up hanging out for the entire day trip and later that night at Temple Bar.
The good thing about staying in hostels and going on some of these tours are the people you meet. Most of the people I have talked to so far have been from America, Australia, Canada, or England. Despite the European immersion in American culture, there is definitely some anti-merican sentiment. It's weird to see people singing along to American songs all night long and then hear that they hate Americans. Well, that was at least the opinion I got from one Australian girl who I mistakely asked if she was American. She responded with "No, I hate Americans". It was alright though as she was ended up dancing with me just a few minutes later. Haha. On my day trip, an older Canadian lady was telling me how she was told by friends to wear some sort of Canadian emblem on her so that she was not mistaken for American. Oh yeah, on even another occasion, another Canadian teacher who teaches in London was explaining to me that the first thing she tells a new class is that she is Canadian and not American. I can kind of see how this anti-american sentiment comes about. A couple of pretty typical, maybe a little on the stuck up side, American girls that were in same dorms as me, came off as some of the most arrogant people, especially when they were interacting with some European people. The tone they spoke with always in some way was trying to reinforce how important they and the things they have or have done in America are. In retrospect, I realized that a lot of Americans seem to have this "I have to be better than everyone else mentality" and that is why I think a lot of other nationalities have a poor idea about Americans. Luckily, I guess I come off as an Australian as I have gotten that many times. Muwahaha.
The Irish are, however, a very friendly and fun people. Temple Bar ( it is actually a district where the majority of the nightlife is) has multiple bars that have live music every night all night long. There are basically two types of bands that play there, the traditional Irish band, and the cover band. I thoroughly enjoy both, but the cover bands seem to be slightly more fun as you can sing and dance to their songs. After going to that area several nights of my stay here, I am, however, beginning to find the redundancy of the songs all of these cover bands play. I usually hear the same songs from Coldplay, U2, the Killers, the kings of leon, etc., a couple times a night from different bands. It still is extremely fun to join everyone in singing even if it is the second or third time you heard a song that night.
Anyways, I need to find something relatively cheap to eat because I'm starving. I actually found a grocery store that sells a really good sandwich for only 2 euros!!! I can't wait to buy cheap food again. Luckily, I heard that this is the most expensive country in Europe to buy food. Just so you get a sense of what I am talking about- the Burger King Whopper burger ( not the meal) costs 6 euros which is the equivalent of about 8 dollars. Wow!!!! And no, they don't have a value menu here.
Until next time....
And once again, don't judge my grammar or spelling...I'm writing this on my iPhone and this website on my iphone will not allow me to scroll back up to proofread what I wrote.