“It’s not about the number of breaths you take, but about the number of moments that take your breath away.” –Hitch
I’d certainly say that I had quite a few of those moments on Thursday, October 8th, day #43 in Ireland. (But who’s counting?) I never imagined that I would feel so at home in such a relatively short time span. I take pride in Dublin and love exploring and sharing it with others. This week I hosted my first guests, my aunt and uncle, as well as Andrew, a fellow Hoya. In exploring the city with them, I surprised them (and even myself!) of how much I have learned about the city and the “Dubs” (as the natives are called).
What made Thursday so special was multifaceted. I visited Howth for the first time with Andrew and to sound like a true Irish woman, it was “lovely.” (My cab driver had recommended it to me.) But we didn’t just “visit;” our mode of transportation was by foot. (By the time I got home that night, my Fitbit stated that I had taken 34,571 steps, which equates to 17.27 miles!) The best part was that Andrew and I were in no rush to get to our destination. We took our time, noticing the different neighborhoods, even stopping to admire a beautiful tree sculpture in progress! (I had my GPS on for a general sense of direction, but we often deviated from the route if something caught our eye.) The scenery changed from urban to semi-suburban to marshlands extending out to the Dublin Bay and the Irish Sea. When the Howth peninsula came into view, I was awestruck by the majestic mountain that sits atop it. I had seen it only from the distance, but it was much more dramatic up close. I was physically tired from the journey, but my adrenaline and sense of desire kicked in, masking the pain, so we decided to climb the mountain. Of course, going the normal, precut trail route wouldn’t be exciting enough, so we decided to “blaze” our own trail. (There were rocks that we climbed on so I wouldn’t technically term it to be trailblazing!) The incline was pretty steep so I was deeply focused on foot placement and balance. Only when I stopped to catch my breath, did I have my breath actually taken away when I turned to see the sights behind me. This was the best vantage point I had seen thus far of Dublin County. (My apologies to the Guinness Storehouse’s Gravity Bar which boasts having the best 360° degree views in Dublin!) The sun was shining perfectly upon the water. The temperature was ideal: warm enough to hike without a jacket but cool enough to still require long sleeves. Once I had actually caught my breath, I chose not to move along. Instead, I just stood and existed, taking in all the beauty around me. Given how beautiful it was only halfway through the hike, I was re-energized to reach the summit. The panoramic views up there certainly didn’t disappoint!
The descent wasn’t as peaceful (or graceful) as the ascent, though. I took a dramatic wipeout… This convinced me that trailblazing was no longer the best idea so we found a trail that we travelled down on. Eventually, we made it to the fishing village of Howth. We ate along the harbor, and I had the best fish and chips that I’ve had in Ireland thus far! Then it was time for the real adventure of the day…. My wannabe polar plunge: jumping in the Irish Sea! We swam at Claremont Beach in Howth. It was so cold that my limbs were on pins and needles, but it was totally worth it for the experience and the memory! We quickly dried off and boarded the DART train (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) to head home and put on warm clothes.
The day wasn’t over, yet, though. Still ahead was the 2016 Euro Cup Qualifier between the Republic of Ireland and Germany at Aviva Stadium. The game attracted a sold out crowd of 51,700 fans! The atmosphere was electric with chants and songs filling the air. My personal favorite being, “Come on You Boys in Green.” Though, Germany may have been favored to win, Ireland played with passion, heart, and determination and pulled off a 1-0 victory! When Shane Long scored the lone goal, the stadium erupted. High-fiving and hugging strangers became commonplace! The remainder of the game was tense and nerve-wracking, but the songs resumed at game’s end and continued well into the night as all those watching the game, both in the stadium and in pubs throughout the city, filled the streets. Once again, I was breathless, fully in love with my new city! I was absolutely exhausted when I went to bed, but it was a happy, satisfied exhaustion—one that I was blessed to have and would welcome any day.