Visiting Dublin, Galway, Inishmore, London, Brighton, and Edinburgh from July 04 to July 21, 2016.
After I graduate from college, I spent two months traveling around Europe. I spent the first two weeks with friends in Italy and Croatia and the second two weeks by myself in France and Spain. After my time in Spain, I flew to Ireland, where I began two weeks traveling across the British Isles, in Dublin.
There, I met up with Yih-Jen, a friend from school who was also traveling around Europe at the time. We shared a camera for the duration of our trip, so some photos were taken by him, and others by me. Together, we explored Dublin, Galway, and the Irish island Inishmore, as well as London, Brighton, and Edinburgh.
Boston, but Older
My first stop in Ireland was Dublin, a beautiful town with way more to do than I got the chance to. We went on a tour of the Guinness factory, and saw a play, but what I enjoyed the most was just walking around the city and seeing the architecture and cultural landmarks. It's an embarrassing viewpoint, but having grown up outside Boston it reminded me a lot of home. (For good reason, knowing Boston's history.) It was clear that Dublin had way more history than Boston did, with older churches and cobblestone streets, but the organization, terrain, and design of the city were very reminiscent.
I also got a chance to get a taste of Dublin's theater scene. Yih-Jen and I got tickets to Once, the musical, which was stunning. The actors were also the orchestra, playing instruments both in and out of character. If I went back to Dublin, I'd make sure to see another play or musical; it was one of the most rewarding things we did in town.
Flags hanging across the street in Temple Bar (the touristy are of downtown Dublin with lots of bars)
One of the oldest Catholic churches in Ireland
The ceiling of the library in the Book of Kells.
Quintessential Irish Countryside
After spending a few days in Dublin, Yih-Jen and I took a train west to Galway, a beautiful city on a bay in west Ireland. It's a small town, with a few cute restaurants and shops, but not much to speak of beyond that. Unlike in Dublin, where we saw plays, went to pubs, and went on historical tours, in Galway we spent most of our time exploring the Irish countryside. In just a few days, we got to explore the town center, tour the Burren (a nearby national park), and the Cliffs of Moor. Galway and the surrounding countryside were some of the most beautiful places I visited on my trip.
Left: A small stream feeding into the river by our Airbnb. Right: We walked along this river each morning to get into town.
A sea-side castle along on our way to the Cliffs of Moor
The Cliffs of Moor were stunning. We walked along the cliffside path, where the wind blew stronger than I liked.
Left: I initially had some difficulty staying on solid ground. Right: I eventually got my footing.
An Island Paradise
On our third day in Galway, we took a day trip to the Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, a cluster of pasture-covered rocks off the coast of west Ireland. There's a ferry from the Galway docks, but we decided to opt for a more glamorous entrance, by plane. We took a morning shuttle to an tiny airport half an hour down the coast, with exclusive service to Inishmore. We packed into this tiny 10-person plane, and took off towards the islands. We were only in the air for about 20 minutes, landing smoothly on the Islands only airstrip.
Left: We flew "Aer Arann" to get to Inishmore. Right: A view of Inishmore from the air.
Yih-Jen and I went on a bike ride across the island. We stopped for a minute to catch our breath.
Along our bike ride, we stopped at several pastures, full of cows, horses, or in this case, goats.
Left:I think he likes me. Right:Yih-Jen somehow got the donkeys to pose perfectly.
A view of the cliffs from Dún Aonghasa, a seaside fort on Inishmore
The Other Metropolis
After an amazing stay in Ireland, we flew to London, where we spent a week exploring the museums, neighborhoods, and tea houses. It was pretty rainy (as is to be expected), but we managed to make our way everywhere we wanted to go without getting too wet. Our daily routine was essentially a rotation between food, tea, and some tourist attraction on endless repeat. Breakfast, tea, a museum, lunch, tea, a park, etc. Of everywhere I visited, London felt the most familiar. It was like New York City, but older and more tight-lipped. In contrast with Ireland, which gave me time to enjoy nature, London was a return to modern life.
A fountain in Trafalgar Square, the "absolute center of London."
We walked through Hyde Park, and saw this beautiful architecture installations.
Left: A statue of Queen Elizabeth in Hyde Park. Right: The swans in Hyde Park were very friendly.
The Churchhill Arms is a famous British pub / Thai restaurant. Because London.
Yours truly, in front of the Buckingham Palace in a rare photogenic moment.
A view of London from the Duck & Waffle, a 24-hour brunch joint on the 39th floor of a skyscraper.
Left: Duck and waffle at Duck & Waffle. Right: Afternoon tea in London.
Left: A pencil drawing in the British Museum. Right: Chinese ceramic work in the British Museum.
Left: Me, looking off the observation deck of the Tate Modern. Right: The river Thames, at night.
The Millennium Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the London Skyline.
A View from the Pier
Midway through stay in London, Yih-Jen and I took a train south to Brighton, a beach town with quaint shops and a famous amusement park on the pier. After riding the roller coasters and exploring the alleys and shops, we spent most of the day catching Pokémon in Pokémon Go.
Brighton's famous pier, on a perfectly cloudy day.
Left: Seagulls preferred the pool to the ocean. Right: The Royal Pavillion, in Brighton.
We found an amazing graffiti art while exploring Brighton.
Yih-Jen looking very cool.
A City on a Hill
We flew out of London into Edinburgh, Scotland, where we met up with my mom. It was the last stop in my trip that Yih-Jen and I did together, and my second-to-last stop overall (I flew to Iceland afterwards with my mom). The city of Edinburgh is organized around the hill on which Edinburgh castle sits. We stayed in Grassmarket, a neighborhood in the valley below the central hill.
Guess where this picture was taken.
The Princes Street Gardens, complete with the Scott Monument and a ferris wheel.
Left: My mom, on the Edinburgh ferris wheel. Right: Yih-Jen looking out from the ferris wheel.
A view of Edinburgh Castle from across the Princes Street Gardens.
Left: Looking down onto Edinburgh from the castle. Right: The steps leading up to the castle's inner wall.
The Royal Scottish Academy had an amazing exhibit on Impressionism.
We spent an afternoon touring the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which featured an ancient building on beautiful grounds.
Left: The Edinburgh streets wind and turn to fit the contour of the land. Right: Yih-Jen and I exploring Grassmarket, the neighborhood we were staying in.
We got great Thai food at a rooftop restaurant, a great meal complimented by a storybook sunset.
After exploring the for several days, we took the better part of a day to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh, a beautiful set of winding paths through gardens containing tress, shrubs, and flowers from around the world. While I'm normally not a big garden person, I would definitely recommend visiting these gardens to anyone visiting Edinburgh.