Day 1: Dublin to Derry

My day started early at 8am. Sandra and I decided to skip a shower because of the unsightly washrooms at Paddy’s Palace. I don’t have a problem with hostel washrooms, but when you can’t be sure if it’s mould or limescale build up, there’s a problem. So having decided it wasn’t worth the risk, we opted to skip the shower and head out to the lobby.

There were hundreds of people gathered in the lobby of Paddy’s Palace. Everyone waiting for their tours to begin. One by one, groups were called away to hop on their buses. Eventually our group was called up and we made our way to the bus. This bright, shamrock green bus was waiting for us. The misty rain and gloomy backdrop did not take away from this bus….it was fantastic!

As the tour got underway, the bus was quiet. It’s always a bit awkward being on a bus full of strangers. That soon faded and we all started to get to know one another. There were a few French Canadiens on board, a sibling duo from South Africa, a few Australians, an American and of course, us. It was a good group of people. All of us young and travelling the world as much as we can.

Along the way to Derry, also known as Londonderry, we made a few stops at some interesting places. The first stop was at St. Peter’s Church in Drogheda, County Louth.  It’s one of the last gothic churches to have been built in Ireland. What seems like a normal church from the outside, you walk inside to find the preserved, decapitated head of St. Oliver Plunkett. Yes, a decapitated head is enshrined inside the church. It’s a bit eery to be standing in front of him. I wasn’t sure what to feel about it. It’s cool, yet creepy…

While getting lost staring into the shrunken eye sockets of Mr. Plunkett, I met the sibling duo from South Africa. Such nice people! I’m not sure I could travel with my siblings as well as they did…kudos to them! They became fast friends…as well as the rest of our group. Truly, the most amazing group of people, whom I now have the pleasure of calling friends.

Moving on…after hitting up a little cafe, we got back on the bus and made our way to Monasterboice. Located just 5km outside of Drogheda, it contains a graveyard, a round tower and most impressively the high crosses. Inside the ruins, Muiredach’s High Cross — the finest high cross in the whole of Ireland (my featured image). The cemetery as a whole is beautiful. It was so peaceful being out there in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.

The giant tower casts a shadow over most of these high crosses. It was built as a refuge against the Viking attack in 968AD. Being in a cemetery, there’s a feeling of calmness that surrounds me. It’s utterly quiet despite the crowds — which actually weren’t too bad that day. Walking amongst the tombstones that are 100s and 100s of years old, I felt small in comparison. Literally. Some of these high crosses are like, 15 feet tall.

We didn’t spend too much time here as we had a lot of ground to cover. But I do recommend it as a ‘must see’ on your Irish adventure! Derry is in the horizon and we had a lot to learn of its past!

It was early in the afternoon when we roll into town. We have a walking tour this evening and then a pub crawl — always a good ice breaker amongst new friends. After checking into our hostel, I was ready to learn of the unfortunate events that took place in Derry 40 years ago.

The walking tour was fantastic. It opened my eyes to a nation torn apart by Protestant and Catholic beliefs, but even more so than that, a nation that wants to be united under one flag. I now understand the meaning behind U2’s hit, ‘Bloody Sunday’ all too well.

January 30, 1972, 10,00 people gathered in the city for a civil rights protest. The army had set up barricades to prevent the march from reaching its destination (Guildhall Square). Paratroopers came in to make arrests. They open fired among the crowd killing 13 young men. There was an uproar in the city because the people regarded it as murder, while the British Army said it was provoked, saying they had come under fire. It wasn’t until 2010 that the inquiry finally concluded. It placed the blame on the British army, calling the killings “unjustified and unjustifiable.”

Growing up, I had never heard about this event in history. I had grown up in the United States, so maybe that had something to do with my ignorance of world history. It was eye opening for sure. We visited the memorial to the victims during our walking tour. My best recommendation in any new city you visit, look up free walking tours! They are the absolute best! You will learn so much in a few hours walking around with a local. Every city has them, so do your research before going to a new city and walk yourself into an educational, fun free thing to do in the city!

The day concluded with a pub crawl put on by the hostel staff and our bus driver/guide, Funky. It was still early in the evening, so the first spot we hit up was dead. But we played games and drank — two things to get everyone feeling less awkward in a new group. The evening went on and we danced the night away at a local club. We all became fast friends after our first day together. There was a song that brought us all together, mostly because our guide was obsessed with it. Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ became the song of our trip. In the nightclub that evening, the DJ happened to play it. Our entire group came together in a huddle and we sang the song as loud as we could. You know it’s going to be a good trip when you can all come together like that having known each other less than 24 hours.

So the night ended drunkenly finding our way back to the hostel. It would be an early morning for us tomorrow. I don’t know how we’ll be able to function. None of us cared. We just had a helluva day. Ireland was off to a great start!

Stay tuned for Day 2: Derry to Belfast…coming soon!

I forgot to add some photos of Derry itself!! My bad…

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