While Dublin is an amazing place, remember that it is just one part of Ireland, and to get the full experience, you need to venture out. While there, the first trip Blake and I took was eastward to a small town called Doolin in Clare County, about four hours from Dublin. Our ultimate reason was its proximity to the Cliffs of Moher, but since it was there, we decided we would spend some time in the town too.
When the bus ride started, I initially thought I would use it as an opportunity to catch up on the past few weeks of sleep deprivation, but the further we got out in the country, something caught my attention. Something ever present that yanked me out of the mid-day lulls. The color green. Everywhere I looked, the fields, hills, plants, trees rolled of, endlessly as it seemed, and were all more vibrantly green than anything I had ever seen before. I knew it was called the Emerald Isle, but this was far beyond all my expectation. Any inclination to sleep that I once had disappeared as I became transfixed like an art student admiring the works of Picasso for the very first time.
And this didn't end. One incredible landscape followed another again and again until we reached Doolin on the Atlantic Coast. As I stepped off the bus, I looked around and saw I was greeted by a small cultural town nestled among rolling hills overlooking the ocean. Every here and there lay small houses, local pubs, cafes and shops, all wooden, cozy and painted in colors that complimented the sea. This was a pleasant escape from the concrete, buildings, and cars of the city.
Yes, despite this initial quiet appearance, Doolin was by no means an escape from culture, as Blake and I were about to find out. As we checked into our hostel, a brown haired lady in a purple shirt at the front desk let us know that Doolin was known as the heart of traditional Irish music, and as it turned out, she wasn't lying. The second the sun went down, music rang out of every cafe, pub, and restaurant, and people from all over seemed to appear out of thin air to come and listen.
It may sound like I'm Exaggerating here, but I can assure you I am not. I experienced this personally that night as I decided to go and grab dinner at a local, seemingly quiet pub. At first, when I walked in around 7:30, the place was pretty deserted, but when 9:00 rolled around and a fiddle player entered, everything changed. Within minutes, the whole place was packed to the brim. The music was incredible, lively, and lasted long into the night, and in my opinion at least, gave a more authentic experience than was possible in Dublin. (Don't get me wrong, Dublin in awesome, it's just a little too marketed towards tourists).
The main point I am trying to make here is this. Most people who come to this area only do so in order to see the cliffs or the nearby Aran islands. Don't be that person. See the cliffs and the islands, as they are absolutely worth it, but make sure you see Doolin too. And don't just see the town. Go in and experience it!