When my close friend from McGill Brianna Miller was named to the 2017 World Cup Squad, I knew I had to go. She would be playing alongside many of my other friends and past teammates in the most important tournament in women’s rugby…that seemed like a once in a lifetime travel opportunity I couldn’t pass up. To make matters even better, the tournament would be held in Ireland!
I played in my own semi-final rugby match on Saturday afternoon before rushing home to shower and hop in an uber to the airport. I flew overnight with a quick stop in Iceland before landing in Dublin at 10AM. I headed straight to our Airbnb to meet up with my travel compadres—Elai, Bryce, Steph, and Lauren. We did not waste any time heading to Dublin’s infamous Temple Bar for a pre-game Guiness; when in Rome!
Afterwards, we made our way to UCD for Canada’s second pool game against Wales. The game was a low-scoring nail-biter, but Canada was able to come away with a 15-0 win. Following the game, we headed to an organized dinner/drinks event for all the Canadian supporters at a local pub. Running off the excitement of being in Ireland with friends, we made our way to Temple Bar for a late night out full of live music and beer.
The next morning we eventually got out of bed to begin our first day of exploring. We had a delicious brunch on our way downtown before heading to our next destination, St Patricks Cathedral. After wandering around the beautiful church, we headed towards the nearby Guiness Storehouse. We did a self-guided tour through the massive five-storey building before reaching the Gravity Bar on the top floor, where we enjoyed a pint with a 360 view of Dublin. I am not sure if it was all in my head, but I genuinely enjoyed the dark beer far more than I expected to.
Our next stop was a family and friends event for Team Canada held at the Canadian ambassador’s residence. We were running late so we decided it was necessary to get a cab; unfortunately for us, there were none in sight. Our only alternative mode of transportation was a horse-drawn carriage, so we did what we had to do. Also unfortunately for us, the horse or his driver had no sweet clue where we needed to go and they dropped us off further away from tour destination than we started. All in all, a huge scam that cost us way too much time and money, but a great story! The event featured a lovely spread of food and wine, but most importantly it was great to see and chat with all the girls we know on the team.
After the event, we enjoyed a traditional Irish meal at Dublin’s oldest pub; I indulged in bangers n’ mash, while others got Irish stew! Continuing on that theme, we headed for a nearby pub to hear more traditional Irish music. The music setup resembled 15 friends in a living room jamming out to whatever song came to mind next. Based on the photos on the wall, it seemed the group was comprised of resident musicians that play at this bar quite regularly.
Elai, Steph, Lauren and I got up bright and early the next day to pick up our rental car and head for the countryside. Steph bravely volunteered to be the primary driver for our excursion and she adjusted to the wrong side of the road like a pro! Our first stop was a short jaunt in the beautifully green Wicklow National Park.
Next up was Kilkenny, known as the medieval town for its many medieval buildings still intact. We wandered through the beautiful cobblestone streets, grabbed lunch at a cute café, and stopped in for a visit at Kilkenny Castle.
Our final stop of the day was Cork. Cork is known within Ireland as one of the rougher parts of the country, but it made sense logistically to make our way further West before another big day of driving. We checked into our Airbnb and headed into town for dinner. We could see evidence of the city’s rough reputation on the first part of our walk, but the city centre was actually quite nice. We had a lovely dinner at Gallagher’s Gastropub that was made even better by amazing (non-Irish) live music.
The next morning we set off for Blarney Castle before leaving Cork, famous for the Blarney Stone. Legend goes that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you will be blessed with eloquence. Of course, we could not resist missing out on this endowment, and we waited patiently in the long line for 10 seconds of glory to kiss the same stone as countless other tourists. The castle was quite beautiful, but the huge grounds were equally so, with massive gardens and greenery.
Most of Miller’s family had already made their trip to the Cliffs of Moher and they had unlucky foggy weather. It rained heavily for most of our road trip from Cork to the Cliffs of Moher, which was not looking good for us either. Luckily, just as we drove into the parking lot, the clouds parted and the fog disappeared for a relatively clear visit to the Cliffs! The Cliffs of Moher is a natural wonder that is 100% worth the hype; no matter how many tourists crowd this iconic site, its breathtaking beauty cannot even be captured on camera. The other thing that can’t be captured is the terrifying experience of walking so close to an unfenced edge up all that way! I could have happily spent a whole day walking this beautiful coastline.
Next and last stop of the day was Galway, a quick one hour drive from the cliffs. Galway is known for being a cultural hub with many great restaurants and bars. The town was certainly lively for a Wednesday night by the time we got downtown. We enjoyed yet another great meal and got our first taste of delicious Irish seafood! We definitely wished we had more time in the charming city as we walked around the bustling Latin Quarter. Unfortunately we were limited by the World Cup schedule and had to return to Dublin early the next day to catch our next match.
We dropped our rental car and headed straight for the field to see Canada face off against number 2 ranked New Zealand. Unfortunately, New Zealand came out strong and Canada did not show up which ultimately resulted in a big win for NZ. This loss disqualified them from the semi-final rounds and put them into the consolation side where they will play for fifth. We stayed to watch the England vs USA game and enjoy the beautiful sunny weather.
When we got back into Dublin, we went to Trinity College to stroll around and take in the iconic beauty of the campus. Afterwards, we headed to our final Airbnb conveniently located steps from Temple Bar, Dublin Castle, and loads of great restaurants. After a quick power nap, I headed out for a final stroll of the beautiful streets of Dublin before my last dinner. We enjoyed an awesome meal of seafood before heading to meet Bryce at a nearby bar. Bryce’s former teammate (born and raised in Dublin) organized a pub crawl through four of the favourite local spots—far from Temple Bar! We had an awesome last night dancing to throwback tunes until 230AM, when I said goodbye to Lauren and Steph who are in Ireland for another week.
Not even a late night of partying could keep me from enjoying one final good meal at a well-known baker/breakfast spot! After a great breaky, ELai and I parted ways and I headed for the airport. Overall the trip was short and sweet and definitely left me wanting more of Ireland! Ire’ll be back!