*My dad, after inspiring and encouraging me to see the world on my own, helped me out this time. More than words can say, thanks for sending me on the trip of my dreams! The only thing that would’ve been better is if you had been there as well.

**So many thanks to Tomas for being a tour guide and recommending places to see and being such a gracious host. It was so great to catch with a member of TeamMalaysia–two years is too long!

I think I’m in good company when I say that Ireland has be high high high on my “must see” list since I’ve had a “must see” list. Green rolling hills, cliffs that drop dramatically to the sea, and of course those glorious Irish accents (ladies amiright?!). So when a trip to Ireland fell into my lap (didi madloba Dad) I was a little excited totally over the moon. Dates were picked and flights were booked and then I realized: I have never planned a trip, minus the occasional weekend. Cue irrational and long-lasting freakout. I agonized over which cities and landmarks deserved some of our limited time, and the timeline and where to stay and what to pack and how to drive ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD. Truth be told, I had nightmares about the driving situation. None of which came to fruition, thankfully.

Finally, there were no more decisions to be made and I was in Ireland with my best friend for what was going to be a whirlwind Irish tour. We rented a car and had a trusty GPS and my phone full of notes and phone numbers and addresses. I survived driving from the airport into the heart of Dublin, but after circling our hostel three times with no parking to be seen and quite a few instances of me almost forgetting which lane to be in, I handed the wheel gratefully over (fine, I demanded Thornton drive because I was finished with this nonsense) and enjoyed the scenery for the rest of the trip.

Dublin: Pretty, historic, home of the Temple Bar and Saint Stephens Green and a sassy statue of Oscar Wilde. But I had romanticized Ireland too much, so Dublin didn’t feel like Ireland at all to me. It felt like any other European city, and I enjoyed exploring. Would I recommend it? Yes. Does is take precedence if time is short? No.

We hopped through Waterford, Killarney and Galway before circling back to Dublin to fly out. And the further outside Dublin, the more beautiful Ireland became.

From Glendalough to Tramore Beach and Ballycarberry Castle on the Ring of Kerry to the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland is prettier than a picture book. Around every curve (and there are plenty of those on Irish country roads) there is a picturesque scene. Every lake deserves to be painted. The coast is painfully beautiful. Even the small towns are perfect in their mix of quaintness and modernity.

Driving through the country with Thornton, our conversations were routinely interrupted as we exclaimed over every new vista. Or, in Thornton’s case, as he asked me to take pictures for him of every. single. new. view. I couldn’t begrudge him too much though…after all, he was driving and not complaining that I had stuck him with that odious task. But honestly, every part of Ireland screams for photos. Abandoned castles are ripe for exploring and side roads lead to lakes where you would swear you’ve stepped into a fairy tale. Coastal cliffs are breathtaking in their abrupt drop to teal water.

In essence, I was a tourist and I loved every single minute of it. If there is one country to see before you die, it has to be Ireland. Rent a car and drive. The country is small and there are hidden gems everywhere. This is a country to see, and the people are icing on top of a already delicious, and gorgeous, cake.

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