It sometimes seems that no matter how much you try to plan, the best adventures are the ones that happen unexpectedly. The museums, cathedrals, and landscapes I‚Äôve seen thus far on my voyage have all been unforgettable, but my favorite part of Semester at Sea has definitely been the people I‚Äôve met on ship and in port.
On our first day in Dublin, I got off the MV Explorer with five friends on a brisk morning, ready to explore. We walked along the River Liffey and quickly found an ATM in the Temple Bar area. While waiting in line, my friend Eric struck up a conversation with the man in front of us. We soon learned he was a student named June who lived in Washington, D.C. but was studying abroad at Trinity College. June and Eric found that they were both originally from Korea, and they even had some mutual friends in California.
June recommended we see Dublin Castle, so we went to admire the tower, intricate statues, and carvings along the brick buildings. He then offered to show us around his school. We walked through Trinity College‚Äôs arched entrances, where the lush green quad, tall campanile tower, and rows of gorgeous buildings dedicated to every academic discipline spread out before us reminded me of my school back in Kansas City. While strolling through, I began to contemplate how amazing it would be to move to Ireland and go to graduate school at Trinity College. But then again, I‚Äôve wanted to do that in every port we‚Äôve visited so far.
Eric and June seemed to bond right away. The whole time, they were laughing about how often they called their mothers while abroad and sharing the best Korean restaurants they found in Europe. June told us all about his favorite Irish pubs in the Temple Bar area, the best museums Dublin had to offer, and the most picturesque spot to go outside of the city for rolling green hills and peaceful fields of sheep.
We decided to get lunch and come back to see the Book of Kells after a walk through Stephen‚Äôs Green. We sat by the bubbling fountains and watched geese strutting by, mothers carrying their adorable babies who spoke with Irish accents, and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of a typical day in Dublin.
I was starting to get hungry, and June knew the perfect place for an authentic Irish lunch. I ordered bangers and mash at Quay‚Äôs Restaurant. We were so impressed with the food that my friends and I returned for dinner later that night and for lunch on our third day.
June then took us back to Trinity College to see the oldest book in Europe, the Book of Kells. I have dreamt of seeing the Old Library and Book of Kells for years, and last year I looked enviously at pictures of the library from the Fall 2013 Voyage, counting down the days until it was my turn to smell the books and gaze at the endless rows. Needless to say, I was giddy with excitement while waiting in line.
The Book of Kells is more than 800 years old, and it contains beautifully hand-written pages of the four Gospels and incredibly detailed photos and accounts of the Evangelists. We learned all about the Book‚Äôs history from blown-up panels and explanations of the symbolism of the Book‚Äôs calligraphy. Looking at the hand-carved symbols, the ancient calligraphy and image of Jesus with gold and sapphire peacocks surrounding him, I was filled with a sense of awe to be gazing at the pages that were invaluable for their historical and religious significance.
After walking through the famous Old Library, where the smell of mahogany wood and old books was so inviting I never wanted to leave, we said goodbye to our new friend. Eric and June exchanged phone numbers, and decided to meet up in California one day.
Our first day in Dublin was so unexpectedly fun. My dream of seeing Trinity College‚Äôs old library came true, and the time spent laughing over fish and chips in Quay‚Äôs and meandering through Stephen‚Äôs Green with our new friend June are some of my favorite memories of Dublin.