When trying to decide what my next post would be about, I was a bit stuck. October was a busy month for me, with a ten-day trip to Europe planned smack dab in the middle. In an effort not to overload my plate, I hadn’t committed to learning something new for the month (which is kind of the point of this blog). But, as I was struggling to come up with an idea, it hit me – why not talk about my trip? There’s no other thing that I’ve done that pushes one’s limits like travel. It’s the ultimate teacher. Struggling to learn a new language? Bad with directions? Go get lost in Central America and I guarantee you’ll figure out a way to improve both pretty quickly. What choice do you have but to learn and adapt to your surroundings? There was an old guy named Charles Darwin who had similar thoughts:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
So, about this trip.
There were six of us, and our itinerary was: fly into Dublin, fly to Lagos (Portugal), drive to Lisbon, fly to Barcelona, and back to Dublin to fly home. Incredible as the experience was, there were inevitable moments of discomfort that we all encounter when traveling. This got me thinking.
Some uncomfortable truths of travel:
- Dorm rooms in hostels. Don’t take this one the wrong way. I love hostels and use them on all of my trips. But, no matter how awesome the rest of the place is, there is nothing comfortable about sleeping in a room with 7 other adults, in bunk-beds.
Enjoy our 5 star accommodation.
- Nothing fits. This is true in a few different ways. You need converters for electrical outlets, monetary values fluctuate and currencies change from country to country, clothing fits differently, etc. Coming from the US, we also have the added annoyance of converting everything from the Metric System (which, by the way, is so much easier).
Ready to shred the gnar.
Even horses are smaller abroad.
In search of the elusive, perfect fedora.
- Long plane/train/bus/car rides suck and there’s no way around it. Until we’re able to teleport, we’re stuck with crying babies, crappy movie selections, motion sickness, and middle seats.
Ready to take on the world!
Yes, that’s a wooden penis bottle opener.
Sean loves the backseat.
Ok, enough complaining. The great thing about the aforementioned annoyances is they make the amazing parts of travel that much better. On to the good stuff.
We flew in and out of Dublin, so in total we had about a day and a half to explore. Staying at the Kinlay House Hostel, we were within walking distance of all the best spots in the Temple Bar district. Everything about the city was great – tons of history, cool pubs/restaurants, and last but not least, super friendly people. For being a major international capital, it had a unique vibe, unlike any place I’d ever been.
Highlights: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Temple Bar, Copper Face Jack’s
St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Bartender/Wizard @ Gogarty’s Pub.
4/5 of the McMullen clan.
The Temple Bar.
Wow. This was one of the most beautiful places I think I’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing in person. All the way at the southern tip of Portugal, and not far from the city of Tangier in northern Morocco, lies the small city of Lagos. Hand-tiled streets and buildings made way to breathtaking coastal cliffs, with blue-green waters below. We stayed for three days, and I probably took about three-hundred pictures (none of which do this place justice).
Highlights: Relaxing on cliffside beaches, Eating fresh seafood, Enjoying the nightlife
Boys being boys.
Trying to find our hostel.
I do the same pose in every picture.
Checking the view.
Tiles on tiles.
Is this place real?
Sean with a cute pose.
The money shot.
Doing cave stuff.
We headed up the coast from Lagos in a rental van, towards the capital city of Lisbon. What I thought would be a three-hour drive turned into six, full of winding coastal roads, overlooking cliffs below. As we crossed over the beautiful Tagus River and took in our first glimpse of the city, I was immediately impressed. Everyone in our group was blown away by the architecture and gritty character of the city. Wrought-iron lattices adorned worn in buildings, tram cars zipped by, cafes were nestled in streets barely wider than the span of my arms, fingertip-to-fingertip. On my list of places to get back to asap.
Highlights: Alfama, The Food – Pasteis de Nata, Bread & Cheese,Sunset Destination Hostel, Carmo Convent Ruins & Museum
Praça do Comércio
This trip was brought to you by Vans®
Fado street art.
Carmo Convent Ruins.
Selfie sticks are pretty handy.
These guys were drunk at 11 am.
Barcelona was the impetus for the whole trip – my little sister is spending a semester abroad, and my brother and I wanted to take some time off and go visit her. A quick flight from Lisbon, we rolled into Las Ramblas and found our hostel, right off the main strip, in the bustling Placa Reial. Barcelona was a completely different experience than Lisbon, feeling more modern and much larger than the Portuguese capital. Hundred (plus) million dollar yachts lined the harbor, Catalan flags hung from balconies, and paella. So. Much. Paella. We had a blast, and it was great to be able to share that experience with my brother and sister.
Highlights: Las Ramblas, The Gothic Quarter, Chupitos, Opium
Port of Barcelona.
View from our hostel.
Barcelona from above.
The Yas. This thing is 463 feet and belongs to the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE.
Dow Jones bar.
Side note: Back in Dublin, we were lucky enough that our last day overlapped with my parents’ first twenty four hours of their trip to Europe. Cross “Having a Guinness with my parents in Ireland” off the bucket-list.
All in all, a great time. I’d highly recommend every one of our stops, although Dublin and Lisbon really impressed me. It won’t be long until I start planning my next adventure – any and all suggestions are welcome.