Words by Teenie Lyro
When you’re young you travel cheap. That means long layovers, long drives, and long days. Anything to cut cost or fit more into a day. For us that meant touching down after a day and a half of flying and living in true luxury. A rental car. So day one in Ireland, the greenest country on earth was spent in the car, on the wrong side of the road living off of caffeine, a LOT of prayer that we would survive the narrow, unlit Irish highway system that would get us to the Western coast, and the pure excitement that after months of dreaming we had actually made it.
Shockingly Brandon’s hope that there would be live, traditional music going on somewhere in a small coastal town on a small Irish peninsula where the sheep outnumber the people at least fifty to one on the deadest tourist week of the year didn’t come true and our first night over seas was an early one. We were able to spend the next day doing what every tourist wants to do. Drive back across the country. But not until we had driven the beautiful Slea Head Drive, forty kilometers of coastal cliffs and sheep and prehistoric ruins. We were also able to stop by Blarney Castle on our way back to Dublin and spend thirteen euros to climb to the top and pressure each other into kissing that slimy old rock. (Note: Kissing the stone is supposed to gift you with eloquence. Not entirely sure if this is true as it hasn’t been made very apparent in this recounting of our adventures.)
A few hours of sleep and awful pizza and a show down at the open mic and an early morning flight on to Edinburgh.
Now when I said a few hours of sleep I really meant like forty-five minutes. (Flights where you have to wake up at three o’clock in the morning are by far the cheapest.) Thankfully the flight was only forty-five minutes too. Forty-five minutes spent talking to the two Angry Birds players sharing the Exit row with me, who didn’t necessarily feel the need to acknowledge Teenie this morning. The delirious talking only got worse on the bus ride into town when the Angry Birds players, namely Brandon and Tad, joined in on a running commentary of the city we were driving through that probably made every other passenger cringe.
Seeing a city on forty-five minutes of sleep is great. Especially when that city is a giant hill. We managed to make it long enough to see Edinburgh Castle (too cheap to pay to go in), John Knox’s house (also too cheap to pay to go in), and the Edinburgh museum (which is free). A nap was decided on with the agreement that we would wake up and go back out in an hour, which ended about five hours and several alarms after had been planned with four far happier travels. The night was spent at the Edinburgh Christmas fair on the giant swings that swung you out about ten feet from kicking the Scott’s monument.
Day two. All I can say is closes (small narrow allies) and ghost tours.
Oh, also the most beautiful, windiest, picnic on Arthur’s Seat from which you can see the entire city.
London for a day
London was a whirlwind spent at a cheap hostel by St. Paul’s Cathedral where our day passes for the tube kept not working and we were told how awful and tired we looked several times.
We walked and walked and saw all the big things and decided to end the night at some sort of show. The only one with affordable tickets still available two hours before the show was a new West End musical called Half a Sixpence. We went and asked the lady at the ticket booth for the cheapest ones and she tried to sell us fifty pound tickets which we promptly turned down knowing there was cheaper ones.
“Oh,” she said, “Those ones... No one ever wants to sit there. That’ll be twelve pounds each.”
So we spent our evening in a London theater, hanging over the railing, and trying to enjoy the musical.
The next morning was church at Westminster Abbey and off to Paris.
Paris is not overrated. Ever. It has the best street food and the best art and inspires the most refinement in its humble tourists. Hence, the boys had to see the Louvre. The girls didn’t. We had booked all of our places to stay up to a tiny apartment in Montmartre. We knew we wanted to stay another night in Paris we just didn’t know where. The Champs Elysees and the fancy McDonald’s were going to our heads so of course it made sense to spend all the money we hadn’t spent on the rest of the trip and spend it all on a suite at a boutique hotel filled with copies of neoclassical art and fancy wallpaper. It was ten hours spent siting on a pull out couch watching movies of pure indulgence for our tired feet.
Everyone's heard of the White Cliffs of Dover, but if you want to see some beautiful white chalk cliffs go to Etretat. The cliffs there are remote and there are far fewer tourist but on a clear December day they were worth the whole trip. Nothing can compare to that utter breathlessness and frustration I had climbing these cliffs. I'm joking... but not really. But Winsome pointed out to me, "How many people can say they've climbed the cliffs of Normandy?" It didn't work in the moment, but a month later I've mellowed out about it.
Our very last day we saw everything. We raced through the American Cemetery at Omaha taking a brief moment to breath deep the sea air that was so full of strife all those years ago. We explored the bunkers and the craters where the grass has grown in and peace has settle where once the Rangers scaled Pointe du Hoc. And we walked the path that has been walked by pilgrims for almost a thousand years out to
Mont Saint Michel. It was all too beautiful for words. And due to a four hour drive back to Paris to catch a flight it was far too quick.