About a month ago, I finally fulfilled one of my lifelong travel dreams and visited Dublin, Ireland. I am not ashamed to admit that I have been dreaming of Ireland for years. I don’t really know where it all started, but there was definitely a time in my early teens when a friend and I went halfsies on a “teach yourself Gaelic” CD set that we listened to for hours on end in her tree house. I also had VHS tapes of all the PBS Irish Tenors specials I managed to catch.
Yes, I was a teen obsessed.
Unfortunately, the only phrase I still remember is “Cad é atá an focal Gaeilge ar…?” Which, if you’re going to remember only one, is a good one, since it means “What’s the Gaelic word for…?”
Anyway, when I realised that one of my musician acquaintances was going to be playing a show in Dublin during a week-long grad school break, I knew it was a sign. Finally, I would visit Ireland, and maybe try out that one Gaelic phrase!
I found a fantastic deal on train/ferry tickets from London to Dublin on sailrail.co.uk and before I knew it, was on my way.
Now, you should know that one of the persistent sources of anxiety for me when traveling is the fear that I’ll miss whatever transportation I am using and be stuck somewhere, watching said transportation fade into the distance. The thing is, it’s actually a legitimate concern for me because it has happened more than once.
This trip was going to be easy though. Train, one hour stop in Holyhead to wait for the ferry, take the ferry, arrive in Dublin.
How hard could that be?
Not hard at all, you would say. One change, an entire hour to walk from one end of the Holyhead station to the other, all 100 meters or less of it, mere child’s play, you would say.
And I would say that you don’t know just how good I am at missing my connections. It has taken years of experience to hone this skill, and it was put on its best display on the way to Dublin. I managed to miss the single easiest connection I have probably ever had.
Needless to say, I was really, really mad at myself.
Missing connections is just a huge pain for many reasons, not the least of which is potential costly re-bookings, which I have had to do a few times (though thankfully not this time). Once I calmed myself down with the realisation that this mistake would cost me no money and just a few hours, I realised that this could actually turn out to be a fun little adventure, like some other missed connections in the past have turned out. I have seen things I wouldn’t have stopped for otherwise and have been able to slow down a bit and take things in. And ultimately, a little adventure is way better than sitting, pouting in a boarding area for hours.
So, I had a day in Holyhead.
A short walk from the station, across the bridge, and we were right in the middle of Holyhead, one of the most charming little towns I have ever seen. The streets are winding and narrow and impeccably clean, with cozy little shops and cafes throughout. I had also seen some old-looking buildings from a distance while crossing the bridge and found them almost immediately.
The beautiful, medieval church St. Cybi, overlooks the port and stands on the location of a monastery founded in 540 AD. It was a desperately cold and windy day with weather changes every few minutes, but we still hung around outside the church for quite a while, taking photos, reading little information placards, and looking at old gravestones.
Once we had thoroughly frozen ourselves, we headed back into the centre, stopping by a candy stall at the market to pick up some chocolates and listen for a bit to the accordionist playing outside local coffee shop.
It picturesque, really – the town, the old buildings, the wind and clouds – and we would never have seen them had we not missed that ferry. Though I certainly wouldn’t recommend intentionally missing flights and such, there is a lot to be said for rolling with it, setting aside your frustration, and just taking it all in.
I tend to be a worrier about travel, and I was certainly upset when I realised what had happened, but while walking around that lovely town, looking at beautiful old buildings and munching on chocolates, I was reminded of just why it is that I travel. Certainly, the destination is a reason, but it’s the journey there as well that keeps me going. It is all the things I stumble upon, the people I meet, and the unexpected surprises that always seem to come out of missed connections, wrong turns, and mistakes.
And who knows? Now that I have wet my appetite for Holyhead, and Wales in general, I just might go back, but on purpose next time.
How about you? Have you ever missed a connection or had an unexpected detour and ended up with a nice little unplanned adventure? I’d love to hear about it.
Stay tuned for the next part of the Dublin trip, which actually takes place in Dublin! Yes, we did finally make our ferry and get to Ireland.