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Ireland provides a great many things for the visitor: Extreme hospitality, a convivial pub scene, verdant scenery – and the chance to relive one’s childhood fixation with disaster. The Titanic was my obsession.

By the time I reached fifth grade I had done more research on the ship of dreams than James Cameron. I wrote frequent book reports about the sinking of the Titanic, which probably concerned Mrs. Kenny, for both their dark content but also lack of topical relevancy.

Looking back now, I realize that said fixation stems from some totally relatable themes here:

1) The human desire to romanticize/change tragic history (or at least monetize it).

2) The excitement of embarking on a grand adventure only to have it end badly, which is what I feel every time I board an airplane. (Yes, I’m a traveler who’s afraid to fly, but that’s for another post.)

But I digress… So here we are, planning a return to Ireland, and there is no way I’m doing it without a fair bit of Titanic-ing. I don’t always drag my husband to disaster memorials, but when I do, it’s to pay respect to the world’s most arrogant ocean liner and cinema’s eponymous romantic smash hit of the ‘90s.

First Stop: Cobh, Ireland

For anyone wanting to dig deeper into the legacy and history of Titanic, I suggest heading south to the coast of Cork County. This stop on the authentic Titanic catastrophe tour is in a quaint seaside town formerly known as Queenstown. Now called Cobh (pronounced “cove”), it was the last port of call and the last bit of land that the great ship ever saw.

Titanic, Cobh, Ireland

The actual and real White Star Ticket office where the last passages aboard the Titanic were bought.

Titanic made it’s final stop here on April 11, 1912 to embark 123 passengers and disembark eight, including Rev Francis Browne, who took over 1,000 photos during his 24-hour ride from Southampton, England. That was one picture every minute and a half. This guy could snapchat any teenager under the table. His photographic zeal contributed the only remaining evidence we have of life on board the ship and probably annoyed more than one traveling companion (“get that camera out of my face, Frank, I’m trying to EAT!”).

Cobh is where the White Star ticket office still stands. And when I see it, I’m filled with glee. And then something like shame or embarrassment that I’m filled with glee. But…but… this is tangible history!

The museum here is called the Titanic Experience and is very modest, but it is housed within an authentic piece of the story. Our tickets are reproductions of original Titanic passage. My “boarding pass” tells me that I am now Margaret Madigan, 21, a third class passenger. Now I’m aflutter with survival plans and which passage I will sneak up and which lifeboat I will jump into. But, my escape plans are quelled as I must follow the guided tour group through a couple of rooms within the old White Star office first. I can’t help but think that a couple of whiskey shots and some river dancing would’ve been a more lively way to pass the time.

We move outside just as the passengers must have and I am most struck by the decaying “heartbreak pier” whose last remaining timbers defiantly cling to the waterfront. If I squint enough I can almost pretend the picnic tables shaded by alcohol-branded umbrellas are no longer festively blocking its entrance. It now (barely) stands as both a ruin and a memorial to not only the final Titanic passengers but to thousands of Irish throughout the 19th and 20th century who sailed to America in search of a different life.

Heartbreak Pier, Titanic

On the dock in Cobh, Ireland, you can enjoy the sun and a gin and tonic while reflecting on the sinking of the Titanic.

It really doesn’t take much for me to imagine the street and the dock filled with people cheering for the Titanic, wishing they were the lucky ones getting ready to head across the ocean on the world’s most luxurious ship.

My obsession begins to rise again. Oh, I want to sail on it too. I want to listen to Molly Brown throw Missouri-isms at her fellow tedious first-class passengers. I want to stand on the bow and feel like I’m flying. I want to be drawn like one of those French girls. But mostly, I desperately want to go back and change everything. I want to tell them to slow down, to listen to the ice warnings, to either turn sooner, engage full stop or hit the ‘berg head on. But I’m helpless.

Juliana Dever at Titanic Museum

Hooray! I lived! I never know if I should smile or look somber when posing in front of memorials.

We finish our tour to find that while hubs and I were both steerage, we lived. Hooray! I’m not sure what to do with this knowledge. I mean, we’d be dead by now anyway, but we’re feeling lucky at the moment, so we stop by a pub and toast our new lease on life. Or at least I did. Seamus doesn’t get as carried away with being a sentimental historian dork like I do, and really he’s being super patient as I put him through all of this. He was mostly excited for his pint of Beamish.

Cobh itself is a lovely coastal town in Ireland, worth a walkabout. The Titanic Experience museum itself is small and for the diehard who wants to set actual foot in the ticket office of legend. So…for obsessive people like me.

JFK - Cobh, Ireland, Sinking of the Titanic

This waterfront promenade is known as John F. Kennedy park. And it’s so enchanting you might forget you’re here to visit the Titanic museum. Well YOU might. I didn’t. The gorgeous bandstand was built in 1849 for the visit of Queen Victoria. Now you’ve learned something. You’re welcome.

Heartbreak pier is easily viewable whether one takes their chances as a passenger of the Titanic Experience, chooses a glass of bubbly on the pier or relaxes in the gorgeous waterfront park. But we can’t get too comfortable, because I’ve got to convince Seamus to experience one more shipwreck up in Northern Ireland. We’ve still got to take in the grandeur that is the magnificent disaster-museum-to-end-all-disaster-museums (and wedding venue): Titanic Belfast.

Read Part Two: My Heart DID Go on in Belfast →

  •  Eat
  •  Do
  •  Transport

Lunch in the lovely seaside village of Kinsale.

The Titanic Experience Museum

The Titanic Trail a guided walking tour

Train: Irish Rail has trains that run every half hour from Cork City (Kent station) to Cobh. 25 Minute ride.

Car: Approximately 30 min drive through the towns of Cork County.

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About the Author

Hi. I’m Juliana Dever and according to science I have some sort of "exploration" gene. Embracing this compulsion, I spend a lot of time hurtling around the planet in metal tubes experiencing other cultures and writing humorous essays about it. Enjoy.

14 Comments

  1. Jennifer / May 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm /Reply

    This is going to be so awesome! I can’t wait to travel vicariously thru you and add to my destination wish list. Your pictures are beautiful and the narrative is simply written as though we were the best of friends talking about your travels. Keep it up!!!!! Thanks so much.

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:54 pm /Reply

      Thank you Jennifer! I’m glad to hear you are enjoying it. More stories coming very soon. 🙂

  2. Laura / May 13, 2015 at 2:20 pm /Reply

    I really like your blog. There are many information I didn’t know yet and I’m really looking forward to hear new stories from you. If I ever visit Ireland I’ll definitely visit this museum.

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:49 pm /Reply

      Thanks Laura, it really is a great museum and worth a few hours of your time. Thanks for reading!

  3. Alex / May 13, 2015 at 5:19 pm /Reply

    1) The captions on your photos crack me up. 2) You and Seamus are absolutely adorable and I’m so excited to get some behind the scenes on your awesome traveling life. This blog is awesome!

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:19 pm /Reply

      Ha! Thanks Alex. I try to put the Clever in Dever. Wait. I don’t think that works. Never mind. Yes, thanks for following along more to come!

  4. Carol / May 13, 2015 at 5:59 pm /Reply

    What fun!! I understand your obsession with a piece of history – mine was the ill-fated Donner party and their doomed journey to California. I’m sure that Mrs. Eubanks worried about me as your teacher did about you. Truckee Lake still calls to me…

    I’m looking forward to further installments of your travels!!

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:11 pm /Reply

      So funny Carol! Why is it that some stories just grab us and won’t let go?? I was also fascinated by the Hindenburg. I’m telling you, I was a dark child. Thanks for tuning in, more stories to come.

  5. Anna / May 14, 2015 at 12:41 am /Reply

    love your blog, I learned a lot about the titanic (and laughed out loud about the Rev. ;o)).

    Looking forward to your next travel stories

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:08 pm /Reply

      Thank you Anna! I’m a Titanic geek, huh? I seriously have got to get myself to Halifax to see the cemetery. I don’t know if you watched the movie, but there is a J. Dawson buried there and I like to pretend it was Jack. I’m hopeless.

  6. Eileen / May 16, 2015 at 4:09 pm /Reply

    I totally understand where you are coming from. I have dragged family to do really stupid stuff that only means something to me, like standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Or visiting the town of George, Washington. I love doing stuff like that. And if there is history to be seen where we are visiting, I want to see it!

    • Juliana Dever / May 21, 2015 at 9:42 am /Reply

      But it’s fun, right, Eileen? It’s a connection to time and space that I just can’t resist. Keep up the historical vacationing! 😉

  7. Marine / May 17, 2015 at 5:48 am /Reply

    Your blog is AMAZING, Juliana! You did a wonderful job. Congratulations. Loved the stories, pictures…we can feel your passion about travelling and it’s almost contagious….Wanna travel more now! Sagittarius are très très passionate and I think I know what I’m talking about 😉 And it’s awesome to be passionate when it comes to communicate about a passion we have…you do it brilliantly here. A tiny disappointment tho….No article about my pretty little, yet awesome Lyon 😉 Keep up the amazing job!!! Bisous

    • Juliana Dever / May 21, 2015 at 9:44 am /Reply

      Thank you Marine. It was far more work to design than I thought – I just had to turn it over to a wizard in order to get it done. I’m trying to keep most of the stories current, but I do have a lot of gorgeous photos of Lyon, so maybe at some point I will add them. Or maybe I will do a “flashback” post of my time there.

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