I landed in the Dublin airport in the mid afternoon after 15 hours of travel. One car ride, two flights, a train ride, two busses and a zillion security checks and I made it with minimal trouble or stress. As it turns out I’m a very calm traveler and I have my wits about me so none of it felt very tough. I take back everything I said before about Air France, they are classy as f***. Large, plush seats, complimentary campagne, unlimited booze, two meals including items like quinoa salad, brie and coconut cake) personal TVs on the back of each seat with on demand movies, television and music. The selection included many new releases so I watched the newest Hobbit movie and pretended I was flying to The Shire. To be fair, if I could compare the parts of Ireland I’ve seen in my first 24 hours to anywhere, it would be Middle Earth.
My second flight was a little shadier. It was a tiny plane straight out of a trip from 1980 but I got to get cozy with a tiny old French man, so that’s a life experince I can check off. France from the air is spectacular; it looks like a beautiful patchwork quilt dotted with quaint neighborhoods. I also got very excited at the realization that I speak fluent French (I can only say hello, thank you, welcome, good bye, have a nice trip, and enjoy the food but those were the only things I needed to say in my 4 hours in Paris so that’s fluent in my mind).
For my first night I had booked a room at a B&B in a town called Swords just north of Dublin. The proprietor there was passive aggresive and seemingly sweet because she had to be, but I felt undertones of annoyance so I delt with her minimally. She directd me to a local pub called The Old Schoolhouse half a mile away in downtown Swords. It was everything I had pictured in an Irish pub. I was immediately friends with Dominic, an older Irish gentleman who was generous about purchasing Guinesses but knows nothing about where to eat actual food. It seems like food in general isn’t often considered here, I went my first night with no dinner, but a beelly full of beer. The cute male bartenders were enjoying making jokes with me and I of course ate up all the attention I was getting. Dominic was introducing me to every person who came in and I got a much needed dose of salty old Irish men and great conversation. Everyone is so friendly and outgoing and I felt at home, realizing this trip is already just what I needed. I anticipated feeling scared and anxious, but I’m fast learning that this type of travel is right in my comfort zone. I love meeting new people, every new place is exciting, I enjoy my own company and I don’t mind getting a little lost.
I didn’t really plan any part of this trip, but I especially didn’t plan to land on what would have been my Grandmother’s 90th birthday. A few months ago she was talking to me about a big party; she always wanted a reason for a grand event. It’s not as though a 90th birthday isn’t reason to celebrate but at the time the thought of planning such a gathering was overwhelming with my busy work schedule. Now I look at where life has taken me and how much has changed in a short period of time and I’m a little sad thinking about the lack of a party and the lack of her.
When I decided a week ago that I would get on a plane and land anywhere my first thought was to call her. My thoughts always used to be “call mom” and then “call Grandma.” After we lost my mother I spent months getting used to not being able to call her about everything. I still wish to call her constantly, but I have become more aware that I can’t; now I have to start all over again remembering that I can’t call my Grandmother. She had become the immediate replacement as my first call for news. To be fair, she was a worthy replacement for the spot as every bit of my life I shared with her was greeted with enthusiasm and fascination. She always told me that we had each other and I know for both of us time spent together was a small reprieve from missing my mom as we both found pieces of her in each other.
I know what both my mom and Grandma would have thought about me taking this trip; they would have been thrilled and terrified. I would have been made to stay in touch with them constantly. It’s amazing how much I miss their constant worrying; it’s a nice feeling to know someone can’t live without you. I’m checking in several times a day with Lisa, who has informed me if she goes too long without a word from me she will be contacting the embassy.
The day I flew out was also the same day that Ireland voted on legalizing gay marriage. The day I landed my NPR app notified me that the yesses had it and in further reading I saw that in spite of being one of the most conservative and religious countries in Europe, 75% of voters in Dublin had been for it. The streets were lined with signs about voting for equality and the locals were all a buzz. It felt special to start my trip with such a positive historical event. When chatting with an older Irish gentleman in a pub he told me religiously he didn’t personally support it, but he was in favor of the yes vote because the choices of others weren’t for him to decide. He then also told me, as he chuckled, that he has always been in favor of two women together but was less thilled about thinking of two men together. Baby steps I suppose; if ignorant people choose to be in favor of equality because they can recognize that it is right in spite of their personal beliefs, that is a good start.
Lessons Learned on Day 1:
- The drivers are always on the side of the road I don’t expect and they are mad men.
- Don’t ever stand on the bus even if there is something to hold on to. The Bus Drivers are in their own version of the game Crazy Taxi and they start and stop like a Terrier on speed.
- Everything in Paris is pretty and everyone there is likely better than me.
- Irish toilets are tall so everything lands loudly in them.
- Going out just to drink is referred to as “going on the piss” which I’ll keep saying long after I leave.
- The bathroom is called “the jacks” and I still don’t know how to use it in a sentence.
- Tomatoes are seved with breakfast grilled and it is crazy delicious.
- Due to my attraction to redheads, accents and beards, I actually have too many cute guys to even know what to do. For now I’m happy to befriend the safe, older men who have good stories, pay for my beer and refuse to let me return the favor.