Tag Archives: ireland

Ireland Days 2-6 (Dublin)

13 Jun

Note: I wrote this while still in Dublin but have taken a week or so to edit and polish it, so this all actually took place May 24-28, 2015 in spite of when I’m posting it.

So much to catch up on! A lot has happened since my last post and I haven’t even had the time to slow down and just write. I’m still in Dublin, but I have seen and learned tons in just a short few days.   

Dublin the day I arrived

  Once I bussed into Dublin from Swords I trekked to my first Hostel and the experience was everything I could need to give me the best impression of hostel living. The place was an old renovated music studio geared towards musicians and artsy types with comfy beds, clean bathrooms and delightful staff. I was the only girl in a room full of foreign guys my first night. I didn’t make any new friends there as they mostly kept to themselves so I went out on my own around Central Dublin and the Temple Bar District. It was of course packed with tourists. Not feeling satisfied at the idea of drinking a pint with a bunch of Americans (I can do that at home anytime) I wandered the streets peering into countless pubs, hoping to sense a vibe that drew me in. Several British guys came pouring out of a bar at one point and seemed interested in my joining their group until they realized I wasn’t drunk and not up for getting into trouble; I safely avoided that little field trip but found out I was “a lovely American lass”.

Around midnight, feeling a little disappointed but mostly content with how much I had seen walking around, I was heading back to my hostel when an Irish band (here called a “trad”) in a pub was playing music so lively that I couldn’t walk away. I went into the place and found a crowd dancing heartily to a guitar, banjo and hand drums. I didn’t even need a drink, I was so happy to just dance alone and feed off the energy of the group. After an hour I was jumping around and laughing with several Irish girls when a British fellow approached me and offered me a beer. I was all too happy to accept and closed out the night with a few more dances and my lovely new group of British gentlemen walking me safely back to my accomodations. I got to know them a little on the walk, but let them down gently at the door as their drunken attempts at flirting were low on my list of activities. I was in too good a mood to spoil things with something as silly as drunk boys.

The next day I toured Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells and The Long Room, which in simple terms are a really old book and a really old library with more really old books. This description should not be taken as me selling the experience short, as I spent a long while sitting alone staring up at the ceiling of the Long Room just soaking in the beauty and history of it all. I find myself so like my mother at times, on the verge of tears whenever I see something historically important or architecturally beautiful. It is as though the magnitude of its importance threatens to break and overwhelm me. People rushing around me taking selfies and only winessing the Long Room through a camera lens eventually faded into the background as I allowed myself to meditate a little and appreciate how far I had traveled and how much it has already affected me.  

The Long Room at the old library of Trinity College

 I later found myself out with a handsome Irish gentleman who took me all about Dublin on what felt like a private historical mini tour. We talked about culture and politics and life and I had moments where I looked at myself from the outside and realized I was right in the midst of the exact moment I had pictured in an ideal dream. The man was charming, kind, brilliant and very attentive to my stories and opinions; a true gentleman and scholar with no pressure for anything but lovely company. I hardly recognized the scene or myself; all of it had me at what I feel is the pinnacle version of me. Nothing fake or put on, but a girl I have lost touch with in my day to day life of habit at home. I have been so wrapped up in grieving, or pretending not to grieve or working or trying to maintain my adult life that I had potentially lost touch with who I really want to be. It has nothing to do with the guy really, he was just kind enough to really see me as I am and I’m finding myself in new found joy. When I connect as that girl, I feel brilliant, fun, vibrant and kind; the woman I want to harness and be as much as possible.

Staying in the room at my second hostel for the next few nights (located in the heart of Temple Bar directly next door to the namesake) I met Patrick from the west coast of the States. He was planning to visit the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery so I siezed the opportunity to have a buddy for those trips.  I was already planning on going but I couldn’t have wished for someone better than Patrick to join.

Patrick and me on his 40th at the Guinness Storehouse

 I think for the historical stuff, I am finding I like the solitude and ability to sit and take it in at my leisure, but for drinking the company is perfect. It turns out that the day we went to Guinness, Patrick was celebrating his 40th birthday and I made it my personal goal to jam pack every minute with fun for him. We had a natural, nice back and forth as we both brought out each others goofy side. We laughed so much my core hurt by the end of the day in the best way possible. I told everyone we spoke to about Patrick’s big day and we ended up getting special treatment all throughout the Guinness facilities. With our special widowside table at the top of the giant pint glass we overlooked Dublin and the landscape beyond while I feasted on the best mussles I’ve ever tasted. Our waiter Antonio continually brought special reserve recipes of newer brews, not yet released outside the city and we ended up committing our entire day to that venture. We finished off his special day at a perfect Irish dive, Dice Bar, joined by what I would call a devistatingly tall and handsome local who asked not to be named. I would call the whole day a complete success.

The next day we kept the trend of combined travels going with an Irish breakfast and my first Irish coffee of the trip (but far from my last) at a pub that claims to be the oldest in Ireland. Then Patrick and I ended our time together after a tour of the Old Jameson Distillery. We were both about 3 Irish coffees and two Jamesons into the day so our parting was fittingly sentimental. It is rare to find a friend you are so comfortable with so quickly but I suspect we will be friends long past this trip. 

Taking any opportunity to ham it up.

 My last full day in Dublin was today and I have made the most of it. I visited the Kilmainham Gaol (their spelling of “jail”) and saw a lot of rocks and a lot more rocks where people were apparently executed.  Also, more rocks.

Important people were exectuted by these rocks. Long story.

 They love that sort of thing here, rocks and history. I’m beginning to have an appreciation for it myself, and I love how much I’m learning about their history, gruesome as most of it is. Next I rode the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus all over the city to see parks and monuments and hear a more detailed history of each. I visted the National Gallery, which boasted Picasso and Monet. I’m sad to say I think they shouldn’t advertise that because based on the two pieces in their collection they might have been the selections even the artists mothers felt “weren’t their strongest efforts”. Between that and the fact that only two rooms were open (one of which was Modern “art” color slabs on walls with titles like Raindew and Yellow Feelings; nothing makes me angrier except maybe Jackson Pollock) and I found the six or so remaining wings closed for renovations. I felt free entry was pushing it in terms of getting some culture for the cost. They should have paid me for time spent, or at least offered wifi so I could have googled “hamsters hugging other hamsters”. I looked it up now and it turned up some incredible stuff. 

Not quite hugging, but OH MY WORD!

Now that is a good hamster hug

  Now I am enjoying a Guinness in O’Dohrety’s Pub waiting for a handsome Dublin fellow to show me his local haunts. I’m hoping to find a place with all Irish folks and less tourists.  I’m optimistic about my final evening wandering this city with my guide. 

Looking worse for wear at O’Dohrety’s after a long day walking about.

  Tomorrow I head south to Cork where I hear the accents are a little different but charming as ever and the scenery is supposed to be breathtaking. More adventures to come.

Things I’ve learned:

  • Irish guys are total gentlemen almost to the point of being a bit passive. It’s lovely.
  • There are no fruits or vegetables in this country; they will tell you potatoes are vegetables and they are all you need.
  • Irish people don’t want to serve you water, they want to serve you pints, and I’m either dangerously dehydrated or adapting as a lizard would in drought.
  • If you think about it (and I have) Guinness contains water and hops, which are green plants; thus I deem Guinness to be “salad water”. Problems solved.
  • Guys take more time in hostel bathrooms than girls do. I mean a LOT more time; I assume they are choreographing Irish Step dances because I don’t want to think about other reasons why they are in there.
  • The statues in Dublin can be a little wild.  

    This is Molly Malone; she is a big deal.

     
  • “Cockles and Mussles” are what Molly is pushing in her cart in said statue. A British couple who saw me taking this picture simply said “cockles and mussles” to me and I asked them if that was how they referred to lady parts in the UK. It is not. That is what she is pushing in her cart.
  • Thankfully the British find me charming enough to laugh off my being an idiot. The jury is out on how the Irish feel, they either think I’m adorable or a lost cause.
  • Irish Breakfast every single day was my best idea ever and I would guess I’ve eaten all the pork products. 
  • Black pudding = awesome and anyone who told me I shouldn’t try it is no longer on my trusted “life advice list”. 

    John saw this on my Dublin map before I left so this is for him

     

Ireland Day 1 (Swords and Dublin)

24 May

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.

 

One of many displays in the small town of Swords, Ireland


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.
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