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Ireland in four parts

March 24, 2007

1st: Short lists

Unofficial airline rankings:

    Best Bathrooms: United

    Best Chairs: Lufthansa

    Smelliest: British Midlands

    Easiest Sleep: British Midlands (although this was probably a function of being too exhausted)

Airline/Airport Most Likely to Provoke my Early Death: Luftansa and Frankfurt Airport

Most Hilarious travel guide: Mary, who showed us Newgrange and Tara

Best pizza (place) in Ireland: On O’Connell street, where there was a huge motorcycle and a juke box inside

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2nd: Stranger things have happened with these folks

 

It’s been over a week since I sat on the light rail line  – the LUAS – in Dublin, and Julie turned to me and said “To have all these people on the LUAS right now is bizarre… and amazing.” I looked into the compartment of the tram and saw a group of people –  FJF, K-mo, Court, The Hu, Stick, Morris, The Captain –  that had no logical right being in the same place at the same time  – save for the miracle of intercontinental air flight.

This, this is how you spend a spring break.

*

3rd: Looking like a traveling fool on all continents

Once the sunset blinks out at the far edge of Virginia, there’s nothing left to be excited about at Dulles International Airport. I’ve arrived. I’ve checked my baggage twice. I’ve gone through security, taken off my shoes, shuttled through the houses on wheels that connect the terminals, walked the four extra football fields because of course, my gate is at the  end of the last turn of the further corner of the terminal.

Now I have three hours before my plane boards. I am my mother’s daughter.

After a 7-hour plane ride, we land in London. Airports usually don’t give you an immediate clue as to where you are, but everything suddenly seems very British to me. This is the land of Shakespeare, the Beatles, and Doctor Who – surely there must be awesome in the air. After a lunch with Liz and Co., who are traveling to Spain, I walk another four (English) football fields to my connecting flight. I want to see Ireland in my little airplane window, but I’m so tired that I simply pass out in my seat and do not wake until we land in Dublin.

No more time for sleeping. I’m in the intense hyperaware state of traveling by myself. This is the part where you plan ahead, but expect the worse. I drag my huge suitcase on to the airlink shuttle (a double decker bus!) and find a seat upstairs. The hyperaware state, plus my jet lag means my stream of consciousness sounds something like this

OMGOMGOMGIRELANDPLANEPLANEIRELANDATLANTICFAROMGIRELANDHOWHOW PLANE? YES PLANE. IRELAND HERE IN IRELAND. DOES MY PHONE WORK CRAP PHONE WORK PHONE WORKS WOO IRELAND OMG OMG PEOPLE IN IRELAND IRISH PEOPLE OMG THERE BUS STOPS IRISH HOUSES. IT LOOKS LIKE IRELAND IT MUST BE IRELAND HOW?

But now is not a time for panic. I am let off at Busaras, supposedly the main bus stop. It looks like a street corner to me. Fortunately, I have done my homework and have directions. It is a 15 minute walk and I’m carrying a 60 pound suitcase. I look ridiculous, but I own it.

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4th: Best. Anything.ever

After a short nap in my hostel, I met Julie and Katie outside. We went immediately to the Longstone, a pub around the corner where I ordered water first (I was dehydrated badly) and then a beer. Over a mixed platter of fried foods and a pint, the three of us caught up.

“The thing about a good friend” someone once told me “Is that you can not talk for them for months and then you get on the phone or you see them in the street and you pick up exactly where you left off.” This is how it felt in the Longstone, I hadn’t seen Julie since August; Katie, since January, but we picked up exactly where we had started, aided by the internet and a particularly hilarious email chain that had been going around. We got coffee and picked up the LUAS. We walked up Grafton Street, the shopping area and dodged people. I felt instantly at home with two good friends and a street that was both modern and European.

By the end of the night I had met all of Julie’s roommates and taken the LUAS back and forth , where I gifted myself a Carlsberg pint glass and took a twenty minute walk far further downtown to the Porterhouse, a pub I was told I couldn’t miss. Around 12:30, the live Irish music still going strong, I turned to Katie and said “find my hostel, I need to sleep”. Fortunately, it was right around the corner. After 40 hours awake, even the hard hostel bed seemed a relief.

The rest of the week followed this pattern: eating fried food, tourist places during the day and then nights with my friends at the variety of pubs in Dublin. I loved the casual feeling of the pubs, eating greasy food and taking over an entire corner table, wooden and feeling as old as the city.

Through my tourist eyes of Dublin, I saw the door that started Ulysses, walked by the statues of angels with bullet holes in them, went to the ancient hill of Tara and found out that yes, it was still a hill, albeit with interesting ridges, I went to the parks of Dublin (they’re quite lovely). Then I added another World Heritage Site by going to Newgrange, a passage grave 500 years older than the pyramids that gets lit up every year at the winter solstice. I went to the National Gallery where I agreed with Julie that Irish art is a little “off” and I agreed, except when we went to into what I liked to call the “secret wing” hidden behind a not-door that showed the best of Irish art from the past century. If I had been quicker with the camera, I would have gotten a picture of Julie grimacing at an ethereal painting of Bono – of just his face – as I wondered why The Edge is always left out. Poor The Edge.

The Guinness Storehouse was a little overstylized in my opinion, but we did make friends with a video projection and at the top you get a free pint of Guinness. It’s ingenious really: make people slavishly follow a 6 floor museum, give them a free beer and then let them loose in the gift shop. Faith and Alice got in Thursday night, and were supposed to meet them in Temple Bar, but in between failing to eat at Longstone, getting bought a round of beers a group of Irish that had just come back from Boston, and then eating at a kebab place, we missed them, and tired from traveling, they went back to Julie’s. 

We met up with them on Friday morning (and had Courtney and Donna with us) at – where else – Starbucks. After another day exploring Dublin (and an impromptu photo shoot with the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Park) we met Stick and Jimmy as they left the bus next to Trinity. We walked up Grafton Street in a huge group that we must have gotten some stares. As we were getting back to Julie’s her roommates were leaving for the night, so the 6th flo’ reunion took over the apartment. Then to Doyle’s where as Katie had promised me, the DJ would spin indie dance music to the point of ridiculousness. DJ hipster didn’t disappoint and played a number of 80s faves plus two Arcade Fire songs.

Having barely slept Friday night, we went back into town to meet up for the St. Patty’s day parade, which meant getting off the bus earlier and walking through the crowds. At one particularly scary part, we got crushed between crowd that was going nowhere and the Westin hotel. Before all of us were crushed or fainted (it was that bad) we somehow escaped into the blocked off streets, but it was very tense for about 5 minutes. By the

At 2 a.m. I left the Barge with Katie and company and got on the Nitelink, a bus that runs only after 1 a.m. As you might imagine, it was an experience, complete with sounds and smells. We made it just in time for me to catch a taxi to the airport at 3 a.m. After security, I spent the next three hours napping off and on. I went to coffee and two people flagged me down with a cry of “Hey! Yeah g-dubs!” I was wearing my GW sweatshirt. I waved weakly to the people I didn’t know, but went to my school.

20 hours, and almost getting stuck in Germany later, I was back in DC, in my apartment. Unfortunately, school and work started early again tomorrow, but it was worth it.

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