Europe 2008 – Dublin

My first experience with Europe proved to be everything that I anticipated, and woah, a whole lot more. I really had no idea what to expect, and since I had no concrete expectations, I was not disappointed in the slightest. It had genuinely not occurred to me that I was actually going so far away, that I would literally be across an ocean, all alone, by myself. Not until I’d texted Jordan from the airplane upon boarding did I realized this, and it was not until then that I started to freak out. See, for me, one of the best parts of going on a trip is getting ready, planning it, and packing. I really love packing (for trips, for moving, etc). I’d had a list started way before classes ended of everything that I needed to take, all typed up on the computer, with things that I needed to buy marked with an asterisk. I packed and repacked my suitcase, and while it was one pound overweight, I was happy with how I’d gotten so much crap so obsessively organized into it. So it turned out that I was so excited about planning and packing that I’d failed to acknowledge that I was actually GOING on the trip.

The woman on the plane next to me was nice enough. She liked to talk and kept yapping to me while I was all like, hello, I’m reading, what part of me holding this book in front of my face makes you think that I want to have a conversation? But she had friends with her and turned her attention to them soon enough. It was awesome to have the middle seat open, so I had a little room to spread out. Even in the regular seats I can stretch my legs all the way out (short people have at least THAT reason to live), so that wasn’t an issue, but it was pretty sweet to be able to have the extra room. I can also fold myself up and fit into a ball in the seat, and with being comfy under my blanket and some Ambien, the trip really wasn’t that bad. I got into Dublin and out of customs, baggage all claimed, and out of the airport by 7:15am local time, and then thought, well, now what the hell do I do. It wasn’t until I was standing outside the airport that I realized that I didn’t remember to write down the address of my hotel. How does a compulsive planner feel about that? Pretty stupid.

But after riding a bus for an hour, hopping into an internet cafe to find the specifics of where the hotel was, and only a little directionless wandering, I found my hotel. I got there about 8:45 but I couldn’t check in until 2:30. So I dropped off my bags, washed my face, brushed my hair, and tried to make myself look like I hadn’t been traveling for 20 hours to go out and see the city. The nice lady at the front desk asked me if I’d had breakfast, and when I said no, she sent me downstairs to the kitchen. I expected some dry muffins, maybe some watery orange juice and a hard boiled egg, a bagel if I was lucky, but no. The lady brought me out a steaming mug of (awful) coffee, a whole basket of toast, and a plate crammed full of two fried eggs, two slices of breakfast ham, what appeared to be some kind of homemade sausage, and– wait for it– baked beans. My immediate thought was, ok, what the hell am I going to do with all this food. It was not unlike my experience at the tea place in China where we drank so much tea we were about to explode, just because we didn’t know how to leave politely. So much tea. So much unidentifiable meat. But at least it was mostly good and I didn’t have to start my day off with finding somewhere to eat.

I got out my map on which I’d labeled and circled the things that I wanted to see and do, and I set out. The first place I saw was Trinity College, which dates back to 1592 when it was established by Elizabeth I. The buildings were entirely made out of stone and was quite impressive. Also there was the Book of Kells on display. It contains the four gospels hand copied and illustrated by Celtic monks approximately 800ad. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of it, but my, it amazes me that people were so artistically brilliant even without the technology that we have. These people ground their own pigments to make paint, and write with the goose feathers from the bird out in the back. It was gorgeous.

Trinity College

Perhaps my favorite part of Trinity College was the library. Being someone who could easily live at a Barnes and Noble, this library was a mansion. It was one long, narrow hall, 65 ft long and two stories high, with a vaulted ceiling. The whole room was made out of solid wood. The wood was the kind that showed it age with grace, having turned dark in color and showing years of wear. I walked through the doors and the sheer mass of books took my breath away. Over 200,000 are housed there, and they are on a constant rotation of restoration and upkeep. They were all old books, bound with stretched leather and tied with some sort of binding string. Every shelf had a rolling ladder, the kind that Belle uses in the Beast’s castle and that I’ve adored since I first saw that movie in second grade. I sat for a while on a bench just taking it all in. I’m not sure if it was the reverent feeling of old books and collected words and thoughts, the sheer exhaustion of travel, or some combination of the two, but I started to feel overwhelmed and a little lonely.

Surely it was almost 2 and I could check in. Nope! It was about 10:15. I left Trinity college and, after having the thickest and strongest cup of coffee I’d ever had, I found my way to Christ Church Cathedral (right). I’m always in awe of the architecture of buildings like these, built by hand with crude tools and for the sheer purpose of worshiping something greater than humanity. It always makes me feel a little better about being human when I walk into a cathedral. This one proved no exception, and I enjoyed the coolness of the stone building, even though the air outside was plenty cold. The crypt was the most interesting part of the building, though, below the church, and I took a few pictures before I read the sign that declared the illegality of photography.

For the rest of the day, I went to see the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was less grandiose on the outside than I’d expected. I can’t speak for the inside– I didn’t go in because I was tired of standing and I didn’t want to pay eight Euros to get inside. Instead, I sat outside and enjoyed the park behind the church. There were some gorgeous flowers and a cute playground for the children to play on.

Is it 2:30 yet? Haha, no. So, I went to Grafton Street, the main shopping shopping district in the city, and poked around a little bit. There were street musicians playing some sketchy violin and harmonica, flower vendors with some of the most beautiful blooms I’ve seen, and weird food carts all mixed in with stores like The Body Shoppe and Guess. All I bought, though, was a scarf, because it was much colder than I’d expected and the wind was blowing at, I don’t know, a hundred miles an hour. My hair was in tangles the whole time.

Now it’s finally 2:30, I made my way back to the hotel to check in and ok here’s your key, the bad news is you’re on the third floor. Oh, no problem I said, I don’t mind. Oh, there’s no elevator? Oh. OHHh. Ok. Alright. So, I’m used to lifting heavy things, I’ve carried my fair share of heavy crap. This suitcase is big enough that I can fit inside. What they didn’t tell me was that there were to flights of stairs for each floor, and that they were very, very steep. So, I hauled my very heavy, very large bag up all six flights of stairs and then wanted to die. I opened the door to my room and saw the tiniest bedroom I’ve ever seen. Seriously, it was tiny. There was enough room for a single bed and for me to walk sideways by the wall next to it to get in to it. There was a small sink and a shower in the room. To clearly illustrate the size of this room, when I took a shower and opened the folding door to get in, I had to go quickly so I didn’t get the bed wet. Seriously.

I took a shower and passed out for a little over an hour before going back out to explore more. I hadn’t had anything since the ginormous breakfast at the hotel, so I went looking for dinner. I headed to the Temple Bar area, which is a few blocks of the city that has lots of restaurants and pubs and some shopping. It took me a while to find a place to eat that looked good and relatively cheap, and I made a pretty good choice, because those were the best fish and chips that I’ve ever eaten. Also, that was the first time I’d ever eaten in a restaurant by myself. Lots of firsts here, friends.

Lots of sleep happened after that and I woke up bright and early to catch my bus at 9:30am for the tour out to County Wicklow. It was gorgeous country, and it took literally five minutes to go from downtown Dublin to rural County Wicklow, complete with twisty turny roads (which meant I was carsick almost the whole time), quaint little houses, and lots of sheep.

There were fields of sheep everywhere, freshly sheared, and the bits of leftover wool were floating through the air and stuck in the trees. I saw the monastic ruins of The 6th century monastic settlement in Glendalough. There we saw giant stone buildings built so many years ago and graveyards with the headstones of the people who built them. All of this was surrounded by the mountains and green fields and forest.

Later we stopped at the Avoca mill, which is the oldest working mill in Ireland. They weave wool by hand that came form the sheep that live on the hills nearby. I bought some scarves and a blanket there and had a really awesome meal. The tour ended, and I slept on the way home. I went back to my hotel and packed up, forgetting to set my alarm to get to the flight in the morning. I have the amazing ability to wake up five minutes before I have to, however, and this applies even when I forget to set the alarm. I found my way to a bus, then the airport, and there began the near disaster that was getting to Marseille.

Overall, I really, really liked Dublin. I felt oddly at home there, and I liked that. The people are friendly and the pace is slower than the chaos that I’m used to. I found myself walking a little slower, thinking a little more. (That’s possible, believe it or not). Even with the windy chilliness and the overcast skies, the country had a comforting feeling about it. Being warm and cozy in a jacket and a scarf is wonderfully to me anyway, and I feel much more like myself when it’s cold outside. I love being surrounded by so much history and I always found myself wondering about the people who lived here so many years ago. The people worked hard, but they didn’t seem embittered by it. The pubs were full of laughing and drinking for fun, so different from what you find in many places here, where people drink to forget their lives, not to add to it. Two days was definitely not enough, so I will go back someday, and when I do, I want to share it with somebody.

So, as it turns out, the saying on the back of my Molly O’Shea’s shirt is correct– They do have good Craik.
Craik, I found out is “the laughing, talking, and friendliness that makes life worth living.”


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