Wednesday, 31 August 2016

part I: Dublin

Holy shamrocks, I have a lot of words to type!

I longhanded our trip highlights and that's a lotta pages, so I'll try to pluck the plumpest grapes for storytelling. Or not - you know me, I tend to ramble.

So, Ireland. Short version: I loved it. You can stop reading now.

Couldn't fit another damn thing in these backpacks. MEC rocks.

Dublin is one of those big cities that somehow holds onto a healthy smattering of charm despite the rush of crowds and traffic. Colourful buildings, whimsical decor, and an overall positive feeling. Humour is injected into storefront signs, and pub names are frequently bawdy or otherwise entertaining, much like home. This pub is not named for what you'd expect.
The Hairy Lemon pub, named for an unattractive dogcatcher with bad hair.

I don't know if people in bigger cities have the same level of friendliness as reported, but coming from Newfoundland, the land of slaughtering you with kindness, it's hard to judge. Friendly enough.

One thing that stuck out to me right away was the lack of cell phones. People aren't as glued to their cells there as we are here in Canada. On any given day I see the mobile appendages of most of my friends. They're on the table at restaurants, even if we're resisting the urge to check every bleep and chirp. In Dublin, you rarely see a table full of mute young people thumbing their phones. There aren't signs advertising free wifi at every turn either.

In pubs, you don't see hordes of people with their hands glued to their ears or fiddling with lit crotches in cafes. Phones almost seem to be used as phones. It's refreshing.

I'm off topic. Surely that's not the most impressive thing about Dublin, but it's damn impressive.

We had opportunity to see the massive Dublin Castle complex and Gothic/Romanesque Christ Church Cathedral, with its medieval edifice. The architecture of the city is head turning and I'm sure an architecture walking tour would have been fascinating had we more time. Ireland has a thick, dark history and you can't walk ten feet without tripping over something old and impressive...and heartbreaking. So much turmoil.

And, in the current age, such rich entertainment. Theatres left, right, and centre. Ads for shows and live music at every turn. You'd spend ages scoping out an endless line of performances.
The Gaiety Theatre

Trying to fit as much in as possible, we hit The Brazen Head pub (instagram link), established in 1198 (according to the pub and some historians...not all). Nice pint of Guinness, that. We discovered packaged condiments on the table here and wondered at the mysterious Brown Sauce. And left it at wondering. Some mysteries are best unsolved. Packaged condiments are only really found in fast food restaurants in our region, but they were in every pub and restaurant we visited in Ireland.

On the condiment note - big props for never having to ask for malt vinegar anywhere! Always on the table. Ireland, Newfoundland, and PEI share the vinegar love.

We did a lot of walking around the city and over the many bridges across the River Liffey, but paced ourselves on pubs. Heading into a week of hiking, we didn't want to be carrying hangovers with us. We wandered to the hallowed grounds of Guinness via some sketchy roads suggested by Google and later popped into Darkey Kelly's for live music and beer sampling. Nance sampled. I ordered Guinness. Why order anything else when you've found perfection? The Irish sure know how to pour a good black pint - perfectly cooked and then topped before delivery. Pay attention, SJ pubs!

Darkey Kelly's was, once upon a time, a brothel and is now named after its madam, Dorcas "Darkey" Kelly. Kelly was accused of killing a shoemaker on St. Patrick's Day in 1760...or 1746 (history is wibbly in Ireland) Kelly was hanged and burned at the stake for the crime and for witchcraft. Or for the alleged murder of her child. Hard to know which factual account to believe. Investigators later found four or five skeletons (depending on which historian you side with) in the brothel vaults, placing Kelly among the world's earliest known female serial killers.

A peculiar bit of history to attach to a pub, but whatever floats your boat. The music was crackin' and the beers were delicious. I also loved that the pub had a "no ball cap or tracksuits" rule. Gotta love a former brothel owner/serial killer's home that has standards!

  • having the washroom security code printed on the Starbucks receipt and then having to unlock again from the inside to get out. They sure are big on toilet security.
  • Paying 20p to pee in a mall. What if you don't have change, people!? I rarely have silver on me! Come to Canada - peeing is free!

Now, let me warn you if you've never been there - the sidewalks in Dublin are meant to test you. They are legitimately out to get you under ideal conditions - under a clear bright sky you still have to look down. One moment you're walking on cobblestone, the next minute there's a nice big gap out of nowhere and you're on angled cement, then pavement, uneven brickwork, then back to stone. So, I can only assume that people who have had a few pints either get a cab, walk in the streets, or give the fuck up and sit on a stoop until they can navigate the neck cracky pathways.

Happily, we stopped after a few pints and got back to our B&B with our ankles intact.

Our Dublin lodgings were an Airbnb adventure that panned out reasonably well. We had a private room with a queen-sized bed. Hysterically, the bed was the lower bunk in a set of bunkbeds. I don't know why this amused me so much, but I kept picturing someone else walking in to claim the top single bunk. We shared the household bathroom with our Brazilian hosts.

Our interaction with our hosts was minimal since we were there for such a short stay. We did meet another guest, Ryan from... I dunno, the US somewhere. Georgia? The best part of this household was undoubtedly the bulldog puppy. I was in love. Beautiful pup. Couldn't figure out how to carry her on the hike, though, so I didn't pupnap her.

Bibs and bobs: they showed us how to use the powered shower, having never seen one before. On/off. Start/stop. Pretty easy.

The shower mat was a wooden crate top. I like it. No wet mat.

We found the train station the night before leaving so we could figure out our itinerary. My sister-in-law just cringed, I'm sure. We don't plan things out much. It usually works out.

No one at the Dublin train station had ever heard of our destination, Annascaul. 

Hmm. They consulted this map and that map, and it was nowhere to be found. The lovely Dublin train employee called the nearest train station to the Dingle Peninsula, Tralee. The employee of the Tralee station ran across the road to the Tralee bus station to see if it headed to Annascaul. And success! After much laughter, googling, and map reading we were all set for the next morning. The train people even told us to buy our tickets online to cut the cost nearly in half. Super helpful!

I'd do a short stint in Dublin again, for sure, but our destination was the countryside, so we were eager to leave the city bustle behind and get going.

The next day was a travel day of trains, buses, tiny roads, mild fear (see previously mentioned buses and then add previously mentioned tiny roads), and more pubs! Shocker, I know.

From an MS perspective, no problem with the flight length, I was getting plenty of rest, and the weather was cool. No trouble with the time zone difference either. All systems go!

Dingle bound!