25 April 2014

IRELAND




Maddy and I were lucky enough to spend our Easter long weekend in Dublin. I still can't believe it happened. Travel is magical in that way - I can really say I've been to Ireland? What?!


I kept trying to convince myself while we were there that we were REALLY IN IRELAND, but somehow it still felt surreal - is this a fake Ireland? Like at Epcot or something?


It felt special as a return to (some of) my roots, as a not-quite-eligible-for-citizenship person of Irish ancestry. Though we didn't get to actually go to county Cork where my family is actually from... I'll add Glen Gariff and Abeline to the long list of places I have to go next time I'm in Ireland!


Anyway, I loved Dublin. And I know I need to see more of the countryside - that's really Ireland.



We left from the tiny Tours airport on Friday morning. To get there, we had to take a tram from the city center and then walk across a pool wholesaler's parking lot, through a field of wildflowers, and along a highway. There's something very disconcerting about approaching an airport on foot.


Since it was Good Friday, nothing was open in Dublin City and we made use of the day by taking a DART commuter train half an hour to a Dublin suburb called Howth. After all, it wouldn't be a real trip to Real Ireland if we didn't see at least a little bit of nature.







Feat. a really cute old couple with binoculars and coordinating outfits.

Feat. a random spanish man can't focus my camera.

Looks deceptively close, but we were on a ledge probably 15 feet above the rocks. Feat. a cheap senegalese pedicure.


Howth was adorable, albeit highly touristed, especially on this beautiful-weather bank holiday.



The train station.

It was kind of bizarre and disconcerting being in an anglophone country again. I'm not used to having everyone on the street understand what we're saying.



A few meters off the most traveled path, we ended up on a pebble beach with a view that was incredibly, stunningly, quintessentially Irish.





Dragon egg.








We also explored the little town as the sun set, while snacking on the Digestives that were our low-budget lunch.



The ruins of the old church.





Catching the evening train back to Dublin.

Getting off the train just south of the Liffey.


Saturday was our time to see all of Dublin, walk 'til our feet hurt, get in everything we could before the sporadic closings of Easter Sunday.


We first had to stop by Trinity College Dublin. The beautiful campus, walled but within the city center, is a tourist attraction in itself, but Maddy's also considering studying abroad there, so it was a perfect opportunity to check out the school her nine-year-old self fell in love with on her last visit.


 

Unfortunately, the admissions office was closed, so we couldn't take a free tour.


Also disappointing: we thought we'd read that getting into the historic old library was free, with admission only charged to see the Book of Kells. We thought wrong, and after waiting in line for half an hour, we couldn't afford to go in. Ironic - can't get into a college library on a college student budget.

Part of the line.

I'll be back in two years when Maddy's a student here, and she'll get us in for free. :)

Senior portrait, basically.


We spent the whole day wandering, as I tend to do in any new city. We got to know Grafton Street pretty well; it's sort of the main drag for shopping and socializing, right by Trinity.

Stopped by an independent bookshop called Books Upstairs to pick up some required reading.



And we walked through St. Stephen's Green, the large central-city park.





We made a pilgrimage several blocks away for a specific cake shop that turned out to be closed this weekend, so we ended up instead at a fabulous café called Cracked Nut. Besides the awesome food, the owner could not have been nicer - the Irish are all just so friendly!

My sandwich was avocado, cheddar, apple chutney, and arugula. Such a bizarre combination, but SO GOOD.

Ended up sharing a blackcurrant scone to take away - so Irish.

As we meandered our way towards the Guinness factory, we followed the sound of music to an independent record store that was hosting an outdoor event for Record Store Day. Fashionably dressed hipsters sipped beer from plastic cups while a talented local indie-rock band played. We stayed for a while and made a mental note to look them up on iTunes later.

Come On Live Long.

Also stopped at Dublin Castle, also decided it wasn't worth paying entrance.







This church, St. John's Lane, had the most beautiful interior.



We knew we were getting close to the Guinness factory - about 20 minutes outside where we'd ordinarily be walking around - when the billboard-sized Guinness ads increased exponentially in frequency

Finally made it to the Guinness Storehouse!

Arthur Guinness's house.

Actually, we had to walk several blocks within the walls of the Guinness property to finally get the the entrance of the fun but hokey museum.



Imitating an iconic Guinness ad - and each other?


Admission - which was absurdly expensive, as in two days' food budget when we're backpacking next week - came with a free pint of Guinness, which we enjoyed from the 360-degree panoramic "Gravity Bar" on the top floor.


You haven't been to Ireland unless you've tried a Guinness, right?


As we walked home, we stopped by the gorgeous, 1000-year-old Christ Church Cathedral to check out the Mass schedule. It's Dublin's Episcopal cathedral, which made it a perfect spot to go to for Easter the next day.


Sunday morning, the Easter service was gorgeous. The choir was beautiful; the archbishop gave a thought-provoking sermon. Maddy enjoyed it as a cultural experience, too.


Bonus: the cathedral admission's usually 6€, which we normally wouldn't have paid, but going to the service is free. Besides what you drop in the offering plate, of course!


I love the cathedral's traditional eagle lecterns.


Underneath the cathedral is a crypt, a collection of treasures housed among the ancient foundations of the oldest building in Dublin.


A cat and rat mummified in the church's organ pipes in the 19th century, further immortalized by a mention in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake.

After church, we kept walking.

The Garden of Remembrance, north of the Liffey near where we stayed.


Also in the north: this perplexingly ugly, surprisingly tall spire.



Saint Patrick's Park, in the shadow of Saint Patrick's Cathedral.


In our wanderings, we stumbled upon the National Museum of Ireland, a mediocrely presented anthropology museum on the history of (mostly) Ireland. One particular exhibit discussed the human sacrifices made by ancient Irish kings (around 400 - 200 B.C.) and had four REAL LIVE ANCIENT HUMAN BODIES found in peat bogs from these sacrifices. The bodies were disfigured and deflated and discolored and sort of out of a morbid Dalí painting or something. Definitely disturbing. I took one photo but I'll spare you that; I don't really like looking at it either.


More cheerful: colorful tulips and emerald green grass as we picnic in St. Stephen's Green.






The Yeats Garden.


Playing around, because how could we not?

The cherry blossoms reminded us of home; we were both sad to miss this year's bloom in D.C.


Unfortunately, a sudden downpour drove us out of the park, but that one afternoon of intermittent rain was the only bad weather we experienced. Lucky us - enjoying the gorgeous, verdant spring with almost none of the April showers that make it possible! The weather was practically perfect, though the constant temperature flux required a zillion many combinations of layers.

 

Of course, we couldn't miss the doors of Dublin!


This one had a particularly adorable little sign.


We saw some of the setup for the various Easter Rising commemorations, but didn't actually get to attend any of the events.

Irish Houses of Parliament.

Is this even a translation?! Does anyone speak Gaelic anymore??




I wish we'd had more time at Merrion Square, a famous city square and public park has boasted numerous notable residents, including Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats. The park's a true urban jungle, and I would have loved to explore its winding paths if not for the unpredictable rain - and the fact that we needed to make it to dinner before everything closed.


The Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square Park.

Maddy starts laughing hysterically, apparently because of a sign advertising a "HOT CHICKEN BAGUETTE." Still unclear on this.

Per a recommendation online, we ended up at a vegetarian restaurant called Cornucopia for dinner. IT WAS AWESOME. A massive helping of three hearty vegan salads for super cheap, then vegan chocolate fudge cake and a cookie to top it off. So worth it, especially after a long day of being too busy to eat!

Wicklow Street. Cornucopia's the red awning.


By 7 on Sunday, we'd seen pretty much all of Dublin we possibly could, but didn't want to make the trek back to the hostel quite yet. A perfect night to spend a couple hours people-watching from a prime vantage point at J.W. Sweetman, a craft brewery right on the River Liffey in the middle of the city.

 

We went back to the hostel, packed up our extremely light backpacks (not taking any risks with Ryanair luggage requirements!), and jumped into bed, trying to battle some exhaustion before the marathon (awesome marathon, but marathon) couple weeks ahead.


And just like that, we were off. Bye to Ireland for now, but on to a fun last week in central France and the excitement of traveling to round out this once-in-a-lifetime year. 

As Grandad said in an email last week, "Sit in Sainte-Chapelle, sit by the Loire, hold on to the fun of driving through country France." 

I love that.

x, m

P.S. About this week: our Eurail passes arrived!!! 


Since then, it's been a frenzy of planning, cool-hostel-booking, money saving and money spending, four hours in two days spent at the reservation desk at the Gare de Tours, late-night Skyping with Tamar, Facebook-messaging friends who know each of the cities we'll be in. Now's the best part: figure out how to see everything in each place and make the most of our short time!

Speaking of: Munich, Florence, Nice, Marseilles, Barcelona. Any suggestions?