As lofty as my self opinion is in regards to my fastidious (and compact) luggage packing, it still hasn't totally hit me that we're really going and I've been sitting in the airport for an hour already.
I packed for four days.
Granted, I packed for numerous rotations of those four days. I'm gonna be really sick of that peach T-shirt by the end.
We downloaded translation apps on our phones this morning as well as the Lonely Planet guide. We have our itineraries printed off and our boarding passes, visas and driving permits. We've officially added 'Cheerio', 'bugger all', and 'sprechen ne deutsch' to our repertoire. We are as set as we could possibly be. Thank you to all who made our send-off so beautiful and meaningful. You all supported us and made our departure filled with hugs, delicious meals, real advice and giddy excitement! We're feeling feeling the trans-provincial love.
Next stop, Guinness.
"You're off to great places,Today is your day.Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way." Dr. Seuss
“May your crust be crisp, and your bread always rise.”
Call the shuttle: check. Smoke five cigarettes each: check. Necessary zen moment where we talked each off a ledge and reminded ourselves about something Jesus said. The sun is simmering along the horizon line, striping the sky with feather-like swathes of lavender and coral all belted by the dense carpet of green. The shuttle comes chugging around the corner and all of a sudden eight people come out of nowhere, all bitching about the fact that they had been waiting for HOURS. Gerad, the driver glances around hopefully wondering which of us is going to give in. Moozh lights another cigarette. The rest of them pile in and again we're standing in the quiet parking lot, commenting on the color of the sky and how bad we want to chug a pint and then fall into bed.
The other shuttle driver, Roman, totally perked the night up. A Russian guy from Moscow who's been living in Dublin for ten years, that guy should have a podcast. Everything that came out of his mouth was hysterical. He actually took a picture of us with our bags so that he could show his wife. "Look what other people do. They travel with little."
On the signs with English and Gaelic: "Roman, do you speak Gaelic?" "No! The Irish don't even speak Gaelic. Maybe some out west like Galloway but really not even there."
Fifteen of Roman's monologue later, we were at the check-in desk. The people at the hotel were great and took good care of us. Lovely Joseph at the front desk sent us up a consolation fruit basket and chocolate truffles as of to say, "Don't hate Ireland. You should just sleep." We had some fruit. We had some chocolate. We had more than a little beer. And then we fell into the most delirious kind of sleep.
Dublin is this beautiful hybrid of centuries old and brand new side by side. Downtown is all oriented around the river canal that runs through the city. I felt like I said, "Oh my God, look at that building" so much, pure strangers got tired of hearing it. Dublin is extremely multicultural as well, like the rest of the UK. But man is it Ginger Toooooooooooooowwn. That recessive gene is romping through the landscape like nobodies business. And I'm LOVIN it. Entire families, pale as a sheet of paper with this OUTRAGEOUS red hair. Now don't misunderstand. I have this inexplicable OBSESSION with gingers, and I do mean obsession. Russia, Jewish people, and gingers: the trifecta of something that captured my imagination and hasn't left. The freckles, the porcelain skin, the hair. It is so eye-catching, and so unlike anything else. They are completely breathtaking. These little kids running around with these adorable freckles and red hair braided into a bun. Usually setting something on fire, or shooting spitballs at a cop.
So Moozh and I saunter along the canals snapping the fantastic buildings, old and new. Everybody we see is either running on their lunch hour or sitting along the canal eating an ice cream cone. Along the main canal, there are easily a dozen bridges, each designed differently and each significant. The houses are so old and have so much character, like hand carved sconces and brightly painted doors. But they are also so uniform. And no apartments really. Mostly all townhouses and condos from the look of it. Tucked underneath a brick-laden arch, was a small pub with a Guinness sign above the door called "Scruffy Murphy's". I repeated it over and over again, in my best leprechaun accent.
And then I started calling Moozh that.
Which he loved of course.
We stumble into Merrion Square which is probably the greenest place we saw out of all of Dublin. Ornately planted gardens and filled with people. Businessmen, suits and all, nap on the park benches. Kids run around chasing bubbles. Wrought iron fences click along the perimeter, casting spire-like shadows on the grass and cobblestone walking paths. And then, it's like stumbling out of the wardrobe. We pitch out one gate and suddenly we're facing Trinity College, one of the oldest universities in the world. It was established by Queen Elizabeth 1! The Cate Blanchett Queen! And Oscar Wilde's birthplace is a small apartment that actually borders the college. It's now an office for the English department, somewhat appropriately, but everything has been maintained as it was. If you come when the administrator is in, she'll take you through it and show you all the little notable facets. She was not in but Moozh and I definitely got our exercise trying to figure it out. It's Oscar Wilde's House!
Trinity College snuggles up against Temple Bar, which is Dublin's cultural or 'cool' district. So many cool Irish pubs, ethnically diverse restaurants, and art galleries. The original Temple Bar holds the oldest publican permit in Dublin. It's been around since the 16th century! They have a beer garden where you can still smoke indoors. We took advantage of it, drinking our Guinness and smoking underneath the lush flower baskets and feeling the mist that dusted us every few minutes. They also have around 500 whiskies at your fingertips. Moozh vowed that he was only going to drink Guinness while he was in Dublin. The whisky did tempt him. though.
On our way through Temple Bar, we stopped in at a rad tattoo shop called Dublin Ink. Moozh got his first impromptu modelling session. One step in the door and the artists inside had already locked on his arm. In no time, Moozh was standing without a shirt while about five tattoo artists poked and examined every inch of his arm. It was so cool to see artists from an entirely different place get stoked about someone's body art, especially when it's as cool as Moozh's. (If you want to see all the detail of Moozh's sleeve, it's all up on Fly the Cage's website, at flythecagetattoo.com.) In fact, they were so excited we might have gotten Zara a job in Ireland!
"The" Temple Bar We wandered out of Temple Bar and around to Christ Church Cathedral. There was a tour of around 150 Italian students on a field trip so we didn't get to see much. But we did head down the block to St. Patrick's Cathedral from there. It's the oldest established church in Ireland. Fifth century! Imagine! "Dear Mom, today I bought myself a new sundial. Not much to report. Love, Me. P.S ~ St. Patrick is here. The man's on a real wine and bread diet."
Jonathan Swift features quite prominently at the Cathedral. He was the Dean of the Cathedral for a long time. Swift wrote some great satire. My dad's favourite is A Modest Proposal, where Swift proposes a solution to the overpopulation in Ireland, like making the babies into purses and wallets. Or as tender meat! He even supplies recipes, which is rather considerate because it's tough to know how to prepare something if you're not familiar with it. I remember my dad reading it to me when I was in elementary school and explaining to me what 'satire' meant. And then when we reread it in English in high school, I was able to sleep through the same lecture when my English teacher had to talk all of the girls in my class off a ledge as they gagged and sobbed at Mr. Swift's disgusting proposal that babies would make great wallets because of their soft skin. Anyway, Swift's grave and the grave of his lover, Stella, are within the church. You can also see his skull, or a cast of it, if you're into that stuff. Back when scientists were trying to prove that the size of your skull could indicate how smart you were, they exhumed Swift and cast his skull. They then realized that he didn't help them prove anything.
There are so many full-size stone statues, replete with every jacket detail and curl of the hair. The choir was practicing when we got there and it filled the room with this ethereal softness. There are may aspects to a Catholic church that I find intoxicating and meaningful, even though I wasn't raised with even a base awareness of the faith. An ornately carved stone staircase coils up into the organ room. The pulpit in Catholic churches is funny to me because it looks like the priest is in one of those baby carriers.
A Preacher snuggly.
The hotel we stayed at offered a free shuttle to a small village nearby called Malahide. We didn't take in a ton of the town -because most of it was closed by 7- but we did take a long walk along the coastline. Roman drove us out, giving us tips for when we went back into Dublin the next day.
In pointing out the pubs in the town he said, "Some people have to get drunk in order to enjoy the scenery. Like myself."
The Irish coastline is everything you see. It is so green but also has these shard-like edge to it. There is long grass, tall purple flowers and what looks like marigold and bulbs of clover blossoms. We headed back to our hotel, bought some more Guinness at the EuroStar (Even Europe also sells liquor in the grocery store. Canada needs to get with the program.) and then went back and watched the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. Though we wouldn't normally have made time on a round the world trip, especially with it being the first destination and all, but next we were headed to England, DURING the Olympics, so we thought it would be best to know what we were in for.
CNBC called it 'quirky Britishness' which I would agree with. There were times I was trying to figure out what Voldemort had to do with the Olympics. Then I realized that's probably a great question but just not really the point. The next day, we headed back down into Dublin and hit Temple Bar again. It was cool the first time but it turns up on the weekend. There was a music festival, food market and film and music sale. The bread and pastry was beyond phenomenal. It just had this visual quality. It looked amazing. So consistent and made well. We grabbed a small loaf of tomato fennel bread and a danish for our walk through Dublin Castle.
Another gorgeously old and beautiful building, I don't exactly know what the castle is still used for because it's not simply a museum. I also don't know the last time Ireland had it's own monarchy. Someone about Fenian raids and Battle of Waterloo. Some Irish guy did fight Napoleon. They built a monument to it. I obviously pay attention really well. Not kidding, travelling with me is like travelling with a small child. Questions every second, really no bodily awareness and really in need of a leash.
Which is a great segue to food. Now I am going to point you in the direction of Antony Bourdain's No Reservations numerous times throughout our travels. We are doing our own version of it called, "Waiting in Line". We are going to consult Mr. Bourdain for many of our food destinations and I'll post what I can find for you here. It's a great show. He does stuff well known and but also stuff that's off the beaten track (before he gets to it at least).
One institution in Ireland that he visited is called Leo Burdock's Fish and Chips. Located right across from Christ Church cathedral and they are known for having the best fish and chips in town. They have four other locations but Moozh and I knew we had to take in the original one. Wrapped in brown paper, take-out only, fresh battered cod and thick cut what they call 'chunky chips'. Dusted with salt and drizzled with malt vinegar, I can safely say that my vegetarianism is hanging by a thread. All because of Burdock's fish and chips. It wasn't fishy or soggy. Beautifully flaky cod in a crispy and seasoned batter with thick cut potatoes with the perfect amount of crisp outside.
Then came the most important part of the whole trip. More important that churches. More important than universities. The Guinness storehouse.
My goodness, my Guinness.
The beer that is a meal.
The only beer recommended by doctors.
It is a drink the stands alone and the only beer we were to drink in Ireland.
On an unsurprisingly damp day in Dublin, the remnants of some fish and chips in hand, we turned down a charmingly narrow street to behold the massive doors of the Guinness Storehouse. The hollow clop-clopping of the gimmicky horse drawn carriages is interspersed with the beeping of tour buses in reverse. Romantic ideas of ol' Ireland, men in wool coats trudging to work down cobblestone streets with the smoke of the chimney stacks rising in the background are conjured up. The green-tinged roof of the Gravity Bar rises from the smoke of the brewery like Mount Olympus, seven flights of Guinness history housed within the original brewery at St. James's Gate below. It sounds like a ploy to amass hard feelings from people who can't simply hop across the Atlantic to see for themselves but the Guinness draft poured at the Gravity Bar is unlike any Guinness you will have ever had anywhere else. An almost latte-like creaminess with the brief sweetness of malt and the bitterness of any good stout. Each admission ticket comes with a guided tasting during the tour and a free pint at the top, overlooking St. James' Gate, Trinity College and St. Patrick's Cathedral rounding out the periphery.You can run your hand through barley, see the climbing vines of hops behind glass. You hear the water splash. Barrels of 720,000 pints surround you.An entire floor is dedicated simply to the distinctive and instantly recognizable advertising. "My goodness, my Guinness." "Guinness is good for you." "The meal in a glass." "Lovely day for a Guinness." We know them by heart, even if unconsciously. The Guinness Book of World Records, the dispeller of wives tales and urban legends, was created by the managing director of Guinness at the time who, in the midst of frustration over settling an argument as to the fastest bird in Europe, created a book of records to which legions of men could turn to fairly and legitimately settle similar arguments. It's available in 28 languages now. There is a floor of restaurants and pubs to utilize Guinness so that foods have that "Irishy" flavor. Steak and Guinness pie to Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, you can feed yourself and give your iron count that much needed boost. You can learn about the nearly lost art of coopering, or the making of barrels by hand.Through all of this you ascend to the very top and with a sigh, you can bump elbows with your fellow Storehouse goers who are similarly trying to find a advantageous spot around the periphery for photos of them with their beer, THE beerTucked in what seems to be the industrial part of town, the tour facility, which used to be the original brewery rises seven stores above the bottom floor. It takes through all the ingredients that go into making Guinness, the process and the man behind it all, Arthur Guinness. Moozh read a book before we hit Ireland called, "In Search of God and Guinness". It chronicles the Guinness family as they start the brewery and then what they do with their wealth and influence. They built affordable housing around the brewery for all the men who worked at the brewery and their families. They paid their workers more than anywhere else in Dublin. At one point, you get a few ounces of Guinness and they guide through a tasting. Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease when he bought the land that the brewery is now on.
Against the backdrop of Dublin I had to see James Joyce, even if just to hug him and tell him that I consider Ulysses border line unreadable but that I still love him. And that Portrait of the Artist was really great. And that you can't win them all. No. I couldn't say that to James Joyce. I would probably ask him to slap me after.
Any local we had talked to in our first day had told us that we had to get out Howth if we could't get any further out into the country. Both Howth and Malahide are considered 'county Dublin'. We got totally carried away at the Guinness brewery that by the time we were heading to Howth, it was seven thirty at night. Howth beehives up the sides of a large 'mountainy' hill from which you can see Ireland's Eye, a craggy island off the coast. It's a great little fishing village. The driver from the hotel took us down there to show us around and dropped us off at his favourite called "The Bloody Stream". The lounge side felt like a warm blanket and smell like pine firewood. It was miraculous. One beer, and a photosession over the warf at sunset and we were off.
A final sleep and the next day we got to make a second shot at the whole airport thing.
We went in and STOMPED on RyanAir, an aggressive game of crossing our t's and dotting our i's. And had airport personnel do the same for us. Thusly, no problems. We will never fly with them again but I will not tell other people not to. If you ever want to fly with them, I will only tell you READ EVERYTHING and be prepared to jump through a LOT of hoops. If you are willing to do that, you will get a really cheap rate on your flight.
Things I learned in Ireland:
Every country has signs in languages that not everyone can speak.
Old and new can coexist beautifully.
Malt vinegar goes on fries. Always. Everytime.
Buy a Guinness. Drink up.
Think of the road rising to me you and the gold at the end of the rainbow. Hum the tune to Auld Lang Syne.
Quote of the Trip: "Yeah I went to Brussels. It was a little boring for my taste. No let me correct -it was FUCKING boring. There was nothing to do! I saw the little pissing boy. I walked all over trying to find. But he is so small! Like a gift shop toy."