Monday, November 16, 2015

Ireland: Land of Sunshine and Vegans

[Note: Ireland is not in fact the land of sunshine and vegans, but more on that later]

I waited a bit longer to start this post because I really wanted to think about how I was going to say what I wanted to say. How you say something can be (and usually is) more important than what you say, in both “real life” and in writing. Sometimes it’s more effective to write elegantly, with sweeping sentences and whimsical descriptions and other times humor gets the point across, but occasionally there’s no other way to say it and you have to be blunt: I loved Dublin. That’s all. End of story. It was amazing. See you next week.

As tempting as it is to leave you hanging, I of course wouldn’t do that because mother (and whoever else reads this regularly) would be mad and also because I am selfish and love to write, so here goes nothing:

I’m not exactly sure how such an unplanned trip managed to go off without a hitch. With my past trips I have made detailed lists of things I wanted to do and see and eat and I usually follow them. I made a list for Dublin too but I actually only ended up doing one thing on it. I know that I realized in Amsterdam that letting the city takeover is the best way to travel, at least for me, but I wasn’t thinking about that as I was jetting off to the Emerald Isle. Also with my past trips I travelled with other people from JYS so we would talk about what we wanted to do before the trip so there was sort of a group consensus about how the trip would go, resulting in less room for movement. I stayed with a friend from home (hey Chris!) who is studying at University College Dublin (UCD) and my only “planning” with him involved me sending him a list of things I wanted to do and him saying “okay, but you are only here for a weekend…”.

My actual journey to Dublin was hella long. I was flying out of Madrid so at about 11:45 on Thursday night I trekked from Los Remedios to the bus station on the far side of Triana (it’s much worse going the other way at 6am). When I boarded the bus I was pleased to find out that not only was I in seat #1 but that there was no one sitting next to me. The ride was about 6 and a half hours and honestly wasn’t too bad. I don’t think I slept very much but I definitely floated in and out of consciousness, though I couldn’t have been certain if it weren’t for my ipod stopping at the end of my playlists. I did have a bit of a cold last week so the one stop we made was great because I really needed (sugar free) cough drops. We got to Madrid and stopped at the bus station and after a bit of confusion I was reassured that yes the bus would actually be going to the airport, but hey it was a good way to practice the Spanish. I haven’t had the best experiences with the Madrid Airport but this one went well (aka I could connect my phone to wifi AND the espresso vending matching was working).  I had to check my bag because it was a crowded flight, which was fine, but it was super weird and very nice to go through security with only a purse. The flight was good, and before I knew it I was flying over the greenest land I had seen in months.

I was briefly interrogated by a customs officer who actually ended up being hilarious. He asked (after a series of question that made me feel like I was on the stand for murder) where I was from and when I said Western Mass he immediately asked, “So you must be a hick then?” I was impressed not only had that he known there was a western side of Massachusetts but also that he knew who lived there. Thinking back, I wish I asked why he knew that! Then I hopped on a bus and got my first glimpses of Dublin before being dumped at a bus station outside of UCD. I knew where I was supposed to be meeting Chris but I realized after I got off the bus (which had wifi) that I of course had no idea how to get there. I got really excited because there was this one kid who looked EXACTLY like Chris at the bus stop and was like “Yay he realized I don’t know where I’m going!” I proceeded to stand there for at least 30 seconds before realizing that no, this was not Chris and that this kid must think I am crazy for standing here staring at him. I walked in what I thought was the right direction and then asked 3 different groups of people how to get to the elusive “Centra”. After a nice mini-tour of campus I got where I was going. It was legitimately so nice so see someone I knew after two months of new people.
After changing and eating a peanut butter sandwich my game plan was the Old Library at Trinity College and the Book of Kells. We headed into the city, about a 3 mile walk (because buses are for quitters), and the weather was surprisingly nice (unseasonably nice, because Mother Nature knew I was coming) even as the sun was starting to set. We walked through St. Stephen’s Green before getting to Trinity. The library was closed. I was disappointed but not as much as I thought I would be, there’s always tomorrow right? We walked around a bit and ended up getting dinner at The Teller Room. It was yummy, as was my first Guinness. I was very pleasantly surprised because as a general rule, I don’t drink beer (frat parties have ruined me).

The rest of the evening was very much the classic “Irish pub experience”. 
[Note: everything after this was written after the Paris terrorist attacks, I’m trying to keep the parts cohesive but you just don’t see things in the same light after something like this]

We spent time listening to music both in pubs and on the street. I absolutely loved the mix of traditional Irish music, modern popular music, country music, and “the classics”. The atmosphere was so much fun, a change from the intense flamenco that I’m used to hearing. One band that was playing in the street was really good and we actually ended up buying CDs. Apparently they’re really popular in Ireland. I will say that I think they were better live. The pub we went to was full of dancing and singing and it was also international redhead day and a bunch of peoples’ birthdays so it was extra festive.

I joked before the trip that I was going to find my husband in Dublin, but forgot that when you travel with a guy it makes you appear to be “off limits”. At one point Chris went to the bar and I was immediately descended upon by a decently intoxicated and kind of attractive Irish man. The result was lots of hand kissing, being spun around, and questions about why I didn’t have an Irish accent. My story of course was that I was from America but that I had family here and was tracing my roots. That’s basically true, right? It’s also nice not to stand out! After we were done at the pub, Chris and I went into a few shops (ugh, I should have bought candy at the candy shop) and then started the trek home. Three miles, a housing development, and a random field later I got into bed and passed out.

The first place we went on Saturday morning was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I liked it except that the gift shop was set up right in the entrance. It was cool to see a completely gothic style church, it seemed to be right out of the palace in Sleeping Beauty with the stained glass and flags. I faced the usual struggle of trying to take pictures that don’t include random people or objects that don’t belong. The green behind the church was pretty as well. After that I wanted to go see the Book of Kells at Trinity but on our way there it started pouring. We ducked into the cutest little café called “Peacock Green” for lunch. Our main priority was hot chocolate and it was phenomenal there. I actually could go for some right now. I got a veggie frittata for lunch and it was pretty horrible so I got a berry scone as well. It was amazing. The café was really adorable, it had books and a loft and quotes and lots of pretty little things. I could have spent the rest of the day watching the rain from in there. I decided then that I didn’t really want to go to Trinity and that I didn’t want to do anymore touristy things. After we finished eating the rest of the day was spent exploring and window shopping sans map. We went into woolen stores, looked at Christmas decorations, found food, books, and map markets, went into a photo gallery put on by the National Library, and found the coolest book stores including “The Library Project” and “The Winding Stair”. I would have spent all day there. Oh, we also briefly considered crashing a wedding, but were not dressed properly for the occasion.

One of the more interesting things we saw was various animal rights activists. I signed a petition banning the use of furs and talked to some people promoting veganism. I really did like being a vegan and want to continue when I get back home and am cooking my own food. Interesting note, my friend Lily who is studying abroad in Buenos Aires also saw a huge vegan promotion that day, International Day of the Vegan?
We walked a bit along the river and ran into several monuments including the potato famine one which was really amazing. We also took in the harp bridge, a tall ship, a sideways building and a pretty remarkable sunset.

Saturday night we went out to another pub to eat, we had been looking for a specific one but couldn’t find it so we ended up at another place which ended up being great. I had spring rolls and fries and opted for dessert instead of a craft beer because I didn’t want to take more money out of the ATM. I’m not sure if it was the right choice but that warm brownie with ice cream was on point. I was tired after so we trekked back and had a relaxing night…so necessary because my feet were dead. I don’t think heeled boots were the right shoe choice but they looked good, so it worked out. Also sometimes it’s good to just eat chocolate, drink wine, and talk about life.

Sunday morning was rainy. It rained on the way to breakfast, it rained on the way to the bus station, it rained at the airport. My trip back to Madrid was uneventful as was my bus ride home to Sevilla. I did have a nice conversation with a guy from Madrid while I was waiting for the bus. I didn’t sleep much on the bus, I was in that awkward hallucinating, in between sleep and awake stage, during which I convinced myself about five times I was on the wrong bus and also came up with nifty catch phrases like “You can’t start without art”. Luckily I did get on the right bus and we got to Sevilla around 6:15am. I dragged my suitcase back to my house and crawled into bed around 7. I didn’t go to sleep because I had to be up at 8. Monday was filled with my internship and falling asleep/hallucinating in class. It was worth it though.

Writing this now, I wonder how the attacks in Paris will change my future trips. I have never been a crowd person, even so, maybe it’s a good thing that I’ve discovered that my favorite way to travel is to keep off the beaten path, not that that guarantees anything. I’ll still use public transportation and eat in restaurants and see landmarks. Will I continue to be as excited and at home at the airport? What will I be too afraid to do? Will I have a streak of rebellious courage when it comes to traveling? I guess only time will tell.

To finish: a memory and a quote

Coming home and sitting in my bed and finding the un-opened map I got at a tourist center, the feeling of both things missed and things I never would have found if I had used it

“Let’s not travel to tick things off lists or collect half-hearted semi treasures to be placed in dusty drawers in empty rooms. Rather, we’ll travel to find grounds and rooftops and tiny hidden parks, where we’ll sit and dismiss the passing time, spun in the city’s web ’til we’ve surrendered, content to be spent and consumed. I need to feel a place while I’m in it.”

Le Grá (With Love),



  1. Holly,
    I enjoyed reading the details of this trip very much!
    Take care.
    Love Dad

  2. Great bloc, I wish you had more time there, but there will be other times to visit again, stay safe, and I hope to see you soon.
    Love Mom