Tuesday, March 5, 2013

One long day in the Emerald City

~ Jacøb Smith

For me, this journey began on the 3rd, at around 11:30 a.m. That's when I woke up to go get my rain jacket out of storage, before heading to work for the night. As the luck of the Irish would have it, the corporate Chef was coming to town the next day, so we had to stay late for deep cleaning. So, when I got home from work, showered, ate dinner, and read for a bit, I found I only had about  twenty minutes to sleep before we left for the airport. I seemed it to not be worth trying. I could not sleep on the flight to Chicago, nor at the Chicago airport during our layover. I finally fell asleep (or the in-flight equivalent thereof) somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean at around what (as close as I can figure) would be around four or five a.m., California time, on Tuesday, March 5th. And that probably lasted for two or three hours.
I don't know how well Erika slept, but, given her back issues, I don't imagine it was very well.

We have checked in at Two Rooms, in Dublin. It's a little Bed & Breakfast on North Summer Street, just outside of town center, on the North side of the river Liffey. You wouldn't know where it was, unless you were looking for it. Even then you might have trouble. Part of a long row of red brick houses, and with no signage, we weren't sure it was the right place until the projector opened the door before we'd even knocked.

Erika's been calling him Kevin, but he introduced himself to me as Garvin, so I don't know what to believe. (Side note: Erika informs me this place is run by two guys. One of them is named Kevin, and one is named Garvin. I guess that explains the "His & His" hand towel set). Garvin gave us a map and pointed out places to check out. He looks like Alan Cumming with a well kept five o'clock shadow and is very friendly... Only slightly less friendly than his dog, Fred... which is good because a person jumping on strangers and nipping at their hands, then grumbling at them when they don't pet him, would tend to drive away customers, or invite the wrong kind. From a dog, however, it's endearing.

Erika showered, and took a short nap before we head out to explore the town. I wasn't sleepy, somehow, so I read a book about anAmerican guy who, out of the blue, moved his family to Ireland (foreshadowing. keep reading and you might find out). We've decided against doing the Jameson tour here in Dublin, in favor of touring the actual distillery on our way out to Galway, or back, and considered forgoing the Guinness tour in favor of Smithwick's in Kilkenny. As our taxi driver said, "Save your Euro and get a pint at a pub, go to Chimney Tower for a view of the city, and go to the actual Jameson distillery when you're out in Cork... Plus, the Smithwick's tour actually takes you through the brewery, instead of just showing you a three hour video and charging you 15 Euro for a free pint." Plus, there's a pub at the Arlington hotel where you can learn to pour a pint properly, and has a tap on every table. I think we'll still do Guinness though because... You can't not. We'll be going to the Celtic Whiskey Shop here in Dublin. It boasts the world's largest selection of Irish Whiskeys (and Whiskeys from around the world), and does free tastings every day. Perhaps, when we go out to Trinity College to meet up with my best friend's sister, we can also go to one of these places, since they're in the area.

What little I've seen of the country so far is beautiful. Flying in, catching glimpses of fields broken up like shattered safety glass through the clouds (on what, I'm told, is a "pretty sunny day here.") made my heart feel like speeding up and slowing down at the same time. In the more rural areas, the thin fog seems as much a part of the landscape as the grass and rocks. Not as though clouds have come down to rest here, but as though they are born and made to grow here until they are strong enough to fly.

Around Dublin:
Based on my limited experience with Dublin to this point, I can say this: It is, perhaps, among the most singularly beautiful, disgustingly filthy cities or towns I have ever seen. I am beginning to understand what The Dubliners are talking about in the song, "(Dublin) In the Rare Old Times."

"Oh, the years have made me bitter, the gargle dims my brain, 'cause Dublin keeps on changing, and nothing seems the same. The Pillar and The Met have gone, The Royal long since pulled down, as the great, unyielding, concrete makes a city of my town."

Everywhere around are visible signs of the picturesque and character filled history of the town -A town which, in my hopefully mind, was going to be the soul of Ireland, in concentrated form; warm despite the cold, bright despite the fog, inviting despite inaccessibility- yet it seems to be fairly more mundane and usual than that. A city built on a deep and vivid history, trying to keep pace with the modern world... A city which thrives on tourism, populated by townsfolk who miss their town, and resent the outsiders who've made it change.

This is, obviously, generalization, based on only one fraction of one day's experience, and is reminiscent of my initial disappointment in Scotland based on a few days in Edinburgh ("Where is the green rolling countryside that Braveheart promised me."... Well, you have to go to the countryside to find it), so I have hope that we will still find the Emerald Isle, and her enigmatic and hospitable inhabitants. All told, my experience here has been overwhelmingly positive, and I am increasingly hopeful about the rest of the trip 

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