July 18, 2014

Eurotrip: Luck of the Irish?

“And I make 16 solid half hour friendships, every evening.” -Sixto Rodriguez (Cause)

Just when I get comfortable in a city, learn how to get around, and make friends, I have to leave and start all over again. It takes quite a bit of courage every time I arrive at a new city to get out of my comfort zone and go explore.

While boarding the plane to Dublin, it started down-pouring rain; and at this airport, you don’t stand in covered terminals, you wait outside. This made for a freezing cold and soaking wet hour and a half plane ride. Once we landed I collected my bag and immediately learned that it, too, had received a shower. Everything inside, including all of my recently washed clothes, was soaked.

I exited the airport to hop on the Aircoach bus to the city center. While attempting to buy a bus ticket, I was informed I could only pay with cash – and this meant euros, not pounds. Oof, another currency to learn, and I was just getting the hang of the last one! I was directed to the nearest currency exchange booth which was halfway across the airport. So after a stroll with my wet backpack, I discovered the exchange booth was closed. Grrr. I asked around for another one and finally found a nice man who assured me the one downstairs was open. I traded US cash into euros for the bargain exchange of $0.74 on my dollar, which was a much better deal than just $0.59 per pound. With euros in hand, I boarded the bus following the hostel directions on my confirmation e-mail.

I got off on O’Connell Street, and according to my directions, was supposed to get right on the “Luas” from there. One problem… I had no idea what the heck a “Luas” was. I asked around, learned it was a tram and was pointed in the right direction. I bought a Luas ticket on the street and asked around, again, for which tram to get on. According to my directions, which I was now realizing were not exactly detailed, I was supposed to “walk 2 minutes to Smithfield Square.” Well, what the **** is that supposed to mean? Which direction? Down which streets? I probably should have read through these directions earlier. I wandered around for a while in several directions, still damp and cold, before someone I encountered finally knew where Smithfield Square was. Thank you, local Irish women! I checked in the hostel crossing my fingers they’d have vacancy since I arrived in Dublin a day earlier than I originally booked. Since it was a weeknight I didn’t figure it’d be a problem, and it wasn’t. Right at the entrance door, I could tell this was a popular hostel. It had an awesome bar area with pool tables, food, couches, and even a DJ. It got me excited about my four-night stay. All checked in, now time to dry off!

After I got in my room, I slowly unpacked my bag hanging things to dry everywhere there was space. Not long after, a man walked in and greeted me while he took off his shoes. I could immediately smell the odor escaping his feet. It was such a foul smell that I just had to look at what it was taking over the whole room. Even a hobbit made this man’s feet look attractive. I will spare you the details, but they were absolutely disgusting. It sounds cruel, but I lost all desire to talk to this man knowing of his terrible hygiene. He sure loved to talk to me though, and he didn’t just smell, he was a bit off his rocker too. I called my mom, 1) because I hadn’t spoken with her yet, and 2) to escape the conversation with Frodo Baggins.

It was great to hear my mom’s voice and catch up. I know I haven’t been gone that long, but it really feels like it’s been ages since I’ve been home. While on the phone with my mom, a group of Aussie girls (presumably my age) walked in and immediately started gagging and making sour faces. I pointed at the man in the corner, who was now passed out, to clear up ANY possible thought that the odor came from me. They left the room and came back about ten minutes later with new room keys. They told me they talked to the front desk and were switching rooms and that I should join them in room 513. It was a no-brainer. Not only was I dying to get myself as well as my drying clothes out of the stench, but these girls seemed like they were a lot of fun. It was a great move in more ways than one. First of all, we received a free room upgrade with no odor, fewer beds, and a private bathroom and shower. Second, the girls and I stayed up chatting for a good hour and they invited me to join them with their plans the next morning. Amazingly, again, I managed to find friends, even if it was just for one day.

So far, all the hostels I stayed at were filled with male travelers. I hadn’t come across hardly any females, nonetheless females my age who weren’t just on summer break from school. So this “girl time” was a real treat. We started the next morning with a guided bike tour of Dublin. It was absolutely beautiful outside and was the perfect day for a good bike ride. Consistent with the week and a half prior, I was informed several times how rare it was to have weather like that. Luck has been on my side this whole trip as far as weather goes. Knock on wood. The bike tour was a great way to learn the city both historically and geographically. And a little exercise after all the food I’ve been eating didn’t hurt either!

After the bike ride, we hung out in the hostel bar area for a while and drank some Irish beer and whiskey. I decided to catch the last Jameson Whiskey tour, which was just around the corner, and told the girls I’d meet up with them afterward for dinner. The Jameson tour was subpar. I didn’t realize it was more of a museum rather than a distillery. Apparently, Jameson is actually made in Scotland. Who knew? On the plus side though, eight people from our group of 40 got picked to do the whiskey taste test, and I was one of them! So at the end of the tour, I got to sample and compare different kinds of whiskeys. I couldn’t help but think how much my dad would have enjoyed that.

For dinner, we ate at a place called The Church. It was an old Gothic-style church renovated into a restaurant. The food was as good as the atmosphere. Plus it was 2-for-1 mojitos, so we didn’t go thirsty :). After we had our fill, we walked to the Temple Bar area which is a well-known party spot for travels. This place was busy and full of energy. Buskers (street performers) were abundant and impressively talented, and both the streets and bars were packed. Two British girls joined us early on so we had a really fun group all night. We stayed in this area singing and dancing to live music until bars started closing around 2am. We only had one puker, so I’d call it a successful night out in the drinking capital of the world.

The Aussies had to fly out the next morning (hungover), which left me back on my own. It was okay though because I was actually ready for some quiet alone time. I slept terribly that night, like most nights here, so I lay in bed for a while the next morning. When I finally got out of bed and got showered, it was about time to head to the Longitude music festival. The people at the front desk told me how to get to the bus station and which bus I needed to hop on. My London experience had me cringing at the thought of going the bus route, but I had no other choice. I found and waited in a long line for bus 16 as there were many other festival goers needing to catch the same ride. When I boarded, I handed the driver some cash for the bus ticket and annoyed, he informed me that they don’t accept “notes,” just exact change or prepaid bus passes, neither of which I had. Thankfully, a woman behind me took pity and so kindly used her prepaid card to pay my way. She refused to accept repayment and seemed delighted she could help. Relying on the kindness of strangers has really been getting me through this trip. Thank you, once again, local Irish woman!

I’m now back at the hostel after day one of the festival and boy do I have a lot to tell, and I wish I could say it was all good. Even though it’s not terribly late (for me anyway), my frustrations from tonight have me feeling beat. I will finish my Ireland tales another day. G’night world!