Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Long Road Just Slightly North Of Dublin That Changes Names A Lot As You Go Along It, Seriously, Like I Probably Counted Like 8 Name Changes - It Was Annoying

July 8, 2010 - Dublin, Ireland.

The gray sky opened up to a small Boeing 737 hurtling through the heavens and probably going way too fast. The "pilot," a man Ryanair found sleeping outside the airport the previous day, gleefully flipped various switches and leaned forward on the yoke. The plane pitched forward as the passengers, between bouts of screaming, experienced moments of weightlessness. As the plane came in for a landing, the megaphone operator atop the control tower furiously made the motion signifying "turn a few degrees left, no, my left, no, not like that, fine, just land the damn thing" before the wheels (plastic skids) slammed into the tarp runway. After the plane violently skidded to a stop, the hands were pried from the armrests, and the masking tape was peeled off the sheet of wood covering the door, the passengers exited the plane, making sure to step over Nibbles O'Patchcorn, the beloved plane-cat whose assignment it was to keep the mice away from the exposed wires. The pilot turned in his Soviet-era brochure detailing how to fly a plane that doesn't exist anymore (how different could it be?) and got the sandwich he was promised in return for "gettin' these here people from Germany or France or something to whatever place is next on the list."

It may not have been a good flight, or a safe airplane held together with glue-sticks and Scotch tape, but I was finally in Dublin. I got my guitar, which by the grace of God had not been turned into a loosely-associated collection of splinters, and went to customs. The officer checked my passport, asked some questions in his accent that made me think of moors, fog and drunken brawls (I can't help it!), and sent me on my way. I said farewell to Stefanie, Maria, Theresa and Jennifer, and found out where to go. The 16a bus would be my home for the next 45 minutes.

So I got on the bus and took it to the city center. The website of my hostel claimed it would a 20-minute walk from the city center to the hostel, which is fine - what it neglected to mention is HOW HARD IT IS TO FIND YOUR WAY WHEN THERE ARE NO STREET NAMES ANYWHERE.

You know how in the USA, street names are generally pretty easy to find? Sure, there are occasional intersections where the streets aren't marked, or possibly the names are hidden atop some stop sign in a dark corner, but normally, those familiar green signs are ever-abundant. Well, never again will I complain about not being able to tell what street I'm on. What I contend happened is this: the city planners taped a map of Dublin to the wall of a large, empty room, then gave a blind person a paintball gun and ten paintballs. He wasn't told where the map actually was, and was just told to fire blindly ( :O ) at whatever he wanted to shoot at. After the ten rounds were used up, they put street names up at the closest intersections to the places on the map that were hit. But instead of, you know, easy-to-see signs that hang above the intersection, they decided to go with the more entertaining "nail really tiny plaques way too far up on the sides of buildings" approach. While I suppose this is cool for spiders who want to know what street the building they're climbing up is on, it doesn't work so well for motorists, cyclists or pedestrians. When I got lost on the last night and called my brother to Google Maps me some directions (more on that later), we actually had to figure out where I was based on the names of the businesses I was passing. Ridick.

So, the first night, I just got my bearings. Then the second day, I went out to Howth Harbor on a bike. Here's a map of the area.

The yellow line, going from the red dot in the bottom-left to the red dot in the top-right is the path I took. It's a 17-kilometer trip that takes about an hour and a half by bike. The scenery along the way is really pretty, especially the part that goes right by the ocean. And then the harbor itself is just spectacular, too. Here are some pictures:

 Samuel Beckett Bridge.




So yes, I did find seals, and they were very friendly and enjoyed fish a lot. Which is weird, because I would think they'd be more partial to veal or something, but when I threw a baby cow into the harbor, they just swam away. And I got arrested. Those Irish can't take a joke...

 So after that, I went to the Guinness storehouse. This place is COOL. Back in 1756, Arthur Guinness signed the 9000-year lease on the building, and now it's embedded in the floor under a glass pane. And the whole building looks like a giant Guinness pint on the inside. There are seven levels filled with all sorts of exhibitions and information about how Guinness is made, the guys who made the casks that stored Guinness (coopers), the ships used to transport Guinness around the world, and everything else you can imagine. And on top is the Gravity Bar, which offers a panoramic view of the city:

It was just cool. There were quotes from various Irish authors on the windows too. And free Guinness, which is a wonderful thing. Then the next day, I started out by going to a place called Kilmainham Gaol. Lemme start this by telling you a little about Joseph Plunkett.

Back in 1916, the Easter Rising took place in Dublin, namely in and around the General Post Office (GPO). This was an attempt by those who wanted Irish independence to split from the English. So a bunch of guys spent a number of years training soldiers and gathering guns, and in April, the Rising happened. It lasted a few days, but ultimately was stopped by the English. So the leaders of the movement, including Joseph Plunkett, were thrown into Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced "jail") for a number of weeks. They were sentenced to be executed, and in May 1916, they were. But before that happened, Joseph had to get married to Grace Gifford. The story is just crazy sad. Here are the lyrics of a song written about it: 

As we gather in the chapel here in old Kilmainham Jail
I think about these past few weeks, oh will they say we've failed?
From our school days they have told us we must yearn for liberty
Yet all I want in this dark place is to have you here with me.

Oh Grace, just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger.
They'll take me out at dawn and I will die
With all my love I place this wedding ring upon your finger
There won't be time to share our love for we must say goodbye.

Now I know it's hard for you, my love, to ever understand
The love I bare for these brave men, the love for my dear land
But when Pádraic called me to his side down in the GPO
I had to leave my own sick bed, to him I had to go

Now as the dawn is breaking, my heart is breaking too
On this May morn as I walk out, my thoughts will be of you
And I'll write some words upon the wall so everyone will know
I loved so much that I could see his blood upon the rose.

Well, yeah, he got married and then executed a few hours later. Saddest thing in the world. There's a cross where he was shot, too. This is it:

 Well, after going to Kilmainham, it was time to go to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. And that was a lot of fun, particularly the whiskey tasting I participated in at the end. I gotta say, I like American whiskey more than Irish whiskey or Scotch whiskey. And then after that, it was time to go to Howth again. Except this time... this time it was personal. I think I've reached the maximum number of pictures I can upload per post, so I'll save the adventure that happens next for the next post.


1 comment:

  1. Lawling about the Ryanair trip! And the "Grace" song is beautiful; I heard it on Youtube. Looking forward to more of the story! Love you!