Despite feeling like I was going to get sick every ten minutes as I sat on the 2.5 hour ride into Malaga, I enjoyed seeing Sevilla transform into small towns, then again into a bustling port. The countryside is beautiful, just much different from the natural beauty you may think of elsewhere. Andalucía is hot and arid, with pueblos blancos cropping up between mountains and acre after acre of olive trees, perfectly placed in rows. I was happy to see the sea and get to Málaga, though I had a lot of time to kill.
Once on the plane to Ireland, feeling a bit better after some food and caffeine, I relaxed. I’ve been anxious to go to Ireland since my 100% Irish grandmother traveled there about 10 years ago. I got off the plane in Dublin at 5:30 (it was already dark) ready to cry, from both exhaustion and excitement. I’ve never traveled to a country where I’m from, but I feel much more connected to my Irish heritage because of my grandma. I fell in love with the country in the busted up airport terminal – the way the signs looked, the way the people talked, the different traditional food. I went to the tourism info booth to ask for a map and how to get to the city the fastest, and the women was just so friendly, giving me all kinds of pamphlets and discount information about all the things I planned to see. She even walked me out to the bus. The driver was more friendly, and told me exactly where to get off about 45 minutes later on Dame Street. Just seeing english and watching pub after pub pass by the windows on the right side of the street was exhilarating. Without having done ANYTHING in Ireland I wondered why I hadn’t moved there to work. Perhaps next year?
I was met by Matt, a senior from Indiana U studying at the International Business school of Dublin and three people traveling from California. Generally the pubs are a bit larger, but apparently the Dubliners were recovering from a crazy night out for the holiday. So the five of us trekked on to enjoy fine Irish beers and a few shots of aftershock. Our first stop was a bar modeled after a viking ship with ice cold pints. I had a Carlsberg, muchhhhhhh sweeter than a Cruzcampo that I’d be served in Sevilla. We all got on (yes, I speak British English now) well, and I was so happy I didn’t feel any sort of regret or shyness for being alone in a European capital. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to stay in the hostel all day. We walked the Trinity College grounds to the small bar on campus, packed with students from all over the world. Most of them braved the cool night o sit outside on the steps or on worn picnic tables overlooking the footy and rugby fields and the ancient buildings. Matt and I split a special – 4 20-oz. Bavaria beers. Not fantastic, but for 4 quid I could have gotten one pint of Guinness or two of Ireland’s equivalent of Keystone. Cheers. I met some Spanish kids, too, so it was a worthwhile stop.
Our next pub, a much bigger one playing American music, afforded us fantastic strawberry beers and other non-traditional flavors, and stupid Adam bought me a tequila shot that I didn’t need. Finally, we went to a “club,” which looked like Friday’s on the inside and had overpriced drinks and American pop. I was very angry at the prices, and sufficiently pissed (as in drunk, not mad), so I stole a bar glass and we all ran out into the street. I then realized I hadn’t eaten in about 12 hours, but figured nothing was open at 2 am. I came upon SPAR, the most glorious creation ever. The store is kind of like Walgreens in that it sells snacks, magazines, small groceries and has a 24-hour deli. The nice waiter gave me a bucket of chips (as in french fries) and I sat on an alley and ate them before sleeping in my clothes.
I woke up the next morning even more exhausted than when I started the trip, but I had to do a lot of sightseeing in a short time. I did see Trinity College in the day time, which looks much like MU Ohio: very stately, with leaves turning colors and falling to the ground, full of students all over the lawns, which are intensely green. In the Old Library, an impressive long corridor full of old, dusty books and relics from Ireland’s long history, the Book of Kells is housed in a dark room. It’s a huge manuscript (I think) written in Irish with delicate drawings and swirls. It was kind of cool, but not worth 7 euros to be there for only a short time. I stopped in the tourism office to book a room in Galway and was off to explore Dublin castle. In this now-parliament building, every Irish president has been inaugurated since independence. The grounds are full of cars and garda, or policemen, but it’s stone walls and courtyard were beautiful against the clear blue sky (nothing I expected!). I skipped a free museum with apparently an astonishing collection of Irish history to head to Christ Church, one of the most famous parishes in the city. It was originally a wooden heap meant to worship secularly, but has been rebuilt in stone and stands in the center of the city. It’s beautiful inside and outside, and its crypt holds all kinds of beautiful excavated tombs and silver pieces.
The highlight of my day was for sure seeing St. James’ Gate, otherwise known as the Guinness brewery. The city is famous for its merrymaking and pub life, and the brewery tour is not a disappointment. Walking up High Street, I could smell the factory at work, turning out millions and millions of pints. Though beermaking had been around for centuries before Arthur Guinness started making his special dark brew, he is believed to have honed the art. Everything from the amount of water used to the barrel making was perfected under his care. The factory tour is set from the ground up, and even the elevator looks like a giant pint glass. I’ve been on brewery tours before, but this one was incredibly entertaining while still being informative. I learned how the hops were grown, how the brew was mixed, how bottling worked. From the first floor, you were then able to taste the perfect mini pint, learn how to pour a perfect pint (tilt glass at a 35 degree angle, pour to the top of the harp on the glass, let sit for two minutes to separate, then top it off with a thick layer of foam), wander through advertisements through the 300-year-plus history, find out how to cure a hangover, and top off the trip on the last floor in the Gravity Bar. From the seventh floor, the bar serves free pints of Guinness in a round room with floor to ceiling windows, offering fantastic panoramic views of the city. The beer tasted incredible when doubled with how magnificent and rustic the city looks. Despite being big (I think about a quarter of the population lives there), it retains its charm and warmth. I loved it immediately but had one more thing to do before I left town for Galway – try Irish stew.
Having a perfect pour at the Gravity Bar
I walked along the river on the Quays (pronounced like “keys”) as the weather started to turn cooler and found a small, dark pub that served stew and cold beer. I was one of the only people in the bar, so the tender told me to just have a seat at the bar. I didn’t think twice, figuring it was just the Irish being friendly, despite this being an older gentleman who asked me if I wanted to stay an extra day at his home for free. Just being nice. As it turns out, Nick is from Turkey and has been living in Dublin for three years. I ate delicious Irish stew, a filling broth full of meat, carrots, potatoes and rosemary and drank a sweet tasting Carlsberg and talked to a man from turkey. It was quite wonderful. I wandered a bit through Temple Bar before picking up my bag from the hostel, finding a bookstore to stock up on English language books and go to the bathroom again (it’s the beer here, I SWEAR. It’s practically a diuretic!!) and finally to the bus station. I caught a national bus to Galway, on the other side of the country, at 4 pm. Sadly, it took a bit longer than expected due to immense traffic jams in the capital, and it was too dark to really see the countryside. But it was fun watching the small towns pass by quickly, much like driving through the pueblos blancos down here in Spain.
The River Liffey from Merchant’s Quay
Matt, Brian and me having pints at another pub