Thursday, May 30, 2013

David Does Dublin

"David go that way! Go that way, David! Go. That. Way. Are you listening to  me? David?" demanded a spherically-shaped woman in a teal dress whom I assumed was the mother of this David character. 
David had apparently grown tired of pulling his pants down and exposing himself to a considerable number of bewildered passengers waiting to board their flights and decided to move on to wedging himself quite skilfully between the back of a row of chairs bolted to the floor and the wall of our terminal. This had at least temporarily halted his exhibitionism.
It was not quite baby-in-a-well serious, but it seeemed slightly dire and the volume, pitch, and unique shrill of the mother's voice made the whole matter a bit more pressing for me and the other gathered onlookers.
The joys of modern airline travel. 
After screaming at David, who looked to be a couple years shy of crossing the street by himself to, "Go that way!" for the better part of 20 minutes I decided to lift the child from behind the row of chairs myself. This idea had likely occured to every other passenger in the terminal almost immediately upon seeing the melodrama unfold, but had yet to register as a viable solution to the mother.
With David free to return to his mild acts of sexual assault unabated by parental intervention, I returned to my travel guide and prayed they would  not be making the same connection as I would be in Chicago. 
David, despite his European-like comfort with sexual openess, did not seem like the world travelling type of fellow.
My instincts in these matters are only slightly better than a blind guess and in Chicago I would find out I had underestimated David's worldliness and not only would I get the pleasure of his company in the terminal of my connecting flight, but also have the opportunity to enjoy his progressive family's unique communication skills on the seven-hour flight to Dublin. 
One interesting observation I made while traveling from Chicago to Ireland in the summer was that the sun never set. It just hung there.
It's a rather remarkable thing to see the sun's rays dance on the horizon apparently moments from fading completely away and never quite get there.
From the north side of the plane there were faint sun rays on the horizon for the duration of the flight. For this to happen, you must be very close to the Artic Circle and the North Pole where, in the summer, the sun never sets. Or, more correctly, the remains of the day are always visible.
Perhaps because of this or possibly due to David's extremely vocal disatisfaction with the length of this flight and the occasional turbulence he was submitted to, I did not get a wink of sleep myself.
When I landed in Dublin my watch said 8am, but my body said 2am.
I made it through customs without much delay, promptly exchanged my dollars for Euros, a deal in which I am fairly certain I was cheated, and then hopped a shuttle to the city center.
The hostel I had booked, The Times Hostel, had great reviews and was near Trinity College and St. Stephen's Green, and offered free breakfast. The only negative I soon found out was that I was not allowed to check in until 2pm. A quick rechecking of my watch confirmed what I had feared - I  had five hours before my head would meet a pillow. The vibrant young clerk at the desk agreed to hold my bag for me until check-in so that I could explore the city unencumbered. 
With zombie-like swiftness and cunning I left the bright doorstep of the hostel and headed out.
I began wandering toward a large gray spire I could see rising above the shops and restaurants across the street. It looked to be a few blocks away and so I began my trek. What I came upon was Ireland's largest cathedral - St. Patrick's.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

The spectacular stone structure was commissioned in 1191 and is really quite stunning. What's even more peculiar though is despite it's over 800-year history the building is best known for the quite mundane distinction of being the final resting place of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels.
 I roamed around the church for a while and took in the numerous memorials for deceased parishioners and other notable citezens before I eventually spilled onto the gated green lawn and fountain on the north side of the grounds.
As thrilled as I was to begin my journey and as impressed as I was by St. Patrick's, I still couldn't overcome my sleep deprivation. 
I began walking back to the hostel hoping to convince them of letting me lie down on the kitchen counter or a sturdy ironing board before my legs gave out. It was while I was rehearsing this speech aloud to the frequent interest of passers-by that I stumbled into St. Stephen' Green. 
The 350-year old city park was lush and bathed in sunlight and I knew from my research it was a common picnic destination. The grass was well-kept and better still people were laying around. Some were eating lunch, some were just chatting with friends, but others were legitimately having a rest. I had never slept in a public park before. I can no longer say that honestly.
It was with virtually no thought or second-guessing that I switched directions, plopped myself down on a hill and promptly passed out. Three hours later, I would wake up somewhat more refreshed and completely alone. It seems there is a daily ebb and flow of visitors to the park with lunch time being a peak hour to visit and 3pm being a lonely time to wake up.

St. Stephen's Green, the first place I ever slept in Europe. This is the actual view from when I woke up.

What's more is that I woke myself up snoring. I do not usually snore, at least not loud enough to wake myself up, but I had this time and it startled me to a jump. As I walked back to the hostel, I began to wonder if maybe this was why everyone had left. 
After my Irish siesta, I decided to visit the Book of Kells at Trinity College. 

The Old Library at Trinity College

The  book is an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels from the Bible written in Latin. The letters are so delicate and spectacularly calligraphed that it is much closer to art than book. It took four scribes and likely three artists to create. The book is first described in 1007 in the Annals of Ulster as, "The chief relic of the Western World," after it was stolen only to be subsequently discovered again after thieves ripped off its' gold and bejwelled cover. From this we know the book is at least 1,000 years old, but could be as many as 1,400.

The Book of Kells

There is absolutely no photography allowed of the book itself due to the very fragile vellum pages on which the book was laboriously inscribed, but the security guard was thinking about his lunch break much to deliberately and I didn't use a flash.
I might not have chanced it had he looked like the taxi drivers in Dublin. 
Every male who's over six-feet tall and 200 lbs. shaves their head bald and slaps a taxi sign on the top of their car. They go park in large groups, get out of their cars, and congregate together in menacing packs of would-be hooligans. They stare at you when you walk by as if you've just barged into their pub wearing a Manchester United jersey and just given their girlfriend a hearty slap on the rear for good measure.
I could not imagine most foreigners walking up to this hoard and asking to get in a car with one of them.
They look as though they could just as easily pound pints at the pub with you while delivering vigorous slaps on the back or butt your teeth out.
Despite their appearance, like virtually all the people I came in contact with in Dublin, they were real sweethearts. At one point while I was looking down at my map and then back up at street signs with a puzzled look (a frequent occurence for me), one of these former Irish mafia enforcers came and offered assistance.

"What are ya lookin' far?" he asked in a grizzled accent. 

"I'll be alright I think. I'm just looking for the National Gallery," I said.

"It's just pass tha coffee shup on the right at the carner up thar."

"Right then. Well, thank you I really do appreciate it."

"But, why duh ya wanna go thar? Aren't ya an American?"

"Yeah, I'm from the States."

"At's what I thought. Well then I should tell ya, the bar's er all that way," he said pointing back toward the Temple Bar district of Dublin. "And they show the NBA games."

For reasons I cannot identify it is gratifying to me that someone from another country assumes all Americans enjoy drinking and basketball. 

The Temple Bar, which sits fittingly in the Temple Bar section of Dublin.

I could not imagine a people more given to having a good time than the Irish. The bars were packed at all hours of the day, the motorists did not plunk you when you looked the wrong way coming off the curb, and the scariest lot, the taxi drivers, were gems.

In two and a half days I had seen just about everything the city could offer. Outside of finding David or his mother and flicking them in the Liffey River, I did not feel I had any loose ends to tie up. After spending a few pints too long in The Palace Pub, a great little joint that has been kicking out drunk Irishmen and frisky tourists for 190 years, I checked the train timetables and found a rail to Belfast leaving in a few hours and without my prior hesitation, hailed a taxi.

The General Post Office with a statue of Irish Trade Union leader Jim Larkin.

O'Connell Bridge with government buildings in the background.

Dublin Castle above and below

O'Neils Pub

Christ Church Cathedral

Guiness Storehouse

The Holy Grail

How I felt when I found out I couldn't check in for another five hours.

After finding St. Stephen's Green

After my first Guinesss at The Brazen Head.

The Brazen Head, est. 1198

The bar inside the Temple Bar

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