Flashback to Iceland, 2003 (insert flashback wavy lines here)
Gojo and I were doing some comparison shopping on postcards at the various tourist information shops when our ears were accosted by the booming voice of a loud, pushy American (complete with reverse baseball hat and sports jersey) demanding to know:
“Where can I get A CUP OF JOE?”
The agent manning the desk flinched a bit and gave him a puzzled look.
He repeated his question in a louder voice, because loud always makes translations smoother:
“A CUP OF JOE! JOE!”
Slowly, a dim light dawned upon him and then, enunciating each word,
“Oh, coffee. THAT’s. What WE. Call COFFEE. Cup. Of. JOE. Know where I can find some?”
Gojira thought she heard him add “And some CHOW,” but that may have been a delusion brought on by the shock of his initial onslaught. Embarrassed by our countryman, from that moment on, Gojira and I became Scots and spoke with thick brogues for the remainder of the trip. A few days later, Gojira mentioned that she had a wedding to attend in Edinburgh (pronounced “Edin-burrrrrrah”) in May, 2004, and invited me along. Aye, lassie, I’ll join ye. . .
(insert return-to-present-day wavy lines)
And so, less than a year later, I came to find myself taking a cheapo bus ($35 round-trip) from DC to NYC to meet up with Gojira for another trip abroad. As always, you get what you pay for. Granted, I did not take the “Chinese bus where everyone is kung-fu fighting” as our appallingly racist driver warned us we would have to take on the return trip if we did not keep a tight grip on our little, yellow tickets. But, I did have to suffer through a chatty neighbor (“I wonder when we are leaving. I’ve never been to New York before. Oh, are you reading that book? How is it? I really like to read myself. Blah infinity blah.”); I couldn’t watch the movies (“Meet the Parents” and “Remember the Titans“) because the woman in front of me sported a huge hairdo that Marge Simpson would envy; and I had to watch said bouffant-loving woman pop the painful-looking zits off her daughter’s cheek for what seemed to be an eternity.
Because of the delayed departure, we did not arrive in mid-town Manhattan until 3:30 p.m., an hour later than anticipated. Gojira was nowhere to be seen, so I found a narrow ledge to sit upon that was close enough to see the street but far enough away from the crazy, toothless (well, that’s not fair, she did have at least two teeth) woman who was alternately cooing and cajoling for spare change and screaming with rage at the imaginary thieves who were trying to steal from her. By 4 p.m., Gojira finally rescued me.
We dumped my gear at her place in the Lower East Side and walked to Vosges Haut-Chocolat, an ice cream establishment I had read about in the New York Times that featured exotic flavors of chocolate and ice cream. We sample the Red Fire ice cream which combined dark chocolate, chilis, and cinnamon (zingy, tasty treat) and the Naga ice cream which blended curry, coconut, and white chocolate (Um. Not so much).
Gojira’s summertime roommate AK met us for dinner at the restaurant imaginatively named “Supper” that, apparently, the East Village hipsters frequent when they want northern Italian food. Gotta admit, the tagliateli with porcini mushrooms was pretty good. We followed up our meal with creamy mochas at the newly-opened Ini Ani coffeehouse whose interesting walls, as I have come to learn, are made of 24,650 cardboard strips. For our self-imposed homework, we returned to Gojira’s apartment and watched “Trainspotting” to give us a refresher on our Scottish accents (never mind that we were going to be in Ireland first and for twice as long). By 2 a.m., we were ready for our trip. No, we had not discussed what sights to see, where the locations of our lodgings were, or how much cash to carry. But we had ooor accents doooon pat.
Trying to outsmart British Airways, we attempted to assign our own seats on-line so that we could skip the line at the airport and kick back in the emergency exit row for the seven hour flight. Alas, the slowest ever dial-up connection foiled our plans and made us sweaty with frustration. We mentally hurled the laptop away and went at it with baseball bats ala “Office Space” and went out for brunch. Paul’s Boutique, a cafe named after the Beastie Boys’ album, satisfied our hunger and thirst and gave us the energy we needed to try to wrangle our airplane seats once more. No joy. We were going to have to hit the kiosks after all.
With the memory of our last attempt to get to JFK still fresh in our minds, we allotted several hours to ourselves to take the train (the right one in the right direction this time) and take the free shuttle (allowing for the many stops at each parking space and each terminal along the way). Final bag check, snacks check, and tickets check, check. We caught the correct A train to Howard Beach and narrowly missed getting hit by a poor, sick, crying child’s projectile vomit in the process. Pleased with ourselves and with hours to spare, we strutted out of the train and headed to the airport shuttle. Which was nowhere to be seen. Which no longer exists. Which has been replaced with the brand-spanking new, futuristic, $5-one-way AirTrain. Yes, it swiftly delivered us to the proper terminal in about 15 minutes. Yes, it was clean and roomy. Yes, we were still annoyed that we had to pay $5 for a one-way ticket to the terminal when, until December 2003, it was free. True to our fake Scottish heritage, we are ‘mean with our money’ (quote attributed to a real Scots woman). Aside: to learn more about the difference between ‘Scots’ and ‘Scotch’, click here. Otherwise, enjoy this explanation by Mike Meyers playing a fiercely proud Scot on an SNL skit “All Things Scottish,”: “Scotch is a drink. Scots are a people. But we are both great tasting!”
By 5:00 p.m. we were in the front door of the terminal. By 5:05, we checked ourselves in at the kiosk and selected our seats (rats, no emergency exit rows left). By 5:10, we were through security with two hours to spare. Two whole hours. What to do, what to do. We dined on airport food. We flipped through magazines. We poked around the duty-free shops where I helped myself to some pre-flight free samples of the insanely expensive La Mer products. Seriously? $110 for 1 ounce of lotion? Ah me.
When our flight was called, we excitedly boarded the plane, found our seats, and settled in. Unfortunately, our happiness with our primo seats was short-lived. A portly man sporting a navy blue blazer with shiny brass buttons, a way-too-open collared white shirt, and several gold chains sat next to me. Our eyes slid glances at our neighbor, slid glances at each other, and suddenly filled with tears. The ‘Sea Captain’, as Gojira dubbed him, reeked. The foulest, rankest, most fetid stench emanated from him in nearly visible waves. A cartoon version of him would employ hundreds of stink lines. The noisome, pestilential odor made my nostrils curl and my lungs refuse to function. He was either an animated corpse with a valid passport or else he was rotting from the inside out. When he got up to use the bathroom, I quickly flagged down a flight attendant and begged her to move us anywhere else on the plane. She said she would see what she could do. The Sea Captain sat back in his seat. The funk of forty thousand years + seven hour flight = sheer agony waiting for the flight attendant to return. My lungs were burning and screaming for fresh air. My hands went numb from strategically holding a magazine so closely to my face to shield my tortured nose. My eyes were blurring and my brain started getting foggy from the shallow breathing. My Jedi mind tricks failed to force the emergency oxygen masks to drop down and provide us with a respite. The flight attendant returned with good news and we scrambled out of our seats, into the aisle, and towards the back of the plane so quickly that you would have thought we were practicing for an evacuation drill. We were given the seats in the extremely last row, right next to the bathrooms, and with little-to-no seat reclining action. We were in heaven.
Arriving at London Heathrow Airport nearly an hour late, we briskly trekked, trammed, and trekked from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1 and still had time to wrangle two tickets for the coveted emergency exit row for our British Midlands flight to Dublin. I had never been in the domestic-and-Ireland flights section of Heathrow and was intrigued by the bizarre design and shape of the terminal itself. The interior looked like it was made out of a hollowed out jet complete with uncomfortable chairs, curved metal walls, and unflattering carpet. We had our first breakfast, a simple meal of Triscuits and York Peppermint Patties, standing up while waiting around in a general area until our gate was displayed on one of the rickety computer monitors trembling overhead. On-board the surprisingly spacious and comfortable BMI flight, we had our second breakfast, a wince-inducing panini (mine was a tomato and gruyere omelet) that tasted remarkably like plastic to me but which Gojira appeared to relish with gusto. 45 minutes later, we slid into the Dublin Airport which is nicely situated on the east coast of Ireland.
We got some cash (100 euros to last us the week), got our Rambler Bus Tickets (there goes 10 of our euros for the one-way trip to the City Centre), stepped outside and got our first view of the Republic of Ireland. Dubh Linn, or “Black Pool”, in mid-May is lusciously green and admirably clean. The ramshackle residential areas north of the city slowly gave way to the modern, sleeker buildings of the city center. We were dropped off on Upper O’Connell Street, which was smack-dab in the center of the city, but several streets away from where we actually wanted to be let off. Toting our backpacks, whipping out our maps, and determining which way was north, we hiked up to Clifden Guesthouse, the nearly 200 year old, refurbished Georgian townhouse that would serve as our abode for precisely one night.
After being buzzed in, we learned that our room was not ready as it was only 11 a.m. and check-in was not until 2 p.m. We were given a detailed map of the city, were permitted to leave our bags underneath a table in the entrance hall, and were shown the door. We stood outside of the guesthouse for a moment, blinking in the sun and feeling the jet-lag setting in, and gradually stumbled our way back down to O’Connell Street.
We found an internet cafe where, for 1 euro per half hour, we could pacify our families and inform them that we were safe. We gawked at the Dublin Spire, or “Spike” (no relation to William the Bloody), the 120 meter tall structure that was built last year to replace the Nelson’s Pillar which was built in 1808 and blown up in 1966 by an Irish Republican in the middle of the night.
We counted the redheads we saw and absorbed (and graded) the Irish accents lilting around us as we made our way towards and then south of the River Liffey. And then . . . AND THEN . . . we found Wagamama, a Japanese noodle bar. ding ding ding! Gojira and I are creatures of habit and once we find a place we like, we keep returning to it regardless of the other options around us (until such time as something pisses us off and then we ban it, but that’s another list). In merely one hour of stepping foot on Irish soil, we found a winner. Could we eat any more Cha Han? Yes. Yes, we could. Halfway through, I was so tired and my eyelids were so droopy (a condition hereafter known as having Wagamama Eyes and sung to the tune “Betty Davis’ Eyes”), that I could have laid my head down on the soft pillow of fried rice and fallen asleep right there.
We lugged our heavy bellies back up to the North Side, threw our bags into our enormous suite (one and a half rooms, two beds, clean and sunny bathroom), and collapsed. The room was one short flight of stairs away from the front door and its security buzzer, which, now that it was officially check-in time, was in constant use. Luckily, I still managed to nap the nap of the dead. Vampire-like, I rose near sunset and needed to feed again. Actually, I was more like Woody Allen’s Count Dracula who misjudged the sun’s timetable, when I learned that the sun did not set until many, many hours later!
In search of a good fish and chips shop, we made our second trip through north and south Dublin and finally found a ready table at The Shack in the busy Temple Bar neighborhood. The friendly host let us peruse through the menu while we waited for our table to clear, made helpful suggestions, and told every other would-be patron that came after us that the place was booked for the night. Tuna on Basil Mash for me; Pasta with Chicken for Gojira. It was still light out when we finished our meals so we felt safe walking through what was reputed to be a dangerous area north of the river. By 10 p.m., I was knackered (ooh, ahh, local slang in use!) and went to bed to the sounds of Gojira watching the Eurovision song contest finals.
Next up: “Blood pudding” is neither blood, nor pudding . . . well, maybe a little blood.
Refreshed, revived, and ravenous, we came downstairs to Clifden House’s dining room for breakfast at 9 a.m. I loaded up with scrambled eggs and toast with rich, creamery butter served on pretty blue and white china, a cup of fruity yogurt, some coffee, and a small glass of OJ. Gojira went “Full Irish” (enough to make any Muslim cringe): one egg (slightly runny), some sausage (linked), some bacon (soft and fatty like back/Canadian bacon, not crispy like American bacon), toast (buttered), slice of tomato (shoved to the side), and the crown jewel – the ‘white pudding’: ground pork butt or liver, grains, eggs, seasonings, and something white (either milk or fat or white blood cells; never found out, never want to) stuffed into sausage casings, sliced into medallions, and fried up. The white pudding differs from black pudding in that black pudding includes pig’s blood. In my recipe book, the final preparation step after frying either version up would be to toss it out as far as humanly possible, but maybe that’s just me. In fact, if I mustered up the courage to touch it and practiced throwing it enough times, I might be able to enter the World Black Pudding Throwing Championship!
We returned to our room to shower (Oh, Danny Boy, the water pipes, the pipes, were clanging!) and re-pack. With nearly 20 pounds of junk on our backs, we checked out of the guesthouse, said goodbye to the north side, and joined the Sunday strollers milling about the River Liffey.
In response to its recent economic boom, Dublin ran right out and got an urban face-lift of slick, glossy storefronts, a botox injection of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Urban Outfitters, and a nip-tuck of refurbished historical buildings. The result is a city that looks less like a quaint Irish town and more like EPCOT. Apparently, even the population matches the youthful look of the city with over half of Dubliners under the age of 30.
We found a nice, sunny patch of green near City Hall and whiled away the time there until it was time to check into our next rest stop. We observed the past meeting the present as a driver of a horse-drawn carriage clopped by while chatting on a cell phone. We watched three happy dogs bound after a tennis ball for an hour. We found Dublin’s version of Starbucks in Butlers Chocolate Cafe. Coffees in hand, we found a spot in the crowded 22 acre park of St. Stephen’s Green and counted ducks.
At 2 p.m., we checked into Avalon House where, despite making a reservation for a double room en suite (with private bath) a month in advance, they put us in a bathless room with a co-ed shower and co-ed loo down the hall. The room was so small, you could not swing a leprechaun in there!
Leaving the dispute with the front desk for the next day, we decided to check out Trinity College. We monitored the progress of what must have been a drunk-on-Guinness, clumsy magpie struggling to carry a limb up a tree for a while before we chose watching a women’s cricket game over visiting the famous and historically important Book of Kells. What can I say, sunshine and action won out over darkness and a $12 fee to stand in line to see a manuscript.
After visiting Oscar Wilde’s front door, (“I’m sure I don’t know half the people who come to my house. Indeed, for all I hear, I shouldn’t like to”) we paused for a bit at Merrion Square and then wandered around the nearby museums. Note to fellow travelers: the free bathroom at the National Gallery is much nicer than the free bathroom at the Natural History Museum.
We weighed our dinner options and after a hearty thirty-second debate, we decided on Wagamama where I ordered the exact same meal I had the night before (the leftovers of which we had that morning). After dinner, we returned to St. Stephen’s Green to soak up more of the surprisingly strong Irish sunshine. The heat and sun began to make us loopy as we lounged around on the soft, cool land fur and attempted to share my mp3 player while watching our fellow park-goers enjoy the day. Unbeknownst to us, the lamp in the sky was on high and Gojira ended up with a slight sunburn! In Ireland! Glory be!
Spotting “Publin’ in Dublin” on our to-do-list, we had a pint at McDaid’s (one Stella and one water, please), discussed the merits of the latest Chris Rock special, and listened in on our neighbors’ conversations. When the pub closed at 11 p.m., we returned to our hostel (to the heart-warming sight of two dudes relieving themselves on the hostel’s wall) and scurried up and down 6 flights of stairs to retire in our room on the 4th floor. Yes, 6 flights of stairs to get to the 4th floor. Don’t ask me. I think it has something to do with the metric system.
Next up: How to score free crepes.
Good news, after a talk with the manager, we secured a new room with two bunk beds and a private bath! Bad news, we had to check-out and store our bags in the locker room by 10 a.m. and then reclaim our bags and re-check-in at 2 p.m. That meant that our day was going to have to revolve around the hostel’s schedule.
We dressed for a day at the beach and planned a trip to Bray, the resort town on the coast of the Irish Sea south of Dublin. Picking over the paltry selection of cafeteria-style breakfast offerings (lame muffin, no bananas, and one puny juice box), we headed over to St. Stephen’s Green, Butler’s coffee in hand. The day was so gray and chilly that we cancelled our Bray plans, returned to the room to change into warmer clothes, and stored our luggage as instructed.
The Winding Stair Bookshop and Cafe just across the Ha’Penny Bridge seemed a good bet for bibliophiles like us and so there we went. Sneezing through the appropriately dusty aisles of the used bookstore and climbing up the eponymous stairs, we found the cafe on the second level. There were three other patrons sitting at the wooden tables and reading when we walked in.
We decided to split one lemon and sugar crepe (6 euros!), helped ourselves to two cups of water, and sat on a bench near the window that afforded a nice view of the river and the Southside. We sat on the bench and flipped through a local music review magazine. We sat on the bench and watched our waitress eat a sandwich at the table next to ours. We sat on the bench and observed our waitress finishing off her sandwich. We looked at our watches, looked at each other, and finally, when one of the three patrons went to the register to pay, Gojira went up to the register to check on the status of our single crepe. Incredibly apologetic and fiercely embarrassed, our waitress realized that she totally forgot our order. She quickly offered to give us two crepes for the price of one or return our money to make amends for her gaff. We laughed it off and said that’s fine. She ducked into the kitchen and then returned with our crepes and a full refund. The crepes were mediocre, but we felt so bad about our waitress feeling bad that we left the full amount on the table for her anyway.
Returning to the Northside, we hit the internet cafe to check out the week’s forecast (brr) and perused through the outlet store Hairy Legs (meh). Suddenly, the sun came out in full force. The cancelled Bray plans were spontaneously reinstated. On our way to Connolly Station, we saw a number of people crowded around a single spot draped in flowers. Sensing something somber and important was going on, but not exactly certain what, we slowed down. Unbeknownst to us, today was the 30th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings where a series of car bombs exploded during rush hour and 34 people were killed in the two cities. The perpetrators were never caught, although the breaking news this week is that the Lord Mayor Royston Brady (whose mug was plastered all over town along with Proinsias which is pronounced “Francis” – I don’t know why, maybe it’s the metric system; ask Gojira’s Dad) admitted that his father’s taxi was used as a getaway vehicle. Hmm. We stood among the mourners for a moment during a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial near the train station before moving on.
At Connolly Station, we caught the 12:45 p.m. DART to Bray and enjoyed the 45-minute ride along the coast. The sun and the clouds had a long debate, but as the day became overcast and moist, we realized that the clouds won. And so we arrived at Bray on a gray, drizzly afternoon. As per our usual course, we walked in the complete opposite direction of the beach but were rewarded with a little tour of downtown Bray, its golf course, and a view of the Wicklow Mountains. Making a 180, we found the beach, but the wide swath of rocks and narrow strips of sand were completely desolate. No fairy floss vendors, no sun-bathers, and, for that matter, no sun. When the restaurant Katie Gallagher’s came into view, we finally took the opportunity to have fish (mine was in finger form) and chips (with malted vinegar and new-to-me brown sauce). A perfect meal to warm us on the wintry summer day.
Back in Dublin, we scoured the pharmacies for Cooper’s Inis Free perfume and lotions and potions that were commonplace in Ireland but exotic to us. Gojira found a sun balm in stick form at Boots Pharmacy and fell in love. I found my Klorane shampoo but refused to buy it until I had looked in every other pharmacy on, near, and beyond the shopping hub of Grafton Street. We kept ourselves occupied until 5 p.m. when we returned to our new (now third) room. When the luggage room, which was only unlocked every even hour, opened at 6 p.m., we retrieved our bags, used our lower bunks as make-shift closets, and for the first time unpacked our stuff.
Resting our weary bones on the upper bunks, I flipped through my Lonely Planet Dublin Condensed book looking for a place to eat while Gojira amused herself with crossword puzzles. Eureka! Aya, the “best” (and quite possible “only”) sushi bar in Dublin, was just a few streets away! Voila! When we found it, we were rather intimidated by the whole conveyor belt sushi concept at first. Stalling for time, we looked at the menu posted outside, peeked through the glass doors, and eventually tip-toed inside. Once seated, we were subjected to the high pressure sales tactics of our waitress, crumbled, and agreed to the “all-you-can-eat-in-55 minutes-for-25-euros” deal. Gulp! Make that, gulp gulp gulp. A welcome drink and miso soup began the meal. Salmon and eel. The evenly spaced sushi plates snaked their way around the restaurant atop the silent, sliding conveyor belt. California rolls and tempura. The minutes crept by as our bellies expanded. Shrimp and chocolate cake. What? The food kept coming and we kept reaching, pulling a plate down, cleaning it, and putting it aside. Where was my TUNA?! Not soon enough, our 55 minutes were up. What were we thinking?! I felt like Homer being tormented in the Ironic Punishment Division of Hell. Complimentary green tea? God, yes, please. Stumbled home in a stupor, showered in the stop-and-go shower, and prayed that the sushi would stay down.
Next up: Kilmainham Gaol – the jail for Ireland’s political prisoners, the poor, the martyrs, and the stone-cold criminals. And by “stone-cold,” I mean literally . . . those limestone walls are freezing!
Lonely Planet lied. Trustworthy up to a point, LP has a tendency to misguide, misjudge, or have outdated information at least ONCE in each book. In Egypt, it was the location of the final stop on the bus to Sharm El-Sheikh and the quality of our hotel. In China, it was the timings of the boat tour in Shanghai. Here, LP promised that the Gallic Kitchen (allegedly displaying a sign that stated “Our food is so f****** good you won’t believe it”) offered a “melt-in-your-mouth goat’s cheese brioche.” We sought out the place. We tried their fare. We don’t believe it. LP, that was your one get-out-of-jail-free card.
Speaking of jails, after dejectedly eating our crappity breakfast in St. Audoen’s Church’s garden, we headed west towards Kilmainham Gaol. Taking the scenic (and, naturally, longer) route, we walked along the Liffey. It started out as a good idea as we got the chance to see the various, lovely bridges arching over the river.
But soon, the bustling shops and pretty quays and early morning commuters faded in the Irish mist. Wait. That wasn’t mist. That was the fumes of hundreds of cars and busses and trucks rumbling by on the street which now resembled a highway. By the time we reached Heuston Station, we were gagging on the exhaust fumes and questioning our sanity in choosing to walk to the Gaol when it was so painfully obvious that everyone else took the bus there. The Irish Museum of Modern Art appeared, our map showed it as a landmark near the Gaol, and so we headed . . . thataway. Half-way there, we started second-guessing ourselves. We turned around, retraced our steps, took a long, circuitous path that led us away from, south of, and then back to the Gaol. We stopped at a wholesale beauty salon supplier to ask for directions and learned that we were just a few feet away from our destination after all. We lingered there a bit longer than needed; not so much to understand which way to go, but more to rest in the air-conditioned store and listen to the burly Irishmen’s lilting voices debate over the proper directions to give us.
Kilmainham Gaol was amazing. For over a century, the prison held more than just criminals. Rebels, political heroes (including the future prime minister and president Eamon de Valera), and people seeking escape from the Great Famine came through the gates .
We listened closely as our guide, Martin, told us about the history of the jail, highlighted some of the more important inmates, and explained why the site has become a national monument. Basically, the jail represented the struggles Ireland faced through an important period in its history. The jail opened four years before 1800 when the Act of Union abolished the Irish Parliament and made Ireland a part of the U.K. The jail closed two years after the south of Ireland declared itself a Republic in 1949. The massive, limestone prison became a symbol of Ireland’s battle for independence. Plus, it was the setting for In the Name of the Father, The (original) Italian Job, and the U2 video “A Celebration“!
Martin, who got an A for his knowledge of Irish history, his red hair, and his accent, showed us the sunlit East Wing where two floors of cells were connected by metal catwalks that afforded the guards a 360 degree view of the cells around them. The Victorians believed that punishment (hence the cold, harsh cells with little to no interaction with any other human being) should be tempered with hope (hence the small window in each cell letting in God’s sunlight and a view of heaven). The new section reminded me a lot of the jail in The Shawshank Redemption(which, for you trivia hounds, was filmed at Ohio’s closed Mansfield State Penitentiary).
The infinitely colder, darker, and grimmer old section still bears the names of some of the prisoners. We were permitted to enter the cells as we pleased, but none of us stayed for too long inside. The older section led to the execution grounds and the wall where Martin described the killing of the Invincibles as well as the execution of James Connolly who so badly injured in the fighting during the Easter Rising of 1916 that he was unable to stand for his execution and so the British tied him to a chair and shot him there. We learned that an execution requires space away from the other prisoners, a firing squad, and one blank bullet so that none of the gunners knows who was the real executioner. Ah, the things you learn every day.
After the tour, we shook off the gloom and doom that had descended upon us and walked through the neatly kept lawns of the MOMA.Note the helpful signage.
We passed the Guinness Storehouse, the Guinness Brewery, and the Guinness Windmill. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we parked ourselves on the crowded, sunny yard and watched future footballers in their diapers practice their kicking skills without falling down or dropping trou. Starved after our long hike to and from the jail, we risked mad cow disease and had cheeseburgers at Chatham Brasserie near Grafton Street. Lunch was followed by iced lattes at St. Stephen’s Green. We browsed around St. Stephen’s Green’s Mall, but after the misfortune of PAYING (15 cents) to use the bathroom (STANK), we ran back outside and went on a shoe hunt: me, orange trainers; Gojira, lime green Pumas (that do not exist). Grafton Street started getting really crowded and one guy almost knocked the pony out of me! We wandered around a bit more, had a great dinner at Monty’s of Kathmandu and since it was still light at 9 p.m., hit International Bar to round off the night.
Next up: Last Day Doublin’ in Dublin.
We were up at 8 a.m. to shower, pack, and store our luggage until our fourth (and thankfully final) room was ready for us. Breakfast was had at the Keogh’s Cafe and while I quite enjoyed my vegetarian fare of sauteed ‘shrooms, potato pancakes, and French toast, it was hard to eat with my eyes closed. Why were my eyes closed? Across from me, Gojira was eating black (a.k.a. blood) pudding. Ahem. Moving on.
We walked around the now-familiar streets and continued to be captivated and thrilled by the sound that was triggered when the “Walk” signal flicked on at each pedestrian crossing. PEEEowwwww . . . tuk-a-tuk-a-tuk-a-tuk. HEE HEE!!! Ah, it’s the little things that amuse us. We ventured north again in search of Gojira’s non-existent lime green Puma’s (shhh, don’t tell her, but I just saw a pair at a Puma store) and ended up with a shirt from Mango in all the colors of the Irish flag for Gojira and a pair of red, fly kicks from Ecco for me. After hitting the architecturally lovely and historically important General Post Office to mail out some postcards, we pretty much spent the day popping in and out of various stores. A gentle, misty rain began as we returned to Avalon House to rescue our luggage and dump it in our new room – the best so far with a single bed suspended over a double bed below.
Lunch at the Lemon Crepe and Coffee Co. was followed by a visit to the tourist center, which was surprisingly unhelpful and disorganized, to purchase our bus tickets for the airport the next day. We began heading towards Dublin Castle when we were distracted, hypnotized, and beckoned by the charming used and discount bookstore, Books Upstairs. So bedazzled by cheap books, we spent more time in there than we intended and when we finally emerged, we forgot where we were going and ended up walking around in a huge circle before finally reaching the castle.
We spent more time in the castle’s gardens than we did on the castle grounds itself. Instead, we breezed through the impressive collection of Islamic art at the nearby Chester Beatty Library (which gets full marks for its clean, comfy, and free bathrooms).
I’d like to say that the remainder of our time spent in Dublin involved visiting historical buildings, appreciating culturally significant sights, and immersing ourselves in the local culture and cuisine. But, no. Shoes, Butler’s coffee, shoes, St. Stephen’s Green, shoes shoes shoes.
We had our last supper at Wagamama. We packed up our stuff (sans a pair of torn jeans, two grungy t-shirts, and a pair of raggedy socks). And we tried to sleep without waking up every hour, on the hour, for fear that the alarm wouldn’t wake us up in time to catch our 5 a.m. Airlink bus to the airport. So ended our stay in Ireland.
Next up: Scotland!