Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The last 48 hours, in more ways than one

Here I present to you: a description of my last few days in Ireland. Afterwards will come pictures of Ireland aplenty. All the while I am frantically packing. I leave on my flight for LA at 11:30 Friday morning. My itinerary looks like this: Boston --> San Francisco --> LA --> Hong Kong --> Kunming. It is going to be a LONG trip.

So: after staying up way, way late with Ollie talking about all manner of interesting things and looking at an old book all about little towns in Ireland, I curled up with the dogs in their bedroom (yes, the dogs have a bedroom) and slept well. In the morning, I had a simple breakfast and then Brenda and I went to Graignamaugh, which sounds kind of like Grandma when you say it but not quite. The drive to Graignamaugh was just as magical as the town itself, more of the Irish Countryside You Thought Didn't Actually Exist, with incredibly green, rolling hills, shetland ponies, dilapidated barns, old farmhouses whose roofs are no covered in ivy and leaves from the trees growing in/through/around them. In Graignamaugh, Brenda took me to a very old Abbey which has been reconstructed as it was in 1000something AD. It was almost completely empty and had beautiful glass windows and a diorama of what the full abbey complex (which is no longer standing) would have looked like. Afterwards we took a walk along the Barrow, which is another little river, like the Nore in Inistioge, that divides up the countryside. We saw all sorts of painted barges on the river, from Travellers (that's the word these days for gypsies) who come through.

I had to catch the bus back to Dublin in time to see "Shirley Valentine," the play Emily set designed for, so Brenda drove me back into Thomastown, but not before Ollie had written down a list of typically Irish snacks that I should buy for the trip. I settled on Mariettas, a sweet, sort of vanilla-flavored biscuit. The ride back was quite wonderful, we went through a few towns we had skipped on the way down including a charming small city call Naas, but I actually fell asleep for most of it. Not before I spotted the partial rainbow as the clouds parted, though. No pot of gold that I could see-- alas.

Managed to meet up with Katrina and Emmalee and we again traipsed the city looking for a suitable restaurant, before deciding on fast food kebabs at a chain called Abrakebabra (harhar.) We were part of a ten-person audience at "Shirley Valentine," which was a one woman play, all monologue, but quite good and the set was excellent. Emily found out later that night that the play was selected to go to a national drama festival in North Ireland during St. Patrick's weekend-- very exciting. Post-play, we trooped over to Temple Bar again to discover Half Moon, a late night crepery with OBSCENELY delicious crepes. Colm, Emily's Irish kinda-boyfriend, came with us, and there we discovered another random cultural difference. Picture the scene:

Emily: [picks at her crepe, which has marshmallows and nutella in it] Why is the inside pink, do you think?
Colm: Well obviously. Marshmallows only come in pink and white, do the math.
Us: [staring at him] Noooo... marshmallows only come in white.

Turns out that in Ireland you can only buy marshmallows in mixed bags of pink and white. Another random cultural difference (also, Irish paperclips are gold.)

My final day in Ireland was the most touristy, mostly because it suddenly dawned on me that I was leaving the next day and I lost the tourist shame that kept me from taking too many pictures (how could I not take pictures of Brenda and Ollie? Honestly.) Emily and I had a leisurely breakfast and then she got me into the Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity for free. The Book of Kells is said to be one of the most richly decorated ancient books in the world (It was made in approx. 800 AD). There was a really interesting exhibit about how the ancient books were made-- binding, calligraphy, grinding the inks, etc-- and the book itself was really gorgeous. We also stopped by the Long Room at Trinity Library, which is basically this heart-stoppingly enormous hall filled to the brim with a copy of basically every book published in Ireland since the mid 1600s. The ceiling is enormously high, two stories, and every wall is filled with books. It was definitely a sight to see, but they sadly didn't allow photography. Emmalee and I waited for Emily while she went and did an errand, watching a Trinity a capella group perform on the steps of the Examination Hall, and then we went off to Bewley's Oriental Cafe, where we had fancy coffee drinks and scones and were generally touristy and caffeinated.

Next stop: St. Stephen's Green, an enormous landscaped park in the heart of Dublin. It was quite a lovely day, sunny and everything, and we had fun watching the ducks and admiring the greenery. Emily split off from us then, and Emmalee and I spent the rest of the day exploring North and then Medieval Dublin. Walking around North Dublin (the "sketchy side" of Dublin) was interesting because it was, indeed a little more dilapidated, but mostly just very different in atmosphere from the rest of the city. I think it gets a bad rap, though. It was still charming. Emmalee and I got special student tickets to go up the Chimney, a converted industrial chimney with an observation deck on the top. It felt like the excellent way to round out my trip-- the 360 degree view of the entire city felt like a perfect sum-up of the whole thing. Add to that that we had probably the best half an hour of light all day, and you have a magical trip-ending experience for E3.50. We had seen a really old-looking church from the top of the Chimney, and so Emmalee and I went to explore to find it. It didn't have a name, but the plaque outside told us that it was established in 988 AD. As we wandered across the Liffey into real Medeival Dublin, that number started to seem like the norm. Old Cathedrals, the oldest Pub in Ireland (established 1098 AD), a chunk of the original city walls. It was wonderful to think about these structures withstanding the forces of time as the city grew, morphed, changed around them. Another excellent way to finish my trip.

For dinner, we met Katrina at a Nepalese retaurant I'd read about in my book, which was quite delicious, followed by gellato at a hip store down the street in Temple Bar. The night was very relaxed, we bought jewelry, met up with Emily and Colm at the Palace Pub, where I tried Bailey's Irish Cream (it only seemed right), and decided ultimately not to go out dancing because it was late, Katrina wasn't feeling well, and the place we wanted to go cost more than we had thought. It was a fantastic last night, however, drinking in the city as much as possible, trying to remember the ambiance, the lights on the old buildings, the accents drifting from people around me. Enough to satisfy me and get me through the long trip home.

1 comment:

Evan O said...

Heehee, this is so fun to read, because I've been to many of these places, and it's so interesting to see someone else's take on it.

You are an amazing writer, by the way. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures in China!