Trip Start Mar 10, 2007
25Trip End Apr 23, 2007
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Our Irish adventure truly did begin early,
with a 5am wakeup call in Edinburgh. By breakfast yesterday, we were on
the streets of Dublin, stumbling bleary eyed but excited to see famous
Dublin. We had all heard Ireland listed as a common favorite of
travellers, but it had a tall order to follow the beauty and
hospitality of Scotland.
Armed with a couple of suggestions from the
local hostel owner, we spent most of the day walking the streets. After
a mercifully cheap sandwich at a cafe run by amnesty international,
which was accompanied by some thought provoking reading, we headed to
Trinity college, which is perhaps the most famous and old college in
Ireland. The highlight there was the Book of Kells, an old and
intricately illustrated manuscript. The college was alive with Irish
students and it was fun to sit on the benches outside and watch as the
bustle passed us by. Next we wandered down the main street parallel to
the to the river which bisects the city horizontally. We peeked into
the castle and posed in front of many a pub in the city of pubs. James
Joyce once said that an interesting puzzle would be to go from one side
of the city to the other without passing a pub. We certainly failed.
The winning answer to a competition to successfully answer Joyce's
riddle presented this response: "You can take any route you like, as
long you visit all the pubs along the way." I couldn't sum up the Irish
attitude any better than that.
So, our search for the heart of Irish culture
brought us to the Guinness brewhouse, which presented a creative and
extensive walk-through exhibition on the history and production of
Guinness. The tour started at the bottom level of a 7 story building
and culminated in a rooftop bar which afforded a 360 degree view of the
city with a complimentary pint of Guinness as a reward.
Although a pint of Guinness is liable to fill the belly
itself, we had corned beef and cabbage in our minds for an Irish
dinner. Unfortunately, the Irish have proved to be extremely adept at
extorting money from unsuspecting tourists, and so we sat dejectedly in
a Quizno's Subs 2 hours later. (Whereas the Danish love 7-11; the Irish
seem to have adopted a similar infatuation with Quiznos).
We found Dublin to be a city which was largely unremarkable. The
architecture was largely gray and drab, except for the cozy side
streets with authentic looking pubs that have learned to cater to
tourists over the years.
Today we left Dublin for a bus tour of the Irish countryside,
which was both a neccessary rest for our feet and a glimpse of life
outside the city. I can't lie, the morning ride was unremarkable, and
we were starting to wonder where our money had gone after sitting in
the Dublin traffic for an hour and then rolling through industrial
suburbs. The farther away from Dublin we rode, however, the more the
landscape began to resemble a vista of the sort described in the Lord
of the Rings. I looked for hobbits, but they must have been holed up
smoking there pipes, for it was quite cold today. We passed through
many charming little towns with modest houses built into the gentle
hillsides, and nearly all puffing smoke from their chimneys. The lunch
stop was the sort of place you find at fancy ski resorts: High class
with tasty food, but where they eagerly take advantage of the
opportunity to rob you of all your money. We opted for the beef stew
and an Irish coffee for the authentic experience. After lunch we got a
chance to walk around two lakes nestled between smallish mountains with
spotty stands of pine trees and bubbling brooks running down their
slopes. A quiet old monastery sat next door. Tonight we'd like to go
see an Irish jig, but its a 730 flight to Spain so the jig may have to
wait for another time. From here our threesome splits up as Jenny heads
to Hungary, while Jon and I head to meet our friend Scott who will
accompany us the rest of the journey. We're sad to split up though, the
three of us shared a lot of laughs. Talk to you next in Spain!