Middle-Aged World Travelers, Dublin Exploring, Chapter 2

On Monday, May 18, we woke up much more energetic than we had been the day before.  Our internal clocks had reset themselves from our one day of rest and we weren’t stumbling around tired as we had been when we arrived. We were staying at the Airport Hilton, which is misleading because we really weren’t very close to the airport at all. The hotel itself was spotlessly clean, offered a lovely breakfast bar, and had a very helpful staff. There was only one problem at the hotel and that was what seemed to be gremlins causing problems with anything mechanical or technological. We couldn’t alter the temperature via the thermostat no matter what we did and how well we followed the instructions. It was going to be 21C degrees, come hell or high water.  The wifi was a bit temperamental and the in-room safe was quite safe in that, if you put something in it, only staff could unlock the thing and get it out! 

Nonetheless, on a slightly overcast Monday morning, after finishing a light breakfast, Alan asked the front desk about the best way to get downtown without a taxi. They were quite helpful in telling us the bus route we needed to take, the exact amount of change needed to get on the bus, and even where we might buy a weekly bus pass. I was excited to begin our adventures!

 

Ready to explore!


We were told there was a little shop immediately down the street where we could find a bus map and bus pass for the week.  We stepped outside the hotel and were immediately nearly blown away by the cold winds sweeping around the building. By the time we got to the little shop, we both felt like our heads were frozen and that perhaps we had not prepared adequately for the Irish cold front making its way through Dublin and our spring season clothing. The little store offered no bus maps and no bus cards, but were very nice in giving us change for the bus. I also bought a Coca-Cola, my vice from home, and away we hustled to the bus stop. There are several issues with those simple occurrences. First of all, Coca-Cola anywhere in Western Europe is not the Coca-Cola we all know and love in the U.S. It tastes just a bit “off” for lack of a better explanation. They don’t use corn syrup (yay?), but sugar, and included in the soda are “vegetable additives” which could have been anything. I also discovered that whatever the soda had in it gave me a headache. I finished my first Coca-Cola and threw it in the trash. The second thing with hustling to the bus stop was that it was catty-cornered to our hotel which meant we had to cross two major thoroughfares to get to the stop. This was daunting because everyone drives backwards in Ireland. You know, on the wrong side of the street from the American view. Fortunately, at any crosswalk, there is the button to push to allow access to the crosswalk. Second of all, they have signs painte don the street stating “look right” before crossing or “look left” before crossing so we didn’t get flattened like a pancake by any of the high speed vehicles passing us seemingly randomly. We made it across the big streets! I felt five years old again after I had successfully, alone, crossed Salem Avenue by my home. We waited at the bus stop and as number 13 approached we used my Google Map to see whether we would end up close to Trinity College, which was first on our agenda to see.

The bus came, we gave change (incorrect and they can’t give change so they give you a ticket for a refund if you want to go to all that trouble for basically  35 cents). We stumbled our way to first level seats and felt quite accomplished. It doesn’t take much in a foreign city for two middle-aged Americans to feel accomplished!  Ha! We watched as various passengers got on and off the bus along the way, passed neighborhoods with colorful Irish doors, some prosperous, others not so prosperous, and tried to accustom ourselves to the lovely Irish accent. We became quite familiar with this route over the week. One thing we noticed were signs on nearly every lamppost or electric pole for an upcoming general election on Friday, May 22, whether to legalize gay marriage in Ireland. We were both surprised that in this predominately Catholic country, such an election was taking place.

Finally we reached the stop where everyone had told us we needed to get off the bus. We jumped off and wondered where Trinity College was from where we were.  We were mere footsteps from it! The wind was still blowing bitterly cold and Alan stated, “We need to get some warm hats or we’re never going to survive this and we’ll get sick. I don’t want you sick from day one!” Immediately across the street were two buildings with “Tourist Center and Information” signs on them so we hied across the street to get maps, ask questions and orient ourselves. The next order of business was hats! We found a little Irish souvenir shop right down the street and they had everything you could ever want in the way of hats, wraps, gloves, and other typical touristy things. While Alan looked at hats, I was enchanted by the baby section of the shop where you could buy cute little baby outfits with Irish sayings and things on them. Of course, I picked up two items for my new grandson Milo before I looked at a single hat! One has to have one’s priorities straight after all!

Alan found a hat for himself that I was not super-enthused about. It is a cross between an Elmer Fudd style, a Peruvian style, and an Irish style, knitted in the Irish Aran Isle pattern, lined with fur, and having two yarn braids hanging down the front. Alan loved it! 

Alan’s Irish Hat

I found a hat a little more traditional. As weird as I am, when it comes to hats, I’m rather picky. I want a hat that displays my lovely double chin!

Elaine’s Irish Hat

We went to Trinity College and learned their next tour of the college including a tour of the old library and the Book of Kells Exhibit was in about half an hour so we decided to find something to eat and come back.  We headed down Grafton Street, which is the local street mall in Dublin,  found a McDonald’s of all things, and sat on the second floor by the windows so we could watch the street scenes below. It was the perfect place! If you want a snapshot of modern Dublin life, this window was perfect!

   

Grafton Street


After completing our lunch off to Trinity College we went!  The weather was fickle. One moment you’d be freezing your buns off and the next moment, the sun would peek from behind the clouds and you’d immediately defrost and feel foolish in your woolen hat.

The tour guide at Trinity College was incredible! He had received his undergraduate degree at Trinity College in English and was pursuing a Master’s Degree in historical book and document restoration and translation.  He was in the perfect place to pursue this degree because Trinity College contains a huge collection of ancient books, including the  http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells. 
We learned a lot about the history of Trinity College and it’s buildings and then, just as it started to rain pretty hard, we were able to enter Trinity College’s Old Library, which I had wanted to see forever. It was as wonderful as I had imagined. If there had been less people, I could have stayed in there forever. I love the smell of libraries, especially old one. The architecture of this library is incredibly beautiful.

 

Trinity College Old Library

  
  

        

We sat down on the center benches a few times to both rest and sit in awe of the beauty of this library.  We did see the Book of Kells, but only briefly.  There were so many people crowded around its display case that we mostly got a glimpse of the beautiful colors and artwork and moved on to the library itself.

After our trip to the college and the old library, we went in search of food. There is nothing like wandering around in a damp, windy, rainy, sunny day to whet one’s appetite and we found the perfect place!  It was an Irish pub (imagine that!) called O’Briens and featured great Irish grub and suds. Neither Alan nor I are big on beer or ales (I know, shoot us now, because we never had a Guinness while there), but we are big on Irish food. It is wonderful and I think that is so because it is much like the food we grew up eating all the way back in Texas. When I found Irish Stew served on a bed of mashed potatoes, I knew I was home and life was good! We were warm and cozy, eating well, and had met some really nice people at the pub too! You never have to worry about people being unwelcoming or unfriendly in Ireland! 

After eating more than we should have, we realized the day was nearly past and we were exhausted. We hurried over to the bus stop, tried to figure out which route to take back to the hotel, became hopelessly confused, and decided the Star Bucks on the corner was perfect for trying to figure out our way back to our temporary home. What it helped us see most clearly is that right outside its doors was the downtown taxi rank. Hooray! I’d like to say we rode the bus back home that day, but I would be lying. We were too tired to figure it out so we hopped in a taxi and he drove us home as he discussed Irish history, gave us a mini Dublin tour, and even discussed the upcoming election.  

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were done for the day. This middle-aged couple laid down on the bed, turned on the TV, and promptly fell to sleep. After a couple of hours of napping, we got up, Alan went for snacks from the little store down the street and we feasted like kings on fruits and snacks. Then to bed I went, so sleepy I could barely keep my eyes open. 

The next day we were taking a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher and the area around it. We needed all the strength we could work up for that!  Tomorrow I’ll take you there with us.  ☺️  

Peace and love, always, Elaine

© Elaine Wood-Lane

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In Ireland Today, Spain Tomorrow!

 
Hi everybody!  I’m sorry I’ve been out of pocket this week, but I’ve been in Ireland with my husband seeing all the wonderful places I’ve dreamed of seeing most of my life.  It has been so much fun and so great!  This little place is just one of hundreds of places I’ve seen that I hope I’ll never forget.  There is so much beauty here, both natural and manmade, so much history, and some of the very nicest people I’ve ever met.

For instance, this afternoon as we were zooming from St. Paul’s Cathedral and through Dublin Castle, we were pretty much caught in the crush of people that is found on Dame Street around 5:00 pm.  I had lost Alan for a few  moments, but knew he was behind me somewhere.  I couldn’t stop though because I was caught up in a herd of people intent on crossing the street before the light turned red.  I got across the street, pulled out of the crowd and stood to the side to wait for Alan.  About the moment that Alan reached me, a very nicely dressed gentleman stopped and asked, “Are you alright?  Do you need assistance?”  I was so impressed!  Alan and I told him we were fine and he went on after we thanked him.  That’s the kind of people we’ve met all week.

On Tuesday, we took a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher and had a grand time.  Our tour guide was also the bus driver and he was so professional, fun and also very, very knowledgeable about all things Ireland.  I realize that knowing about all things Ireland is part of his job, but he went above and beyond.  (This wasn’t restricted to our tour guide either.  Nearly everyone we spoke to at any length from Ireland discussed politics, economics, and current events with ease and intelligence.)  One incident with our tour guide, Wayne, that really made an impression on me was when we were stopped at a conservation area where there are flowers found only there or north of the arctic circle.  I wanted to get out and look, but it was drizzly, there were lots of wet, flat rocks and I wasn’t sure it would be safe for me to navigate the terrain.  Suddenly Wayne came back into the bus, grabbed me by the hand, loaned me an extra jacket he had and took me over to see the flowers.  He made sure I was safe over the slippery rocks and pointed out the very delicate, small flowers that are part of the orchid family.  He then accompanied me safely back to the bus and teased me in such a way that I didn’t feel like the little old lady he had to help back to the bus.

I could go on with many more examples of Irish hospitality and intelligence.  The point is, we’ve really enjoyed our time in Ireland and anyone who has thought about visiting here, should, if you get the opportunity.  The only word of warning I would give is that if you come in May, bring warm clothes including a semi-heavy coat, a warm hat and slacks.  Although the temperatures are similar to Colorado Springs in May, it is much more humid and when the wind blows, it cuts right through you.

Early, early tomorrow morning, we will be flying to Valencia, Spain.  We will be flying through Frankfurt, Germany to reach Valencia, which I find interesting.  We won’t really be in Frankfurt just as we weren’t really in Boston when we had a layover and plane switch there.  Nonetheless, I’m still excited about it!  I’m also excited about arriving in Valencia, where hopefully it will be warmer!  I would love to lie on a warm beach and watch the waves roll in for a while.  

 Peace and love always,  Elaine

Woman’s Life Landay|NaPoWriMo Day 19

Why must a woman’s life be so hard?
Because she bears the future in her soul, body, heart.

© Elaine Wood-Lane
4/20/15
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And for today’s prompt (optional, as always!), I’d like to challenge you to write a landay. Landays are 22-syllable couplets, generally rhyming. The form comes from Afghanistan, where women often use it in verses that range from the sly and humorous to the deeply sardonic and melancholy. Check out this long investigative article on landays for a fascinating look into a form of poetry often composed in secret, and rarely written down. You could try to write a single landay – a hard-hitting couplet that shares some secret (or unspoken) truth, or you could try to write a poem that strings multiple landays together like stanzas (maybe something akin to a syllabic ghazal?)

I read the article linked in the prompt and learned that most landays are written with nine syllables in the first line and thirteen syllables in the second. These are usually not written down anywhere because women aren’t allowed to write poetry in Afghanistan, but are composed to be easily remembered and shared with others. These come from a long oral tradition dating back thousands of years. Some that they quote are quite heartbreaking. I hope I have captured the spirit of the landay because I really find it inspiring. Elaine