June 24, 2007
Should definitely be the name of an Irish song - if it isn't already. When the woman at the sports shop asked me if I wanted the waterproof pants to go along with the coat - I should absolutely have said yes. Alas I did not, but at least I was wise enough to buy fantastic waterproof jackets which are keeping us completely dry everywhere they cover - leaving us dry enough to enjoy ourselves despite the rain.
We have been in Dublin two days now and we have done so much it is hard to believe. We have manged to have a wonderful time in spite of the rain. We have seen wonderful sites, experienced history in ways we never have before and enjoyed more fresh Guinness than I have ever had! We've walked the streets of Dublin in all sorts of weather, have enough of a feel for the city that we are growing comfortable and have enjoyed this special time away from our children and celebrating our marriage and time just for the two of us.
Our journey began with the typically long European flights. With three connections running through New Jersey, Amsterdam and finally landing in Ireland - it was a long day. When we arrived to pick up our car we had been up 26 hours straight for neither of us were able to sleep on the airplanes. I enjoyed the flights (though by the end I was uncomfortable). I have not flown without children in 8 years so it was actually enjoyable and much easier than what I was used to. In fact the quiet time alone to do simply whatever I wanted was a refreshing change, even if it was in cramped quarters. I finished knitting a pair of socks and began another, read a novel, brushed up on some Irish history, journaled, and even watched a few movies I had been wanting to see but never got around to. Also KLM had great customer service, including lots of meal and snack service and all beverages of choice were free for the whole flight. Serona and I enjoyed some quiet companionship next to one another but doing what we were interested in at the time. It almost felt indulgent, plus I was of course anticipating our arrival here.
Our arrival into Ireland was uneventful. We were thankful to see our luggage just where it should be and everything arrived without incident and on time, answered prayer. Our car was ready for us, and that is when things became interesting. We began our Dublin experience with a harrowing drive from the airport to our hotel. Serona was handling the driving - which I could not.
He was driving a stick shift on the other side of the car on the other side of the road through narrow Dublin lanes. Oh did I mention he has never done this before and it was after being up for 26 hours straight without any sleep? Yeahhhhh. On top of that we did not have written out directions to our hotel. Instead the rental car company handed us a programmed GPS without a lesson in how to use it. My sleep deprived mind could not figure out how to get it off the map that showed where we were and gave us only about 100 meters notice for any turns (about a short city block). Also forgot to mention all the roundabouts instead of lights, great when you have no idea how to navigate them or where you are going. Thankfully our GPS system did adapt to our errors and eventually we found our way to the hotel, with Serona's wonderful driving. I must say I was proud of Serona, he managed wonderfully even though it was scary and challenging. I can not begin to say how thankful I am that this was not (nor will be at any time we are here) my responsibility.
The hotel we are staying at is FANTASTIC! The doorman greeted us, took all our luggage and parked our car. We went up to our rooms, showered and collapsed for a few hours. The room is great by European standards and is very comfortable and nice. We recommend the Conrad Dublin. It is centrally located to everything, comfortable and very accomodating. They also serve a full Irish breakfast, have a full service restuarant, 24 hour room service and an on site pub.
After a three hour nap we were refreshed and ready to explore Dublin. It was raining and much of the Tourist, historical sites were closed (it appears everything closes at 5pm but the restaurants and pubs - a bit different than in the states). So we headed out to the Temple Bar area and to explore Dublin in the rain. We had giant golf umbrellas, our raincoats and good excited attitudes as we approached the Dublin rain. Which at times simply opened up and down poured, then moved to a light drizzle, to a brief respite and back into a downpour. It was interesting to observe how people approached rain and you quickly realize it is simply a part of life that you adapt to and continue on through here. Umbrellas are the norm and people are polite with them, raincoats are ESSENTIAL as is good footwear. As for the bottom of your pants - well I think you just grow to accept that you will be wet. People find the sheltered places to stand and wait and keep their distances from curbs so as not to get splashed on by passing cars. Still everything about life continues on throughout the changing weather, so we of course just went with it.
We walked in the rain for about two hours taking in sites and growing familiar with the area as well as seeking out vegetarian food options. We found a great pub O'Neills with great atmosphere, good food and plenty of Guinness. We shared our first of many Guinness in the country, a nice vegetarian meal and time to observe locals and tourists interacting in the bar. It was a wonderful way to spend our anniversary dinner. Hard to believe I was sitting in a pub in Dublin. They are wonderful, it is difficult to put my finger on what makes them so different from American pubs - besides the Guinness which really does taste better, they are less polished, more comfy and homey, more quiet corners all mixed together. People do not hesitate to share small corners of tables and move chairs around as needed. There is a less structured feel to them, multi-floored, multi-roomed, tons of conversations going on and a general friendliness, they are really wonderful and I will miss them when we head back to the United States.
After drying off and a wonderful relaxing dinner we headed to the Temple Bar area, a main bar area that is quite a mix of tourists and locals. It reminds me in some ways of the French Quarter of New Orleans yet with a uniquely Dublin feel. Filled with
restaurants, pubs, clubs, shops and other little places to go it is lively. It seems there is always something unique going on in Dublin. Groups of people were wearing Dublin Night 2007 shirts and in different costumes, mostly these were women but there were occasionally groups of men dressed up as well. One group was wearing pink cowboy hats and feather boas, another grass skirts, another nurses outfits, another dressed as various superheroes. All moving through the crowds as if this happens every night, perhaps it does - it has both weekend nights we have been there so far, as well as last winter when Serona spent time there. There are street performers and spontaneous gatherings of people in the streets, great music and of course good beer. It is also a great place for people watching.
We went in and out of 5 pubs that evening Oliver St. John Gogarty's, the Auld Dubliner, O'Sullivans (in honor of certain family members) and two I can not recall the name of. They were loud, crowded and full of interesting people. It was fun to me to try to guess who is from Ireland and who is not. Over time you realize there is an Irish look that some people have that is very easy to tell. Perhaps it was easy for me to pick out because my family all has that look. Serona says it is in the combination of our eyes, nose and cheeks, mostly I can tell it when people smile (which they do a lot of at the pubs). The song When Irish eyes are Smiling has something to it! An easy mix of people goes on at the pubs and everyone is friendly and accomodating to one another. They are also very polite, especially when dealing with moving through crowded rooms, etiquette on the stairs and general kindness
to one another. Even as the night progresses and people are clearly dealing with the results of having drank too much they are in general respectful of one another. I have never had so many men step aside, wait for me or defer to me in bars as I did that first night in Dublin.
One thing that truly surprised me about the pubs - they play bad American music. Nearly all of the ones we went into were playing American music over the PA, and older sing along music - the crowds were into it and singing loudly together which was fun. still hearing songs like Thriller, Born in the USA, Barbara Ann, Sweet Home Alabama and many others along those lines was surprising to me. At first I thought it was just the pubs we choose in the area but as we walked past many and stopped to listen inside that is what we heard consistently. We eventually discovered that most of these pubs have upstairs rooms with live music, much of it traditional Irish music. These are the places we sought out and tried to spend most of our time. We settled for the evening at the Auld Dubliner - a great pub we returned to the following evening. Live traditional Irish music performers, we even purchased a CD for one we enjoyed. We were lucky to get a great booth where we could see the musicians, enjoy the music and be comfortably seated. Great atmosphere, good music and reliably smooth Guinness made up our evening until we returned to our hotel somewhere around 2am.
We walk everywhere in Dublin and I really enjoy that. My feet are sometimes tired at the end of the day but it feels good to be walking so much. I do enjoy that aspect of urban life and Dublin is an easy city to get around on foot. It feels very safe even throughout the late hours of night because it is so well traveled (at least the areas we are in), there are many police walking around and mostly you need to learn how to navigate around people who have had a bit too much to drink and look the other way as many of the men just relieve themselves on the side of the road, against a building or near a bush. It is rare for me to feel so comfortable in a city especially in the evening but Dublin is very welcoming, easy to navigate, nice and has a safe feel to it. Overall a very enjoyable city.
We walk several times a day through St. Stephen's Green which is lovely (though it is locked in the evenings - note the rain in the picture), through Grafton Street (filled with many stores that shoppers will love and fun street performers providing various entertainment) and through some of the other parts of town that are nearby.
We stroll through small neighborhood blocks to get a feel for the areas and went over the Ha'Penny bridge to get a feel for the other side of the Liffey.
We are starting to recognize our way around places and they have wonderful signs for tourists pointing you with regularity to the most common sites which also helps with learning navigation around the city. Overall it has been a great city to explore even in the constant rain we have experienced.