Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Rocky Road To [And Out Of] Dublin

Back to my Dublin adventures: Friday night after my emergency lock excursion, I bought fish and chips from what appeared to be an Irish fast-food chain, and ate them in the hostel’s kitchen before going back out for a Haunted Dublin tour at twilight. (I believe the guide’s name was Shane, continuing the super-Irish name trend I mentioned earlier.) I have mixed feelings about that. I learned some interesting things that I might not have otherwise (the disgusting story of City Council’s complete destruction of one of the most incredible archaeological finds in the country despite scientific/historical value, tourism value, and public outcry being foremost in my mind), but most of the tales that were told didn’t actually have anything to do with ghosts and hauntings. There were some that were a little eerie or disturbing, but not about anything “haunted,” per se. And the ones that really were ghost stories were not very interesting ghost stories, let alone scary ones. I think I found walking home alone in the dark on my first night in town creepier than anything along the tour. So in that sense, it was definitely a disappointment. I find it hard to believe that Dublin’s City Centre does not have legitimate ghost stories lurking in the shadows. I would say I think that money could have been better spent, but on the other hand there were those historical tidbits I might not have learned on my own, and a couple of interesting sights that were off the beaten path (e.g., what’s left of the city’s medieval walls) and which I might not have found on my own. It was an experience, anyway.

Saturday morning, I got up with a plan to take the DART, Dublin’s suburban train system, out to Howth Peninsula on the coast and hike along the cliffs by the sea. (The fact that I felt the need to get out of Dublin by the second day probably says something.) I stayed in bed too long to get my free breakfast at the hostel, so I stopped at Spar (a convenience store chain that almost literally has a shop on every block in central Dublin) and got myself a scone, along with a banana and a sausage roll that I figured could be a picnic lunch by the shore. Then I headed, or so I thought, for the train station, which was the start of one of the most ridiculous and frustrating experiences of my entire life.

I believed the Connolly Train Station to be somewhere on O’Connell Street. You may or may not consider this logical based on the names; I would probably concede it to be a silly assumption except for the fact that the main reason I believed this was that I was convinced I had seen it written on something posted in the hostel on the public transportation board. However, after walking as far up O’Connell Street as I remembered being on the bus the day before, I concluded that there must be some mistake, and walked back towards the river. I was eventually able to locate the station on my map, and discovered that I had been extremely wrong and it was in fact across the river and fairly far away laterally. Annoyed, I started walking.

I walked. And walked. And eventually thought, “This doesn’t make sense” and “I don’t know where I am” and “There’s a sign for the Guinness Storehouse, which I thought was really far away.” At first I couldn’t find it on the map, or the street I was allegedly on, either. Eventually I discovered that I had somehow wound up in the quarter of the city diagonally opposite of where I wished to be, which was thoroughly perplexing.

Turns out, Connolly Train Station was in fact on the same side of the river as where I’d started out, and just a couple of blocks east. Looking back now that I know the city better, it’s hard to imagine how I managed to do what I did, but as I think I mentioned earlier, those first few days I had some serious directional dyslexia and kept seeing the map as somehow upside-down, resulting in heading in totally the opposite direction from where I should have gone.

So I’d spent something like half an hour walking AWAY from my train station. Now I was seriously pissed off, but I observed on the map that at this point I was closer to Heuston Station than to getting all the way back to Connolly. I kept going, got confused, took a wrong turn, found the train tracks, followed them in the wrong direction for a bit, and eventually sorted myself out and found Heuston Station.

Then the real fun began. Too frustrated at that point to wait in long ticket lines, I went to one of the self-service machines, and after some confusion about how to buy tickets for the suburban line rather than from city to city, I discovered that for less than 9 euro I could buy a day pass that would let me get on an off as often as I wished. Sold. I headed for the platforms.

Halfway there I had a new problem. The ticket read “only valid with a valid CIE number.” I’m not entirely sure what a CIE number is, but clearly I don’t have one. I tried to remember if the machine had said anything about that before I bought the ticket and was about 99% sure it hadn’t. I walked back and forth for a while trying to decide if I should go to the ticket window and explain myself or just try it and see what happened. Eventually fear trumped embarrassment and I went to the window. When I held up my ticket and told the man at the desk my problem, he said “Ah, you’ve got a day pass. You’re grand with that; it’s only the weekly and monthly ones where you need that, but they all print out the same way.”

Personally, I think that’s idiotic, but whatever. Back to the platform I went, at which point I had to confront the other snag I’d noticed earlier but hadn’t had to deal with until I was sure I could get on a train at all: all the trains seemed to be going long distances, and there was no indication of how to get to Howth, or anywhere else just outside Dublin.

I asked someone guarding the turnstiles what train I needed for Howth. “You’re trying to get to Howth? You’ve got the wrong station. You want Connolly.”

$#*&%^@ it. Could I get to Sutton (the only other stop I could remember along the northern route) from here? Nope, had to be Connolly.

He very kindly asked if I knew how to get there, and I said yes, because at that point I’d already decided screw this, I was getting on the next hop-on, hop-off tour bus that came by. I had to wait through two times listed on the schedule at the stop before one eventually showed up, but bought my ticket and went for a leisurely ride halfway around the city to get off at O’Connell Street, pretty much back where I’d started. I arrived at Connolly Station something like three hours after I’d started out from the hostel that morning (it was a fifteen or twenty minute walk away), and ate my lunch on the platform while waiting for the train. The banana, after a whole morning in my backpack, was a lost cause.

So the morals of the story are: 1) Know where you are in relation to where you want to go, and look at the map twice if there’s a chance that might be a problem, and 2) Heuston Station for inter-city trains, Connolly for suburban. Probably I will never, ever forget that.

1 comment:

  1. That's probably a good conclusion to draw... but you make it sound like this was a bad experience. Now you DO know where you are, you DO know where you want to go, and you have an adventure and a story. I think one of the best things to do when you arrive somewhere new is to get lost as soon as possible.