Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dublin's Fair City

Disclaimer: I wrote this last night but was unable to connect to the internet until today. I am far too lazy to go back and correct all of the "todays" and "tomorrows" and "yesterdays," so figure it out yourselves.

All right, Dublin. You’re just as ugly and crowded and generally unpleasant as I remembered, and I’m still going to mock and criticize you as much as any Irish person, but the truth is I don’t hate you as much as I pretend I do. You were the first piece of Ireland I saw, and we got to know each other pretty well those first days when I was totally lost and alone and nervous about what was going to happen once I left. In some ways I still feel like I know you better than I know Cork, despite the fact that I still seem to have that directional dyslexia.

Of course, setting is everything. Today was a beautiful day, bright and sunny and not very cold. And my hostel? Awesome. I’m staying across the river this time, right next to Trinity College and Temple Bar. There’s a great pub next door and another across the street, and a Luas* stop on the same line as the train station not five minutes away. The hostel itself is bright and clean and plastered with posters and fliers about discounts and fun activities, and my room has windows and an actual shower instead of just a drain in the bathroom floor. And I have a locker that can actually be locked! And breakfast includes pancakes on Sundays, which I’m going to miss, but still. When the first hostel I stayed in was less than fantastic, I shrugged and thought, You get what you pay for. Every hostel experience since then, and especially this one that’s also in busy central Dublin and only slightly more expensive, has suggested I chose poorly (both from the outset and by not leaving once I saw it). Well, live and learn.

Another perk, which is mostly just mocking me but is nice nonetheless: The kitchen/common room area is filled with oranges. Big plastic bowls of oranges on almost every table in the room. NOT FAIR.**

Dublin is gearing up for Christmas. There are decorations and displays in all the stores and lights over Grafton Street. It’s a little weird, so early and so warm, but I may not see this place again before I go home, other than on the way to the airport, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

The plan: museums tomorrow and yet another bus tour on Sunday, to Glendalough and Kilkenny.

I really like trains. It’s a different perspective, somehow. I’m kind of miffed that my ticket was as expensive as it was, and I’m a little annoyed with myself for my insistence on booking a ticket that wouldn’t require me to miss any classes (Leaving Dublin at 8 a.m.?! Really?!), but it’s just so much nicer than taking a bus, even though I don’t really have a specific reason why.

In other news, a very strange thing happened yesterday. The older man sitting next to me in my Vikings In Ireland And Britain lecture turned to me and struck up a conversation while we were waiting for class to start (this in itself is unusual) and after a brief exchange he said, “You’re not from these shores, are you?” I said no, I’m American, and he asked what part of America. I said Pennsylvania and he nodded knowingly and I thought nothing of any of it because I’ve had this conversation eighty times.

And then he said, “Pennsylvania… Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton.”

I was so astonished*** I think my mouth literally dropped open, and I have no idea what he was going to say next because I was already exclaiming, “I’m from Bethlehem! How do you know it?”

Come to find out, he lived in the LV for a few years back in the 60s. Small. Freaking. World.

Also come to find out, he’s not actually a student. He just sits in on classes that interest him, with permission from the lecturer but apparently totally off the record. And he takes notes anyway. It’s a good way to pass the winter, he says.

I think that’s what I’ll do when I’m retired.

* Dublin’s light rail system, in case I didn’t mention it before.
** For those of you who don’t know me that well or who missed it, there’s a high probability that I am allergic to oranges, which I only discovered about a year and a half ago. I’ve made a point of trying to avoid oranges and orange juice since then, just to be safe, but for most of my life I had no such restriction and I LOVE ORANGES.
*** It’s a rare Irishman who can name Pittsburgh or Philadelphia when I mention PA, and even in the US I’m surprised/impressed/curious when someone from outside the Mid-Atlantic has heard of Allentown, let alone the whole ABE triad.

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