10/1 – The long drive into the Pale (aka Dublin)
More photos here.
More photos here.
Road trip leg 5 here.
Wednesday morning we get our last round of bagel sandwich and oatmeal. Guess what? Now the waitress who’s been serving us all week decides she needs to get to know us. Sometimes, it’s just about putting the time in. We chat her up, and explain for the upteenth time what brought us up this far out of tourist country, and head out.
We have one more stop before we leave Buncrana: the Amazing Grace memorial. It was on the bay here that John Newton (look him up), then a slave trader, was in a terrible storm and thought his ship would be sunk and he’d die at sea. When this didn’t happen and they survived by the skin of their teeth, he had a conversion experience and turned his life around, later joining the priesthood, working to abolish slavery, and writing the Amazing Grace song in remembrance of his miraculous boat-in-a-storm survival on Lough Swilly near Buncrana. There is now a memorial set up to him, which we were excited to see. It is, after all, the most famous hymn, written by a guy who did a pretty big moral 180 and to whom society owes some thanks for being prodded to do the same. Or, it’s a bunker looking box on the local yoga pants stroller-jogging route, which no one pays attention to. We did have some mysterious fog and clouds on the water there, and lovely view of the old bridge on the river as it enters the Bay. But the most interesting part was the seagulls pulling trash out of the trash can. It’s this sort of irony that marked our stay in Buncrana – what sounded amazing and worth traveling for wasn’t. What seemed commonplace turned out to be special and worth all the hassle.
On Wednesday after breakfast and Amazing Grace, we drove many hours through fog from Buncrana to Dublin. So much for seeing the interior of the country! The bits we could see through the fog looked about like everything else, so I think we have the idea. I was worried Ty would be maxed out by this much driving (almost 4 hours) but the roads were fairly good and he was getting to be a pro. We had one or two mis-turns but nothing major. We didn’t find a decent rest stop unfortunately as we wanted to avoid going into major cities just for lunch, and the tourist attractions along the way charged too much for a short visit. We ended up eating our deli sandwiches on a cold park bench in the small town of Carrickmacross, which was full of school kids in proper uniforms on lunch break from Catholic school - but nonetheless acting like teenagers. It was an interesting break – seeing how similar teenagers are across the globe. Flirting, teasing, ganging up and excluding, boasting, giggling….all the same.
We dropped the car off at Dublin airport (unsuccessfully trying to get our insurance money back), and took the bus in to downtown Dublin. The bus was more comfortable than I expected but I still got a bit sick. We were dropped off in the center of town, at the Dublin Post Office, which we would only later learn was a major independence landmark. We didn’t notice much history at all as it was far busier on a Wednesday afternoon than I had anticipated. And despite standing on the same street as our hotel, it was nowhere in site. Turns out we were standing on the main thoroughfare, and the hotel was around a corner on a side street – we found it and were again a bit sad to check into a hotel instead of a B&B, although the Arlington Hotel at O’Connell Bridge was nice and large. The room was sparse but comfortable, the staff cool (temperament, not hipster-rating) and city-like. We took a rest, then set out to explore Dublin.
Almost immediately, I was struck by how different Dublin was than both London and the Irish countryside. On the plus side, the people were incredibly diverse. On the down, there were more of them than we’d seen anywhere on the trip. And it seemed they were all smoking. The food shops were all fast food, tourist-oriented pubs, or high-end dining. We didn’t really eat a quality meal in town come to think of it. The city has a complex bus system we didn’t want to spend time learning about (we were only there 1.5 days), so we only saw what we could on foot. The touristy area is pretty concentrated so we saw most of what tourists want to see in Dublin – but we also couldn’t ever escape the other tourists. Additionally, the pubs all had live music, but it was all Johnny Cash and Eagles covers. Nothing Irish that we could find despite two nights of looking hard for a last bit of good music. Which isn’t to say the musicians weren’t skilled – they were – but they were playing to their audience and their audience was people who wanted to feel like they were still at home.
We did find huge gift shops of all things Irish for gifts, and crammed a few small ones in our remaining luggage pockets. A highlight was the amazing archeology museum. We slow danced on Grafton street at the famous busking spot (Ty humored me), ate lunch at Ireland’s oldest continuous pub, and spent a long morning at the Guinness Storehouse. After a week in the country, we felt overwhelmed by city life – but looking back we did see some amazing things.