Weather in Dublin is so much like Oregon’s, but ironically, I came unprepared. The moment I stepped off the bus that took me from the airport to O’Connell Street, one of the main drags downtown, light rain began to fall. I had no choice but to expose my Americanness to the world and throw on my Oregon sweatshirt; it was the only article of clothing I had that would protect my hair from getting soaked. I consulted my map to find the way to Wicklow Street, where my friend Tiffany worked and where I was to meet her, but the ink on the printed page began to run as the rain came down harder.
Lucky for me, the Irish are nice to foreigners, and not just because they have an alterior motive. I suspected the worst when an old man in a plaid touring cap, corduroy trousers and an argyle sweater approached me and asked me if I was lost. His startlingly bright blue eyes pierced into mine as he asked me if he could help me find my way. I hestitantly asked him the way to Wicklow Street, all the while clinging for dear life onto my belongings. He hold me in an Irish lilt to make my way down the quay and follow the spires to Trinity College, then walked away. Apparently the old cliches are true: the Irish are hospitable and wear touring caps to boot.
By the time I got to Wicklow Street, my clothes were soaked in rain and my pathetic ballet flats were doing nothing to protect my feet, but there was nothing for it but to roll up my jeans and soldier on. Tiffany met me at the entrance to The Dubliner office, where she works as a reporter, and after we had lunch she furnished me with an umbrella and some tourist pamphlets and returned to work.
I had half a mind to find a nice warm pub and hole up there until I was dry and the rain had subsided, but I knew this was my only opportunity to see the city. And so my shoes squelched all over town, through Trinity College and St. Stephen’s Green (one of the best wandering parks I’ve ever seen, second only to Hyde Park in London), into the civic center and Christ Church Cathedral, and down Grafton Street before I met back up with Tiffany at the end of her workday.
It had begun to get dark, and by this time the rain was falling in torrents, so we caught a city bus to her apartment on the edge of the city. She lives on the ground floor of a brick apartment building on a calm, pleasant street, and though it’s tiny, it’s a good refuge from the noise of the city center. The first thing I did when we got there was wash my feet, which I couldn’t seem to get completely clean during the entire travel week due to the fact that my toes and heels were always covered in Band-Aids. And after I’d dried them and donned socks, all hope of leaving the apartment and going out was lost. My feet were now too warm to want to return to their soggy, cold state just for a visit to the pub.
Besides, we needed the extra sleep for the next day’s tour of the Irish countryside and the Cliffs of Moher.
We got up at oh-dark-thirty to catch the train to Limerick, where we met up with our tour group and piled into a bus. The tour guide, though himself British, had lived in Ireland long enough to throw out the tiniest of details about castle ruins on command. The details didn’t amaze me so much as the sheer age of everything we stopped to see, all of which dated back at least 1,000 years.
Above is Poulnabrone dolmen, a portal tomb dating back to the Neolithic period. No, really! It’s the Stonehenge of Ireland, minus the mystery, since archaeologists have uncovered more than 20 remains of bodies. Apparently those who were buried here were leaders of clans, maybe nobility. The picture on the right has a similarly unpronounceable name: Leamanagh castle. Though it dates back to tens of centuries ago, they’ve managed to keep ownership in the family; the current owner is a direct descendant of the family who built it. Since he has set up electric fences around the castle to discourage tourists from coming near, Tiffany and I wondered what on earth else the owner planned to do with it. We joked that he must come for afternoon tea once a year in the summer, because there’s no cieling to protect him from the rain in any other season.
After the tomb and the castle, we stopped at various locations around the coast and Galway Bay (think: boys of the NYPD choir) before we came to our final destination, the Cliffs of Moher. We saw the most beautiful sweeping ocean views, and looking straight down from the edge of the cliff was like facing my death. Below me the water slapped up against the cliff face and sprayed water tens of feet up and out; it almost broiled. A stone tower overlooking one side of the cliffs might have been cool had it not been covered in scaffolding, but it didn’t matter. These were the most dramatic, mysterious cliffs I’d ever seen. I was intrigued.
When we got back to Dublin it was dark and cold, so once again, we resolved not to go out. Turning in early proved to pay off when we woke up early the next morning and found a warm sun greeting us outside. We wandered around the city center and Tiffany took me to some of the things I missed: Temple Bar, some of her favorite hangouts where the locals tell the best stories, Dublin Castle, and a park with a waterfall and a hedge maze.
Then, in the late afternoon, Tiffany saw me off on the same airport bus that I had taken to O’Connell street, and I flew back to Venice just in time to catch the last train to Castelfranco Veneto. Little did I know there would be heaps of homework and a nasty cold awaiting me in the next few days…