22.03.2009 - 28.03.2009 8 °C
I figured I was born about the right size for a Leprechaun, so I might as well see if that carries through to worldly riches. As it turned out, the only gold I saw was the sight of it regularly leaving my palm - Ireland is EXPENSIVE. More expensive even than London, if you can believe it!
Still, you don't travel to save money - it's all about the experience, and it was with that thought in mind that I attempted to find my hostel in Dublin at about 2am, wandering through the near-deserted streets. Despite (or perhaps because of) the occasional happy and helpful drunk, I found my hostel and collapsed into bed, not waking until about 11am the next morning.
Such a late rising didn't happen again for the rest of my stay, irrespective of when I went to bed. The reason? The hotel serve an *awesome* Full Irish Breakfast every morning until 10am, completely "free". Brilliant! So after a day of getting my bearings, I was up early the next morning for a hearty breakfast and some sightseeing - I had the day all mapped out. Or so I thought - idle conversation with a French guy at the coffee machine (naturally) was to segue into a fearsomely contested game of chess.
The battle was bloody, but I persisted with the patience of a masterful tactician, preparing for my ultimate victory with the misdirection of a stage magician and near-Napoleonic strategy...until I lost, that is. Check-mate! But we'd become mates in the process, so what better way to draw focus away from my heart-wrenching loss than to head to the Guinness Factory for a pint?
By that time the day had cleared, which seems immaterial for a largely indoor tour of a brewery, until you realise that the top floor enabled you to savour the best views in Dublin along with a complimentary pint. It made the rather breathless accounts of the brewing process on the preceding floors utterly worth it.
After a few days of checking out the city, it was time to venture into the countryside and see The Real Ireland. You know - the rolling hills, shamrocks everywhere, and pots of gold begging to be found. Naively, I chose the longest day-trip on offer - venturing through Northern Ireland to the very tip of the northern coast to visit the geographical enigma that is Giant's Causeway. Ok, well it may not have been such an enigma if I'd read the signs in the information centre instead of rushing down to the cliffs to take some photos.
Because I have to be honest here, I primarily took the day trip to get some smashing photos of the amazing lines, shapes and shadows created by the rock formations of Giants Causeway in the morning sun. You know - show off as an amateur photographer. You can see the results in the photo gallery, but I have to admit they aren't great. I could blame myself, but I choose instead to redirect the blame to the (other) busloads of tourists and school excursions crawling around and ruining my photos. Perhaps next time I should blow the remainder of my holiday budget on a private tour - surely that's a good use of my money? Of course it is.
Next stop on the tour was the town of Derry, the site of some of the worst oppression of the Irish by British forces in history, the boiling point of which was the infamous "Battle of the Bogside" and Bloody Sunday, immortalised by U2 (I promise that's the last time I'll ever mention them!). We were shown around Derry by a guide was was actually present as an eleven year-old boy at The Battle, and he led us through the (still!) walled-off areas of Derry (to separate the Monarchists and Nationalists) and the hauntingly beautiful murals that commemorate the struggle of those in Northern Ireland and the many that unfairly lost their lives. A very moving place.
I probably should have paid more attention to the scenery outside the coach on the way back, especially as we passed through Belfast, another active area during The Troubles of the 60's and 70's. It's just that I was so damned tired after getting up at 4:30am! Up until taking this tour, I'd assumed the hour between four and five to be largely fictional, created by clockmakers so their timepieces to look pretty. Never again!
The rest of the week was spent checking out the various museums, galleries, bars and clubs of Dublin. I'd intended on getting to the south-west coast which is apparently absolutely stunning, but I just met so many new and interesting people at the hostel that I couldn't resist the opportunity to enjoy the company of others instead. I made some firm friends during my stay, and teed up a few far-flung couches as well!
Next up, the daunting yet exciting prospect of exploring Spain! It'll be fun to meet up with my housemates Alan and Mick, but from then on, it's all about unintentionally murdering the Spanish language, and trying not to get mugged. Wish me luck!