Friday, August 03, 2007

Dublin Day 1

Saturday morning, and I'm still in a bit of a daze, though I don't know if it's from last night or residual drag from the journey here. Honolulu to LA was the typical 5-hr ordeal in the cattle car American Ariline's calls coach. I went limp about an hour into it. LAX was a nine hour dream. I found a corner to sleep in, and got a few hours before friendly airport security woke me up and told me I had to sit in a chair. I scored on Aer Lingus, and got a bulkhead seat with no neighbors. It made the next nine hours bearable. They have earned my loyalty with that move.
Still, I arrived in dream state. I don't even think it's jet lag with me, as I get off the plane barely remembering my name. Had some difficulty finding the guesthouse. I managed to get off at the right bus-stop, and was pretty sure I had found the right unmarked lane. Problem was, all I knew was the right block to go to - I didn't have an address & the owner forgot to tell me that there was no sign out front. There was no indication that this was anything but an abandonned squat, really - just a number on the door of a non-descript alley off Camden.
I finally found it by ringing bells on the doors of the handful of buildings that weren't posted with condemnation signs. What a lovely neighborhood. Yesterday evening I had to roll aside a beat-up & semi-comatose drunk Mick to get to the door. This, I guess, is what 55 euro buys you in the modern Europe. Pissing exchange rate. At least the place is nice and clean once you're inside.
I went for a random wander once I had settled in. The guesthouse owner had recommended I take a tourist bus that lets you get off and on at all the main sights of Dublin. He said it was the best way to see them all in one afternoon.
That sounded like a nightmare, rushing from Spot to Spot. And I had done close to no research for this trip, so I didn't even know what the Spots were. I imagine the bus as some sort of "See James Joyce's Dublin" horror, the literary equivalent of New York City's Sex and the City Tours.
So instead I wandered vaguely towards St. Stephen's Green & just figured I'd see what I'd see. And that took up most of the afternoon - I grabbed a brien panini and ate in the green, explored St. Stephen's and the Meridien Gardens, and popped in the National Gallery when that came into view. The last was pretty cool - there was an exhibition on the Fantastic in Irish Art, and the emphasis was on the end of the 19th and early 20th century artists who were combining Celtic mythology, Romantic poetry, and neo-Realism. I can't remember the name of a single artist, but some of the work was quite haunting.
And I can say I went to a museum, which satisfies people. It shows I'm a good tourist & all. When locals anywhere ask "what'd you do today" no one wants to here "I wandered aimlessly through the streets." They want you to See Things, and don't always understand that The Thing for me is the City itself. When I wander streets in a foregin land it helps fill in the empty spaces in the geographical map in my mind. More pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and a few more patterns become clear.
The Gardens were lovely, too. Before I left I sent in some comments as part of the Board on the Kapi`olani Park Master Plan - I wanted more trees, more walkways, and more divisions between the different areas of the park. No one else on the Board was impressed with my ideas. We are so far behind sometimes in Hawai`i, so shockingly far behind. I wish I could drag them by the ears across both oceans and show them how it's done here. Both parks were a mix of thick forest and open glens. Though you were in the center of the city, the city disappeared within feet of the sidewalk. The paths curved through and around the different parts of the parks, and each area felt like a seperate and private room sperated by thick walls of tree, bush, and flower. In one room tourists were eating lunch at the side of a pond. Another was full of lovers lying in the grass. A third had teens practicing soccer, and fourth was full of children in public school uniform tearing through the lawn.
I'm no sure that a Planning degree taught me how to improve American cities. Sometime I think it just showed me more acutely what we lack.
I napped, ate at my first pub (a pint of Guinness and Fish & Chips - predictable, nah?), and it was still light. I don't think the sun went down until close to ten, although it felt like it was going to set every minute after 3. I went to Temple Bar, which turned out to not be a bar after all, but an entire quarter given over to pubs, bands, and restaurants. I wasn't feeling very social yet, so stayed out of the crowded places. Ended up at a low key gay place, and it fit the bill. It was also fairly international. I met some Dubliners, of course, but also guys from Latvia, the Basque country, Brazil, the Czech Republic, and Italy. The energy was fairly low - turns out it's Belfast Pride this weekend, and a Bank Holiday (whatever that is), so a lot of the crowds were up north.
I meant to stay until midnight, but it was closer to 1:30 when I realized I couldn't go on & needed to crawl back to bed. The streets were alive, though, and I decided that a stroll through Temple Bar at closing time would make a pretty damn fine traditional Irish experience.
And it was. I was ready for Trainspotting and drunk shrieky UK girls and angry football hooligans. What I got instead was a full-on balls-out street party. A band had set up on the sidewalk and was playing for coin. The streets were full of dancers. Happy, drunk, silly Irish dancers. The music was some cross between Irish and New Orleans Jazz, and it rocked. The crowd made way once for an ambulance to get by, but otherwise there was no traffic on the street (as if anyone down here was sober enough to drive tonight) & the cops didn't seem to mind.
It didn't seem to matter who was with who - you passed down the street, you danced. I think I learned some new moves, even ...
I got to bed around 3am ... so this a.m. I'm not even going to attempt to do anything besides eat, and try and find the bus to Doolin.

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