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Published: March 19th 2006
Between the end of my British semester in Portsmouth and the IMPREST conference back in Maastricht, I was able to throw together a EU financed stopover in Dublin. Since the conference funding covered airfare for the participants, out of options for going between southern England and southeastern Holland, the routing through Dublin made the most sense. How lucky for me! In fitting fashion, the taxi ride from Bournemouth to the airport (after spending the same amount as the airplane ticket taking the train there from Portsmouth) cost 2/3 as much as the flight to Dublin. The reason that I ended up doing this routing was because my Russian buddy Alex (former roommate from Lithuania) now lives here. He had to work and couldn’t meet me at the airport (as if this was a significant problem for a guy like me). Instead, he gave great instructions for which bus to take and to get a cell phone sim card (no more Amman style three hour unplanned sidetrips) once I arrived in Connelly St. This worked out fine, even though the fact that this was just 2 days before St. Patrick’s Day did mean that the airport was inundated with students arriving for
the holiday. The bus was packed, and I sat next to a cute old Irish man who had left to work in England 50 years ago. He gave me the rundown of how the city used to be, about the reverse migration currently in place, and what his family was doing these days. Upon arrival at Connelly St. (pointed out by the man), I purchased the sim card, sent Alex a text and headed with my stuff (I was moving to Holland) to find a warm spot. After rolling around for a bit and discovering that it was fairly cold, I rolled into the Catholic Cathedral and sat in a pew (the plan was for me to find a place to wait until Alex finished work at 5pm). The hustle, bustle and chaos of moving had meant that the last night in England had been an all nighter. I was ready for a quick little power nap and took a fair amount of time sitting in the pew praying and taking short ‘rests’. After I had been there for an hour and a half, another man in the church who must had been under the impression that I was this
amazingly devout catholic who bowed his head for 15 minutes at a time and stopped to pray for hours at the cathedral before heading over to my lodging came over and said hi. He was from a part of the country between Belfast and Dublin. In parting, he asked my to say a hail Mary for him and that he would do the same for me. At this point, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wasn’t Catholic, so I just told him that I would pray for him (the truth). At around 4, I rolled over to the Kylemore Café off Connelly to wait for Alex.
Shortly after he arrived, he disclosed the fact that he had just moved back to his house the day before. The Christmas tree had caught fire on New Years day, and this had lead to his house going up in flames (along with all his stuff because he had been staying in the living room). Naturally, he hadn’t mentioned a bit of this to me anytime before I arrived. Besides going through the hassle of moving, he was kind enough to host me and show me around. On the
plus side, because I was arriving, he was able to move into the house a full half week before the others. (he had brought this predicament to the landlord) So the two of us shared the place until the others arrived the night before I left.
Coming from the UK, I fully expected Dublin to be a price relief. Wrong! As of 2001, Ireland had surpassed the UK in average income and is now only 2nd to Luxemburg for average income in Europe. The prices in the country are reflective of this, and since Dublin is the capital, I was greeted with the realization that this place would be even more expensive. Since Alex had to work the day after I arrived, this left me to wonder around the city on my own and discover, get lost, and then discover again. The madness of the next’s days holiday did not make itself apparent until the end of this day. It was snowing throughout much of the day, and that combined with harsh winds did a good job of hiding the swelling temporary population by keeping them off the streets and. Alex sent me off with a good map, so
I started off my day (late because I slept in) by walking down the Main St. (Connelly) and touring Trinity College (this seemed to be a very famous institution). One of the main treasures that this college hosts is a book written on cowhide. They are so fond of it that they charge €8 just for a peek at two pages. Having looked at many books during the start of my dissertation literature review, I made the judgment call that 4 per page was a price that I was not willing to pay. This saved me time to go walk around and see some to the government buildings, and the Georgian district (district with buildings built in the Georgian architectural style). Doing this, I walked right passed the sign for the national gallery, and since the Irish have the same system as the British (great museums for free) I ventured inside for the better part of an hour. Post gallery trekking entailed zigzagging through some more of the city, until I arrived at Dublin Castle.
This turned out to be the best value of the stay, since the student price of €3.50 included a1 hour guided tour. The Castle didn’t
look like much of a medieval fortress from the front. We later found out that the original structure had burned down, and since the situation was more stable in the 1700s, the rebuilt version looked more like a palace. Dublin Castle had been built by the Brits for administering the country, and the last viceroy to oversee Dublin moved out in 1922 in accordance to the handover of rule to Irish Republicans. It currently serves as the venue for official functions, such as the swearing in of the President and EU meetings. The Irish have had a string of Female presidents; which lead to our tour guide predicting that subsequent to all the female candidates for President in the last election receiving 96% of the vote, it was very likely that the next one will be a women as well. After the tour while swinging around back to take a walk around the castle, I noticed that it had taken a rather mutant form with the various design changes. A church is connected at one end, then a tower that survived the fire, the palatial Gorgonian section, then a multicolored part that could only be described as modern retro. Not
sure about my final opinion yet. By this time, it was already later on in the day and I made a feeble attempt to see the Guinness storehouse tour before meeting Alex in the southern part of the city (I had the keys to the house so my promptness was necessary). At this point, the crowds that may have stayed in due to the weather must have decided that they were not going to miss everything due to freezing rain and decided to cue up for the storehouse tour. After waiting in line with two lovely Australians who did the best they could to put up with the freezing weather, I realized I needed to check with Alex to confirm when I should be back. Before buying my ticket for the one hour tour, I heard back from him that I should take the light rail back within the next half-hour. Turns out that I didn’t miss much; the office where he worked was having a St. Patty’s Day party at a local pub, and the firm was buying. So I left the Storehouse without taking the tour and made my way back to southern Dublin to grab some food
with Alex before the party.
I didn’t get a chance to meet very many people at the party. Alex and I joined Loraine, Charlie, and Kevin at a small table and this is how it stayed for most of the night. Loraine (Alex’s Girlfriend) has worked at Allied Foods for a few years, while Charlie and Kevin have worked together since 1975. They mentioned how they used to get away with having a few pints during their lunch break at work. While those days have been over for a long time, the generosity of the company that night certainly kept its employees tanked up for a while. Since the company was paying, everybody was more than happy to get a pint for ya. As it was, I had four, and one was still staring me down before leaving around 11. Naturally, with the proximity to the storehouse, I stayed with Guinness the whole night. This is worth noting: among the others, only Charlie drank another Irish brew. Alex went with Heineken, Kevin with Amstel, and Loraine (brace yourselves) with Budweiser. Of all the choices…Worse, because it is imported, it costs the same as all the other brands mentioned. So,
I celebrated St. Pats day with a whole group of people from Allied Foods that I just met thoroughly enjoying the ‘office night at the pub’ party.
While I had been warned that many Irish sentences begin and/or end with the words Fcuk and Jesus Christ, the party accentuated the Isles flamboyant tongue. Over the duration of my stay, I heard the above words directed at young children by their mothers on the tram several times, usually in reverse order with the former prefaced by ‘what the.’ After the third time it was not surprising, but it certainly left a lasting impression. While on the topic of Irish language, two other things must be mentioned. The Irish have their own derivative of ‘What’s up?’ in the form of the greeting ‘What’s a crack?’ After reconciling with myself that they are not oblivious to contemporary drugs, haven’t got immaculate china and that my pants were not riding too low, I concluded that it didn’t make less sense than the American form. The second item of note is the Irish Language itself. Ireland has a system in place faintly reminiscent of the good old Canadian bi-lingual regulations. All stops are called out
in Irish, labeled in Irish, the back of tickets have regulations printed in both languages, and even my Ryan Air boarding card said ‘Carta Bordala’ under the English title. That said, almost everything else is in English and the only time I ever heard Irish spoken by a human (as opposed to automatic announcements) was during my tour of Dublin Castle. Not a single local that I met via Alex speaks it, and as far as I can surmise, if it weren’t for the fact that English came from Britain, they wouldn’t even bother with Irish. Since it does, the rivalry must require that it be taught in Schools and printed on random things.
The next day, we took the tram to Connelly in order to observe the famous St. Patrick’s Day parade. The city is growing fast, and it takes about a half-hour get there from the outskirts. The suburb of Tallaught is covered with cranes hoisting new buildings up and a crazy rate. A good indication of the growth in Dublin would be that (according to Alex), in the first month after Poland joined the EU, 1 Million Polish workers came to Ireland and the UK. It would
be fair to say that Dublin is now very multicultural. Anyway, on to the parade. Had I known what it entailed, and had I come special for the parade, it would have been a major let down. For the most part, I didn’t understand the point of many of the floats. They seemed to lack a general sense of variety, and there were way too many people there for the actual content of the parade. The novelty of being in Dublin for the parade far outshines the actual show. Due to more freezing rain and snow, we cut it short and ventured off to northern Dublin. Malahide Castle looked like an intriguing place to visit. Alex hadn’t been there yet, and I am always up for a castle. I need to put a plug in for the Dublin DART (commuter train): put up maps! Getting to the Castle was much harder than it should have been do to the dearth of any visual aids or train station staff. We purchased our ticket in the automatic vending machine, and then proceed to the platform trying to figure out which train would get us there. Due to Alex knowing the rough layout
Allied Foods office Pub Party
L to R: Me, Kevin, Alex, Charlie
of the city, we got on the right one. We had to get off to switch halfway, but at least we got going in the right direction. There was a map on the inside of the train, but this does not help one try to figure out which one to get on.
Malahide was nice, with a good automated tour that highlighted the different rooms of the castle and helped explain some of the things the Talbot family had to do in order to stay in ‘tenancy’ for 800 years. Of the main rooms was from a different era, and walking through was a trip through time as well as one castle. My theory of sticking to sites close together was not proven wrong though. It was interesting, but we ended up spending €25 to go see it, and it was the only site that we then had time for that day. We took DART back to the city centre, and then had the free show of walking around for the next two hours being entertained by the people who had started drinking that morning (it was now about 6pm). I realized that had I had a choice in the
Alex after the party
What does Alex do after 4 pints and 4 shots of brandy? Open a bottle of wine of course! He is shocked that I found this strange.
timing of my trip, it may have been nice not to come for St. Patrick’s day. It does erase all the benefits of traveling off-peak, while maintaining the negative characteristics. Alex and I had both had a busy few days, so we headed back to the house after this and drank a few glasses with two of his housemates that had just moved in. He rode out to the airport with me the next morning, and I flew off to Eindhoven to attend the masters degree conference in Maastricht.
In parting, I should say that the Irish have to be some of the nicest people on earth! Don’t let their use of expletives fool you: they don’t mean any offense.
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