It was Thanksgiving weekend 2006 when two friends and I flew to Dublin, Ireland, for less than a week of fall vacation. It was an interesting turning point in my life. I was 25, still living in Blacksburg, and working my behind off. While I’d fallen in love with my little town, I was more than ready for a change. Ireland sounded like a good place to rest my head for a bit … figuratively speaking. My suggestion was met with much enthusiasm by my troupe of traveling girlfriends. We scraped some funds together and made our plans.
I can trace some of my family roots back to Ireland. It was not so long ago that my great-great-grandfather Patrick Lynch came to America from County Cork. The more rural landscape of this famously gorgeous island (which the Republic of Ireland shares with the United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland) is legendary. But with neither enough money nor time at our disposal to take a proper tour of the entire country, off to the Emerald Isle’s growing capital city it was.
Our journey began at IAD (Washington Dulles), where we flew to London’s Heathrow for our connection. Typical Americans-on-the-other-side-of-the-pond hijinks ensued. Crystal and I dragged our luggage to the moving sidewalks and noisily clomped onto the one on the right side as we had in every other airport we’d ever been in. Beth quietly stepped onto the left one at the same time. Perhaps you can tell where this is going. The next few seconds were like something out of a bad slapstick movie. “Beth, why are you going the wrong way?” Crystal blared. Her gleeful, confused expression changed to stricken panic a nanosecond later as we realized we were in fact moving backwards. “WE’REGOINGTHEWRONGWAY!” she cried, eyes wide with horror, as she slammed backwards into me and we both went flying, along with a jumble of luggage, off of the end of the sidewalk. Meanwhile, Beth glided serenely ahead, a smile twitching at the corners of her mouth. At our gate, I’ll admit I foolishly put Euros in a British vending machine and failed to understand why my candy bar of choice wasn’t being ejected. Beth helpfully explained that the British currency is still the pound, and the word “DUH” flashed in my head in big red Las Vegas-style letters. I sat dumbly back down in my chair, a wee bit poorer and with no snack. Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t be admitting these things where they can be read in a public forum.
On to Ireland we flew on Aer Lingus, the national airline, whose fleet of planes display bright green four-leaf clovers on their tails. The interior of our very long plane smelled faintly of cigarette smoke but was mostly empty, so we sprawled where we liked. We were dismayed when the beverage cart came around and we had to pay if we wanted a soda. I promptly passed out in the black leather seats (par for the course, not first class) and got over it. I woke up just in time to see the glorious green of Ireland come into view from the window.
At the Dublin airport, we spoke with a nice uniformed lady who gave us some tips for getting around. I asked her about Dublin’s famed Anna Livia river statue, and she responded “The Floozie in the Jacuzzi”? I had heard the nickname before, but I was soon to find that there are multiple rhyming monikers for virtually every landmark statue or sculpture in Dublin, some of which I doubt I’ll be able to post here and keep this a family-friendly site. *wink* Sadly, the “Floozie” was under restoration in preparation for a move, and could not be viewed during our trip.
The three of us trooped onto a double-decker bus for our hostel, Four Courts, located across the River Liffey from the judicial building of the same name. We sat on the bottom and I found myself trying to hide my fascination with the whole “driving on the other side of the road” thing. I was less able to stop gaping at the grass. Yes, the grass! On a cold, gray November day in Dublin, the unbelievably bright green grass stood out all over the roadside and hills. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a brilliant, verdant shade.
We drove closer to the postal district of Dublin 2, where we’d find our hostel – and the vibrant neighborhood of Temple Bar. To get there, we passed through the other side of the River Liffey. We saw street signs with both English and Gaelic printed on them. There were also multiple Georgian row houses, all painted with brightly colored doors of various colors – red, yellow, pastel green – all with neatly manicured lawns with little latching gates. I had read in one of many guidebooks that, legends aside, the doors were painted this way in Colonial days to help set each home apart from the next, while still adhering to strict housing codes. Today, the doors are considered a landmark of Dublin.
Dublin is a city with incredible life and history to it. In the past couple of decades, its economic growth has experienced an unprecedented boom. As a result, the capital of the Republic of Ireland is now home to a vibrant population of young professionals who enjoy some of the highest salaries in the world. In 2008, Dublin ranked second in an annual UBS ranking of richest cities in the world, second only to Zurich. (In 2009, it was 10th – still impressive.) But while Dublin is decidedly modern in many aspects, its storied history (of more than a thousand years) is also evident.
Dublin has a warmth and vivacity to it that made me feel right at home immediately. If I could, I’d make a second home in its vicinity. I’m excited to share what we found there with you in my next post.