(continued from Dublin: Modern Life of an Ancient City)
It was perhaps a 20 minute ride on our double decker bus from the Dublin International Airport to the Four Courts Hostel, adjacent to the famed Temple Bar area. Crystal and I were long past nursing our bruised egos and fannies from the Heathrow moving sidewalk incident when Beth became the next victim. As the bus hurtled around a corner, her giant suitcase started to slide off the seat next to her. Beth grabbed the handle to hold it back only to fly onto the floor with it in one loud movement. I swear it happened in slow motion. Oh don’t worry, she was okay, and once we realized this, Crystal’s signature loud laughter filled the bus!
We arrived at the huge hostel to find our rooms were not ready. So we placed our luggage in a downstairs storage area and trekked out to find some dinner. One of the first sites I saw as we bumbled around was this boarded-up pub called The Swan, with my family name right over the door! (I can’t figure out if this place is closed for good or not, but I never saw it open while I was in the city.)
I had read about a small soup restaurant called Soup Dragon, so we walked across the River Liffey bridge nearest our hostel and went in that direction. We were pleased to find a hearty meal of soup (I had cream of spinach) with bread, and seats along a wooden bar facing the street. I also had a flavored Club brand soda, which was flavored by little pieces of orange floating in it. Evening was setting in and we were several hours ahead from the U.S., which we’d left the previous day. By the time we were done eating, jet lag had set in and I was ready to rest my head in my empty bowl!
Back at the hostel, we were assigned to a huge room on the second floor along with multiple other travelers. We passed out in our respective bunks and woke up to find it pitch black outside. We were up just in time for some makin’ merry! We met two German girls in our room who spoke perfect English and chatted with them for a bit. An American backpacker arrived and joined in the conversation about things he had seen across Europe thus far. That is one of the best things about hostels. You are guaranteed to meet many fellow travelers (if you’d prefer). It’s true that many (but not all) of them are aimed at young adults, but they are a cheap way to crash for the night. This hostel took up the space of three buildings and had grand, sweeping staircases, a large common room, and a basement lounge with a pool table, couches, and a TV in the corner.
On this first night in Dublin, a Tuesday, we headed over to the adjacent Temple Bar area. Some of our hostel-mates – a Norwegian and three French – tagged along. Like many cities I’ve seen in Europe, the shops are clustered around pedestrian areas, off the busy highways, and for the most part Dublin is no exception. This leaves plenty of room for walking and for the after-party crowd to cluster in the streets. And while not a weekend, there were plenty of people out that night. We stopped in a crowded, red-painted pub called, aptly enough, The Temple Bar. There was a football (by that I mean European soccer, of course) game on, and the place was jam-packed with fans. We were desperate for some dinner and drinks, so we didn’t stay long. We wound up at nearby Fitzsimons pub, where the crowd was still impressive but seating was indeed available. Our crowd of seven rumpled travelers found a round table up front that barely held us all. I immediately ordered a thick, rich, frothy pint of real Dublin Guinness. Okay, so I ordered several pints! The football game was on a huge screen at the front of the pub, and the entire crowd was completely silent as they watched intently. If I had dropped a pin, you could’ve heard it. I thought that it was the quietest bar I had ever seen! We managed to chat quietly among ourselves and I was interested to hear everyone’s views of America. The Norwegian man sadly explained that no one he knew was fond of our then-President Bush (what a surprise) but that, hey, everyone still loves Americans! A French man had a little too much to drink and giddily started shouting: “I went to New York City! It was fun! Everything there is BIG! BIG BUILDINGS! BIG FOOD! BIG PEOPLE! BIG! BIG!” He was a little crazy, but we got a kick out of him. He was the loudest person in the pub until a goal was scored, then everyone leaped to their feet screaming, shouting, and clapping each other on the back and sloshing pints around. At one point I found myself thrown up in the air without much warning. It was a suitable introduction to the nightlife of Dublin.
I was pleased to find that an indoor smoking ban was in effect throughout Dublin. This was 2006, remember, so they were ahead of the times! I was tempted to feel sorry for all the smokers who had to stand around in the freezing cold outside. Yet it seemed like the insides of the buildings were almost as cold. Only the pubs, with their big roaring fires and the pseudo-warmth of countless pints of Guinness, were toasty. I’ve since returned to Europe for a third jaunt and realized that at least a sizable portion of that continent is just far more energy friendly than us Americans.
Following the football game, a man with a guitar came out to the front of the room and began singing. After that, we went back to the hostel for a game of pool in the lounge. We somehow became acquainted with two Americans who were staying there. We called one Boston (Keith) and the other Texas (Anthony) since that’s where they were from. We watched a silly British game show where people had to answer the simplest questions in the world in order to win. I’d like to go on that show! We five Americans went back out again. First we went in a club called Club M. The huge burly bouncers were very friendly and told us we could go in and see if we liked it before they’d charge us the cover fee. We went in, didn’t like it, and left. We wound up at a little bar with a small upstairs section: (Pal Joey). Texas bought us all a round and we hung around admiring the jazzy atmosphere and tiny dance floor but thinking that the atmosphere wasn’t that much better than Club M (although hey, it WAS a Tuesday!). I found myself longing to return to the pubs. Suddenly, the DJ broke out with 90s American pop music and everyone went insane. A man ran out on the dance floor and did the Running Man, then the Hammer. I have to say that even though I screamed and laughed and attempted to imitate it with everyone else, he was doing some good dancing. It was amazing!
All of the bars closed at 5 a.m., but unfortunately, so did the food joints. We had noticed a fast food kebab chain called Abrakebabra (get it?) and stopped in since it was the only place that was open. It was your typical fast food taste, in that it’s pretty gross, and you know it’s gross but your taste buds like it well enough for you to just go ahead and down it and not think too hard about what’s going in your body. The kebab was warm and stuffed full of donner (lamb meat!) and mayonnaise, and if I hadn’t been so full of Guinness at that point, I bet I wouldn’t have eaten it. I don’t even eat lamb normally.
As we waited in line for our food, a slow, whiny Evanescence (American band) song came on, and an Irish man began singing along at the top of his lungs in a high-pitched voice. I found this highly amusing and started giggling while my friends poked me in the ribs. The man heard me and asked me where I was from, and was surprised to find I was American as he said I looked Irish. My friend yelled “Her last name’s Lynch!” and he went, “Ah, okay. Common name.”
We went back to the hostel and passed out, waking up too late for the free breakfast the next day. Oops. Oh well, it was a fabulous Day 1 in Dublin. I’ll tell you all about Day 2 in my next post! I must say writing these articles is making me long to return to Dublin, and of course Ireland in general. I would like to see more pubs, too.
Question for my readers: Which do you prefer for my travel articles – a longer, more narrative article such as this one, or a shorter article with more pictures? I’m afraid the latter is too much like a photo album and leaves too much out, but I also don’t want to bore people. Or perhaps some combination of both? Please comment and share your thoughts!