Alright folks, I’d like to try and tell you about Dublin. I feel like I owe you at least that much. But I’m having trouble, see, because if Paris (or any city in France, really) is a nice classy woman exiting her limo and stepping delicately over a homeless man as she flits into a high-end cocktail bar, Dublin is a raw-legged tramp who just ditched the bill for a couple of pints eagerly pulling the homeless man into a taxi to get his pants off. The homeless man will happily be paying the fare.
In short, Dublin’s got the right idea about things.
But perhaps to kick off I should first mention Nice in the south of France, Nice which is bright shiny and gorgeous 364 days out of the year but rainy and ranging from 7 to 9 degrees Celsius with the wind chill on the day we were to pass through. Yet despite this frigidity the Mediterranean glowed pale turquoise under the grey of the sky and man, how that lady can beckon. Tourists and locals alike got their kicks watching as I clambered out of clothes and into blue water, air shocked from my lungs and the sky rumbling grey above, foolish girl again doing foolish thing but foolish girl hasn’t tasted saltwater since before she broke her spinal column and really couldn’t give a flying fuck about anything other than greeting the sea. Squeezing my frozen body back into skinny jeans while sticky with Mediterranean sea salt was more of a challenge, at which point one opportunistic middle-aged fellow up on the quay became notably fond of his camera. Casey held out a sweater and I struggled back into clothing while Elaine, bless her, kept busy shouting “YOU LIKE THAT, I SEE THAT YOU LIKE THAT” in loudly broken French.
Now, back to Dublin. The first thing you should know about Dublin is that Dublin loves you and it demands your love in return. Dublin is willing to work for it.
It’s illegal to purchase alcohol of any sort after 10 PM anywhere in the Republic of Ireland, which contributes directly to its universally thriving bar scene — one where pub crawls are packed with deceptively adolescent boys but it’s easy enough to find dashing Irish rapscallions partaking in their evening “mother’s milk” (creepy term for Guinness) while they bide their time awaiting a lady willing to cook them decent potato dishes in return for marriage vows. Dublin is a place where it is not possible to sleep before 5 AM if one is at all interested in flirting with rugged tattooed off-duty police officers or smoking in hostels with exceptionally friendly Croatians, in jumping in on ukulele orchestras or clubbing with handsome strangers keen on paying your way, in giving pep-talks to/charitably fondling desirous transvestites; in being tattooed late at night by a guy who is essentially Badger from Breaking Bad; in kicking a few back and communing with homeless folks and water hens down on the riverbanks; in lolling about in ancient crypts and shaking hands with 800-year-old Crusader mummies; in hanging out in bars dating back to the 1200’s or, at the very least, in drinking one’s dinner on the nightly.
We stayed four nights in Dublin, during which some of the above probably happened.
On to Galway and the Burren National Park, where resteth scattered tombs and burial remains dating back to 3000 B.C.E., where chalky sheep graze in dampened fields of grass and clover across rolling hills and rocky outcrops, dropping off on the brutal western coastline at the Cliffs of Moher (a.k.a. the Cliffs of Insanity, as featured in the Princess Bride.)
Our arrival in Galway coincided with the final day of “rag week”, an unfortunate chunk of time in which the closest European equivalents to fraternities and sororities do what those groups do best: get sloshed to the point of no return, pretend that they’re interesting individuals and hump each other in public. The boys break glass all over the damn place and the gals later walk around barefoot, toting their overly-ambitous heels and contracting various forms of Hepatitis. This booze-charged display of gratuitous juvenile douchebaggery had enveloped most of downtown Galway and, as it reminded me sickeningly of frat row back in Eugene, I did not rest long. Trudging back to the hostel one evening, my newfound French comrades and I stumbled upon an old man resting contentedly in the street with an enormous bloody hematoma on his forehead, and while we flagged down staff to call an ambulance this man took quite a shining to me. He grasped my hand tightly, telling me all about himself (name, address, the fact that he used to be a renowned street fighter and was chummy with Tom Hanks) and in the end I had to stay with him as I was the only person to whom he was willing to give his information. I explained frankly to my bewildered compadres that, according to the recurrent patterns of my life, it made quite a bit of natural sense that this man would select me as a BFF.
Ireland is an indelicate balance of esoteric landscape and raw humanity; one minute you find yourself contemplating the meaning of existence and simplicity in the clover fields and the next you’re shocked back down to earth by drunkards howling in the streets and the searing whiskey shot you just took to get your evening going. My French companions interpreted the Irish way as sleazy and inelegant, and I suppose they’re not exactly wrong. But for me this break from the delicate, guarded French approach to all affairs in life was a startling breath of fresh air and a welcome relief. I felt as though I’d unshouldered a heavy knapsack I’d been slogging around unwittingly for the past few months, and this feeling of intense calm chased me all throughout the country – from Galway down to Limerick for half-pints of Guinness, melted cheese sandwiches and old men hollering at the televised rugby game; to Killarney shoving into sweaty pubs and live music with Elaine and Lisa, a hot-blooded badass from Austria who travels Europe on her motorcycle; while winding through the unrestrained misty wilderness in the southern part of the isle on an inter-city bus; while passing the evening with a scruffy Irish bloke in a mescal bar on my last night in Cork. I even made some money when I demanded cash from a carful of guys that had hollered in my direction; they scrambled to get five euro together and handed it over without a word. That’s Ireland for you.
By the time Elaine and I reached Paris on our eighth day we were exhausted on every imaginable level, and our rapidly dwindling motivation to return to Lyon drove us to stay and recuperate two days with my dear Australian friend Leanne. We successfully visited the Parisian Catacombs, which I will save for a future post. That’s all for now, folks.
Ireland, you remarkable old floosie, you stole meh heart right out o’ me.
May the winds of fortune sail you,
May you sail a gentle sea.
May it always be the other guy
who says, “this drink’s on me.”