Monday, May 3, 2010


I think I've finally worked up the stamina to write this post. So here goes: On wednesday, april 14th, I woke up at approximately 3:45 am. It was too early for me to take the day bus, and the night bus didn't come by my place at right time to take me to the train station. So I walked there all alone, which took me about 20 minutes or so and I took the 6:20 regional train to La Rochelle. When I arrived there, I walked from the train station to the bus station and took the bus to the airport. The La Rochelle is so pathetically small. I've never been to the Salem airport, but I can imagine the one in La Rochelle is smaller. As I was waiting at the gate I could hear people speaking with Irish accents, which made me excited and happy. Flying with Ryanair was kinda irritating to be honest. It wasn't too bad since the flight was only 90 minutes, but they CONSTANTLY were trying to sell you stuff, from scratch cards to smokeless cigarettes, which I'd never heard of before. I don't understand how a cigarette can be smokeless. I arrived and went through customs and it was a little funny because they asked me when I was leaving, and I told them that saturday, but this was when I was completely unaware that I would be leaving the FOLLOWING saturday. As I walked outside of the airport, I quickly realized they drive on the right side of the car and the left side of the road. The Dublin bus system is impossible to understand. All I knew was that I wanted bus 16a. Which I did find, but not because of the unhelpful info I got from a grumpy bus driver... not the best first impression of the Irish for me. On the bus, an older man sat next to me, and we talked a lot of the way. I told him I was a little confused about where to get off at, and he told me to get off 2 stops after he got off. Dublin bus stops don't have names, so I had nothing to watch for. I found my hostel pretty easily and checked in, put my stuff away, and updated facebook. I took a little tour of the Christchurch Cathedral across the street from the hostel, and had my first meal in Ireland at a mexican restaurant. I was super hungry and just wanted something familiar... even the price at 10 euros was something I was used to living in France. But I decided I'd splurge this one time, which turned into a few more times, and spend nearly $14 on a meal. I did a tour of Dublin Castle and did some more walking around, down to the riverfront. There's this souvenir shop called Carroll's which was huge. I found the Hard Rock Cafe and bought a shirt there, since I sorta collect them. Couldn't afford to eat there though. That night I ate at the bistro next to the hostel because a lot of places seemed closed. When I went to bed that night, my room was freezing. Day 2 there were still no other people who had been placed in my room of 6 beds. At breakfast, I learned how to use the weirdest toaster I've ever used in my life. It was like a box that got warm with a conveyor belt you put your bread on. That morning I walked to a hotel near St. Stephen's Green (a big park in Dublin) to meet my bus for my Wicklow tour. As I walked there I realized how incredibly nice it was to be in an english-speaking country. My bus was late, and it had me worried, because I'm just the type of person who would be unlucky enough to wait for a bus, and never see it, but it fact it came and went, but was around the corner and out of my sight. We stopped along the coast and drove out of Dublin and into the mountains. We went through Dalkey, which is where Bono and Enya both either live or have houses, can't really remember. The tour guide was telling us random things like how there was a blood drive called "a pint for a pint"... and for every pint of blood you donated, you got a pint of guinness. That's Irish motivation for you. I also learned that anything with "National" in its title is free to see. We stopped for coffee at a place called Avoca Handweavers, where I almost bought an amazing Irish wool scarf but didn't. When we were in the mountains, we went over the bridge that's in the movie "PS I Love You" which made me incredibly happy. We drove past Guinness Lake too and had a complementary shot of Jameson Whiskey. I should note that from the beginning of the tour, the tour guide told us that the previous day, there were about 10 people who talked the entire time, and he told us that if we needed to talk/translate, to do so quietly. Fortunately (sarcasm) I was sitting next to a bunch of French women who would never shut their traps. Apparently they didn't know that every time the tour guide told people to be quiet, he was talking to THEM. I almost wanted to tell them to shut up myself TAISEZ-VOUS MESDAMES PARCE QU'IL VOUS PARLE. But whatever. We stopped at a little village for lunch, and that's when I noticed for the second time that soup in Ireland has the consistency of apple sauce. We drove to Glendalough (Valley of the 2 Lakes) and saw the cemetery and monastery there. On our way back to Dublin, the tour guide told us some history about things like leprechauns and banshees. The Irish love to talk/tell stories and history, he said. But I also noticed this by myself. He said that the irish people believe the Kennedy Family had the curse of the banshee, since they were irish and so many of their men died. Then we listened to traditional irish music. I got dropped off at St. Stephen's Green and went to the nearby mall. I wanted to shop sooo bad. But didn't for the lack of funds and the fact that Ryanair only allows carry-on baggage to be 10 kg. I needed to buy toothpaste, and had to get cash from an ATM. The homeless in Dublin are pretty clever. They sit next to convenience and grocery stores and ATMs. Way to go making me feel like an awful person pulling 20 euros out of a machine while you beg for 20 cents. Food is SO expensive in Dublin. OMG. It was so hard not spending more than 5 euros each meal. I did finally find a place that did these chicken fillet roll sandwiches for 2 euros. When I went back to the hostel, and was waiting to cross the street, a man came up behind me and started laughing the most retarded, scary laugh I've pretty much ever heard. He walked away, and I turned to the women next to me and asked if he was drunk, and she said yes, but that this was Ireland. True... but it was also only 5:45 pm. Later that afternoon I went to St. Patrick's Church and the Guinness Storehouse, the most visited tourist attraction in Ireland. Unfortunately it was closed. I walked to what was labeled on my map as James Joyce's house of the Dead, which I thought would be something cool, but it was just a run-down brownstone. I later realized that this was probably just the setting for the last chapter of his book "Dubliners", which was called "The Dead". I read it in high school. I walked to a 24 hour convenience store thing for dinner, and that's when I first heard about the volcano explosion on the news playing on their TV. Craaaap. When I went back to the hostel, I noticed there was a place where you can get your own table with 2 taps in it, one being for Guinness, and you can just sit there and pour your own pints. Pretty cool. That night Lucas, a guy working in the hostel I met, asked me what I was up to, and I said not much. He told me he was going to be playing with some friends who asked him to practice. He plays the drums. So I went with him, and actually unfortunately didn't stay to listen to him play much, since they sent me and his irish friend Murph (Lucas is from California) to get beer. We got to the store 1 minute too late. So Murph and I went to "The Church" for a Guinness. This was my first one and it was like love at first sight. The Church was also super cool. An old church renovated with a huge bar in the center of the sanctuary and a restaurant and club. Pretty much the coolest church I've ever seen. By the time we were done with our beer, the guys were done practicing. Lucas, Murph, and I went to another pub and they bought me another Guinness. That was fun... I slept well :) The next day I got up purposely at 9:15 for breakfast which ended at 9:30, came back and slept some more, and ultimately got a late start. I did a hop on/hop off bus tour and got off at the Storehouse. I almost didn't do it, because I felt like at this point I'd spent enough money, but I'm so glad I changed my mind. It was a very cool place, 7 stories high and shaped like a Guinness Pint glass, with the "Gravity Bar" at the very top with a 360 degree view of Dublin. Included in my admission was a pint of Guinness, which I could have at the Gravity Bar, but I decided to get it from a another bar that let me and taught me how to pour my own pint of Guinness. There is a ton of very exact science that's behind the making, pouring, and drinking of Guinness. You don't do it right, then it doesn't taste right, or like it should. I even got a little certificate saying I poured the perfect pint. I took the bus again, this time to the National Museum with the intention of seeing the Bog Bodies. My tour guide told us about them, and they're bodies found in the bogs around northern Europe that are over 2000 years old, but very, very well preserved due to something in the soil in the bogs. But the museum closed right as I got there. That night I did a musical pub crawl, which was entertaining, but not as wild as I was expecting/wanted it to be. It was a group of about 20 people with 2 irish musicians and we were at 2 different pubs where they played for us. I was probably the youngest person in the group. Most of the people were Americans and my parents' age. Although there was a young married couple who I ran into on two separate occasions around Dublin. I only bought 1 pint the whole time, when I easily could have done 2 at each place, but at around 5 euros a pint, that really wouldn't have been very financially responsible. Day 4 I got another late start. It was weird because the day before, I came back to my room at some point and saw that someone had checked in and left their stuff. That night I went to bed and they still weren't there. I figured they were probably a couple of American girls who were going to stumble in drunk at 3 am. Actually no. These people came in at about 7:30 or so... I know since I heard my phone drop from my bed and I checked the time. They slept for a few hours and checked out. Weird. I never talked to them... just pretended I was asleep the whole time. Didn't want to have to socialize. The next day, day 4, I had to go to the airport and re-book my flight. At this point I'm pretty sure I had rebooked it for monday. But I eventually had to go back and book it a second time to fly out on saturday, a week after I was supposed to leave. Three north Ireland girls checked in that day. They were really nice. I went to Carroll's again and searched forever for cheap food. That night I had a failed attempt to find a bar for cheap Guinness. I pulled a Luke when, during my search, a woman standing outside a restaurant asked me if I was looking for somewhere to eat, and I told her no, I was looking for a bar. Something Luke would totally do... give people like that unexpected, honest answers. The next day I woke up and chatted with the irish girls. Went to the grocery store for lunch. Afterwards I went to the mall, and had to pay 20 cents to use the bathroom just because I wanted to wash my hands. Never done that before. I walked around some more, and that night when I got my usual chicken fillet roll, an arab/north african-type guy who worked there notice i was back. I told him, yeah I'm kinda becoming a regular. Then he kinda asked me out for pints. I was like, ummm. He thought I was being shy. Hardly. I was just not comfortable with that, and talked my way out of it. I was sly the next times I went back to that place to get food. That night I went for Guinnesses with Murph at the Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub, established in 1198. I ran into Murph quite a bit, since he's a tour guide and was also staying at the Kinlay House (my hostel). The next day I went back to the airport to once again rebook my flight. I went to the tourist office just for something to do. Came very close to buying a super cute pink Guinness shirt with a crown on it. I talked to Luke on Skype and finally found a really cheap grocery store on the other side of the river someone told me about, and just bought a loaf of bread, PB and J, orange juice, butter, water, bananas, and rice pudding. This was pretty much breakfast and lunch for the remainder of my time there. Day 7 I had a long get-go. I walked to the other side of the river, and found a super cheap clothing store, called Penny's. I had absolutely nothing to do, so I decided to see a movie, and took advantage of the fact that I could see a movie in english and saw "Remember Me", which I highly recommend. In the evening I walked to this pub where there was supposed to be live punk music. I walked there but there was a dude with a foot tall mohawk, and thought I'd stick out and feel awkward if I went inside, so I didn't. Day 8 I went to the bookstore next to the super cheap grocery store, and then went back to the super cheap grocery store to get a few more things. The Dropkick Murphys were in town and playing at a theater right down the street from my hostel, but I didn't want to pay 25 euros for a ticket, didn't want to go alone, all my cameras were dead, and I was down to my last set of clothing and didnt want to get all sweaty in a moshpit. I didn't mention yet that I wore the same clothes for about a week... I absolutely refused to pay 7 euros to do a load of laundry at the hostel. I also sent home my shotglass I bought, since I didn't think I would be able to get through security with it, since you know, I totally look like the kind of person who would break it mid-flight and try to kill someone. Psh. Around day 9 or so, I walked to the Jameson Distillery for absolutely no reason, just because I wanted to see it at least. I talked with Joe, a guy from California who was also stuck in Ireland like me. We talked with some german girls too. That night I went to a nearby bar with Joe, Murph, and Lucas. The morning of day 10, 4:30 am a guy from reception comes into my room asking if I was going to the airport. I said no. The reason for this was because I told Lucas to call the shuttle to come pick me up at 4:30, but they messed up on which morning I wanted, so the guy came looking for me. I didn't realize this at first, but after he left, I looked at the time and that's for sure what happened. I had to change rooms that day, and I switched to a 4-bed room that had an old lady staying there already, which I was completely fine with, I've just never seen old people stay in a hostel before. I guess she was touring by herself like I was. I bought some postcards and mailed them off. And I bought a day-pass and took the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) along the coast out of town and got off at any stop that looked interesting, walked around, took a picture if my cell phone would let me, and got back on. When I got back, I met up with Murph and we went to the same bar we went to the night before, and I ended up singing 2 karaoke songs, after about 3 Guinnesses, a couple of Bailey's and a Baby guinness. It was my last night in Ireland. Had to go out with a slight bang. By the way, the thought that the Irish are alcoholics isn't entirely a stereotype. I saw a lot of advertising for responsible drinking and for as much as Murph told me he liked to drink and the guy I encountered at the cross-walk, it makes it even less of a stereotype. The next day sucked. Plain and simple. I took the shuttle which came to pick me up from the hostel at 4:30, which was incredibly convenient for the 7 euros I could have paid for a bus I would have had to walk to. When I got to the airport, I started putting on a lot more of my clothes and stuffing my pockets with as much as I could, in an attempt to lighten my suitcase, because I wasn't sure if they were going to weigh it or not. Anything over 10 kg has to be checked and there's like a 40 euro fee to do so. But I went through security without being weighed. I think they were just so busy and backed-up from the delays and cancelled flights that they just didn't care. I flew back to La Rochelle, and re-traced my footsteps to the train station. They wouldn't refund my train ticket I bought before I left, that I couldn't take because I was stranded, so I bought a ticket for the next train to Poitiers, which was leaving about 10 minutes later. I could have gotten a train ticket for later at a cheaper price, but I didn't care. I just wanted to go home. I arrived in Poitiers, took the bus, and finally got home at 12:30. During this time I was missing the excursion that all the other Centre Oregon study abroad students were on. Sylvie sent me an email with some options for maybe catching up to them the evening after I got back to Poitiers, but it really wasn't worth it, and I was dead tired. Now I've had to worry about getting compensated for expenses from Ryanair. At first they said they wouldn't pay anyone anything, but the European Union requires them to. They've said they'd reimburse the cost of the cancelled flight. But I plan on sending an additional thing to the EU requesting about 200 euros to pay for my accommodations and food, like Ryanair is supposed to pay for by law.

So all in all, I learned a lot about traveling alone. I know I love Ireland, and how I totally should have been born Irish, and could almost live in Ireland and it would feel like Oregon. Except I know I'd probably die, when I stand at a cross walk and step out in front of an oncoming car because I have the tendency to look in the other direction for an oncoming car. No wonder they print "LOOK LEFT" or "LOOK RIGHT" on the street at crosswalks. But I think what I realized the most is that I don't particularly like traveling alone. While it was more peaceful than traveling with someone, it was also incredibly lonely and I felt really vulnerable. I think that outweighs the peacefulness and makes me think if I travel to another unknown country again, it shouldn't be by myself. Because you experience too much to not be able to it share with someone.

Pictures from album #1 here

Pictures from album #2 here

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