Sentimento: ITOXICADO E POLA IRLANDA
(Translation: “Feeling intoxicated with (and in) Ireland”).
So I was in love with Paris. Charmed by London. I was intrigued to unearth what effect Ireland would have on me, as the great nation I was most pumped about parading around. The land of the lads. The place of the pint. The scene of the shamrock. How would it make me feel to be striding the streets and hailing homage to the location of all my hours of fifth form history study? (The only NCEA exam I actually studied for).
To be honest, when boarding the bus to the city centre I suddenly had a bout of bedevil. With Paris and London I hadn’t held high hopes and I had been lekkeringly floored to find myself deep under their spells. What if Dublin didn’t live up to my exorbitant expectations? What if I found it largely lacking? A little knot of angst and anxiety formed in the pit of my tummy and I bit my lip as I looked out the window at the dreary day.
Faith was momentarily restored upon realising I had missed my stop (a good five ago) and the – insanely accented – driver called his coworker doing the return route to take me back free of charge. On changing buses I was landed next to a lovely Irish lass, who worked at the Guiness Stonehouse and hustled me the ins so as to get the guided tour for a measly €5 instead of the standard “turty” (€30).
I leapt off at my actual stop with Eastertide in my stride and on saw a stand of postcards outside a cornerstore; I proceeded inside the Spar (name of the main convenience chain, not some sort of luxury pampering facility. I’m back packing mate; no mud masks or floriental facials for me) to purchase a funny one for a certain someone, and was extremely disheartened when the guy behind the counter wasn’t overly friendly. No “hello” or “how are you” or not even a nodd; he just took my change (tsk-ing as I attempted to make cents of it all) (intentional mispronounce for pun purposes), put it in the till and gave me a very depressing, “Bye bye now”.
But that was the one and only bad luck of the Irish.
I turned into Connell Street and saw the streams of patriotic people cavorting about in crowds. What with it being the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising (post to follow explaining this a bit), the main street was shut down for festivities and all around were gallivanting in green, with flags, shamrocks and lucky charms the go. It was like being thrown into a party of cheer and joy, and my spirits instantly lifted to be on par with my fellow countrymen. (Even though I’m not actually Irish).
I situated my staying place, soared through the shower and ticked my name up for a tour, then set off to Temple Bar to meet up with friend-from-Uni Beki and her boyfriend, who also happened to be holidaying in Dublin at the same time as myself.
Quick insert on Temple Bar: this is one of “the” areas to go to be able to solemnly say you “did” Dublin. It’s like a little Bohemian block on the South side full of quirky and colourful bars and businesses that kind of looks like an Irish muggle Diagon Alley. (I.e., lots and lots and lots of pubs lining the cobblestone streets). The laid back little district is often looked upon a touch cynically by the locals; a significant number see it a “tourist trap”, especially the infamous bar actually named Temple Bar – sells overpriced pints and what not, but you need to get at least one Bulmers from there. (Apparently on Good Friday every year the owners of the shops sit down and watch the security footage of all the travellers who turn up to buy a beer. Of course being GF, all shops are closed. Gives them a right giggle as they watch the nonplussed Aussies swagger on up only to be turned away by the big fuck off “CLOSED” sign).
While back in the early 20th century Temple Bar’s future looked uncertain with the threat of being demolished to make way for a bus storage station, it is now a bustling line of lanes that is fiercely loved by all, even the most sardonic. When a McDonalds (the fast food chain, not a quintessential Irish clan) took up residence there a year and a half ago, there was uproar at the cultural vandalism of the place. I was told in no uncertain terms that under no situation, even if I had an irrefutable hankering for a Big Mac (fat chance) (unless in the context of a dashing Dublin dude) was I to be a patron at this branch; I was to make the walk to the one on Connell or that which was grounded on Grafton, or else I would be traitorous and would be forever seared with the black mark of selling out.
(Apparently there’s a really good site to use to research your watering holes in the area before heading out. “Publin.ie”. I haven’t had a look yet myself but many a chap recommended it, so I shall pass on the know). (Also, it incorporates a pun in its name, so it must be fantastic).
Anyway. Back to my antics.
I was meant to meet Beki and her boyf Kieran at the infamous and insanely overpriced Temple Bar, but obviously the Aussies whose lunch was cut on Friday had returned for round two and had taken over the place, so much so ordering a pint took a fair chunk of hand turns on the watch and a whole lot of jostling. So the two suggested a pub a little further down the way called The Palace, and off we set.
I loved it. It was your perfect Irish pub, all rosy, cosy and comforting and jam packed with people. We all got a tincture – round for round in, as is the Irish way – and proceeded to find some vacant wall space to “lean” (we hadn’t a high hope of a table and chairs).
We had an extremely affable hour of yarns and tales, recounting old times (I hate the sound of people flicking their nails as it makes me feel seriously sick, and first day of uni first class, I was seated next to Beki as she flicked away. I spent the entire hour twenty debating whether to tell her to stop or just knuckle down with the nausea; I did the latter, and a week later when we were discussing interpersonal theories on relationships I used the instance as my example. We always have a right chuckle as we recount it), when – mercy be, it’s a miracle! – an unhampered table and chairs came up for grabs, and we fell upon it like leprechauns (“Righto, round three in?”).
As we continued spinning thread, a new party of lads descended on the table next to us, tipples of whisky the go. It was like the Irish One Direction, a bunch of boys out on the town as a batch and chucking around good hearted insults and flak.
Isn’t it funny that no matter where in the world you are, gaggles of guys always seem to be bantering about the same subjects? These ones were discussing Padraig’s 30 second chow down of a six inch Subway (meatball on wheat with cheddar, lettuce, onion and tomato but oh Cripes no, no cucumber! Feck it no, cucumber no way!) and passing round a snapchat of one of the lad’s misuses, causing a discussion over her “taking” capabilities. Beki, Kieran and I observed quite amused, before once again talking about travels.
“Excuse me,” came a beautiful sound of Irish inquiry. “But are you guys Aussies?”
After three very adamant “NO”‘s from B, K and me, I reciprocated in kind with a, “You fellas are English, yeah?”
The five howls of horrified protest sealed the friendship, and the rest of the night took off from there.
(After a round of introductions and hand-on-heart swearing the truth when we expressed disbelief at their names being “Fiach”, “Kinko”, “Donal”, Eion” and “Derek”. I admit I was still a little mistrusting until I received a handful of FB adds by them and the same).
Isn’t it funny to hear what other people know or “know” about your country? One of the lads asked me if it was true that you shouldn’t ever chase a Maori. Puzzled, I asked why he thought that; “Tis what I’ve been told,” he said. Quite seriously as well. “Can ye speak some Maori te me?”
He was very impressed when I broke out in a two minute rigmarole of my country’s indigenous tongue. He need not know I was actually just listing place names from New Zealand north to south. (“Whangamata Te Awamutu Whangaparoa” does definitely sound grand when recited with confidence and at pace). (Cheers for the fab tip, PMS).
I called one of the fellas an “eejit” and they told me I was “gas”, as the whiskey tumblers kept coming and we all got well spent. Then it was decided it was time to move on to the next establishment; “Come with us!” They cried. “We’ll show you the real spots in Dublin.”
That’s how I ended up in the garden bar of Diceys, throwing back Tealings and jibbering on with new found mate Fiach. How I found myself locking arms with leaping Irish lads as they sang songs in Gaelic as we waltzed our way up the streets. And how I found myself doing the 4am stumble into my hostel dorm room, trying with all my might to be as quiet as I could but failing wholeheartedly. A night well and truly spent.
So. In love with Paris. Charmed by London. And as of the end of my first night in Dublin, totally intoxicated with (and in) Ireland.