Sentimento: INSPIRADO E MOVIDO
(Translation: Feeling in-SPIRE-d and moved).
Our tour guide parted ways at the end of our early evening ending tour with a description so beautifully fitting, I once again fumbled for my pen and paper.
“Dublin is a small city,” he declared. “That thinks it’s a big city. Dublin is a small city that thinks it’s a big city, and it acts like a village.”
And it is so so totally true.
So I awoke after my evening out still slightly intoxicated in the inebriated sense and insanely so in the enthralled with Ireland one. I clambered out of bed (after the stock standard panicked-check-for-phone-passport-moneybags-keys; all on point) and started organising myself for the free walking tour, kicking off at 11am from the Spire. (I twas up at a reasonable-ish hour; I arose at 8.16am. Not bad after staggering in at 4.10am. Reasons for the late departure were entirely justified; organising tour for the following day, having a Skype date with the best friend Ab, and drinking copious cups of tea in an effort to return to sobriety).
Anyway. In the hallway I ran into (literally; I was running rampage round the bend to the bathroom) a girl I’d met the evening previous in the hostel bathroom. I had felt compelled to apologise to her for my teatowel sized drying towel; having left my beautifully expensive muslin one in Paris, I was rendered to having to use the very limited-in-covering leopard print dry quick. So I felt it would be only fitting to apologise in case she saw any fanny or chest.
This morning we engaged in chat and it was found out that she too was to be going on the morning walking tour, as well as the afternoon.
“Fab!” I beamed. And I made a new friend.
Kylie. 19. A Chinese girl from Missouri, currently on an exchange studying in Belgium. I was shocked when she said her age; she seemed eons older. As I think she was when I said I was 24; I guess to a 19 year old, a mid-20’s female is considered to be a lot more together with life. I definitely dashed that notion to destruction. (Though my life is very much together, albeit it in a completely different definition to the societal norm).
Over the course of our day together, I learnt a lot about Kylie. She told me that she was in fact adopted, having moved to the USA at a few months old. She told me that as with lots of Chinese girls, she had been abandoned soon after being born; while she had been spun the spiel that she had been discovered at a train station with a note attached to her detailing her Chinese name and DOB, now she’s older she is highly suspect this is just a comforting tale told to lend her a sense of identity. (Don’t worry; I checked for her A-ok before I divulged this).
I was astounded. My identity and where I’m from is of immense importance to me; I couldn’t imagine not knowing my roots. But I guess normality is what’s relative, and that is her story. She spoke about it matter of factly and openly, and I found myself in awe of this late teenage girl back packing around Europe on her own. I certainly wouldn’t have had the balls back then.
Anyway – forth with the day!
As with the one in Paris, the “Free” Walking Tours are tours given by local guides around important parts of the city, whereupon at the end you tip what you feel it was worth. Having originated in Berlin a few years back, the concept has now sprung up in many other cities such as Barcelona, London and of course, Dublin. If you happen to be in a city with them on offer I highly highly recommend jumping aboard (well, joining the pack) of one. As these guides earn their income by tips and tips alone, they are often far more charismatic and entertaining than those working on an hourly rate. (Honestly, I’m all for plugging Richie and friends’ little company. And I never fawn over something unless I truly believe in it. Their tours run seven days a week, meeting at the Spire at 11am for the South Side tour, 3pm for the North side tour and 6pm for the drinking tour – not your typical tacky tourist one either. Though this bar hop does have a cost involved of €12. Just look for the yellow umbrella and you’re away).
And today was no exception. Richie was absolutely FANTASTIC. Kylie and I ended up going back to his 3pm showing of the North side as well, which was actually even more engaging.
But let’s not get ahead of myself; so for the morning.
We met at the Spire in the middle of Connell Street. For those of you unsure what the Spire is (feeling in-SPIRE-d make sense?), it is the stainless steel pin-like monument, also referred to as the Monument of Light. At 121.2m tall, Richie informed us that there is no point to it (aside from the actual tangible tip, I pointed out), as it was initially commissioned to mark the millennium but was actually completed in 2003. However, it serves as a great meeting point (see – another point) for friends in Dublin as it is known to all and seen by sundry.
Richie got us all to introduce ourselves to a stranger near us, and upon the hand shakes declared that under Irish law, we were now firm drinking buddies. “But Tealings of course,” he asserted. “None of this Jameson’s lark.” And off we set.
Now I am a major history buff. I love the sights and significant scenes and surroundings. And I was training to be a tour guide. But I must admit, often on a historical tour of cities I find myself tuning out; I know I know, not really the for someone who loves and lives the stuff she’s guitaring away from, but I can’t help it. If the person spieling isn’t dynamic or entertaining, I find myself plucking my chords. (Must clarify here; I don’t mean a literal guitar. I’m just carrying on the “tuning” analogy. Mate, my backpack is stuffed like a roast turkey at Christmas as it is without having to cart about a sizeable musical instrument and a fair few pics).
But Richie was riveting. I was hanging onto his every word (aside from when we were discussing the Irish bank, I must admit. My thoughts turned to my own funds and my avoidance of a balance check since I left Paris). He didn’t ask for attention; he commanded it, his passion for his country pouring out into every point he made. (So many points today. And in the pun sense too; got to sprint across Ha’Penny Bridge at pace when running late for meeting up with my friend Emma at – where else? – the Spire).
So just some little tit bits about the Land of the Green Aisle. Ireland has long since had a rather controversial political scene, some of which I’ll get into soon. I fell in love with it at school as I have mentioned (in the year 11 NCEA exam we were required to answer a few pages of questions in the shoes of one of the rebels from the Easter Uprising and preceding years of opposition/support for Home Rule. I got so intensely into my essays that whoever the marker was – usually only allowed to give a tick or line through in their reading – commented, “Are you actually Eamon de Valera reborn?” I was pretty chuffed), but the country’s early early years had actually been unbeknownst to myself. So bear with me, and skim through the following if it’s not your thing. (But please don’t. Please read. It’s interesting, I swear!).
The main reason Dublin came about as the first real established people dwelling place in Ireland was its location on the River Liffey. It was a maritime city, with sea farers having easy access to land and thus forming the first settlement in 841. It was deemed “Hiburnia”, or “Land of Winter” and many wealthy Christian colonies took up bank (in all senses of the word).
Soon after, hoards of Vikings sailed up the River Liffey. Unfortunately these fellas were not overly nice in their bid for some buck; they murdered, pillaged and burned their way through the area, so much so that by 988 Dublin was largely a Viking city. (Ever wondered why many a green Irish beanie has horns on it? Well, as I roamed around one of the many, many Carroll’s stores on the main avenue, I sure did). Dublin became the gateway to the world and the beating heart of the country.
Major move forward skipping many many years, to the great man of the city, Mr Daniel O’Connell. A big fuck off statue of the fella stands at the start of O’Connell Street (named after himself) and before O’Connell Bridge (ditto). The liberating lad was hugely influential in the political arena in the early 19th century, leading a peaceful political campaign to overthrow the long-reigning law disallowing Catholics the right to vote. As an imposing public speaker, the statue stands in a stance of giving a speech. “It was built in 1862,” Richie said. “But the seagull on his head was an addition in the 21st century.”
I was puzzled. Why on earth would the council add to a statue that’s till stood tall a good 150 years on? And with a seagull, no less? Surely the people of the public would’ve had something to say about the act of almost tarnishment?
I waited until Richie had finished his yarn on the Ha’Penny Bridge (built by those behind the Titanic) and raised my hand. “Why on blazes name” (for some reason my inner Alf Stewart keeps coming out in Ireland) “was a seagull added atop oldmate’s head?” I inquired.
Everyone in the group (a very big one, it must be said) tittered and chortled. “I was joshing,” Richie said. “Have a look now.”
I turned to look at cemented O’Connell again and saw the seagull had gone; it had actually been a real life bird having a perch and a plod around. And it has happened to have just stayed there the whole time I had been observing it. I felt like a right pillock. (In my Goal Keep, I didn’t have my glasses on nor contacts in. Though i never do on any other occasion than that of a written exam. I’m blaming the one long, one short eye syndrome for that unfly fuck up).
We continued along to Trinity College, and I assert that should you ever be in Dublin, you must go here. It’s spellbindingly beautiful, what with its cobblestoned architecture and castle like facades. The university was built in 1592 as a Protestant educational facility in a bid to keep ahold of young and able men; what with the only high end colleges being those in Cambridge and Oxford, when young lads finished school they would set off for the other side of he sea to study, met an English bird, get married and often not return. This meant the well versed and well in the know were thinning out, and Trinity College came about in a bid to counteract it.
As I gazed up and around my eye (long sighted one) caught ahold of the brilliant blue sky, strewn with milky streaks of cloud. All of a sudden I was reverted back to childhood, Our Lady of the Rosary School and marble season (I actually wrote a blog post on this month’s back, detailing my run in with Mean Macy) and a bomby knocker I scored in a fluke, “hit one get the other”. My absolute favourite marble – still in my rad Nike fanny pack residing in my wardrobe – was an exact, and I mean exact, pattern of that very same sky.
My thoughts were pulled back to the present and away from my childhood elation at my wondrous year 3 win by Richie’s lovely lilt; “That building over there is the (somehingsimethingsomething). It is like the Cathedral of Books. In fact under Irish law, it has the legal right to demand a free copy of every single book published in the UK and Ireland. And it was also used as the Restricted Section in the one and only, Harry Potter.”
Could my day get any better?
(Side insertion: Kylie told me here that should you ever be wanting to ship a load of books from Europe to anywhere else in the world, it is half price to do some from Paris. She had acquired a fair few volumes while studying abroad and was ind esprit about leaving them behind, but a pal of hers had consoled her with this insider tip. So if you ever come to Europe and decide to buy up on the old manuscripts, head to France my friends).
We strode through Temple Bar (have you the ins on that one in the previous post) then Kylie and I took off on our own as we were behind time and I had a 1pm meet up with Emma C (to come). So Kylie and I whizzed up to Christ Church Cathedral (disappointingly a fee – think it was €5 – to go inside. But the outside is sensational, and has an incredible statue of what I think is meant to be a homeless man but I’m claiming as a dementor, lying on a bench outside), dashed about Dublin Castle, flitted in and out of some bookshops and took some fab photos on randomly run into spots. (It was at this point I realised my Pippi Long Stocking-esque attire and almost wished I hadn’t let my still riddle self decide clashing colours and the hobo look were less important than the cold).
Then I sprinted off to go meet an old mate of mine, Emma. Emma and I met in the good old days of year seven at Baradene College, and proceeded to be put in the same netball team every single year until I left to move to Cambridge. An auditor, Emma had just so happened to have been sent to Dublin for four months or so to do the tax returns for her company (or something to do with money. I don’t know; the world of banking and what not is as foreign to me as Cuba) and on finding out she was there, I contacted her to have a hi-hi. And aside from a random run into at the Cambridge Countdown about three years ago, I hadn’t seen her in almost a decade. We roamed the rues and then had a cup of tea and it was just so so lovely to see her. I left feeling warm and happy with the world, and ready for “Free” Walking Tour round two – North side.
Now as I have mentioned previously, this Easter weekend is of immense significance as it is the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Uprising. I was going to write a post purely about the politics of Ireland leading up and beyond this event, but decided you probably really wouldn’t want to read what will no doubt be equivalent to a 90,000 word thesis on all the political parties. So here’s it in a succinct sentence or so.
(And if you are intrigued, watch one of the eight-minute ones on YouTube. I had a swell time watching one the other day).
The Easter Uprising was a rebellion that took place on the Easter Monday back in 1916. It was launched by Irish republicans who put their lives on the line in a bid to end British rule in Ireland and established Home Rule, whereupon an independent Irish state would be formed to self govern and what not. There are obviously way more details including barricades before the day and what actually occurred, but there’s the gist. (YouTube; go).
So the afternoon walking tour was all the more special as we were retracing the steps of the rebels (now seen as martyrs) on the very day 100 years later. It was so moving and poignant and extra special, because lots of Dublinittes themselves actually came on the tour too. We went to the Garden of Remembance (teeming with emotional Irish veterans, very moving indeed), saw statues and plaques of the main men involved and went to the GPO, the headquarters of the rebellion.
And of course being a national celebration, all around us were people parading about with Irish flags. Gaelic songs ringing out, with bandstands belting out tunes and young girls doing the Irish jig (almost challenged them to a dance off but decided to take agin such a daft notion). It was all patriotism and being proud and celebrating the emancipation of (most of) Ireland (I’ll explain that tomorrow when I recount Belfast) and it was beautiful.
As we were standing admiring a monument of James Connolly, an older Irish man came up to me and tiptapped me on the shoulder. “And whereabouts in New Zealand are you from?” He asked. It transpired he – Donal – had lived in Wellington for a few years in none other than the suburb of Eastbourne, with his daughter being born in none other than Lower Hutt Hospital, the facility that also was home to the popping out of one Anneke Poppy Rose Whatman-Wortman. “We call her Kiwi Kate,” he chuckled as we laughed over what a small world it is. He told me I was “gas” and that I was “very welcome in Ireland”, and then clamped me on the back in a fond farewell.
The tour ended at the site of the Potato Famine Monument in the Dublin Docklands. For those of you unaware, (succinctly), the potato famine took place in the 19th century, when the country was plagued by a famine that killed one million people – an eighth of the population – and crippled the country. The mass failure of the potato crop – the staple food of a vast portion of the people – meant many succumbed to disease, starvation and extreme financial hardship.
The piece of art depicting the devastation of the famine was more an interactive piece as you could walk through it and on we’ve it up close; extremely harrowing and moving, it was the ideal end to a very emotion driven tour.
Richie ended on saying, “Many people come to Dublin and want to see Temple Bar and Trinity College and what not. And that’s ok. But don’t look down on North Dublin. Because that’s where a lot of the heart is.” And I wholeheartedly agree.
A few quick observances:
– The abundance of Subways.
There are SO MANY SUBWAYS in Dublin! Like, on the mere first quarter of O’Connell Street I counted four. And they also serve as sort of convenience stores as well. I just found it rather odd, as I always thought it being an American chain it wouldn’t be so quite so big in a European city. Don’t know why, it just really gusted my brain.
– The churches: now, Dublin isn’t overly pretty. There are rows upon rows of red brick houses, albeit it all with brightly coloured doors, but you’re walking around in an expansive of mundane brick when all of a sudden there is a massive stone church rising high into the sky. It honestly happens all the time and each and every time I stop and stand still to stare.
– Compact: Dublin is extremely compact, meaning walking from one side of the city centre to the other is done so in a short space of time (so much to look at too which passes the watch hands round faster). Although the there is the option of taking the Luas – tramline and busline – I haven’t even thought about public transport as is the answer in the bigger metropolises of Paris and London; I just feel Dublin is done on foot. And I feel so gosh darn safe here.
– Looking out for you: I’m very impressed that at every light crossing, painted on the road is a “look left” or “look right” with an arrow, pointing you which way to see if they are any oncoming cars before you cross. Also, when you are standing waiting to cross, the little red man is accompanied by a count downer so you know how long you have to stand idle. So considerate!
– The Gaelic language has really surprised me; I don’t know what I was expecting, but it looks more Latin/Italian/at times French, whereas I think I was expecting maybe more… I don’t know. Maybe German-esque? Swiss sounding? Scottish similar? Whatever way, the look of the words on paper doesn’t seem to fit with the lyrical beauty it sounds.
– One of my favourite things to see – well, hear – is that of little Irish children. Hearing them speak can’t help but rise a big grin out of you, as they throw wobblies, beg for ice cream or just plain giggle and jostle. Before I came here I said I’d like to bring home an Irish lad to make my husband so I could listen to the Irish lilt all the time but I’ve changed my mind: maybe somehow snaffling a little Irish lad or lass is the way to go. (Almost said something so sheer stupid but then backtracked to take it out, but then decided to share as I am cracking up at the dumbness of it: had originally started writing that I would just get knocked up by a local fella and give birth to an Irish child back home, then realised they would learn to speak in the Kiwi environment and thus the Kiwi accent, rendering such a plan a dismal failure. Back to the man plan, it seems).
I felt like today I really did Dublin, and did it really well. But just in case I have Wednesday penned it as a Dublin-Up Day to redo what I may have missed and be a guest at the Guinness Storehouse.
They say it’s the luck of the Irish; I say I’m the lucky one to be part of it.