Girls in Ireland, Part II: Night Out on the Town

First things first, internet people–Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope it’s dripping with hearts, love, chocolate, flowers and all that jazz. And if it isn’t, don’t despair–count yourself one of many who like spending the day eating too much chocolate and trying NOT to think about what those “happy couples” are doing with their day. Now, enough of that “holiday” nonsense and on to what you really want–the next installment of my trip to Dublin!

Woke up bright and early on the top bunk in a room with 16 beds, total. Had a quick breakfast of toast and tea, rented a towel for 5 euro (3 of which I’d get back so long as I didn’t decide to run off with the world’s thinnest towel) and went to investigate the shower situation. One thing I don’t recommend when staying in a hostel is forgetting to pack your shower shoes. Didn’t wear my contacts in the shower to avoid looking at whatever I may or may not have been standing barefoot in. Thankfully, Mount Eccles Court was quite clean, and I probably didn’t contract anything awful. I pressed the single button and learned what that meant at last–lukewarm water that only lasted about 30 seconds after you let go of said button. After an awkward shower with one hand pressed on the button while the other hand tried to get my hair some sort of clean, I got dressed and prepared for a day out on the town with my lovely ladies Gina and Shannon (Lesley and Cassie, the rest of our intrepid crew, had a bus tour scheduled for the day).

We trekked off to the National Gallery to look at some gorgeous art, popped in to several shops, including a few of your typical tourist stops, and had lunch in a cute little cafe. Gina and I had delicious vegetable soup and homemade brown bread, and I had the joy of savoring a Diet Coke right out of the can.

 From there, we moved on to the National Library to check out an exhibit on W.B. Yeats, where we had the joy of seeing some of his original manuscripts and a case of his various high school awards. I got stars in my eyes and imagined my Power of the Pen trophies sitting behind glass one day. It’s not exactly likely I’ll be as well known as Yeats, but it’s good to have dreams, right?

After that, we did some more wandering and just generally trying to get used to the layout of the city, stopped in for a snack of tea and scones (naturally) and headed back to our hostel to relax and wait for Cassie and Lesley to return so we could all hit the food hall for dinner.

Chinese buffet at the food hall for dinner–tolerable and cheap, words I’m using more and more as I continue my travels. From there, we split up–Gina and Cassie headed back to the hostel for a night in and Lesley Shannon and I embarked on what would become a great pub adventure. Did a lot of searching for a place that fit our requirements–not too crowded, not too empty, preferably live music, and not too touristy. We were on this trek for a while, but finally ducked in to a little place called The Celt, where we found a table and I found out I like Smirnoff Ice. Asked a local to take our picture, which resulted in Shannon’s getting chatted up by him for a while while Lesley and I cracked up laughing because he was easily a good ten years our senior.

We moved on from there to check out a place we’d seen earlier, Madigan’s, because they’d had a sign out about live music. Sat at the bar, where Shannon treated us to a round of Bailey’s and I discovered there were TWO alcoholic drinks I liked (things are getting a little dangerous, aren’t they?). The bartender was about the nicest person I’d ever met (though, this is a hard thing to bestow in Dublin, where EVERYONE seems to be nice) and treated us to some free waters (not so easy to come by in Europe) with black currant juice added. The live music began, the singer called a great deal of attention to us, referring to us collectively as “Indiana” and asking us how “Mr.Jones” was doing–a joke that took us a minute to understand. This, naturally, drew the attention of some locals and we got “interviewed” by and Irish boy–we were a little skeptical because, though he DID have notebook and pen, he asked us what our ideal first date was and about our favorite “chattel lines,” which after some explanation we learned was the Irish equivalent of a “pick up line.” About an hour later as we got up to leave, said group of local boys invited us to have a drink with them, and naturally we accepted. Thus ensued a long night of us getting to know some real Irish boys and enjoying the singing and general atmosphere of the pub. We headed back to the hostel while celebrating our night of successful travel experiences, ready to catch entirely too few hours of sleep before our last full day in Dublin would begin.

It’s Cold and I Have to Learn Things (But it’s Okay, I’m in England!)

Hello, internet people! What have I been up to this weekend, you ask? Well, let’s see… only a day trip to Cambridge!

And of course, the adventure didn’t start there–Wednesday was a mandatory field trip for British Studies, in which we went to Lincoln and (hopefully) learned some things about the Cathedral, the Castle, and the Romans which will in some way be on our test. Yikes. Remember how this is school? I just did.

Anyway, no matter how much I think about that looming test (and my paper proposal, about which I merely know “Something about Chaucer” so far) I still can’t help but revel in the glory of each new place I visit. Even Wednesday, which may be best remembered by “The exceptionally cold field trip on which I was too irritated by the cold to learn much” was kind of spectacular. Some people say the grandeur of the cathedrals is starting to wear off because we’ve seen so many. But for me, I’m still impressed anew each time. Especially because I learned that the Devil lives in the North, so they put a darkened stained-glass window there but no doors. Because you don’t want a door for the Devil, obviously. And you need the window to protect from him. Fascinating stuff.

Next we made a brief detour by the statue of one of my favorite poets, Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Apparently, he grew up in this area. BUT even more excitingly, he was related to this (royal) woman who has her tomb in Lincoln cathedral. And you know who else was related to that woman? John Adams and J.Q. Adams. And do you know who is related to J.Q? That would be ME. So, basically, I’m not only descended from royalty, I’m in some (distant) manner related to a former poet laureate. And not just ANY poet laureate. The one who wrote The Lady of Shalott, my very favorite poem (probably… I mean, Prufrock’s a close second)! I was overjoyed to learn of my magnificent relatives. I mean, I’ve always loved being related to the president who skinny-dipped in the Potomac, but TENNYSON. Distant or no, I feel special. I mean, CLEARLY it’s where I get my writing skills. Right? Right?

Then I learned about some Roman stuff, but was outside and mostly just felt depressed. Although, I DID touch the oldest arch to have been in constant use. And there were CARS DRIVING UNDER IT. Imagine. To drive under a ROMAN ARCH. I envy them. Even if I fear I’d be doing it on the “wrong” side of the road.

From there, it was time to wander privately for a bit. Hurdled at breakneck speed down “steep hill,” which is QUITE aptly named until we found a lovely little tea shop. There, many of us had hot chocolate, but I of course took the opportunity to have tea. We also stealthily munched on our packed lunches, which consisted of various things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crisps (read “chips”, dear Americans), and Digestives (read… um… cookie-like things?). After that, we walked along to see what Lincoln had to offer. Which were a lot of cute little shops! Popped in to yet another fabulous book store, and then it was back up steep hill to the castle for our last educational endeavor of the day.

We were given our tour by a lovely old woman, and probably would have learned a lot, if only we weren’t such a large group being crammed in such SMALL spaces. However, we did get to see one of the four remaining original copies of Magna Carta, which was pretty cool. We also saw the former jail, and while we were being toured around there I mysteriously received quite a scratch to the face. Ghost?! My former Ghost Hunters addiction would like to say so, but I’ll just leave it at that. Finally, we got to stand on top of one of the towers of the castle, and from there we saw the most gorgeous view of the city. I wanted to walk around the walls, but sadly they had been damaged a while back and were still being restored to safety.

That was Lincoln, or at least, that was what I saw of Lincoln! Then it was back to school for Thursday and for a Friday class day, which is always a little bit sad. However, yesterday I headed off to Cambridge, the college town that hosts the various separate colleges that make up Cambridge University. Looked at some of the buildings from the outside (admission to get in? I don’t THINK so.) and then headed to the museum, which was full of some really cool old stuff. My especial favorites were the various Cupid figurines, such as “Cupid as a fisherman” and “cupid playing the hurdy-gurdy” and this FABULOUS porcelain Shakespeare. And I do mean fabulous, check out that rouge and that cape!

After luxuriating over some tea in the cafe and checking out the goods that gift shop had to offer (including a lovely book on how to British, which was lovely and comical, if potentially offensive) we headed to the Sedgwick museum, which houses all things Darwin. So basically, a bunch of really, really old rocks. A LOT of rocks. We toured around the rocks a bit, checked out some of his field notebooks, which was quite cool, and then made our way back to the bus to warm our chilled selves and try to sleep. All in all, a lovely day.

In other news, Valentine’s Day approaches rapidly for all us single ladies, but happily my friends and I have exchanged names and are exchanging gifts. My first one mysteriously appeared in my mailbox the other day, and I was quite excited. I mean, who doesn’t get excited about a Cadbury Caramel and a pink giraffe? Been a while since Valentine’s Day has been any fun–not since the old days of my high school boyfriend and his love of showing off. Gotta say, like most things, it’s better with my girlfriends!

We’ve also had our first real, British snow. It’s quite lovely, seeing a manor like this covered in snow. Especially because I don’t have to go out in it! Now it’s Sunday and on to the homework, because sadly this IS school and I am expected to learn something. Still, who can complain? I’m in the UK!