Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Quay" is pronounced "kay"... by the way...

ORIGINAL POST: 2 June 2008

Let me just start by telling you how weird it feels to be in an English-speaking country after being surrounded by all sorts of languages EXCEPT English for 4 months...

...after a short stop in Brussels, Belgium, my two companions and I were swept off across the English Channel.

"Hey, where was that post!?" someone might ask. Okay, so Brussels was extraordinarily rainy and I was only there a few hours... that equals bad photos - not worth a blog.

Across the English Channel we flew on the tiny airline Aer Lingus. So small, in fact, we had to look VERY hard to find their single check-in line in the Brussels airport. Then, if that doesn't give it away...

...Dublin is mighty pretty this time of year.

And as I said in the first line, we were in our first fully English-speaking country in the better part of 4 months. In fact, we got accustomed to just talking out-loud about subjects that no normal person would talk about out-loud in public. But, all that aside, it was literally exciting to simply tell the cab driver our destination verbally and not having to write it down.

Furthermore, we talked to him the entire 20min drive. That's when I was corrected as to the correct pronunciation of "quay". And checking in? We could talk to the receptionist! Yep, you don't appreciate being able to communicate until it is extremely difficult.

We stayed at Abigail's Hostel on Aston Quay less than a block from the O'Connell Bridge. Its in an amazing location as backs up against the Temple Bar. Okay, let me clarify something: the Temple Bar is NOT a "bar" in the classical sense. There are pubs there (and there's even one called "The Temple Bar" but it is just the major pedestrian street where everyone gathers in the late afternoons and night. There are shops and pubs and hotels and even Hard Rock Cafe - Dublin, but its very similar to Beale Street in Memphis or Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

Anyways, morning comes and it was a mighty fine day to be outside.

The city along the River Liffey under blue skies and fluffy clouds, what could be better?

My companions and I decided to do Dublin as fast as possible because we had ANOTHER flight that night to our final destination in Europe. So, we decided to join a hop-on-hop-off bus tour through the city. This, my friends, is the perfect way to do a large European city if you don't have very much time and can't drive.

The bus ticket was 6.50Euro and it lasted all day. The way it works: when you get on the first of these special double-decker buses and you can get off at any of the stops and 10 minutes later, another bus will come to the same stop. So, you can get on and off these buses all day. The line is the same and it takes you to all the major stops.

Also, the bus driver constantly gives information about the area from the driver seat.

Well, the first stop of this tour was Dublin's famous center for higher education: Trinity College.

Or more appropriately: The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin. No, really, that's its "real" name.

Why is it notable?

Well, mainly it has some REALLY famous alumni. I noticed not long ago that my college has a wall of "notable alumni". But I GUARANTEE it doesn't have any names on it like the ones Trinity College can boast.

Literary greats such as Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, and Jonathan Swift are immortalized on these pedestals, as well as Dracula writer Bram Stoker, who grew up just a block or two away on Kildare Street.

Other than for the point of being random, I almost left this photo out of the blog. However, if you look to the top left corner of the photograph, there is a bronze sphere. I did not notice this at the time I was there, but when I was going through these, I noticed it.

I did a little digging and found out that these sculptures - identical to the one in the Vatican Museums that I had seen earlier - are a set of five. I didn't get a good shot of this one, but this is the one in the Vatican a week prior:

They are called "Sphere Within Sphere" by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro and now I've (rather accidentally) seen the two European ones. I wonder how hard it will be to see the others... the rest are in the States.

Anyways, I digress...

As I mentioned Kildare Street a moment ago, the National Museum and Art Gallery is on Kildare Street. For a free museum, its mighty nice. I've seen better Egyptian sections, but I VERY much enjoyed their main attraction: the Bog Bodies. These naturally-mummified corpses were preserved in a peat bog for thousands and thousands of years until peat harvesters uncovered them a few years ago.

Sorry, no photos in the Museum, but they were definitely very cool. Even though the bodies were slightly mutilated by the compression of the peat moss (not to mention whatever killed them in the first place) it was easy to see their original hair color, nails, and even fingerprints! Not bad for thousands of years old!

Well, if you ever venture to Dublin, you mighty run across Miss Molly, Dublin's favorite "working girl"...

...yep, its a statue to... yep, "working girls".

Moving on...

Much of Dublin is covered with towers such as the clock tower in the Upper Courtyard near Dublin Castle.

...or the well-known St. Patrick's Cathedral down the street:

But of COURSE it would be covered with scaffolding! What major landmark in Europe isn't?

Look close and you'll see these little dudes near the doors of St. Patrick's:

Only slightly creepy.

But, if you spend any time in Dublin, you'll soon realize it is heavily industrialized and literally covered in construction - as you can see by the absurd number of cranes on the skyline - more than any other city I'd seen thus far.

Now for a little story: on the hop-on-hop-off bus near Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced "jail), I had to sit near the back of the lower level of the double-decker bus. Since the back of the lower level doesn't even have a window, I decided to move to the only other open seat - beside a girl about my age in the front seat.

Well, since I didn't want to be excessively awkward for sitting there (and since it'd been a while since I actually could talk to anyone on the street) we began a little small-talk conversation. She was a student from Australia (such a freaking cool accent for a girl!) and she was in the UK by herself for a few weeks touring around.

It was only a few minutes to the Kilmainham Gaol, so we were unable to talk very long; however, it was already mid-afternoon and our flight out of the Dublin airport was rapidly approaching (not to mention my other two companions were literally starving), so when she asked if I was going to visit the Kilmainham Gaol... It was VERY tempting, so my goodbye to her was reluctant, but I wished her safe travels and stayed on the bus.

She nodded with an "Aww, that's too bad" and left the bus with a thank you to the driver and a little wave to me.

Seconds later, out of nowhere, the bus driver turned around to me and said, "Wow, my friend. Thot was a reeeeeealy silly thing you did there! Reeeeely silly! And yuu were givin' it yur best, too!"
"Well, our flight is coming up and my companions want to get something to eat before...," I replied.
"Loook," he pointed to the door of the Gaol, "she's turned arund and she's'a waitin' to see if yur gonna come. Yuu know yuu want to!"
"But nuthin'! It is 3Euro to get into the Gaol and I will give yuu 3Euro to get off this bus!"

Nevertheless, I had to stay on.

"Yuur bein' reeeeal silly, my friend. Reeel silly!" he shook his head turning back around to continue on his route.

All this time, Bethany and Melissa were rolling with laughter. They had seen the entire exchange from the time I sat down with the Australian girl and were thoroughly enjoying the whole thing.

We stayed on a few more stops after that until we were back to the restaurant, but he turned a couple times and laughed and said, "Wow, that was silly!"
I would just smile and shrug, "You can't win them all."

Before we got to our final stop, the bus driver turned to me and said, "Yanno, if yuu were stayin' anuther night, I'd'd take yuu and yur friends out and get yuu to prove to me yur not as silly as I think yuu are right now. And I'm serious 'bout that, too!"

Now I've had a lot of exchanges with locals in 4 months of travels like this, but this one was one of my most memorable.

So, needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Dublin. How much fun would it be to hang out with a local Dubliner and see THAT side of Dublin!? Alright... gotta go back...

But the only little pub we saw was the place we ate lunch. Whoa... branching into the experimental street photography...

...taken through one of those angled windows of the pub.

And then to another airport terminal...

...and the random photography as we play the waiting game...

...waiting for a flight with British Airways.

And it was a much longer wait than we expected. It was delayed 30min or so...


...I could have had time at the Kilmainham Gaol... for free.

Silly me...


Stay tuned. Only a couple left!
~Noah D.

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