I’d be lying if I said that Ireland was one of those places I absolutely needed to see before I die, and lying is not a good way to start of anything. Growing up, the local Catholic Church hosted an “Irish Fest” once a year, which I never quite understood to be honest, being that the Church itself was named after St. Catherine of Siena. Siena as in Italy, according to the Village Pizza box anyway.
I hated going for numerous reasons: I didn’t want my name put in glitter onto a felt shamrock, I couldn’t drink beer which was the main reason the grown-ups went, I wasn’t to keen on Irish dancing, and man oh man if I had to sit through listening to Brigid’s Cross play for one more year in a row at my Mom’s insistence… You get the point (sorry Mom). American culture has an undeniable fondness for the Irish, which I didn’t grasp at a young age. In fact, the yearly assault of shamrocks, leprechauns, and Brigid’s Cross were almost enough to move Ireland into my “Yeah right, how cliché” travel list along with St. Patrick’s Day and the Chicago River being dyed green. Thankfully I got to experience the real Ireland which I’m pleased to say did not have any leprechauns and a surprising shortage of shamrocks.
We arrived in Dublin after an early flight from London’s Stansted. Call me blessed but I did not fly on the lovely Ryan Air, or any budget airline for that matter, until this trip and I quickly vowed never to do it again. Honestly, what are you paying for if you don’t get a complimentary drink, bag of pretzels, and at the very least a seat assignment? I love the British but have never been able to understand their fondness for queuing: over an hour ahead of time, for a flight that lasts approximately 55 minutes. See here where simple seat assignments would come in handy? Revolutionary, I’m telling you.
After landing were quickly and easily whisked off into the centre of the city. Dublin is not much as far as aesthetics go. After living in London for two years Dublin at first glance left a lot to be desired. It is however much more amenable than London. While we were waiting for our 2:00 check in at the hostel we had a walk around. Unbeknownst to us we walked almost the whole of Dublin in around 3 hours. It’s so small that you can walk across it in about 30 minutes flat if you wanted.
Walking along the River Liffey we came upon the Famine Memorial. This was the first sight of public art that gave me a shiver up my spine. The figures of slender, starving people and a dog stand taller than the people walking by next to them and the expressions on their faces are enough to make you feel sick to your stomach. This memorial however only commemorates 600 out of more than a million that died during An Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger.
As the history goes, the memorial commemorates the 1849 Doolaugh Walk in which 600 people from the town of Louisburgh walked 15 miles one way in hopes of food that was rumored to be given out by the landlord. They walked through the night to Delphi and when they got there had to wait until mid-day to see the landlord. He offered them no food and they embarked on the 15 mile journey back to Louisburgh, most collapsing and dying on the side of the road on the way back. Another landlord during the Great Hunger Denis Mahon, realized that the peasants working his land did not grow even one third of the food needed to sustain themselves so he spent the four thousand pounds to send them to Canada. Walking through Dublin I could see the history of Ireland alive and thoroughly remembered.
We made our way to O’Connell Street, which is one of the main shopping areas and home to “the Spire.” “What is the spire?” You may ask. Well, the Spire is the most remarkably insignificant thing your guidebook will ever tell you to search out. The historical statues leading up to it on either side are fair enough but why the Spire? It is, at its most complex, a pole sticking up into the sky. At night the top of it lights up which is the really only neat thing about it, but even that is done only so planes don’t run into it. I could see how it could prove useful for both Dubliners and tourists alike stumbling home or back to the hostel after a night at the pub, but other than that, I don’t get it. Apparently there was something nicer there until the IRA blew it up in 1966. So now we can thank them for “the Spire” and also the fact that there are no public garbage cans to be found anywhere in central London.
By now we were exhausted so we headed back towards Trinity College Dublin where our hostel was, checked in, had a bit of a lie down, and went off in search of food. The British and the Irish alike are not acclaimed for their food by most. I, however, love it. Meat and mashed potatoes? Everything covered in gravy? How can you go wrong? I settled into Irish beef with Guinness stew and some creamy mashed potatoes and hot squishy carrots. I really should have documented this meal with a photo, but certain someones (Ryan) think it’s weird when people take pictures of their food.
We made it back to the hostel and fell asleep watching, quite honestly, the most annoying show ever created, The Weakest Link. British style. Goodbye.