Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cockles And Mussels, Alive, Alive, Oh

Having seen the weather report in our area for last weekend (a month's worth of rain in 48 hours), and having failed to remember to plan anything for a trip to Prague (remembering stuff is not StereoNinja's forte and my ongoing depression battle is fucking with memory type things - I'm feeling quite a bit better by the way), StereoNinja and I decided on a last minute escape to Dublin for the weekend. (It's a good thing we did - while the flooding did not return to the levels it was at when our only road got swallowed by the Thames, we found out from neighbors that the power was out to the island from late Friday morning until Sunday afternoon. Everything in our house from the oven to the the heating is electric. It would have been like camping and as previously explained I do not camp.) And I'm kind of in love with it now.

I had never been to Dublin before, and StereoNinja had never managed to go there while also having a good time. Since I really don't know a lot about Ireland, I didn't have any real expectations of what it would be like. What it is like is awesome. Without travelling anywhere else on the Earth I haven't already been, I will say with total confidence that Dublin has the friendliest cab drivers in the world. Seriously, apart from one or two guys (we took cabs EVERYWHERE because we decided to escape rain by going someplace that was also pissing down rain because we're imbeciles) every cab driver wanted to know all about us and what brought us to Dublin, professed to adore America, gave informal city tours complete with history about buildings (which sometimes have no windows because England used to tax windows so they just built them without any because fuck you), gave solicited and unsolicited advice on what we should see and where we should drink, and generally rounded fares down to avoid anyone have to deal with coins which I thought was great because I despise them.

I was a bit worried before we got on the plane about whether there would be anything for me to eat there. Since I don't like potatoes, and the stereotype of Ireland is that everything is made out of potatoes there, I was somewhat concerned that I might starve to death. This turned out to be entirely unfounded. The restaurants in Dublin are universally spectacular, based on the fact that every time one of us said "Do you want to just go in here?" the food there was so good I had to be restrained from humping it. Maybe the best Italian restaurant I've ever been to in my life was in Dublin (amaretto tiramisu you guys. AMARETTO TIRAMISU). We went to a french place for lunch and I loved it, and if you remember I wouldn't eat much of anything when I was in actual France.

We also partook of Dublin's many museums. Recommended for nerds: The Science Gallery at Trinity College, currently running the "Fail Better" exhibit - a collection of inventions that didn't work, but which led to advances in science or some other positive contribution. Recommended for sheer hilarity: The Ireland Natural History Museum, which seems to basically be a room full of taxidermied animals of varying age, quality, and disrepair. The fucking massive extinct deer skeletons near the entrance are singularly impressive. The basking shark hanging from the ceiling, if I'm being kind, has probably seen better days. To be fair to the museum, the upper and lower floors of it are currently closed, but on the other hand it is severely lacking in any information on the animals apart from their name.
Deer: huge; impressive.
Basking shark: c'mon, man.

Our first cab driver, upon hearing that we wanted to go hear some real Irish music, directed us to the Brazen Head, which is self described as the oldest pub in Ireland. It was described by the cab driver as "nearly a thousand years old". It's actually a little over 900 years old, but I suppose "nearly a thousand" is correct depending on where you're rounding from. We met a nice German kid there, but did not meet the Brazilians who were also in the house. I know they were there because of the gregarious and extremely drunk Irishman who kept shouting at them, "BRAZIL? BRAZIL? THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN DUBLIN ALL THE WAY FROM BRAZIL?" There was a little group in the corner playing, who unfortunately had a broken amplifier and were therefore mostly drowned out by the noise from the table of vapid, oblivious women who were all talking at once AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE and failed to notice either the music or the collective death stare of literally everyone else in the room. That was until an enterprising guy at the next table started a shushing campaign that grew until the ENTIRE pub would hiss at them every time they got out of hand.

We also checked out the Guinness Storehouse, home of all things Guinness. For those of you Americans who have been to the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis, just, no. The Storehouse makes that place look like a miniaturized Lego model of a brewery, it is that massive. Additionally, when you get up to the top where your free pint of Guinness awaits you, not only do they take the time and care to draw you a lovely shamrock in your foam, but the 360 degree windows that make up the walls of the room give you an aerial view of the entirety of Dublin and beyond, all the way to the mountains in one directions and all the way to the sea in another. Of course, I used the opportunity to text Cap and taunt him because I am an asshole sister.
Enjoy your beer, insignificant speck of a human.

Dublin, with its abundant cabs, myriad of pubs, river flowing through it, cool stuff to do, nice people, great food and many college students, reminded me quite a lot of Chicago. Except for this one thing that happened that made me realize how spoiled Americans are. Because one thing we have precious little of in America is domestic terrorism. When bombs go off at the Boston Marathon or Oklahoma City or the Atlanta Olympics, they are weird, isolated things that shock us because it is not a thing that happens in America, so infrequently in fact that we don't even think about it and take that for granted. Meanwhile, in Dublin, in our first cab on the way to the hotel, the very friendly cab driver/tour guide/historian said to us, "This is a great area right here. It used to have statues absolutely everywhere, on all these corners. But of course the IRA blew them all up." And he said it with such casual resignation, because stuff used to blow up there - a lot - and that was his normal. So, you know, be aware of how lucky you are and shit, because you could think that all your statues blowing up is normal.

ANYBUTT, I fucking LOVED Dublin, as evidenced by everything that came out of my mouth while we were there was prefaced by "Next time we come, we should..." and that's just not something I typically say because I am of the television generation and easily bored. You should totally go there if you like doing things that are fun and/or being around nice people. You should probably also be okay with a bit of rain and own an umbrella.


Maya Berger said...

Yay Dublin!

Yeah, the nonchalance about bombings in Europe in General takes some getting used to. When the July 7th tube and bus bombings happened in London in 2005 I thought it would be like 9/11 and everything shutting down in grief and panic. But life went on really quickly, because they've been hit before, by the IRA, the Blitz, the French, the Vikings, each other.... They have a wartime mode that isn't just about sending soldiers overseas or even just about defending their land, but about this wonderful defiance. There were "open as usual" signs in shops and t-shirts that said "We are not afraid... unless it's a Dalek". Hell yeah!

Ahem, Dublin, right. That exhibit on failing sounds awesome! I hope you didn't return to too much rain chaos at home.

Hannah said...

I'm glad you're feeling a bit happier now. I love Dublin and really need to visit again, I just need to make sure I'm prepared for how ridiculously expensive it is to drink there.
And yeah, a lot of people have a slightly blase attitude to bombs here. I remember that after the second (failed) July 2005 attempt the overwhelming response was 'Oh, tubes are fucked again. Pub?' It's still one of the best impromptu piss ups I've ever had :-)

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

I'm not quite sure how true it is that the English used to tax windows... :-p

But yes, our taxi drivers can be pretty awesome, and we do have a disproportionately large amount of good Italian restaurants.

As for the bombs and stuff, well let's just say if Dublin was a bit of a shock to the system, Belfast, where you had military patrols and armed traffic checks within my lifetime (and even today there are huge walls separating some neighbourhoods, which are sealed and locked after dark) would be more so.