Sunday, September 7, 2008

GUEST POST: Ireland through Andrew's eyes

The British mind is a complex thing. In it, fries become chips and chips become crisps excepting when they are accompanying a Mexican meal in which case they are still chips. Thus it came to be that we found ourselves in Ireland, renting a car powered by petrol to drive across their tiny island on the side of the road usually reserved for oncoming traffic.

Robert, who shall remain nameless, had decided that the renting of a car would lead to untold pleasures by allowing us to explore the beautiful, rustic but mainly un-get-to-able-by-train Irish countryside. Looking back (many months now; sorry it’s taken so long) he was right. The Irish country is lovely as are its people, the Irish. We picked up our mutant of a car in Dublin on our second day. Stretched out before us were the hills of Ireland, ripe for the driving. All that stood in our way was my gross incompetence.

Manual transmissions are wonderful things for people who are in to that sort of thing. Sadists, mainly. Robert, for a time. I on the other hand have never been that sort of person. My experience with three on the tree spans all of one afternoon  in Tallahassee with my father driving approximately five miles round trip. Hold on one, second, google maps will be consulted… 300 miles round trip. A task, indeed.

The little stick thing is on the wrong side, my body is on the wrong side and I keep looking left as I pull out into traffic. Oh and I can’t get from 0mph to not 0mph without a considerable amount of stalling and swearing. The Eaton children were excited, this much I can assure you.

As it is now months later, you have rightly guessed that I did not, in fact, drive us into a ditch, killing us all in a foreign land. That was a plus. With the occasional frustration set aside, we had an absolutely wonderful time. We drove through some beautiful little town full of beautiful little people (many of which we successfully avoided striking down with our automobile) out to the Cliffs of Moher. Maybe Alexandria can make that sentence go to a site about the actual Cliffs. If not, trust me; they’re lovely.

Along the way we stopped at a very old little pub for some nice food, drove through pouring rain, pulled off to get coffee at a carbon-copy of a New Jersey outlet mall and played four incredible games of 20 Questions. Roof tile. Try that one on for size. Answer: bigger than a bread box.

We landed early on Thursday after a little bit of trouble on the London end. Things you shouldn’t have in your backpack as you go through security and they’ve told you to take out your electronic devices: calculator, another calculator (dork), bottle of Diet Coke, bottle of water, iPod, sunscreen, digital camera, llama. Things found in Robert’s backpack whilst attempting to board a plan in London: see previous list.

Upon landing  we checked in and got to exploring the city of Dublin, paying close attention to all things James Joycean and all things hops-including. While medium and large Eaton both enjoyed our Guinness tour for the inclusion of free beverages, we got much more out of the most stunning view of the city one could imagine. In fairness, they liked that bit a lot too but since we think beer tastes overly similar to stale bread in liquid form, the view was really all we had going for us. Either way, worth the price of entry.

We also went to Temple Bar for a few minutes. There was a Hard Rock. We left. The Eatons were in a fish and chips kind of mood so we hustled around the city for a while and finally happened upon the best fish and chips in the city. Or at the very least, the best fish and chips we ate while we were in the city. All in all a relaxing, fermented day.

The day after the drive (see how we skipped right over that one? You can go back and read up if you’d like and then come back to find out about day three; I promise I don’t mind) we hopped on the local train and took it around the bay to the town where Joyce lived in his tower for a while. This is the setting for the beginning of Ulysses and one of our highlights from the trip. The little museum was full of odd Joyce bits and bobs. Visitors are treated to views of the ocean from the top of the tower and views of history inside. The number of handwritten letters and first editions was almost upsetting.

We met up with the Eatons (Robert and Diane since only the Robert bit could be inferred from the above ranting) and went off in search of a spot of lunch. We found and ate said lunch and then did a bit of wandering. Still pretty. That night (Saturday) we all walked down to a restaurant on the water near our hotel. It was in a boat. If I were to come here and tell you the floor was level, I would be a liar. The food was on the level though and we once again toasted our successful survival of foreign drivers and homegrown incompetence.

Our final day we went to an Irish cultural museum in the morning. There was a magnificent Viking ship in the courtyard. Apparently this wooden beast had sailed from some Scandinavian country all the way to Ireland for the sole purpose of sitting in a little stone courtyard. Very nice.  Lunch was taken at the museum cafĂ©. Diane discovered the nature of black pudding after consuming more than half of her portion. That nature is blood, just so we’re all on the same page.

Finally, we went to see the Book of Kells. It was incredibly impressive. Each day (week? Month? Fortnight?) the page is changed so that frequent visitors can see different parts of the book. Also I bet they use the whole page turning thing to initiate new librarians or historians. “So as you can see we’re on page… oh god. Oh god!” “What!? What!?” “Someone’s changed the page! You can’t touch this! It’s been on that same page since we found it!” “Oh no; they told me I could! I..I didn’t know! I swear!” “Just kidding, Tommy O’Shea. We turn the page each furlong.” “…You’re a real jackass Michael.”

Anyways, nice book, good display, history all around us. Alexandria and I took off after that. We said our tearful goodbyes and trudged back to the Dublin airport, flew the 45 minutes back to London and called it a day. It is a trip I highly recommend. Especially if you can take a couple of Eatons with you.


Robert said...

i had, like, everything in that bag. i had a plastic bottle with a scalpel suspended in liquid, with a detonating/fuse-like device comin' out the top.

Michelle said...

and a corkscrew too, i bet.