domingo, 22 de marzo de 2009

Another kind of GREEN.

This post has nothing to do with jealousy, nor, sadly, with John Mayer. But it does have to do with the Emerald Isle (and not the shitty NC version) -- IRELAND.

I don't know why, but I seriously LOVVEEEEED Ireland. Perhaps it was the nice people, or the fact that they spoke English, or the buzz I had from the delicious Guinness. Either way, I kind of went cuckoo for the country. Screw Cocopuffs.

Getting There:
I guess I will write this blog in chapters. If you like the heading, read on. If you don't care to read about each part, then F*CK YOU. (K, that might be a bit heavy, sorry)

Angela and I left for the bus about 2 hours early, as both of us are trained by our parents to arrive at the airport early in case of security lines or any other unforeseen circumstance. As we waited patiently at the bus stop, the airport bus continued to whizz by us. After assuming we were at the wrong stop for several minutes, walking around with luggage in tow, asking Spanish people where the hell the bus stops, we realized that in order to attract the bus, it would be necessary to flag the sucker down. By the time we realized this, however, it was way too late to keep waiting for the bus, so we payed 300% more to take a cab. Wow, now that I'm typing 300%, I'm getting pissed off that I didn't throw myself in front of the bus to stop it. On the way to the airport, I nearly had a heart attack misreading my ticket. I thought it said our plane left at 3:20, meaning we'd only have about 30 minutes to get through security, to our gate, and to board the airplane. Luckily, I am illiterate and the time printed on the ticket was just our boarding time. Phew. I had had enough close calls that day, and was ready to have a nice & easy flight to Barcelona and then onto Ireland. And that we did.

When we got to Cork, I started to cry hearing the accent. Not really, but it is so adorable. "How long are ya staying?," says the customs man. In my memory, all of the accents are thick and reminiscent of the Lucky Charms Leprechaun. In fact, the accent could make just about the biggest jerk on Earth charming. Think about Saddam Hussein -- if he had an Irish accent, would things be different for him? Probably not, that was a bad example. But what about Rosie O'Donnell? An Irish accent would make her less of a raging and frightening butch.

So, back to the relevant story and not one of my mental ramblings. We get off the bus and are smack-dab in the middle of Cork. Trouble is, we are not sure what street we're on. Within milliseconds of me whipping out the map I got from the airport, a very cute guy was at my side asking, "Do you need directions somewhere?" WOW. I was flabbergasted, and not only by his curly hair and tallness. Would ANYONE in Sevilla offer help to a clearly lost tourist? NO! NEVER! NUNCA! That is when I knew I was going to love Ireland. Angela and I got to talking with cute boy and his French friend. It was weird, because French friend had been to Sevilla before. After talking about how beautiful it is, he said the following:

"Isn't it weird how you're American, I'm French, we're in Ireland, and we're talking about Spain?"

Again, wow. It really is weird the people you meet and the connections you have. Thank you, frenchmen, for putting that into perspective. And while we're at it, thanks for crepes and french fries. I love that country.

So, onward to our hostel we went. It wasn't that far, but it was up a hill, and the wind kept blowing down it, making a sort of tornado-tunnel we had to fight up to Sheila's. But we got to the place around midnight and both crashed after a long day of traveling. We had hoped to snatch bottom bunks in our 8-bed dorm, but sadly our roommates had already claimed 6 or the 8 beds, leaving Angela and I on opposite sides of the room on top bunks.

Oh, our roommates. Now that's another chapter in and of itself.

Roommates:
How about that segway, eh? So, our roommates. Like I just said, there were 6 of them. Angela and I get to the room, and (luckily) it was empty. I wouldn'tve been in the mood to meet anyone as weary a traveler as I was, but I did notice our friends had leprechaun hats and liquor bottles strewn about the room. Little did I know...

About 2 in the morning that night, the drunken roomies arrived with absolutely no care that Angela and I were peacefully sleeping. Even someone shouting, "Oh, f*ck, there are people sleeping in here," was not enough for them to whisper or even turn off the lights. I did forgive them a little because they had Australian accents, but that didn't make it much better. Also, and perhaps the best part, was that their one friend snored like a goddamn frieght train. I wish I was kidding. If you can imagine what Jabba the Hut would sound like snoring with all of his girth, that is what this poor woman sounded like for 3 nights solid. And no, I never got used to it. It my personal hell.

The next morning, our roommates must've had a tripped plan, because my god they were up early. And not only were the up early, they were talking above the necessary level when two people they didn't know were sleeping in such close quarters. Highlights include the guy beneath me offering what seemed to be the entire free world (because of the volume of his voice, duh) some juice, then farting, then spraying a shitload of Axe or the Australian equivalent. With every fibre of my being, I hated these people. I didn't think they'd be able to redeem themselves, but they did that night.

I'll get back to the day trips in a minute, but it's important to make our roommates seem less villainous than I just did. The next night Angela and I were just about to call it a night and head off to bed after a long day of sightseeing on less sleep than we'd hoped for (because of our roommates), when two of them came in and accosted us until we decided to join them for a night out. They kept offering us "swigs" of alcohol with Red Bull. And even though we accepted, they kept disappearing at the hands of one blue-eyed man whose name I didn't know, but who I will nickname "March Madness," because, well, he LOVES March Madness. But we went out with the Australians to a bar/dance place in the middle of Cork. As you may know, I enjoy a good center-of-attention night, and we were just that. We were the only ones dancing for a good hour and a half. Angela and I also scored free Guinness from my bunkmate, Steve, who I nicknamed the Beer Leprechaun. Highlight of the evening was when a group of drunk Irish men tried to take a picture of my face and I refused. They then paparazzi'd Angela. Then an old Irish man asked me for a kiss on the cheek (nope). I'd say it was quite the solid evening.

Blarney:
Day 1 of sightseeing kicked off in Blarney, 8 km outside of Cork. It's basically this really old Castle with beautiful grounds surrounding it. Oh, and of course, the Blarney Stone is there. You probably have heard the legend that if you kiss the stone, you will be given the gift of eloquence. I on the other hand, think I might've gotten some sort of disease after kissing a place where so many Irishmen have supposedly pissed. (That's not the first time I've said that one... *wink*) We got to kiss the stone after checking out all the old rooms of the castle. After kissing the stone, I shouted, "Man, that was really sensual." I guess I had forgotten that people in Ireland speak ENGLISH and could understand my awkward comments. The guy who was taking pictures of us kissing the stone laughed. I guess the gift of eloquence takes time to really take effect.

We also took a walking tour of the grounds of Blarney. This included a 45-minute walk around a lovely little lake. On our way there, I spotted a bull with an actual ring through his nose (!). I really have only seen that in cartoons. We also went to the Rock Close, a part of the grounds with, well, rocks. There are also waterfalls that are lovely, and wishing steps. According to legend, there is a Blarney Witch that will grant your wish if you walk up and down the wishing steps thinking only of your wish. Oh, and you have to do it with your eyes closed. Oh, and the walk back down is backwards. But yea, we owned that shit. I can't tell what I wished for though, because it'll ruin everything.

Cork:
We left Blarney after seeing basically everything the town had to offer & headed back to our home base, Cork. Despite having walked ALL DAY, we decided to try and find the University of Cork, which is really pretty. Too bad it was literally off the map and we didn't realize how far it was until we got there. We had literally walked allllll day, and then on top of that we added the hike to UCC. Yikes. We were tired and regretting that decision a bit. But we did stumble upon a beautiful cathedral (shocking, I know. Europe has beautiful cathedrals?!) and a street fair for St. Pat's. After all that walking, we were completely famished and decided to go out for a real Irish dinner. Can I just say that we failed, epically? Apparently, all restaurants in Cork either a) close really early or b) are way too expensive for two broke traveling students. Much to my dismay, the only place we could find to eat in our price range was Subway. Oh god, I hate myself just typing it.

The next day we spent the morning in Cork before deciding to go to Kinsale. Hmm... basically all we did then was go to this street fair for St. Pat's, which was basically a feeding frenzy. Fine by me. I got some delicious hummus, one of my fave snacks that I've been missing for the past few months. We also got some Irish Soda Bread, because, well, we were in GD Ireland. It was also delicious (and thank god, because we bought an entire loaf). After wandering for a while, it was time to catch our bus to Kinsale.

Kinsale:
God, ANOTHER AWESOME SEGWAY! This is why I'm a Journalism major. Anyways, we hopped the bus to Kinsale around 2:30 and got there about 45 minutes later. What a lovely little town it was (gay phrase, sorry). I really liked Kinsale. It had lots of rocks, water and green -- aka it was just so IRISH I couldn't take it. We decided that we wanted to go see this old and probably historically important fort at the edge of Kinsale, so we took the 2 mile trek up and down a huge hill to get there. Granted, the hike was a very nice one, that didn't make up for the disappointment we faced at Charles Fort once we arrived: we MISSED the last admission by 10 minutes. BYE. And the lady wouldn't even let us in despite our thickest American accent. So we were stuck walking around the perimeter of the fort (too bad it was an actual fort, and a pretty good one at that, or else I would've snuck in somehow). Luckily, it was a gorgeous day out and we could see some lovely natural sights from the area, like water and rocks and green stuff. I like Ireland. (The last 10 words make me sound like a 3 year old).

We hiked back into town after realizing that we had also missed the tram back from Charles Fort (again, awesome luck!), but it didn't really phase me anymore because the views were so pretty. We got back into town and were friggin starving, so we hit up the grocery store and got the food of champions: cookies, Rollos & Starburst. As we were fattening up on the bench, this stray devil dog comes out of NOWHERE with fire in his eyes and runs right at us. As you know, I am a dog lover at heart, but after my experience in Cadiz (see my post about Carnaval. If you don't care enough to look, I got semi-bit by a dog on the beach. Cool.), I assumed the bastard was out for blood. He came over to us and, with his nose, knocked our cookies off the bench and ran back to the hell from which he came. Really, dude? At first I was mad that he would be such a bully to two unsuspecting tourists, but then I realized: This dog was the fat fairy!! Yes, it all made so much sense: he was preventing me from making the horrible mistake of eating a sleeve of chocolate cookies. So thank you, matted stray dog. I'm sorry I judged you, and I hope you continue doing such positive work for the people of Ireland.

Dublin:
Monday morning we bussed it up to Dublin. And after our 4 hour bus ride through the gorgeously green countryside, we made it and were ready to book it to the hotel & sightsee. However, bookign it was not in the cards for us. In fact, it took us over an hour to find our hotel because we continually got shoddy directions. My favorite was this drunk guy, covered in tattoos who kept trying to help the policeman who was helping us give directions. I think I'd rather trust a man in uniform than a drunk red-faced man in a wifebeater, but thanks.

After getting to the hotel (which wasn't really that far), we headed out towards the Guinness Factory, our number one sightseeing destination. We hopped the bus out to it because it was semi-far & entered into the beer mecca. It was pretty cool despite it not teaching ANYTHING about the brewing process. It basically showed the ingredients, talked about the history of Guinness, then told you over & over that Guinness was the best beer EVER. Oh well, I enjoyed myself. We then got to the top of the factory, where you could redeem your entry ticket for a fresh pint of Guinness and look out over Dublin through their 360-degree glass walls. It was pretty sweet. Even sweeter was when I realized I hadn't eaten much all day, and that a pint of beer would get me nice and tipsy. What a loser. We took the bus back towards the center, & the tipsyness reminded me of freshman year P2P trips. Good times, good times.

We got off the bus near Trinity College, and decided to take a gander around the campus, which is absolutely beautiful and old, kind of like Barbara Bush. I loved it. It actually reminded me a bit of UNC, and brought a tear to my eye. Not really, but I do miss UNC (sometimes). We then decided to find Oscar Wilde's house, because I thought there was a monument to him there. When we finally found the PLAQUE in his honor that was nailed on the wall of a regular Irish building, I felt more than deceived by my guidebooks. I searched a tipsy hour for this? Aww hell naw. Luckily, though, right around the corner from his old house was a CARNIVAL!!!! Angela and I couldn't resist taking a ride on the ferris wheel. That sucker was huge, though, and someone whose name I won't mention that wasn't me but has blonde hair and was my travel partner started screaming at the top because it was so freakin tall. It was good fun though, but nothing could distract me from my grumbling stomach (hate myself for that lame statement), so we went off for a delicious plate of Shepherd's Pie.

Day 2 in Dublin was unbearable at first, because it meant my darling Angela was heading back to Spain. As she headed out, Elle headed in after her trip to Northern Ireland. The two of us, along with two of her friends, headed out to O'Connell Street for the Parade. And damn, it was awesome. I am 5, so I really enjoyed every minute of it, especially because I've never seen a parade before. That really hurt me, though, when Elle & her friends decided they wanted to leave early and get to a pub before the masses did. Although I agreed it was a good idea, I wanted to catch the end of the parade, so I stayed by my lonesome. Big mistake. The parade ended about 5 minutes after they left, and PURE CHAOS ensued. The Irish Police did a pretty poor job of crowd control, because two waves of people collided right in front of Trinity College, causing a gridlock of creepily-close people for a good 30 minutes. If you know me, you know I hate dancing close to people, let alone having some creepy guy in a crowd all up on me for 30 straight minutes. I am not claustrophobic, but I felt like I was going to panic or throw up. Eww. I can't type about it anymore, it's bringing me back.

I then realized that I wasn't going to find Elle and her friends, and none of the Irish payphones would let me call her (although they might've given me an STD -- payphones are SICK). So, I decided to do some sightseeing by myself. I went to St. Patrick's and Christ Church Cathedrals, as well as Dublin Castle and the Book of Kells. I also checked out O'Connell Street and Grafton Street, but mostly everything was closed because St. Pat's is actually a real holiday here, and not just an excuse to drink like it is in the US. I went back to the hotel where, thank god, Elle was sleeping. We later went out for dinner & drinks at Temple Bar. What a crowd. The best part was meeting Sean and Carl, two Irishmen who were incredibly free with the vocabulary they used. Bluntly put, they kept dropping the n-word. It was actually really awkward because, obviously, we don't say that in the US under any circumstances. But, apparently, it's okay in Ireland, and Sean just kept goin with it. Oh, the people you meet.

The next morning... gah, I don't even want to go into it. I was sad enough to leave Ireland, but add the stress of a late airport arrival to that, and I was all sorts of pissed. We got to the airport with only about 40 minutes to get tickets, get through securty, and board our plane in time. And because we flew Ryanair, I didn't want to be late, because they will use any excuse to charge you or kick you off the flight. So, when I saw the 10-lane line to go through security, I started panicking. I then pulled myself together, because freaking out wasn't going to get us on the plane on time. Cleavage was (kidding). Actually, it was my smooth talking combined with my leprechaun hat that got us through the line faster. Observe: They had a special line for business travelers & for domestic travelers. If we could just take that line, it would cut waiting substantially & we'd definitely make our flight. I walked up to the woman and begged her to let us through. Her supervisor (I think) then came over and said, "Because I like yer hat, you can go ahead." Jackpot. We cut half of the line & rushed through security. Then, our gate was (of course) one of the furthest, so I sped-walked down there, got in line, and made it. The rest of the day was really smooth sailing from there....

But man, I really loved Ireland. I doubt anyone is still reading at this point, but if you are, pat yourself on the back. You are reading a masterpiece in the making, my friend. One day you'll be able to say you knew me & you read the world's longest blog about Ireland that I spent an hour writing instead of doing homework. You go, Glen Coco. You go.

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