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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

From Dublin to Shannon

I mentioned that I had taken a bath in the evening. The Irish are very conservative with their resources. You will find switches and things that have to be flipped for appliances to work. They don't just stay plugged in and sucking up electricity.

The tub's faucet was of a design I had never encountered before. It had a knob on the left controlling the volume of water and the knob on the right had numbers for the water temperature--in Celcius of course! You might want to set this to your liking before you take your contact lenses out or take your reading glasses off.

I unpacked completely in order to repack and know where everything was. Remember that my husband had to repack things at XNA so that my bag was compliant with airline regulations. I found my letter from Fiona, the vital letter that was going to be what got me into the country. It was tucked in my journal the entire time.

FASHION CHOICE of the day: Green linen crop pants, white sports bra and t-shirt with Crocs. Still going for complete comfort since I'm still lugging that infernal bag.

Called hubby with international cell, but no answer. I don't know what my phone number is yet. I was hoping it would show up on his end and he could tell me.

Note: when you see a date, they Europeans usually do it day/month/year rather than our customary month/day/year.

Breakfast 8AM at Ardmore Hotel. I got the Ardmore Delight for $9.50 Euro which is 2 poached eggs on toasted focaccia bread with bacon (like Canadian bacon), tomato and hollandaise sauce. It was good, though I did not detect any hollandaise. Not sure if it was just forgotten or they decided to drop that practice. I didn't ask because I didn't really care. I am given blonde sugar for my tea, yay! I'm pleasantly surprised by this since I don't particularly like white sugar very much.

They played a variety of music including American folk music, Beatles, Gaelic music, international music, etc. You will notice that while we seem to hear overwhelmingly American music played around the U.S., the Irish are much more internationally inclusive in their choices.

I grabbed a nectarine off the breakfast bar on the way out, with their blessing. It was extremely ripe and scrumptuous. Make a note that Irish fruit and other produce can be below American standards of perfection. For instance, the nectarine was shriveled looking, but it was not in the least bit mealy. They serve their fruit much fresher than we do and so do not make a practice of artificially ripening things. Looking at a fruit stand makes you think the produce is rotten, but it's usually perfectly fine. They don't wax their fruit and it doesn't seem that their stuff is genetically modified to be overly large, etc. This is just locally grown stuff. Take it or leave it.

I was supposed to pack and go so that I would have tourist time in Shannon, but I wound up succumbing to another nap. This time it was about 2 1/2 hours and consisted of some realistic and strange dreams. I woke up just in time to pack and check out at noon. I ate lunch at the hotel as a matter of convenience. I ordered a half chicken with ham, roasted baby potatoes and fried potatoes, and a healthy portion of veggies. That's another thing. The Irish will serve you very ample portions of veggies. Get used to it.

I boarded bus 140 across the street from the hotel and took it to Busaras, which is the name of the bus station. I saw a sign on the way in one of the neighborhoods that said, "be quiet, be tidy." The buses do not announce their stops and at least in Dublin the drivers don't seem particularly eager to help you know your stop. And there are no regular signs like in Thomas the Tank Engine. You really have to be on your game.

A fellow passenger let me know that we were at O'Connell Street and I thanked him and got off. It was exactly as it was described by the concierge. There was an enormous spire in the middle of the square. It went so high that there was no way to get it in a picture completely. And that's another thing. Their statuary does not always include signs explaining the history or reason behind said statue. It's just there.

As instructed, I went down O'connell Street on the left. I was immediately greeted by an amazing sidewalk chalk artist. A few feet away there was a street band singing Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison among other things, like traditional Irish ballads. I was beginning to wonder if I was entering a Bohemian neighborhood like Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, or Greenwich Village in NYC. No, it was just that short block that had two artsy street attractions. The rest was a typical jumble of stores.

I walked several blocks to Busaras where the Bus Eireain Company operates. The bus takes 3 1/2 hours to Limerick, and then I have to transfer to Shannon. The bus was scheduled for 2:30, but it arrived late and we left at 2:50. I knew I was going to be arriving in Shannon too late to explore. Mental note: it would have been a better choice to either stay in Dublin and extra day due to jet lag OR just go straight from Dublin to Galway. It seemed like a good idea to meet up with the group, but in retrospect, totally not necessary. You can get all around Ireland on your own just by asking a few questions or looking things up on the internet.

I observed my driver and I will have to say that the Irish seem to drive a lot like I do. I've been accused of being a "late braker," and these folks drive with a vengeance and then really apply the breaks. On parts of the highway, the bus lane is actually way too thin for the actual buses and they can be seen sometimes straddling two lanes. In the bus lanes within the city, motorcycle/scooters and bicycles ride without fear. Drivers seem to be very patient with them.

I see many things going out of the city of Dublin that I'd like to investigate further upon my return. I want to ride on the river tour for sure, and take the highly recommended bus tour which is a day pass that takes you all around the city and drops you off at any attraction you want to see for however long you want to be there. You then reboard the bus and continue on at your whimsy.

At the end of town, every street has a bridge crossing the river. Most of them are romantically historic with rock and wrought iron, but then a modern one is just thrown in the mix. Did that bridge crumble and get replaced? Was it an afterthought? Who knows?

In the median of the highway were several boys in swim trunks, wet, looking like they were about to dive in again. How curious! My mind begged to ask, "Did your parents ask you to go and play in traffic as my own did so many years ago?"

Also note: men in neon orange coveralls sell newspapers in the streets, literally. They are right in the middle of traffic.

Esso gas is $1.33 Euro per liter, and as low as $1.20 at some other stations. So if there are 3.79 liters/gallon, then the price is $5.04 Euro per gallon. The Euro is at 1.25 exchange rate, so that's actually the equivalent of $6.30 American dollars per gallon. Yowza. No wonder people walk and ride bikes or drive little half-pint cars. I would, too!

In retrospect again, I think I would try to find a hotel or hostel closer to Busaras, or at least more convenient to the city center than where I was, under the same circumstances. I think things near the city center are slightly more expensive unless you go the hostel route. Still, you want to pack in as much time sight seeing as you can rather than waiting on and traveling on buses. Another point to consider in planning your trip.

The bus wound up stopping in Kildare. I notice a business named Heffernan's something. I can't tell what it is exactly, but I think Professor Heffernan would like to know. He visits Ireland regularly and might already know about it. If he does, he'll be able to tell me about it in great detail. If not, he'll be sure to investigate.

There is a lot of pastureland around the County Kildare. There are lots and lots of sheep initially, but then you see more and more cows and some horses, too. As you leave Dublin, you get into the country that W.B. Yeats initially held in such disdain for not being sophisticated enough. Of course, this is exactly the Ireland you want to see.

There are numerous roundabouts, and even a double roundabout. As I see them over and over, I find that they're really not as scary to the native driver as it would seem. As a foreigner, I'm sure it would take some getting used to.

Familiar businesses I've seen: Curves weight loss centers, Dominoes Pizza, and Burger King is advertising it's "Mad Burger." It asked you, "Can you handle it?" Interesting choice considering their problem with Mad Cow's disease a few years back.

I watch the countryside slip by the bus window, and am moved to try my hand at writing a poem in the style of Mary Oliver (very brief).

On The Road to Limerick 2010

Slipstream past the bus window
in Nenaugh, there was an old family cemetary
nestled within what looked like a courtyard
of moss grown castle walls
but was probably the ruins
of an old stone farmhouse

Further on, a recycler harbors
mounds of rusty metal and worn out tyres
while serene horses graze outside the gate
like noble junkyard dogs

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