8.23.2015

Dublin Our Fun - COGBRAI Day 6 (Non-Biking)

I almost missed the bus from Galway to Dublin IE this morning because I went to the wrong bus station, a block away from and out of sight of the right bus station. But I made it with a couple minutes to spare.

I sat next to a group of annoying Spaniards who chit chatted a great deal. The chit chat wasn't that annoying but the kid sitting right next to me kept taking selfies of himself for some reason. He must've taken 50 selfies. I put my neck pillow on, earplugs in, and closed my eyes to try to block it all out, but before too long, the Spanish kid beside me nudged me and dangled his phone charger in front of me while pointing to the floor below the bus window near my feet.

"What do you need?" I asked. I finally deciphered that he wanted to plug in and charge his smart phone, presumably because he had used up so much battery taking selfies. Not wanting a phone cord across my lap, I indicated in universal sign language that we should trade seats, which we did. But it turned out there was no outlet next to my prior window seat. He ended up using a backup battery the girl sitting in front of us had. He left me in peace after that.

When we arrived in Dublin, it was a bit of a hike to the Russell Court Hotel, where we were staying, from the bus station, pulling our suitcases behind us. Dublin streets are narrow and overcrowded, but we pounded it out.

The hotel manager on duty let us check into our rooms, even though it was only half past noon ("half 12" in Irish), so we were able to ditch our luggage and freshen up a bit before heading down the street to a place called Neon for a late lunch at 2 PM. There we were joined by some Irish colleagues of TEAM CRAZY BIRD, Fergal and Declan. Neon is a curry and noodles place. I had a yellow chicken curry with noodles (rice was the other option), which was delicious, and washed it down with an Irish microbrewed IPA of some type.

The Russell Court Hotel is a run down and kind of seedy place with a night club (discotech) in back. The staff are pleasant but aloof and you sense there is a surliness beneath the facade. Dublin in general is a rather run down city.

After lunch, the team broke into small groups that each went their separate ways. Jason and I took a quick power nap back at the hotel, which is when we discovered how noisy the trams going past our room's windows were.

"I was wondering why they had complimentary earplugs in the bathroom," I commented.

"We will definitely need them tonight," Jason said. "There's a party in the nightclub tonight that goes till 7 AM."

After the sleepless power nap, Jason led me to some shops near the hotel where we picked up some souvenirs. Shopping done, we hit a pub called McDaid's for a pint and watched some of the hurling world series on their telly. Hurling is the sport of Ireland, a cross between hockey, lacrosse, baseball, and soccer.

We had bangers and mash at Bruxelles across the street from McDaid's, and then dropped our shopping bags off at the hotel before regrouping with the team at 9 PM at a pub called Against the Grain. A standard night of pints and pub crawling ensued, though I drank conservatively to save Euros for the trip to the airport in the morning. Pub number two was called O'Donovan's, on the other side of St. Stephen's Green, the Central Park of Dublin. O'Donovan's was interesting. It was essentially two bars on opposite sides of an alley that had been partially covered over to make a quasi-outdoor beer garden area. It wasn't outdoorsy enough though because the cigarette smoke was sickening. A couple people in our group were fighting colds and the smoke did not help, but they powered through it.

It had started raining fairly heavily while we were at O'Donovan's, so we cabbed it to the third pub, Hogan's on Fade St. By this point I was adhering to a policy of only drinking when a beer was bought for me. I had sampled most of the standard pub beers already previously in the week and I have never acquired much of a taste for Guinness.

Jason and I left the party after Hogan's Pub on Fade Street, to at least get some sleep before Sunday's morning departure. Though we could have walked back to the hotel, it was still raining, so we took a taxi and got out at Bobo's, a fast food eatery around the block from the hotel. A couple of decent burgers rounded out our night.

With earplugs, the street noise and nightclubbing didn't keep us up.

Visitors to Dublin seem to have a great time, but the residents there seem a bit unhappy to me. They never seem to smile and most have a resigned look in their eyes, like they have checked out on life. I suppose this is true of most big cities, where there are so many people and so much bureaucracy that you are pretty much a nobody. Dublin is probably my least favorite place that we visited on this trip. I am not a big fan of crowds and noise and dirt. When Jason and I went shopping, the street was horribly congested with pedstrians, making it hard to move freely in any given direction and I felt claustrophobic. Dublin is not a good place for introverts.

Conversely, there was good street music and art in Dublin. When I put €5 in a busker's guitar case, he protested (but accepted it), and that was perplexing to me. Isn't the whole idea of busking to earn a few bucks? Otherwise go play at home.

My favorite place that we visited in Ireland was Doolin, a small rural town on the southwest coast near the Cliffs of Moher, notwithstanding some of the hurdles there, like not being able to bike on Wednesday and the van breaking down on Friday. We got to hike 10 miles along the scenic cliffs and hit the Doolin Craft Beer Fest afterwards on Friday, one of the few times on the trip that the weather cooperated with us.

Overall, a fun trip to Ireland. I can't say I loved Ireland as much as other people say they do when they visit. Outside of Dublin, the people were very nice and the scenery was phenomenal. The food and beer were good. About half the accommodations were superb and half were crappy. I wish the Irish would embrace paper towels in their bathrooms because the air hand dryers are the worst. I like that establishments let anyone use their bathroom, but the cost of this hospitality is rather crude bathrooms that aren't very clean. The Irish have a strong libertarian sensibility, though the infrastructure is heavily socialist, and the end result is that people let things go a bit and are fast and loose on conventions.

It was great to be traveling with the fun group of people on TEAM CRAZY BIRD and I greatly appreciated the joint cooperation to make it a fun and hassle free travel experience. Thanks Team!

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