Today is my second day in Ireland. It was a busy day. Before I dive into the details, I want to describe my first day in the Emerald Isle.
Day one started early. On May 23rd, I flew from Pittsburgh to New York. After a layover, I had a seven hour flight over night to Dublin. I was tired from three days in a row of little sleep as I squeezed in last minute doctor's appointments I'd been neglecting over the semester, packing, and final days at work. I assumed that I would be able to sleep on the plane, but try as I might I could barely sleep for more than twenty minutes. Early in the morning, around 5:35 Dublin time, the pilot announced that we would be landing. I opened up the window covering, hoping to catch a sight of the green expanses, but it was a mostly cloudy, overcast morning with thick gray clouds hanging low. Finally, as we approached the runaway, I saw patchwork spaces of greens. It almost felt like a dream as the wheels touched down on the runway. I felt exhausted from the previous days but I couldn't help but feel my bubbling excitement.
After we landed, the passengers filed our way into the airport, a handful of cranky babies cried (bless their parents) and sleepily we made our way to the immigration section of the airport. After I made it through the checkpoint, I arrived at the luggage carousel, hoping for a quick turn around. I sat on the floor for an hour, trying not to nod off. I had thoughts of hot showers and fresh bed sheets dancing in my mind. I watched a cute toddler run between her parents with her jelly legs wobbling at the effort. Her smile stretched across her face and her curls bounced as her father scooped her up in his arms. I smiled watching them; it helped the time pass and it was nice to see someone appreciating the early hour.
After about an hour the luggage began pouring out, black, floral, animal print, all kinds of bags tumbled out. I grabbed my bags (I packed a lot because what if I need those extra thirty pairs of socks?!). I am a planner, someone who likes schedules and order in my life. My packing backs this up. Anyway, after grabbing my bags I pushed the luggage cart out to the buses lined up outside. I bought my ticket which would take me closest to the hostel.
I want to take a moment to say how much I appreciate public transportation. The bus was filled with fellow travelers from my flight who were heading to their hostels and hotels. Most of us were searching maps, reading emails, checking text messages and google maps for where exactly we were supposed to be dropped off. The bus driver took a minute before we took of to explain how buses work and payment works in Ireland. We clamored on with bulky suitcases and bags and stuffed them on the bus luggage rack and sat down. She called out each stop and helped travelers figure out the best stops for them. When I got off my stop, the next to last, I pulled out my phone hoping to figure out which direction I needed to go. Before she left, the bus driver asked the group of us who just stepped off if we knew which way to go. I told her the name of my hostel and she spent a quick minute detailing the directions I would need to take. She gave me a smile and continued her directions even as the doors closed. This was my first of so far many encounters of Dubliners being so helpful and kind to me as a traveler. I'm used to Americans being categorized as friendly, but this felt like a personal and individualized encounter. I take the bus daily in Pittsburgh and am confident in navigating the sometimes tricky world of public transport. Despite this, it was still nerve-wracking to be so tired in a country I was unfamiliar with to try and navigate the streets and bus routes. The bus driver left when I thanked her and heading in the direction she described.
With slow and heavy steps, I made my way to the hostel. I scoured the internet to try and find an affordable and nice hostel. I was most nervous about this. I value sleep and privacy. I would be spending the duration of my stay in a six person room in a bunkbed with a shared bathroom and shower. I wouldn't know who I was rooming with until they showed up to claim their bunk. It would be a while until I met them. I hobbled my way to the hostel, my energy dissipating with each step and finally arrived. I had four hours before my check in. Luckily, my hostel has a spacious common area on the ground floor with tables and chairs, couches, a bar, and even a pool table. I slumped into the couch and slept for four hours in a disjointed mess of limbs and uncombed hair.
When check in came, I raced up to my room and took a swift shower, washing travel away. I then proceeded to sleep for the majority of the day. Throughout the day various hostel-mates trickled in but I barely registered the door swinging open. I did force myself to eat late at night before the hostel dinning hours closed, not having eaten since breakfast on the plane at 4 a.m. The food in this hostel is amazing. Let me explain with a picture of my dinner from the first night. A picture says a thousand words after all.
After dinner, I walked about fifteen minutes to where I would be staying once classes begin next week. I circled back toward my hostel and explored the area close by, calling it a night not long after. This photo is the only one I managed to take my first day in Dublin. Since I spent the majority of my day sleeping.
As far as my hostel-mates, everyone is great and super conscientious of noise and space. Only one hostel-mate and I have not said hello because either one of us have been asleep while the other is awake. Of the five in the room, two are Germans, one is Canadian, and two are American. The five of us had a laugh this morning, discovering that the small and so far inaccessible balcony attached to our room has a discarded pair of boxers shorts resting there from a previous tenant.
Day two proved to be more enriching and tiring in its own way. I have yet to purchase a bus pass and have been waking to all my destinations, which I love! This gives me a chance to pull out my camera and document street life. I am obsessed with museums of all kinds. I had a quick breakfast in the hostel and drowned myself in sweet, sweet life giving coffee and headed out to my first stop of my busy day. There are numerous museums in Dublin and since I was still recovering from the exhaustion of travel, I wanted to head to a close one. The nearest one was around ten minutes away called the National Museum of Ireland. I headed that way with my camera in tow excited to begin photographing my adventure. To my delight, the museum had free admission. I was behind a group of Irish school students on a field trip and began to make my way though the museum. As I pulled out my camera, I realized my batteries had been left in another bag back at the hostel. Not wanting to delay, I took my phone and headed into the display rooms.
I didn't look up what the museum offered before arriving. I wanted to be surprised, plus it was so close. The museum detailed a lot of the political and military history of Ireland with some interactive displays. This was incredibly exciting to me as this was one of my focuses in studying Irish History.
After the museum, I headed back to the hostel to pick up my batteries. The next stop was Dublin Castle for a guided tour. On the way I took some pictures on the street. For a background, right now Ireland is buzzing with news of the upcoming referendum on the 8th Amendment. I've been reading a lot about this topic in the recent weeks as a multitude of news agencies are covering it. I was not prepared for the amount of signage regarding the amendment on the street. It was as if every post had at least one poster either for or against repealing it, sometimes there were multiple signs stacked on top of each other. Here are a few pictures I took while heading to the castle.
May 25th (tomorrow) is the referendum.
Here are a few other sights on the way to the castle.
It began to rain just as I made it to the castle.
One of the most interesting parts of the castle was the room that featured those executed in the 1916 Uprising. It was such a stark change from royal opulance to plain portraits hanging on a wall of men who were executed.
I enjoyed Dublin Castle and plan to head back to explore the gardens and the art gallery on loan from Connecticut which features art depicting the Irish Famine.
After my outings I came back to enjoy my first pint of Guinness and Fish and chips in my hostel and to listen to live music from a local band.
It's been an eventful day and I'm tired! I can't wait to post more from my adventures. Stay tuned as I update my blog. Also watch out for the gallery of all the extra pictures that didn't make this post! And I also want to take a moment to thank all those who helped make the beginning of this adventure great (thank you bus driver and hostel-mates), my University's study abroad program, and the Nationality Room Committee/Irish Room scholarship. I cannot express my gratitude for this opportunity enough.