Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Emerald Isle

So, Ireland. I woke up on Tuesday morning in time for the free breakfast, and decided I'd take advantage of the free walking tour advertised by the hostel. Which, as it turned out, was the best decision ever.

There were only two other people from my hostel who turned up for the tour, a Russian girl who lives in Germany named Natalie, and another Aussie, Adie. I always have kind of mixed feelings about meeting other Australians on my travels. I actively left a country full of them, so it seems counter-productive to start making friends with them all the way over the other side of the world. Still it's hard not to like someone who got "Hakuna matata" tattooed on their back in the red light district in Amsterdam.

The tour itself was incredible. It went for around 3.5 hours, and covered something like 11,000 years of Irish history. Plus the guy who was leading our tour group was such a good story teller that even if I didn't have a keen interest in history already the tour would still have peaked my interest.

My favourite anecdote from the tour was the story of Father Pat Noise, a priest who has a plaque dedicated to him on Dublin's main bridge. According to the story Father Pat was a fairly mysterious character, involved with gangsters and lowlifes, who's own life came to a startling end when his horse drawn carriage plunged into the river Liffey. His body, however, was never found. The plot, as they say, thickens.
Eventually a couple of people at the council offices started wondering who exactly Father Pat was. They inquired at the local churches, and found nothing, went to the Vatican, who had never heard of him, and raked through the census records without finding hide nor hair of a Father Patrick Noise. As it turns out, the reason nobody had heard of Pat Noise is because he never existed. The plaque was put up by a couple of unidentified pranksters. So the council took the plaque down, but when they did, tens of Dubliners went and tossed flowers into the river as a tribute to the memory of Father Pat, resulting in the plaque being reinstated.

After the tour Natalie, Adie and I agreed to meet up later in the evening for the hostel pub crawl. Which was hilarious. Adie and I bonded over each doing two shots of vodka and one of (awful) Irish whiskey in the space of about 30 seconds. I also tried Guinness, both on it's own and with coke. Which I know sounds disgusting, but was actually not bad at all. Apparently it's a German thing. I'm not entirely sure how many of the pubs on the itinerary I made it to, but at the second pub there was a violinist (fiddler?) and a guitarist playing traditional Irish songs, and it was just so exactly what I had imagined going out in Ireland to be like. However my participation in the crawl was cut short when I started chatting to, kissing and going home with (all in record time) an American boy I met. He's in the Navy and comes from the Valley in California, and even though I resisted the temptation to "hello sailor" him, I couldn't help but quote "Where are you, Kuwait?" "Is that in the valley?" and send myself into paroxysms of laughter because I'm SO FUNNY.

Even though hostels are generally great and interesting places, they're not really conducive to certain nocturnal activities. Luckily, his room only had one other guest. Awkwardly it was his sister. I have to admit, though, she was lovely, and after making idle chit chat for a bit she had the amazing good grace to go out for a pint. Honestly, if my brother came home late at night with some girl he'd picked up in a bar and none too honourable intentions I wouldn't want to hang about either, but I was still grateful.

This morning after finally extracting myself from my temporary bed I decided to get out of the city. Isabel had mentioned a seaside town near Dublin that she and her friends would go to when she was living here, and so I jumped on a train and spent the day sitting on the shore eating fish and chips, wandering along the cliffs and marvelling at the fact that I'm in Ireland, where there are Irish people living Irish lives and have dozens of Irish babies as per Monty Python's Meaning Of Life.

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