Sunday, March 6, 2016

Diary of a World Traveler

Journey & Arrival in Dublin

I am at the airport. I have made it successfully through the mega line at O’Hare’s international terminal, and I have feasted on pain au chocolat. I am ready to cry, I am ready to fly.

Things I’m thinking about while sitting here include: anxiety about leaving for three months when I have yet to leave the country for more the two weeks. Anxiety about being away from my friends and family for too long and having them move on and forget me. But more importantly, I’m thinking about the amazing opportunities that lay ahead. We are going to do so many amazing things while we’re gone, and I cannot wait to begin. The time will end up flying by, and soon, I’ll be wishing I was back in Dublin. Sure, this is a stressful experience. Everything is, when it comes down to it. But nothing really compares to sitting in an airport, seeing the Airbus A330 that will carry you across time and space to another country that is entirely different from your own. It is exhilarating. It is freeing. It is everything.

See you in Ireland.

My roommate Diana and I instantly made friends with our glasses-clad Aer Lingus steward, who seemed to think we were an equal mix of strange and endearing. Perhaps our strangeness made us endearing, or at least a little bit. Surprisingly, we were served dinner, which was a fine selection of Shepherd's pie or Shepherd's pie. Yes, my first encounter with the potato happened even before I arrived on Irish soil, but I do not even care. It was actually quite a good meal for such a quick flight. After a few weak hours of shut eye, I was promptly awoken and immediately handed my breakfast of a ham and swiss croissant—also delicious. After a beautiful sunrise at altitude, we touched ground and headed through customs and baggage claim without a hitch. Since then, about eight hours ago, we haven’t had a chance to sit and relax. 

In case you are wondering, that is a long time to be on your feet, on the move. 

From the airport, Dr. McDowell put us on a bus to the Double Tree Hilton, which was a five block walk from the Mespil Hotel—our home for the next week. Once we all got our bags secured in the temporary holding room, we were sent on our first fifteen minute walk to the “Bird Cage” shopping mall to find a Boots, a Tesco, and a Spar store, along with various other restaurants, bars, pubs, and shops. We quickly learned to j-walk, as everyone else seems to. As uncomfortable as my Midwestern mind is with the idea of breaking the law in such an unknown place, literally no one waits for the little walking man to turn green before zooming fearlessly across the intersection. Diana and I led the way for the majority of the assignment, and successfully deposited the 11 of us at the glass-enclosed building. We browsed Boots, TK Maxx, H&M, and Zara quickly before heading into a restaurant at noon. Our brief 45 minute lunch at Wagamama (yes, I have finally been to Wagamama, but more on that later) was the only time we had to rest, which actually ended up going over into our designated meeting time. Because of the rush back, we ended up going all the way back to the hotel, only having to turn around a minute later and walk back basically to where we had come from to get to the bus stop. Typical.

After going back to the shopping area, we quickly took a stroll through Stephen’s Green and then hopped onto an equally green Dublin Bus. We wrongfully chose the top level in the completely exposed section, so we ended up being cold and wet very quickly once the sun went under and the clouds spat rain. But we muscled through and ended up seeing quite a bit of Dublin—even Phoenix park, which Diana and I will have to go back to. So beautiful from every angle. Hopefully we can take the bus back, or maybe even get a tram there so that we aren’t attempting to completely walk the feet off of our bodies by the time we get there and back. We also saw highlights like the Guinness Brewery, the Jameson Distillery, the new Teeling Distillery, Christ Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral (an absolutely gorgeous structure), and O’Connell Street about five times total. So far, Dublin seems very bustling in some places, but very low key in others, even on a Saturday afternoon. I can’t wait to go exploring midday during the week, so that maybe there won’t be so many people shopping on the main drags.  
As for a final rating of Wagamama… it was okay. I probably ordered the wrong thing, and the chef had to remake it because he accidentally made two duck ramens instead of one chicken and one duck, so there’s that. But the dish was a little bland, and I think we can do better. In short, find something else if you want to get some good food in a not-so-short amount of time. Now that I’ve gotten that bucket list item out of the way, I can buy cheap meals at Tesco, keep them in our mini fridge if necessary, and then spend all my money on Irish souvenirs and British makeup (Sleek, Revolution, Seventeen, and Barry M are all calling my name).

We got back to the room after a very long and tiring bus tour, and found that one bed was a single and one was a double! But we agreed to switch off if necessary, although I know I am going to like being by the wall more than being in the middle of the room, even if it means the smaller bed. We have a nice set of chairs, a small table, a long side bar with a TV and tea/coffee maker, a makeup chair, and plenty of outlets. Our bathroom is small, but not nearly as small as the ones in Japan. Those were like spaceships you had to climb into each time you wanted to use the toilet. This one is quaint, but very spacious by comparison and with lots of counter storage. However, the shower is definitely narrower than we Americans are used to. The shower curtain decided to attack me multiple times, much to my chagrin. But the hotel is cute and overall very nice. 

For dinner, we feasted on a three-course meal of potato and leek soup (very filling and reminiscent of pumpkin soup), baked cod and vegetables, and delicious apple pie. The wait staff was perfect, the food was absolutely wonderful, and I had entirely too much to eat. I will definitely be cutting down on what I eat from now on, but I thought that on the first night, why not splurge a little? Even the white roll was worth eating, which I never say. When I consume bread for no reason, you know I have enjoyed my food. The tea and pie ended the meal perfectly. I cannot wait to see what they cook up for us not only tomorrow night, but for breakfast in the morning!

After dinner, we headed out to a local bar called Doheny & Nesbitt. This is one of the many bars that line Baggot Street, but it stuck out as really polished and interesting. I’m not here to bar hop, I'm here for the cultural immersion. But I thought the quaint atmosphere, awesome bar interiors, and liquor-lined bar at D&N really provided a good picture of Irish culture, especially on a Saturday night. And the people there were an equal mix of eccentric and normal, which proved great for people watching—my favorite hobby. Even though I drank maybe five sips of my half pint (which definitely was not up my alley), I am still glad that I can say I have drunk a Guinness in a Dublin pub. And I really do hope we make some Irish friends here! That would be amazing. 

Now, though, I need to get some serious rest. Jet lag will not be as horrible as Japan, but it will probably be enough to set me back tomorrow. We have a big day planned and I can't wait to get it started!

Until then... cheers, mates. 


  1. BRI!

    I'm glad you're having fun. And just eat the food--I feel like you'll regret missing out on it if you don't. It's part of the culture! Plus, you'll walk around a ton.

    Love you,

    1. Don't worry, I have been not listening to myself. Food has been my friend!

      Love you too!