Thursday, March 10, 2016

Diary of a World Traveler

Dublin Day 5: Failure is Fantastic

Today started much earlier than I wanted it to. The alarm went off at 6:45AM, and despite getting a relatively good amount of sleep last night, I just couldn’t manage to shake an immense tiredness. But I perked up as soon as I realized that it was, in fact, sunny outside again! My mood brightened even more when a few of us got separated from the big group and ended up walking to class as just students, rather than a collective of American “students”. It was liberating, and we ended up beating them to the Royal College. Winning.

Once we settled in to the room, we got right back up again to have a short but impressive tour of the beautiful historic building that houses the Royal College of Physicians. There was a huge reception room decorated in an amazing combination of turquoise and white scrolled molding, a hallway leading to a concert hall. Though it used to be a tennis court, the ceiling was constructed with no nails, which makes it perfect for acoustics. Thus, it was converted into another reception room and many concerts rent it as a performance space. The college also boasts a superb catalogue of old medical books, among others, in their library. Consecutive cases make for a great display of the books, and the spiral staircase at the one side allows people to access yet another level of books at the top. What I would give to have a look at some of those books, or even to work with them. Their oldest book dates back to 1521, published in Florence!

After a long few hours of economics, literature, and music, we broke for lunch at a place called KC Peaches. Though it is a chain restaurant, we had heard from another member of our group that it was apparently very good and served a lot of food for a decent price. So we went into the adorable blue building and ordered some sandwiches—I ordered the Italian Stallion (basil pesto, mozzarella, tomato, and basil), and Diana had a Peaches Club (three layers of chicken, pesto mayo, and bacon with all the fixings). We were thoroughly impressed and decided that we would come back in May when we return to Dublin.

One more class later and it was time to walk over to the Natural History Museum to see the greatest collection of taxidermy animals in the world. Not that I am a huge taxidermy fan—I find it slightly appalling and frankly, a bit creepy. But I think that for scientific purposes, taxidermy can help preserve animals that either no longer exist, or are scarce or rare. I just wish that all specimens had died naturally, although I presume that is not the case. We saw birds, fish, small mammals, large mammals, jellyfish, bugs, insects, butterflies, and almost everything in between. The stunning hall of animals on the upper level is an amazing sight, even though I feel a touch squeamish around all of those once-living animals staring back at me. Definitely worth the trip, as there are hundreds if not thousands of samples of animals from the entire world all located in one place. I would definitely recommend it!

The museum done, we took the short walk over to Merrion Square, where we finally got to see my favorite man, Mr. Oscar Wilde. He sits atop a rock, peering judgmentally out at all of the people walking by. What a sight. I, of course, had to get my own picture with him making a similar face. We continued on through the park, where people were just finishing their lunches or going on jogs. In a moment of pure happiness, we encountered a group of young school children—most no older than four or five—out for a field trip or recess on the green. All of them wore a form of plaid bottom, navy top, and navy beret. Cutest thing we saw all day!

Next was time for homework before catching some dinner at the fish & chips chain Beshoff’s. We split a cod meal and water to gear up for our pub crawl. Literary pub crawl. This tour came highly recommended online and in town, so we decided to book two tickets to try it. Obviously I was there more for the tour and the knowledge than anything else, and I think that it delivered. It felt like more of an informational tour than a pub crawl, in case that is what people were expecting. In total, we only got about 40 minutes between two pubs to have actual drinks. The rest of the 2.5 hours was spent walking around, stopping at various culturally or literarily significant pubs, and watching performances by the two leaders. We made stops at The Duke, walked over to O’Neill’s in Temple Bar, then on to The Old Stand, and finishing at Davey Byrns, the famous pub from Joyce’s Ulysses. O’Neill’s was probably the most interesting out of all of them, and the most likely one that we would want to return to later. The décor, the food, and atmosphere all delivered—and the building? An amazing structure. Overall, it was a good experience. We met a lot of people both on the tour and in the bars, including everyone from bartenders to people from Dallas, Texas. We had a lovely time.

After the pub crawl, we wanted to meet the class in O’Donoghue’s for a trad session. After getting lost many, many times (Irish pubs seem to have a network of tunnels, doorways, and staircases that only seasoned veterans know completely), we ended up in the front room where an amazing session was taking place. The bar was literally full, but upon inquiry to the bartender, this night was “blissfully quiet”. We managed to find two seats at the bar, where we shared quick conversations with the bartender in between his rapid-fire serving skills. We learned he has been tending bar for 11 years, that Guinness is the most popular drink he serves, and that he is a good shot—he can throw a glass the length of the bar and have the person at the other end catch it. He also kept an eye on us when stupid drunk people got too close to us. This was appreciated. The only thing we did not learn was his name.

But then, the most amazing thing happened. We started talking to another guy, since everyone was basically squished together. He was right next to us and wanted to learn more about our experiences in America, since he was from Britain but was living in Texas. We told him about our study abroad program (which seems to impress everyone for some reason), that we would be here for three months, that we had already been to Japan and were going to Argentina with our band. It also came up that I rode horses, to which he asked, “Do you ride western?” Of course, I scoffed, saying, “No, English saddleseat.” And he responded, in correct form, with, “That’s real riding.”

Eventually, we bade him goodnight and left for the hotel. We are back safe and sound, ready for a day of sleeping in and doing our own thing. For tomorrow, we plan on going to the music store (really this time), seeing a friend at the Dublin Cookie Company, and then heading back through some shopping areas to have a look around. We can’t wait. Thanks again for reading!

photo credit Katie Walker

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