Friday, March 11, 2016

Diary of a World Traveler

Dublin Day 6: Saying Goodbye

On the eve of my final night in Dublin, I want to take some time to reflect on being here and remember my first experiences in Ireland. Though I agree with my professor, who says we should be ready to leave Dublin and see more, I have absolutely loved being here and learning so much. By being immersed in the life of this dynamic city, I know so much more about Irish culture, city life, and people than I would have ever hoped.

Today, however, was not exciting at all. Even so, I feel as though I need to write about it. If I get behind on these at all, I know that things will get worse as time goes on. This morning was our first free morning all week, so we took advantage to sleep in and wake up slowly for once. We got to eat breakfast in one of the cool little glass alcoves of the hotel, which at least made the cloudy morning a little brighter.

Once we had eaten our fill and gotten ready to go, we set off on the long trip to visit our friend Jenny in her Dublin Cookie Co. shop (29 Thomas Street—trust me, you’ll want the address). We did not know what to expect, since we had never been to that part of town, we had never met Jenny in real life, and she just opened the shop on Saturday. But once we arrived, we were greeted wonderfully by a simple but delicious shop filled with—obviously—cookies, milk, hot tea, and coffee of every kind. Jenny is an amazing person who has lived in Dublin for eight years and has been making cookies with her business for around 2 years. During that time, she did not have her own shop, but did sell cookies with her partner at local food markets that happen on weekends around Dublin. They are just starting out in their new shop, and I think they are getting a fairly decent crowd. As we sat and spoke to her about Dublin, what we had done already and wanted to do, a few people floated in and out, buying cookies and then continuing on in their day. She gave us recommendations on food, pubs, and places she thought we would enjoy. At the end of our chat, she offered us some cookies and tea for the road, and we gladly accepted. Any day I refuse either a free cookie or a free tea, there is seriously something wrong with me. I thought that the cookies would be good, as she has been perfecting her business for a while now and has seen what sells and doesn’t sell. But let me just say that when we drank her “special blend” vanilla breakfast tea and ate her salted caramel cookies, we absolutely melted. Everything was completely and utterly delicious. Every single cookie was worth eating, finishing, and cherishing. They are not particularly fluffy or dense, but that just proves that they are all completely homemade. As we walked down to George Street, we were in tea and cookie heaven. I would recommend this shop to anyone and everyone. Thanks again, Jenny, for your wonderful hospitality and your delicious cookies! 

P.S. I borrowed some pictures from their Instagram (@dublin_cookie_co) to show just how amazing the cookies look, and to show the shop! Our cookies ended up gone before I could get a shot of them, and that should testify to how delicious they were. 

After consuming a couple cookies between the two of us, Diana and I made our way to Walton’s music shop to pick up a tin whistle, or penny whistle. This is a traditional Irish instrument that sounds like a breathy flute but looks like a recorder made out of nothing but a brass pipe and a mouthpiece. Obviously, these are the cheaper ones—they cost about €5-€6, depending on the place. And obviously, professional whistlers can get much better quality ones that are not made from a brass pipe. But the sound of a truly talented whistle player draws thousands of tourists to buy one and try it for themselves. We musicians are no exception. Diana purchased one for herself, and after some serious practice, I realized my mistake in not picking up one of my own. Though the necessary breath control is insane and the finger holes definitely do not use the same muscle movements as the horn, I immediately loved playing it. Honestly, I didn’t even know how to hold it properly—I was trying to point it out like a snake charmer, which makes it squeak like a horrible wind blowing by a cracked window. Sure, I need more practice. Sure, Diana is going to kill me for hogging her instrument. And sure, we are probably going to get evicted from our hotels for making too much noise. But I am so glad that we can practice both traditional Irish tunes like Danny Boy, as well as great pop culture hooks like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. The hollow, haunting sound soars above the air in any room, slowly settling back in your ears as it comes back to the ground. It’s a magical instrument that I hope I can master some day.

That errand done, we walked back up George Street to Stephen’s Green mall (aka the actual name of the Bird Cage that I only just learned today when I looked at the sign) to pop into Boots. I picked up a Sleek highlighting palette (look how pretty!) and another Bourjois velvet matte lip color, this time in 08, a vampy dark red. I also found the Irish version of my shampoo and conditioner, so I bought some full-sized bottles to stock up. I have a feeling I am eventually going to spend way too much money at Boots, but I kind of knew that going in.

That quick stop finished, it was 1:30 and time for lunch! We had decided much earlier in the day that we wanted to eat at a place we walk by every day called the Fig & Barrow, which we always say looks really cute but is only open for lunch, when we are no where near it. Needless to say, we made the time today, and were so pleased. There was no room in the main room, which was so elegantly designed, but we still got to feast on pulled pork sandwich (me), chicken Caesar wrap (Diana), and sweet potato and basil soup (both of us). We had so much left that we just bagged it up and decided we would eat it in the morning for breakfast. It was absolutely amazing, and I would also recommend this café to anyone who loves interesting combinations, wholesome, healthy food, and good coffee and desserts. Though we did not have time to stay for a pastry, their selection looked wonderful. And, as their sign says, they make all of their goodies fresh each day, so selection rotates depending on what’s baking that morning. Go check it out on Baggot Street!

Our long walk over, we settled back into the hotel and decided to take some down time. Packing, reading, and Skyping all needed doing, so we checked off everything and even had some time to practice the tin whistle. Like I said, it is an awesome instrument. After a few hours in the room, we went down to our last dinner at the Mespil. They served us carrot and cumin soup, seatrout with salsa verde, and delicious carrot cake. Another successful meal!

We thought we were going out to see some traditional Irish singing tonight, but our professor ended up getting a headache that apparently transferred to Diana. Because of everything and our early wake up call, we decided to skip the session and stay in to rest. Which brings me to thinking about reflection on our time in Dublin. As I sit here in our quaint little room, thinking about all that Ireland has shown me so far, I think of all of the people we have met who have interacted with us. Whether chatting, performing, or even blowing us a kiss while driving a bus, we have met and shared spaces with so many amazing people. Not once here have I felt out of place or unwanted. Yes, we look and act like tourists sometimes. That happens to everyone, and it is bound to happen to us because we are tourists. We are here for school, but we are primarily here to learn about culture through cultural exposure itself. And that is why I appreciate the warm welcome so much. Everyone—from the bus drivers, to the guard, to the people in pubs, to the musicians, to the tour guides, to the waiters—everyone has given us a chance to learn about the warmth and comfort of Irish life, even in a place as busy and urban as Dublin. Come tomorrow, when we drive through the fields and the mountains with sheep and stone walls on all sides, I hope that the kindness and meaningful interactions will continue to pop into our lives at unexpected moments. Because to me, that is what makes the long, tiring trip worth it. A collection of interactions is worth more than anything to me, and I am so glad it is happening for us.

And now, my friends, I bid you goodnight. I have to get some sleep before the bus ride tomorrow morning so that I can remain awake to watch the little lambs run around the fields. I will take lots of pictures and tell you all about it tomorrow. Thank you, Dublin, for being so amazing. We will see you again soon. Slán!

photo credit Dublin Cookie Co. & Trip Advisor

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