Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dairy of a World Traveler

Dublin Day 14: "It's like a desert out here."

As a celebration to our final day of classes, the group got to go on a surprise boat trip to the coastal city of Howth. We made a long trek to the ferry dock, boarded, and trolled through the harbor on our way out to sea. Though the seas were a little choppy, we all arrived alive and had an awesome day hanging out in the sand and sun. What a perfect day to officially end the term!

The only hint that we got as to where we were going was to wear layers, and to bring a little bit of lunch. We had a hunch we were going to the beach, but we didn’t know for sure until we were handed tickets for the Dart from Howth to Connolly. But the method of transport to Howth remained a mystery until we made the 45-minute trek all the way out to the docks at Dublin Bay. We would be taking the ferry to Dun Laoghaire, and then on across the bay to Howth! How exciting!

The walk there was actually quite nice in itself. The sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, which was unusual and amazing. We would have perfect weather for our trip. But it was also great to see some different parts of Dublin on foot—the Custom House, the Liffey, and the Samuel Beckett bridge (designed by Santiago Calatrava, the same man who designed—you guessed it—the Calatrava Art Museum in Milwaukee!). The breeze was cool but not too cold, my ankles were out and I had my new shoes on my feet. I was ready for a day at the beach.

We boarded the small ferry around 10:45AM, and it set off around 11. It took a long time to troll through the marina and the tanker docks, which were full with oil, car, and cargo tankers. I got to see the cranes unloading products up close, as well as a huge, multi-decker ship used to transport cars. It was crazy to see cars zooming out of the ship onto land, one after the other. It was like a scene from a movie.

As stinky as that journey was, it was actually missed by the time we got out toward Dun Laoghaire. By then, we were out of the protection of the marina and getting some residual swell from the choppy Irish Sea. The waves didn’t last long, though, because we then moved right into the next marina in the cute little town of Dun Laoghaire. We did not even get off the boat here, since our ultimate destination was Howth. But some of the kids who got more motion sick decided to get off and take the tram the rest of the way. They would be happy that they did.

The remainder of the trip was very choppy. As soon as we exited the protected marina, we had another hour of swell navigating before we would round the corner into Howth. I did not take any pictures along the way, because I was too afraid that the waves would rock at the least opportune moment and subsequently throw my camera (or me) into the ocean. Instead, I sat back and watched the landscape go by from the top of the boat. As we rounded the bend toward Howth, the water calmed and we got to see Ireland’s Eye—a small island with a Martello tower and also ruins of an 8th century church. There was a field of beautiful purple wildflowers growing on the grassy part, as well as some boats docked around it.  

Though the old church was used as a place of worship for Howth residents until the past few centuries, the most interesting part about this island comes from the name. Apparently, this was originally Eria’s Island—Eria being a woman. But the name got confused somewhere along the line with Éireann, the Irish name for Ireland. Then, when the Vikings arrived, they substituted the Island part for their own word for island, ey (or øy, as I learned in Norway!). From there, it became Éireann Ey, and eventually Ireland’s Eye. Pretty cool!

Anyway, we drove by the island and arrived in the Howth marina. The ferry docked and we walked down the street toward our ultimate destination: the beach. All of us split up as soon as we disembarked, so it was just a small group of us trying to wander around and find the beach. The downtown area was quite nice, with a bunch of little seafood shops, bars, and even a market. We decided we would come back there after our visit to the beach, though. We really wanted to find the water.

After many attempts to find the right path, we finally asked a Garda which was the best way to get to the beach. He showed us the way, and also told us that there was an even better beach with more sand just around the bend. So we walked on past the beach populated with families and running children, which eventually opened up into a huge sandy stretch with massive tide pools and a bunch of cool animals. We saw jellyfish, snails galore, lots of birds, and even a couple happy dogs along the way. The shallow water in the pools was warm, as was the first ten feet of the ocean. It got pretty cold after that, but we didn’t even care. We were happy to have found the beach at all!

A good forty five minutes later, we decided we all needed to find a bathroom. After quite a bit of searching, we finally found a public one at a pub called The Bloody Stream—a very welcoming place, despite its macabre name. Once we all felt better, we decided to head into the market area. It did not look great from the outside, because most of the stalls were walled off by an enclosure especially for the market. But as it was a Saturday afternoon, the market was at full capacity, in full swing. The walls were actually a variety of permanent stalls set up as ice cream parlors, crepe stands, and tourist shops. Then, inside the actual market area, there were so many beautiful looking food and craft stands. Food was all on the front and sides, and crafts were mostly in the back. I scoped out fish and chips, but ultimately decided on a bowl of chowder as a sampler to the famous fresh fish in Howth. It definitely did not disappoint!

My stomach already full, I thought, why not go big? So I went back over to the churro stand and bought some amazing, made-to-order churros. The method was crazy—there was a dough dispenser hovering above a deep fryer, which then dispensed the raw dough into the oil. The churros would thus come out in whatever shape the dough landed in, which meant crazy curlicue bunches of cinnamon sugar goodness. They were absolutely delicious.

A quick stop to buy a little woolen sheep, and we were off to find a spot to sit in the grassy area across the street. We only had a few minutes left to enjoy the beautiful day and the beautiful city, so we basked in the afternoon sun and waited for the time to walk over to the Dart station. Though the train was absolutely full on the way back, we still enjoyed getting to walk back to the hotel and see some more of Dublin up close. I didn’t really take many pictures, but I feel like this day was supposed to be the final goodbye to Dublin and Ireland for those leaving throughout the next days. We get to stay a whole week more here, and then ten days in England, so we won’t be saying goodbye anytime soon. But I was still thankful I got to see another part of Ireland that I would never have guessed existed. It was a perfect day spent in a really cool place, and that is really all I can ask for.

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