Beer and Claustrophobia in Dublin

So, Glasgow proceeds apace.  I’m here for another couple of days, and then back to Edinburgh on the 27th.  It’s all going well; the people are great, it’s super international, there’s lots of holistic stuff going on, the weather is varied (but generally thought to be unseasonably warm — or, what most of us would call “cool but comfortable”).  I quite like the city so far.

But I get ahead of myself.  Haven’t left Ireland yet, have I?  So, back we go….

(NOTE: I fit the whole Dublin experience into this post, so it’s a bit longer.  If you decide you want to read it in smaller fragments, I will not look askance at you.)

Tuesday, August 23rd

Liz dropped me off at the Kinsale bus stop at around 12:40, to catch the 1:00 bus to Cork, which arrived at around 1:40, more than enough time to walk across the downtown area to get to the bus going to Dublin at 3:00.  She said I could probably catch the next bus, an hour later, and still be fine, but why have to rush across downtown?  Carrying probably closer to 50lbs of backpack (including a full bag of oatmeal — I’d overprovisioned), I agreed.

It’s probably worth including the UK map again, since it shows Ireland, Cork towards the bottom, and Dublin on the center-east coast. (As usual, ignore the reused image comments.)

The United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This Google Map view doesn't make the England/Scotland border obvious, so drawn a rough approximation in green. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, just a little ways north of the border.

The United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This Google Map view doesn’t make the England/Scotland border obvious, so drawn a rough approximation in green. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, just a little ways north of the border.

The bus trip had the usual medley of Irish sights: narrow roads, green fields, green trees, cows, more cows, and buildings in various states of repair.

You know letting things fall into disrepair is a tradition in Ireland, when even little geolocation games recognize landmarks by their abandoned status.

You know letting things fall into disrepair is a tradition in Ireland, when even little geolocation games recognize landmarks by their abandoned status.

The bus arrived without difficulty, and over the next 25 minutes or so I walked my way from the stop, over a bridge spanning the lower tributary branch of the Lee, and over to the main bus terminal near the Port of Cork.

My Dublin-bound bus departed from a spot directly across another small river from that terminal. Why the first bus didn't arrive at the terminal, nor my second bus depart from it, is beyond me. But it did give me a chance to wander through a bunch of streets in downtown Cork, which seemed to have been turned into a large, pedestrian-friendly, outdoor shopping/dining district, similar to Zagreb's.

We arrived from the south, getting off at a stop that I think was just below that “R610” roadsign, below the lower branch of the River Lee. Across the upper tributary, where you’ll see the star, was where my Dublin-bound bus departed from — almost directly across from the main bus terminal next to the Port of Cork. Why the first bus didn’t arrive at the terminal, nor my second bus depart from it, is beyond me. But it did give me a chance to wander through a bunch of streets in downtown Cork, which seemed to have been turned into a large, pedestrian-friendly, outdoor shopping/dining district, similar to Zagreb’s.

Downtown Cork seemed delightful, for the few minutes that I spent trudging through it; a bit old and worn, but accessible, and welcoming.  And busy? OMG. After almost 3 months on a rural peninsula, I couldn’t believe how busy it was!  People! Commerce! Dining! Traffic! It was like I’d forgotten what all that felt like. (Hint: It felt awesome!)

Little point in my going into these shops (especially with all my gear), but it was nice to see them there.

Little point in my going into these shops (especially with all my gear), but it was nice to see them there.

Almost wish I'd stayed in Cork for a few days. On the other hand, not really a huge amount of cultural stuff in it, so perhaps being impressed in passing was the best course.

Almost wish I’d stayed in Cork for a few days. On the other hand, not really a huge amount of cultural stuff in it, so perhaps being impressed in passing was the best course.

I couldn’t really sightsee, with all that I was carrying, but some things were in easy reach.

A small bit of green next to the river, with a couple of WWII monuments, a coffee shop, and a seafood cafe. Which I wouldn't have known about, except there was a pokestop at the Hiroshima/Nagasaki memorial. So, um, yeah.

A small bit of green next to the river, with a couple of WWII monuments, a coffee shop, and a seafood cafe. Which I wouldn’t have known to track down, except there was a Pokestop at the Hiroshima/Nagasaki memorial. So, um, yeah.

You know, you could probably get an idea of me walking through foreign cities, never looking up because my eyes are glued to the PokemonGo app.  Funny thing is, I’ve ended up seeing more things because of it.  (A) It encourages me to be out walking around for longer than I might be otherwise.  (B) Much of the time, it’s at my side or in my pocket, and I use an earpiece to alert me to when it wants attention. And (C) the Pokestops and Pokemon Gyms at set up at points of interest (as marked in Google’s database), which I often wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.  Many times I’ve been walking from point A to point B and heard (via the one earphone I use in my right ear) the characteristic “swush” alert of a nearby point coming into range.  I pull out the phone to see what the app has found, and discover some curious architectural feature, or a well-known mural on a side-street, or a plaque commemorating the birth/life/death of some famous figure.  As in that snapshot above, you see the picture, and a title, and sometimes you can click in the title and see some details. Just a few days ago, in Glasgow, I found a Banksy painting on a wall near my walking path which I’d have never looked for if the app hadn’t told me.  (I’ll include a picture of it when I “review” Glasgow.)  So, while the app’s not without its cons, the pros have definitely been outweighing them for me.

The lower branch of the River Lee, next to the Hiroshima Memorial / seafood cafe.

The lower branch of the River Lee, next to the Hiroshima Memorial / seafood cafe.

The upper branch of the River Lee, facing east, with the main bus terminal a block or so down on the right and the Dublin (et al.) bus area that I wanted on the left.

The upper branch of the River Lee, facing east, with the main bus terminal a block or so down on the right and the Dublin (et al.) bus area that I wanted on the left.

Two interesting things at the end of the bridge....

Two interesting things at the end of the bridge….

A couple of odd things to note in the picture above.  The first is “Paddywagon”.  That’s a term I grew up hearing and knew to be a term for a police van used to round up drunks/brawlers/rioters to bring them in for booking. I’ve since heard people say that it’s a bigoted term one shouldn’t use, because it comes from the East Coast view of the Irish as being problematic: “Paddy” refers to St Patrick and hence to the Irish, so it’s a van used to round up “those drunkard Irishmen”.  Ok, I’d thought; I can see how that’s a concern.  Thing is: (a) if there are folks in the U.S. who still care whether someone is Irish or not, I haven’t heard from them in my lifetime; and (b) the Irish seem pretty happy with the term.  I saw a few of these Paddywagon shops around — I think it’s a chain of bookie joints — plus a bunch of other “Paddy” things.  So, I think I’m going to stop worrying about it.  But with the criticisms I’ve heard about the term, it was surprising to see it so readily used.

The second is the Warhammer shop, part of what appears to be a chain in the UK.  Warhammer is an institution in fantasy board and video games and books, and game shops seem to be doing much better in the UK than they are in the states.  Maybe because the cities are more centralized and people can get to physical shops more easily?  Maybe.  But it was cool and surprising to see.

I had a bit of time to kill before my bus left, so I wandered over to the bus station, used their bathroom, marveled at the abundance of city Pokemon, and eventually sat down near the bus and snacked on my provisions.  At the appointed hour, we boarded (it was, thankfully, not too crowded and I had no one but my backpack next to me), and were on our way.  It was uneventful, except for one moment near the end when the bus driver stopped, came back to check the restroom, and then announced that smoking wasn’t allowed on the bus and don’t *make* him turn this bus around or we’d be sorry!  Or words to that effect.

I took pictures out the window, but, you know: green. Quite pretty really, but not really anything new there.

Oh, very well. I guess one won't hurt.

Oh, very well. I guess one won’t hurt.

I’d been a bit melancholy, leaving southern Ireland and Liz and Lia and the cats and my very comfortable room in the old farm house. But watching the landscape pass from the bus window, I felt really free again and the melancholy just evaporated.  So that was nice.  🙂

One rather annoying bit: watching our arrival in Dublin, via Google Maps, we drove within a few blocks of where I was staying, before going on to our official stop a 25 minute walk away. Sigh.

So, at about 6pm, we got off in the heart of Dublin, at a point known as Batchelor’s Walk on the River Liffey, which runs through the center of the large, old downtown.

A map of the center of Dublin, with a few points of interest circled. I was staying at the star circled at the lower left. The bus dropped me off at the circled star in the center of the map (not far from the National Leprechaun Museum -- but more on that later).

A map of the center of Dublin, with a few points of interest circled. I was staying at the star circled at the lower left. The bus dropped me off at the circled star in the center of the map (not far from the National Leprechaun Museum — but more on that later).

I trudged my way through picturesque streets with lots of traffic, taking note of things I ought to visit later.

Despite the tourist trap name, I was really quite set on going to "Traditional Irish Pub". It didn't pan out, but next time!

The green-outlined building on the river’s south bank. Despite the tourist trap name, I was really quite set on going to “Traditional Irish Pub”. It didn’t pan out, but next time!

The first restaurant I've seen that was named after how you'd ask your phone to help you find a place to eat. Like naming your business "AAA Acme Products", but for the modern era.

The first restaurant I’ve seen that was named after how you’d ask your phone to help you find a place to eat. Like a modern version of naming your business “AAA Acme Products”.

After a walk that made me intimately aware of the weight of my belongings, I eventually arrived at my home for the next 4 nights:

The Hell Pit

Whoops, spoilers!  (Although, since it starts the section, “Whoops, title!” is probably more appropriate.  Not so much foreshadowing, as justbeforeshadowing.)

You can see where the place is on the map, the circled star at the lower left.  Good location, easy walking distance to the center of town, museums, etc, and only a few blocks from the Guinness Storehouse, where they do the brewery tour.  So, locationally, ideal.  Here’s the Airbnb link.  It’s one in a row of Irish rowhouses, which I should have taken a picture of while I was there, but Google Street View will suffice:

A bit bleak looking on the outside, but those are the old buildings. The pics on Airbnb show it's modernized on the inside. A lot of these dingy looking homes had shiny new doors -- that's gentrification for you.

It’s a couple of doors down on the left. A bit bleak looking on the outside, but those are the old buildings. The pics on Airbnb show it’s modernized on the inside. A lot of these dingy looking homes had shiny new doors — that’s gentrification for you.

The picture of the bedroom they were renting out looked a bit small, but I was only there for a few days, so no big deal. Though, as it turned out, the overall inside of the 2 bedroom place was scaled to match; if that home was 800 square feet in total, I’d be surprised. (For reference, if that value doesn’t feel meaningful to you, my old condo in Santa Monica was about 1300 square feet.  Combine the small size with the row house placement, and you get a powerful sense that this was where the poor people used to be packed in, until they had to sell their children for scientific experiments.

Well, I’ll let my Airbnb review describe it:

Sara and Thomas are very nice people, and their place is clean and pleasantly decorated, a modernized, 1-story row house that is an easy walk south of the Guinness Storehouse, and close to a grocery store and several bus lines. It’s very well located in Dublin, about a 20 minute walk from the city center. It has a lightly equipped kitchen, and decent WiFi.

It’s downsides are all related to nature of the space. The apartment itself is small; the room size is clear in the pictures but the whole 2-bedroom place is compact, and the clear acoustics and otherwise-quiet background make even small sounds carry, so you hear pretty much everything from everyone. I recommend white noise apps and/or earplugs to any travelers, generally, but definitely here, and I was very self-conscious about any noise that I made myself, including shower noise, squeaky door handles, etc. (And felt guilty about a small electronic beep from a device that I didn’t even notice until after the host pointed it out.) Similarly, the interior doors are mostly frosted glass, so any light from other parts of the place will unavoidably light the bedrooms; you’ll want blinders if you’re light-sensitive when trying to sleep. The small bedroom has little air circulation, so I’d advise leaving the door open when possible. (Some of these problems could be easily solved with a small adjustable fan, for white noise and air, and a curtain for the door glass.) The mattress was Ok for me, but you are aware of the springs when you lie on it; if you need something firm, due to back problems, it may not work for you.

In summary: this a small space in a good location hosted by nice people, that’s probably better suited to short stays where you’re looking for a place to crash while you’re out sightseeing most of the day.

This might be the most negative review I’ve ever written for a place, and for the overall rating I only gave it 3 stars.  I think I gave that little box in Chiang Mai’s Old City, where I was sick from air pollution and the shower made me fear electrocution, 4 stars.  In fact, part of me wanted to give the Dublin place a mere 1-star, because I hated this place. I said that Sara and Thomas were nice people — it would be more correct to say that they acted friendly, but I got this weird vibe the whole time I was there, like I was intruding.  Between that, and the size, and the feeling that every noise I made disturbed them, and the poor ventilation in the room, the whole thing felt claustrophobic as hell!

The thing is: there was no false advertising. The listing has no inaccuracies. My reactions are simply my reactions.  And, judging by most of there other reviews, most people don’t have a problem with it. So, I tried to describe the downsides objectively, and be positive otherwise, knowing that simply describing the downsides would warn off anyone who cared about such things.

When you fill out the review survey, you can say things to the host privately that won’t appear in your public review — in this case, I did not.  But you can also say things directly to Airbnb that the host doesn’t see, and I occasionally do (positive or negative).  Here was my comment to Airbnb:

I think this might be the worst rating I’ve given a place since I started using Airbnb. I did my best to write as positive a review as I could, while still noting the really very strong problems so that others would know what they were getting.  The hosts are really very nice people, and I feel badly that I couldn’t write a more favorable review.   But I felt *so* self-conscious of every little sound I made while I was there, and heard most of theirs,  and I’ve never felt as claustrophobic in a space as I did while staying there.  Leaving felt like an escape!  I should be clear: there’s nothing intrinsically *wrong* with it or them, it’s just a super odd space. If it doesn’t bother any other guests, awesome.  And, in fairness, maybe they were equally glad to get rid of me. (“My gods, every sound he makes just *carries*! How does he do it?”)  Anyway, thanks for the chance to vent here.  🙂

It turns out, I was being a bit prescient in that.  One nice thing that Airbnb started doing, shortly before I started using it, was not posting the reviews until both parties have had a chance to review each other.  That way, you don’t know what they said about you when you write your review of them, and so you can’t give a negative “revenge” review if the other party reviews you badly. (Which I’ve read was not uncommon, before I joined.) After a couple of weeks, the review window closes.  A few days after I submitted my review above, Sara posted hers, and then we could both see them:

Unfortunately we didn’t like the experience of hosting Charles. We didn’t really appreciate many things he was used to do: eating in the room, waking up at 5:00am everyday with no reason, after that spending almost 2 hours in the bathroom making so much noise…Any kind of communication with us. Please, POKEMON HUNTERS in our house are NOT welcome!

My very first negative review!  Woo-hoo!

I was kind of relieved by this, first because it substantiated the subtle sense I was getting (despite their surface affability) that I wasn’t welcome.  “Yay, it’s not just something I’m mocking up in my head!”  Second, it’s not as coherent as it might be.  Sara and  Thomas are Italian, and while their English seemed good enough, it doesn’t seem to extend to writing compelling text. Are they complaining that they got too much communication with from me (my noise level), or too little (I didn’t chat with them), or did they not like the kind of communication that I gave them? I can’t tell.  (I have come to suspect that they wanted me to be super friendly and sociable and hang out with them, but I never felt in sync enough with them to do that.)  And they don’t like that I play Pokemon Go? Which you play… outside, not in the apartment at all? And that is a problem… why?  (I suspect they were mistaking a different electronic noise for being that game, but that’s just a guess.)  And I’m up at 5am for no reason? So, you know that I have no reason, how? (Actual reasons: a, I’m a morning person; b, I’m super uncomfortable in your space and waking up earlier than usual, even though I’m tired.)  Anyway, if people are going to condemn you, you certainly want them to condemn you badly.  It makes them look less credible.

You get to respond to a review (positively or negatively), which I don’t think I’ve ever done before.  (Only one response, and there’s no counter response, so it can’t degenerate into an argument.)  So I wrote this:

I’m very sorry that my stay didn’t work out for you. I don’t know what the “2 hours in the bathroom” was, but your bedroom is right next the bathroom, and sound carried really well in your place — so maybe you stirred when I used the restroom, and again later when I came back to shower and shave, and thought it was all one visit? That’s the only thing I can guess, there. On the eating in my room point: I would suggest, if I may, that you add “Don’t eat in your room” to the house rules, if it’s a problem. I’ve seen a few other Airbnb hosts do that, and it’s very useful to know. (Or at least please do say something, when it comes up.) I always check the house rules before I arrive; I was trying really hard to stay out of your way, and if I wasn’t supposed to eat there, I could have easily gone outside or eaten somewhere else. I have stayed with a lot of different folks in my travels, and I’m quite happy to accommodate most rules or preferences, as long as someone tells me about them. Cheers!

I tried my best to hit the right tone: to neutralize the points that I thought might be problematic to other potential hosts; to explain to other hosts why these guys might be reacting as they did; and, most importantly, to sound more charming and reasonable and coherent than my critic (even while politely suggesting that they’re the ones at fault).  All while being sincere.  Sincerity is important, even if it’s hard work to fake. 😉

They never responded to my review of their place. Maybe they recognized the validity of my points, and couldn’t rebut them. (In truth, denial would be hard. Those things may or may not bother you, but they’re exceedingly real.)  Or maybe my referring to them as “nice” despite the apartment’s problem, while they were less positive about me, made them feel guilty? Or maybe they thought it wouldn’t matter compared to their many other almost uniformly positive reviews. (Nearly all Airbnb guests give short, favorable reviews. I rarely see detailed reviews on properties — positive or negative — and even more rarely see negative reviews on properties where the host lives there and you meet them. I think some people just don’t want to bother writing details and others can’t confront saying anything bad when they’ve met the host. I feel like I have an obligation to write what I’d like to see in a review — what I’d want to know myself.  So I do.  Be the change, and all that.  But I try to be gentler when the host is nice.)

What I did do, later, was update my Airbnb guest profile.  Partly because I wanted to make sure I fully countered the review — for example, I hadn’t included anything specifically about the early rising in my response, because I didn’t want to focus attention on it in case it made some hosts reluctant.  And as I thought about it afterwards, it seemed not only better to address that somewhere, but better in general to make it clear in my profile.  After all, if someone’s going to have a problem with that, why would I want to stay with them?

So I expanded my short paragraph (which used to be just the first paragraph below, not including the last sentence) into the much richer detail below.  (Airbnb says that it’s helpful to include lots of details, and I think I now agree with them.)  Then I ran it by Mark to get a “how does this sound” sanity check, which it passed. There’s a fox guarding the henhouse aspect to that, but whatevs. (BTW, the “Twitte.r” thing in the first paragraph is not a typo. Airbnb edits your text to hide things it thinks are problematic; and it typically hides links. The word “Twitter” seems to count, for some reason, so I had to mistype it to get past the filter.)

I’m a retired software architect, currently nomadic, living out of an overstuffed backpack and traveling the world, connected by my laptop. Hobbies include reading, meditating, sightseeing, online gaming, anime, and Twitte.r.  I love walkable cities with good public transit and lots of greenery, and places to stay with solid, fast Internet.  And I generally like to stay in places for longer periods, to get a better feel for the real lives of cities than you get in a whirlwind tour of tourist attractions.

I’m not an extrovert but I like people, and I usually get along pretty well with my hosts — how much we hang out depends on our schedules and temperaments and communication styles, of course.  I’m a morning person, and a pretty quiet one — and what I most often hear from my hosts is that when we weren’t talking they hardly knew I was there.

That said, my only negative review (it had to happen sometime, I guess, and it’s worth noting) came from a couple whose place was *very* small, where I could hear everything they did and they could hear me. They were night people, and our mismatched schedules were a problem: I was fine (I have earplugs and a white noise app, so I could sleep despite their noises), but my being awake and moving before 7am was waking them up.  Those 4 nights were not a comfortable experience for either of us.  So, if your place is set up such that someone moving, taking a shower, or making a cup of tea in the morning would disturb you, we might not be a good fit.  Beyond that (and this is also based on that review): if you have any problems during my stay, *please* do let me know. I’m very adaptable (you have to be, living in different spaces all the time), and I don’t generally mind changing how I do something if it will help.  I pay attention to the house rules, and on longer stays I make a point of asking how things are going, and if there are any changes my host would like me to make, just in case they’re reluctant to bring something up.  So do tell me, I won’t mind at all. 🙂

I’m pretty sure that will cover it.

Anyway, remember how I used to say that cottage on Koh Samui was the worst place that I’d ever stayed? Not any longer.  This place in Dublin will be forever known by me as The Hell Pit — beating out the place with crazy heat and humidity and gnats and mosquitoes, where a swarm of tiny insects once flew in my front door and spontaneously died in a heap on the floor.  We have a new Champion!

Other Than That How Was The Play, Mrs Lincoln?

The rest of Dublin was quite nice.

Wednesday, August 24th

I had made a reservation to take one of those hop-on-hop-off, city bus tours, like the one I’d done in Edinburgh, where you sit on the top of a double-decker bus and ride around the major tourist sites while a live or taped announcer tells you what they are and what you’re passing.  So, after an uncomfortable, stuffy, mildly claustrophic Tuesday night, I left Wednesday morning at around 8:30 and walked down to where the tour bus agency said their primary location was, stopping for Pokemon things along the way. (Take that, Hell Pit people!)  And for amusing sights.

The names of some old establishments don't really hold up well over time.

The names of some old establishments don’t really hold up well over time.

When I first saw this, I could have sworn it said "Brexit Cancer". Understandable, since everyone I follow on Twitter thinks of it that way.

When I first saw this, I could have sworn it said “Brexit Cancer”. Understandable, since everyone I follow on Twitter thinks of Brexit that way.

Finding my tour bus turned out to be a bit problematic.  Because the location is in front of the Gresham Hotel (marked on the map above, a little north of my arrival point) there are 4 or 5 other tourist buses that all stop there, and several offices for their agencies, and trying to find the one that matched my reservation was harder than it might sound.  But I made it, and then was treated to a 90 minute ride around the city, hitting so many Pokestops and catching so many of the little guys that it made me dizzy! (Metaphorically.)  Oh, and we saw stuff too, which was an excellent side-effect of riding the tour bus, and one could almost recommend the activity for that reason alone!

This shot manages to capture a couple of things: (a) a really pretty morning sky, and (b) the rather drab nature of most Dublin buildings. I mean, not that they're any worse than, say, a 70s-style apartment building. And it's not like they're hideous. But there's a kind of utilitarian, warehouse style to many of them. Compare the row house picture of my Airbnb location... It's just "housing that gets the job done".

This shot manages to capture a couple of things: (a) a really pretty morning sky, and (b) the rather drab nature of most Dublin buildings. I mean, not that they’re any worse than, say, a 70s-style apartment building. And it’s not like they’re hideous. But there’s a kind of utilitarian, warehouse style to many of them. Compare the row house picture of my Airbnb location… It’s just “housing that gets the job done”.

Amusingly, out of a whole 90 minute run round the city, that’s the only photo I took.  I’m sure the Pokemon is partly to blame — I was looking and listening to the tour, but switching to the camera in time to take a picture of something we were passing was, apparently, too much for me.  (In truth, tour buses are lousy places to take pictures from, and I’ve mostly given up trying.)

Anyway, when it was done, we were back at the Gresham and I could proceed to my walkabout of the local sites, many of which I’d noted on my tour.  (After a modest lunch at what I suppose could be called an Irish pub, though I had a basic beer and burger and it really felt more “standard lunch place” than a pub per se.  I had fully intended to let go of my “no Irish pubs in Ireland” conceit; but, in truth, none of the places I ate at were proper pubs with “traditional” Irish fare.  Thankfully, Flexibility is my middle name. (My folks had hopes they were raising a Yoga instructor; I fear that computers were a poor substitution.)

The birthplace of Oscar Wilde. The bus tour had taken us past his statue, at a nearby park -- and I wasn't really impressed by it. But my Pokemon Go app alerted me to this plaque as I got near it. So, winning!

The birthplace of Oscar Wilde. The bus tour had taken us past his statue, at a nearby park — and I wasn’t really impressed by it. But my Pokemon Go app alerted me to this plaque as I got near it. So, winning!

Merrion Square, the park that the statue is at the corner of. FYI, we had pretty good weather while I was in Dublin, and the parks were super popular hangouts. A couple of the days I was there, I just lay down on the grass, just out of the sunlight, and relaxed. Near multiple Pokestops, of course, so that I could play while I was there. And, btw, there were tons of people doing the same (I could often overhear bits of their conversation), and there was a really cool community feeling to it.

Merrion Square, the park that the Oscar Wilde statue is at the corner of. FYI, we had pretty good weather while I was in Dublin, and the parks were super popular hangouts. A couple of the days I was there, I just lay down on the grass of the nearby St Stephen’s Green, just out of the sunlight, and relaxed. Near multiple Pokestops, of course, so that I could play while I was there. And, btw, there were tons of people doing the same (I could often overhear bits of their conversation), and there was a really cool community feeling to it.

The Natural History branch of the National Museum of Ireland was near this park, and was free (like the other National Museums), so I stopped by.  It would be more accurately called The Hall O’Dead Things.

You know how some museums have rich, detailed exhibits that not only explain what you're seeing but tie it into a rich fabric of interconnections and understanding? This was the other kind. It's dead, we got it, come and look!

You know how some museums have rich, detailed exhibits that not only explain what you’re seeing but tie it into a rich fabric of interconnections and understanding? This was the other kind. It’s dead, we got it, come and look!

You want sea life? We got it!

You want sea life? We got it!

You want waterfowl? We got all kinds!

You want waterfowl? We got all kinds!

Ducks not your thing? How about some predator birds? Lethal killers, every one!

Ducks not your thing? How about some predator birds? Lethal killers, every one!

Maybe some nightmare-inducing Thestrals for the kids! Remind 'em they still need mommy and daddy to keep away the night terrors. :-D

Maybe some nightmare-inducing Thestrals for the kids! Remind ’em they still need mommy and daddy to keep away the night terrors. 😀

"You cannot comprehend the horrors we've seen."

“You cannot comprehend the horrors we’ve seen.”

"If the Manager gives you a ticket to the Dark Carousel, run! A priest can be your only salvation."

“Psst! If the Manager gives you a ticket to the Dark Carousel, for the love of God, run to the Holy Church! Trust not, lest ye share my fate.”

After that museum, I headed home — the backpack trek across the city the day before had been a bit uncomfortable, and the night more so, and I was looking forward to salad and chilling and watching a bit of Youtube (with headphones) and going to sleep.  Apparently, exactly the sort of thing that upset my hosts, but I didn’t know that at the time.
¯\ _(ツ)_/¯

Thursday, August 25th

The usual rising ritual, modified by my increasing paranoia about making any noise in the morning. I managed to get out fairly early, at around 7:45; my host Sara was up, and I said a cheerful good morning on my way out, receiving the same from her.  They had a policy of taking shoes off at the door, so I grabbed mine on the way out and paused outside the door to put them on.  She followed me outside, to tell me that it was Ok to put them on inside, and I cheerfully said thanks, I was fine, no worries.  I’m pretty sure that this interaction annoyed both of us. In retrospect, she was probably thinking, “Why is he ducking conversation?” And I was thinking, “We just had a perfectly pleasant conversation. Why are you making this super awkward?”  We were really just not in sync.

This day was a bit more of a casual wander, passing a variety of interesting things.

The Irish take their Viking heritage seriously. This Viking longboat ruin has been carefully preserved in its original state. Quite commendable.

The Irish take their Viking heritage seriously. This Viking longboat ruin has been carefully preserved in its original state. Quite commendable.

I was initially looking for a place to settle, have some coffee and maybe a snack, use the WiFi, and just chill in a place that didn’t feel so oppressive. Then, at the other end of a side street:

<Cue angelic choir.>

My second order of business was fixing my broken hiking shoes.  You may recall from the last post that the soles on both shoes had been separating from the uppers.  I’d looked up a shoe repair place downtown named Bryan’s Master Cobbler (?), which was right on the river, across the river and a couple of blocks west of where the bus had dropped me off.  It opened at 9, and I was there by 9:30.  I showed the guy the issue, and he said, no worries, it would take him just minutes to fix it.  The industrial glue he used set super-quickly so I could easily wait and wear them out again, and it would cost me €8 (about $9).  What a deal!  Then, while I was waiting, a woman came in complaining that her new high heeled shoes were too high, and the guy fixed those too.  (One assumes, correctly.)  A few minutes later, and I was confidently enshoed and on my way again. I was very happy with these guys.  It’s kind of amazing how much your comfort level improves, when you have been walking around for a couple of weeks worrying that your progressively-disengaging soles may trip you up if you misstep, and now you’re no longer worried.  Sooo much better!  (If only my progressively-disengaging soul could be so easily repaired.)

After that, the wandering.

Another spot that I was led to by the Pokemon Go app.

Another spot that I was led to by the Pokemon Go app.

I am sure that this Dublin eatery’s licensed and Marvel-approved. Of course it is.

I am sure that this Dublin eatery’s licensed and Marvel-approved. Of course it is.

While much of Dublin’s downtown area is walkable, commercial, and semi-touristy, some parts are more so, and the area near St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre is more so, with several pedestrian-only blocks and street musicians. The center itself, while not terribly impressive as a mall, is cool to look at:

A visual delight, and a Feng Shui horror.

A visual delight, and a Feng Shui horror.

Of course, the real sign of a shopping-centric district does not come from shiny malls.

I really should go into these, every 5 years or so, to see if they've added anything interesting. I'm guessing that, since their big window display is about a sequel to a fishing trip, now is not the right time.

I really should go into these, every 5 years or so, to see if they’ve added anything interesting. I’m guessing that, since their big window display is about a sequel to a film about a fishing trip, now is not the right time.

Um, is this supposed to persuade me that you're great?

Um, is this supposed to persuade me that you’re great?

In fairness to the above establishment, I bet there’s a rich, dynamic world of dining challenges the people who eat out late have to deal with.  (Ha, ha, losers!)

Hah! I see what you did there. Well done! :-)

Hah! I see what you did there. Well done! 🙂

I ate lunch at a little restaurant with a patio on a small, pedestrian-only alleyway (the same one that the earlier hotel with the murals were on), that had Irish coffee and Irish stew, had a nice chat with the overworked waitress (it wasn’t rush hour yet, so I wasn’t holding her up), and it was entirely pleasant.  The bathrooms were downstairs, in what had clearly once been the servants domain.  But they were, odd.

Fortunately, I didn't need to use this. Because I'm not sure how you stand inside to close the door. Maybe lower the toilet lid and stand on it? ¯\ _(ツ)_/¯

Fortunately, I didn’t need to use this. Because I’m not sure how you stand inside to close the door. Maybe lower the toilet lid and stand on it? ¯\ _(ツ)_/¯

"Viking Irish Tours". This may be the best thing I've ever seen.

“Viking Irish Tours”. This may be the best thing I’ve ever seen.

I do not know what this means. Is it a place you go for drinks while your new hairstyle is drying? Is that a thing now? Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure it's too trendy for me, in my flannel and hiking shoes and self-cut hair.

I do not know what this means. Is it a place you go for drinks while your new hairstyle is drying? Is that a thing now? Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it’s too trendy for me, in my flannel and hiking shoes and self-cut hair.

"Oy, mate, you can't come in. Can't you read the sign? It's reserved, and I'll thank you to step back, please. Thank you. Why hello, Miss September, it's good to see you again. Please this way...."

“Oy, mate, you can’t come in. Can’t you read the sign? It’s reserved, and I’ll thank you to step back, please. Thank you. — Why hello, Miss September, it’s good to see you again. Please, this way, the others have been waiting….”

After lunch, and some walkabout, I ended up at the branch of the National Museum of Ireland that is dedicated to Archeology.  Thankfully, not as Stacks-O’Dead-Things centric as the Natural History branch.

It's not a huge museum, but it's a nice one. The central atrium was filled with old jewelry, torcs and such. (I blew past these looking for the restroom, but I did come back later and they were cool.)

It’s not a huge museum, but it’s a nice one. The central atrium was filled with old jewelry, torcs and such. (I blew past these looking for the restroom, but I did come back later and they were cool.)

I was a bit worried at first, because the first halls I walked into had Mediterranean and Egyptian exhibits, and I was thinking, “Here now! I’m here for Irish stuff, don’t go wasting my time with Egyptology, I can get that in any country!”  It did shortly occur to me that this was being a bit unfair.  Museums in the U.S. don’t just have U.S. artifacts, and they are where U.S. citizens go to see things from Egypt, Europe, Asia, Africa, etc.  Irish museums should be serving their Irish citizens in the same way, and tourists should come second.  Quite right.  (And I soon moved out of those rooms into more tourist-appropriate sections anyway. They might have had Egyptian artifacts, but they didn’t have many. So, yay that.)

But as I thought about it later — and by later I mean yesterday, when I started thinking about writing this up — I don’t think I’ve seen any artifacts from the Americas in the European museums I’ve been in.  I know they must exist. Europe was raiding American cultures for hundreds of years before the Europeans actually in the Americas took over and established a monopoly on it.  So there must be stuff. But I haven’t seen any except one room (actually in this very museum) that had an exhibit about how an Irish scientist reported on terrible treatment of South American indigenous workers by a British company.  There were a few woven baskets and weapons in that, but it was mostly text displays on the walls and a few photos.  And a sign outside warning that things inside might be upsetting. Still not sure why.  This just seemed to be about super lousy working conditions — doubtless terribly unpleasant, but not horrific.  The British have done way worse than what was recounted in that room. (Way. Worse. Like, you don’t even want to read this report about Kenya. Jesus.)  Still, maybe I missed something.  There were a lot of words, and I do loathe words.

So, there was a little of the Egyptian stuff (which was pretty generic, so no photos), and then it moved on to some Irish Christian idolatry:

Without my walking stick

🎶 Without my walking stick,
♫ I’d go insane.
♫ I’m only half a man
♫ Without my cane.🎶

Found it.

Found it.

"Contemporary illustrations show jugs being used for a variety of purposes." So, alcoholism and... what is that? Bestiality? (I hope the curators were chuckling over their choices as they posted this. You very rarely see satirical museum plaques, and I think that the field is sorely missing out in not going with that more often.)

“Contemporary illustrations show jugs being used for a variety of purposes.” So, alcoholism and… what is that? Bestiality? (I hope the curators were chuckling over their choices as they posted this. You very rarely see satirical museum plaques, and I think that the field is sorely missing out by not going with satire more often.)

I'm not even going to ask.

I’m not even going to ask.

Killing me softly

🎶 Strumming my pain with his fingers,
♫ Singing my life with his words,
♫ Killing me softly with his song,
♫ Killing me softly with his song,
♫ Telling my whole life with his words,
♫ Killing me softly with his song.🎶

After a bit of the old monk-and-saint, it moved on to proper archeology, with an exhibit about Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin.

It was kind of a weird one; it had a recreation of a small Viking ship, and swords, and helms, and shield, and plaques explaining in a slightly disjointed way what had gone on with the people involved and the battle, but it wasn't presented in a structured narrative that you could easily follow. And that's despite a large wall display, with video, that seemed to be mostly about asking Irish people what they knew of their Viking heritage, and pointing out their weak answers -- without going into what the correct answers were. Kind of frustrating.

It was kind of a weird one; it had a recreation of a small Viking ship, and swords, and helms, and shield, and plaques explaining in a slightly disjointed way what had gone on with the people involved and the battle, but it wasn’t presented in a structured narrative that you could easily follow. And that’s despite a large wall display, with video, that seemed to be mostly about asking Irish people what they knew of their Viking heritage, and pointing out their weak answers — without going into what the correct answers were. Kind of frustrating.

I knew Brian Boru by name, but I knew only a little more about him after the exhibit than I did before. Honestly, other than a bit of extra soap opera backstory to some of the principals, I got as much out of the Wikipedia entry about the battle as I got out of the exhibit.

They had other rooms of Viking stuff — it seems to have been Viking Summer here at the museum, and it’s hard to go wrong with Vikings — and what looked like a 1980s BBC documentary about forts.  And they had a pretty huge exhibit on Irish bogs and how they formed and the things found in them, which was pretty cool.

Bog Butter, which I'd heard of before: great lumps of butter buried either for storage or as offerings. Some of it is still edible, thanks to the oxygen-free environment of the bog. Not this bit, I'm guessing.

Bog Butter, which I’d heard of before: great lumps of butter buried either for storage or as offerings. Some of it is still edible, thanks to the oxygen-free environment of the bog. Not this bit, I’m guessing.

Bog Buddy. My Aunt Olive used to have a saying, about someone who looked like they'd been "ridden hard, and put away wet". I've met a few folks like that over the years, but never this extreme.

Bog Buddy. My Aunt Olive used to have a saying, about someone who looked like they’d been “ridden hard, and put away wet”. I’ve met a few folks like that over the years, but never this extreme.

Their collection of gold torcs and other jewelry was kind of impressive. The Celts liked their bling.

Their collection of gold torcs and other jewelry was kind of impressive. The Celts liked their bling.

After that, I wandered over to St Stephen’s Green park, lay out on the grass and got some badly needed relaxation in, and caught a bunch of Pokemon.  As noted earlier, I was not the only one.

I was lying out on that farther right island of grass. There were many people in this park who weren't catching Pokemon, I'm sure, but I don't think any of them were near me, judging by the surrounding conversations.

I was lying out on that farther right island of grass. There were many people in this park who weren’t catching Pokemon, I’m sure, but I don’t think any of them were near me, judging by the surrounding conversations.

The walk home to the Hell Pit offered a brief explanation of why I so rarely get to hear local music:

"From 9pm till late"? So, from 9-9:30 then? Why would I even bother going?

“From 9pm till late”? So, from 9-9:30 then? Why would I even bother going to a show that brief?

I got home around 5:30, and was varying degrees of uncomfortable until I left the next morning.

Friday, August 26

Today was Guinness day!  I’d made an online appointment for 9am, the first available slot, so I hung out in my room until after the hosts had left, and then walked the few blocks to the Guinness Storehouse.

This is a pretty typical Dublin street, as far as I can tell. The city center is more picturesque, but the morning light is hitting these buildings nicely.

This is a pretty typical Dublin street, as far as I can tell. The city center is more picturesque, but the morning light is hitting these buildings nicely.

I took the usual picture of the Guinness Storehouse Gate — which is off to the side, away from the tourist entrance — but it’s a wooden gate with the Guinness logo on it, and I won’t toy with your patience by uploading it.  (See here, if you desire more.)

What followed was a 4 hour wander through the storehouse, as it guided me (and others) through Everything Guinness.  The building has been sculpted to look like a pint glass, and you work your way up from the ticket booths at the base, to the gift shop and first-level exhibits about how they get the ingredients (Guinness alone uses 2/3 of the barley produced by Ireland!), up through old-timey brewing equipment displays and exhibits about cask and barrel making, shipping, tasting rooms, history of advertising displays, a couple of restaurants, and finally an enclosed observation lounge at the top with a bar.

The central well, from below.

The central well, from below.

The whole thing runs 8 levels total, and it took me about 2.5 hours to work my way through.

The Storehouse website is here, and has a bunch of pictures and info, if you want to browse.

The Storehouse website is here, and has a bunch of pictures and info, if you want to browse.

It took the tourist groups who rushed past me considerably less time, I’m sure.  A side effect of this was that, by the time I made it to the observation lounge (called the Gravity Bar), it was pretty crowded, and I resisted the temptation to grab a beer and sit with it, largely because there was no longer any place to sit.

Probably a nice place to hang out with your fellow touring companions. I'm guessing.

Probably a nice place to hang out with your fellow touring companions. I’m guessing. If I ever come back here, I’ll go in and 9am and head straight to the top for my mid-morning beer first, propriety be damned.

I took a ton of pictures, but I’m not sure how many to include here.  Partly because this post has a prodigious word count already and I’m getting tired, and partly because I’m not sure how many of them are really worth including when a Google Image browse would be nearly as good (and the actual website possibly better).  But here are a few I liked:

The barley video convinced me that the fields around me in southern Ireland were probably growing barley all summer, and not corn as I'd assumed. It looked just like these pictures.

The barley video convinced me that the fields around me in southern Ireland were probably growing barley all summer, and not corn as I’d assumed. It looked just like these pictures.

You can see the little green buds on the vines, on each side of this video display, which are the hops. The video is about their harvesting -- the height of the vines is surprising! (I read that they used to be harvested by guys on stilts. They must have had an amazing workman's comp plan.)

You can see the little green buds on the vines, on each side of this video display, which are the hops. The video is about their harvesting — the height of the vines is surprising! (I read that they used to be harvested by guys on stilts. They must have had an amazing workman’s comp plan.)

Water. Ok, Guinness, now you're just showing off. (All right, it was cool. What-ever!)

Water. Ok, Guinness, now you’re just showing off. (All right, it was cool. What-ever!)

The original bottle for the Guinness Foreign Extra, my favorite of their beers.

The original bottle for the Guinness Foreign Extra, my favorite of their beers.

The Hall of (Guinness) Presidents.

The Hall of (Guinness) Presidents.

The official Guinness harp, used as their logo.

The official Guinness harp, used as their logo.

A largish exhibit on the famous cartoon animal advertising campaign from the middle of last century.

A largish exhibit on the famous cartoon animal advertising campaign from the middle of last century.

By the time I made it up to the Gravity Bar, and was ready to leave it, it was 11:30 and I was really ready for food.  Unfortunately, the restaurants on the level below didn’t open until 12:00.  Fortunately, I had a few crackers in my backpack for just such an emergency, and I hung out until they did.  Then had a great meal at 1837 — a restaurant named after the Guinness brewery’s founding year — where my table looked roughly like their website’s view of it, minus the *super* annoying looking foursome.  I seriously over-ate here, but how do you say no to a Guinness burger (which comes with fries), and their Foreign Extra Stout on tap (wow, that was a good beer), and then a Guinness chocolate mousse (if you can say no to that, I do not wish to know you any longer), with which coffee is naturally appropriate.  That was at least 1/2-again as much as I needed to eat but no regrets.

(I almost had the squab, but it was really underdone, and I had to send it back.)

(I almost had the squab, but it was really underdone, and I had to send it back.)

On the way out, I swung by the gift shop to see if there was anything I could reasonably pick up as a souvenir.  Sure enough, they had knit caps; since I’d lost mine to a laundry accident as Liz’s place a week before, this seemed like a reasonable and practical souvenir to pick up. So I did.

It doesn't bring out my eyes -- but, since I normally sleep in it, that's probably for the best.

It doesn’t bring out my eyes — but, since I normally sleep in it, that’s probably for the best.

When I left the Storehouse, that open-topped city tour bus came by, and my ticket on it was good for 3 days (it had cost slightly more for 2 days, but they threw in a 3rd “for free”, so I figured why not?), so I grabbed it.  It took me past their giant park, which I’d passed through during the prior tour, that has the zoo in it — the park was mostly open, well groomed spaces, and I figured I could skip it, but there are pictures here if you want them.  And I let it drop me off near my original landing point nearly Batchelors Walk — with my belly full of food, it was nice to not have to walk it.

The drop-off point also happened to be near the Leprechaun Museum — a thing which is hard to say no to.  But not, as it turns out, hard to say not quite to.  First, there was considerable wandering and being distracted first by nearby Pokemon and second there was weird map behavior that made it oddly hard for me to find.

But find it I did, despite the lack of a rainbow leading me to it.

But find it I did, despite the lack of a rainbow leading me to it.

You might expect a pot of gold to be forthcoming — and in fact there was one.  I overheard the ticket seller talking to the people ahead of me, and the ticket price was €14!  In richer days I might have said, what the heck let’s do it.  But I’d just spent about €25-30 on lunch, and another €12 on the cap, and €14 on the Storehouse tickets, and — let’s face it — what’s a Leprechaun museum really going to have in it?  Artifacts from Leprechaun colonies unearthed in Irish bogs? Actual Leprechaun skeletons?  No. It’s going to be a little cultural amusement, and probably not a large one, and that’s it.  I’d have done it for €5-7, probably, but €14 was just more than I was comfortable for, when the national museums were free.  So, here’s their website, and some Google Images.  It looks cute.

Instead, I walked back to the Gresham Hotel and picked up the next tour bus, figuring I could ride it around to near St Stephen’s Green again and hang out in the park for a while.

FYI, on the way there I passed the Spire of Dublin again. Might as well toss in a picture of it, while I have the chance.

FYI, on the way to the bus I passed the Spire of Dublin again. Might as well toss in a picture of it, while I have the chance.

And we started out Ok. But it was getting close to 4pm on a Friday, and traffic was getting pretty heavy, and were were spending most of our time stopped. Bus rides were not really the ideal way to get around town at this point.  So, I got off a little way down the river and walked.

You'll see downriver the Samuel Beckett Bridge, designed to look like a harp, Ireland's national symbol. The bus driver said it was even playable, on special occasions.

You’ll see downriver the Samuel Beckett Bridge, designed to look like a harp, Ireland’s national symbol.

The bus driver said it was even playable, on special occasions.  I’m a bit suspicious about that claim, as a quick search for the bridge online didn’t turn up any references to it making music.  Possibly, they do something like play harp music in time with bridge lights on the strings?  It does, however, swing open and closed to pass ships, and that’s pretty cool.

Continuing on to the park:

When you pass something in a foreign city that reminds you of home. In this case, the UPS truck. Sigh.

When you pass something in a foreign city that reminds you of home. In this case, the UPS truck. Sigh.

St Stephens Green, in augmented reality. Once more, a busy place.

St Stephens Green, in augmented reality. Once more, a busy place.

After a relaxing hour there, I swung by a nearby gelato place and headed back to the Hell Pit.  Another uncomfortable night there, I packed up early on Saturday, left a polite note of thanks to my hosts, and escaped to the bus stop by about 6:15 to go meet my ferry to England.

Freedom.

Freedom.

My verdict on Dublin: A nice enough city, well worth visiting, but I wouldn’t normally rush to go back there.  Hell Pit aside, Dublin — and the other places I was at in Ireland — had a kind of worn feeling to them.  Like the modern cities were built on top of a kind of tension that had been there for a long time, and they’d just worn down a little.  The touristy downtown didn’t feel as vibrant as Edinburgh’s touristy downtown, the wear not as comfortable as Croatia’s wear.  The people I talked to — outside of American Liz and her daughter — I didn’t feel like I was really connecting with much, even when they were perfectly nice.  I’ll end up being here again in the future — my trip back to the US goes through Dublin, so I’ll have a few more days there in November, and maybe I’ll like it more without the Hell Pit underlying the experience.  But I think Ireland and I aren’t really quite in sync.  No great criticism, and I expect I’ll enjoy any future visits.  Just, not especially overwhelmed. YMMV.

And that, as they say, will be that.

 

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