Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Arrival in Dublin

After an overnight flight from Chicago, I landed in Dublin at 5:00am local time and jumped on a bus to the City Centre.  The weather was what I assume to be typical Irish weather:  Chilly and cloudy, with a constant drizzle.  As I aimlessly wandered the city for the next four hours, I realized that I hadn't slept the previous night, and it would be rather ambitious to think I'd be able to tour a new city for an entire day on zero sleep.  That said, I didn't have much of a choice but to see how far I could get.

After a substantial amount of sightseeing, I encountered a hostel and decided to check in.  I dropped off my backpack (rucksack, as they call it here), resisted the urge to take a nap, and headed to the Guinness Brewery for a tour.  For the first hour of the 90 minute experience, I felt as though I'd been had.  20 Euros to get in, and all I'm doing shuffling along in a big crowd to look at TVs with images barley fields, big containers of actual barley, a host of Guinness advertising, and people acting like they just saw water for the first time (see picture).

Fatigue started to set in big time, and I wanted out.  The only thing that kept me going was the promise of a beer that I had already paid for, and when it was time to receive it I had to wait in a long line to get it.  Brutal.  Things took a turn for the better, however, when they sent us up an elevator to a nice perch with a panoramic view of the city.  Things were looking up, as were my spirits.

Upon arrival back at the hostel, I met my new roommates, Jenny and Shin.  Jenny, who hailed from Hamburg, Germany, was very friendly and suggested we go out on the town and see what Irish Pubs are all about.  Shin, who was from Taiwan and was not nearly as excited as I was regarding the phonetic similarities of our first names, was not as social and chose to stay in.  So be it.

I was the first American that Jenny had ever met, and apparently shattered her stereotype of Americans because I was not "fat and eating KFC all the time."  Further, when she learned I had only packed two shirts for the entire trip, she also became aware that not all Americans are materialistic narcissists.

The Irish pubs we visited were nothing short of phenomenal.  Jenny insisted on seeing live music, and this was definitely the right move.  Just when I thought the guy with the acoustic guitar who covered Van Morrison couldn't be beat, the Irish band that followed him completely blew me away (see attached video, which doesn't really do it justice).  We stayed out all night, and only when I laid down to sleep did I realize I hadn't closed my eyes in 48 hours.

Quick tangent on Irish music:  There are few things more enjoyable in this world than singing and clapping along with an Irish band.  The vibe (or "Craic" as they say in Ireland) is contagious, and all the patrons engage in the same activity.  By the end of the night, everyone is friends with everyone else.  I have done this a few times before at Old Shillelagh in Detroit, but I guess I forgot how much fun it was.  American bar culture needs more live Irish music and less top 40 and Ke$ha.

This morning, Jenny and I took a guided walking tour of Dublin, learned some history, and further discussed stereotypes and differences between German and American culture.  Here's a difference that stood out to me:  Jenny couldn't fathom that I drink my water "flat".  To her, drinking water has to be "sparkling" (which, it turns out, is fancy for "carbonated").  While I conceded that Germans had the upper hand on a number of cultural differences (Oktoberfest Lederhosen easily trumps 4th of July jean shorts), I would not budge on this one.  Sparkling? You kidding me?

Jenny boarded a bus and is off to Galway.  I'm back at the hostel, updating the blog and trying to figure out my next move.  The long Monday/Tuesday followed by last night's pub marathon are beginning to catch up with me, so this might be an early night.  Meeting up with the homeboy Paidraig Hourigan tomorrow.  Paidraig's great-grandmother was my great-grandfather's sister.  I don't know if there's a term for my relationship to him, so I'll just refer to him as the homeboy.

Until next time...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Day One: Detroit to Chicago to Dublin

Today I embark on a new adventure to explore my ancestry in Ireland.  From what I'm told, it is a beautiful and historic land, where people are as friendly and laid-back as anywhere on the globe. A recent plunge into (recommended for anyone with a curious mind and an appreciation of history) has led me to conclude that I have at least four great-grandparents who lived in Ireland and made the move to the United States in the late 1800s/early 1900s.  Further, has allowed me to figure out exact towns and addresses of where they lived and grew up.  Very cool.

I would like to get to those towns (which are in counties Tipperary, Cork, Kerry, and Mayo), as well as see some of the beauty that is the Irish countryside.  I will be traveling alone (at least I think I will be), which will undoubtedly lend itself to meeting people and finding myself in unique situations.  As a general rule for the trip, I vow to say "yes" to each new experience that is presented to me...within reason.


I recently reached out to an extended family member living in Dublin named Padraig...and it seems likely that I'll be meeting up with him.  I think he works in education, so we'll have a lot to talk about.

Beyond that, the journey is the destination.  The plan is to have no plan.

Top 5 Things I'm Looking Forward To (off the top of my head):

1.  Culture
2.  Family History (Who the hell am I, anyway?)
3.   Physical Beauty (I'm told this place is gorgeous)
4.  Surprises That Will Develop (Events I can't plan for)
5.  Pubs and Live Music (Thanks Holly and Ben for the recommendations)

I'll be traveling for 16 days (beginning today and returning August 14). Enjoy!