Monday, September 28, 2009
My personality is one that likes to voice discontent or excitement, and that usually makes me feel better. I persevere and keep on doing what I have in mind unless I’m truly unhappy. So, I am really not unhappy with my decision to pick up and move to Ireland for 4 months. In fact I’m quite happy with it. It’s already been a whirlwind of new experiences for me. It hasn’t been quite what I thought it would be, but time is a funny thing. You can’t really judge a situation on a few moments. You have to spend some hours, days, weeks, or months till a pattern arises that fits. This applies to all new walks of life. There is actually a lot of truth to the saying that hindsight is 20/20. Looking back offers perspective, but that also doesn’t mean one should take living in the moment for granted. It is just as important to experience the more extreme emotions of the moment as it is to reflect from a more serene distance.
I’ve noticed how the hotels and B&Bs on the internet and in pictures looks secluded or quaint, but in reality they are usually just on the outskirts of a city stacked on top of each other like patio homes, which is exactly what they are. The hotels can be pretty cool, but they’re like ones in America. The architecture; however, is super modern (much more than in America) often resulting in gray buildings of cement and steel. There is a hotel called ‘g’ in Galway. It’s crazy mod, but right beside the Eddie Rockets and Cinemas. Not a positioning I’m accustomed to with Central European hotels. I think that is the biggest adjustment for me. Ireland is one of the more northern and British influenced countries. It marches to the beat of a different drum than the rest of the countries I’ve been to. I remember I expected Hawaii to be more remote than it was. I did not have the mindset to prepare me for a place that mixed paradise with American culture. I should have expected it, after all it is one of the States, but for some reason I wasn’t thinking I would see Starbucks and Wal-mart in paradise. I think I enjoy looking back on that trip even more than when I was there because it took me a while to get in the right frame of mind. I think the same thing has happened with Ireland. I was expecting more of a Central Europe feel and it is not that. But don’t get me wrong, Ireland has much to offer on its own. It is a mixture, and I think the city of Cork best represents that.
The winter weather includes less rain so that is a nice thing around here. As they say the seasons are some rain, rain, more rain, and rain. We’ve entered the some rain season, but I don’t want to jinx it. The morning gave us a little drizzle, but all during the bus ride. It was about three and half hours to Cork from Galway. It was just enough to relax with a nap, read and listen to my ipod. Any longer I might have gotten antsy, but I wouldn’t have necessarily preferred shorter. I’m still not fully accustomed to the opposite side thing. It catches me every now and then. Like the other day I thought I saw a dog driving a car and the person was the passenger. It made me laugh out loud. Choosing the side of the bus I want to sit on requires some thinking. Traveling in Ireland is all by bus. The train system is not extensive and it’s outrageously priced. I don’t mind the bus. It isn’t as smooth as the train, but going through the towns allows for a better view than train stations. Speaking of views…haha, the females here are not so modest in their clothing selection. An Irish teen across the row from me decided to take a nap on the ride. She had on boots, hose, skirt, and shirt. I had finished reading in my book, and when I reached for my bag to switch to the ipod I spotted a rather disturbing sight. It was like a car wreck or something, I was so astounded; I couldn’t help looking. Her butt was to me and her hose were sheer. The skirt was about 6 inches long…she wasn’t wearing any underwear unless it was a thong, and she was just snoozing away without a care in the world. WOW.
When we arrived in Cork, we found the Bru hostel which was amazingly clean and nice. We dropped our stuff off and hit the streets walking/wandering. I found the English Market. It was just as I’d hoped -a bustling market of produce, meat and curio food shops. It was like walking back in to the market in Florence except I could read everything. I passed by a pastry counter not intending to buy, but then I spotted it. A beautiful pale green icing toping what looked like a cream filled pastry with flaky crust. I inquired about the contents within. It was a vanilla. It was also only a Euro and the length of a hot dog. I was delighted! Later when I unwrapped my tasty treat I bit into what I discovered to be custard and crème. It was AMAAAAZZZING!! The best pastry I have had to date. I vowed to visit everyday we were in Cork and beg for the recipe at the conclusion of the trip.
After the market, Monica stopped for a coffee to go and we wandered off the main road looking for Fitzgerald Park. It was a good ways off and we ended up taking a nature walk on the Cork College campus and concluding it back on the river near our hostel. We bought some chicken, tikka masala sauce, rice, and stir fry from the grocery store across the street. Monica had picked up some plums as well, and we all chomped on one as we walked back to the hostel. The kitchen at the hostel was large and clean. I was happy to cook there. The three of us set out to start on different parts of dinner. It wasn’t so smooth at first, all with our own opinions about how things should cook. But we worked it out and agreed to let each do their own thing. It turned out delicious. Some people are good at cutting meat and veggies – I am obviously not one of those people (remember the finger). Monica’s cuts of chicken were methodical clean cut. The onion she chopped was the essence of perfection. I was impressed. I need more technique, but I’ve been a little timid around the knives since ‘the incident’. Maybe I should save the practice for when I get back home. I took over the stove part for the stir fry and chicken. The rice master (Zach) handled the rest.
After dinner we decided to check out the Cork nightlife. Spirits were high and by the time we were out the door all three of us were laughing so hard tears were coming to my eyes. I think it was something Monica said about Germans having a harsh accent and stern personality then we passed someone on the steps and she added “sometimes and it depends” making it sound better incase the guy was German. Zach and I picked up on this and commented on it at the bottom of the steps. It started some jokes and ended in hilarity.
The first place we went was really cool, but kind of stuffy. They wouldn’t let Monica buy a drink because she did not have her ID, not accustomed to having to show it anywhere, she was fuming. I evidentially look really young and cause people to need an ID if they are hanging out with me. Ireland is also really sporadic about IDs when entering establishments. In America it’s everyone. Here it’s if they feel like it and if they do it is usually like a drill sergeant even though most all places are 18 to get in. The place was called Mutton Lane Inn. It had the eclectic candlelight feel that I love. I took a book from a shelf intended for decoration, but I was curious. It was a book with engravings from Victorian Great Brittan. It just fueled my excitement for the London trip even more. I saw one picture with Montreal during the winter. The river was frozen in choppy blocks and looked like icebergs. I didn’t realize it actually ever looked like that.
We didn’t stay there long; there was no band like we’d been told. Our next destination was Sin-e. The guide book says “there’s music most nights, much of it traditional but with the odd surprise”, and odd it was. The Romanian musicians from the streets of Galway were there performing on flute, guitar and drum a mix of their very unusual sound. When I walked upstairs where they were playing I made eye contact with one of the musicians and it was weird, like we both recognized each other. I in fact did. I was surprised, but from my weekend walk up and down Shop St. I knew well who they were. I felt like making a stamping motion to indicate who I was, but I refrained. Monica wasn’t thrilled with the music selection, so we went back downstairs to sit.
This pub had the same eclectic candlelit feeling with posters plastered all over the walls. I felt like I was at the Red Bar from Grayton Beach, Fla. I actually ordered a drink this time and I’m glad I did because I met the most interesting couple when I went up to the bar. They heard my accent and asked where in North America I was from. They were Canadians from Montreal! I actually said I’d just been talking about Montreal with my friends and they were intrigued. I sheepishly explained about the book and was told that the river does freeze over and look like that. I sat down and started talking to them. They were married in their late 20s/early30s traveling for 3 months in Ireland, England, Amsterdam, Prague, Germany and Italy. I jumped with excitement at hearing Italy. I asked them where they were planning on going. They had no real itinerary and asked me where would be best. I was all too happy to divulge as much information as I thought they could handle about what to see and maybe see in Italy. Cinque Terra was a must along with the Dolomites, Umbria and Tuscany and a stop in southern Italy was needed but maybe not stay too long. I need to give southern Italy more of a chance though. I feel like it is the least explored part of Italy for me, but I just like the rest of the country so much. Monica came to find me and see if I’d gotten lost or something, so I wished them well with their travel, but not before handing out recommendations for Connemara in Ireland. Monica, Zach and I eventually went back upstairs for the end of the show. The music had gotten better and one of the guys stood up and did flamenco dancing to a song.
Back at the hostel, the other two girls in the room didn’t come back that night. They reappeared in the morning claiming they’d spent the whole night out. Personally, I like sleep.