Wine from a mug & other secrets to happiness
Sarah & I have discovered the best way to achieve rapid happiness – buy a 6-euro bottle of white wine and drink it from a happy coffee mug! The drinking scene is very happening here, but it is also very expensive – bars charge around 5 euros per pint (and more for cocktails), which quickly beaome too much to handle for this conversion-weary American. Centra, which is the little mini-mart attached to our residence hall, has a selection of 6- and 7-euro wines (haven’t upgraded to the 7-euro bottle as of yet) along with just about everything else you could possibly need (including, apparently, 1-euro garlic bread slices – I am, as of yet, avoiding that entirely), so drinking expeditions don’t take much time or money. It’s all about the planning!
Onto a different topic (I don’t want you all to think I’m some kind of drunken mess – I actually drank water the last time I went to a bar) – I spent today on (and off) a Paddywagon, touring Glendalough, the Wicklow Mountains, Brownshill Dolmen, and Kilkenny! My first expedition into the Irish countryside was a success, after a harrowing start – there were 8 of us from the IFSA program who all went on the tour, and two cabs were called last night in preparation for the early start (we had to be in the city centre at 8:10 am). Sarah & I walked out of our building, towards the main entrance, and watched as a cab drove off at 8:49 am – it contained the other six members of our group who were going on the tour. The second cab was nowhere to be found. As neither of us had ordered it, we had to retrieve the cab company information from Stephanie – and, when we called the company, they had no record of her hiring a cab for this morning! They rushed a cab out to pick us up, and this guy drove like a crazy person all through the city (he told us “On Sunday mornings, the game is to run as many red lights as you can!”) to get us to the meeting place – Suffolk Street – on time. We showed up at 8:14, the driver (JJ) showed up at 8:16. Slightly terrifying start to what turned out to be a fantastic day!
JJ was a very amusing man who told us all about the history of each place we would be going – starting with Glendalough, which is pronounced “Glen-da-lock.” Lough is the word for lake; when we arrived at the location, he instructed us to “follow the path over there” to find the upper lake. We started out by touring a cemetery that showed so much love it was incredible – countless tombstones had flowers resting against them, and some graves had been converted into gardens, with riotous blooms covering the area adjacent to the stone. It was still quite chilly at this point, so Sarah & I went into the little inn/restaurant on the premises and bought hot chocolate to take with us on our trip down “the path over there”, and out we went – onto the wrong path! We walked on the road, to the right of the lake; regardless of where the path everyone else found started, it ended up on the left of the lake (whoopsies!). However, the view from the road was spectacular – we saw quaint houses, wild blackberries, and (of course) the lake itself. Upon returning to the inn, we bought the most delicious scones – eaten with raspberry jam – and enjoyed the warmth for about 25 minutes before getting back on the bus to start the next leg of our journey.
Our hour-long trip from Glendalough to Brownshill Dolmen was filled with exactly the kinds of views you hear about from visitors of Ireland – the greenest grass and numerous cows and sheep! The sheep were all marked to demonstrate ownership with some kind of paint (which seems like a nice alternative to branding, although potentially bad if you’re trying to sell their wool…), and JJ told us about the way a farmer can determine if a female sheep has been “talking to” a male sheep. Apparently, the farmer ties a loop of string around the males’ belly, with what could resemble a paintbrush (with a different color paint than the ownership marking) hanging from the portion of the string beneath the male. When the male & female “talk” in the correct manner, the male deposits color on the female’s back – and the farmer knows that the female is taken care of! Also, JJ called the female sheep (ewe) “yo” – interesting/funny pronunciations are everywhere!
Brownshill Dolmen is a tomb of some sort, created somewhere around 4000 years ago, and it’s massive. Truly, truly massive! The top stone weighs somewhere in the range of 225,000 pounds – how the Irish people of 4 millenium ago were able to move it into position is quite a mystery still (we thought maybe aliens…seems like the best idea thus far, at least). It was insanely windy (Irish weather…), so we hiked back to the bus after a fairly short time to start our next leg of the journey – about an hour away lay Kilkenny!
The drive into Kilkenny was literally mouth-watering – every kind of restaurant that you could dream of was present along the main street! Nearly everyone on the bus (all 41 of us) walked down to the Nostalgia Café, where we were promised free soft drinks (water, apple, or orange juice) because of our engagement on the bus. The food was decent, but we definitely surprised the establishment with our numbers – they seemed entirely unable to figure out how to take care of us (wait time – 30 minutes). After eating, Sarah & I stopped in at Boots, a pharmacy, to buy some second-skin-type stuff (she chopped off the tip of her thumb while attempting to cut peppers yesterday…whoopsies!), and then we walked over to Kilkenny Castle. The grounds were beautiful (and free entry made it even more sweet), and we ventured into one of their galleries…which ended up being full of “modern art”, which was just a teensy bit bizarre/hysterical (wish I had taken pictures). We headed back outside and across the street into the Kilkenny Design Centre, which is a shop containing entirely Irish-made products (they have a store in Dublin City Centre, also) – it was fairly expensive stuff, but postcards were cheap so we snagged a bunch. After roaming through the store, we walked out of the building and away from the street through a stone archway – and found ourselves in the Butler Gardens! The garden is tucked away behind the design store (no one else from the IFSA program who went on the trip found it), but it was well worth the wandering – I love flowers and I’m very intrigued by buildings covered with ivy, both of which were found here.
The bus ride back to Dublin from Kilkenny was quite fun – the All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final was being played between Dublin and Kerry, and JJ had it playing over the radio. According to the GAA website, 83,200 people attended the game! I slept for about half an hour, and then woke up to hear that there were five minutes left in the game – and Dublin had just tied with Kerry. Dublin ended up winning in an overtime goal scored by their goalie – at which point, JJ literally bellowed in happiness (I cannot think of a different way to put it), and woke up the entire bus. From that point on, he talked about Dublin, the roads we were driving on, his wife, his parents-in-law, anything and everything because he was just so damn happy!
All-in-all, it was a fantastic trip, and it was excellent to come back into Dublin with them just winning the All-Ireland Football Championship for the first time in 16 years! This is definitely turning out to be an interesting semester, that’s for sure.