luck o' the irish

Mists rolling o'er hills,
Veiling ancient castles, burn
To rainbows at last.

The Emerald Isle was as green and mysterious a place as I could have expected it to be, at least outside of Dublin. I'm quite relieved that I got the chance to see things outside the city: Dublin seemed to be all pubs, wet benches, dirty rivers, houses, and tiny patches of grass not intended for walking. The pubs bit was alright, certainly (the famous Temple Bar! which is, in fact, an entire district, and not just a bar), and I guess there was the additional benefit of running into Nadège and Catherine and Jean-François. :D Evan and I actually managed to stumble across the latter pair in FRA on our way out.

Oh, right! Evan is here! He came in, partially comatose from overwork and overstress and undersleep, from YYZ (Toronto Pearson) on Friday morning at 6:30, which meant that yours truly, who lives, conveniently, in the middle of nowhere, had to wake up at 4 to get there to meet him. I didn't realize that it ever actually got fully dark here in Germany; even at midnight it seems that there's still dusk hanging about the edges of the sky, but at 4 in the morning it's like pitch.

So we got into Dublin and spent the evening exploring the Temple Bar area, then awoke the next morning to meet the French Canadian Contingent at City Hall for the New Europe free tour of Dublin. It was to start at 11am... so where was everyone at 10:55? Not around the back, not at the side, not in the castle... were we in the wrong building?

Nope, just the wrong time zone. Damn GMT.

So after an hour in which we explored Trinity College (and were admonished to stay clear of the grasses thereof) and ate delicious Irish muffins (who knew you could put butterscotch in frosting?), the tour was awesome; the guy who led it seemed pretty passionate about everything, plus he was Irish, and listening to his accent for 3.5 hours was entertaining in itself. :)

We learned about the horrible misfortunes of the Irish people, and how the "luck o' the Irish" may be considered sarcasm. They've had lots of failed uprisings, invasions by the Vikings, famines, and general not-good-ness. Trinity College, for example, was off-limits for the Irish people for a long time. There were some pretty fantastic stories about it, though: the tower/gate located in the middle of the grounds is supposed to mean bad marks on exams when students walk under. Its redeeming quality is that, if a student is able to climb all the way to its top, he or she will receive first in his/her class. The catch? The dean is allowed to shoot at the climber with a crossbow.

We saw some interesting additions to the city for the millennium, including a spire thing that wasn't actually finished until 2003. It's really tall and slender, and it's equipped with a light at the peak "in case there is a helicopter chase through Dublin." Um, okay.

There was also the requisite bit about Bono, whom our tourguide loathes with a passion, evidently.

The River Liffey that flows through the centre of the city is quite a sight; it's maybe the filthiest river I've ever seen. Irish wisdom has it that you don't need to be Jesus Christ to walk on that water.

Christchurch Cathedral is a cathedral, naturally, which is great, but the best story about it was that it holds two mummies. They aren't human, but instead they are a cat and mouse that were found, dead, in the organ's pipes during cleaning. The Irish, with their weird sense of humour, decided that wouldn't it be great to mummify these guys and let them chase each other for eternity? So they did. Also around this area were some remains from a Viking settlement (the Vikings had terrorized the island several times over the years), which were sort of neat.

After the conclusion of that tour, there was still another classic to be done: The Guinness Factory! It was a chance to learn how beer was made and to sample a pint of "the black stuff." Mmmmmmmm...

On to Cork, just a 4.5 hour busride away. Buses are serious business in Ireland; the bus station in Dublin was set up to be as efficient as an airport, with terminals and departure boards and -announcements and whatnot. On the bus ride, the sun caught the misting rain just right and refracted into a gorgeous Irish rainbow. No pot of gold that I saw, though...

Cork was way sleepier than Dublin, which was fantastic. It was possible to see countryside (and to walk on grass inside the city limits!) from everywhere. The trip out to Blarney Castle was also great; the castle stands tall and proud against the elements, even after hundreds of years. The Blarney Stone itself is far more awkwardly-located than I might have imagined; one must climb to the top of the castle (five storeys) and dangle backwards over a chasm that opens to the ground in order to kiss it. I did it, but I've probably got about 47 new diseases from it. :-/ At least I've also got the gift of gab!

Again, wandering the countryside was fantastic. The sheep and cows speckled emerald hillsides under temperamental grey skies which alternately drizzled on us and glowed with caught sunlight. I think that Irish cream must come from those cows.

This was followed by a night on the town and an early-morning flight back home.


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