I’m quickly beginning to realize that posting once every two weeks just isn’t going to cut it while I’m abroad — too much is happening! It’s been a busy whirlwind of activity and I’m not sure where I should even start, but I guess chronological order is probably the best way to go.
I’ve been in Dublin for less than a week, but I’ve already had the chance to get out of the city, a feat made pretty simple thanks to Dublin’s DART train line. On Friday Champlainers descended upon the town of Bray, located just down the coastline. The entire DART line actually follows the coast both north and south of the city centre, passing through several towns home to many of Dublin’s working class. Public transportation is the way to go in Dublin, and most people don’t even own their own car.
On the train Sarah and I had the chance to chat with a lovely Irish lad seated across from us. He told us a bit about the different places we passed by and pointed out Bono’s town to us, a location that every Dubliner seems to know. Perhaps the most interesting bit of our conversation, however, was actually regarding American politics. Who knew? Apparently most of the Irish are pretty certain that Hilary’s going to take the Democratic nomination, but Sarah and I were both surprised to find that he still knew who Bernie Sanders was.
Our Irish pal shed a lot of light on how important American elections are abroad. Many of our corporations have made their way over here, and the political decisions made in the States influence those companies, which in turn has an effect on the local people. It was eye-opening to realize just how much the Irish know about what’s going on in America, and it almost made me feel a little shameful about how little I knew about their own politics in comparison.
We may not have gotten his name, but I was definitely grateful for the chance to speak to this man. One week in and I’m already getting a chance to see some new perspectives.
Once in Bray, we hiked Bray Head, a small mountain just past the main part of town. The climb was rocky and muddy and practically vertical, but the view from the top was astonishing, despite the constant gusts of wind threatening to send us flying off the edge.
Back at the bottom, we ate flour-covered burgers that turned our faces a dusty white, and made a short trip to Harbour Bar, the so-called “Best Bar in the World,” before heading home.
Our last day of orientation was a short one, but once the information part was over we were thrust onto the streets of Dublin with a map and a list. The staff had grouped us into fives and organized a scavenger hunt around the city. At this point, my exhaustion levels were at an all time high and the thought of trekking across Dublin in a crazy attempt to find a two Trinity college students willing to hold up their IDs and pose for a photo with me while standing on one leg wasn’t exactly all that appealing.
Surprisingly enough, though, our little adventure turned out to be a pretty good time. We met a sweet old man who told us a story and posed for photos with strangers around the city. And perhaps the best part is that I actually kind of know where I’m going when I move about Dublin now! I returned home with tired feet and a slightly better sense of direction. I’m by no means an expert, but I definitely don’t feel nearly as lost as I did the first few days.
This morning was, like most Sundays, for sleeping in. Kind of lame considering we’re in a foreign country, but trust me when I say that jet lag and a full orientation schedule kicked my butt this week. I needed it. And don’t worry, we didn’t spend all day in bed!
My roommates, Sarah and Abbie, and I decided to explore the city with a particular goal in mind: to visit as many bookstores as possible. Can you tell we’re writing majors?
We only made it to 3 bookstores today, all pretty close to home. We were aiming for 4, but our second stop was closed, despite the sign on their door that said they opened at 1:30pm on Sundays and our arrival time of 1:52pm. Oh well.
Gutter Books is this sweet little shop on a cobblestone corner just a few minutes from our apartment. We browsed around, walked back and forth and in circles, and just generally marveled at the shelves in front of us. We also discovered the shop’s namesake — a quote from Ireland’s own Oscar Wilde.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. –Oscar Wilde
After Gutter, we had a chance to visit Dubray Bookstore and Hodges Figgus Bookstore, both of which were significantly bigger. I’m talking three floors of books. A reader’s dream. Miraculously, I managed to walk away with only one book purchased, though I’ve saved the titles of quite a few others for future reference.
I loved how prominently displayed Irish authors and stories were in each of the stores. The Irish truly are proud of their heritage, and I’m so glad they support their local writers. I’ll definitely be picking up a few of their books before the semester’s over.
They also have a lot more in paperback than we do in the States. Even some books that had just recently been released were already being sold in paperback as opposed to hardcover. The publishing part of me is anxious to find out why.
Though I must admit the most pleasant surprise was the book covers. Many of them were entirely different from the covers of the same books back home. And they’re beautiful! I was tempted to buy some just for the covers. Among my favorites with differences were Khaled Hosseini’s books and the Harry Potter series.
I kept my cool though. (Mostly.) And after a quick stop at Le Petit Parisien Cafe (and when I say petite, I mean petite), for some late afternoon scones we were headed home. All in all, it was a lovely end to an exhilarating first week in Dublin.