Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Posted on 9/1/03

Despite the total exhaustion that gripped me, the bus ride between Belfast and Dublin kept me alert and braced for impact the entire way. Our bus driver drove as if his dick girth depended on how fast we got to Dublin. This was very unsettling considering that when I boarded the bus, he seemed almost catatonic, barely able to gather together the wits needed to punch my ticket. But now he hauled ass like a man possessed through the Irish countryside and nothing about his driving was smooth or subtle. He passed all manner of vehicles – trucks, other busses, Ferraris - on the narrow two lane road, wrenching the bus through sudden lane changes, stomping violently on the accelerator and the brake and taking hills as such break-neck speeds that my butt actually became briefly airborne at the peaks like on a roller coaster. I pitied the poor souls on the bus who suffered from motion-sickness. With the way this guy was driving even my unshakable, air-tight stomach was starting to get woozy by end of the three hour journey.

House of Lords Phoenix Park

I was deposited unsteady and shaky at the Dublin bus station which as luck would have it, was a mere two minute walk from my hostel. My two days in Dublin were a blessing and a curse all at once. A blessing in that Dublin marked the last stop on my crazed tour of nine cities in 18 days. A curse because I had to keep it going for another 48 hours before I could sit down in Spain and stay sitting for six long, glorious days. The next two days were going to be a cruel test of my tenacity. My normal drill-sergeant-like traveling stamina had long since dipped down past “E” and my incredibly expensive hiking shoes had not been able to shield my feet from the abuse that I had put them through in the month of August. Late night feverish writing and the occasional drunk had kept my average nights sleep for the previous three weeks hovering at about six to seven hours which was clearly not sufficient for the trials I was putting myself through during the day.

So, to sum up, I was sleep deprived, physically pooped, sporting ailing knees and throbbing feet. Nevertheless I had to push through for two more days. I needed to be like Rocky (Balboa, not the Flying Squirrel) and pull myself together comeback-style after getting my ass kicked for three weeks and turn around and pound my various handicaps into pitiful submission for one last round. Dublin was not a small town. There would be a lot of walking and a lot of torturous late night writing so I could finish things up and start my six days in Torremolinos with a clear conscious. I got to work immediately.

Cricket, the world's most boring and confusing game Dublin Castle, or what's left of it

After locking and alarming my bags in the hostel luggage room, I sought out the nearest internet café where I proceeded to piss away nearly two hours uploading the essays for Scotland and Belfast as well as answering 12 emails from groupies (my mom). It wasn’t until I was ensconced in emails and uploading the first batch of files that I noticed that the café had perhaps the slowest internet connection since Jesus was a boy. Typically I upload text and picture files up to Geocities in batches of 10, which usually takes about two minutes per batch. This connection was dragging on for 15 minutes per batch and to make matters worse, I was paying by the minute to use this bull$hit connection. I went up to complain to the knob behind the desk. In his attempt to cover up for the fact that they had obviously been too cheap to invest in a full-fledged, high speed line for their café, he barfed out a lie so full of holes that you could’ve put a handle on it and drained pasta through it. His explanation was that their system has a virus that was making the upload and download speeds slower than usual. I didn’t have the strength to illustrate to him that he should look into getting a basic understanding of IP networks before he started making stuff up about them and instead sat there for 90 minutes watching the little blue line at the bottom of Internet Explorer creep along hash-mark by hash-mark until the dirty work was done and I could get back to the task of getting lost in a huge 1,000 year old city.

Like many other ancient cities in Europe, Dublin was the victim of having originally been dozens of scattered settlements, all with their own small set of streets, before they all grew together into one large city at which point some moron decided not to take all of these street names that had merged together and consolidate them into one name for each street. Instead every street in Dublin changed names every one or two blocks making getting a fix on your position about as easy as clipping your toe nails with a spoon. Fortunately for me, Dublin had done right by us tourists by making a huge, detailed map with every single street name transformation clearly noted along with big pictures of each significant tourist site plotted on it’s appropriate spot on the map so that even an illiterate, one-eyed, colorblind monkey could navigate the streets with little or no help. But I still got lost. Sigh. Who’s idea was it to send someone with no sense of direction out to explore Europe all by himself? You know who you are…

On that note, finding help in Dublin was not nearly as easy as it was in Belfast. In Belfast, all you had to do was unfurl your map and look around expectantly and within seconds a passerby would screech to a halt and help you. The Dubliners on the other hand walk very fast, with their heads down and their walkmen blasting them into their own, undisturbable little world. Once you got their attention they were accommodating and friendly, but you had to practically tackle them to get them to notice you.

Beer!  Huhuhuhuhuhuhuh!

Setting out from the internet café, I walked fast knowing that if my feet got warmed up, the pain would all but go away. A brief stop for a cider once in a while didn’t hurt either. The combination rush hour and tourist pedestrian traffic required me to slalom my way through the crowd to get to the enormous O’Connell Street, where I cut across the River Liffey and headed into the ancient Temple Bar and Viking Area neighborhoods. Menacing clouds started to cover the city, but my acute weather senses told me that there would be no rain. I pushed on until I stumbled across the Guinness Storehouse, where I paused briefly only because I personally knew at least a dozen people back in the States who, if they were in my place, would have dropped to their knees and started convulsing like they had just seen the Holy Ghost. The wicked cloud cover was resulting in some awesome photo opportunities, so I rushed around from very old building to very old building, snapping pictures of everything before the sun set.

That evening I got organized for the following day (Saturday) which was going to be a brutal 36 hour marathon that would start with me checking out of my room at the hostel in Dublin and end with me dropping dead in my hotel room in Torremolinos Sunday afternoon. I had several things to do to get prepared. First, I had a lot of re-packing to do in anticipation of my second flight with Ryan “Extortion” Air. I was not going to get grifted for 54 Euros for the over-weight Barge again. My plan was to transfer everything out of the Barge that weighed more than a pair of socks into the Office or, in some cases, onto my body and wear all that fricking weight onto the plane. I’m easily 50 pounds lighter than the average Irish person (and 80 pounds lighter than the average American), so they wouldn’t be able to say shit when my carry-on was dense enough to have it’s own gravitational pull. That’ll teach ‘em! I had it all planned out… I would wear a pair of shorts and both pair of pants. I’d wearing my hiking shoes and tie my clomping dress shoes to the back of the Office. Then I’d wear two t-shirts and my long sleeve t-shirt. This would not only lighten the Barge, but it would serve to keep me warm while I was leaving Dublin, where the night temperatures were dipping into the lower teens (Celsius). Then the instant that I landed in Malaga, I could quickly and publicly strip down to the shorts and one t-shirt for the ride into Torremolinos. Finally, all of the crap that I had transferred from the Office to the Barge early in the summer to ease the load on my back had to be moved back into the Office. This included the hefty gamut of cords, cables, CDs, books, manuals, and porn... I mean my bible! Yes, of course, my horribly dog-eared bible, that I got in Amsterdam (ahem!), that I read well, religiously. Heh. Nice save Pettersen! Moving on… My goal was to lighten the Barge so much that they would need a goddamn anchor rope to keep it from hovering off the scale at the baggage check-in desk.

The larger unpleasantness involved my travel schedule. My plane left Dublin Airport at 6:35AM. This meant I had to be there at 5:35AM, which meant that I had to leave the hostel at 4:30AM, which meant that I had to wake-up at 3:30AM. Obviously, I wasn’t going to get much sleep that night, so I chose not to rent a bed and instead spend the evening in the hostel’s lounge area, working and maybe indulging in a DVD on my laptop later in the evening. I planned to depart the hostel when they shut everything down for the night at 1:00AM. Transportation to the airport - which was mercifully open 24 hours a day – would be courtesy of the night bus from a nearby hotel. After that, all I had to do was tough it out at the airport until my flight. It was going to be an appropriately ruthless ending to an agonizing three weeks for which I only had myself to blame.

Being totally wound up for the shenanigans scheduled for Saturday, I slept like an adolescent screamer monkey with a coke problem on Friday night.

Because I seem to excel in torturing myself and because I was tossing and turning anyway, I got started on Saturday by getting up early and walking for seven hours straight. This included two forays into territories off the Dublin city map, because I’m an idiot, so I was consequently lost in the industrial and shipping port areas for a large portion of the afternoon.

St. Patrick's The Spire on O'Connell Street

Since I was way off the beaten path of interesting things that warranted picture taking, I decided to get into the heads of the locals and stopped in many pubs to pick their brains (and drink cider). Among other subjects, I had to explain for the millionth time that the car racing happened in Indianapolis, not Minneapolis. Sheesh! Can’t these foreigners get our cities straight??? Granted, most of the U.S. thinks Norway is the capital of Sweden, so I suppose I should let these little misunderstandings slide.

The Irish are most definitely the friendliest people I have ever run across. Even the ornery drunks were nice to me. It was weird. Here I was, not even pretending to be Norwegian, and I was making friends so fast that I had to juggle conversations on three sides of me at the bar.

Despite being the end of August, when presumably kids should have been going back to school, the heinous tourist presence seemed to be unaffected. Every time that I decided that I’d seen the worst tourist crowds, along came something even more ungodly. Once again, Dublin seemed to be a popular destination for the Middle-Aged Tourists (MATs). The MAT tour buses were more numerous than the regular city buses. Every time a street light turned green, it was like the opening gun at the Boston Marathon as countless people swarmed into the streets, annoying the local traffic who fought back with constant horn blaring. In my weakened condition, the sensory over-load of all the noise and people was getting under my skin and discombobulating me. Once I got back into familiar territory, I hobbled straight for the hostel. My legs were like rubber and the soles of my feet felt like I had been walking on marbles all day and I had had enough.

In lieu of the long night ahead of me without sleep or real food, I treated myself to an expensive “Last Supper” at a nearby Italian restaurant and hunkered down to do pictures, edit the ca-ca that I had already written on Dublin and watch “Lord of the Rings, Two Towers” in the hostel movie room.

I was unceremoniously bum rushed out of the hostel at 1:00AM. Getting to the airport and staying busy until check-in time was no problem. However, I was shaken down yet again by Ryan Air when they proved to be smarter than I am. Apparently they like to do random checks on carry-on bags, especially when they look like they could anchor down a sea-going ferry. I sulked as I paid a penalty that, combined with the price of the ticket, could have bought me a first class seat to Spain on a KLM flight at a civilized hour. I was far too tired to plot revenge this time. I got on the plane and promptly fell asleep.

I had been dreaming about Spain since the moment I landed in Norway. Warm, beautiful, full of life and a place where I could communicate with the natives. I had spent the entire summer in countries where I had no idea what was being said around me, including several places in Scotland and Ireland. Finally I was not a bumbling tourist. I had spent enough time in Spain and I knew Spanish well enough to make me the next thing to a local. I reveled in my abilities and chatted with every Spaniard that made eye contact with me. I had six lazy days in Torremolinos where I planned to sleep 14 hours a day, walk less that 100 yards at a stretch and reacquaint myself with the wonders of red wine and sangria.

Better yet, things were looking up for my post-Torremolinos traveling. September was when all the MATs went home and hostels and restaurants lowered their prices to off-season rates. I also had some very exciting destinations to look forward to. Spain, Portugal, France, Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland, Italy and Greece. I makes me smile just typing it.

I’m checking out my friends. Talk to you in a week.

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©Leif Pettersen 2012