Saturday, November 20, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

Well the night before I left I was homesick, lonely and very eager to leave.  I went to the hotel's Chinese Buffet and struck pay dirt. The food was fantastic!  I finally got to eat something yummy.  The Tiramasu cake transported me to the edge of heaven and taught me life's true nirvana, eating more of it!  I ate 3 small slices, it was amazing.  I won't tell them that it's not Chinese. I then went back to my room and relaxed for the night.

I did not sleep the night before I left because I was afraid I would NOT hear the alarm and the hotel staff never called at 4 am, which is exactly what I was afraid might happen.  So I stayed up watching TV, packing and getting all ready to go home.  I was chomping at the bit to leave, I was lonely, had no one to talk to and very tired of all the fear of getting lost and wandering around in a strange country.  I wanted to go home...NOW!

By 4 am I was at the front lobby checking out, paying my bill, and I had them call a cab so I would not have to wait in the dark by myself at a bus stop for God knows how long.  The cab was there within 5 minutes and the man who drove me to the airport was very nice. I really enjoyed talking to him.  He was griping about Ireland's massive unemployment and how bad the economy was.  Sound familiar folks?  He dropped me off at the door of the airport.  I hate the Dublin airport with a passion.  It's old, dirty, junky, and very very confusing (like their streets).  They are opening a brand new terminal within 2 weeks and it's GORGEOUS.  I am sure things will be much better then.  I don't appreciate dragging a heavy suitcase up and down stairs and I almost fell downstairs carrying it to the Customs Gate.  I had to go through security, customs, and immigration and then wait forever.  It was all hurry up and wait.  I met two other women who were traveling so we talked for several hours, all of us going from Dublin to Atlanta Georgia. They were Irish citizens going to visit family/friends in the US.  We had a nice chat. 

When we boarded I almost jumped up and down with happiness.  I hate small planes and this one was HUGE.  It was a 767 and it was amazing.  After take off the pilot announced it was an 8 hour flight!  I almost cried.  I have no desire to sit in a tiny assed seat for 8 straight hours.  I had a young man from Nigeria sitting next to me and we chatted off and on but I tried to sleep and did manage to snooze some as the flight was very smooth and uneventful. I drank some beer since beer and wine were free and had to run to the bathroom a few times but watched 3 movies, ate 2 meals and basically counted down the hours until I got back to the USA.

Once in Atlanta I had to muster up what little energy I had to go through immigration, customs, and I had to walk all the way to baggage claim even though I had no bags to turn in my declaration form of what all I bought overseas.  Then they made me go all the way through security again to get back to the terminal and I was LOST!  I hate hate hate hate hate Atlanta airport. I'd burn it down in a heartbeat.  It took me almost an hour to find out which gate I needed to be at and where it was in the airport.  They need to nuke that airport and start over as far as I'm concerned.  I met a few other people taking the plane from Atlanta to Flint and I was so relieved that I would be home in a couple hours. 

The plane was a DC-9 and I have fears about them because: they are old, and things can go VERY wrong with them unexpectedly so I was SCARED flying in this plane.  It didn't help we were all packed in like sardines and it was making LOUD squeaking noises whenever it stopped like the brakes were bad.  A few other people commented on that and I got really scared.  The plane looked like it was built by Wilbur and Orville Wright themselves, old and junky, dirty, not very pleasant but I didn't care at this point, just get my ass home!  The pilot that flew it kept banking the plane first one way then the other, I was wondering if he/she had a liquid lunch or something.  It was a very uneventful flight but the spiraling plunging landing and THUNK on the ground was not appreciated by this nervous flier.  I give that pilot a C-

Once back at home I met up with hubby and told him we were IMMEDIATELY going to Buffalo Wild Wings as I needed REAL FOOD and TRIVIA NOW!  We did and I stayed for 2 hours and then came  home and got some much needed sleep.  This morning I uploaded all my photos and relaxed and am ready to see my family and talk about my trip.  I hope you enjoyed traveling with me.  You have been a wonderfully supportive companion and I thank you for your time in reading about all my adventures. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Don't Feel So Good

Today is rough friends and family.  While you slumber I am up starting a new day.  Before I get to why I'm very sick today let me tell you about all the places I have been. 

I jumped on the Hop On Hop Off  Bus determined I was not going to be scared of getting lost.  I wanted to find that blasted whiskey shop.  I made myself get off the bus at quite a few stops, bought about 50 Euro worth of whiskey in little bottles that I can bring home in my limited one quart bag that you are allowed through airport security without checking the bag (I sure hope).  Anyway I then went to St Patrick's Cathedral and it was an amazing building.  I kept thinking how much Rich would love this place as he loves old churches.  I snapped some incredible pics I will post once home that will really amaze you.  They are in the middle of reconstruction of the church thanks to the Guinness family and it needed it badly.  It's an Anglican Church but is filled with gorgeous stained glass a few graves of notables from the community.  There is a statue of the Guinness patriarch on the front lawn that the Irish have jokingly dubbed, St. Guinness.  I bought a Claddaugh ring (Sterling Silver) at the St Patrick's gift shop along with a shot glass for my whiskey, some Irish Whiskey Fudge and a rosary that a friend of mine had asked me to pick up for her. 

Then the tour bus stopped at a Victorian Era pub so I had to go in (strictly to see the building--LOL) and I had a lunch of seafood chowder with delicious brown bread and 2 pints of Guinness.  I watched an older gentleman talk to this young gal about how sorry he was that she was in love with him but he had been very honest about being married and that he was not going to leave his wife for her.  I watched him pay for their drinks and leave the bar while the gal dabbed her eyes, put on fresh lipstick and left.  Very sad. 

I jumped back on the bus and by this time I was pretty tired so I went back to the hotel room to regroup and relax for a bit.  Then I decided to take a walk down Henry Street, a shopping street off the main drag that was PACKED with people.  It runs alongside the Spire, which is a silvery pointy structure at the main center of the city.  I like it but it's called (excuse the naughtiness) the erection at the intersection.  It helps to find your way around and is one of the tallest memorial statues in Europe.  It's built in memory of all those who fought for Irish freedom.  5-6 pm is a GREAT time to be out and about in Dublin.  Everyone is out of work and the streets are PACKED.  It's wonderful.  They have Christmas decorations up everywhere and everyday I pass by a storefront that has been gradually putting up a window display.  You know, the old fashioned kind where they have scenes you can admire?  Well this one is quite impressive so I knocked on the window and asked the young man doing the display if I could take his pic among the display.  He blushed and nodded and I snapped a pic I'm sure you will love to see it when I get back.  I stop everyday and compliment him on the single most beautiful display I have ever seen.  Sadly I won't see it done as I'm leaving tomorrow.  After walking around I decided to go somewhere that made my night a little more than scary.  Wait until you hear about this turn of events. 

I was up late last night with a couple of people I met at Madigans.  Madigans is a traditional pub about 2 blocks from my hotel.  It was the pub I ducked into to avoid that woman who was badgering me for money on my first day.  Well I meet a group and we partied there and then they took me up the street to another pub called the Woolshed.  It's a sports bar and it was PACKED as Ireland was playing a soccer match against Norway.  Luckily we found a table ok and had a great time for about an hour or so.  I was very very drunk as I'd already drank 3 shots of whiskey before I even went out walking so after about 5 Guinness I was pretty loopy to say the least. What I did not know was that one of the men in the group had taken a fancy to me and when I told the others I really needed to get back to my hotel and asked one to walk me back this man was very aggitated and announced he was taking me back to my hotel.  He said he wanted to take me back to my hotel bar and we could drink and 'see where things go'.  Well it made me very uncomfortable and suddenly I realized that I was very stupid. I'd let myself be led somewhere drunk and had no idea how to get back.  I was at their mercy as a tourist in a strange city.  VERY VERY STUPID.  I knew I wasn't far from main street so I started plotting it out in my head.  Unfortunately my head was spinning pretty good but I still had enough sense to realize I could be in trouble if I didn't act fast. 

When the others went to get more beer this man asked me to kiss him and I told him NO.  I then told him I was going to the toilet (can't get used to using that word instead of restroom) and made my getaway.  I snuck downstairs went to the head bouncer standing outside and asked him how to get back to O'Connell Street.  He told me I was only about 4 blocks away and pointed me in the right direction so I set out walking VERY FAST.  It was drizzling, dark, and I was drunk and by myself.  Again, very stupid.  Lucky for me no one messed with me, mugged me or worse.  As I started getting near the 3-4 block mark I asked a sweet elderly man standing in a convenience store doorway if O'Connell was still up ahead to make sure I didn't pass it.  He said it was the next corner and asked me if I was all right.  I told him I was now that I knew where I was going and thanked him for his concern.  The Irish really are a very generous, polite, and friendly lot.  I turned onto O'Connell thanking my lucky stars I found my way back and proceeded to go to the hotel.  I went into the bar and got some almonds as I needed some food.  I then went upstairs and was feeling quite sick.  I also felt rather sad that my experience at meeting people went sour but I still had a good time. I won't let one person ruin my night. It was fun until he got a little crazy acting so I will store the happy parts of the night and forget the bad parts.  I went back over my behavior and at no time can I find any reason why he would think I was going to take him back to my hotel.  I offered to buy a round of drinks when it was my turn but he said no.  Irish men do NOT let women buy them drinks, it's just not done.  But I tried at least 3 times so he can't say I was 'using' him for free drinks.  I certainly attempted to pay my way.

I laid in bed wondering what that man thought when I didn't return from the bathroom.  I felt sad about the others in the group but decided it was better to be safe than risk being in a situation that could prove very dangerous and I AM a woman traveling alone.  Lesson learned and I am the wiser for it.  I was very relieved to actually be ALONE with no one following me or showing up at the hotel.  I think he pretty much got the message and even though he was assuming a lot, I do think he was basically a pretty decent guy, he didn't try to come after me or show up at my hotel so I think he realized I said no and meant no. 

So in spite of my scary experience I had a good time partying and when I woke up this morning, OMG I am SO SICK.  It was a damn good thing I didn't fly out of here today or I have no idea how I would have made it. I feel horrible.  I have been drinking a lot of water and juice and avoiding a lot of food, which brings me to my only complaint about my trip. The food!  It's horrible here.  LOL, I thought Irish food would be great but about the only thing I like is the brown bread and scones (the raisin scones are horrible, too many raisins but the fruit ones are GREAT).  They make terrible coffee, their breakfasts are all fat and grease (they take little button mushrooms and throw them in a deep fat fryer) and their idea of stew is roast in beef broth with a filo crust on top.  It's just not good folks so don't come here thinking you're getting great food because you aren't.  Good luck ever getting chicken.  The entire menu is beef, lamb, and pork.  And the irony of it all is that they really pile it on your plate.  You get your monie's worth.  When you order chips (french fries) you get like 2 or 3 cups of them!  When you order scrambled eggs you get what is probably about 4-5 eggs!  I have not been able to finish a meal here yet.  I get too full.  And to be honest, bless their hearts, the food is horrible. I tried fish and chips and the fish was mushy and full of bones!  I can't wait to get home and have some good ole American fare.  I would KILL for some chicken wings right now.  I am missing it badly.  I haven't tried their versions of Italian or Chinese food, and I'm not sure I want to venture that way with a queasy hangover stomach. I have little whiskey bottles that need to be drank up today as I can't take them on the plane but I guess I'll leave them for the maid with my usual 2 Euro tip for her as I am NOT drinking today.  I'm probably going back to the hotel and lie down once the maid has my room tidied up.  I'm very tired and I want to relax and just leisurely stroll around and reflect on my trip.  I may venture down Henry street again and just wander main street looking at people and dodging the beggars. 

I love this country, it's beautiful, it's wonderful and I am SO glad I came here.  Believe it or not I totally HATE flying in airplanes so I am NOT relishing taking off over the ocean tomorrow but I will actually be really glad to get home. I miss my bed and my fridge and my American food and all of you.  I have enjoyed this trip and it was all I could have ever wanted it to be but I know that Dublin would not be where I would live if I had the choice.  It's wonderful to visit but I am an Irish-AMERICAN girl and I will be glad to step foot on American soil again.  It's fun to visit another culture but after awhile you begin to realize that this is THEIR country and you are but a guest, you are not at home and you don't belong.  Maybe if I wasn't alone I may have felt differently because I really haven't had much of anyone to talk to in the entire time I was here unless I was transacting business or buying something.  I took pics but I was very considerate NOT to snap pics where people could have their pic taken without their consent.  I have tried to be a considerate guest and hopefully that made my visit pleasant for them. One of the people I partied with last night was pretty open about things so I asked, 'Do you find it amazing that people come from all over the world to see your city?'  and the answer was, 'Yes, it's weird to me to see all of you on tour busses as I find the city rather boring.  Our economy is suffering so badly though it's good you come, it helps us out.'

All in all, I'm glad to have been here and I'm ready to come home.  I will not be finishing this blog until Friday night as I will be leaving at around 5 am my time to get to the airport and get ready to leave on Friday.  That is midnight your time.  My flight is at 8:40 am which is 3:40 am your time.  I will be home by 6:30 your time.  I will be trying to get readjusted to the time change before I start work next Monday.  Luckily I only work 3 days and then will be off for the Thanksgiving Holiday.  I think it will be a while before I finally get myself back to normal.  I hope you have enjoyed my blog and I will type my last entry after I have returned talking about my journey home, customs, and my reflections post trip. 

I will be VERY CAREFUL today and I'm not drinking anything to give my body some rest time.  I will take it easy and I may or may not do a lot today.  A gentleman beside me in this internet cafe is having trouble with his computer and we were chatting a little.  I will sure miss the beautiful lilting Irish accents, they are so beautiful.  Bless the Irish for their warm hospitality and their loving welcome of me. 

The woman at the tourist center gave me the lowdown on the bus back to the airport and was very sweet.  She really helped me get used to Dublin and was the first friendly face I saw. She's an older lady with a big smile. I will miss Ana.  I will also miss Sean at the front desk of the hotel. He has had to reprogram my keycard a dozen times for some reason it seems to deprogram itself.  He just smiles and says that these things happen and fixes it for me.  He's probably my son Joe's age and he's a really nice young man.  And I will also miss the bus tour drivers who were so nice and pointed the way for me to visit stores, sites and other things when I stared at them with a blank face.  I will miss you all and thanks for a wonderful time! 

I love you family and friends, I will be home soon, HUGS!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

25 Hours with no sleep

Good Mornin'!  I'm sittin' here with my white coffee trying to think how I can possibly sum up yesterday.  I slept like a rock last night and I am very aware, as I type this, that it is only 4:30 am where you are, dear friends and family. |It is 9:30 am here.  So let me type while you slumber.

I jumped on the bus tour after I signed off yesterday and I am so glad I did it!  Yes it made me a very conspicuous tourist but you have no idea how confusing the streets are here in Dublin.  They are NOT labelled at all and you have no idea how winding and twisting they are!  The panhandlers here are horrible, you get bombarded for money everytime you turn around.  I just say no and walk away but one woman kept showing me her baby and hounding me so badly that I ducked into a pub just to escape her.  I was sure glad I did. It was an adorable Irish pub with heavy dark woodwork and an old style wooden bar.  I drank two pints of Guinness and started feeling pretty giddy.  It was at that point I remembered that the alcohol content is much higher here so I didn't drink my usual 4-5 pints!  After I left I kept noting that there are about 100 different double decker bus companies here (take that Ann Arbor friend) and no one really drives much.  I would say only about 20% of the population drives, most ride busses and walk everywhere.  There are no single story busses they are all double decker.  I like them.  I will miss seeing them when I get home.  I don't know why, just will.

When I jumped on the tour bus I was feeling pretty happy but it was very helpful to see where everything is that the map indicates.  Maps are almost useless, just too confusing here.  Well there I was enjoying my bus tour when I had to use the toilet (they are not called bathrooms or restrooms in Ireland, they are TOILETS) to use the Irish phrasing.  Just when I thought my bladder was about to explode the bus stopped where?  At the Guinness Storehouse.  Well I figured since you can tour it, they must have a toilet so I jumped off and went inside.  First thing I see?  Toilets!  Thank heavens, crisis averted.  I then went ahead and took a tour and OMG I was blown away. I have seen lots of tours but this was the best, the best organized tour with most friendly tour guides (even though 90% of it was self guided) and great displays.  I learned all about Guinness and how it was made and I have great pics to post when I get back.   You work your way up floor-by-floor and at the top of the building there is a 'gravity' bar where the entire bar is all round room made entirely out of glass and you can see the entire city of Dublin with mountains in the background.  It's breathtaking to see the mountains with mists around them gently huggling and cradling such an amazing city.  Sadly this bar is only for your free pint you get at the end of the tour, I offered to buy more but they don't sell it there, it's just the complimentary pint.  They said if they sold pints no one would ever leave.  I'm actually thinking of paying the tour price again just to see that view and have another pint but I've got other things to do.  I got two pics of me smiling with my pint so I will be eager to show them to you when I get home and can upload them to my computer.  Guinness grain growing helps employ many farmers and their Storehouse employs quite a few people.  I met a gal whose mum is Irish and she said that she moved there from Nova Scotia and never looked back.  I can see why.  The city is a very hustling bustling place full of interesting people and shop after shop packed together.  I'd love to live here too, my kind of place, if I could ever learn my way around!  LOL

The buildings here are often older than our country and it's amazing to see the architecture.  You can also see bullet holes where the war for the Irish Independence was fought right here in the main part of town!  The Irish are very proud of their fight for freedom but you do NOT discuss this topic as emotions run every high and opinions are very divided. 

I then rode around the rest of the tour and, again, needed to use the toilet so I ended up back at my hotel.  That's the cool thing about this bus tour, it actually stops right in front of my hotel.  I can pick it up anytime. It's 16 Euro for 24 hours, which is pricey but everything in Dublin is expensive.  That's ok it looks like I brought enough cash to hold me over.  I only have today and tomorrow.  Friday morning I will be heading to the airport at 6 am. 

I finally started to get really really tired so I had an early dinner at around 4:30 and decided I'd just go to bed and sleep all night.  I was having a hard time just walking back to the hotel because I was so tired.  I took a long, hot shower, my first since arrival and felt much better.  You have to get used to very low water pressure in your showers, but I was warned about this by people who live in Ireland so I waasn't surprised.  I switched on the telly and I noticed Irish TV is much like ours.  They have an Irish version of the show Cops, all in Irish dialect and with Irish accents, I was cracking up.  They have Science TV all in Irish accents too of course.  So they don't import our TV but, rather, have shows of their own that they spin off from ours (or maybe we steal theirs--who knows?).  I slept until 1 am and then woke up worried I might not be able to get up Friday morning and discovered that the TV has a wake up alarm on it.  I set it but I ended up waking up before it so I'm going to set it for the middle of the night tonight and make sure it wakes me up so I don't oversleep on Friday morning as I will have an early flight to make. 

When I used the lift this morning (lift=elevator) I noticed it talks and at first I thought I was losing it and hearing voices but it announces what floor, which is good for those who are visually impaired.  The street crossings also made a loud beep and then a ticking sound so someone who can't see can know it's ok to cross the street. We need things like that where we are.  It's very weird to see traffic coming from the opposite direction as they drive on the left side of the road.  When I ride I have to keep closing my eyes as the bus will literally squeeze around vehicles with less than 2 inches to spare on either side.  It's quite amushing.

I went to an Irish breakfast this morning but I didn't care for it at all. Something told me to just have the porridge and coffee but I wanted to try the full Irish breakfast.  What's a full Irish breakfast you ask?  Well, it's 2 very large and fatty Irish sausages, one slice of blood sausage (which tastes like old oatmeal with a tangy edge) one slice of regular sausage (which tastes like old oatmeal period), a large serving of baked beans (very bland), scrambled or fried eggs, a couple scoops of minature mushrooms roasted, 2 pieces of toast, a triangle of potato-onion hash brown potatoes, a half of tomato steamed with parsley on it, and bashers (it's bacon but more like our version of thinly sliced ham).  |It also came with 2 slices of toast with real butter (no margarine in Ireland so far that I can see). Needless to say I wasn't impressed (too greasy and too much food!) and will stick with porridge, not being a girl who is much into breakfast anyway. I had a laugh with the coffee.  I was drinking coffee with milk (no cream in sight) and I looked for Sweet And Low.  All they had was this sweetener that literally has all three things in it: Equal, Splenda, and Sweet and Low and it doesn't work very well.  So I will live without sweet coffee!  LOL All coffee is served with both brown sugar and white sugar.  And milk not cream is the whitener. 

I've been a cowardly girl about venturing too far but today NO MORE!  I want to see the south end of the city so I've loaded up with Euros and I'm taking that bus to the Celtic Whiskey Shop where I'm going to overindulge in Irish whiskey today.  I want to see the 'ritzy' shopping district with Irish equivalents of Macy's endures.  So I'm off to the hotel to use the toilet (thinking ahead this time) and then I'm going to do a little south end shopping.  I hope to have lunch at one of two (maybe three?) Irish pubs in the area depending on whether or not I get lost trying.  The Irish people (I hate lumping people in groups) as a whole are VERY friendly and very tolerant of 'tourists' in their city asking stupid questions.  They smile, they are polite, they seem very happy overall but I know economically they are hurting badly.  I passed by two street musicians and a man on his knees with a sign that read 'I'm hungry please help me'.  His face will be ectched in my mind all day today.  It looked very pained.

Well enough of this, time to get out and about and enjoy the day, the time clock is ticking and I need to see so much more.  I may see a few art galleries and/or museums today, depending on how I feel.  I am feeling much more acclimated to the time change and Joe was right, you just have to stay up and not sleep the first day and then you're ok.  I wish I could stay longer but I am getting lonely for someone to talk to!  At the end of the day I wanted so much to 'process' my day with someone, something I always do and no one was around. I was a little sad but I chalk it up to being very tired and having a long day.

Later friends!  Can't wait to relate today's adventure to you tomorrow, my last journal entry before I head home. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Flight and Arrival

Holy lord was this trip crazy.  It started with a horrible teeny tiny plane ride from Flint.  The plane was packed and so tiny you could barely squeeze into your seat.  It didn't help that I am big and an even bigger gal was squeezed in beside me.  I got so sick on that flight I almost threw up and we just went to Detroit Metro!  I thought for sure I was doomed.  I was panicked, alone, sick and desperately dialing everyone in my phone book because I needed a friend so badly. 

I have to confess, I called Rich crying and told him to pick me up!  I was paralyzed with fear and the sick thing was scary.  He actually calmed me down (which we often don't do very well for each other) and told me he was NOT picking me up as this was my dream and to get on that plane and go!  I knew once I flew to JFK it was all over, no turning back.  So...I texted a good friend, and got to laughing.  I bought some Dramamine took 2 and waited for my flight to JFK.  I was so afraid of that airport but it was a cakewalk.  I got in and out of there in no time.  It was 200 degrees in that blasted terminal but I found the Dublin flight and OMG it was PACKED! We flew a 757 and it there wasn't even one empty seat.  I thought a window seat was a good idea but it wasn't because you end up crawling over two people to go to the bathroom.  The flight was smooth as silk and the landing was a tiny bit scary, one second all you see is OCEAN and the next you're touching down.  Then I get off the plane, breeze through customs and now what?  I wasn't sure how to get to the hotel and where exactly I went to get a bus.  I asked a gal at the information desk and bought a ticket on the bus that also includes a ride back to the airport and it's really close to my hotel so that's good.  I just need to see how early they arrive so that I can make sure I get to the airport in time to leave on Friday as the traffic here is HELL!  The streets are packed and there are so many places I don't know where to eat.  I found I was thirsty and wasn't even sure where to go for a pop!  I was starting to freak out when I told myself, "This is all new, just give it time!" 

The hotel room is tiny but neat, clean, and quiet.  Ironicially the bathroom is bigger than the bedroom!  LOL  And get this, you have to put your room key in this slot on the wall for the electricity in the room to work!  I think that's a neat way to save energy.  I like it.  My room is non-smoking since I quit and sadly has a bad view but I'm not here to hang out in my hotel room.  I just need some orienting so I can pick up a few snacks to have in the hotel room in case I get the munchies at night and I need a Guinness soon!  This internet cafe is right up the street and I just wanted to let everyone know that this is the scariest and coolest thing I have ever done.  I think it might take a full day before I get my nerve up and venture off the main street.  All that map practice didn't do diddly, I'm very confused and people are bustling by and I don't want to look like a tourist.

I'll write more tomorrow after I do this bus tour.  I'm going to head back to the tourist office now and get tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus tour.  That will at least give me a good sight seeing trip that takes about an hour or so and then I'm not sure what I'm going to do after that.  I'm not tired at all, even though I did not sleep a wink on the plane.  I'm geeked and hoping I can find things so that I can have a good time and enjoy my stay fully with the few days I have here.   See you soon all! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

A History of Dublin

Well fans I thought it might be good at this point, while I'm flying and busy getting to the capitol city of the Republic of Ireland if I gave you some background on the history of the city so you can appreciate it a little more. 

Dublin was founded in 988 A.D., although traces of it's existence does go back further.  It was founded by the Vikings and was originally named Eblana.  The Wood Quay in the city center has uncovered some ancient Norman Viking ruins of a once walled city.  The town was captured in the 9th century by the Danes and the city changed hands from the Danes to the Irish several times.  Several key battles where the Irish wrestled control of the city from the Danes were in 1052, 1075, and 1124.  In 1171 the Danes were expelled for good by the Anglo-Normans under King Henry the II of England.

Until the middle of the 17th century Dublin remained a small town that wasn't faring very well.  In 1649 after the English Civil Wars the town was taken over by Oliver Cromwell.  There were only about 9,000 residents at that time.   By the end of the 17th century Protestant refugees poured into the city and it began to thrive.  As Dublin grew in size and wealth it was nicknamed "the second city of the British Empire" and the rights of the Catholics were denied them under the Protestant rule.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish Catholics had been prohibited from owning land, from leasing land; from voting, from holding political office; from living in a corporate town or within five miles of a corporate town, from obtaining education, from entering a profession, and from doing many other things that are necessary in order to succeed and prosper in life.

The Irish Potato Famine and the deliberate genocidal ethnic cleansing by the British stand as one of the most horrific human rights tragedies ever in the history of the world. One million Irish people starved to death when a blight destroyed the potato crop for many years. Potatoes were the staple of the Irish diet. The English took all the other edible crops out of Ireland, and used them inside their already well-stocked pantries. The English "solution" to the starving Irish was to tell them to leave Ireland forever, creating one of the worst Diasporas ever in modern history.

One Irish artist, Rowan Gillespie, created sculptures of the famine victims at a famine memorial at the Customs House Quay in Dublin, Ireland. He also created the sculptures which are part of the Ireland Park Foundation in Toronto, where many of the victims of the Irish famine fled in what became known as the "Coffin Ships," and often died lined up outside of Canada, forbidden to enter, locked into ship holds without adequate food or water.
This famine changed forever the makeup of Ireland and occurred between 1845 and 1852.  

In 1800 The Act of Union between England and Ireland abolished the Irish Parliament and drastically reduced Dublin's status.  A long decline set in that only reversed itself when Ireland became a free nation in 1922.  This independence came about after the 1916 uprising and the subsequent war of independence.   Dublin was the scene of some of the most severe fighting of the Irish rebellion of 1916 and of the revolution of 1919 to 1921, which resulted in the establishment of the Irish Free State.

After Independence Dublin became the political, economic, and cultural center of Ireland. The location of the Government of Ireland, Dail Eireann, assembles in Leinster House, Dublin. The Four Courts, seat of Ireland's judiciary, and the Custom House are excellent examples of Dublin's late 18th-century architecture. Both buildings were damaged heavily during the Civil War but have been restored.
South of the river is Dublin Castle, which was begun in 1204 and almost totally rebuilt in Georgian style in the 18th century. The castle was the seat of English authority in Ireland until 1922. Today it is the site of the inaugurations of Ireland's presidents. Near the castle are Christ Church and St. Patrick's, Dublin's two Protestant cathedrals. Both date from Dublin's earliest days as a Viking settlement.
They were extensively rebuilt by the Anglo-Norman invaders of the late 12th and early 13th centuries and were again rebuilt in the 19th century. Ireland's original Parliament House, now the Bank of Ireland in College Green, dates from the 18th century and is also in Georgian style.

Maritime trade has always been one of Dublin's most important activities. Dublin is Ireland's largest port and major exporter. It has also developed into the largest manufacturing city in Ireland, though the factories, aside from breweries and distilleries, are engaged primarily in light manufactures. The city's most famous business is the Guinness Brewery, founded in 1759 and one of Ireland's largest employers and exporters.
Economic planning efforts have attempted to locate manufacturing plants outside Dublin, and the city has had a dwindling share of manufacturing employment since the early 1960s. The manufacturing and exports of computer hardware and software have recently become a major business. Ireland is now the worlds leading exporter of these.

Dublin has an illustrious educational and cultural past. Trinity College, or University of Dublin, founded in 1591, has graduated authors Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, and Oscar Wilde. Its library houses the 8th-century 'Book of Kells', the famous decorated gospel book made by Celtic Monks.

Dublin was also the location for the premiere of Handel's 'Messiah' in 1742. Famous literary figures to emerge from the city include Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John Millington Synge, James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Samuel Beckett, William Butler Yeats and George Bernard. The city played a leading role in the revival of Irish language and literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This included the opening of the Abbey Theatre in 1904, dedicated to the revival of Irish drama. Museums in the city include the National Gallery of Ireland, The National History Museum and the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art.

North of the river and west of the city center is the Phoenix Park, nearly 2,000 acres(800 hectares) in size, with a zoo and a racetrack, it is renowned as the second largest enclosed park in the world, second only to Yellowstone in the U.S.A.

Why is Ireland divided?  This essay I found explains it better than I can although I can say this is a subject of touchy debate and it is not a good idea to bring up in a pub.  Emotions runs high on the subject of a Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland but  here's what I found thus far:

Henry VIII rejected Rome and put the Church in England under his
 personal control.  This church was to became more protestant,
 particularly under Elizabeth I.  Ireland's population remained
 mainly Roman Catholic. The conflict between Catholicism and
 Protestantism played a large part in 17th century several wars
 in England and Ireland:  civil wars, colonial wars, and at least
 one war (c.  1690) that was part of a wider European conflict.
 Following some of these disruptions, the winners forcibly
 transferred ownership of large amounts of land to new landlords,
 and sometimes new tenants: those who had supported the winning
 side or those who they felt would support them in the future.

 The majority of the Irish population were on the losing side.  A
 new elite was built of Anglo-Irish (people of English
 background, and also Anglicized Irish) members of the Church of
 Ireland (Anglican/Episcopalian).  This "Protestant Ascendancy"
 lasted well into the 19th century, with traces still in evidence

 English Protestants were not the only ones to settle in
 Ireland.  Presbyterians (historically known as Dissenters) from
 Scotland colonized north-eastern Ireland in large numbers.
 Other nonconformist Christians (especially Friends, better known
 as Quakers) started arriving in the 16th century, and their
 numbers grew in the 17th.  During this period they and the
 Protestant Ascendancy were not close allies:  there were
 significant differences in background, social class and style of

 Both the Catholic majority and the Presbyterians were the
 victims of discriminatory laws favoring the Church of Ireland
 (that is, the Anglican church established by the state).
 Generally, though, the discrimination against Catholics (who were
 regarded as treacherous and potential allies of France and Spain)
 was worse than that against the nonconformists.

 In 1801, Ireland was technically made one with England, Scotland
 and Wales by the Act of Union which created the United Kingdom of
 Great Britain and Ireland.  In some ways, this was a Good Thing
 for Ireland, as it led to electoral reform, land reform, and the
 disestablishment of the Church of Ireland and its right to tax
 the whole population.  But the colonial relationship remained,
 and as freedoms grew without real equality with England and
 the English, so did Irish nationalism develop and flourish.
 (Nationalism became a force throughout Europe in the mid
 nineteenth century, leading for example to the creation of Italy
 and Germany as nation states for the first time.)

 But there was a complicating factor.  In the late 18th and early
 19th century, the Ascendancy and the Presbyterians had begun to
 become allies on political and nationalist issues.  As Irish
 nationalism developed (mainly among Catholics), so, in response,
 did unionism (the desire to preserve the United Kingdom) develop
 and strengthen among both kinds of Protestant.  Several times
 the unionists threatened insurrection against their own
 government in order to stay under that government.

 In 1912, a third Irish Home Rule Bill was introduced to the
 British House of Commons, where it would pass its third and
 final reading in January, 1913.  This was blocked by the House
 of Lords, but they could only delay bills since the Parliament
 Act in 1911.  Unionists in Ulster reacted with alarm; an Ulster
 Volunteer Force was formed in 1913.  This force landed 25,000
 guns from Germany at Larne in April 1914, with the declared
 intention of using them if Home Rule were imposed on the
 northern counties.  Their slogan was "Home Rule is Rome Rule",
 referring to the fears they had of a Catholic dominated Ireland.
 In the event, Home Rule was put in the statute books but was
 never implemented because of the Great War which started in
 August, 1914.

 Two nationalist militias, the Irish Citizen's Army and
 the Irish Volunteers were formed, dedicated to Home Rule.
 They were far less efficiently organized than the UVF and they
 quickly split in 1914. However a small part of the force, led
 by Republicans staged an armed rebellion (the Easter Rising) in
 April 1916, briefly taking over a small part of central Dublin.
 Their attempt at gun running had failed with the capture and
 scuttling of the Aud, carrying thousands of German weapons.
 The general uprising the Republicans hoped they would inspire
 throughout the country never happened. The rebellion was
 crushed; its leaders were judged guilty of treason and shot.
 Many hundreds were interned in Britain.

 Before the war, a majority of people had supported Home Rule
 which would grant Ireland autonomy in domestic affairs.  After the
 war, Sinn Féin (previously a minor party with tenuous connections
 to the actual Rising) got overwhelming support for their platform,
 complete independence (but not in the north-eastern counties, where
 Unionists were in the clear majority).

 The failed rising was an inspiration to many join the newly
 created Irish Republican Army (IRA) and fight. The conflict
 escalated into a brutal war of attrition between the IRA and
 the British.

 But the unionists still held the north, and they would in turn
 rebel if Britain cast them loose.  Partition was made official
 by the Government of Ireland Act of 1920.  This was based on the
 old Home Rule Bill and formed the basis for the negotiations
 that were inevitable once the two sides had reached stalemate
 in the south.

 The Treaty of 1921 that ended the war with the British was a
 messy compromise.  The Irish negotiators, who included Michael
 Collins, but not Éammon De Valera, accepted it under the threat
 of "war within three days" from the British Prime Minister,
 Lloyd George.  There was also a vague promise that a Boundary
 Commission would adjust the borders, possibly gaining Fermanagh
 and Tyrone for the new Free State.

 Opponents of the treaty were outraged not so much by partition
 as by the Oath of Allegiance (to the King) that members of the
 Dáil would have to swear.  The negotiators in London had managed
 to water it down considerably, but any oath was unacceptable
 in principle to hard-line Republicans.  The Dáil, reflecting the
 feeling in the country, voted (reluctantly) to accept the treaty.
 The new Irish Free State had a dominion status similar to that
 enjoyed by Canada.

 The IRA split on the treaty issue and there was civil war.
 This became more brutal than the war of independence before it,
 with massacres and atrocities committed by both sides.

 (The South altered its constitution in 1937 severing most of its
 links with the UK. It declared itself a Republic in 1947.)

 The Boundary Commission that was set up as part of the Treaty to
 realign of the border between Northern Ireland and the Free State
 did not meet until 1924.  Both nationalists and unionists were
 reluctant to participate in it (the unionist delegate had to be
 nominated by the British government, and the Irish representative
 understood participation meant the end of his political career).
 The Commission's terms of reference were vague and included a
 proviso that boundaries be drawn "in accordance with the wishes
 of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic
 and geographic conditions".

 The Chairman of the Commission, Feetham, was not inclined to
 make any big changes.  In any case, (Southern and Northern)
 nationalist feelings about the border were muddled and
 ambivalent.  The Unionist position, "not an inch", had the
 advantage of being clear and simple.  The Free State drew up
 a minimum negotiating position that would gain Fermanagh,
 most of Tyrone and parts of Down and Armagh for the South.
 Even this minimum position could not be held, and so the
 Commission was quietly abandoned in favor of the status quo
 (the border created by the Government of Ireland Act) in 1925.
 This left substantial unionist minorities in Donegal and
 Monaghan and nationalist majorities in Fermanagh and Tyrone
 all on the wrong side of the border. 
The Irish Free State was overwhelmingly Catholic and nationalist, and unionists 
formed a clear (but not as overwhelming) majority in Northern Ireland.

Dublin today is peppered with double-decker busses, trains, a tram sytem and a lot of traffic.  There are many great sites to see including museums, art galleries, brewries, distilleries and places to eat and shop.  Dublin brings in a substantial amount of tourist dollars but has fallen on very hard economic times.  Most of the people I talk to from Dublin in preparation for my trip have said things like, "I hope to have a job for a few days soon" or "I'm working only part time".  Their feelings about Americans are generally pretty positive as the Irish are a positive upbeat people who have survived much suffering but there are anti-American sentiments here as in many places around the world.  Prejudice and intolerance are part every country but the majority of the Irish I've spoken with in preparation for my trip are warm, welcoming and delighted with people coming to visit their capitol city.
I will now get ready to leave and I can't wait to tell you all about my flight to Dublin and my first impressions as I ride the bus into the city center.

Pre Trip Jitters

Well it's the night before I leave and I'm very nervous.  There's a part of me that wonders what in the heck I'm doing going off to Europe all alone and another part of me that can't wait to get there and see a country I've longed to see my whole life!

My great grandmother Hazel Plate was a McCarty and hearing her talk about being Irish always made me want to know more about my family.  I am very sorry I didn't talk to her more about her past and her family before she passed away.  I cannot find anything about her parents on any of the ancestry websites I've searched.  It's a valuable lesson to make sure you ask about family before the older ones are gone from your life.

So I'm all packed and I haven't flown in a while I sure hope my flights are all smooth sailing. It just dawned on me this will be the last night that I will sleep in my bed at home for the rest of the week.  I just hope all my connections go well and I end up in Dublin when it's all said and done.  There are many concerns about being a woman traveling alone and one of them is crime.  Just like any big city Dublin has it's share of crime and I hope I am safe walking the streets by myself. I plan on using the buses for some transport and I am armed with a full artillery of maps.  I look forward to some great Irish Stew, Guinness that is fresh from the brewery and hopefully meeting some locals at a few of the more authentic Irish pubs.  I will be doing some shopping at the Dublin Airport as they have a HUGE mall there and then moving on via bus to my hotel.  I hope I can get in it early as I know me, I will not sleep worth a darn on a noisy airplane.  I also found an Irish sportsbar that shows American football games and has bar trivia with a pretty large jackpot.  I'll go try my hand at that and I'm taking my Detroit Tigers Jersey to wear to it.  I'll probably look like a zombie that first day from lack of sleep.  Dublin is five hours AHEAD of us.  Speaking of sleep, I better head off to bed and get some rest while I can.  I have a BIG DAY tomorrow.  I will write more when I get to Dublin at their Internet Cafe.