A Tramp’s Abroad: In the planning home stretch [updated]

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Christ, would someone help me? Anyone? It’s the last weekend before I leave for Ireland and I’m feeling so overwhelmed. I took a guidebook for Ireland into the bath with me and realized by this point I’d have already read and printed out reams upon reams of information about culture, history, literature, etc., of every stop we’re planning to make for a regular family vacation but for this trip to Ireland and the UK, of all places, with just myself and my daughter, I’ve done almost nothing. Not for lack of wanting, mind, but general ennui.

Why the unhappy? All the reasons. Just all the reasons. The crunch of time, the busy-ness of work and the graduation party taking up so much time. The all of it. I’ve plucked my head nearly bald from the stress. (Not really. I spend far too much time and money “enhancing” its natural luster to dare do that. Still, if not for that I would. Well, no. Probably still not.)

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 General Ennui

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Have I started packing? Of course not. Have I even made a list? NO. I am paralyzed with indecision. It is well and truly awful. What I have done is spend hours and hours and hours and hours weighing hotel options, booking here and cancelling there, etc. There was a reasonably-priced hotel in the area of Temple Bar in Dublin, and I had it booked for a while, but realized I felt far too worried about its possibly dangerous reputation to justify saving a few dollars. It’s just not worth it. If you don’t know Temple Bar, it’s billed as the Bohemian section of Dublin. It’s where young people, mostly, go to get drunk. Live in Chicago? It’s Rush St. with an Irish accent. Is it dangerous? I just don’t know. Maybe. Depends which website you believe or whose advice you take.

[Update: Have since heard from a reliable source Temple Bar’s not so terrible. May re-think options.]

[Update to the Update: The hotel just off Central Dublin’s still cheaper.]

So, I bounced from hotel to hotel to hotel (how did we book trips before the internet?), booking several rooms I knew I could cancel for free, until finally I settled on the best place for the best price. It’s a bit out of Central Dublin but not much. Plus, the Hop On/Hop Off Dublin bus stops right around the corner, near a restaurant that looks absolutely lovely. We’ll have to try it, along with the sweet little coffee shop nearby.

 

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Another thing I love? Google maps street view. It’s addictive clicking that wee man, sending him running up and down all the streets. I like placing him in harm’s way, in the centers of streets, in danger to life and limb. Why? Ease of entertainment. But it is, truly, great for checking out neighborhoods, finding restaurants and shops and things in easy reach of other things. It’s not perfect. It wouldn’t, for instance, take me for a stroll in Phoenix Park, Dublin. Still miffed about that. Haven’t tried the Dublin Zoo, though. Yet.

We have two-day passes for the Hop on/Hop off bus mentioned earlier, which will take us past all the major sites. I’m of a mind to sit through the entire tour, to get my bearings, then start the hopping. From each stop we can wander wherever the mood strikes us. It may be The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Dublin but it’s easiest. For a first trip there it should work quite well. Next time I’ll have seen what everyone sees on a first visit and can stroll like a native, sucking on a pipe, wearing a trench coat, looking worldly wise.

I want to go, I just don’t want to do any actual work to get there. I want to know facts about all the places we visit but it’s too much work getting all that together. I don’t know anyone willing or able to recommend, or caution against, anything in Dublin. I’m researching minimally the “old fashioned” way, via guidebooks and online recommendations. The Guinness Storehouse is on every list but it sounds far too commercial, despite the promised panoramic view of the city from the top of the building. I’m sure it’s a fascinating lesson in the art of brewing beer but I can’t get past the rather obvious retail element. Not that I’m opposed to Guinness (or retail, for that matter). Oh no! But I’ll have mine in a pub, thanks, where the atmosphere’s more Irish than a mish-mash of nationalities. If I wanted the melting pot I’d stay home.

There’s Christ Church Cathedral, a must visit. It’s the oldest building in Dublin, plus has both a creepy crypt (which can be rented out for social functions, kid you not) and bell tower.

 

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Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, crypt

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Trinity College Dublin holds the Book of Kells, a medieval illuminated manuscript. You can see digital reproductions of every, single page at the college’s website (which kept getting hung up for me).

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Stunning but strange, at the same time.

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Kilmainham Gaol is just that, an 18th century jail. Supposed to be worth the visit. Éamon de Valera, Irish patriot, spent time there.

St. Michan’s Church (1095) holds a crypt filled with mummies.

You can’t visit the other churches in Dublin without including St. Patrick’s, last resting place of Jonathan Swift, et. al.

Perhaps it’s Parnell Square Irish Writers’ Museum I look forward to most, though it will bore the living hell out of my daughter.  Maybe I’ll send her shopping, instead.

So much more: the footsteps of James Joyce, the Famine Memorial, Joyce statue, used book shops and roaming the lovely parks. I should be able to get a grip on two days’ worth of Dublin easily enough, with the help of the Hop On, Hop Off. Plus, I’ll loop back around to Dublin before I fly home, spending two last nights in a hotel right on the Liffey. A bit of ‘me’ time for quiet contemplation, roaming bookshops, absorbing Dublin life and culture as it goes past. Maybe I’ll visit the zoo, take a few hundred photos of wildlife and its visitors. Or have another look at the Book of Kells. Doesn’t much matter what I do so long as I’m there.

First questions: what to bring and how much, which books to carry along, how much information about Dublin sights to read beforehand and bring with me.

I have our hotel. I have our bus pass. I have two one-day tours booked. I have a lovely map of Dublin, plus a smart phone and the inherent ability to ask Dublin natives for help.

Over the first hurdle I must jump. If I start packing, then hopefully things should begin to fall into place. A bit of enthusiasm would be nice, as well. Where did it all go?

[Update: Have started packing!]

Right, then.

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SHAMROCK

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