Last night there was horror in Paris and Beirut.
Today then is full of reflection. I'm so grateful for my friends and family. So grateful that we have each other, that we're safe. Grateful that we are here at all.
This morning over coffee and cereal at the bed & breakfast, a very nice Australian woman and I talked about travel, learning about the world, safety, and of course Paris and Beirut. When the subject of traveling to Paris came up, she was rather against it. "I don't think it's a good idea, not now."
The wonderful host of the B&B in this quiet, little Irish town 800 miles from Paris, gasped when I told her I was heading on to Glasgow and Berlin. "Oh my, be safe. They're not like here."
I will be safe. Though I will not live in fear.
I travel so much in order to see and learn. And the more I do it, the more I wish everyone would, could, see more of the world. It erases abstract concepts of "others" and humanizes the blurry preconceptions we have of distant people we've never met. It shows us that there is kindness and hospitality and human beauty everywhere. It teaches us that there isn't that much to fear.
"You and I are quite grotesquely lucky to be here..."
"The here and now is all we have, an inspiration to make the most of it."
- Richard Dawkins
Here in little Galway, I sit in a pub where Sky News is showing cell phone footage of the Paris attacks. And I am grotesquely lucky to be here, warm and comfortable. I intend to make the most of it as I move on.
Be safe, but not fearful.
Tell your family & friends you love them.
Make the most of it.
To read from the beginning, here's part 1.
In my last post (part 2), I left off just before telling you about Halloween in Dublin...
I was told "not many people celebrate Halloween in Ireland," which I thought was odd for the country where Halloween was born. While it isn't as pervasive as in the United States, the holiday presence in Dublin was obvious. The big difference is that it was tasteful. Meaning, every storefront was not overflowing with crappy decorations and disposable junk for sale. It was refreshing, to say the least, and makes me think Christmas here might actually be nice. I saw a handful of people (mostly in their 20's) dressed in costumes for parties on Friday the 30th, but the real festivities were of course on Saturday the 31st. And rather than every pub trying to make a huge deal out of Halloween, it felt more like one in three were advertising some kind of low-key holiday themed night.
The most unexpected thing wasn't the Halloween parties though. It was the fires.
After biking all over the city Saturday, I was riding back to the guest house and decided to take a turn off the main street. And here's why biking in new cities is good: About two blocks in I rounded a corner to hear kids yelling and a lot of banging, then saw a massive bonfire pyre being constructed in a playground lot.
Kids, from age 7 to 17, were stacking all manner of burnable stuff on to a 2 storey tall pyramid of doors, tires, shipping palettes, random planks and debris, and even massive billboards that I watched a mob of 10 year-olds rip from the alley wall. These little firebugs had the balls to yell "trick or treat!" at the Garda (police) that slowly rolled past. They didn't give one single shit about cars or cops.
They were on a mission. Apparently the kids had been collecting this stuff for months, hiding it away from the Garda who frequently confiscated all or most of it. They told me it was tradition, and that this was one of hundreds just in Dublin alone.
I stuck around for about an hour, until about 6pm, before learning they wouldn't light it up for another 2-3 hours. Bummer. I really wanted to see this thing go up, but biked on back to the guest house.
I went back out again around 10pm, and the Halloween bar crowd was out in full-force. Plenty of people were in costume and many of the pubs had costumed people spilling out into the sidewalk, either just smoking or waiting to get in. And something that I don't see in the USA, there were lots of fireworks. The sky was constantly lit up with exploding flowers and, thanks to all the giant bonfires, the whole city smelled like a campfire. After walking a bit, I took a cab to Thomas House pub, a rad bar I found while digging around on Twitter. This place was twelve kinds of awesome, with great music and the perfect mix of comic books and punk rock.
After hanging out at Thomas House for a while, it was time to make my way back to the guest house for a good night's sleep.
Coming up next: the lovely Irish National War Memorial Park, the most posh hostel ever, and leaving Dublin for the West coast of Ireland.
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Here's Part 1 if you haven't read it already.
Today is my 8th day away, and it's odd - in some ways time has flown by, while in others it feels like months have passed. I feel like I just stepped out of the airport a day or two ago, and that I've only been in the city for a couple of nights. The things here in front of me are so close and so new that time feels sped up. There is so much to take in, so little that is familiar. On the other hand, pieces of home seem distant, like I haven't walked in my old neighborhood or seen the people I miss in months. Time, or at least our feeble perception of it, is strange.
It's been an eventful week.
I moved to a guest house in Rathmines, a busy south-side neighborhood overflowing with cafes, restaurants, shops, and university students. I wanted authentic Dublin, and it feels like I got it.
I stayed in the Uppercross House Hotel, just off of Rathmines Road. It's a labyrinth of old hallways and various buildings that were merged together at some point (here's a video of me walking in). It's clean and comfortable, and the location just can't be beat.
After a night there, I wanted to see if I could rent a bike. The city has "Dublin Bikes" all over the place (it's just like Divvy, for you Chicago people), but I didn't want to be tied to bike stations and wanted to be able to ride as far and long and I'd like, any time. It seems, though, that most shops don't rent bikes. I was able to find a great shop with cheap used bikes, and to make it even better they'll buy the bike back at 50% of what I paid for it. I found a tall-ish, old cruiser that looked like it had seen some shit in its time. It had fenders (very important when everything's always just a little wet, if not flat-out raining), a comfy seat and didn't quite feel like a kid's tricycle when I climbed on. I rode it out for 105 Euro, and have been cruising all over the city with it for the last 7 days, with more to go. Far better than a daily rental. There really is no better way to see a city like this than on a bike.
I've spent most of the weekdays exploring Rathmines Road and the surrounding areas, getting breakfast at fantastic places like Gerry's, finding good coffee shops, then settling in to work on my laptop in the afternoons/evenings. One favorite is Grove Road on the corner of Rathmines and Grove. It overlooks a small bridge over the canal on the south edge of Portobello. Their coffee and juice is great, and the people watching is even better. It's been the perfect stop on my rides to/from the city center each day.
On Saturday I rode past the Guinness Storehouse to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The building and grounds were just beautiful, and I could have spent the whole day just walking their gardens. Sadly, I can't say the same for the exhibits inside. There was just one exhibit, "Love: Then & Now", which had various depictions of love in abstract, photography, video and some installation pieces. It had a lot of potential, but I'm sorry to say I was unimpressed. For the most part the pieces felt like sophomore art student projects that didn't really push their respective mediums or step out of the blatantly obvious observations. But again, the building and gardens were well worth the trip.
Skipping the beer tour... On to the IMMA.
Here are a couple of videos if you'd like to see a bit more of the IMMA grounds: The garden and riding out the back gate.
Saturday was also Halloween... but I'll save that for the next post and tell you what it's like spending Halloween in the country where it was born.
Read on for part 3...
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