Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Isn't 800 Years A Euphemism For "This Has Never Happened Before"?

Sitting on a bus from Dublin to Belfast, about to wet myself because I had a genius idea about an hour ago to warm myself with a nice bus station mocha. Drank the whole damn thing just in time to get on the bus and then realize, oh wait, I just put 12 ounces of diaretic liquid into my system. So if my writing seems erratic, rushed, or just plain crazy, you now know why.

I seem to keep bussing away from cool things in Ireland and bussing towards the really cool things (this is a joke, because I actually keep bussing toward dangerous, hazardous, or bad weathered locations.) For example, last Friday I took a bus from Dublin to Cork. It wasn't until I was checking out of my hostel that morning that this was a bad decision.

“Going to Cork, are you? How are you getting there?” says a random man next to me who neither worked nor was staying at the hostel. I told him by bus.

“Well that might be okay, but the trains aren't even running today. Seems that Cork is completely flooded.”

Well great. I go to the bus station and everything seems to be fine, until I am en route and the news that is playing on the radio announces “DO NOT TRAVEL TODAY UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO!” and “CORK CITY IS COMPLETELY UNDER WATER” and “WORST FLOODING IN 40 YEARS!” Just perfect.

I get off the bus in Cork and wonder, where is all of this flooding? I was literally expecting to have to swim off the bus and wade knee deep to my hostel (which luckily was up a bit of a hill, so I figured at least I could sleep dry.) Yes, the river running through Cork was practically spilling over the sides of the quay at Class 5 rapid speed – something I assumed wasn't normal. It was also a disgusting brown color and carrying all sorts of objects a river probably shouldn't...like soccer balls and umbrellas. So something was amiss.

I met some guys in my hostel who gave me the low down. The night before, the rain had been coming down so hard, people could hardly leave their houses. Being 20-something males, they had been out drinking all night, and passed out in their beds in the university district. They woke up to find themselves wet (hand in the warm bowl of liquid again, boys?), but it turned out to be the apartment...flooded up to about their waists. Apparently they had to swim out in a drunken stupor and find their way to a hostel. I love that story – it gives me such good mental images.

Things just got worse from there. The next day, I took a bus to Blarney (land of the gab stone), which seemed to be a beautiful day – semi-blue sky – which is practically summer to these people. The main path to the castle was under two feet of water. Everything was just wet, wet, wet. After I had taken a beautiful walk around the grounds, walked around in the castle, kissed the stone (I have no proof of this because I didn't want to buy the Splash Mountain-esque photo from the Blarney Co., but it was pretty cool. The guy sprayed the stone down with a disinfectant product pre-kiss, I hear because of H1N1, so my smooch was a bit chemically. Other than that, its a pretty cool experience to have to bend over backwards - literally – to lip lock with a rock that has no real significance except for what lore lends it.)

On the way out of Blarney, the river had risen...oh...another couple feet or so, filling in the paths I had previously taken with a couple feet of water. Let me tell you, wading around on muddy soaking grass is FABULOUS! Too bad I'm not an owner of some moon shoes. Or Jesus.

I picked up a newspaper at lunch (which was an amazing heaping pile of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and fresh brown bread. Have I raved about fresh brown bread yet? FRESH BROWN BREAD IS THE BEST! Better than that spaghetti carbonara back in Florence...I'm not quite sure, but could you imagine eating them together in ONE MEAL?!?) The newspaper announced that I was privy to the 'Worst flooding in 800 years”, subtext: the worst flooding ever, in the history of Ireland. Lucky me!

I have now grown accostumed to long bus rides through small villages nearly completely submerged in whatever river they thought it was so smart to live by. Portlaoise has a rugby pitch under 5 feet of water. Gort has one main road into town, and let me tell you, its not looking so pretty. I saw a poor guy wading up to his knees to get out of his house the other day on the ride from Galway. It's intense.

But enough about the floods. A bit about Ireland. It is everything I would ever want from a country (except for the rain and wind...) The cities are clean, vibrant, the buildings aren't too tall and are painted the most fantastic colors, pub culture is terrific, buskers are significantly more talented than anywhere else I have been (I actually tipped some yesterday: they were playing “Where Do You Go To My Lovely”, a song from The Darjeeling Limited, and I just loved it so much I dug through my disgustingly disorganized purse to pull out a euro coin).

Going to traditional pub music sessions aren't even too touristy of an activity – plenty of locals go, too – so I get to share one of my favorite activities with a diverse group of people. You get a random combination of guitarists, fiddlers, drummers, flautists, banjo...ists, accordion players, etc. and it is simply magical. Last night I found out that one of my favorite Irish songs, Galway Girl, isn't even an Irish song at all. It was written by a guy from Texas. I guess that explains why part of the verses have a “Kay ai kay ai ay!” in it. Oh well, they still like to play it here.

It's fucking cold here. I'm sorry, ears of the internet. But you would want to use that adjective too, if you only know how fucking cold it is here. Take for instance in Galway. I went walking along the bay in an area known as the Claddagh, towards another area called Salt Hill. It's about...oh...8 degrees Celsius. (COLD, but could be colder) but of course, the wind is so strong that I am actually getting a hand with my walking, being pushed along the path. Laughing, I might add, because what else can you do when you're being shuffled along by freezing cold wind? And THEN, the rain decided to show up. It decided to also join the wind, and if we calculate where this rain would be going (visualize, visualize) yes, that would be completely at my back. I show up back at my hostel with a completely drenched backside and a nearly dry, but very cold front. Bizarre.

I took a day/night trip to Connemara, which is supposed to be the most beautiful nature in Ireland. I will attest to this: it is absolutely beautiful. Let's talk colors: the bogs are red. They are red and gold, literally. And every once in a while, you get these giant groves of pine trees (not indigenous, kind of a disaster, but another story for another day). And all of the time, you get sheep. It's absolutely amazing. Add a couple of rivers, a lot of waterfalls, handmade rock walls, and thatched roof huts, and you've got an absolute feast for the eyes.
I stayed in a hostel out at the Kil...something...Fjord (having fallen in love with fjords in Alaska, I was pleased to discover that is was ALSO a fjord! Thank you Swedes, or whoever, for giving us this funny word for a beautiful thing.) The tour bus drops me off on the side of the road and I'm looking around like..great. I'm in the middle of nowhere. I follow a sign and start walking down the road. It starts raining. I start laughing. No, this is a lie. I start talking to myself like a crazy person, saying things like “JESUS THE RAIN WHY THE RAIN?” I walk about half a mile and I finally see this lovely building, and I walk in, and it is completely vacant except for this really great Canadian guy, who is essentially the Jack Nickelson of Connemara. I literally had this giant hostel to myself. So I settle in, make a batch of popcorn on the stove (!), and watch first a nature VHS about Australia (you know, filling in my knowledge) and then Michael Collins – an Irish history film (the Irish say fil-um) featuring a sexy young Liam Neeson. I find a copy of Julie/Julia and read it. I make curry. I watch the rain fall over the fjord, and I am happy.

My bladder is so full of coffee. Must take a break to eat pita bread to possibly sop up the liquid in my body. Tootles for now.

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