Today I leave Dublin and I’m Donegal-bound — after I make an excursion to the out-of-town Tesco to try and get some gluten-free bread. (I’m getting quite acquainted with Dublin transport: took the Luas the other day and now I’m going to experience the DART.) So I thought I’d look back on the last few days.
I wrote this on my phone, so I apologise for any formatting errors, or if it turns out disproportionately long — it’s hard to tell without a wordcount feature.
I arrived in the afternoon, so although I did some exploring it wasn’t hugely adventurous and I spent the evening flopped on my bed reading because I didn’t have the energy to go out and do things. The night was somewhat disrupted, as I’m staying in a hostel dorm (which I booked despite knowing full well that I can’t sleep when there are other people in the room) and the following morning… Well, it got off to a bad start.
It began at breakfast, which was exceedingly crowded and noisy. I’d been told that there were gluten free options and I should speak to staff on duty, but the person I asked didn’t speak enough English to know what I was asking and I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else. I then spilled tea all over myself, and had a bit of a panic attack.
Once I recovered and went back to my room to break into my emergency food supplies, I found that I’d misplaced my passport, so I had a panicked search. It eventually turned up, but in the process my sunglasses came apart and I had to go down to the main desk to borrow a tiny screwdriver. When I finally left the hostel, an hour after I’d intended to get going, I got on the Luas without knowing if it was actually going in the right direction.
Thankfully it was, and the day improved somewhat from there. I went to the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Art and History in the morning, then came back to the hostel and changed into waterproof shoes before going to the Archaeology branch of the museum in town. I didn’t stay there all that long due to exhaustion, so headed back to the hostel for an afternoon nap.
When I’d recovered I went back into town to try and get some food, because I didn’t want to brave the crowded hostel kitchen, and found a Wagamama. Unfortunately the gluten-free menu here in Dublin is slightly different to the one I’ve encountered in England, so there was quite a bit of stress for me about whether the food was actually safe. It seems to have been, as I didn’t get sick. After that I walked down to the Temple Bar area and tried to find a pub with trad music that I wasn’t too intimidated to go in.
(As a non drinker and a solo traveller without friends to sit with, a lot of pubs looked like the kind of places where I’d just be in the way, even if that wasn’t actually true.)
I opted for one that had a vast number of tourists in the end, because I figured I could blend in long enough to decide if I wanted to stay. It had music on the ground and first floors, and when I headed upstairs I did buy a 7up — which was extortionately priced at around €3.50 for a can. But I enjoyed the music. The highlight of the band on the ground floor was an amazing whistle player; on the first floor, I loved that they kept making themselves with their own jokes and were clearly having a great time.
I stayed there a good couple of hours but eventually decided I was too tired and headed home, where once again I failed epically at getting a good night’s sleep.
The following morning was less stressful and I managed to get out earlier to go and see the Book of Kells. What really got me about the book itself was how tiny some of the decoration was: a level of intricacy I’d struggle to achieve with a modern fineliner and magnifying glass, yet scribes managed it with a quill. Although I totally understand why, I’m sad we weren’t able to take pictures as I feel like I’m already forgetting the details.
The exhibition was interesting, but I wasn’t entirely sure it was worth the €10 student entry price, which seemed steep. I was glad I hadn’t been any later though, as the queue was huge by the time I left. I headed into town and found somewhere I could get a gluten free crepe, then made my way to Dublin Castle.
Here I managed to buy a Heritage Card, which will get me free entry to a few of the other places I plan to visit, and a spot on a guided tour. That was actually really interesting. I went for the guided option because you couldn’t self-guide around the medieval parts of the castle, but to be honest I learned a lot about the more modern palace and so on, and enjoyed it more than I expected. That said, tours do mean standing still a lot, and my legs have not been enjoying that. I used my cane but I don’t know how much it really helped.
I headed back to the hostel for a rest but ended up befriending a new arrival instead, and cooked myself a very early meal to avoid the kitchen crowds (and crumbs). Then I went out to the “darkland” tour at the National Leprechaun Museum, an adults-only storytelling evening.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect and, while the tour was entertaining, some aspects were a bit cringey and I might’ve resented the €16 entry price. However, I got into an awesome conversation afterwards with the people working there about folklore and medieval Irish lit. It reached a point where literally everyone else had left and we were still talking, one of the liveliest and nerdiest conversations I’ve had in months. We talked about some awesome crossovers and adaptation ideas, as well as making fun of the weird bits of stories and discussing theories for characters.
(Trans Cú Chulainn. That’s all I’m gonna say.)
And it was so refreshing to talk to people who (a) know as much about this stuff as I do but (b) don’t take it seriously and (c) are just as into the bizarre 17th/18th century folklore as the medieval stuff. Plus people I haven’t talked to about it before, so it was all new. But mostly the irreverent approach to stories and the focus on humour and the potential for adaptation, rather than high-minded academic readings of it.
(Sorry, Cambridge, but you’re killing me by not letting me make jokes in exams.)
So that was awesome, especially as one of the guys had some of the same esoteric interests as me. (Mostly Donn, who is a fascinating and well-developed figure in folklore but exists only in glimpses in medieval lit.)
I was planning to head straight home afterwards, but when I was nearly at the hostel I noticed dancing and trad music in a nearby pub and ended up popping in just to have a look. Then stayed for at least an hour and a half, befriended a very nice man simply because he was sitting next to me, and got roped into joining in a dance at one point. So I didn’t get home until nearly midnight, despite my good intentions, which made me think this is possibly what a fairy revel feels like.
All in all, I felt like I definitely made the most of yesterday, although I was totally exhausted (and still didn’t freaking sleep, though came closer to it than the last two nights), but I’m ready for a calmer day today. I’ll drop my luggage off in the luggage room for storage, wander around a little bit, make my epic trip to Tesco, and then head for Donegal, where I hope I’ll get some actual sleep.