May 16, 2004
Refreshed, revived, and ravenous, we came downstairs to Clifden House's dining room for breakfast at 9 a.m. I loaded up with scrambled eggs and toast with rich, creamery butter served on pretty blue and white china, a cup of fruity yogurt, some coffee, and a small glass of OJ. Amelie went "Full Irish" (enough to make any Muslim cringe): one egg (slightly runny), some sausage (linked), some bacon (soft and fatty like back/Canadian bacon, not crispy like American bacon), toast (buttered), slice of tomato (shoved to the side), and the crown jewel - the 'white pudding': ground pork butt or liver, grains, eggs, seasonings, and something white (either milk or fat or white blood cells; never found out, never want to) stuffed into sausage casings, sliced into medallions, and fried up. The white pudding differs from black pudding in that black pudding includes pig's blood. In my recipe book, the final preparation step after frying either version up would be to toss it out as far as humanly possible, but maybe that's just me. In fact, if I mustered up the courage to touch it and practiced throwing it enough times, I might be able to enter the World Black Pudding Throwing Championship!
We returned to our room to shower (Oh, Danny Boy, the water pipes, the pipes, were clanging!) and re-pack. With nearly 20 pounds of junk on our backs, we checked out of the guesthouse, said goodbye to the north side, and joined the Sunday strollers milling about the River Liffey.
In response to its recent economic boom, Dublin ran right out and got an urban face-lift of slick, glossy storefronts, a botox injection of McDonald's, Burger King, and Urban Outfitters, and a nip-tuck of refurbished historical buildings. The result is a city that looks less like a quaint Irish town and more like EPCOT. Apparently, even the population matches the youthful look of the city with over half of Dubliners under the age of 30.
We found a nice, sunny patch of green near City Hall and whiled away the time there until it was time to check into our next rest stop. We observed the past meeting the present as a driver of a horse-drawn carriage clopped by while chatting on a cell phone. We watched three happy dogs bound after a tennis ball for an hour. We found Dublin's version of Starbucks in Butlers Chocolate Cafe. Coffees in hand, we found a spot in the crowded 22 acre park of St. Stephen's Green and counted ducks.
At 2 p.m., we checked into Avalon House where, despite making a reservation for a double room en suite (with private bath) a month in advance, they put us in a bathless room with a co-ed shower and co-ed loo down the hall. The room was so small, you could not swing a leprechaun in there! Leaving the dispute with the front desk for the next day, we decided to check out Trinity College. We monitored the progress of what must have been a drunk-on-Guinness, clumsy magpie struggling to carry a limb up a tree for a while before we chose watching a women's cricket game over visiting the famous and historically important Book of Kells. What can I say, sunshine and action won out over darkness and a $12 fee to stand in line to see a manuscript.
After visiting Oscar Wilde's front door, ("I'm sure I don't know half the people who come to my house. Indeed, for all I hear, I shouldn't like to") we paused for a bit at Merrion Square and then wandered around the nearby museums. Note to fellow travelers: the free bathroom at the National Gallery is much nicer than the free bathroom at the Natural History Museum.
We weighed our dinner options and after a hearty thirty-second debate, we decided on Wagamama where I ordered the exact same meal I had the night before (the leftovers of which we had that morning). After dinner, we returned to St. Stephen's Green to soak up more of the surprisingly strong Irish sunshine. The heat and sun began to make us loopy as we lounged around on the soft, cool land fur and attempted to share my mp3 player while watching our fellow park-goers enjoy the day. Unbeknownst to us, the lamp in the sky was on high and Amelie ended up with a slight sunburn! In Ireland! Glory be!
Spotting "Publin' in Dublin" on our to-do-list, we had a pint at McDaid's (one Stella and one water, please), discussed the merits of the latest Chris Rock special, and listened in on our neighbors' conversations. When the pub closed at 11 p.m., we returned to our hostel (to the heart-warming sight of two dudes relieving themselves on the hostel's wall) and scurried up and down 6 flights of stairs to retire in our room on the 4th floor. Yes, 6 flights of stairs to get to the 4th floor. Don't ask me. I think it has something to do with the metric system.
Next up: How to score free crepes.