A Travellerspoint blog

Day 1: Bhliain Nua Sásta from Dublin!

in which your author and his travel companion land and breath in the delicious smell of irish peat!

semi-overcast 45 °F

Forgive me, dearest travel blog, for it has been one year, ten months, and thirteen days (?) since last we spoke, exiting Amsterdam and my favorite top floor Dutch haunt on a layover after a too-brief Scottish adventure. This distance, for the record, is far too long – though I am pleased my streak of annual Europe visits was kept intact by the auld skin of its teeth as I landed in Dublin on the final day of 2013. (Dublin counts as part of Europe, yes? Yes.) This is my third trip to Ireland – other stops occurring in August, 2008, and in January, 2011, and I’m just so jazzed to show it off to my brother (his first trip – see below for his fancy packing maneuvers) and friends.


I write from sullen, seaside Cork – the entirely of Ireland seems asleep today after the shenanigans of last night – where my traveling companion, the hearty Miss Amy Morse and I have safely landed after driving about 3.5 hours in an exceedingly safe manner in our black, stoutish rental car (perhaps we shall name him Murphy?) which must be driven on the wrong side of the road, by a driver perched on the wrong side of the car. I’m actually quite ill, having picked up a nasty, brutish bug from my brother Dan as he drove me to JFK Airport in New York on Sunday, me crowing at him “Don’t worry; I never get sick.” He and his friend Graci – yet to be met by your blogger but already a riot in the tone of her Facebook posts – arrive in Dublin tomorrow, and we will drive back up to meet them on Friday.


Last night was my first New Years outside of the country, not to mention the first New Years in which I actually celebrated twice – once at Midnight in Dublin, and five hours later, watching the tweets flood in over Twitter from the side of my bed. (Glad you made it to 2014 in one place, friends.) New Years has for a long time been an important holiday for me, dating back to reunions with music camp friends in high school, and I’ve always celebrated the fact that it’s the one day of the year when you can greet strangers on the street with wishes of happiness and not get odd stares.

We arrived yesterday even earlier than our scheduled time of 5:10am, grabbed a coffee – Irish but not that Irish – and experienced our first mini-crisis when I walked outside and realized I didn’t have my favorite long blue scarf to guard against the impending and persistent Irish bluster. Is it on the plane? Does it have a new owner? Did I leave it in my brother’s car? Time will tell.

Two friendly chaps helped us get on the correct bus and we eventually made our way over to Drumcondra, a gritty, high-character (in more ways than one) area in North Dublin. Our lovely Airbnb host Laura was exceedingly welcoming and pleasant, and we chatted excitedly about the trip and other topics including, naturally, the Pope. Amy fell fast asleep.


Day 1 of her self-pledge to “run every day” commencing, Amy explored the neighborhood while I conked out for only an hour or so, my internal time clock wondering what day, year, or century it was.


We began our journey into Dublin City Centre, in search of New Years craic, around 17:00, and decided to pop into a pub about two blocks down Drumcondra (?) Road called The Auld Triangle.


Laura later explained to us that the name came from the triangle which would be rung at the old Mountjoy prison not far from where we were. The depictions of IRA hero Bobby Sands (whose hunger strike I saw depicted in excruciating detail in this amazing film) on the outside of the pub made me guess this would be sort of charged spot, and that was realized when our instant friend Paul spoke extensively about current Irish politics and immigration., and we took in the décor, festooned with political slogans and remembrances of athletic triumphs. I only heard about 60% of what Paul, a soft but incessant talker, said. Ruddy, odd-faced men with wrinkled sandpaper faces stared up at the ceiling, wearily waiting for who knows what? Odd-faced men, straight out of Beckett But men! “Up Where We Belong” played on the jukebox.


We have our first Irish Guinness and Paul buys us both another, slightly extending the desired length of our drop-in, and when we leave, he extends to Amy what would soon call “an extended remix hug.”

We continue on the path toward downtown, dropping into a few pubs to use their facilities, running into a man from Arlington, MA who gives us lengthy directions. We stop into another pub for a quick pint and talk about dreams and relationships. Amy says “Nobody writes in a bathroom stall, for a good time, have children.”


We arrive at bustling Temple Bar and put our names in at a busy brewpub with many floors, playing “Freebird” and feeling a bit college for our tastes. By this time we’re both quite hungry and are graced with some terrific pizza slices across the street.


We make it back to the brewpub and are seated on in a tight enclave amidst revelers and frantic waitresses. A band starts to play familiar American pop songs, and though they are somewhat competent musicians they seem to have all the originality of a stack of Manila file folders. People barely clap. “Maybe They’ll Take a Break?” Our food is not terribly good. The waitress tries to get away with taking 50 Euro on a 24 Euro check (“Are you sure?!” she asks, holding my change in a tin, and I respond, “Yes, I’m sure… that that’s my change." “Are you sure?!” she exclaims again, continuing to hold the tin and perhaps hoping I was too intoxicated (I wasn’t) to catch the mistake of leaving a 1000% tip on service we barely experienced. Grumble. I get my change, leave a far more reasonable tip, and we amble down to the street, having experienced perhaps our first mild letdown. Amy says “I wonder where the grownups are?”


We walk the streets of Dublin, wading through crowds of revelers and as I take a selfie outside the famous Temple Bar, a group of teenagers jump in.


I recognize a dance hall once billed to me as “The most authentic musical experience in Dublin,” and recognize the plastered smile and cruise ship atmosphere from the window. We end up in another large brew hall, this one with almost equally bad music (a balding chap manning professional DJ equipment and halfheartedly karaoke-ing himself through another set of too-familiar songs. No one pays him any attention. I’m starting to crash and can’t even finish my beer.


We walk on, considering where we should spend midnight, approaching in about fifty minutes, and after passing a pub I immediately circle back saying, “no, this place.” We get in and order a pint and it suddenly dawns on me that I’m in the same locale where my favorite Facebook profile photo was taken in January, 2011, after the Swampoodle development week. I’m instantly in a better mood, and the vibe is relaxed and cheerful. We attempt to recreate the photo although the lighting is a bit off given that I’ve (smartly) left my good camera back at Laura’s and use my iPhone instead.


At about ten minutes to the hour we find ourselves in a much more raucous pub with a solo singer-guitarist leading the crowd in cheers and songs. Everyone is friendly and most in the young crowd are cheerfully half in the bag. “They’ve come all the way from America!” “Mary Mack, she had bones like razor blades!” “Bada bing bada bing. Pavarotti!” “Bottle of vodka – f*ck the neighbors!” “Goodnight everybody. Take care of each other – that’s all that maters.” Here's some video:


We stick around making grown-up talk with a friendly couple from Belfast – a public relations expert curious about Twitter, and her motorcycle photographer boyfriend, who once took pictures for a play by Owen McCafferty, author of Scenes from the Big Picture. I give her my card and we do hope they’ll be in touch to show us around Belfast where all four of us will be on Saturday.


We say our goodbyes outside to the hyper-friendly young folks from Belgium and Brazil, and after grabbing some delicious, spicy Middle Eastern food to go from a jam packed café, we manage to hail a cab. The cab driver isn’t quite sure where our place is and drops us off a good twenty minute walk away, it’s nice to smell the peat in the air and spend the first hours of 2014 walking briskly and collapsing into a heap.

Amy has returned from her second run, this one through dark Cork at 11pm, and comments on my pages of writing: “You seem to have some great content there. Did you capture the way the city streets gleam because of the way the street lamps glisten?” No, but thanks for the verbiage. Great artists don’t borrow, they steal.

Posted by coolmcjazz 03:43 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin newyearseve

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