Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kara and Scott's Excellent Dublin-ture

This morning, my little sister Kara and her boyfriend Scott flew out of Dublin Terminal 1 (the scary one -- it's a hybrid '70s-office and Soviet prison) on their way back to Denmark. They won't like reading that some of us *cough cough* were still asleep when their plane took off... but I'm proud of them for making it here and back again!

Time for the recap.

They arrived in Dublin on the evening of Tuesday the 5th, their third consecutive day of travel. Kara was wired, and Scott was dragging! We got them into town, they checked into their hostel, and then we conducted our first Host Responsibility and got them fed -- at our usual watering hole, the Porterhouse. What troopers, they made it until late that evening before crashing.

Wednesday, we conducted Host Responsibility the Second and took them underground -- to the crypts of St. Michan's Church! Every one of our visitors has now descended into the depths of the Dublin soil, and with no more visitors planned, we can give away the secret now. (Didn't we do a great job keeping it on the down low -- or the QT, as they say here -- for all our guests? We're not the only ones staying mum about it -- this is the best-kept secret in Dublin.) They got to experience the tour of the ancient crypts, given by the best tour guide in town, culminating in the freakiest experience of the entire trip... shaking hands with a mummy! Yup, after examining the mummified toenails of a nun, you get to step into a crypt and touch the mummified finger of an 800-year-old crusader for luck. (The mummy gets 15% of our lottery winnings.)

Then we traipsed down to Phoenix Park for the Dublin Zoo. Jenny and I had not yet been either, so it was a new experience for all of us! The zoo is quite lovely, and very manageable in an afternoon. Some of the highlights included being about ten inches from a pacing tiger, tingling as the gray wolves roamed the grassy hills at feeding time, gasping as two sea lions wrassled over fish scraps, standing level with giraffe heads and realizing they are almost as large as a person, discovering a baby gorilla in the arms of its mother, enjoying the playtime habits of lemurs, and struggling to get a face shot of a red panda!

Thursday was Scott's birthday, and their one true experience of Dublin rainfall. The good downpours didn't come until afternoon, so in true teenage disregard for our suggestion (a true Irish Host Responsibility if ever there was one!) that they dress in layers and bring a raincoat, they got soaked on their way to Sandycove. We cut Scott a garbage bag to keep his torso dry, and I took them on a walk down the stormy Sandycove boardwalk. The tide was as high as ever I've seen it! We set out for Teddy's ice cream stand, which is often open on even the worst of days, but on this day it was unsurprisingly closed -- hardly no one but us was crazy committed enough to be outside. So we headed back to a spaghetti dinner -- a fortuitous choice, because it turned out to be Scott's favorite meal for his birthday! That evening, I had a reading to attend, so Kara and Scott dried off before meeting us afterward, and we showed them to the Dublin Ghost Bus tour, their birthday excursion. Jenny and I did not join them, though they assured us it was well worth it. We'll have to take their advice later this summer!

Friday, Kara and Scott wanted to hang on their own, so they did the wax museum and the national museum, as well as revisiting the Porterhouse (see? it's not just us!). Saturday, we all met up to go further down the coast to Bray, where we spent hours poring over the rocky beach, collecting rocks and skipping stones. One seal swam close to shore and became quite intrigued by our activities. It constantly poked its head out, stared at us, then dipped back under before swimming maybe thirty feet further down and repeating the process! We climbed up part of the Bray Head for some stellar views of the wide-open ocean and the flocks of various birds. Kara found the prettiest snail shell any of us had ever seen, but its occupant still lived, so she made sure it got tucked safely away in a cluster of plants. While we ate lunch, a seagull pooped right on Scott's bandanna! But the day worked out well for him, because he finally got his Teddy's ice cream cone on our way back to the train.

Sunday was another Sandycove day, only this time the tide was out, so these two little billy goats could explore the granite landscape along the coastline. Kara filled her pockets with seashells, and Scott found every living creature possible in the tide pools. He navigated the whole length of coast without falling or getting wet -- until he was about three feet away from returning to dry land, when the goat got gruff and slipped! He was a little banged up, but managed the rest of the trip just fine. (It gave me a rebuttal for when he would call us old -- I wasn't the one gimping, after all!) We then walked into Dalkey. We saw more seals by the harbor nearest our house, then continued into Dalkey proper, where we each enjoyed a pint in one of Bono's favorite haunts.

Monday, Kara and Scott took the wonderful tour of the Hill of Tara and Newgrange -- the same one Jenny took me on for my birthday. I'm sure they have plenty of pictures from the day, because the weather was perfect for taking in the long-range sights from atop the hill! We met them afterward and took a walk down to St. Stephens before hitting one of Kara's must-do stops: dinner at Captain America's! We all splurged on burgers and shakes (except for Scott and his pizza), and Kara got her souvenir t-shirt and lots of good pictures under the neon signs out front. Then we were all STUFFED, so we took a wonderfully leisurely walk the long way around to Dublin Castle and the Dubh Linn gardens. The evening was cool yet delightfully so, and we had a wonderfully relaxing time meandering around the premises. Then, as the time wore on, we wandered down to O'Donoghue's, one of the best sites in town for trad music sessions that aren't the least bit twee. We arrived early enough for seats, and the musicians started right away upon showing up. They played some standards that we could sing and clap along to, and the singer dug just how much he could get Jenny and me laughing and into it. We had a real treat, too, in that two women were also Finnish folk singers who contributed their lovely harmonies to the evening!

On Tuesday, Jenny had homework to do, so I played tour guide solo. We visited the Trinity Long Room library first. While the Book of Kells is the big promotion, we all loved the Long Room itself more -- the ever-comforting scents of old leather and vanilla that come with books of a certain age. The visit was even more exciting than normal -- aside from the proclamation of Irish independence and Synge's portable typewriter, they have on display their edition of Shakespeare's first folio! (Book nerds FTW!) We poked around the rest of Trinity campus, including a walk by Oscar Wilde's birth home, before we took the jogging streets down to Wilde's more famous growing-up home. Kara posed with the smirking statue of ol' Oscar! Then we went to the Natural History Museum, one of Scott's biggest requests, to admire the collection of Victorian fetish -- no, not that one. The one where they liked to collect, preserve, and display dead animals! The collection is indeed impressive, if a bit densely morbid. My favorite display was that comparing a human skeleton to those of a chimp, an orangutan, and a gorilla -- possibly because none of them were posed in realistic ways, and none of them still had skin and fur still attached! There was everything from Irish deer, to all the birds of Ireland, to sharks and whale-skeletons and a baby zebra. For lunch, we chilled in St. Stephen's Green, and then we took care of a bit of souvenir shopping before coming home to a delicious dinner of ham, rice, beets, and potatoes. (Well, it was delicious for most of us -- we learned that Scott does not like beets. But at least now he's tried them!)

Wednesday was sadly our final day together. But we made the most of it! Kara and Scott tried to check out the Iveagh Gardens, which were tragically closed off for a wedding or some such event. They came back to Sandycove for one more day of beach combing and rock traversing, this time without injury (serious or otherwise). (Kara did get a little wet, though...) There were even more crabs and shrimp this time! Then after a hearty Hawaiian pizza dinner, we took them for the traditional send-off: drinks and pigs at the Fitzgerald, just up the street from us. We were all getting tired, but were determined to enjoy the evening, which I think we all did. As evening crawled under a blanket, we knew we had to say goodnight or risk the kiddos missing their train back to town. So we hugged goodnight, wished everyone safe travels, and waved goodbye the whole way down the street, knowing that it's just over two months until we'd see each other again!

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