We finally got to our hostel after midnight—it’s an old church turned orphanage turned hostel—and we’re sharing a room with seven other girls, bunk bed style. Of course, we come stomping in when it’s lights out and people are sleeping and we have trouble figuring out which bunk bed is ours and we’re using our cell phones as our only sources of light. Not exactly the ideal conditions to unpack, ya know?
One girl wakes up and tells us she’s sleeping in one of our beds but we can have her old one. Fine, whatever. We’re supposed to have little lockers, only my locker is right next to the head of the bed underneath my top bunk, so I’d have to stand creeper close to the sleeping girl below me to put my backpack away. Fine, whatever.
My friend Jenn and I go into the bathroom to change and brush our teeth. Lily comes in, tries to open the other toilet stall, and can’t get it open—but of course we don’t think anything of it. Wrong. We talk a little. Jenn and I leave. Lily, who had been going to the bathroom, stays and does some teethbrushing of her own. And then two guys come out of the other toilet stall, obviously not expecting to see Lily there—who obviously wasn’t expecting to see two guys walk out of a stall in the women’s bathroom while she’s brushing her teeth.
Not fine. Not whatever.
The next morning was a little rough—rough enough that I didn’t feel guilty about coming in at 1:30 a.m. and making a little noise that when people’s alarms started going off at 6 a.m and the girls left the lights on. The girl in the bed below my friend Lily’s actually tossed a pillow on Lily’s bed without comment and just nonchalantly answered “Yes” when Lily asked if we got pillows (in addition to the comforter placed on our bed and the linens we got at the front desk) and if she had taken Lily’s pillow. But the day could only get better from there, right?
Breakfast was equally hard, with the only redeeming factor being the cold milk (room-temperature milk is the norm in Paris) and the light, fluffy pieces of white bread that remind me of the bread in Alice in Wonderland. Our game plan going into Dublin was to eat a big, free breakfast at the hostel and then wait until late afternoon/early night to eat a big meal. We are poor college students studying abroad against the Euro, come on. So it was a little disappointing to walk into the church hall turned dining hall and see that the only breakfast options were carbs, just like in Paris—toast, Irish soda bread, Rice Krispies or corn flakes. There was NO flavor in the breakfast, as we didn’t even get jam and the orange juice was just water with a little bit of OJ poured in it. But did we let that distract us? Hell no! Poor college students studying abroad will eat anything, and that morning I had two butter sandwiches and many glasses of cold milk.
And it was raining and cold when we finally ventured outside. Lily even had to buy an umbrella and my feet were soaked because I’m too cheap to buy new boots when the rubber bottom has torn away from the foot part of the boot. When it stopped raining, it was still cold, but not cold enough to deter us from the free walking tour we absolutely wanted to have our first day in Dublin—not even when we got to the meeting spot and was told it was three hours long.
It was an interesting group, as international groups can be. We were in the “English-language” tour part, but we were the only Americans. There were people, mostly groups of guys, from the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Brazil; there were two girls from Croatia too, I think . We had to go around and say where we were from in the beginning, but we really cemented our status as the young American girls when our tour guide was talking about how we had to pose for a picture to post on the tour guide group’s Facebook page and Lily automatically turned to me and did the Eiffel Tower pose that had become an inside joke for us—we saw Asian tourists in Paris posing with their heads like the “A” dance move of the “YMCA” while on the Seine riverboat tour with the Eiffel Tower in the background, and we always do that in photos when we’re being super touristy. Our tour guide called Lily out on it, made her explain it, and then dragged her to the front in the photo where, yes, we all did the Eiffel Tower pose. Great first impression for the Americans.
The tour was long—but it’d have to be, with Ireland’s history. We went from the Vikings to when O’Bama visited Dublin last year. We went to everywhere from Christ’s Church, built in 1090 A.D. (it used to hold brothel, a pub, and a whiskey bar at some point in its long life, funnily enough) to the Temple Bar area to Trinity College to some alleyway from P.S. I Love You (which I have never seen but my tour guide had—something he said he only watched because the girlfriend made him when he called me out on giving him a skeptical look).
I also gave him skeptical looks when we walked by the famous Clarence Hotel owned by Bono and the Edge and he couldn’t remember the names of the other two blokes—I had no problem shouting out their names. But come on—he’s Irish! Isn’t it the law that they have to know all of the U2 members, if not love the band? AND I had to remind him of their names when we were in the St. Stephen’s Green park and he was talking about how since all of the members have U2 have keys to the city, they can technically have the privilege of feeding their goats on the grass in the park. Geeze Louise.
But, I guess I had my own “Geeze Louise” moments when I asked if Irish car bombs were a thing in Ireland. Turns out they really, really aren’t. The Irish car bomb—a shot of Baileys literally dropped, shot glass and all, in a pint of Guinness that you have to down before the milk of the Baileys curdles—is an opportunistic American drink, much like St. Patrick’s Day, so you won’t find it on the menu of any bar and the bartenders might not even know what you’re asking for if you were foolish enough to try, according to our tour guide. And he said some Irish really take offense to it if they had relatives who died in car bomb tragedies. Luckily he told us this before we went to a bar! And, as if that question wasn’t ignorant enough, I also went ahead and asked if Shamrock Shakes were served year-round in Ireland. Nope. Another dumb American invention.
But the tour guide was nice enough to say, “Everything else about the Irish drinking stereotype is true,” even though we didn’t even go out the first night—a Friday, no less!!—since we were still exhausted from the night before and the three hour walking tour and the frigid, freezing temperature that chilled us to the bone and forced us to shell over 10 euro for hats and gloves (a decent bargain, but still). So we ended up going to the movies to see the latest Paranormal Activity film, which was a good time for me even though I spent most of the time with my hat pulled over my face and my face tucked into Lily’s armpit.
At that point, I was emotionally and psychologically exhausted from the stress of the movie and physically exhausted from the lack of sleep and the walking. We were all in bed sleeping by ten. Not very Irish, but it was still very nice.
P.S. Ryanair was totally not the stress, since it was a normal-sized plan. And I sat next to a fellow American student studying abroad in Paris, so we just talked the whole time! No free drinks or peanuts, but you could have bought cigarettes, scratch tickets, stewardess swimsuit calendars (you’d think an airline wouldn’t want to promote stewardesses on the beach…or maybe that’s just my LOST paranoia coming in).