August 13, 2009
Ireland is a home country, another land to which I could truly belong. We arrived on the streets of Dublin, and after wandering uselessly for a long time in search of our hostel, we found ourselves in the Temple Bar area. It was a Tuesday night, but man! This place was alive! I saw four street performers that were near exact images of the main character from the movie Once, which was filmed there. There was live music streaming out of pub after pub. We were greeted and smiled upon at every cobblestone crossing.
The hostel worker was a smiling wealth of knowledge (once we finally got there). When I went to brush my teeth in the morning, I was wished a "Good Mornin'" with a grin by two separate Irish guys in the hall who were guests just as much as I was.
I decided that the cure to my cold would be a nice long hike (my body doesn't function like a normal person's), so I asked whether Connemara or The Burren (Cliffs of Moher) would be the ideal choice. Hostel lady suggested the Burren because "the cliffs are extraordinary," so I booked a hostel there, told the girls, and figured out some bussing and train schedules.
Kat opted to join me if we spent a night near Kenmare to find her great-grandfather's(perhaps some generations beyond) grave. I agreed instantly because I knew it was near Killarney, and I'd heard great things. So we did a super high-tech space-like tour of the Guinness brewery, full of smiling Irish people, and bid Katie farewell from there. She heads back to the States tomorrow, and even though I love her dearly, I feel a guilty relief from seeing her go because I will have to opportunity to do some independent exploration.
A train was miraculously waiting for Kat and me at the station. The ticket checker lady gave us wonderful directions about getting our connecting train to Killarney without us even having to ask. "Get out at Mallow on the left side of the train, cross the platform and your train to Killarney will be waiting there." Well….how convenient.
Ireland's countryside is gorgeous. We are now crossing rolling limestone hills on our way to Kenmare. On the way to Killarney, it was reminiscent of traveling through Wisconsin; green and rolling with cows everywhere. And the sheep!!! Just like my friend Baa from my farming adventure Girl Scout camp, they are big and white with black heads, and they are a massive army that could very well seek world domination if they were not incredibly content in their basic existence, or so we assume...
We arrived in Killarney. Leaving the train station, we saw the taxi service; a line of Clydesdale horses pulling carriages. Also in our line of sight were kids on trampoline bungees and an adorably quaint little town that screamed Ireland (pubs and Celtic symbols and green everywhere).
We checked out the bus station, conveniently (everything in Ireland seemed so convenient) located on the other side of the train station, and saw that we'd be staying the night as we couldn't get to Kenmare until morning. Down the street, there was giant circus tent in view, and a sign pointed down a side road that read "hostel."
To the hostel we went! No rooms. However, the front desk girl opted without any prompting to make four phone calls to other hostels in the town. There were no beds, however. She advised us to go directly to them and ask anyway, but en route for that cause we decided to enter the "vacancies" indicated Bed and Breakfast that we had passed on the way to the hostel. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
It was a nondescript little house near the multi-purpose station, and we gathered that perhaps we'd be able to split a room for an okay rate.
The door was open, but no one was in site, so I stepped outside to ring the doorbell. A glorious tiny man, tanned with a checkered shirt, approached: "Ello Girls!" he greeted with the utmost enthusiasm. We inquired as to whether he had any rooms available and what might the rates be. He went ahead to describe in incredible detail the two rooms that he had available that would meet our needs. The price was fairly steep for us backpackers, about 35 euro for the night, but we were ready to set down and find some chow. I, being the stingiest person in the circles in which I travel, agreed. My reasoning was not the beautiful room, the included breakfast, or the thought of a private bathroom.
My reasoning was that I instantly fell in love with this tiny old man. Only the next morning did I realize that I was not the first to do so, as was displayed by the entry way wall covered with framed photos and grateful letters from previous guests.
We had to get up early to catch a train, but of course he had arranged, before even showing us our rooms, to wake up early with us and cook us a full breakfast with ready coffee (or preference over tea). He had also offered us a "wake-up call" at six when we had planned on rising after receiving his advice about how early we should be ready for the bus.
At six in the morning there was a steady rhythmic knock on the door to our room. This was the wake-up call, accompanied with a chipper; "Good mornin' girls! Breakfast is ready whenever you are!"
I was the first to be set, so I meandered downstairs to find and eloquent and elaborately set table. I have never felt emotionally moved by a beautifully set table before. He had provided a spread including bowls of cereal, toast, juice, our requested coffee, as well as fresh butter and jam. He asked if I'd like some sausage and I said sure (abandoning my vegetarian ideals as I was one hundred percent certain this sausage would not have come from a pig in a factory farm). He came out with a full plate of sausage, ham, tomatoes, and an egg arranged in the sweetest way these items could possibly be, especially in the eyes of someone who normally does not consume meat. The egg looked natural, as if he got it straight from a chicken this morning. It was perfect!
We headed on our way, but not without an extensive goodbye, hugs and kisses, and a full list of contact information for this tiny Irish man, as well as several of his family members. I am wholly convinced that this man single handedly makes the world ten times better.