It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Ireland for nearly a week now. Thanks to a mix-up on our part, we actually got into Dublin about 10 hours early, effectively giving us an extra day in Dublin to wander. We had arranged for to stay with a couple of guys south of the city (we didn’t know exactly where), but we weren’t supposed to meet them until the evening.
Being forced to stay in the city for the day was probably the best thing for jet lag, though a few times the tiredness was difficult to overcome. In the afternoon, I fell asleep sitting in a chair while checking out an exhibit at the National Museum of Archeology on some of the inadvertent mummies that archeologists – and sometimes farmers – have found in peat bogs. The way it was explained to us, as peat engulfs the body, it allows little air to reach it, thus slowing the process of decay. One of the mummies was so intact you could still see its fingerprints.
After dinner, we grabbed our bags from the Internet café that we’d left them at earlier and got on a bus heading south of the city. The directions we’d received seemed straightforward: Take the 54a bus to the end of the line, and look for Ellensborough, a housing development just past the bus stop. Technically, those directions were accurate. But Ellensborough, it turns out, is a massive collection of townhomes in three “phrases,” as we were told when we asked for directions from a woman selling Avon.
Weighed down with heavy packs and about 30 hours of being awake, we wandered into the first entrance, searching for the street name we’d been given. The night became a lesson in getting directions from the Irish. Though she wanted to be helpful, the first person we stopped was selling cable TV and didn’t know the area. Next, we found a family who didn’t even know the name of the street just up the hill from them. “I think it’s back there. Head that way, then ask someone when you get there,” they said.
That last piece of advice might be why most of the maps in Ireland feel almost hand-drawn in their precision and signposts tend to point in a general direction rather than down a specific road. “To put the chat on someone” was an expression we’d learn later. Walk up to just about anyone, and they’ll tell you which way they think you should be headed. You’ll also learn a good deal more.
Earlier in the day, we talked to one of the security guards at the museum. Well-versed in the museum’s exhibits, he also told us about his Cambodian wife and their young daughter and the trip back to Cambodia they had planned in a few weeks. We also got his thoughts on the housing and unemployment crises in Ireland (always right on the tips of people’s tongues).
Heading up to the third “phrase,” we once more stopped someone, this time a boy walking his dog. He wasn’t sure, he said, but he pointed us down the street. Finally, at the very top of the hill, nearly the last street down, we found the house, a bachelor pad complete with two other couch-surfing Americans.
We spent a little time with Donal, one of our hosts, but quickly went to bed. I’ve never slept so well on a first night anywhere, especially considering that the sun was still out at 10:30. The backdrop for our first night was pretty spectacular, surrounded by the sheep farms leading up into the Wicklow Mountains.