The Belated Chronicles

I hear that they say a picture’s worth a thousand words.  In posting the pictures from my recent jaunt around the globe, I actually had the opposite thought process.  Instead of thinking to myself, ‘wow, great, now everyone has 200,000 words worth of my experience,’ I realized how much happened to me that I didn’t capture in photos.  It was hard traveling with a  giant camera – I only took it out on certain days, I was nervous about it being relatively nice, and I couldn’t do the thing I usually do with that lovely gem, which is leave it around a party so that everyone can capture absurd moments with it.  Alas I will probably never again be in an atmosphere where I can safely do that. 

Additionally, I didn’t blog about traveling while I was doing it.  This is strange, when I was in Ghana I had far too much to say rather than too little.  And this time, it wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say – I think it was just hard for me to gauge at the time what was needed to be shared with other people and what was, in a word, lame.  While in Ghana, I didn’t bother with this distinction.  I posted it all, from my adventures getting kicked out of art galleries to me being drunk in Ghanaian guesthouses reminiscing about Hoofbeat and listening to sappy music.  I wanted to discern this time, but it was hard to do that while I was moving.

Luckily, the experiences are still fresh enough in my mind that I feel it’s an adequate time to write about them.  I think it’s best this way, it’ll force me to pick out what was truly memorable and give me the chance to polish my writing, which proved to be an arduous task on my tablet with attached keyboard.  That may or may not be a large part of the reason that I didn’t type much while on the road. 

So I hope that you’ll join me  on this recollection of my time abroad, and this way I’ll also be forced to jot it down before it’s all gone from my memory.  

Schuh Review: Kinlay House Dublin

Picking a hostel is hard work. I've realized that from now on I just need to not read everything so intensively and instead just read about a few and pick, because it is not worth the extra time and worry when so much is left up to chance of things that aren't really reviewed and the atmosphere when you are there.

My first hostel, Kinlay House, was for the most part meh. But I figured out from talking to other people I met there and some in Belfast that a lot of the hostels in Dublin had the same issues so I didn't worry about my inferior decision making too much.

First of all, this hostel was very big. You might think this would be conductive to meeting people, but alas it is not. I'd compare it to going to a big university versus a small one, at a big one there are more people but its way easier to meet them at a small one. I don't know if this is all big hostels or just the timing or whatnot, but a lot of people seemed to be staying for a long time or in bigger groups there for studying, so it felt more like a boarding house.

In addition the hostel website and reviews were misleading on a few things. The 'hostel bar' was actually a regular bar with a common back alley which is really not the same because it's not a common meeting place. The walking tours and pub crawl weren't actually run by the hostel either, they just would direct you where to go. Also the common room was like up a weird hallway and stairs which I didn't even see until it was my last day there, and the other common area was mostly focused on eating and people doing work or whatever.

There was one really nice staff member, a guy with tattooed arms who was semi-cute, but the rest were pretty formal and not that helpful. Facility wise it was fine, the bed was hard but not too uncomfortable, the bathrooms were clean and the kitchen was easy to navigate.

I ended up talking to one girl from my room a fair amount, I went out with her and some people she knew to a German DJ who was insane (well the dj wasn't really insane, just all the people there.) I was with four or five other people from all over (Netherlands, Germany, etc) and we all were weirded out by how crazy the people at the club were.

Overall it was a good learning experience and I know more about what to look for in hostels now as well as times to avoid. My second one and the one I'm at now were much easier for making friends.

Schuh Review: Dublin Wax Museum, Dublin Writer's Museum, Christ Church Cathedral

My second day in Dublin was almost a week ago. Crazy how time flies. But now I'm at a small hostel in the Irish Countryside by the Giants Causeway so I have some time to relax/recuperate and update le blog for the past week. I came out here with two Canadian travelers I met at my hostel in Belfast and I'm glad I did because I really needed to get out of the city and the constant sightseeing was tiring me out. It feels good to just sit. The fact that I'm on a cute enclosed porch looking out at foggy Irish farms with a cup of tea certainly doesn't hurt.

I did a lot of my sightseeing in Dublin based on where I had access to with the Dublin pass. This had both pros and cons. It was nice to have the little guide so I never ran out of things to do, and obviously it was nice to save a lot of money, but I started feeling like I had to be doing stuff all the time since I had the opportunity with the pass. I feel like this a lot even pass-less-ly, so one of my goals is going to be to not pressure myself to do so many things in one day. It's hard to avoid that mentality when traveling but it just gets so tiring and I won't be happy if I don't take down time for myself to read and write and...sit.

Anyway, here's my take on most of the things I did on my second day in Dublin. I also saw the James Joyce Center (not to be confused with the James Joyce museum) that day, but I will do that in the separate JJ-obsession entry that is to come. Obsession/tearfest.

The wax museum was my first stop of the day. It seems like a strange attraction on the outset, as most wax museums do, but it was really close to my hostel and when I looked in the book that morning its the thing that called out to me. It turned out that unlike the wax museum I saw in New York when I was say twelve, this one was far more focused on history than celebrities. Which was very good, because I realized when I got there that I didn't really need to see a ton of wax celebrities. They went through periods of Irish history, from medieval myths to royalty stuff through many of the political trials to nowtimes. It was super interesting because I realized I knew very little about Irish history. Plus all the rooms had audio stories as well as the models and descriptions so I was not starved for external stimuli.

Next I headed to the Dublin Writer's Museum, which was AWESOME. It was relatively small, only two exhibition rooms, but it kept me occupied for the longest amount of time because the wealth of information was so bountiful and interesting. There was a great audio tour in addition to long written bios and artifacts. I was able to keep pretty focused and actually learned a lot and even remembered to write a little bit down, a rarity for me, but to be fair it was mostly things like "salons sound fun" "lots of women writers" and "James Joyce decided to devote his life to his art." which is a cool fact to think about though if you're me.

After the center, I headed back in the direction of my hostel and went to Christ Church Cathedral because it was still open (trouble with getting up late is that ones hours at attractions are decreased) and free with my card. It was wonderful because I love seeing churches but I was a little shocked that it cost six euro without the pass, which I probably wouldn't have paid. But then I saw this plaque that said that it costs 4000 euro per day to maintain the cathedral even including admission fees, so then I felt bad, but still did not donate any money.

Back to the present, I'm increasingly enjoying this hostel because we can see the ocean (there was fog before.)

James Joyce or the Titanic?

The ultimate question of my time in Ireland. Will I prefer the various Ulysses-James J related things in Dublin or the Titanic attractions in Belfast? Soon we will know because I am currently on the train from Dublin to Belfast, which is very pleasant and giving me a great opportunity to sit down. And look at greenery.

I managed to break routine and get up quite early for the train today, my hostel check out was at 10 and I could have gotten a late check out at 1 but a. I did not want to pay five euro and b. I wanted to get to Belfast earlier rather than later so I can at least have the choice to walk around today if I want it.

My first few days of traveling have ushered in a few insights about life preferences while traveling that I've found useful in my brain.

Your preferences and style of living are not going to change when on the road so it's best to accept yourself early and plan accordingly.

I had a hint of this from my time in Ghana, where I made the mistake of packing 'practical' clothes that I hated and made me feel gross every day, which is saying a lot since I was already sweating, covered in mosquito bites, and shitting 12x per day. So for this trip I packed my clothes in the style I like to wear at home and things that were versatile. I have seen lots of travelers in traditional 'traveling' clothes like weird outdoor pants and such but I don't really see the appeal because it's not like I never do the things I do while traveling at home. Do I walk around in America? Yes. Am I away from my place of living all day? Yes. So I see no reason to not operate in the same way here.

Waking times and day planning. I had this image of my daily plan while traveling: wake up at 8, write all morning, get ready, be out sightseeing or walking or whatever by 10 or so, go around until dinner or later, etc.etc. I think you can probably already see the flaw in this plan. Have I ever voluntarily got up at 8 am? Nope. And the times I have been forced to and be busy all day I was fucking miserable. (ahem.) I enjoy going about my days in a relaxed manner, taking some time to let myself transition from sleep in the morning, planning things out as they come, allowing myself time to sit and relax. I quickly realized that this was going to be the case while traveling too. Why would I want to torture myself just to get a few more hours of sightseeing in when I wouldn't enjoy them if I was exhausted and drained? I made an exception today because I knew I'd have some train hours to relax (and it is great) but on other days I have let myself take my time in the morning so I can adjust and be joyful.

This is a general philosophy that applies in many other areas as well. I like beer at home, so it's probably a good idea to budget money for that rather than assuming I magically will no longer want to drink it. I sometimes need to use technology to find out where I'm going so its best to make sure my phone is capable. Which has been a problem because my phone is a joke. But I'm working on it. Point is, as much as travel is about doing different things, we are still the same people and should not expect ourselves to magically become someone else when on the road.

Schuh Review: Guinness Storehouse

When I arrived in Dublin by plane, I got off the plane, picked up my dublin city attraction card thing (I paid a lump sum to go to a bunch of places, ya know the drill) and used it to get on a shuttle to the city center.  I reached the city center, found my hostel (very easily I might add because I am a direction genius,) dropped off my bag, and decided on my first destination: the Guinness Storehouse.   

Obviously I decided on this as my first destination because I love beer and what better way to introduce myself to a new city than a beer tour with beer at the end all courtesy of my new discount card.  I will also note here that I saw no less than three men wheeling kegs around Dublin while finding my hostel.  It was a sign of good life. 

The Guinness Storehouse was very easy to find thanks to the many signs pointing to attractions all over Dublin.  Unfortunately this close attention to attraction signage does not apply to street signage.  There are street signs almost nowhere.  I got this in Ghana, but hello, this is a large Western city.  I thought at first maybe it was because they want to cater to locals instead of tourists...and then I was like wait in Madison I still need street signs to get around and I've been living there my whole life.  So this remains a mystery to me.   

I got to skip the line at the Guinness because of my card, and the whole thing started in a big atrium that is supposed to be shaped like a pint glass.  You start at the bottom and the tour is on floors going up the sides.  Pretty cool.  It was a self guided tour after the first introduction, which was fine because I wanted to stay and read everything very carefully like a nerd while everyone else looked at slash touched some grain and kept walking.  So I immediately delved into beer-snob-nerd ism by careully reading every sign and taking dutiful pictures for my brewing friends.

I highly recommend this attraction for anyone who likes to learn about beer.  If I weren't a nerd it would have been less interesting because it's very much about the chemical stuff, but there's also a good history section and a really fun floor about the advertising history of Guinness.   

Learning to pour your own pint of Guinness, one of the hallmarks of the tour, was quite fun because they take the time to let each person actually do it instead of being rushed.  Another plus of this facet of the tour is then you can judge every bartender afterwards because most of them don't actually do it right. 

As for this attraction as a solo traveler, it was great while I was nerding out and reading about beer, but it got a little lonely once I had my beer and was sitting on the top floor drinking it and looking out at Dublin..and looking some more...while everyone else sat with their companions...and I looked some more.  But welcome to things I'm becoming used to!  All in all a great first attraction. 

If you love beer for more than drinking purposes definitely check this out, but keep in mind that it's a much better deal with the pass.  The whole thing is 16.50 euro without the pass which is quite steep.