Anyone with a chronic illness knows the importance of getting enough sleep. It gives your tired, aching body a chance to recover and to reinvent itself for the next day. Anyone with a chronic illness who decides it’s a great idea to go on a two-week backpacking trip probably also knows the importance of getting enough sleep the night before their transatlantic journey. Well…not this moi! The night before we took off in a cramped plane for Dublin I tossed and turned and obsessively listed off all of the medications I had packed and watched heart-wrenching videos on Upworthy and constantly refreshed my facebook newsfeed expecting updates at 4 am and then I tossed and turned some more. I kept telling my body to just relax and go to sleep. Chances were that I wasn’t actually going to die in the next two weeks in a foreign country. Chances were that I wasn’t actually going to run into Liam Neeson or Hugh Grant and become best friends with them if I just didn’t screw it up, so I probably didn’t really need to rehearse my introduction to them. Chances were that nothing life changing was going to happen. Chances were that it was just going to be a nice vacation. It was okay, there was no need to stress. But my brain just kept wandering further and further down the path of what-ifs and oh-my-sweet-gods. Then I obsessed over the thought that the only thing between me and the day I would leave for an awesome trek across Ireland and the United Kingdom was 8 hours of sleep. I used to always joke to my friends that I have seen the globe several times, and then I would pause for effect and tell those people that it was in fact the world pavilions at Epcot in Orlando that I had been talking about, and then I would slap my knee like it was the funniest thing in the world. But soon, after this two week journey, I could actually say I saw some of the world. That thought was unbelievable. I quickly went from someone fretting over possible anaphylactic shocks on planes and packed subway trains to someone who felt like she could pee herself with excitement. LONDON CALLING, BABY! I said to myself in my worst Austin Powers impression.
The morning came, and I had accumulated at most two hours of incessently interrupted sleep. Then I realized that our flight was at 11pm, after a long day of work, and that we would arrive in Dublin at 7am, just in time to start our day. That meant that I would miss two whole nights of sleep. On my lunch break I found the cleanest washroom on campus and had a power nap sitting on a toilet. I’d be damned if I was going to let tiredness get in the way of me taking on the globe, so if sleeping on a public toilet was the only answer, by god I was willing to do it! The nap did nothing more than make me ache for sweet sweet sleep in a bed, but instead, like the stoic warrior that I am, I finished my work day and finished packing and headed to the airport with Boyfriend. Airport security confiscated my new bottle of dry shampoo, which really hurt my feelings, but I got over it the second I spotted a rocking chair. I was out like a light. I thought for sure this meant that I would be able to sleep the entire 4.5 hour flight and wake up feeling refreshed in Dublin and ready to take on the city by storm. However, I was horribly late checking in for my flight so Boyfriend and I were left sitting in the “less desirable” seats on the plane, two little chairs that didn’t recline. So I remained awake the entire flight and cried a few times to Boyfriend because I just wanted to sleep and that shouldn’t be too much to ask for. When we finally arrived in Dublin I didn’t think I could so much take Dublin by storm as I could take it – and this is being generous – by a couple drops of rain and maybe one wisp of wind. I had the energy of a sloth. Welcome to Dublin, Lisa!
We left the airport and found a double decker bus that could take us to centre city. It not only amazed me that every bus in Dublin (and I would soon learn all of the United Kingdom) was a double decker bus so that more humans could fit on it but also that it ran at normal times so that those humans could actually rely on bus transportation. Foreign country, indeed! We hopped (I used this term lightly) onto the bus and took it all the way to our hotel. Along the way I was dead certain that I spotted Selena Gomez crossing the street next to McDonald’s but Boyfriend promised me it was just the delirium from lack of sleep. If lack of sleep made me see celebrities everywhere, maybe this day wouldn’t be so bad after all! Regardless of Boyfriend’s confidence that I had not in fact watched Selena Gomez run in front of our bus, I opened up my travel notebook for the first time and jotted down “Find Wifi. Google if Selena Gomez has a concert in Ireland. Prove Boyfriend wrong.”
Even with my lack of sleep and the knowledge that we couldn’t check into our hotel for another five hours, I was in awe of Dublin’s beauty. People had told me prior to our trip that Dublin is a lot like St. John’s, Newfoundland (the place we call home) so we wouldn’t really feel like we were in a different country. But as we drove over a bridge on the River Liffey I knew we were far from home. It felt magical. I soon realized that a river in the middle of a city always makes me feel like I’m in Narnia somewhere. It’s all I need to be amazed.
We found a bar near Temple Street and sat down to have breakfast. They had wifi so I googled “Selena Gomez concert Dublin September 2014” but google proved to me that Boyfriend was right. I was a little disappointed about this for maybe thirty seconds, and then the waitress laid a plate of bacon in front of me and I felt like I was actually vacationing in heaven instead of Ireland. Bacon is way different in Ireland and the United Kingdom than it is in Newfoundland. I can’t even explain it to you, because I can’t do it justice. Just know that it’s everything beautiful in the world. Ireland gift shops are full of postcards of castles and meadows and bars, but they are missing out on a huge business opportunity – postcards with Irish bacon pictures. I would have bought every single one I could find. After eating our meals and having a lengthy discussion about how amazing the bacon was, Boyfriend and I left the bar in search of the hop-on hop-off bus that we planned on riding through the city until our hotel was ready. I planned on sleeping on it, but Boyfriend apparently doesn’t want me to be happy so he made me stay awake.
At noon we checked into our hotel, I had one of those mouth-wide-open-drool-everywhere naps and then we got ready for the rest of our day. We had allotted only two nights in Dublin so we knew we had lots to fit in during that time. I packed my day bag full of epi-pens, moist wipes, hand sanitizer, prednisone, Benadryl, Advil, Advil cold & sinus, antibiotics, Pepto Bismol tablets and my bubble-gum-pink travel cane. I’m not sure if I had packed so much for a two week vacation as I had for the possibility that a nuclear holocaust was imminent so I had to be ready for every possible scenario. Upon leaving the hotel, one of my first requests was to find a super market so that I could just walk around the snack food aisles and see what different sort of snacks they had there. I didn’t necessarily want to buy them, I just wanted to point at things that were different and then go “wow, that looks cool, look Matthew, LOOK AT THAT BAG OF CHIPS – IT SAYS BEANS ON TOAST, MATTHEW. THAT ISN’T SOMETHING WE HAVE IN CANADA, MATTHEW!” Like, it is actually kind of scary how excited I got by comparing snack foods. We did that, and then we hopped back onto the tour bus to do things that actually mattered.
Dublin was established as a Viking settlement in the 9th century. It is the capital of the Republic of Ireland. It is situated at the mouth of the River Liffey and every corner of the city is drenched in history. There is a castle in the heart of Dublin that was founded in 1204 on the orders of King John of England. Trinity College houses the Book of Kells, an illustrated manuscript created by Irish monks in 800 AD. Phoenix Park, located in Dublin, is one of the largest walled parks in Europe. Dublin is the home to Kilmainham Gaol, a prison built in 1796 used to house many leaders of Irish rebellions and even serving as the execution of some of those prisoners by the British state in 1926. The architecture of Dublin is an eclectic mixture of Georgian and Victorian buildings. And if I’m being completely honest with you, I had to get all of those facts off of Wikipedia because I was so busy taking panoramic photos on my iPhone and looking for cupcakes that I don’t think I retained a word of that on my bus tour. I’m sitting here trying to remember, for the life of me, all of these cool facts that make Dublin so historically interesting and all that comes to mind is that it was “pretty, I liked the river, the bacon was good, I saw some cool bookstores, and I didn’t feel like I was going to get mugged.” One of the events that nearly consumed me on my first days of the trip, which happened to be while we were in Dublin, was the act of taking panoramic photos of every single landmark we walked past. Ever since I bought an iPhone almost two years ago my hands have been too shaky to take a single successful panoramic shot, yet standing in Dublin I somehow managed to take one that came out okay, thus creating a monster. I had to take “panos” of everything. And when I was taking a pano it took so much concentration that every single thing the tour guide or Boyfriend said during those moments were lost to me forever.
One thing that I do remember about the bus tour is that it allowed us to hop on or hop off anywhere we wanted for as long as we wanted. The reason I remember this is because it meant I didn’t have to walk far, making the bus tour very dear to my heart. With the use of this bus we went to visit some of those cool landmarks Boyfriend learned about while we were touring the city and trying to kill time before we could nap in our hotel. In no particular order, because I’m absolutely horrible at being a travel writer and I can’t even tell my days apart at this point, we did the following things: visited Bono’s recording studio on the docks in Dublin, did a tour of a creepy, abandoned jail where we learned things that I actually remember about Irish rebellions, got a picture next to a statue of Oscar Wilde, and saw some beautiful parks that had ducks and trees and stuff. And even with this bus service I managed to to do more walking in two days than I ever wanted to do in my whole life. And I’m going to use that as the excuse for why Boyfriend and I didn’t enter a single museum or art gallery on our trip, except the creepy ghost jail which is actually a museum now as it isn’t being used as a creepy jail anymore. We also managed to visit Dublin and only walk into two bars, and each time it was in search of bacon at 10am.
We took the hop-on hop-off bus to the docklands to suss out where Bono’s recording studio was, because Boyfriend had been told there were a bunch of awesome graffiti walls and fan scrawlings all over the building. We found the building and it didn’t look like the property of a katrillionaire singer. We read some of the graffiti on the walls, which was mostly U2 fans’ favourite lyrics. I pulled out my pen and wrote the one U2 lyric that I can truly relate to – “vertigo.” Boyfriend did a lot of standing in front of the door to Bono’s recording studio and looking a little like a creeper while I walked around the area to look for more snacks. After awhile I returned from snack-seeing and pointed out to Boyfriend that I thought Bono might be inside as there was a very fancy car parked outside, a fancy boat around the back (because I also became a creeper and peered around the rear of the building, luckily without falling off the dock into the water) and that maybe it wasn’t a recording studio and it was his house because there were guard dogs and cameras everywhere. A cleaning lady came out of the studio/house and told Boyfriend it was Bono’s house and Boyfriend got quite excited and then I told him we should definitely leave because we were approaching stalker-status. If I was going to be arrested on our trip for stalking someone it sure as hell wasn’t going to be Bono. Hugh Grant, obviously.
Not long into our trip I needed to open my bag and click-clack my travel cane into one piece. My legs were already tired halfway through day one. So I hobbled around with the cane, dead set that I wasn’t going to let my legs get tired enough to ruin my trip. Boyfriend was often in some sort of hurry to get somewhere, whether it was to catch a bus or to get a picture in front of some building from a song, and would look back at me and say things like “hurry up!” He also kept forgetting about the cane and would start to run across the street, knowing that our right-of-way was soon ending and the zooming traffic was headed our way. I kept yelling out to him that I couldn’t run across the street. I mean sure, if I actually had to I could run across the street, but I thought it would look really weird for passersby to see me pick up my cane, sprint across traffic, and then lean on it to walk again. So between the “hurry ups!” and the running ahead of me to cross the streets, Boyfriend surely looked like a total asshole to other people. And of course, not being at all offended by my Boyfriend telling me to hurry up, as usually he was saying it because I was too busy taking panos or looking at cupcakes through shoppe windows to keep up, I got a huge kick out of how much of a dick he must have seemed to strangers. And because I’m also an asshole I would often walk slower, or pretend I was going to cross the street with him and then stay behind, just so he looked even more like a jerk. Every time I used the cane I thought it was extremely interesting that people would stop for me or apologize if they accidentally walked into my path. One night we were walking about thirty minutes to get home and the streets were alive with drunk people getting rides on rickshaws. Rickshaw-pullers would approach everyone that walked by to ask if they needed a ride, but I noticed they were going a little out of their way to not ask us. Right away I assumed it was because they feared I would be offended, and I wouldn’t have been, but chances are – just for the fun of it – I would have feigned offence and shouted something like “I can do it all by myself, thank you!” I told Boyfriend this and then he shook his head, fearing more and more each passing moment that I was going to get us beat up in Ireland.
We continued our hop-on hop-off tour of Dublin the next day, going to the main attractions usually only long enough to get a picture in front of them and to learn some more tidbits of history that I can’t remember but at the time I’m sure I thought was really cool. I made Boyfriend stop at the Molly Malone statue just so that I could take a picture where it looked like I was grabbing her boobs, but there were too many people around to do it without being judged so I sulked about that for awhile. We went to even more beautiful parks, historic buildings, other cool statues that I didn’t try to grope, a hilarious comedy show, the creepy ghost jail that amazed me and made me want to film a ghost show inside of, I ate my weight in Cadbury chocolate, and I could still walk and breathe on my own.
On our last evening in Dublin I came very close to “dying from anaphylactic shock” at a fish & chips joint. Boyfriend and I ordered our meals, completely forgetting to tell the waiter of my severe allergy, and then sat down to wait for our food. It was delivered to us, and just as I was about to take my first bite, Boyfriend read the paper place-mat in front of him that said “blah blah blah cooked in only the finest peanut oil blah blah blah.” He reacted so quickly that I’m a little surprised he didn’t tackle me to the ground as I was about to put the fish in my mouth. And now I wish he had done that, because it would have been funnier. Instead he just sort of shouted at me not to eat it, then I read the menu and decided that I wanted to be nice and give my food to a homeless person or something. Instead, Boyfriend asked the waiter about it to see if he could get our money back, and the waiter kind of laughed and said “ha, we don’t actually cook with the finest peanut oils…just regular canola oil. Wanna see the bottle?” So it turns out it was just an advertising tactic to get the more health-conscious Dubliners to eat there. So I managed to escape unscathed and with a belly full of delicious cod. Sorry, homeless man I was possibly going to feed.
With the knowledge that I wasn’t hospitalized a single time during our Dublin stay and that Boyfriend didn’t have to piggy back me everywhere because I could still walk, we headed to the airport on day three of our trip grinning ear to ear – Dublin had been a success! The only real downside was that after sleeping about eleven hours during our first night there I woke up well rested and no longer seeing celebrities everywhere anymore.
To top off a great first excursion to Dublin, while looking for a bottle of water at the Dublin airport before our Edinburgh journey I found a huge sale on travel-sized dry shampoos! Thank you, travel Gods, I thought! Now I can be a dirtbag on the rest of my trip without looking like one!
Stay tuned to see how our weekend in Edinburgh went. Did Boyfriend fall from a cliff next to Edinburgh castle, clinging for life? Did I heroically pull him up with my cane, saving his life? Did I miraculously end up having tea with an A-list celebrity? Did we spot a ghost in the dungeons of Edinburgh while uncovering the sordid past of local serial killers?
Those answers and so much more in the next instalment of EAT, CRY, SNEEZE: A Travel Memoir. Part II: A Muggle in a Wizard’s World