Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy Irish Heritage Day!

That's what St. Patrick's Day has become, isn't it? I'm not Catholic, nor do I pay much homage to the ancient saint, and the same goes for most of America. But a lot of us do trace our roots back to Ireland, so for one day a year we can use that as an excuse to get drunk, or party Mormon-style.

I thought I might add to the Day by including a memoir of my visit to Ireland on the last weekend of January 2004. This is adapted from an email I sent out chronicling my adventure. It's a bit lengthy, but it was a very full trip. Enjoy.

Two weekends ago a group of seventeen of us took a short trip to Dublin. I mean, if you could fly to Dublin, Ireland and spend a day there all for under $100, you'd do it, right? So we did. It was an adventure beyond compare. I learned firsthand what my friends who have spent time in Europe had told me: customer service is a uniquely American concept. We almost missed our flight out because the people at the airport failed to clearly advertise that our flight was departing from a different gate than they originally had said. That was the beginning. The bitter end comes later.

In between the bitter beginning and end comes some fun-filled Dublining. We checked in to our hostel and went out for a bite. We found a traditional Irish pub and I ate corned beef and cabbage and drank water from a pint glass. Then we just kind of walked around the city, doing stuff like walking over bridges and spitting into the river and seeing drunk men stop to throw up on the sidewalk. The hostel was an experience--the most uncomfortable bed I've ever paid to sleep in. But it felt really cool to be in a seedy hostel in Europe. Kind of adventurous!

The next day I went with seven of my traveling companions on a bus tour of the Irish countryside and it was breathtaking. Our tour guide was named Damien and he enjoyed touting the great benefits of living in the Irish welfare state. He didn't use those words, but that was the gist of it.

The most beautiful place on the tour was called Glendalough (GLEN-da-lock). It means valley of two lakes. It was this valley that had ancient monastic ruins and, not surprisingly, two lakes. So gorgeous. We got out and walked along the shores in the rain and breathed the fresh mountain air and got really wet. It was so worth it.

Here's where it gets exciting. Upon meeting up with the rest of our group and returning to the airport, we were notified that our flight was cancelled. Snow in London; it wasn't the airline's fault. What was the airline's fault was the complete lack of sympathy or offered help. They seemed pretty clueless and careless as to what to do to help us out. To make a long story short, we ended up finding a flight for eleven of the seventeen of us to fly out in the early afternoon the next day. Six of us would have to stay, and I volunteered.

Leaving the eleven behind, the Super Six returned to Dublin and had a fantastic day, despite the fact that we had slept on the floor of an airport and hadn't showered in two days. We saw St. Patrick's Cathedral and I bought a cool Irish ring and we ate at the best pub in the British Isles. It was Oliver St. John Gogarty and the food was exquisite. There was also a live Irish trio. So good!

We then ran to a nearby bus station. The bus took us directly to the biggest ferry I have seen in my life where I paid too much for bland hot chocolate and slept reasonably well on a cushy seat. We arrived in Wales and had to reboard the bus, drive off the ferry, deboard the bus to go through customs, reboard the bus, and drive eight cramped hours to London. It was no picnic. The Super Six arrived back at the BYU Centre at 9:30am two days after we had planned to be back. The return trip was really hellish, but overall it was totally worth it.



Jenny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nick said...

It seems to me that most enjoyable (and memorable) trips have always been the ones where somethings has gone wrong. Last year I took the teachers in my ward camping. Unfortunately, their version of camping was driving to a spot where we could pitch a tent and roast a few marshmellows. My idea of camping (as some of you might have experienced first hand) is to have someone drop you off on a trail, hike for 8 miles into a beautiful lake, go climbing, swimming, pick berries, etc, and be dead tired (yet refreshed) when you get back. I started planning one of those for the teachers, but the bishop got pretty concerned since I was planning a 5 mile hike when the most they had ever done was a zero mile hike. He convinced me to find a 1-2 mile hike with no elevation gain to take them on for their summer camp, and save the harder stuff for later. I relented, and that wednesday we left for the Uintas. We broke out the maps I had printed off and started our hike (more of a jaunt). After about 20 minutes, due to my superb map following skills, we became quite lost. We were off the trail. We would see a lake up ahead and think we had finally made it, but then realized we had passed that lake 30 minutes ago. We weren't seriously lost, I mean, I knew what general area we were in, but we were lost enough to give the whole trip a sense of adventure. We ended up hiking at least those 5 miles that the bishop didn't want us hiking, and they ate it up. Sure, they complained the whole time they were lost, but when we got home, they said that was the best campout they had ever been on in their lives. Had everything gone as planned, it would have been pretty bland. And no more rhyming now, I mean it!

Jenny said...

Hmmm. I don't recall ever posting on this thread before, so whoever is relating innapropriate Irish memories on my behalf, please stop ...

I really liked this post--at first I thought you had found some way to fly out from the States and all for $100 and I was really wondering how that worked until I figured out you were in London. I think the study abroad trip I took to London was one of the most influential experiences of my undergraduate life. And one of the things I have always regreted about that trip is that I didn't take off on some crazy type of adventure to go see the surrounding area. Some girls went to France, some went to Wales, and I think a small group stayed after and went to Ireland for a week--and at the time I was too shy to ask any of the groups if I could come along. Maybe shy isn't quite the right word, but essentially that's how I felt (uncomfortable about asking new acquaintences/somewhat friends if I could join up, even though the groups themselves had also just barely met on the program). It's the one thing I really regret not doing. (But I loved my three-day immersion/excursion in the British Museum ...).

Jenny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
morgan said...

Oh, the joys of traveling, and of being Irish. I love both of them. Everyone's trip adventures reminded me of a trip we took up to Canada with Ron Crummett. This was before Alison and I were married. I think it was one of the most relaxing trips I've taken. I love Canada. We spent the entire time mimiking the Canadian accents (because we love it so much), which was all fun and good when it was just us Americans around. Then I accidently slipped into my "Canadian" accent infront of a bona fide canadian. Yeah, embarrassing. But the best part was when they mocked our accents. Don't they realize THEY'RE the ones that talk funny? :)
Doesn't it seem like most "vacations" in the end are just another source of stress? Sure, you may be in a different location, dealing with different sources of stress, but it's stress just the same. There was also a time when we went to visit my family out in Missouri. My Dad lives kind of in the middle of nowhere (which I'm trying to convince Alison is the best place to live; I don't think she's buying it....yet). Being in the middle of nowhere and not having a car severely limited our options. So in the end we relaxed with the family, hiked through the woods (not a 5 mile hike, just a nice stroll, I hope that doesn't disappoint anyone), and overall took it easy. It was heavenly. I think it was the one vacation I've had where at the end of it I actually felt rested. I'm not sure why more vacations aren't like that. They sure should be.

erin said...

I think we should all take a road trip... (said in a singing voice)

JonnyF said...

So there was this one time I took a road trip to Arizona with some of my friends. There were two cars of us. We went over the Hoover Dam. "Dam" jokes ensued (over the walkie-talkie). A traveler told a pirate joke over the walkie-talkie. Hundreds of pirate jokes ensued. Good times.
I guess other things happened during that trip, maybe most notably Warren painting someones toenails, and learning about Schmirmler the Curler. But the jokes were the most memorable parrrt.

JonnyF said...

I meant Schmirler the Curler.

Jenny said...

Who is Schmirler the Curler?