Welcome to Dublin.
Day 1 was a bit of a mixed bag.
After one of the greatest trans-Atlantic plane flights in my life (no homesickness, no claustrophobia, no turbulence, arrived early), my day took a turn. Because our flight arrived an hour early, we were stuck on the tarmac until our gate opened up. It wasn’t ideal, but the pilot was being super sassy about it. He started to give us a tour of the airport as we aimlessly taxied around. Highlights included the control tower, the main terminal, and the search and rescue building.
Finally off the plane, I navigated my way through an unsettlingly empty airport trying to find my way to the baggage claim. It was like everyone else from my flight disappeared. There was no need to rush though. It took an hour for the bags to start arriving. I waited patiently at my assigned carousel, watching as everyone else grabbed their bags and walked away…until only four other people and I were left waiting.
I started to get a little nervous. Can you blame me? The last thing I needed was lost luggage. Thankfully, a kind older couple came up to me and informed me that the rest of the bags were delivered to a different gate. I don’t know why that happened, but I found my suitcase in one piece, so I can’t complain.
After all the excitement of the morning, I hopped on the AirLink bus to the city centre. I love bus rides. For that half hour or however long the ride is, I don’t have to think about anything. So long as I am on the right bus, I know I am getting where I need to go, and I don’t have to worry about it. The hostel I booked was right across from the bus stop as well, simplifying the usual confusion of finding my accommodation in a new city.
However, all was not well with the world. Turns out I had booked my hostel from the day my plane left, not the day it arrived. Meaning I had missed my check in date. Dang you, overnight flights! The staff made my life really easy, though, and booked me another bed. This only set me back about 10 extra euros, but it wasn’t the note I wanted to start my day on. Plus I was super early, so I couldn’t actually check into my room yet. I stashed my suitcase in a locker and headed out to kill some time.
I’ll have some eggs with my existential crisis.
Now I enjoyed my flight, but I didn’t get much sleep. At this point I was hungry and tired, so I knew I needed to find some sustenance or I would be a Debbie Downer for the rest of the day. I meandered through the streets of Dublin trying to find a place to eat. I wandered for a long time waffling between cafés and pubs. I don’t know about you, but when I am hungry, it is infinitely harder to make decisions.
Finally, I settled on Brick Alley Café. The shop is simple but cozy, and they have pretty cheap breakfast options. I ordered a pot of tea and some scrambled eggs on toast. It was starting to feel like I was back in my European groove.
And then it hit me.
Suddenly I was acutely aware of the enormous challenge I had set myself. I was in a country with no people I knew, no job, and no tangible goal. See, the other times I lived abroad I was in school. There was some semblance of structure, and there were other people in the same boat. With this year, my only goal was to live in Europe again. I don’t have classes or requirements. It is the freedom I craved, but having an entire year of ‘do what you want but make sure you get a job so you can eat’ is a lot.
I’ve been away from home for this long before, but it wasn’t since my first year of college that I went in totally blind. And there I was surrounded by people who wanted to make friends. The loneliness was unsettling. Sure enough, butterflies began flitting around my stomach, and I could only swallow a few mouthfuls of the eggs. I made myself drink the tea because it was delicious, and I am not a monster. I will not leave a pot of tea untouched.
I started chatting with a few friends on Facebook to get my mind off of things and have a degree of human contact. I wrote out all of my stress in my journal as well to try to get it out of my system. I was determined that I wouldn’t succumb to homesickness on my first morning. I knew that extenuating circumstances (i.e. tired, hungry, stressed) were contributing to my general unhappiness, so I decided to do something.
Time to first museum: 5 hours.
I grabbed my trusty Lonely Planet guide and headed off in search of museums. I passed through the Temple Bar area and through Trinity College. I’ve already seen the Book of Kells, so I skipped that exhibit and headed for the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology. It wasn’t the most engaging or unique museum I have been to, but there was tons of shiny artifacts on display. The building itself was also incredibly beautiful. I found myself paying more attention to the ceilings and doors than the Viking swords and gold jewelry. There was a very cool exhibit on bog bodies and kings which I found fascinating.
Next I walked around the block to the Museum of Natural History. On the way I passed what I assumed were protesters outside a government building dressed as characters from the Handmaid’s Tale. I don’t know what the occasion was, but there was a camera crew and police as well. I kept on walking, not wanting to get in anyone’s way.
The first floor of the museum was a little underwhelming. It is basically a gallery of different taxidermied (is that a word?) animals. If you have been to a Natural History Museum before, there isn’t anything new here. The second floor gallery was much more dramatic. This gallery was chock full of animals from all over the world. My favorites were the okapi, the hippos, and the pangolins.
At that point I was sleepy. My little backpack was getting heavier, and I found it harder and harder to focus on what I was looking at. Since it was past check in time, I decided to head back to the hostel. On the way I figured I should pick up a padlock for the locker in my room.
I popped into an outdoor clothing/camping store and asked if they had any. They did not, but the woman working the desk told me there was a hardware store just around the corner on George’s Street. I thanked her and left. Long story short, I never found George’s Street, but I did find a corner shop after twenty minutes of looking and they had locks, so it all worked out in the end.
Having circled the same neighborhood half a dozen times today, I was ready for a chill out session. I checked into my room, got all my stuff sorted, and camped in the common area for a bit.
But there was time for one more adventure.
For dinner, I decided to go on a quest of sorts. I have been to Dublin once before with my sister back in college. On the first day we ate at a pub we found after wandering around the city lost for a very long time. I have very fond memories of this pub, and I wanted to see it again. Now I had no idea what it was called or what street it was on. I thought it was a white building, but even that I wasn’t sure of. Needless to say, I was looking for a needle in a haystack of 2,000 pubs. That’s right. Dublin is home to 2,000 pubs.
I wove my way through the streets of the Temple Bar district scanning every facade hoping to recognise something. After about thirty minutes of searching, I saw it. O’Donoghue’s. Waiting for me with open arms was the cozy little pub I hadn’t seen in years. It was like finding an old friend. I even splurged and got the steak and ale stew.
Despite the day’s rocky start, I went to bed that night feeling like a winner. I made it across the ocean, I was still in one piece, and I had found the one place in Dublin I knew. I’d call that a win.