Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dublin and Chicago: The last travels!

Dublin and Chicago: The last travels!

I’ll be brutally honest: I knew this would happen. As soon as I get home (as I obviously already am due to it being September), I don’t bother writing the final leg of my journey. Now I’m forced to remember the gist of the trip without having it fresh on my mind. Let’s see how this works out…

I made it Dublin with no real hiccups, but MAN was it cold in Dublin! And drizzly! Surprise. I caught a cheap bus into the city which took me almost right to my hostel, and what a good choice I made! My hostel was full of cool people. On top of that, it was newly renovated right in the heart of Dublin. Quite a nice spot.

My arrival was too late to enjoy the cheap beer time my hostel held, so I thought I’d explore the city a bit and try to find one. It was cold and rainy, my favorite, so after finding only two pubs in the immediate vicinity (rather surprising, it being Dublin)—and both of them were slam full—I just decided to call it a night and go to bed. Good choice; I’m not cut out for cold and rainy.

The next morning I was up with time to kill for the included basic breakfast of toast and got to chat with a few people from the hostel. Australians, Americans, and Northern Irelanders were the majority it seemed. The free walking tour started not long after, and off I went.

Just to show the economy in Dublin, our tour guide, and Irishman, was actually a certified architect out of work. He made sure to point that out to us in an amusing fashion, and his tour was quite good! I’d say he was one of the top three guides I had in Europe; very funny, loud, and smart. But then again, I guess an architect must be.

The day wasn’t too bad… not terribly cold and rainy, but certainly overcast. That seems to be the common theme in Ireland. The city itself is nice, but to be honest I’ll agree with what most of my friends who visited the city said: nothing special. I expected it to be far larger, but it really didn’t feel much bigger than Savannah. There was a river running through the center, as to be expected, and some pretty architecture, but nothing that would really make you remember Dublin above others.

The parks, though, were quite nice. Very green, lush, and inviting. The tour guide told us that one of the city’s main parks was being considered for a metro station, though… which seems pointless to me being that I wouldn’t say the city needs a metro. Apparently, Dublin is notorious for doing stupid building projects, at least according to our architect guide. The council also bulldozed some extremely historical site in favor of a parking garage twenty years back or so. Now, though, he says it’s extremely difficult to build anything over archeological findings due to the public outcry over that garage.

One highly entertaining bit of the tour was the Millennium Monument (or whatever it’s truly called). The locals apparently call the spire-looking needle structure the “stiffy by the Liffy [river].” Hilarious!

But, moving on. I befriended this really cool girl from Wyoming, and after the tour we had a traditional Irish lunch (quite good… some kind of pie and a Guinness) with some from the group. Both of us decided it was high time to visit the Guinness brewery by this point, so off the two of us (who had just met, mind you) went!

The brewery was definitely the highlight of my Dublin trip. It was cool to see the whole process of brewing, and entry was fairly cheap too… something like 10 Euros. At the end, the two of us got to pour our own Guinness, and we even got certificates for it! A gimmick, sure, but that didn’t stop me from hanging it on my refrigerator at home!

The view from the lounge on the 5th or so floor of the brewery provided the prettiest scenes of Dublin, too. I’d certainly recommend the place just for that fact alone.

After the tour, we tried to head back to the hostel via the tram system only to find out the power on the particular line we needed was out. Now there’s a first… the whole tram system down. We did manage to get back, though, thanks to a bus and a nice stroll from wherever it dropped us off.

Because both my newfound friend and I were both broke (both of us were leaving Dublin within a day of each other to return Stateside), we opted out of a pub crawl (which was ridiculously expensive) and bought some cheap wine for the hostel instead. We ended up playing speed (the card game) for hours before finally going to bed. I’m now quite the fan of speed, too!

Naturally, I had to be at the airport by 8am the next morning, but ended up almost missing my flight anyway. US Airways had overbooked my flight and asked me if I’d be willing to delay and get a huge travel voucher when I checked in. Seemed like a great idea to me… $500 or so flight voucher for delaying for an hour or so? Sure, why not.

However, they made me wait until boarding was complete to find out that they actually DID have a seat for me, making me have to run through security even though I was two hours early initially. Word to the wise, too: when you go to re-enter the USA, expect it to be a pain. You have to go through “pre-clearance,” a whole second set of security, questioning, and passport checks after the initial airport screening. Really? It was as bad as the British system, except I was still in Ireland!

But, with the flight leaving slightly delayed due to several of us being late from the overbooking issue, the rest of the journey was uneventful. It was certainly less painful of a flight than flying TO Europe; I didn’t have a heavy smoker sitting next to me. I read my book from Turville (from the Dibley church!), and before I knew it I was in Chicago!

I must say, even the flight back to the States made me begin to be annoyed with Americans; I’ve been too used to the non-caring Europeans to have to deal with the complaints of my fellow citizens. Now, a month later, that hasn’t changed.

But anyway, Chicago. I wasn’t impressed with the airport, really; Atlanta’s is newer and nicer to me. But it’s easily navigable, and it was relatively inexpensive to get into the city via train. Old train, but train nonetheless.

The city is about what I expected it would be: a mix between Atlanta and New York. The downtown area is quite new and nice with a decent subway system and lots of pretty skyscrapers. I was laden with my book bag again, but I still walked the better part of three hours or so around the city, making it to Lake Michigan (pretty) and up one of the river/canals. The weather deteriorated quickly, though, and by late afternoon it was raining. I got my first Subway sandwich in a while (quite good), and did the American thing and hung out at a Starbucks for a while to look up a hotel to stay in. No, I hadn’t bothered looking that up in my months of planning.

Since it was raining and I had nothing better to do, I wondered into a TJ Maxx and bought a $5 pair of shorts (I was totally out of clothes by this point, having re-worn the few clothes far more than should be allowed). On the street corner was your typical fire-and-brimstone preacher telling me to repent with his mobile speaker. How cute.

Not in the mood to shop due to my book bag, and having found nothing else really to do in a city just like Atlanta where I’ve lived before, I decided to hop back on the train and head back towards the airport where my chosen hotel was. Good choice.

The hotel was about $50/night, by far the cheapest I found in the whole Chicago area. Not sure why everything was so expensive, but it was. I was happy with the hotel, though; nothing fancy, but I had a huge room with great AC, and man was it nice to have a hotel room again. No more hostels for some time.

The fact that it was right next to a Hooters didn’t hurt either. So, my first restaurant in the United States of America was Hooters. Can’t go wrong!

I spent a good deal the next morning at the Chicago airport for lack of anything better to do, continuing the read on my book from the airplane from the airport in Chicago to the one in Atlanta. My sister was waiting on me, and after spending the night with an aunt near Atlanta, I was back home sweet home the next day (August 10th)!

It has already been a month since I returned, as I said. Just as I expected, I am glad to be back… but miss Europe (especially the people I met) deeply. I’m already bored with my surroundings, even though I live at the beach, and am looking for a way to itch my travel bug as soon as I graduate!

Thailand here I come!


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