Part one: Davis family takes on Ireland

There’s a reason why people cite road trips as a priority while traveling. Driving through small winding roads amongst green hills, stone walls and bodies of water. Sparkling sunshine one minute, downpour of rain the next, and double rainbows to follow. There’s something charming about spending hours in a car with friends. Snacks, stories, music and scenery. What more could you want, besides the odd wrong turn, annoying GPS Sally, or accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road.

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I have always dreamed about traveling with my family, and living in Ireland has provided me a way to live that dream.  My dad and older brother Isaac came to visit me for two weeks. I would use the word ‘miracle’ to describe the fact that they were able to make the trip out here. Isaac had just graduated from a Masters program in Ottawa and it was my dad’s first trip outside of North America. Combine that with the fact they were bringing me home-made maple syrup and my excitement was obnoxiously palpable.

My plan was to show them my life in Dublin, rent a car, pray for sunshine and escape to the Irish countryside, scope out a little family heritage, and drink the perfect pint of Guinness. When I first greeted them at the front door I could’ve sworn I was dreaming  (in fact I very well could’ve been. They got here at the early hour of 9:00am). I led them into my studio apartment, but after dragging in the suitcases there was no room left inside for dad! Not really, but almost. Picture this – studio apartment with myself, a couple of suitcases, and three manly men. The next week was a display of obstacle courses, tight squeezes, shuffle dance stepping while swinging your partner round and round, and eating from precarious surfaces. The good news is there was no need to turn the heater on.

The first couple of days were spent in Dublin where I utilized my tour guide skills and escorted them to my nearest work place. They had a tapas smorgasbord as well as an Old Fashioned Canuck (a cocktail I named, which obviously contains maple syrup). They even had the chance to pull a pint of Guinness for a photo op. They stopped pulling the pint as soon as the picture was taken though, much to the dismay of my friend Vitor, the barman. We also went inside St Patrick’s Cathedral, toured the Guinness Factory with a couple of token Irish pals, and excitedly watched The Amazing Spiderman 2 at The Savoy Cinema.

Dinner and Old Fashioned Canucks at the workplace

Dinner and Old Fashioned Canucks at the workplace

Next on the itinerary was two days in Clare and one day in Sligo. After extensive reasearch we discovered we’d have to get to the airport to rent a car. Steve decided to call a taxi company to get a flat rate to the airport. I hurried everyone out the door at the estimated taxi time of arrival and we proceeded to wait another half hour on the sidewalk. At last I spotted a white station wagon lumbering down the road towards us. We filled the trunk with our luggage and peeled out onto the road, and by peeled, I really mean the most silent taxi man I’ve ever had awkwardly attempted to merge with traffic onto the roadway. With the luggage, a few big men, and a big breakfast not long before, the car was riding low. We inched along while the driver struggled with the concept of wise lane changing.

We make it to Dame Street, the centre of town, when suddenly we’re pulled over and the car has been turned off. Just as I work up the nerve to ask why we’ve been delayed, I hear a knock on the window. The Garda police officer instantly accuses the driver of not being properly registered, asks him why the meter isn’t on, and if we’re friends of his. The driver responded by saying he works for a company and is using his friends car. After a few more accusations, the cop tells us we should get out because the driver isn’t going anywhere. As we retrieved our luggage the Garda stops circulating the car just long enough to tell us that the tires are shot. We climb into a new taxi and the policeman melodramatically yells “you’re lucky to be alive”. Good start.

After a few minor delays at the airport (such as discussing the hidden 1,000 euro hold on Isaac’s credit car with the sales rep) we’re finally driving on the wrong side of the road. We were instantly off to a promising start, unable to find an exit from the airport and accidentally taking a one way to a car garage. Isaac held his own through all of the driving challenges – narrow roads, sitting on the opposite side he’s used to, terrible windshield wipers, and strong lead vocals in the singalong.

Next up on the adventure is Bunratty Castle, Clare, Sligo, and Dublin nightlife.

Good coffe, Dadios?

Good coffe, Dadios?

Looks like it!

Looks like it!

Guinness Factory

Guinness Factory

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Family channel advert

Family channel advert

St Patricks Cathedral

St Patricks Cathedral

Spot Isaac!

Spot Isaac!

St Patricks

St Patricks

My best "welcome" look

My best “welcome” look

Great site on my doorstep :)

Great site on my doorstep 🙂

 

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blossoms and benches

This tree decided to share some of its beauty with the foot path.

This tree decided to share some of its beauty with the foot path.

Green leaves, pink blossoms, and flowering vines dancing across stone hedges. Dublin, spring looks good on you.

It’s been a very long winter. I spent so much time feeling cold that my only wish was for summer to arrive so I could finally warm up. I forgot about spring, the season that spoils us with beautiful growth and teases us with anticipation for great things.

The city is lit up in colour with flowers blooming in gardens, pots and trees. I also love the rogue wild flowers scattered across the grass where they shouldn’t be. I need to give myself extra time to walk everywhere because I always get distracted and smell the flowers. My latest addition to the soundtrack of my life is “Flowers in your hair” by the Lumineers since I’m constantly sticking flowers into my curls while humming the tune.

One of my favourite pass times is hanging out in a park, drinking coffee while sitting on a bench or journaling with my back against a tree. Here’s an inside scoop on the parks I frequent in Dublin:

Stephens Green

Stephens Green

Stephens Green

Yes, given its location right next to Grafton street it’s almost always bustling, but it’s still a park worth visiting. There are ducks and swans swimming in the pond, plenty of flower beds, benches, and a beautiful small bridge. There are also a few trees that have a PERFECT cove for you to nestle into. I love to grab a soya cap from Butler’s on Grafton Street and then relax in the park for a few minutes.

Mystery park on Long Lane

There’s a beautiful park just off of Long Lane, close to Camden Street, but I’m not sure what it’s called. It’s much quieter and smaller than Stephen’s Green, which makes it a great place to read a book. At this time of year the pink blossom trees are in their full glory and there are tulips and other flowers for you to enjoy.

Palmerston Park

Palmerston Park

Palmerston Park

Yesterday I discovered my new favourite park while getting lost looking for a gym that I’m sure doesn’t exist. As soon as I walked in I fell in love with it. It made me want a picnic immediately. It’s quiet, has great trees, and is full of tranquility. It is the perfect place to have a peaceful picnic while the day drifts away.

Spring puts joy in my heart, a lightness in my step, and flowers in my hair. It’s a good season.

Even the vines climbing sidewalk hedges deserve some attention.

Even the vines climbing sidewalk hedges deserve some attention.

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#76 – Celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

I crossed something off my Before 30 list this week. #76 Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin.

My friend Louise and I hanging out by St Patrick's Cathedral for the parade.

My friend Louise and I hanging out by St Patrick’s Cathedral for the parade.

Ireland is a small country with big history. According to Google, Ireland’s population is sitting at 4,487,000 and the size of the country is 84,421 km². To give you some perspective, Canada’s population is 34,482,779 and the size of the country is 9,985,000 km². Ontario, a single Canadian province, has a population of 12,851,821 (2011) and is 1,076,395 km². It would take me longer to drive from my hometown to my university (which were both in Ontario) than it would for me to drive from one end of Ireland to the other. Even though Ireland is relatively small, Saint Patrick’s Day reminds us of how big of a presence Ireland has on the world stage. There is something about this culture that makes everyone wants to be at least a little bit Irish.

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national holiday. Saint Patrick’s day, a religious fest, was first celebrated in a quiet fashion in Ireland around 500 years after the saint’s death (March 17, 460, 461 or maybe 493) (The Little Big Book of Ireland). In 1903, it became a public holiday in Ireland, and pubs were ordered by law to remain closed. Since the law has been abolished in the 1970s, it seems there is a lot more drinking than feasting happening on the holiday.

Green!

Green!

Facts:

– Guinness has lobbied the Canadian government to make Saint Patrick’s Day a national holiday

– Chicago dyes its rivers green on St. Patrick’s Day

– Savannah, Georgia (home to the world’s second-largest parade) dyes its fountains green on St. Patrick’s Day

ref. The Little Big Book of Ireland

I had to work on Paddy’s Day, but I made sure to do a few cliche things during the day. I checked out the parade, had an Irish coffee at a traditional pub, and had some Guinness stew and a pint while listening to a musician belt out some tunes. The parade was underwhelming considering I could only see the tops of

I missed the ladder memo.

I missed the ladder memo.

the floats and the occasional flag waved from a marching band. People get there extremely early to stake out the prime real estate and some individuals go so far as to bring ladders to climb and perch on. Everyone was decked out in green, orange and white and the giddy children running around in the rain with their faces painted were adorable. I wanted to avoid Temple Bar because I knew it was jammed with tourists so my friend and I checked out a pub on Thomas Street that was filled with locals. I can’t believe it was the first time I had an Irish coffee because that drink is designed for me — black coffee, whiskey, and topped with cream. Delicious. There were some older people sitting around playing some trad music and everyone sang along, making it a very cozy atmosphere.

I don’t have many crazy stories from Paddy’s Day, so I figured I’d take this opportunity to reflect on a few of my favourite Irish things.

Music: I LOVE how much of a role music plays in the Irish culture. Anytime I’m in a room where everyone is singing along to an old Irish tune I have a big silly smile pasted on my face. Everyone knows the words to these songs! Ireland is a perfect representation of how music brings people together, and I love it.

Louise - prime example of friendly Irish people :)

Louise – prime example of friendly Irish people 🙂

Beauty: When I get out of Dublin and drive through Irish countryside I feel like I’m in a movie. The stone hedges, rolling green hills spotted with fluffy sheep, and trees reflected in shining lakes take my breath away. I will never tire of this country’s beauty.

People: Irish people are very friendly and in my experience they love to help you out and will chat your ear off if given the opportunity. On the other hand, once you get to know them they’re way of being friendly is to “take the piss” (translation – slag, chirp, tease, etc). I now know when they tease me about Canadian’s being slow, it’s out of love. Or that’s what I tell myself…

History: It’s hard for me to comprehend how much older Ireland is than Canada. There is so much history rooted in this country it overwhelms and challenges my mind.

Whiskey: I was never interested in whiskey before moving to Ireland, and now I fully appreciate the culture around it. I’m really into wine so it just makes sense that I’d appreciate whiskey tasting as well.

I LOVE YOU IRISH COFFEE!

I LOVE YOU IRISH COFFEE!

I made some Bailey's Irish Cream cupcakes in honor of Paddy's Day. delish.

I made some Bailey’s Irish Cream cupcakes in honor of Paddy’s Day. delish.

Note to self: St Patrick’s Day is March 17. After making the mistake of booking (and consequently cancelling) a cheap flight to Edinburgh on March 17, I’ll never forget international drinking day again.

Mission impossible: finding the best coffee in Dublin

Coffee in Dublin can be summed up by one word: mediocre. I haven’t had many awful coffees, but I’ve only had a few “great” coffees. I was spoiled when I lived in Australia — coffee culture is really taking off in Brisbane, and I was able to enjoy a high standard of specialty coffee while living there. When I returned to Canada I couldn’t go back to percolated coffee, and was constantly disappointed by any espresso based drinks I ordered. In Canada, you have to be in the right city for good coffee. Toronto has a good coffee scene, but most Canadians are happy with a quick double-double from Timmies or a latte from Starbucks. I think it’s a reflection of culture. Canadians are business oriented and coffee to us is functional — it wakes you up and helps you get through the work day. Australia is big into day time culture, so people often treat going for coffee as a big part of their social life, therefore it’s a higher standard of coffee. I think the whole world knows that Ireland a night time culture kind of city. Generally speaking, people go for pints here rather than coffee. That being said, Ireland is still a part of Europe, and Europeans are big into coffee. Cafes here are equipped with quality coffee machines and there are plenty of shops to choose from. I think the biggest problem is the lack of training here. Being a barista is almost a trade in Australia and people get paid fairly well in the service industry, whereas it’s not valued as much here in Ireland. You know coffee culture isn’t great when cafes advertise pictures of awful latte “art” on their front stoop.

Nevertheless, I have found some good coffee in Dublin. I have been gallivanting all over the city ever since I’ve arrived, and I have a few favourite spots and a couple of places to avoid.

1. 3FE

My flat white (Twisted Pepper location)

My flat white (Twisted Pepper location)

The “best” coffee that I’ve had here was from 3FE. Good barista, good blend, good presentation, organic milk, reasonable price. From Dublin’s standards, these guys are in a league of their own. There’s two locations — one in Dublin 2, one in Dublin 1 (both of which are too far to be my “local” shop). 3FE easily boasts the highest standard of coffee that I’ve had since I’ve been here. Don’t ask for soya milk because they don’t have it. They only make coffee the “right” way — no modifications.
You know a place is good when it’s known in the international coffee community. One of my friends in Brisbane owns One Drop (GREAT coffee) and he sent me 3FE’s webpage, and when I went to the “best” coffee shop in Stockholm (Drop) and told the barista I live in Dublin all he said was “3FE”. To be fair it isn’t the best coffee I’ve ever had, but it’s high quality and makes me extremely happy.

2. The Fumbally

A hipster haven, The Fumbally is a trendy shop with a cool ambiance. Wood furniture, big windows, social tables, and happy houseplants all make for a cool vibe. They make a great latte, but the one time I ordered a long black it was mediocre at best. They serve breakfast all day and try their best to use only organic ingredients.

3. Butlers Chocolate Cafe

Yes it’s a chain, but these guys make a great soya cappuccino. It’s a little bit more expensive (3.50 for a soya cap) but I find the coffee to be consistent no matter what location I’ve gone to throughout the city. The coffee they use has a  beautiful bold, chocolately taste, and goes especially well with soya milk. The best part of Butler’s though is the free chocolate with every drink order — I go for the 70% truffle or the double dark chocolate!

4. The Humble BeanIMG_1715

Great food, good cappuccino, cute cafe. I ordered a soya cap and she brought out a regular cap, which was delicious and had a pretty pattern. I was trying to avoid dairy though so I got her to bring me the soya coffee, which wasn’t nearly as good. It’s hard finding a barista that can heat soya milk properly.

5. Baxter and Green

Good takeaway coffee. Stronger taste. Delicious.

Honorable mentions:

Bewleys, Lemon Jelly, Cup, Carlisle’s, Clement & Pekoe

Overrated (from a strictly coffee standpoint)

Metro Cafe

Coco and Busyfeet

The Coffee Society

The Bald Barista (decent, but really shouldn’t be advertising themselves as “Dublin’s Best Coffee”.)

Now I’m no coffee expert, and coffee that I like might be totally different from the person. I’m just a gal who REALLY loves coffee. I have many more cafes I need to try in Dublin, and if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!

Christmas in Ireland

Grafton Street at night.

Grafton Street at night.

I have now spent Christmas in three different countries — Canada, Australia, and Ireland. An Irish Christmas is comparable to Christmas in Canada in terms of food, traditions, and decorations. The main difference is that in Ireland it’s all about Christmas – there’s no “Happy Holidays” here. Being a predominantly Catholic country, people don’t worry about being offensive if they wish someone a happy Christmas, whereas Canada is an extremely multi-cultural country and it’s common for all of the different religious holidays to be celebrated.

I’m currently working as a floor supervisor at a new bar in Dublin, and spent most of my holidays making sure all of the Christmas party bookings ran smoothly. It was an extremely busy couple of weeks, and every Wednesday-Saturday you would find me running around like a crazy person with a clip board in one hand while the other hand held my earpiece in place as I tried desperately to understand my managers Irish accent through the static and pumping music. Let’s just say my adrenals took a beating.

Christmas Day itself was lovely. I spent it at one of my Irish friends house and her family made me feel right at home. We had turkey and ham on Christmas day as well as an assortment of vegetables, stuffing, TWO different kinds of potatoes, and a smorgasbord of dessert. After an intense month at work, curling up next to the fire with some traditional Christmas music playing in the background was exactly what I needed.

A lovely Irish Christmas with a wonderful family.

A lovely Irish Christmas with a wonderful family.

There are a few interesting things that have made this Christmas different than any other that I’ve experienced. Here’s what made my Christmas uniquely “Irish.”

Christmas Jumpers

Once December rolls around you start seeing Christmas jumpers everywhere. There are the pretty snowflake jumpers, and then there are the obnoxious “ugly Christmas sweater” versions. In Canada, it’s very common to throw an “ugly Christmas sweater” party where everyone has to dress in the most tacky Christmas wear they can find. However, it’s always tricky to find Christmas jumpers. That is not the case over here. Every shop had Christmas jumpers, and there are even a few stores that literally just make Christmas jumpers. The 12 Pubs of Christmas (a pub crawl) is almost a rite of passage here. At first I found the phenomenon charming — in theory, getting dressed up in Christmas clothes and doing a pub crawl sounds grand, doesn’t it? The novelty quickly passed after dealing with messy, obnoxious drunks in blinking Christmas lights. I’ve never felt more like Scrooge than one Saturday night, mid-December, when I looked out at a sea of Christmas jumpers after mopping up someones dropped drink for the umpteenth time, and I thought to myself “I hate all of the Christmas jumpers.” Now, that thought really had nothing to do with “Christmas.” As Jamie Foxx would say, blame it on the alcohol.

I don't know these people (found the image on Google) but it's a perfect example of the 12 Pubs.

I don’t know these people (found the image on Google) but it’s a perfect example of the 12 Pubs.

Christmas Music

Since I’m working at a bar this year, I had the privilege of witnessing a bunch of inebriated individuals link arms, jump around, knock over my drink tray, and squeal along to the same Christmas songs. Every. Night. I spent last Christmas in Australia, where they don’t get nearly as in to Christmas as we do in Canada, so I was a little behind on the Christmas songs. They play all of the mainstream classics, like Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas” and “Jingle Bells.” One song that everyone goes absolutely nuts for is “Snow is Falling.” I hadn’t heard this song until this year, and I don’t know if it’s a European thing or if I was just out of the loop last year. Regardless, it’s so peppy that even when you’re sober amongst a ton of drunks you can’t help but have a bounce in your step. Sometimes I even catch myself clapping and inserting a sneaky spin or too. Then there’s the song that epitomizes Irish culture — “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues. When this Pogues song plays, the room transforms before your eyes. Suddenly everyone is your best friend, you chug your beer and throw your arms around the shoulders of the people next to you, your feet start dancing, and each person sings along at the top of their lungs. This is what I love most about Irish culture.

Christmas Markets

Playing "The First Noel"

Playing “The First Noel”

I was really hoping to visit Germany for the Christmas markets this year, but unfortunately I ran out of time. Thankfully, Ireland offers Christmas markets in nearly every major city. The Belfast Christmas markets have a good reputation, so one Sunday myself and a couple of friends jumped on the Aircoach to Belfast and spent the day indulging in Christmas goodies. We had mulled wine, gourmet cupcakes, Belgian chocolate, German sausage, and Italian pastry. I also found a lovely pair of knit mittens and my friends picked up some knitwear as well. Michael Buble’s Christmas album was playing and it was packed with family’s who were filled with excitement for the festive season. We finished off our day with a pint at a beer garden that was located in the center of the market. The Irish way, right?

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Facing the crowds at the market

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Nighttime view of the Christmas market outside of City Hall.

Nighttime view of the Christmas market outside of City Hall.

French pastry!

French pastry!

The little boy seemed to be in awe by the sight of all these tasty treats.

The little boy seemed to be in awe by the sight of all these tasty treats.

My Christmas baking. A little taste of Canadian Christmas :)

My Christmas baking. A little taste of Canadian Christmas 🙂

How’s Howth?

Welcome to Howth.

Welcome to Howth.

Howth, a suburb of Dublin, is an idealistic fisherman’s town at the north of Dublin Bay. I’ve never been to Newfoundland but I imagine it would look similar.

Howth lighthouse.

Howth lighthouse.

I'll take one in every colour, please.
I’ll take one in every colour, please.

There are old fishing boats in the harbour, multi-coloured house fronts along the esplanade, and houses atop hills over looking the sea. The smell of fish lingers in the air and there’s shop after shop selling all sorts of seafood.

Howth is only a train ride away from the Dublin city center and there are always lots of times to choose from. It’s a half hour trip and costs about six euro for a return ticket.

It’s a small, sleepy town with just the right amount of shops and cafes. If you feel like grabbing a quick bite and sitting by the sea, there are several places that offer fish and chips for takeaway. If you have a a little more time, there are restaurants with beautiful seafood dishes where you can stop in for some tapas and a bottle of wine. The first time I went to Howth it started to rain so my friend and I went to a small restaurant and sat on a bench by the window and watched the rain meet the sea. I had an incredible seafood paella and enjoyed every warm moment before heading back out to walk to the lighthouse. Sometimes on my day off I take the train to Howth to just grab a coffee, go for a walk, and pickup some fresh cod to make for dinner. Bliss, I know.

Seafood paella by the seaside

Seafood paella by the seaside

Even if the forecast calls for sunshine it can always rain at the drop of a coin so I always go prepared — rain coat, toque, and umbrella. Rain or shine, Howth is beautiful and well worth the visit.

It's fun to grab some fish and chips and sit by the water when the sun's out.

It’s fun to grab some fish and chips and sit by the water when the sun’s out.

This little birdy hung out with me while I ate my fish and chips :)

This little birdy hung out with me while I ate my fish and chips 🙂

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Fisherman’s boat, sans fisherman.

This is me in Howth.

This is me in Howth.

melodies and serendipity

Music is a form of magic. It unites strangers. It can stir up your soul. It is the ultimate story teller. It matches your emotions and can make your mood swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. It is a universal language. It is powerful.

Dublin has a wonderful music scene. No matter what days you have available to go out, you’ll never have to worry about catching some live music because guaranteed there will be multiple places with live music to choose from every night of the week. You have the option of concerts, smaller gigs with new and upcoming bands, traditional Irish music and dance, or talented cover artists at local pubs.

Since I’ve been here I have experienced all of those options. I had a great time clapping along to some traditional Irish tunes at the Old Storehouse in Temple Bar, I sang along to some of my favourite songs being covered by an amazing vocalist/guitarist at Trinity Bar on Dame Street, I danced with a former of Lord of the Dance performer to some Irish jigs at The Mercantile, I experienced Bon Iver’s show in all of its glory at the O2, and I saw Matt Corby in an intimate, casual setting at Whelans Live. All of the shows ranged in price from free to 40 euros, and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them.

Taken from Bon Iver’s Twitter account, caption “Thanks Dublin, emotional.”

I experienced a phenomenal week music wise, seeing two of my favourite artists within a few days. I had the privilege of seeing Bon Iver twice this year, and I got the best of both worlds because I saw them in an outdoor venue in Burnaby on a beautiful clear summer evening and then again in Dublin in an indoor auditorium. They opened with the first track of their album, “Perth,” and then went in order of their album for the first few songs. They sounded incredible and I swear I could feel their music in every part of my being. The best thing about the indoor venue was that I got to experience the magic the set crew put into the performance. The lights accompanied the music, emphasizing moments and aiding in creating the appropriate atmosphere. It was their last show of the tour so it was very emotional for them, which translated into their flawless performance. They did a double encore because they “weren’t ready to stop playing music” and then lined up at the end to take a bow in front of a standing ovation. It was also announced that at this time there are no plans for Bon Iver to make more music together. One can only hope they’ll make another album.

I can’t help but wonder how it feels to have your music, a product that you have dreamed up and pieced together, affect people by the hundreds, thousands, millions. So many people have an emotional tie to their music and that must be a surreal feeling. Whether a song evokes happiness, anger, or nostalgia, I think it’s all positive and cathartic.

Matt Corby, several feet away from me. Halleluiah!

Two nights later, Matt Corby, one of my favourite Australian artists, was playing at Whelans Live (I highly recommend buying his EP “Into The Flame” on iTunes. You can thank me for the recommendation later). I discovered he was playing in Dublin about two and a half weeks prior, but it was already sold out. I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I didn’t try to see Matt Corby when he was playing at my local bar, so I was absolutely determined to get into that show. I scoured Gumtree, eBay, and Facebook ads in hopes of finding a ticket. Nothing. I posted an ad on Gumtree saying I’d pay over face value for a ticket. Again, nothing (well that’s a lie. I did get one guy emailing me two hours before the show asking if I wanted I ticket. I responded twice, with great enthusiasm, and then eventually he wrote back saying he gave his ticket to his friend — for free. Awesome.) And then, Whelans posted at the last minute on Facebook that an extra 15 tickets were being sold. Here was my big chance! I got butterflies in my stomach from nervous anticipation, grabbed my phone, and got some guy named Richie on the line. Richie told me there was one ticket left, and a wave of excitement and relief washed over me. Then, the line went dead. I ran out of credit and had to call O2 to top it up which took about five minutes, and then when I called back the last ticket was gone. I was devastated.

My determination didn’t allow me to lose hope, though. I went to Whelans several nights before the show and asked everyone I talked to for advice on how to get in. Whelans is a big venue, with three different areas set up for gigs. The most common advice was to just show up early, grab a drink in the main bar, and hope you can either buy a ticket off of someone or be let in at the last minute. So, after Richie let me down, I quickly got ready, hit up the ATM, and booted it over to Whelans.

ser·en·dip·i·ty/ˌserənˈdipitē/

Noun:

The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”.

There was already a queue outside, and definitely no chance of buying a ticket off of anyone. I felt discouraged, but figured I might as well stick around until the doors opened and the crowd dispersed so I could try and convince the door staff to sell me a ticket. After all, we’re talking about Matt Corby here.

Earlier that day I had been thinking about how I should talk to strangers more. Yes, I’m aware of stranger danger, but I’m talking about seizing opportunities to meet people. So, when I saw a girl journaling while drinking a glass of wine at Whelans at a table with an extra seat, I got over social boundaries and any fear of looking like a weirdo and asked her if I could sit with her. It was by far the best decision I had made all week. We ended up getting along really well and bonding over our love of music. She had been at Bon Iver’s show as well (and MET them afterwards!) and it was one of those times where we kept finding things in common with each other. Her friends joined us a little bit later and they all had tickets to the show and managed to get me in. It took a combination of sass and stealth, but ultimately the key was the serendipitous meeting of new friends.

New friends and post-gig hangs at Whelans

Everything happens for a reason. If I had gotten a ticket to Matt Corby earlier, I wouldn’t have met the amazing group of people I spent the evening with. My new friend, Laura, said that earlier that day she had actually been asking how people meet outside of work and school. The answer is to get over any fear of “bothering” people or looking strange and simply say hello and test the waters to see if there’s common ground. Ask if the seat is taken. What do you have to lose?

If I had gotten a ticket earlier, I wouldn’t have met my new friends. If I hadn’t met my new friends, I wouldn’t have gotten into the gig. Serendipity.

Matt Corby’s gig was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. His ridiculous vocals tore me to pieces. In a good way.

Music. It’s a wonderful thing, and I’m so grateful that Dublin is a hotspot for it.

How to become a Dublin “local” in under a week.

It’s official. I am a Dublin local. How, you ask? I am renting a flat, I have a job, I have a phone, I walk when the light is red, and I’ve ventured away from Temple Bar and Grafton Street.

Here’s how I settled into Dublin in five days:

Step 1: Mobile phone

Before you can do anything important, like apply for jobs or houses, you need a phone. I brought my phone from Australia and got a pay as you go plan. I thought my phone would be unlocked because it was prepaid, but it wasn’t so I had to do that before purchasing a SIM card. I went to Moore Street off of Henry Street and it cost 25 euros (less if your phone isn’t from Australia) and only took about an hour because it was a simple phone. Vodafone, Meteor, and O2 Ireland are the major networks here. I went with O2 because it is affordable, has good coverage, and I know people who use it so it’s free to communicate with them. Step one, complete!

Step 2: Housing

Welcome to the part of my blog where I rant about my hostel experience. I stayed at Isaac’s Hostel for five days, and I got out of there as quickly as possible. If you’re just staying for a night or two, it ticks off every important box: clean enough, good heating, decent location. For long term stay, it wasn’t the best choice. They advertised breakfast, but it just ended up being toast and cereal. Better than nothing, but there was supposed to be boiled eggs as well and out of the five days I was there I got one egg. The WiFi was not reliable, the reception was unaccommodating and answered every question with “go to the supermarket.” The “hot” water was more like “warm” water, and the showers would turn off automatically after one minute if you didn’t press the button again. The first shower I had was a vicious cycle of the water turning off and me frantically trying to turn it back on as I shivered away. I then realized the key was to keep pressing the button every 30 seconds so it would never turn off. All of those things are minor lack of luxuries, but then you get to the other guests in my room. I was in an eight person all girls room. Every night without fail my sleep would be disrupted for hours. I was on a top bunk, and the woman staying in the top bunk behind me made me miss sleep like never before. First of all, she snored. I can’t handle snoring in general, and she snored so loudly she might as well have just shaken my bed non stop. I would go to sleep with my ear buds in listening to lovely Bethel Live music and then would wake up every time it was over because of the snoring. The worst part was when she would stop snoring — I’d relax and become hopeful that the chainsaw was finally gone, only for it to start up again. The Bethel music was strategic, because as I was lying there I was just getting angrier and angrier and had to mediate on something good. One day she woke up at 6:00am, turned on the lights, stomped heavily back and forth, back and forth, and proceeded to spray her deodorant right in front of our bunk. Thanks a lot, lady. I understand we’re all paying for shared accommodation, but is it really necessary to spray your deodorant by my face at 6:00am?

Once that lady left, I was gifted with two Russian women who not only liked to converse to each other across the room in the middle of the night, but they conveniently snored as well. And they ate chips — in the middle. of. the. night. The best thing that happened in that room was when one Russian lady held the bunk bed in place while the other Russian lady got onto the top. Let’s just say there was falling (on the bed), rolling, awkward maneuvering, and lots of laughing on their part.

Ultimately though I really should thank these women because they lit a fire under me to get out of that hostel as soon as possible.

After gathering tips from locals, I discovered which areas are best to live in. As I was looking up apartments on daft.ie, I figured that the Dublin zones were in order of distance from the city centre. For example, Dublin 1 would be city centre, and Dublin 8 would be much further (after 1, 2, 3, 4, etc). I discovered that I was wrong, and what matters more is whether the number is odd or even. Odd numbers on on the North side of the Liffey River and even numbers are on the South. I was told to live on the South side of the city because the North has a rough reputation.

Dublin zone map. Turns out zone 8 is closer to the city than zone 6. Who knew!

Finding accommodation that is in a good location for a good price is difficult because it’s a city and there’s a lot of competition for rooms. Often times I would phone to make an appointment to view a place and they would inform me that it had already been rented. If you want to rent instead of share it is even more difficult because they require references and a 12 month contract. I was lucky because it’s just me and finding a single room in a house share is relatively easy. I’ve lived with enough people and in enough apartments to know what’s good and what’s bad, so I knew at the first place I looked at that I should snatch it up. It’s a good location, I’m sharing with three other pleasant working girls, there’s no contract, and it’s only 340 euros/month + bills. Not having to set up electricity, wifi, etc, makes the moving (both in and out) process much easier.

In terms of setting up my room I got everything (bedding, organizational things, etc) at Penney’s and Dunnes.

Step 3: Get your GNIB card

Upon arrival in Ireland, Canadian’s need to register with the Immigration Bureau within 30 days. I went to the immigration office two days in a row around noon time and both days they were no longer giving out numbers (even though they service people until 10pm). I came back the following day at 7am and waiting in line until they opened at around 8:30. I was number 16 so I didn’t end up having to wait too long. By the time the office opened the Que was huge and I was grateful I’d woken up at 6:00am to line up (and no, I did not spray my deodorant or stomp around in the hostel room). You need your passport and visa to register and it’s a fee of 150 euros. They take your picture and fingerprints and then give you the card which I’ll need to bring with me anytime I leave the country and want to get back in. It’s important to have the card in order to get a job, PPS (social insurance) number, bank account, etc. I definitely recommend getting there first thing in the morning because I had a friend who ended up waiting a combined 10 hours whereas I was only there for about two hours.

The Irish working holiday visa is much more complicated than the Australian version. For my Aussie working holiday visa all I had to do was apply online and pay a small fee and then the visa number was paired with my passport number. I also didn’t need all of the extensive documentation that’s required here for a social insurance number and bank account.

Step 4: PPS number

Before you can get a PPS number you need proof of a permanent address. They make you jump through a lot of hurdles and I’m still the in the process of obtaining my number. It’s necessary to have a PPS in order to work in Ireland, so it’s important to get this step done as soon as possible.

Step 5: Get a job

I actually started handing out my CV while I was still living at the hostel. I treated applying for jobs as a full time job. I came at an excellent time of year for hiring because summer staff are all gone and businesses are hiring for the holidays. I got a couple of job offers within the week and I’ll share my employment story in my next post. It’s another one of those “everything happens for a reason” situations.

Finally, venture away from the tourist districts and look like you know where you’re going and it’ll at least appear like you’re a Dublin local.

Dublin, Ireland: First Impressions

I have been in Ireland for one week and I still often think, “…I’m really in Ireland.”

Birds eye view

It was a beautiful sunny day when I arrived, and the view from the plane was incredible. As I was looking out the window at the acres upon acres of green hills I truly felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

After I got settled into the hostel (more on the hostel later), I headed out for a walk with a couple of German girls and an American girl who is studying in Italy. None of us had been to Dublin before so we grabbed a map, threw on our scarves, and prepared to get lost together. I’ve been told that Irish people are very friendly and helpful, but I also thought that being in a large bustling city people would be, well, city people. In Toronto, people generally have a “don’t talk to me” demeanor about them and I figured it would be similar here. I was wrong. We had only been walking for about five minutes when we pulled out a map at a major intersection to figure out where we were and where we should go. After just a moment of studying the map a man approached us and asked “What are you after?” I responded with something about how we were just wandering around, “Yes but what are you after?” he persisted. He then proceeded to point out all of the major Dublin landmarks that we could see from where we were standing, gave us tips on the area, places to eat, and a short history lesson. Irish people love to help, and they love to talk.

Dublin is a small big city. It has a big city feel to it and has lots to offer, but everything in the city center is within walking distance. One strange thing is that the streets are not clearly labelled, and even when you ask for directions people will normally refer to a main street as a starting point and then use landmarks as turning points. Signs are on buildings rather than above sets of lights or on a stand on the corner.

That night we wandered into a traditional Irish pub, sat in a cute little corner, and had delicious Guinness Irish stew. There are pubs EVERYWHERE. There are over 1,000 pubs in Dublin city. 1,000! That is a lot of beer.

Here are some of the most memorable moments from the first couple of days:

My first Guinness
Guinness on tap here is really creamy and smooth, and I enjoy it much more than Guinness back home. Most pubs I’ve been to have several stouts just for Guinness.

Walking Tour
The hostel I stayed at offers a free walking tour every day. I participated on the first full day that I was here and it was a great introduction to the city. We visited Dublin Castle, Trinity College, Christchurch cathedral, and more landmarks. The tour guide was a young Irish aspiring actress and was incredibly entertaining as she told us about some of Ireland’s extensive history.

Penney’s
Penney’s is this incredible store that has affordable clothes, shoes, accessories, home ware, and more. Incredibly dangerous. Every time I’ve asked anyone where to get something, they always say Penney’s. One girl had heard “Penney’s” so often in response to a compliment she’d give someone she actually thought that it was their way of saying “thanks”. It wasn’t until her friend complimented her haircut once and she said “oh penney’s” that she discovered it wasn’t a synonym for thank you.

Bus issues…
I decided to venture out to Roly’s Bistro to say hello to the couple I met in Vernon and to hand in my CV. All I had to do was catch a bus from the city centre and get off about 10 minutes later. Easy right? Well I never got there. First of all, the bus I was waiting for never arrived, and the other bus I could take was 25 minutes late. I asked the bus driver when I boarded if he could tell me when we were at my stop, and he informed me that the route was different today so I’d have to get off somewhere else and walk. I figured I was getting to know the city anyways and I wasn’t on a schedule, so I said that was fine. The driver ended up being very aggressive, slamming on the breaks, accelerating quickly, and honking persistently. At one point the bus stopped so suddenly that the elderly woman by me fell right into me., and we heard a crunching sound outside. A car door had opened and the bus driver ran into it and took the door right off. I took that as my queue to get off the bus and dropped my CV off at the Hard Rock Cafe instead. And that is my first impression of Dublin transit.

Buskers
There are people playing music all over Temple Bar, but my favourite busker was right by my hostel. Every time I walked by him I felt like I was finally in a musical. His music was the perfect soundtrack to my life.

Pub crawl
The hostel also offers a pub crawl for 7 euros. We went to five different bars, and even though it was a Monday night every place was packed. I LOVE live Irish music! We went to Whelans which is known for being the pub where Gerard Butler sings Galway Girl to Hilary Swank in P.S. I love you. My favourite stop was the Old Storehouse in Temple Bar. There were two men playing some Irish tunes and I could not stop smiling. There was one song in particular that they had the crowd clap along to several parts. I of course love audience participation so I got right into it. At one point they weren’t singing but they were playing the part of the song where we were supposed to clap, and I got a little shout out because my obnoxiously loud clap was the only one that happened. I may not play any instruments, but I take clapping very seriously.

Traveling is so interesting because of how quickly travelers connect with each other. I went on the pub crawl with the same girls I had been hanging out with at the hostel and even though we’d only known each other for a few days everyone felt a sense of loyalty to one another. We more or less stuck together as a group and took care of one another, so even though I came to Dublin alone I was definitely safe and never lonely.

Stay tuned for a follow up post on how to settle into Dublin in less than one week. Cheers!