I am sad to say that I did not visit a single place on my list of sights to see in Dublin.
I don’t regret for a minute that I spent the bulk of my time in Ireland on a tour of the Wild Atlantic Way, because it was the trip of a lifetime, to be sure, but I simply hadn’t anticipated how TBEX would fill up the rest of my time in Dublin.
If I had really wanted to have time to see the city, I should have stayed a couple more days after the conference.
However, I was more than anxious to get back to my sweet family, so I made peace with the fact that I was simply going to have to come back. In fact, the idea that we can easily visit Ireland while living in Scotland is something we’ve discussed at length around the Chino House over the last couple of weeks.
Though I didn’t get to wander the National Gallery or walk the hallowed halls of Trinity College, I did spend a good bit of time walking in the city back and forth between where I was staying and the hotel where the conference was held. It took me an hour to get there (more when I got lost), which was longer than I had anticipated, but grew to enjoy.
I saw much of the city this way, not always taking the same routes, and at all different times of the day. Early in the morning, the sleepy city would still smile and nod. Late at night, people were laughing and teasing one another. In the middle of the day, the city center was packed with people, their coming and going so quickly that I would practically get knocked over if I stopped for a moment to admire a sweater in a window or consult my map.
Later in the day, street musicians filled O’Connell Street and Temple Bar. Crowds and music spilled out of pubs as the day turned into evening. Dublin is so full of life, and I imagine I could watch for a year or more without getting tired of it.
After my days of walking the city, I got enough of a feel of the place to understand why my friends, who come from there, love it. I was thinking of how I couldn’t wait to tell them how wonderful I’d found their home country when I was walking home my last night.
I was still glowing from the warm fuzzy feelings you have when you say goodbye to new friends and promise to see them again soon. I was walking slowly and watching people pour out of cabs and into bars and nightclubs.
My backpack was overly full of flyers and brochures from the conference, pieces of paper that I should have tossed, but could not yet be sure I did not need.
I looked down and realized my phone was dying. My primary source of navigation in the dark, I looked around and wondered if I should pop in somewhere and charge it for a few minutes. Then fortuitously, Taido texted and asked how I was. I texted back that I was walking home and my phone was dying. Take a cab, he texted back.
Yes, I thought. That’s what I will do. I was ready to get home. I had to pack up and get to the airport in the morning.
I flagged down a cab and hopped in. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had the happy circumstance of flagging down the most hysterical cabbie in all of Dublin. I laughed the whole way home.
I climbed the four flights of stairs to the apartment and fell into a chair to have a visit with my darling hosts, whom I had hardly seen all week. It was strangely refreshing to talk to two people who have no interest whatsoever in blogging or social media after a week of being immersed in it. We talked for a while about the conference and about their week. They had bought a car and were headed to pick it up the next day.
I was starting to gather my things to head to bed when I realized that I had left my coat back at the hotel, which was in the exact opposite direction of the airport. We all deliberated for a bit about how I could get it back before stumbling upon the idea that I could ride a Dublin Bike to the hotel early in the morning to get it.
It might be a little tight, especially if I wandered at all, which I am prone to do, but if I got up early I could get there and back before I needed to leave for the airport.
There are Dublin Bike Stations all over the city, where you can pick up a bike with a card (which I borrowed from my hosts) or you can buy a three day ticket for two euros. There was a station right outside the apartment.
I woke up earlier than usual, anxious about having plenty of time.
Out into the barely lit streets of Dublin I went one last time, and there was one lone bike left at the station. Happily, I checked it out with the card, popped my backpack in the basket, and off I went!
I had not gone two blocks before I realized how happy I was to have left my coat at the hotel. The city was beautiful in the early morning light and the streets were practically empty. I was giddy, laughing as I spun by the now familiar churches and towers. Something about being on a bike makes me feel like I’m ten years old, no matter how often I ride one as an adult. And Dublin Bikes have both baskets and bells, which is about all you need in life when you are ten.
I started singing. Yes, singing. And smiling. And just loving every minute. Down the center of O’Connell Street I flew, nodding to homeless people and a street musician just starting to set up. Up and over the bridge and around Trinity College, whizzing past the same bars I’d seen the night before, now quiet.
At some point I thought, I don’t even care if I find my coat, I’m so happy I got to have one last spin around Dublin. Along with, Why haven’t I been riding a bike all week?
I pulled into the hotel, skipped into the lobby, collected my coat and was back out again. Way ahead of schedule, I went back through St. Stephens Green, a lovely park near Trinity College, complete with flower beds, a playground, weeping willows, a pond with swans and lots of benches for late night chats between lovers (some were still there) or indulging early morning reveries.
I parked my bike for a minute and had a visit with the swans. I saw loads of swans while I was in Ireland and I never got tired of them. There is not much in life more exquisite than a swan on a pond. We had seen them just outside our dining room at Harvey’s Point in Donegal. Our guide, Josephine told us that it is illegal to kill a swan in Ireland because of the Children of Lir, and then she told us this ancient Irish story.
Long ago there lived a king called Lir. He lived with his wife and four children in a castle in the middle of a forest. When Lir’s wife died, he married again, but his new wife, Aoife, thought that Lir loved his children more than he loved her. Aoife was jealous of the children and of the love Lir had for his first wife, so she took the children to swim in a lake near the castle, and there she turned them into swans.
She went back to the castle and told Lir that his children had drowned. Lir was so sad he started crying. He rushed down to the lake and saw no children. He saw only four beautiful swans.
The children were swans for nine hundred years, spending three hundred years in Lough Derravaragh, three hundred years in the Sea of Moyle and three hundred years in the waters of Inish Glora.
After nine hundred years, they turned back into humans and a monk (some even say it was St. Patrick himself) sprinkled holy water on them. Then they fell to the ground and the monk buried them in one grave. That night he dreamed he saw four swans flying up through the clouds. He knew the children of Lir were with their mother and father.
I sat a minute longer in St. Stephen’s Green, watching the swans and thinking of King Lir and his children. And of my own sweet husband and children whom I would soon see.
Before riding back to the flat to collect my luggage and catch a bus to the airport, I said a little prayer of thanks for nine perfectly wonderful days in Ireland, for all I had learned and for the people I had met. And most especially, for the happy misfortune that had led to my spending my last morning in Dublin on a bike. In this park. With these swans.
More about Ireland? I wrote previously about the Irish people and about Adventures In Ireland.
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Linking up with Bonnie for Travel Tuesday!