It was a dark and stormy night. As I dragged my 50 lb suitcase through the bustling streets of South Dublin, all I wanted was to be half-drunk and hangrily cry my way to a giant plate of greasy fish and chips without being judged by all of the strangers that were carelessly pushing past me, bumping into my enormous suitcase.
So how did I get here you ask?
It all started in Galway. After spending two amazing days in Dublin and Bray (shout out to Liza && Paul @ the Harbour Bar) I was excited to make the journey to the west coast of Ireland to see for myself “where my ancestors came from.” Everyone in Dublin had the same reaction when I said I was going to Galway: I would love it. So with expectations higher than ever, I could not wait to see the City of the Tribes. After a scenic train ride across the green countryside of Ireland, I stepped off the train into downtown Galway. It was just as I had pictured: authentic and quaint, with all the sounds and bustle of a small city.
I checked into my hostel (here we go, another hostel story)– which was a hop, skip and a jump away from the train station (literally right across the street)–to find that I had the room ALL TO MYSELF. GREAT NEWS.
I should mention that the hostel I stayed in in Dublin was fantastic. It was clean (no weird smells!!), I had really cool roommates, and the atmosphere was really social and fun–there was even a bar in the lobby(!!!!!) However, as most of my friends and family already know, no matter how social I may seem, I am an EXTREME hermit. Alone time is like oxygen to me, and anytime I get alone I revel in. So when I checked into the tiny four-bedroom hostel room in Galway only to find that I was its only tenant I was more than happy.
You can bet that I took full advantage of this rare alone time. I sprawled my stuff all around the room, kicked off my shoes, started blasting some feel-good country (side note: no one in Europe likes country…at all lol) and just went into full couch potato mode. About 20 minutes into my private chill session I heard the lock click on the door. In walk two 19-year-old AMERICAN college boys from Ohio. Whhhhyyyyyyyyy, God, WHYYYY?? As the two scrawny little boyish roommates took their first few steps into the room I went into full “stress of meeting new people hysteria” mode, and tried to hastily pick up all of my things that were carelessly strewn across our shoebox of a room all while trying to turn down/shut off my embarrassing hick tunes. No chill.
So as I tried to make friendly conversation with my two new roomies–who were clearly disturbed by my erratic welcome– I basically learned they were 19 and from Ohio, put on my coat and shoes, and got out of there as quick as I could.
Once I was safely out of the shoebox room and away from the teenage dirtbags, I decided to play my favorite game, which basically involves wandering around the side streets/back alleys of the town I’m in until I find the most hole-in-the-wall bar I can find (My mom LOVES when I do this).
Walking down the streets of Galway I saw a few bars that looked promising, but nothing that spoke to me….. until I walk up to a bar called Paddy’s. Safe to say it definitely didn’t look like a tourist hot-spot, so naturally I was sold. PLUS, this past summer I had worked at a restaurant called Paddy’s Irish Pub, and my Dad’s name is Pat…. so in Molly Logic that seemed a lot like fate.
Walking into the bar it was pretty much exactly what I expected. Kinda dark, charmingly dingy, holding and occupancy of 100% males over 45. In the front part of the bar, there were about 10 men gathered around a medium-sized TV watching horse races, half of them with one foot out the door, cigarettes in hand waiting until the end of the race to go smoke. In the back of the bar, there was an old pool table surrounded by a group of men equally as old tearing up the felt.
When I sat at the bar none of the patrons acknowledged me–all shooting me guarded glances like I stuck out like a sore-thumb–which I knowingly did. But as I mentioned before I had turned this habit of visiting strange bars into a sort of game. I wanted to meet locals, and I knew the only place I could really do that was going somewhere that was just for locals. Maybe not the best idea, but b(e)ar with me.
As part of this game, I had developed a little “ritual” where I’d go to a bar, order a drink, watch, and wait. I’d never immediately go out of my way to talk to anyone for fear of being the overbearing tourist who disrupts the balance of the locals. But the thing is because I always stuck out like a sore thumb people’s curiosity eventually got the best of them, and it was only a matter of time before someone would finally break the invisible barrier between the band of locals and the girl in the black jacket who clearly isn’t local.
This time it was slightly different than in previous times that I have played the game. It took a little longer. People were especially evasive, which I think was in part due to the fact that I was the only girl in the bar (not to mention the only one under 35). So as I was getting closer to the bottom of my glass I pondered giving up and heading out to scavenger for dinner.
BUT the game always works. Not much longer after my moment of doubt, an older gentleman (who I later learned was 67) walked up to the barstool next to me, ordered a drink, turned to me and offered up his glass for cheers. SUCCESS. One thing I’ll never forget is that he never sat on the bar stool–he just stood. This man’s name was Francis, and he had the HEAVIEST Irish accent I have ever heard in my life. To be honest, I only understood about 30% of what he said, but I do remember catching some about Guinness curing everything, that it’s what mothers SHOULD put in their baby’s bottles, and he was from a nearby town called Connemara. The majority of the time I just smiled and nodded my head, not understanding a word he was saying, slowly sipping on the last of my drink to drag the cryptic conversation out a little bit longer.
In order to win the game, you must leave the bar with a kiss on the cheek. As I got up to give Francis a hug before leaving Paddy’s, he kissed me on the cheek. Amazing. (I won!!)
After grabbing dinner I headed back to my shoebox room in the hostel.
I should mention that when the two baby-faced teens from Ohio first entered the room for our awkward meeting, they were both clutching their own personal fifth of cheap vodka. I also learned later on that Galway is actually a very popular tourist attraction/bar hopping spot for American college kids. So looking back, I should have been less than surprised to wake up to the two teens drunkenly stumbling into our shoebox room at 4 am, one of whom puked (thankfully in the trash but WHY YOU ARE GROSS AND YOUNG GO HOME). As infuriated and disgusted as I was to be woken up by two drunk, smelly, ugly idiots at 4 am, you can BET that I laughed my ass off when this kid started losing his cookies. So if they didn’t like me before, they definitely LOVED me now….
Given sleep was pretty much out of the question at this point thanks to the nasty, drunk, idiots, I got up and ready for that day’s adventure: the Cliffs of Moher.
This trip was incredible and if you ever get the chance, you must go. It’s an absolutely breath-taking panorama, and you meet people from all over. Funnily enough, I met a girl from Massachusetts named Molly who lived about 10 minutes away from where I used to live in Boston. Life is so weird.
After a day of an amazing adventure, I felt absolute dread having to head back to the pukey shoebox. So it really didn’t take much time for me to do what I do best: cancel the remaining nights at the hostel, pack up and head to the nearest hotel. Oddly enough this ended up being one of my favorite nights of my entire trip– and all I did was get Italian take-out, a bottle of red wine, and watch “Eat, Pray, Love” (it’s the simple things when you’re a hermit).
I woke up the next morning not having a place to stay in Galway that night (having canceled at the hostel), and thought “Hey I loved Dublin, so why not go back a few days early.” So with literally NO plan I went to Starbucks (CLASSIC), bought a bus ticket, and headed across the country back to Dublin.
It’s a funny thing, being spontaneous. You get so caught up in the thrill of the free-fall, that essentially all logic goes zooming out the window. You don’t think of things like: “Oh, where will I stay tonight?” or “It’s Saturday, Dublin is probably packed” or “There’s a huge football match today, so the city will be even more packed than usual for a Saturday.”
I had ASSUMED that there would be availability at the hostel that I had stayed in on my previous jaunt in Dublin, so I rolled up there with my stupid suitcase feeling calm and confident. Unfortunately, all the things that I DIDN’T take into account while tripping on spontaneity came washing over me like a hangover after prom. It was Saturday night in Dublin, there was a huge football match on TV that everyone came into town to watch at the bars, and there were zero rooms available at the hostel that night–not to mention barely any hotel rooms available nearby. Pure. Panic.
I know I have a horrible poker face, but I didn’t need to be told that as I saw the woman behind the desk at the hostel respond to my silent reaction to my imminent homelessness. She fervently apologized and promised they would have a private room available for the next two nights, but tonight she would do her best to help me find a reasonably priced hotel nearby.
So here’s where this post’s lesson comes in (and surprisingly it has nothing to do with gross puking teenage boys from Ohio): NEVER GIVE A STRANGER YOUR CREDIT CARD.
More obvious than the “do not drink” on a bleach bottle, right? But keep in mind I had slept like crap the past two nights, traveled all day, had a mini panic attack thinking I was going to have to sleep on the streets for the night, NOT TO MENTION I had only eaten, like, a scone that whole day (excuses, excuses, excuses). So the nice, motherly lady behind the counter offering to help me find a place to stay seemed harmless. She helped me pick a hotel close by, showed me how to get there from the hostel, and even helped me pay for it right then and there. (By giving her my credit card. Rookie move.)
With the weight of homelessness (seemingly) off my shoulders, I hauled my stupidly large suitcase onto the sidewalk, and in the direction of the hotel. As I was walking in the supposed direction of my hotel I passed a bar where two elderly gentlemen were standing outside smoking. Passing them, one of the good old Irish gents called me “have a nice holiday?” pointing his cigarette at my suitcase. I responded saying I was still on my holiday and figured this was a good opportunity to ask if I was headed in the right direction towards my hotel, to which he responded, “I don’t know where the hell that is, but half of my bed is vacant.”
…………………….. Okay then.
I ended up finding the hotel–without the overly friendly old man’s help–and was relieved when I did because by that time it was nearly dark. When I walked to the desk to check in, you can only imagine how spectacularly my poker face failed me when the receptionist looks at me confused and said, “I’m sorry Miss Joyce, but I only have you down for a NON-REFUNDABLE booking for March 13th.” It was February 27. March 13? Non-refundable? What the f^#%?
WHAT THE ACTUAL F*$%.
Going back to my previous, hard-learned words of advice: NEVER let a stranger use your credit card. Because even if she has a sweet, motherly, innocent face, it’s masking her simpleton pea-brain.
(To be fair, I DID let her take my credit card and make a NON-REFUNDABLE booking for the WRONG date without even bothering to check, so who really has the smaller brain here? It’s a close call.)
This all brings me back to the very beginning of this unfortunate tale: Me dragging my 50lb suitcase through the dark and stormy, bustling streets of south Dublin, wanting only to be half-drunk, mowing my way through a giant plate of greasy fish and chips. I literally had no idea what to do. I was grumpy, stressed, hungry, and would be lying if I didn’t half consider going back to the old gentleman at the bar to see if the half of his bed was still vacant for the night (jk, Mom…kind of). Not knowing what to do, I basically just walked in a straight line, dragging my stupid suitcase for a good two hours trying to find a hotel that was vacant/a reasonable price. But for some reason, I couldn’t find anything. Amazing. The biggest city in Ireland and I couldn’t find a single hotel.
Eventually, I ended up taking a 30-minute bus ride back to the AIRPORT to stay in one of the hotels on site because that’s all I could think to do. Stupid, right? Literally, though, I felt like such a loser. The best part about the whole thing was that on the bus ride out of the city, I saw about 13 perfectly good looking hotels. But would my pea brain have ever found them on my own? Of course not.
I got to the hotel room at the airport, checked in, and did what I do best: ordered room service and took a bath (and pretended that I didn’t just waste $170 on a hotel room that I would never stay in).
After my night at the airport hotel (lol), I went back to Dublin and had two fantastic days in the city. Despite everything, Ireland is absolutely amazing, and everyone I met was truly kind, interesting, and good-hearted. Except for the woman with the pea brain. And the two gross, loser teenagers from Ohio.
I can confidently say that being an in a foreign country, knowing absolutely no one, and having no place to stay is one of the worst feelings in the entire world. I was hating life. But looking back, this is was definitely one of those cathartic life lessons that I will eventually reflect on and be happily amazed by how I somehow managed to keep myself alive despite my sub-par survival instincts.
So until next time,
Hold on tight to your credit cards, folks! Cheers!