Dublin Part III

Still slightly drowsy, we rubbed sleep from our eyes and made our way downstairs. Tossed a few hamburger-like patties in the microwave for breakfast and said our good-mornings.

After recharging cameras, writing a few blog posts, and socializing for a bit David and I met up with three English girls – two of whom we’d met briefly the evening before. After chatting for a while the five of us set off to meander through the city…we made our way down across Temple Bar, past vibrantly colored pubs and wound towards Trinity College and it’s gorgeous campus, situated in the very heart of Dublin. Passing through the huge outer doors/compound walls, the campus opened up before us with large greens, beautiful trees and historic buildings. Pausing periodically for pictures we wound our way through the campus before striking out and heading north towards the bronze statue of Molly Malone – famous fishmonger by day and immortalized lady of the night. You’ll find her name affectionately referenced in a number of Irish songs and as the namesake of a similar number of Irish pubs.

We paused with Molly to take a quick photo, while Lizzie leaned in for a quick squeeze, before cutting across to the Dublin tourist center. The center, like a number of other buildings in the Isles, is in an old converted cathedral. Large, spacious and beautiful, the interior is jam-packed with booths, fliers, and tourist gear.

From the tourist center we found a small bridge across the Lithie River and down along O’Connell Street. Pausing so our English companions could grab a cup of tea, we braved intermittent raindrops and soon found ourselves wandering through a slightly more rugged section of the city. The industrial feel quickly gave way to office buildings and a beautiful river walk. We spotted a 3-masted schooner tied up about a quarter of a mile down the river.

We wound down past a rather powerful monument commemorating the potato famine with gaunt, holocaust-esque bronze figures, before getting a good look at the ship from a narrow walking bridge that crossed the river.

Tired and footsore we climbed up the opposite side of the river-walk and back across Temple bar. Pausing to pick up cooking supplies for dinner at a small market, we found our way home and set to the task of a nap and preparing dinner.

By the time we set to cooking dinner, things were bustling. As we all piled into the kitchen, ducking and dodging each other we made new friends, shared food and stories. Eventually, eyes glazing over with full stomachs we settled in for another round of Kaste Gris. With the Danes laughing along joyfully we butchered the pronunciation, took our turns throwing the small pig-like dice, shouting, hollering and applauding good rolls.

As the evening progressed, we rounded up a good group of Brits, Danes, Austrians and a few others and then set off to the Porter House. There we listened to live music until close, before heading across the street to the Turks Head – a small club/bar which was offering Salsa. A few dances later, they called it a night, leaving us to start our own dance party – congo line included – in the bar/nightclub part of the venue. Eager for new surroundings, we migrated back to the Czech Bar shortly thereafter where we continued to dance, drink, and mingle well into the evening.

Not to be outdone by the previous evening, by the time we finally returned to the hostel, we quickly settled into the common room where Rasmus played a few songs as we sang and wound down.

Madrid Part II

As time rushes by the adventure has continued to be an absolute delight. After finishing my last post I set out into the city. In usual form I was more focused on the voyage than the destination. With my map stashed in my back pocket I picked a direction and began to roam. Through small alleyways, along major two lane thoroughfares and beyond I wound my way north across the city. The weather has been delightful, a little crisp but far from too cold. I’ve also been blessed with sunny weather and a total lack of rain. Eventually I found myself in downtown Madrid’s bustling tourist and business center. With beautiful old architecture thrown seemingly at random between new signs for major chains and newer buildings, the city was vibrantly alive with life.

I eventually found a large, beautiful park. I absorbed the beauty of fall-kissed trees, enjoyed the clean crisp air, and breathed in scents coming from all the vegetation. As I neared the center of the park, I came across a number of gorgeous cats who had seemingly laid claim to a small Galapagos monument. Walled away from the people by large wrought iron fences the cats had free reign of a fun, small set of pools and bushes. As I was relaxing and watching the cats frolic an old woman came up with a stroller. To my amazement, in place of the usual child the stroller held a cat strapped into an adorable little vest sitting regally in an unzipped jacket turned quilt. Though tied by its leash to the stroller, the cat was obviously far from interested in wandering off. As he sat there relaxing and watching the birds his mother pulled out a number of cans of cat food, began feeding the strays, conversing with each and calling them by name. The whole thing was adorable.

I watched the cats play in the bushes and harass the local pigeon population before I continued into the center of the park which was based around a small lake. The lake was surrounded by walkways on two sides, with the Galapagos monument on the third, and a large war memorial on the fourth. The memorial was a beautiful thing with a large central pillar, statuary and steps that led down to the water’s edge. Eventually I made my way around the lake’s edge and spent an hour or so napping, reading, and relaxing in the afternoon sun at the base of the steps near the water.

Rested and relaxed I continued my exploration of the park and eventually found a large, beautifully manicured garden which lead me down towards the Prado Art Museum. Despite painfully sore feet, I decided to make every moment count and picked up a ticket. The museum had a wonderful collection, all beautifully displayed. In addition to a number of the usual famous pieces, I found countless less renown works from masterful artists. Most memorable was a fantastic statue created in the 1400 or 1500s that had rich, pure colors and appeared to be almost 3 dimensional. The other pieces that really caught my attention were a series of stunning inlaid tabletops. The tables impressive in their weight to begin with, had tops that were completely covered in inlaid motifs depicting animals, wildlife, patterns, and flowers all created with gorgeous precious stones. One of the more impressive ones was also supported by 4 large beautiful lions.

In addition to their rather sizable art collection, the museum also had small, beautiful sets of Greek and Roman statues, and a number of marble slave masks that were infused with an amazing degree of expression and emotion.

After leaving the Prado I found my way back to the hostel where I rested for a bit before setting out to find some food. As I roamed hunting for a tapas or kebab shop I stumbled into a bustling market street lined with butchers, vegetable stands, and the like. A little further down it I found an entrance into an a large, two story market full of individual produce, fish, meat, olive, and sausage stands. The smells, colors, and assortment of food was absolutely fantastic. As I roamed, trying to decide what to pick up for dinner, I eventually picked up a persimmon and several tangerines. Not in the mood to cook meat, and unable to find seafood prices that fit my budget, I elected to continue my quest for a kebab shop. Eventually, kebab in hand I settled in back at the hostel for another night meeting new friends.

After a few hours spent in the hostel common area meeting, greeting and getting to know each other we set off to explore the city’s night life. As we meandered our way through the city and hopped from bar to bar, we eventually ended up at a fun downstairs club. The entrance was a small staircase where I had to watch my head, but the club itself was a narrow set of basement rooms with a vaulted brick ceiling. The place looked as though it had once stored wine casks. Eager to enjoy the evening, we danced, relaxed, and explored the particularly flavorful and peculiar club which was populated predominantly by locals dancing, smoking, and drinking the night away. By about 4:30AM we decided to call it a night and made the trip back to the hostel. The city at night is beautiful with vibrant lights, people wandering the streets at all hours, and a constant hum of activity.

The following morning I woke up early, explored the area around the hostel a bit more before hopping the tube up to the train station. The train station is a large, beautiful structure, with fun elements and a very flavorful style. One of the large common areas within the station has an indoor garden in the center of it with large palm trees, all sorts of vegetation and even a decent sized pool full of lilies and turtles. After taking it all in, I snagged a quick bite to eat and then made my way to my train. Interestingly I had to put my backpack through an x-ray machine. I then boarded the train through a terminal, as you would at the airport. An all around new process I hadn’t been through before.

I enjoyed Madrid thoroughly, though it´s without question a large city and lacks a lot of the charm of a smaller town. The people were friendly, but in a big city sort of way. The streets while beautiful are somewhat sterile and modernized, not to mention, land-mined with dog nuggets. That said, I enjoyed it immensely and my stay was fantastic, but the city cannot compare in any way, shape or form to Seville which I will write about soon.