It’s 8am and I haven’t slept much since I awoke at 6:30 am two mornings ago, but I am wired on caffeine and excitement as I finally make my way off of the plane and into the terminal at Dublin Airport. The familiar feeling of “grounded-ness” that I experienced my first time here envelops me as I navigate towards the big blue and yellow CityLink bus that will take me to O’Connell St. Bridge. I am here, Ireland! It feels like home, but a home in which I’ve never lived. It’s a genetic pull; a familiarity that I couldn’t possibly feel which nevertheless exists. Gooseflesh ripples my skin but it’s not entirely from the chill air or the typically Irish moody morning mist.
My bus finally arrives and I board with the feeling of anticipation prickling the hairs on my arms. I’m so tired that waves of sleepiness threaten to overwhelm me. The bus is warm, and the gentle rocking is relaxing, but there is no way I’m going to sleep! I’m not able to check into the hostel until three, and I’m not wasting a minute sleeping when there is so much to see.
The architecture of a different century rises on all sides and I constantly crane my neck to see the little details of a time when attention to detail and artistic expression actually existed. Georgian doorways with brightly painted doors and vine covered red brick, archways and columns topped in the Corinthian or Doric style, lampposts with elaborate swirls, Victorian mingling with Georgian, side by side, and the odd Gothic Cathedral sitting majestic and magnificent amongst it all.
The bus navigates its huge mass through narrow streets designed for the horse and cart, not this lumbering beast. It finally comes parallel to the Liffey River and I know that I am close to my destination. It slows and takes its place the rows of blue and yellow double-deckers lined up near the O’Connell Bridge. I heft my pack and step onto the street, pointing my tired feet in the direction of my hostel, Abigail’s, which is only a few blocks away at Aston Quay. I know that I can stash my bag until check-in. I stop on the bridge, looking down at the slow flowing, dark water, the familiar smell rises in my nostrils and I breathe it in. Dublin smells like the tide flats (a.k.a. ~ farts) and baking bread, simultaneously, depending on whether the breeze is blowing in from the ocean or from the Guinness Factory, roasting hops on a good day. On my left rises the big green Neo-Classical Dome of the Customs House, and on my right, farther down the river, the striking white, cast-iron latticework of the Ha’Penny Bridge.
I finally make my way the few blocks to Abigail’s, ring the bell, and they buzz me in. The place is much different than I remember. It is more casual, less hotel-like. It is now more artsy and hip, with a big murals on the walls. There is a big room with dining tables to my right, instead of the reception, and to my left is the counter with two jovial young Irish men joking with each other behind it. I ask for directions to the bag room, which is in the same place as before, and I stash my bag in the corner.
I lean back into a comfy black leather couch in front of reception and begin to collect the things I will need for exploring. Sinking back into the plush cushions, I feel myself in danger of drifting off to sleep right there. I need more caffeine or I’m not going to make it through the day. I still have hours before I can check into my room. I drag myself out of that deluxe couch, heave my purse across my shoulder and push open the big double doors on the street, in search of the elixir of life.
My memories of Ireland from seven years ago don’t include great coffee, only the weak and instant kind, but then I was on a backpacker budget and didn’t give the fancy cafes a second glance. This time, the smell of fresh brew entices me from only a few doors down. At the very modern and cozy looking Soho Café, piles of freshly baked goods gleam from elaborate cake stands, and freshly made sandwiches fill a floor to ceiling cooler, but all I want is coffee. I order myself a quadruple shot Americano and settle into a seat near the window.
The Soho Cafe, Dublin… http://sohocoffee.com/dublin/
And a bit more energy to make it through the day.