It’s true. I traveled to Ireland. It was a quick trip. Maybe that’s why I’m still pinching myself. But which photos and details to share with you? I guess I’ll just start and you can come along if you’re feeling up for the ride.
I had spent a night in the Málaga airport and my friend had spent a night on her trans-Atlantic flight. So by the time we met up in the Dublin airport, it was obvious we were both running on adrenaline fumes. We tracked down transit cards and found the proper bus. Were we really in Ireland? Really?
Coming from an unseasonably warm Spain, I was soon chilled to the bone and thankful for every article of clothing I had packed… although most of them were still in my suitcase getting damp as we galivanted through puddles. I kept exclaiming about the green! the leaves! the peaked roofs! But where were the crosswalks? We made a dash across a busy street, our suitcases rattling frantically behind us.
Our airbnb host greeted us at the door with: “What are you doing out in such deplorable weather?” or something to that effect. We dripped our way into his entryway, grateful that he was kind enough to let us deposit our luggage at 11 a.m. We padded ourselves with extra layers and rain gear and then tromped back outside, in search of a place to eat. I whipped out my handy-dandy umbrella, only to have a gale turn it inside out two seconds later.
Instead of a cozy little pub with meaty stew, we found a shopping center. Hunger was morphing into hanger so we set aside expectations and splashed into a Steak ‘n’ Shake, or at least the Irish version of it. Oh well. Next time.
It took our tired brains a bit to realize that we would have to wait for the bus on the left side of the street. (That took some getting used to; in fact, I never really got used to it. I definitely did more than one double-take at a child sitting in what I mistook for the driver’s seat of a passing car.)
Our first tourist activity was the Glasnevin Cemetery. Yes, it does sound morbid. But this particular friend and I love visiting cemeteries. Perhaps it’s an introvert thing: hanging out in a crowd full of silent people. This particular cemetery offers tours, but we were too brain-dead to be able to retain information. So we strolled and strolled.
Under the walkway of yew trees, we let the carpet of supple red berries pop under our boots. The rain had stopped and gusts of wind caught the damp golden leaves and sent them twirling ahead of us. Wind chimes in a tree above a gravestone sang a tune of both mourning and joy.
We meandered through the National Botanical Gardens and into a steaming greenhouse full of tropical plants. Coming in from the outside chill, my camera lens promptly fogged and stayed foggy for the duration of our visit. The air was muggy and oxygen-rich.
We stopped at a bakery for a cuppa and pastries and we discussed how early we could logically go to bed. Eight? When we got back to the airbnb, we rolled around the idea of seven instead. Indeed, we were getting ready for bed about the time the other guests were heading out for a night on the town.
Well, I’ll write more another day. Stay tuned for part 2.
I didn’t bother getting up early. Not much was open on Sunday anyway. I spent some quiet time at home before heading out to the Santa Clara Museum.
The museum was quiet except the creaky floorboards whenever anyone wandered overhead. Although it was small, there was a lot of a history in a building that over the centuries managed to be both an Arab palace and a convent.
I wandered and read and imagined and caught the persistent ringing of the bells for mass.
I climbed the stairs and traversed those squeaky floorboards to find displays of Catholic saints and relics. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in the Catholic tradition, but I find the statues and porcelain figurines the things that nightmares are made of. Especially when walking through rows of them while all alone (and this time there wasn’t even a security guard following me).
The figure at the end of the hallway was life-size. I wondered what I’d do if she moved, an arm twitch or a roll of the eyes. I’d probably have a heart attack, I decided, and add to the horrors of the upstairs when an unlucky tourist would stumble over my body.
Some of the paintings were fascinating, though. The last supper with everyone sporting a halo except Judas Iscariot who hung out on the fringe of the painting, clutching the money bag. Or exiled Apostle John having strange visions right from the book of Revelation and writing them in his modern-day book.
After much deliberation, I decided on a taco bar for lunch. A taco bar with pretty lame service. The server eventually got around to me as if the cafeteria were bustling with people, when in fact, there were only two tables.
I occupied myself by pretending that I was doing a sit-in during the civil rights era. But when my jamaica, homemade tamal, and taco arrived, I somehow wasn’t grumpy anymore. And, for the record, the server ended up being very friendly… just not speedy.
I had paid my Airbnb host to stay longer at the apartment, so I spent the afternoon lounging in the AC, soaking in the cool for as long as I possibly could.
When teammates picked me up, we headed out to the closure of a Rubik’s cube competition in a very hot gym that smelled like–well, I suppose like the combination of what we smelled like as individuals. I was amazed by how quickly the competitors–even the little people–could solve the cubes. (For the record, I have no clue how to solve a Rubik’s cube. On the ride to Murcia, I became the official mixer-upper for the others to solve.)
From the competition, we headed back to warm little coastal Mytown. Sure, I may be infatuated with Murcia, but I’m also glad to be back where I belong, air-conditioning or no.
I meant to start out earlier than I did. But I didn’t. I meant to take a morning tour of the bell tower of Murcia’s cathedral. But I didn’t. Instead, I read a sign that said tours were offered October through June and said nothing about tours during tourist season.
I gave up that plan for the time being and wandered over to the bus stop in time to climb on a bus to Rueda de la Ñora, a water wheel located in an otherwise unremarkable village outside of Murcia.
Still sleepy, I yawned the whole way out of the city. It would have been easier had I worn a mask that allowed yawns and didn’t grab both my nose and my chin in a vice grip. It was unfortunately one of those city buses that didn’t bother to say where it was or where it was going at any given time. Enter Google maps.
The water wheel was worth the visit. However, there was no shade and it made my visit shorter than I would have liked. I was the only tourist there. The wheel was commissioned in the 1400s although it’s been replaced various times.
On my walk back to the bus, a dog gave me a series of ferocious barks from a terraza overhead. The sun tilted just right so I could see the gray shadows of his snapping jaws on the street beside me.
I stumbled across a bakery on my way back to the bus. “Why not?” I thought and stepped inside. It was a real bakery, one where the cashier came to the counter with her hands covered in flour. She was brisk but kind as I carefully selected a chocolate-filled pastry.
The bus deposited me at Circular Square, which is more or less a giant fountain in the middle of a roundabout. It was unoccupied, making me wonder if anybody in Murcia appreciates their own landmarks. (And do I appreciate the landmarks of Mytown?)
The Archeological Museum of Murcia was free so it was worth a look, I decided. I’m not much for museums and the history here in Spain is so ancient it becomes unremarkable after a while. I skipped the evolution of man section which put me ahead of the only others in the museum. So I basically walked through the museum alone except the security guard who greeted me every time he circled past. I should have tried to make off with a Roman pillar to give him something to do.
On the way back to the cathedral tower (by this time, I had bought a tour ticket online), I passed through Plaza Santo Domingo and found a startling human rights monument in the middle of the plaza, like a silent scream.
I arrived early for the tour, which didn’t bother me. I plopped down in the shade in front of the tower and people watched. We were a large group, not my favorite way to tour, but I had already decided that the pros would outweigh the cons. The tower’s history was fascinating, from how the construction paused for 200 years when the tower began to lean or how the resident rats nibbled the edges of the old manuscripts to avoid the poisonous ink.
The group was frantically taking selfies at every turn as I cruised past, photo bombing everyone. (Okay, that’s probably just what it felt like.) Tucked inside the walls, there was the impression of coolness, but it also felt muggy. But however hot and sweaty, we all made it up the 17 ramps. The quarter hour chime at the top was exhilarating. The bells thundered inside of my head.
After lunch in the air conditioning at my Airbnb, and some time to unwind, I tried to go to a coffee shop which was closed. “August,” I grumbled as I meandered through downtown and eventually ended up at CaféLab again where they recognized me and spoke to me in English.
I picked up snacks at Día and then spent the evening on the couch with guacamole, fresh mozzarella, and a show on the fancy-schmancy TV that the Airbnb host had painstakingly explained to his clueless guest.
As I prayer walked the streets of my city, I came across many murals, on the sides of businesses, on crumbling block walls, around the corner of an apartment building where there was no street and no one to see it.
Some of the murals were funny. Some were really odd. But then there were those that made me stop and wonder: What was the artist trying to say?
Over the next couple of months, I’ll share some of the murals with you. You can wonder with me or leave an interpretation in the comments below.
I took a vacation day to get out of town and soak in some green. Most of the immigrants got off the bus at the Mytown stop. An assorted crew of elderly Spaniards remained, talking like they all knew each other. Maybe they did. Then there was me, who probably left them wondering if I had missed my stop.
The weather was gorgeous, but I forgot how long the hike was from the bus stop. I also forgot just how intense the Spanish sun can be when you’re hiking uphill. I was sweaty when I finally parked myself under a tree to revive myself with L.M. Montgomery and roasted almonds.
The park was quiet, only the occasional picnickers and the North African couples who came to do their illicit smooching (who I tried to avoid until I decided that they should be avoiding me).
Winding down the mountain on the bus ride home, I was staring out the window at the departing green when I realized that the bus radio was playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” The refrain (however monotonous) was a fitting closure to a morning that had sent me back to my country girl roots.
Last Friday across the ocean, a little blondie was born. Really, it was Saturday here in Spain and I kept myself awake with whodunnits and carrot sticks until the announcement came.
Welcome, Dylan Thomas, to the family that loved you long before you were born. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God Himself. May this be your starting point as you find out who you are in this great big world.