Monday, September 15, 2014

Shenanigans and What Have You

It's been a hectic couple of weekends, each at opposite ends of the country.  Just after my last post, my friend Jian from high school in Baltimore, currently doing Science in Zurich (I am very much in awe at having a friend who does real-life Science for a living), came to visit for a few days.  This gave me a chance to explore a lot of pubs and restaurants that I wouldn't have normally, as I am rarely the one who plans nights out.

However, in this case it fell upon me to plan a proper pub crawl for the Friday Jian arrived.  As this was his first time in Ireland, he insisted on eating dinner at a traditional Irish pub... unfortunately, without a reservation, getting a table off the cuff at a pub in the city centre at eight o'clock on a Friday night proved to be impossible.  So we went for Lebanese food instead at The Cedar Tree on St. Andrew's Street, one of my new favorite places that I lament not having the presence of mind to put in my book.  But every time I've eaten there the service has been lovely and the food delicious, and not overly expensive either.  Since we couldn't make up our minds on what to order, we ended up ordering a smattering of starter dishes, tapas-style, and ate them all.  There were some sort of sausages in tomato sauce and hummus with pita bread, but what sticks out in my mind as being especially delicious was a spicy halloumi cheese with chopped tomato and cucumber salad on the side.  Amazing.

We met up with my friend Eoin from Blackrock and commenced with dignified and conversationly pints at the Porterhouse and the Mercantile, somewhat less orderly pints at The Temple Bar because Jian wanted to hear live music, and finished off with drunken, messy pints at The Mezz and Doyle's, just for nostalgia's sake.  In the morning I strangled off an impending hangover by eating leftover sausages from my asado and then embarking on a frenzied cycle to Tesco to buy beets for a pot of borscht I had to make for a friend's birthday party.  For lunch Jian and I went to the thankfully empty Stag's Head on the corner of Dame Lane, where we sat around in the cozy Victorian-era snug and he finally got to have his beef and Guinness stew.

Over the course of the next two days, I gave him the full-on walking tour of inner Dublin: St. Stephen's Green and the open air art gallery lining its fences, Dublin Castle and the sand sculptures, the National Archaeology Museum where we learned about Brian Boru and the Vikings, Trinity College, Christchurch Cathedral, and finished off with tea at Bewley's Cafe.  He was pretty thrilled at how arty and musical Dublin is, which I remember being stunned by when I first came here but by now just take it as the norm.  Everywhere you go you're being accosted by buskers or street artists or outdoor Shakespeare plays or something of the sort, which he says is not the case in Zurich.

The next weekend was a new-moon excursion to Lahinch, a seaside town in Clare renowned for its surfing, golf courses, hurricane winds, and sleazy nightclubs.  After a three-hour drive - just the perfect length for a cross-country roadtrip after the all-too-raw memory of South America's 42-hour bus marathons across desert and Andes mountains - we pulled up to a pair of holiday homes we'd rented for the weekend, hitting the tail-end of a huge Atlantic storm that had hit the coast.  Tommy, who'd grown up in the area and whose family's houses we were staying in, was just after telling us something to the extent of, "You've never seen winds like these.  These are Clare winds."  (And indeed, the gale was so strong I couldn't even open the car door from the inside.) Then, peering into his wallet, "Jesus, I brought a lot of cash with me.  There must be nearly 300 euro in here!"  Needless to say, we kicked off our holiday with a lot of screaming, flailing, and chasing a tornado of soggy banknotes after a freak gust of wind had snatched up his wallet and exploded it all over the street.  I had to be hefted bodily over a tall gate to run after 40 euros that had blown behind it.  It was good fun all right.

By some rare fluke we managed to get all the money back, and the rest of the night was coziness by a peat fire, drinking whiskey, knitting, and reading H. P. Lovecraft stories aloud.  In the morning we took a blustery beach walk, got knocked about by the wind some more, and went on a quest to some ruined fortress which may or may not have once been the castle belonging to the King of the Fairies.  When our one friend ventured too close to the ruins and then disappeared without a trace, we assumed he'd been taken away by the Fairy King, but in the end it turned out he'd just hitched a ride back to town.

On Saturday we went for a wild ramble along the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, which reminded me of Machu Picchu in that it's one of those few places in the world that has ever instilled in me such awe and breathlessness and overwhelming sense of my own utter, utter smallness.  The Cliffs are so high and dizzying and completely lacking any sort of barrier that it makes you wonder what it would be like to throw yourself off the edge.  That crazy vertigo and the stories you keep hearing about people 15 feet from the precipice getting barreled over by homicidal winds (and occasionally blown back onto firm ground after falling) made me latch onto whatever anchoring person was in the vicinity for most of the afternoon - I was pretty sure I was going to blown off the edge like a dead leaf.

It was altogether a lovely weekend, just chaotic enough and with a happy medium of cultural activities, cliff hikes, delicious dinners, and drunken guitar parties.  Now I'm back in Dublin, hanging out in Santry with my friends' cat Patch on account of they are off jet-setting in San Francisco for the fortnight.  I'm looking forward to some downtime for reading and writing, and I'm determined to finish this sweater so I can wear it before I head to Spain.  I'm so very close, with only half a sleeve left to finish and then the ends to weave in.