Our two days off in a row and Caroline and I have decided to split up.
When Caroline’s father (my uncle) was about eighteen he went on a similar trip to Europe except it involved much more partying which eventually led him to run out of money. During this time he met a priest who took him in for awhile and they became close friends and through out the years wrote to each other sparingly. This same priest lives in Ireland now, and Caroline and I were both invited to come and stay with him in Castle Donnegal.
Caroline and I are like sisters in many ways one of which being that we argue.. pretty frequently. So after sharing the same job (and bed) for the past seven days we decide to split up for these two days and get some much needed alone time. Jamie convinces me to go to Kinsale a picturesque town with a beautiful harbor and very close to a scenic shoreline. He gives me a map and detailed instructions on how to get there by car, but I don’t have a car so I sort of tune him out.
The next morning our hosts drop us in town at the bus station and as Caroline and I buy separate tickets I realize this is the first time I have ever traveled alone. Like really alone.
I have driven myself from state to state before to visit my mother or a friend, but there was someone waiting for me at my final destination. I have never gone to a new city across a country I know nothing about and stayed in a hotel alone. Not even for a short vacation or anything like that. I honestly just would never think to. Travel done for pleasure just seems synonymous with companionship to me.
So I started to get a little nervous..
I have always suffered from a mild anxiety that needs almost no provocation to spike into full blown irrational panic. As I age the extreme feelings lessen, but they also last longer like the smoldering coals of a fire rather than the simple (though miserable) fiery eruptions they once were.
My phone is on one percent and my portable charger is out of power. I will have to actually use the map Jamie gave me and figure out accommodation etcetera without Internet (gasp).
I am directionally challenged by nature, but luckily my step father likes to tell stories of travel by forcing you to read the exact paths he has taken to various places on maps. That is to say, I may not have naturally refined powers of deduction, but I can read a damn map.
There is no direct bus to Kinsale so I buy a thirty dollar return ticket to Cork and once in Cork it is easy to find a bus straight into the heart of Kinsale. **Thank you Ireland for the gift of comprehensive public transportation!**
The whole bus journey takes about six hours with the connection included, and the journey is nice. I like the tall buses here with the wide windows and kind passengers (most of whom are older people who I assume can no longer drive or students). And on the journey I have plenty of time to be calm and reflect.
When I arrive in Kinsale I thank the bus driver, put on my backpack (which feels equivalent to giving a fat teenage boy a piggy-back ride), and look around. Though the busy tourist season is over, the town is still quite alive with a good bit of late vacationers.
It reminds me a bit of the pictures I’ve seen of Copenhagen, though I can’t accurately make that comparison as I’ve never been there in person.
The buildings are bright and close together. The streets are a mix between cobblestone and paved and wind up and about in a very Celtic fashion up hill through out the small town facing the harbor. The harbor is decorated with sail boats and seagulls and elicits the most polite breeze making the temperature perfect. I have no choice but to walk around to search for a hostel.
The streets are narrow like alleys and filled with cute shops, bakeries, Irish sweater shops and pubs most with guesthouse rooms above them. After walking (basically in circles) for an hour or so, I realize that if there is a hostel near by it will be outside of the city center.. It probably wouldn’t be too stressful to find one, but I’m going to consider this a vacation…from my working vacation and decide on a guesthouse above a restaurant. The sign above the establishment literally advertises Eat, Drink, and Sleepover. So I did.
I ate a three course early-dinner at a lovely little vintage French style restaurant. It consisted of mussels, some sort of other type of fish, and a lemon pastry. I also had a glass of wine with my meal. Afterwards I walked uphill to see if I could get a view of the whole city, but there was always something blocking my way. So I headed back towards the center and decided to mingle a bit.
I had two different local beers at two different pubs and tried to make friends. I failed. The people at the first pub were either a lot older or too drunk to be approachable. And the second bar was all dudes so the conversation got boring and slightly sexist really quickly. The beers were good though.
I walked out of the second bar to discover that I was the perfect kind of drunk. Totally functional, but also completely and totally relaxed. I walked by the harbor and watched the sunset. I remembered that I had a few cookies in my purse and fed the birds. I walked along the coast and just sat at different locations taking in the smell and sights around me. I felt very out of body. It didn’t look like a real place.. It was like walking inside a postcard. Every building looked inviting, every color was the perfect hue, every cloud perfectly shaped. I do not know how long I spent by the harbor that night but when I returned to the city people had either gone to bed or were drunk and taking to the streets shouting, hiccuping, and laughing uncontrollably like.. Well like drunk tourists do in Ireland. I went up to my room and took the first hot shower I’ve had since Iceland.
Just to be clear here: I’d bathed obviously but bath water is just dirty. Let’s be real. I don’t enjoy conditioning my hair and then trying to rinse it out with shampoo-facewash-sweat-water. Just..No. Baths are for leisure-private-time with candles, bath salts, essential oils, and embarrassing romance novels.. Etc.
Or at least they should be.
A N Y W A Y S . . .
I smoked a cigarette I had swindled a few days before from a teenage girl that I work with at the restaurant back in Waterford. (I quit smoking right before this trip, but she offered and I thought ‘what the hell I’ll save it for an emergency’)
I sent a few snapchats and settled down in my own big white soft bed to watch a Coco Chanel movie on my phone and eat a snickers. It was basically a guilt free night full of all my favorite American indulgences.
On a more personal note, I also slept naked. Which I NEVER do. Because I’m uptight. And also pajamas are comfortable. But I was so tired, fat, and had that sleepy-after-alcohol-thing going on so I literally fell asleep in my towel and it twas glorious.
The next morning I awoke to the smell of coffee and eggs wafting up from the restaurant below. I packed my bag, checked out, and walked to a cool cafe I had seen the day before. I drank two americanos. I ate one Indian spicy-sweet pastry with lentils. And I remembered that Jamie had asked me to get a few postcards for him because he forgot to on his last visit.
I bought six postcards from two different shops because Jamie is picky, and I caught the earliest bus back to Waterford at noon.
The bus ride back was a little less enjoyable and a little more eventful than the ride to Kinsale but that’s a story for another time.
After constant reassurance that I knew where I was going I guided my taxi driver from Waterford to Faithlegge, and ran in to greet Jamie and tell him all about my trip. I was excited to tell him that I had actually used his map and gone to see the sights he suggested. I guess in a way I was proud to have made the trip on my own. A fact which is unimpressive to someone like Jamie because he has traveled literally the whole country of Ireland alone for the past six months. But he is kind and indulged me asking about every detail of my trip and I was grateful.
Caroline could not make it back until late the next day, so Jamie and I cooked a traditional Irish breakfast for dinner with real thick bacon, fresh duck eggs from the back yard, black pudding, and of course potatoes. We talked about our own countries and the natural sights to see there. We talked about our families, holidays, and customs. We talked until midnight and then decided to watch Interstellar because Jamie had it on his computer but had never seen it. Jamie did not like Interstellar (of course) and either way we both fell asleep on the couch halfway through. It’s not weird sleeping in the same space with Jamie. He is already like an old friend. Caroline even says it’s as if we are a threesome now and not a twosome. It’s going to be really hard to split up after just one more week, but we don’t talk about that.
And on that note, I too am (finally) done talking. I mean typing. Either way.
Until next time…