Tuesday, March 17, 2009
1:15PM March 15
We got up around 8:00 on Tuesday and each of us made a final stop in at our favorite little pastry shop. This time I got a a chocolate danish of sorts and a piece of sweet onion pie which had intrigued me since my first visit there. We then took our taxis out to the airport. Initially we wanted to train to Barcelona, but after researching prices, it made much more sense to fly. We were taking Ryanair—essentially the Southwest Airlines of Europe—so our flight went through Dublin. We had an option to fly through Paris instead, but that actually would have taken longer, and I, along with a few other people, was interested in having an authentic Guinness in Ireland. Going through customs, I finally got my first stamp in my passport. Before the day was through, I would have two more to compliment it.
On the runway at the Nice airport
Overlooking Nice from the plane
The Alps. Italy is in the back right.
The flight out of Nice was great, as we flew right over the city and got great views of the coast and the Alps. After flying over the Alps for about ten minutes, France disappeared under a bed of clouds. The clouds didn't break until we reached the northern coast of France, and just at that point, I caught a glimpse of England and France on opposite sides of the channel in the same view. As we flew towards England, the chalky white cliffs of Dover were clearly discernable. It was awesome to see these places overhead which I'd studied for so many years on maps. We then hooked a left over the south of England and didn't break back through the bed of clouds until we approached the Irish coastline. The island was every bit as green as I'd heard it was from others who'd traveled there.
France in the bottom right, England in the top left.
The white cliffs of Dover, seen through the clouds.
Breaking the clouds and arriving in Ireland
The emerald isle
We had six hours to kill in the airport, so I made the most of it by getting fish and chips with a Bulmer's Irish Cider for lunch. It wasn't the best fish and chips I've ever had, but given that we were in the airport, I was not at all disappointed. The biggest problem was that there weren't any decent condiments to go with it, so I had to make do with barbeque sauce and mayonaisse.
I spent some of the time by starting to edit down the recording from Caffe Artigiani on Friday night, and just as I started to export the tracks, we left to check in for our next flight. As this was the major Ryanair hub, they were much more finicky about their policies, and they required that I check one of my bags, deeming that if you have two bags, they have to be able to fit inside one another. It seemed very arbitrary, as one bag would easily fit in the overhead storage and one by my feet, but I had to bite the bullet and spend twenty euro to check my clothes bag.
When we finished with security, Kate, Brittany, Jen, and I went to get a Guinness on tap. When we got to the bar, Kate decided she actually wanted a Heineken, as she had gotten a Guinness in Florence and didn't particularly like it. The sixty-year old woman bartender seemed quite offended by this though, stating, "Don't tell me you've had Guinness in Florence. You haven't had Guinness until you've had a Guinness in Ireland, and this is the best Guinness you'll get in the Dublin Airport. Why don't I give you a little bit, and then you tell me whether you still want that Heineken?" She then gave Kate a half-pint glass with some Guinness, and not surprisingly, she had a change of heart. It was, in fact, much better than the Guinness in Florence. The rest of us were already sold, and we each ordered a pint. It really was the best beer, living up to all expectations I had. I hope to get back to Ireland at some point and get the real experience at a pub.
On our flight out of Dublin, we broke the plain of rippled clouds just as the sun was setting, and I got some great picture advertisements for Ryanair, capturing the wing of the plane in my photographs as we dipped just enough to one side to reveal the sun behind the wing.
We flew into Girona, an hour-plus bus ride to the north of Barcelona, and by the time we got to the hostel at 9:30, some of the girls were getting cranky. This was the first real hostel experience for many of them, and it was quite a shocker. It was not the prettiest of places, and the man who checked us in appeared a little disheveled, lacking a uniform. We had lockers to place our valuables in, but there were no locks on the doors, and that was enough to freak many of them out. Once they started talking to one another, sharing their feelings of horror, a vision of the place was formed making it out to be more like a prison. It was an unfair judgement, that got blown out of proportion really quickly. Immediately they went on the internet and found us a new place down the street, which we went to check out. It cost the same amount and was much nicer, looking very much like a college dormitory, so we reserved ourselves a place for the next few days. I along with two or three of the other girls were fine with the first hostel, and not particularly interested in losing the deposit we'd made on it, but for the sake of the sanity of the rest of the group, we decided to move.
We found a pretty good sandwich place that night for dinner, giving everyone a chance to relax a bit and fulfill their needs for food. That did not last long though. We still had to spend the night in the first hostel, and I know many of the girls did not sleep at all that night, fearing for their safety. I do not believe where we were staying was at all unsafe, and it was situated in one of the nicest neighborhoods in town, but the atmosphere was enough to scare many of them. I myself slept fine that night, but we got up early at 7:00 the next morning to check out and move our bags down the street to the next hostel.
Sunset from the runway
Sunset in the clouds over Ireland