These are the weathered faces of backpackers, my friends. (On the train from Dublin to Belfast in the first 10 minutes (before we passed out)).
DAY 3/4 (March 15/16):
The train from London to Holyhead was entertaining if nothing else. An old Irish man took our reserved seats, and while we couldn’t understand each other in English, we somehow communicated that life as we knew it was over if Ashley and I couldn’t sit together. I think he said he wanted to sit between us and get to know us better, but he could have asked us for the time of day in Pakistan for all we could understand of his thick-ass brogue.
Across the way was a guy traveling with his adorable red-headed shit of a son. They had the accents that Brad Pitt tried for in Snatch, and he probably thought that Americans have perpetually furrowed brows. Ever wise, he had brought a sixer of Guinness cans, and we spent the ride in sober envy. We couldn’t sleep and eventually arrived at the Holyhead station.
The layover at the station passed fairly quickly. A wonderful young couple (from New Zealand, working in London) took pity on our shivering and offered up their fleece blankets and gave us cookies, and at least 1/3 of our wait-mates seemed to be Canadian and American backpacker kats, eager to spend the St. Pat’s in Dublin.
A backwater-seeming Irish family took center stage come boarding time. They had all been drinking some red liqour mix out of 2-liter soda bottles (tucked in baby strollers), and a 20-something girl and her girlfriend decided the boarding queue was the perfect time to start making out. Kids were running wild in and out of strollers, and the apparent grandma was refused boarding because she was too drunk. “I haven’t even had a drink,” she slurred as the security dudes pulled her struggling, ruddy self past me.
A bus took us to the ferry along with the Irish fam sans Granny. A labyrinth of tubes and catwalks later, we were on board the Irish Ferries’ Ulysses, the largest vehicle-transporting ferry ever…or something. This thing is mothafucking grandiose. On the way back, we watched semi-truck after semi-truck load on from Dublin port. The inside is P.I.M.P. – two screen cinema, bar, restaurant, cafeteria, café, kids play area, berths…
Low-lighted restaurant benches make the best campsites, and we slept soundly until our arrival at Dublin port. We had slight drama there because the cash machine/hole in the wall (ATM) was broken, and Ireland uses Euros. The money became very confusing at this point.
London/United Kingdom: British Pound
Northern Ireland (Belfast): Pound (sometimes called Sterling) – looks different but is interchangeable with the British Pound.
After some shady exchange dealings, we had a few Euros and got on the city bus. “Good morning,” said I to bus man. He waved us by while taking everyone else’s currency. Huh. After all that work.
We got an impromptu tour of the city when the driver took a wrong turn. From the front of the bus, a very loud, heavily-accented woman (think Monty Python woman voice parody) yells to her family downstairs of the double decker:
“Don’t panic. The drivah took the wraung tehn.” The words have stuck with us in times of duress on public transit.
Somehow we made in to Connoly Station and within 15 minutes were on a train bound for Belfast. (As a note for you broke-ass Euro travelers: the bus is much cheaper and takes only ½ hour longer…but this was a sleep-deprived convenience-based choice). A couple hours later, we woke up in the Belfast station, having effectively missed all countryside scenery between London and there.
Our friend Meabh picked us up; deposited us in a café; and filled our bellies with soda bread creations (mine had mozzarella and tomato). After a life-changing nap at the house of her parents, we were ready to take on our first night in Ireland….
(For all y’all’s knowledgeable benefit, I am writing from the balcony of our delightful little hostel in Gernika/Guernica in Basque Country. My bottle of wine gone and the weather turning chilly, I think it’s time to go downstairs for some pintxos and some grilling of the locals on their knowledge of Boise, Idaho.)