Posted by: Paul Chiariello | March 12, 2011

Ireland ’10 – Me and My Lady Wandering through the Emerald Isle

“Siobhan Riordan?”

Looking over my American passport, the airport immigration officer in Dublin ‘asks’ me rhetorically if that’s my name.  Yeah, that’s me: twenty-something Irish-American girl, always wondering if this day would be, and what it would be like.  Ireland, for the first time.

“Siobhan Riordan…  Well, they didn’t even give you a chance, did they?”

Nope.  Both my last name and the one my parents gave me are extremely Gaelic.  (Nevermind the green eyes, hard head and complete inability to tan.)  Nope– bring on the rain, the fiddle playing and the Guinness, my friends.  I’ve been ready for this visit to the fatherland since before I was born.

*          *          *

If you didn’t already know, I’m Paul’s lady and travelling partner extraordinaire, Siobhan.  After living together in Uganda and Indonesia, we’re currently shacked up in grey and lovely Oxford.  And that scene above was the first five minutes of our stay in Dublin, which unfolded to be an idyllic few days.  Paul and I took a bus from the airport into the city, where we got a map of Dublin from a guy from whom we also learned that D’Olier Street, one we would take en route to our hostel, is pronounced “Duh-leer” Street.  Upon this I considered it final that Gaelic is the coolest language ever.

Here are some photos of our adventures in Dublin.  For me, the sweetest moments of the whole trip were the simple ones in the pubs of Dublin, listening to live music that made my heart sing.  I saw my father in all the older men’s faces, in their tough and pale reddish skin, in their heels beating out the rhythm, in their eyes that appreciate quick wit just for the sake of it.

Dublin in the evening. View of the Four Courts from a bridge over the River Liffey.

pubs in Temple Bar

Paul soaking up music and pints

Happiest girl in the world

Dublin city wall and St. Audoen's Gate, 1275 AD

Joyce quote overlooking Trinity College at the Gravity Bar

Becoming masters of pulling the perfect pint of Guinness

Barrel installation at the original Guinness Storehouse, St. James' Gate

From Dublin we booked a train to Cork, the place my family emigrated from to America, which was in itself a great time.  Three hours on a train with table seating that was so quiet you could hear the rain drops on the window looking out onto foggy farmland.

On the train to Cork

Since it was December, a slow time for European travel, we got an 8-bed dorm room all to ourselves in our hostel in Cork.  It was located up this intensely steep hill, which was a pain to climb coming back in the evenings, but afforded the perfect view of the city from our window.

The Shelbourne Bar, Cork

The fact that it was December also sort of ruined our plans to see cliffs.  With more time we could have made it to the cliffs in the west, but the shorter winter days made it impossible from Cork.  So we ventured over to Blarney, a tiny town within County Cork that’s home to Blarney Castle.  We climbed the cold old stone castle, with its tiny rooms and winding staircases, and it was surprisingly awesome.  Of course, we did not kiss the Blarney stone, knowing all too well as everyone does the stories of locals pissing on it at night–but we did learn the origin of the word “blarney” used as a slang term.  It evidently came into use during the 16th century started by Elizabeth I describing Lord Clancarthy’s smooth excuses for not handing over Blarney Castle to the crown as promised: e.g. ‘Oh please, that’s such a load of blarney.’

the main grounds outside Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Blarney's gnarly staircase

from the top of Blarney Castle

We spent our last night in Ireland at a nice pub called Bierhaus that specialized in European beers and didn’t even serve Guinness (!), shocking I know.  And that pretty much concluded our trip, and we headed back to Oxford.  Well… we headed back to Oxford after spending two extra days snowed in at Cork Airport because of a blizzard that managed to grind the entire UK to an icy halt for almost a week.  Good times!

*          *          *

Although we loved hanging out in Dublin, a number of Irish people we spoke to seemed to have this ambivalence about the city, to which one of the employees at our hostel in Cork lent an explanation as we were talking one night.  He said that Dublin is sometimes not seen as the ‘real’ Ireland–that there’s Dublin, and then there’s the rest of Ireland–because Dublin was the city from which the British once ruled the country.

So on that note, in search of the ‘real’ Ireland, I’ve already begun planning my return, of course.  And what I want to see when I do go back is the west of Ireland.  I’d love to spend time in Galway, one of the big cities like Cork and Dublin of the west coast, and especially see the Cliffs of Moher.  And I certainly don’t want to leave this world without hearing “Whiskey in the Jar” played once more in a dark pub somewhere, pint of stout in hand, heels beating out the rhythm.  Sláinte!

Love,  Siobhan

Photos © Siobhan Riordan 2010 |


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