Friday, January 23, 2009

Dublin, Ireland ~ January 17-19, 2009

About four years ago, LeRoy and I shared a table for two in the quaint Dubliner Pub across the street from the Post Office in the Capital Hill District of Washington DC. We shared a dark beer and ate Irish fare. We listened to lyrical stories sung by a middle-aged man sitting on a bar stool in the corner, the low lights dramatic, the crowd lively. And we dreamed out loud, "Wouldn't it be incredible if we could actually go to Dublin, Ireland one day and experience the real thing?" I read the back of the menu where it told about the history of the restaurant, how the owner came from Ireland. ( I remember taking it all in... dreaming... thinking perhaps one day... just maybe... oh, to actually be in Dublin, Ireland...

It is 3:30 AM. The alarm makes it's annoying half-buzz, half-ring ng, ng, ng, as though it has acquired the infamous Rheinland-Pflaz sinus crud. And yet, I'm not so easily bothered this morning -- we're off on another adventure. Though I'm functioning on only a few hours of sleep, I am jubilant as I coax my sleepy children to transfer their bodies to the van where they can continue to sleep for another hour on the way to the Frankfurt-Hahn airport.

It is still dark when LeRoy drop us off at the door while he parks the van. Check-in is quick and we settle in for the 2-hour wait for boarding. Exhaustion causes my head to have that swimming sensation and I wish that I had dozed on the drive to the airport instead of read tour guide books. The children are full of energy, climbing on the seats and starting a game of tag while the waiting area fills with passengers. LeRoy gives me that look. He is tired, too. Someone has to get these children under control. So, I tell them to sit down. I threaten to sit on them. They sit still. They know that I don't make idle threats.

At last we board the plane to the tune of, "I want a window seat!" And so we sit in four different rows. I'm so tired that my head feels as though it is going to roll off my shoulders. The Monster drink -- an experiment into the investigation of ad hype -- I had on the way doesn't seem to be working. There's the loud snap of overhead luggage compartments closing as the stewardess makes her way down the aisle. The engines whir to full power, and then I smile at Israel as we lift off the ground -- she has her hands in the air, she's giggling, and yelling, "Woo-hooooo!" I lean back and close my eyes, smile still on my face, Ah, Lord, that's how I want my approach to life to look and sound like!

The two-hour flight feels much longer but finally the seat-belt sign comes on accompanied by the ding and then Israel's announcement, "Buckle up! We're landing in..." she pauses and looks at me, "Where are we going again, Mommy?" I smile and tell her for what seems like the hundredth time and then she finishes her sentence, "Oh! Yeah! Ireland! Zae, we're going to Ireland!" Zae smiles and I hear him whisper under his breath, "I know, Israel." Oh, well. At least he didn't say it loud enough for her to hear. We watch out the window as the plane flies over Howth Peninsula, the sunrise colors peeking through gray clouds, illuminating the many greens below.

"Mom, there's the peninsula we saw in the pictures. Is that where we're going hiking?" Isaiah's face is pressed up against the window in the row in front of me.

We land, go through customs, and make our way down the terminal to the bathrooms. I am enchanted... Ladies... and Gents. How quaint!

A bit of a long line at the tourist office, then bus tickets in hand, a city map, and the children with their drinks from the pop machine, and we are loading onto the double-decker bus headed for the city centre -- on the opposite side of the road, with the drivers all on the opposite side of the vehicles. Crazy. So fun! I mention this observation out loud but no one seems to notice. Excitement is a major understatement.

We step off the bus and pull our scarves a little tighter against the chill. So, here we are in Dublin! There is a tourist info shop and after a short but informational and charming conversation with the lady behind the counter we head up the street and around the corner where we get on the Dublin City bus tour. I look at LeRoy, "She said there are warnings of gale force winds tonight and tomorrow -- that it's nothing serious, very common here, just something we might want to know." We smile at each other as we board the bus and follow the children to the upper deck of the open-air bus.

The song that keeps playing through my head is the song I remember my girlfriend, Beth Ann (my full-blooded Irish friend), leading at all those women's retreats, "God is good, all the time, He put a song of joy in this heart of mine..." I feel spoiled. Giddy.

We're here, Baby! We're actually in Dublin, Ireland!

"Hey! Mom! It's the Post Office where the Easter Uprising happened!" The boys are pointing. I am glad that we studied up a little about this city before our arrival.

Eli and Zae tough out the cold air while Israel and Zeke fight over the single free seat at the front of the bus, with the little bit of roof overhead. I'm thinking we're in Dublin, and all you can think of is to fight over a seat??! I give them "the look" and motion for them to come to me. Of course they run as fast as possible to me as each wants to be able to say his/her story first. Nope. I direct them both to a seat near me... in the open-air. I'm frustrated as we pass by historical places and I hear only bits and pieces of the canned monologue. I make a mental note to make sure we get on the bus with live commentary next time. The trip is made lighter as with every stop, Irish songs play through speakers, somewhat scratchy and slightly impersonal... We are again smiling as we recognize a few of the tunes from the travel videos we watched earlier in the week.

LeRoy and I giggle as we pass by this coffee shop. Eli says, "What's insomnia?" LeRoy tells him its when you can't sleep. I think it's something that goes with parenting.

"Look at all the ivy on that building! Eli, smile for this one. Oh! And what do you think about all the different colored doors?"

"They're cool." In young-adult language, (I'm boycotting the "teenage" years -- a different subject altogether), this means that he really likes the colored doors.

We stay on the bus for nearly an hour and then get off at Ellis Quay (pronounced 'key') near our hotel. By now the children -- and LeRoy -- have exhausted the food supply in their backpacks. Time for Mama to kick it into high gear unless I want to deal with five gobs of goo melted everywhere... I know from experience that either I keep the tribe's tummies full, or it's... over... Nevermind if we're in Dublin or Disneyworld.

We settle in to our apartment -- imagine! A whole apartment with bedrooms, beds to sleep six, and a kitchen and dining room, for a fraction of the cost of what a hotel room costs! Again, I'm smiling. My heart is singing. We look over the city map, read through the listing of restaurants in Rick Steve's and Lonely Planet's tour guides, and... I look up from the pages. Bummer. I can see I'm losing them. No more time for "settling in." I'm frantically putting on layers, wrapping my scarf around my neck, putting on my coat. I look over to see if my family will follow suit. Thankfully, they do. I breathe a sigh of relief as I hold the door open and usher the sluggish-slowly-turning-grumpy group out into the hallway where we make our way down to the street. It is cold. The wind has picked up and the sprinkles become drops. Our comments to one another are ones of gratitude that the wind is at our backs. LeRoy shares the bit of news he picked up from the television back at the room, "They say that winds are expected to reach 140 kilometers." I offer back words of encourgement as we come to the next Dublin Bus Tour stop where, moments later, a double-decker, open-air bus pulls up and we pile on, this time we huddle on the ground floor.

"We need to get off the bus near the Temple Bar District," I say to the driver.

"Ah! Yes, get on!" His Irish accent practically dances. "I'll tell you when we get to your stop." He smiles at the children, strikes up a conversation with them. I can't hear what they are saying, only their childish voices and his cheerful accent.

The rain slashes against the windows. The children have forgotten their hunger momentarily as they listen to the bus driver talk to them about the weather.

"Alright," he turns to motion to our family, "this is your stop. Just cross the bridge up there ahead and you'll be right there." I want him to come to lunch with us. Instead, I simply offer a thank you.

I don't know where we're going... exactly. But then, this is pretty much how all our adventures go. We walk along in a direction I surmise is the right way. "Mom, where are we going?" Eli looks skeptical. I tell him we're going to eat. "Do you know where?" I assure him I have a pretty good idea about the general direction we're headed. He smiles at me -- that smile that says he's thankful he has a mother who puts him in situations where his character can be stretched. Okay, I acknowledge, however silently, that that's my very optimistic interpretation. I give him the name of a restaurant, an effort at offering some hope. Eli doesn't waste any time in taking the lead.

"Dad! Guys! We're looking for Elephant and Castle!" I notice my husband perks up, too. Ah, will I never learn? These guys really, really like to know there's some kind of a plan. Something else I notice... we're all walking a little faster, and they're taking the lead. LeRoy is reading every restaurant name out loud. We pass by the Hard Rock Cafe. I know what he's thinking, American food! None of this bangers and mash stuff my wife is talking about! He pauses in front of the entrance long enough to ask me how much longer we should search for the Elephant restaurant. I assure him that I'm pretty sure it's probably just up ahead. I pray silently that it really is. The rain is drizzling now, but we're walking into the wind, our heads tucked into our scarves and collars like turtles, squinting eyes making quick glances up at restaurant names.

"This is great!" Isaiah sounds as if he's been informed that he won the grand prize. Israel is leaping and twirling down the cobblestoned street. It's as though the wind and rain has lifted our spirits, giving us the thrill of experiencing the native weather, and in the process distracted us from our growling stomachs. I feel as though I'm in a movie. The water on the cobblestones is a shiny reflection of the old buildings. An occasional puddle reflects the black and gray clouds gliding across the sky.

"There it is!" the children shout simultaneously. The white-paint and black-trim exterior suggests a casual but classy atmosphere. We duck inside to ask about a table. Duck inside... How fun is that! I've always wanted to "duck inside" out of the wind and rain... into a warm, dimly lit, pub-like, hole in the wall. I feel almost silly indulging in such romantic whims... But I feel far more spoiled.

"Olson Family," he says as he writes it down. "Alright, about 20 minutes." After scoping for a place to wait and finding none, LeRoy tells him we'll come back. So, we stroll some more... in the drizzle. We turn down a narrow alley which goes through a short tunnel before opening up to the River Liffey and the Ha' Penny Bridge. We pass by a woman holding her child on her lap holding out a cup. Eli drops several euro in, the heavy clink against the tin bottom like an echo at the bottom of a heart hollowed out by too many sorrows. Isaiah's eyes tear up. Poverty wrecks him.

We continue to walk and I find myself grappling with a rush of emotions. We pass by a man playing his guitar and singing, "I traveled to find you, but you were not there, My Love..." Israel asks if we can put change in his guitar case. I tell her we already gave the other woman all our change. After a long silence, Isaiah tells me about his dream of opening up his own home one day to have people come and live there "until they can get their dreams back." His tone is tender, compassionate. I feel both convicted and inspired listening to him describe the details of how it would all work... how people "would have hope again."

When we finally return to Elephant and Castle, there are five chairs to sit on while we wait for another half hour. The place is bustling. And every so often the man who first took our names, says in his Irish lilt, "A couple of more minutes," while smiling and hurrying past. Our family is relaxed... serene. Alright, probably past the point of famished. Even Ezekiel and Israel are getting along -- Zeke's head on Israel's lap while she gently smooths his hair with her fingers. We listen to the musical accents, watch the patrons engage in passionate conversation... LeRoy, Eli, and Zae inform me of the couple to my right who keep kissing... "with their tongues." Okay. That's just gross. However, when I look over, they are looking deep into one another's eyes... I look away, deciding that that's the image I'll let settle in my mind.

"Olson Family." There is a rustle of coats, scarves, and hats being removed. We place our order in record time. Our waitress brings us a "jug of limeade" and a "jug of water" to share and gives the children coloring pages and crayons. And though I'm sure she was thinking of Israel when she included the Dora page, Isaiah is left with it when Israel scoffs, choosing the Scooby Doo page instead. Isaiah smiles, graciously takes the Dora page... "I'm content," he says, his smile validating his sincerity. "Real men are willing to color a Dora page if it means honoring their sister," I tell him. He smiles and in spite of the gray outside, sunshine fills the room.

Big smiles! Spicy chicken wings for Isaiah... the hotter the better! Half-way through Isaiah exclaims that these are the best wings he's ever had in his life. Upon hearing this, LeRoy has a couple and seconds Isaiah's sentiments.
We watch people pass by outside the enormous picture window, they're chins tucked into collars turned up. A few people struggle with their umbrellas and we giggle at the futile efforts. One by one, umbrellas turn inside out. Most of the passersby are umbrella-less. Perhaps they are the locals. Like maybe they know better. Later, we would learn that the Irish call this a "lashing."

Hamburger with roasted garlic... brought to me with the most enormous garlic I've ever seen. At first, I'm not quite sure how it works and then I realize that I remove the cloves from their "wrapping?"... "skin?"...and spread them onto my burger. Mmmmm!! It's impossible to have too much garlic.

Tummies full. Ready for another stroll.

We huddle in this doorway while I look over the map and pose possibilities to the family. I am mesmerized by the rain. We all are. Somehow, we find it charming.

At last we decide to head west... into the wind and rain. We duck inside a shop filled with hunting equipment: crossbows, knives, slingshots. There's the smell of stale popcorn and a man with long stringy hair standing behind the counter. "What can I do for you?" The children are distracted by the arsenal while LeRoy and I ask for directions. His smile is genuine, not put-out by lost tourists. He directs us "Down the street, about 200 meters. It's right there. You can't miss it."
We finally reach the heavy iron gate and the sign which reads in faded green Gaelic font "Closed." We discuss the possibility of touring the Viking Museum and then decide not to since I read poor reviews about it in the tour guides. (I'll wonder later about the discernment in this decision.) We turn and head three blocks south to St. Patrick's Cathedral. Traffic is a bit heavy on this street and while waiting for the light to turn at Bull Alley and Bride Streets we chuckle at the Red Bull Mini Coop that passes in front of us. Quite suddenly a "gale force wind," possibly the "140 kilometers" LeRoy told us about earlier bears down and we burst into fits of laughter as each of us literally leans into the wind in order to stay standing. The trees in St. Patrick's Cathedral Courtyard are bending almost in half. The children's coats become sails of sorts, their whooping and hollering and laughter competing with the rush of the wind, as they let the wind blow them off course, then stumble forward, a game of push and shove with something powerful, experienced... unseen.
Almost as suddenly, the wind dies down and we resume our walk to the entrance of the cathedral. But it is after four o'clock in the afternoon now... The man at the ticket counter informs us we have less than an hour and so a short family meeting ensues resulting in the decision to hop on the next Dublin Bus Tour that stops outside the entrance.
The bottom floor of the bus is filled to standing room only -- much to the satisfaction of the children as this means no trying to coerce us parents to the top open-air section of the bus... "We have to! There's no room down here!" as they run up the winding staircase. The front row is occupied by people already and so LeRoy opts to stand while I pull my coat underneath me as much as possible. A young man gets up from his seat and offers it to LeRoy but then Israel takes it when she notices the two strike up a conversation.
"Waaaahhhooooooooooo!" We all look behind us where Isaiah has turned a bus ride into a carnival ride.

I try to capture the moment on camera and decide I have a new way of measuring whether I'm having fun in my life: If the action is such that the picture is blurry, we must be having a good time.
Between listening to the young man tell us about the group of young people who are "studying abroad," the hilarious and charming (such an understatment) live commentary of the bus driver, the children leaning to the rhythm of the bus as the rain and wind "lash" their faces and bursts of giggles echo against Dublin's old buildings... I'm not sure whether the small headache across my brow is from the icy wind bursts or from laughing so hard. Perhaps both.
We round the corner at Market St. Bellevue and I notice the rain cloud is giving way to a pale blue evening sky. The bus stops in front of the Guinness where a boisterous, lively group of Irish tourists fill the bus. Since the ground floor is full, they make their way up the stairs, their accents thick so that I nearly lean toward them as I listen. Though the rain has let up temporarily, the seats are still wet, and this causes for a rather rambunctious, fiesty, and witty conversation. I find myself thinking that I almost might let it slide if my children cussed in an Irish accent. Almost. There is much laughing and teasing and everyone is caught up in it. I am enraptured by their good-natured view of life.
When we get off the bus at the Kilmainham Gaol I tell the bus driver how very much we appreciated his commentary. He smiles and nods, "Ah, yes. It's good stuff."
"So sorry," the gaurd tells us at the front door, "we closed 14 minutes ago." Ah, well, we tell ourselves, I guess this means more live commentary delivered by another charming bus driver who will share fascinating Irish history in that lovely Irish lilt with his hilarious Irish wit.
Our driver circles the round about in Phoenix Park three times, his silly remarks about some important building to our left taking more than one time around. I don't think anyone cares about the building at this point because we're all laughing so hard. "The people waiting in those cars are going to think I've gone mad!" he says as he circles around again. And then, as he finally turns off, "Phew! I think I'm going to be sick!" I think we all are. But I don't think anyone minds.
Our family finds it quite funny that the ground is littered with defunct umbrellas, defeated by the gale winds. They are everywhere. Blown up against the buildings on sidewalks, in gutters, and shoved carelessly into trash cans.

A short rest at the apartment, another bus ride over to the Temple Bar district where we listen to a band play traditional Irish music at the Temple Bar Pub, and then at last make our way to the Arlington Hotel and Pub. The children order "chips" (french fries) and LeRoy asks for a small glass of Guinness. We listen to Irish folk music... stories... always so many stories... stories simply put to song...

...or choreographed into dance. Powerful. Inspirational.
Israel keeps telling me, "Mommy, see! That's what I was talking about! That's the kind of dance I want to learn! Can I pleeeaase learn it, Mommy?!"
All she sees are possibilities. I tell God my heart, "Please, Lord, I want to go through life entertaining possibilities!" I pause as I watch my little girl's passionate interest, "And please show me where I can find Irish dance lessons... in Germany."

"Do you want a picture with the dancers, Sweet Girl?" She looks at me like I'm offering her a year's supply of bubble gum. She is shy. Hesitates. And then she slowly slides off the bar stool to go look for the dancers before they leave.

LeRoy typically likes dark beer, but with the smell of burnt barley still fresh in our memory from the drive by the Guinness storehouse earlier, his skepticism dictated "a taste, please," instead of the traditional pint.
Sunday, January 18th ~

Contrary to how I pictured our morning, we are a lazy bunch. January's family "Media Fast" is temporarily broken with five sleepy heads staring groggily at the television -- all interest in the story of brothers and a sister from Scotland who are championship extreme mountain-bicyclists. I look out our window, the moon still high over Dublin, the River Liffey as quiet as the streets.

A full Irish breakfast is served in the La Cala Cafe downstairs.

An icy breeze brushes my cheeks and hands as I take a picture of the James Joyce Bridge near our apartment...

...and of the cute family hunkered in the warmth inside.

Feeling oh-so-spoiled-rotten.

Not only does LeRoy take some pictures, he strikes up a conversation with the purveyor of the Ellis Quay Apartments and cafe. Returns to the table and proceeds to tell us the inspiring story of how he and his wife moved here from Spain to start this business with a friend of theirs. I am in love with how LeRoy makes friends wherever he goes.

We order the Full Irish Breakfast: Sausage, bacon, fried eggs, beans, toast, pudding, and coffee. I asked if the pudding was typical Irish pudding. I ask if it is black or white. He says both. I tell him just two small white puddings (pieces of pork mushed together and deep fried giving it the appearance of a mini-muffin) so that our family can try them. No black (pig's blood coagulated together...). Everything is delicious, though we leave several of the sausages due to their intense strong flavor. The coffee is as thick and dark as Ireland's Guinness.

We freshen up and put on layers, ready to head out to Trinity College... to view the Book of Kells. On the bus the children strike up a conversation with the bus driver. Again, we have no idea when we should exit the bus... "Will you please let us know?" He cheerfully obliges.
Within minutes the bus pulls up to the curb. Every passenger steps off and since our children are engrossed in conversation, LeRoy and I wait for a moment. Well, that is, until LeRoy asks him a question about Ireland's history. Next thing we know, he is stepping down from the driver's box, coming on the other side of the half-door and leaning against the bus interior. His deep accent is beautiful, lyrical, some words getting lost on our untrained ears. He tells us stories of Ireland's history, the Vikings, the wars, the depressions, Britain's influence, and the ensuing fight for independence. His laugh is good-natured as he explains that he enjoys the fact that the North is still under British rule... nevermind the pound, he says, the steep price cut makes it a better deal. He practically sings as important dates, names, and events roll off his tongue. The children get squirrelly and so Neill, (as we've all introduced ourselves by now), opens the driver's box door and helps a child into the seat.
"You want to sit up there?" he says, lifting Israel into the seat. LeRoy and I exchange worried glances. We're both thinking the same thing... what about the time? After all, this is a city bus, and we are sure that he must have a schedule. True, the bus is void of passengers... and none have got on so far at this stop... perhaps he put up the sign telling would-be riders that his bus is out of commission... He interacts with the children, connects with them, like a favorite uncle.
"Neil, I'm sorry, we're taking up your time," LeRoy offers, "we'll let you get back to work." But Neil only waves the air and laughs as he leans back against the wall again. He tells us stories about growing up in Dublin, about how he can't stand rain, about his visits to California and his love of sunshine, about the 73 consecutive days of rain last summer. He shares about his family, his siblings. I ask if he is married, if he has children -- after all, I tell him, you are so good at relating with my children. He smiles. Not married. No children. Do I faintly detect a longing? I so want to know more.
At last we turn to go. All the children have taken their turn sitting in the driver's seat. We thank him for taking time to talk to "us Americans." His arms gesture widely, "Ah! Americans are grand!" And I nearly hug him... but then shake hands instead. We ask to take his picture. He chuckles, "You want a picture of me? Ah! Well enough! Come on," he tells the children as he gathers them into the picture, "that's right. How do we look?" I can hardly contain my emotion. It's as though I've experienced the best of Dublin in the last 20 minutes. I try to focus the camera through misty eyes.
We wave good-bye as he pulls the bus doors closed. I am lost in thought as we cross College St. when it occurs to me that we should have got his email address. Just then, Neil's bus passes by us as he honks the horn and waves to us. And although LeRoy runs across the street to exchange information, Neil's bus is lost in a sea of city buses.

"Just follow College St. around," Neil said, "the entrance to Trinity College will be on your left."

We walk through the enormous entryway, through a hall of sorts, our voices echoing off the walls, and then into the college's courtyard. I stand in the doorway, protected from the drizzle so I can get a picture of the family.

"Presbyterian Mass begins in 15 minutes," I pause to read the sign outside the door of the chapel. "How fun! To be able to say we attended church at Trinity College in Dublin!" I can tell that LeRoy and the children are tracking with me. I know their "in" if I suggest we stay. We walk in, our footsteps almost quiet on the mosaic tiles. Someone plays a reverant melody on the organ in the choir loft. The children place themselves behind podiums along the benches, pretending to read or preach... but they end up interrupting themselves with self-conscious giggles. LeRoy is patient.
The slow organ melody suddenly turns to a rollicking "Happy Birthday." Someone belts out the traditional lyrics in tenor, then half-way through bursts into fits of giggles. I feel as though I am experiencing a glimpse of heaven. For some reason, I picture heaven just like this, a perfect blend of reverance and rollicking silliness... joyful giggles mixed with holy choir melodies.

Israel is in the main front podium. Since she can't quite see over the top, she proceeds to climb... "Israel Rebekah!" I try not to yell too loudly as I know my voice will repeat itself thanks to the room's acoustics. She looks at me and without a moment's hesitation lowers herself to the floor and comes running to me. I can see she is oblivious, running to me not because she saw herself as doing anything wrong but because she believes I have something better. I refrain from scolding her except for the instruction not to go up on "stages" as it's not okay. But I barely get the words out before she is skipping down the aisle, following her daddy and brothers out the door. Ah, well.
Following the signs we head toward the old library. After watching a couple of documentaries and reading up, we eagerly anticipate learning more about the Book of Kells and seeing it in person. But first things first... Must. Slide.
The college bookstore. The room with incredible pictures and educational tools to teach about the Book of Kells. The lingering in front of one picture... looking for the "pictures within the picture" drawn in amongst the artful calligraphy. The colors. The information about the care taken and inspiration the monks had while copying these manuscripts. Then the actual manuscripts themselves. Kept inside a temperature and moisture controlled case. Illuminated from underneath. We can almost hear the scritch-scritch of the feather quill as it moves across the page. See the intense focus on the furrowed brow of the monk. I don't take any pictures -- mainly because of the big sign at the entrance, the one with a camera with a red cirle and a line through it.
We walk upstairs and I feel as though I might cry. 200,000 books line shelves upon shelves upon shelves. Tall ladders lean against rails. Many books are held together with a ribbon or a piece of twine, their bindings either faded brown or missing altogether, as though they've been read and loved a thousand times. I stop in the doorway... to breathe... to take it in... my obsession with words... so many words here in this place they call the Long Room. I whisper to Isaiah, "This is my dream library." He places his hand in mine and gently squeezes.
"When I'm grown up and I'm a millionaire," he whispers back, "I'll build you a library like this."
We walk down the aisle between the rows of books, stopping to look at all the books on horticulture, the art of someone drawing a diagram of a flower, a leaf with all it's veins highlighted and labeled. Much of the writing is in Latin.
"Look, Momma! Someone critiqued this one!" He giggles as he points to the open pages behind glass. There is dark red marks at the beginning of each sentence. Some of them resemble more of a splotch than a mark, the ink having smudged while still wet. We laugh over our inside joke. They know I love the "red pen."
"Oh my!" Israel's words come more as verbal breath than actual words as she stands in front of the case with Ireland's oldest harp inside. Several months ago she told me she wanted to learn to play the harp. I am surprised that she understands the significance of this harp. I read the informational card to her not thinking that she'll really care. How much I underestimate my children! She asks me what year it was made. She asks me if anybody ever played it. She wants to know why it's behind glass. I smile because I can see she doesn't find any sense in looking at the thing... someone should play it! She skips away and I remind her we're in a museum... please walk.
Our brains are full, our inspirational tanks overflowing. "Now where are we going?" Of course Eli wants to know.
"We're going to go see a lot of dead animals." He is not amused. The rain is coming down in big wet expressive drops and so although we only need to go about five blocks, we hop on the next bus. "Please tell us when we get to the Oscar Wilde Memorial," I tell the driver. He nods and smiles.
We cross the street, stroll into the park, see the rather odd memorial, read some of Wilde's quotes... and discuss them amongst one another, before heading up the street to the Museum of Natural History.
"Mom, where are we really going?" Eli wants a straight answer. So, I tell him that when the museum opens, we'll view really cool carcasses. Satisfied, he stops asking. Walking up to the gate, we read the sign with the hours on it and find that we have another forty minutes before it opens. We all agree hot drinks and a snack is next on the agenda. So, we stroll south onto Ely Place where we find the Ely House (which I realize I'll have to look up when we get home as I don't recall any information about it). No matter. We discuss the cool Georgian architecture, the many different colors of doors, and take a picture of Eli about to go in the Ely House.
On the way back to the museum, we find this little hole-in-the-wall cafe and "corner store." Perfect.

"Would you like me to take a picture of all of you?" The woman's thick black hair and bright blue eyes caused me to do a double-take. Her face plain, simple, her smile genuine.
A couple of lattes, hot chocolates, a steamer, two (yucky) yogurts which we ate anyway, a few bananas, one hot sandwich, and we're on our way again. We reach the Natural History Museum just as it opens... I'm excited as I know the children are going to get a kick out of this. But there is a guard outside now... who informs us they've closed the museum forever... the stairs collapsed. The children look from the guard to me. "Bummer," I say. He chuckles, "Yes, exactly."
Well, hm. I look at the map. My husband is sweet. Patient. He says, "Alright! Where to now?" He sounds optimistic -- which I appreciate more than I can express.
"We'll just go around to the other side of the block." I declare it boldly, exuding confidence while silently praying that the next museum is open... and interesting. It is, on both accounts. We spend the next two hours looking at and reading exhibits about ancient Ireland. I am surprised and delighted as I move from one exhibit to the next, apparently too quickly, as my sons exclaim with only slight irritation, "Mom, hold on! I'm still reading about this!" They are enamored by all things Viking. I try to figure out when they switched from being bored, impatient, and ornery inside a museum to becoming little men, studiously reading every plaque, lingering just a little longer at the exhibit to engrave it on their mind. "I can imagine what it must've been like," they tell me more than once.
Israel eventually loses interest with Ezekiel not far behind. Daddy ends up sitting with them while I hurry (to my dismay) the older two along a little quicker. We are tired... but ready for one more adventure before dinner.

We walk the three long blocks to the Pearse Train Station where we suddenly feel as though we've stepped into the Narnia movie complete with the old brick wall.

Ahh... the ride out to Howth Peninsula is restful. The children turn it into another carnival ride. I love that anything becomes a novelty -- with just a little imagination.

Israel tells the boys, "Hurry! Hold hands!" She sincerely imagines they are about to enter Narnia. The boys, however hesitant, oblige their sister. I giggle to myself at their boyish resistance... at Israel's active imagination.

It is dark by the time we reach the port at Howth Peninsula. We stroll down to the water's edge, the air brisk, the smell of fish strong and somewhat pungent. A boat's engine makes it's guttaral rumbling accompanied by a flock of seagulls following close behind as it makes it's way into the harbor. Their hopeful cries piercing the darkening sky. We watch the water slap against the rocky shoreline as raindrops land against our cheeks, like tiny prickles.

The smell of fresh fish causes Eli to gasp... "Mom, I have to hold my breath. I can't breathe!"
We return to the train station to find we have 36 minutes before the next train. We figure that's enough time for a little treat in the restaurant below the station.
Inside, every table and chair is taken. There's a fire in the fireplace... smells of fresh wood, simmering cuisine, and frothy Guinness fill the small, candlelit room. I picture the scene from Treasure Island, half expecting Jim Hawkins to appear. A waitress approaches us and asks how she can help. I tell her we don't have long, that we're simply looking for something hot to drink while we wait for the train.
"Ah!" she nods. "Order at the bar, Love. The tables are for ordering food." Zae and I exchange delighted glances. We had heard that they call people "Love" in Ireland...
Evening finds us once again headed down Temple Bar Street. We head for the Quays Irish Restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall place where we literally "duck into" a narrow doorway and ascend a narrow staircase with old creaky floorboards. We are given a table where we share a long bench the length of the entire wall with other patrons.
Quaint. Lovely. Warm. We are enchanted by this resting place.

I reminisce about the days when I craved Irish Stew while living in Spokane... satisfied at O'Doherty's. Now here I sit in a beautiful Irish Restaurant... and I'm set on ordering a bowl of Irish Stew served with brown bread and butter.

The food arrives, but not before a bit of crankiness rears it's head. The funny thing is, I feel exuberant... nothing diminishes the romance of this experience. My children are beautiful. My husband is a blessing, my hero. I smile at Israel and softly explain that the food is cooking, remind her to think of others, try to make wise-way choices. She sticks her bottom lip out, accompanied by a little attitude. I want to travel the world over with these guys. I feel spoiled that God has blessed me with the five best traveling companions in the world.

"Mom! A three-leaf clover!" Eli holds up his parsley. For a second, he is serious, before he realizes what he's just said and bursts out laughing at himself.
"Eli, that's so redneck!" Isaiah says while we all laugh at Eli's silliness.

"I'll have a pint of Guinness." LeRoy lets us all take a taste... I decidedly like it... while Eli and Zae barely touch it with their lips and decide it stinks too much to really taste it. Which is fine.

The Irish Stew is as delicious as I imagined it to be.

Our tummies once again are filled. Of course, not too full for icecream cones which we find in a tiny Italian Gelateria just down the street from the restaurant. The children occupy themselves with their treat while we walk down the narrow alley leading to the Ha' Penny Bridge where I step inside this internet cafe to post on the blog... from Dublin.
Finishing their treat before I finish my typing, they step inside, delighted to find Bob Wiley's fish, Gill! As we leave they wave and say good-bye to the shop owner and then, "Good-bye, Gill!"

"Mom, this is the bridge I wanted to cross!" I am happy that we can fulfill Isaiah's simple request as we cross the bridge to our apartment.

I am filled with contentment, gratitude... and some sadness as the evening comes to a close. I am not ready to leave Dublin. As they advertise on their city's website, I have fallen in love with Dublin. Madly. Deeply.

We are tired. Satisfied. Fulfilled.
God is good. All the time.
They have more energy to monkey around... to live... silly... fun... curious... when their tummies are full.
Eli's antics crack us up all the way back to the room.

I want to come back... before we've left.
Monday, January 19th ~

The taxi driver picks us up in the wee hours of the morning. It is a quarter to four. Eli asks if he can just wear his pj's home. I am agreeable at this hour. I am especially blessed that the children do not complain... they simply transfer themselves to the taxi and eventually to chairs at the airport where they sleep in awkward positions. The taxi driver entertains us all the way to the airport with stories of growing up in Dublin. He shares the story of his family's recent holiday to the west side of Ireland, "the Kerry side." He spins a tale so magical that we decide we must visit Kerry, Cork, and Limerick as soon as possible. The 30-minute ride is far too short.

Deliriously happy.

The seatbelt sign flickers on, the familiar ding, and the pilot's announcement that we are descending to the Frankfurt-Hahn Aiport. The sun peeks it's morning rays over the edge of the clouds before we touch down, the weather beneath the clouds greeting us with sideways sleet.

A long wait at customs, complete with a fabulous conversation with the military couple in line with us, and we are on our way home.
We arrive home, drop our bags, and fall into bed. I sleep for two hours. The rest of the family sleeps for five hours.
Thank You, Jesus! Thank You for all the countless ways You bless us!!


  1. Sharon (and family), what a great adventure, I am so glad you all had the chance to experience my "home"! If I could not be there in person, I am glad I was there in spirit. Hopefully you get to go back when the weather is not giving you a lashing.

  2. oh it looks like you gys had as much fun as we did... i cant wait until we can get together and talk more about each ohers adventures on the emerald isle!

  3. Oh, my dear Olsons, what a treat to go on the trip to Ireland with you! I love you each just knowing a little of your fun adventure. I finished with a spring in my step as if I might have an adventure today too now that I know the geography a bit better. Thanks.

  4. Can't wait for another posting, you guys!



  5. As long as you openly and willingly admit that the only thing that would have made this trip even better would have been to have me along for at least part of it then I will not have to cry myself to sleep every night for the rest of my life! LOL It looks absolutly wonderful and Oh how I would have loved to have been there too!