Finally! I think I might be getting the hang of things. I might feel the most stable I have felt so far. Hallelujah. Shaking eliminated? Check. Tight pains in chest? Sporadic. General attitude? Come what may. (I’m shooting for bring it on.)
Oh, so I went to the Louvre. Guess what. I was waiting in line and a woman who was leaving held her ticket out in front of her and waved it around like a blind person until she stopped on me. Save 12 euros on admission? I’ll take it.
Museums make me tired, though. Especially the labyrinth that is the Louvre. Maybe that’s what they should rename it. And the tagline should be, Go Here To Completely Drown In Culture! I don’t know if this is true, but I heard that if you spent one minute on every piece in the Louvre, you would be there for eight years. Bah humbug. It’s so extraordinary that the Texans I was in line with thought that I meant eight days. Get outta town, Texas.
Seeing beautiful things for hours is a nice way to spend a day, perhaps. And, oddly, witnessing extraordinary amounts of painted suffering can have a humbling effect of perspective on yours truly.
My last night in Paris was spent at the mercy of my host, who made some kind of authentic food involving a dark brown, thin crispy pancake ordeal, folded with goat cheese, tomatoes and prosciutto—arugula on the side. I would say these are some of my favorite things, but you should know that I have many, many favorite things.
Anyway, I’m in a small town northeast of Dublin now, called Sutton. Ireland’s great! Much better than Paris. I will probably never know until I revisit Paris if I just don’t like it, or if it simply had the ill fortune of being my first stop. I’m willing to give credit to the latter, but I’m leaning towards the former. I’ve found that when I go to new places, oftentimes I have a pretty immediate gut reaction, like some sort of vibey first impression for locales that tends to hold true (though of course not always). Paris just didn’t jive with me all that much. I’m crazy curious to check out southern France though.
In the Dublin airport I accidentally started harassing a lady at the phone store with questions about sim cards. An Australian backpacker swooped in to try to help me, until the phone lady politely told me off. But! When I got off the bus in the center of Dublin, there was the backpacker right on the corner! So, off we went around town. We got fish burgers and sat in a lovely park for hours. The Irish say lovely a lot.
Also, Irish women have taken to starting up very amicable conversations with me, practically chatting my ear off with their cute cadence. My favorite thing so far was the chestnut that one woman’s father always told her: as long as you have a tongue in your head, you will never get lost.
I had my best day so far, yesterday. I took a hike around this one piece of land that juts out into the Irish Sea called Howth (pronounced Hoat). The town is a little fishing village, where I ate fish and chips, of course. But, there happens to be these old tram roads that they’ve converted into hiking trails, and man. I got my first taste of why I knew I wanted to come to Ireland.
It’s very beautiful here, and wild. Ireland—the coast, at least—has a certain smell to it, a mixture of sea things like fish and salt, and earth things like flowers and herbs. It is both new and somehow familiar, and very Ireland. For the first time as I scampered up and down rocks and sand and hills and stairs, I might have faintly remembered why I wanted to do this. For the first time, I was a tiny bit triumphant. Each bend brought new size to my eyeballs.
And, I jumped off a cliff into the sea.
The sun was actually out and it was warm and I had just been thinking, dang, I’d really go swimming in the ocean right now, when I came upon a part of cliff that had a rope going all the way down the side. You have to go down backwards and do that hoppy thing down, you know. There were a bunch of high school kids down there with their bathing suits on; some jumped, some didn’t. They told me about the seals and the dolphins, and said that I should jump soon because tide was going out. They said they would take a picture of me when I jumped. They yelled things about taking it in obscene places when I did. They congratulated me after. I hauled myself back up the cliff, commando, and felt really good.
Rose, the Australian backpacker that I met at the airport, we talked for a long time in the park about traveling and what we think about it. She said that there was a difference between being alone and being by yourself. I would say that I have to agree, and we felt similarly about how one tends to feel more alone in cities. Out on the trails I barely passed anyone, but I was content to be by myself. I mean, apart from always, always wishing you could see this too.
I think of each of you often, for different reasons. Last week when that happened, it was like getting slashed across the chest with an electric current. My thoughts of you are dear, but too painful to focus on, so I would sadly and hurriedly push them away. I don’t think of you any less often, but it’s not quite as painful now. Travelers I have met and talked to along the way tell me that I will eventually stop missing home. I don’t doubt that I will grow out of feeling ill when I (frequently) become aware that you’re not here with me too, but I’m not sure that I will ever stop wishing that you were. Traveling alone bewilders me to no end. I barely understand it.
It’s helpful for me to zoom out in my brain. I pretend that my footsteps are tiny black dots on a map. If I pan out from the present situation, such as the throngs of tourists pushing me off the sidewalk on a street that doesn’t seem to exist on paper, or trying to distinguish the various aches in my body (bruised, pulled, or just sore?), or wondering what I’ll eat for dinner and how much I’m willing to pay for it—and think instead of my small existence on the East coast of an island in the Atlantic Ocean, I can wrap my head around what I’m doing a little better. It’s kind of like making a connection between the romantic ideals of traveling and what traveling is actually like. I repeatedly tell myself, Tiffany, you’re in Paris. You’re in Ireland. You just jumped into the sea.
Today I walked around Dublin. If you haven’t already guessed, I don’t prefer cities. But, I ate Irish stew and bought a huge Toblerone at the dollar store and had my first Guinness. Highlights included the Chester Beatty Library, which is more like a museum for manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, and rare books, including but not limited to Egyptian papyrus texts, illuminated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, and European medieval and renaissance manuscripts. Basically everything I’m into—religion, paper, inks, books and binding. They had a tiny piece of the oldest surviving copy of the bible, the part where Jesus is on the cross and tells his mom and his disciple to take care of each other.
And then I accidentally took the longest walk ever to a recommended pub, which I stubbornly didn’t give up on, which is good cuz the Guinness was great and the pub was actually tiny and local and there was a bunch of people sitting around playing live traditional music. I chatted with a Brazilian and Argentinian. And now I’m on a couch and writing you the longest post ever. I have a feeling that’s not going to stop anytime soon.
I’ve got a good week of countryside planned. Slainte!