I spent a week in the ‘Irelands’, 4 days in Dublin and 3 days in Belfast, split between 3 couchsurf hosts and a handful of other local friends and couchsurfers. In Dublin, I stayed at a couchsurf house full of Irish students, and my host Griffin (what a perfect Irish name) had plenty of time to walk around with me. He worked some evenings at a Yoga studio and let me drop in on an advanced classs to partake in some well overdue detox and stretching. He showed me Phoenix park, and Kilmainham Gaol – a former prison which has played an incredibly important part in Irish history. We tried to go to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, just to discover no exhibits are open until 2013. He walked me through Trinity College campus, where I saw some of the most beautiful and oldest architecture in the whole city.
We visited the famous Porterhouse, and sampled their large but weird array of beers. We had oyster stout, and some red ale that tasted like dirty gym socks. I forgot to sample the strawberry beer apparently so I´ll have to go back for that. I spent some time wandering around by myself, visiting the Guinness Store house and learning it takes 119.5 seconds to pour a perfect pint of that yummy stuff. I spent a day working on my phd proposal at the Art of Coffee cafe house, sipping on a never ending cup of tea on the edge of downtown Dublin.
Griffin´s roomate Hugh worked at Jameson Old Distillery, so I went with my next host Gary and couchsurf friend Marcin to learn about whiskey making and tasting. We tried whiskey ginger, whiskey sprite, whiskey cranberry, and irish coffee, and learned the difference between irish, scotch and bourbon whiskeys. I even got certified as an official whiskey taster, something I never thought or expected I’d achieve so easily.
I met up with another couchsurfer named Flo who is what I’d call a German Gypsy recovering from extreme nomadicism. At 30, after years of hitchhiking from North America to Patagonia, he settled into a salaried job at Google, and invited me there for lunch to talk about it. Google Europe headquarters are in Dublin, and the 3 googly towers housing 3500 employees (mostly between the ages of 25-30) are full of mac computers, free food and drink, and quirky lounges to nurture creative thinking. I got given a badge and had immediate access to everything, and ate my belly full on what Flo claimed was the best food in Dublin.
We had a lot of laughs to share after realizing our travel philosophies were much the same, but just at different stages in our lives. He had apparently gotten his position after being selected over 2,014 other applicants, and with a facial piercing and dreadlocks, you would maybe guess its the education and character he´s developed from seeing the world that overpowered to make him top choice. He said he got the job by accident, and its impossible to leave with the pay and luxuries he benefits, but after many months there, he´s getting the travel itch bad… ironically I sympathized with him in kind of the opposite way; I’m here trying to settle into a 3 year paid phd position so I can have the comforts and steadiness of a paycheck and a home, but in the back of my head I know I’ll probably be thinking the grass was greener on my side the way I have it now.