It rained on and off all day, and by the time I clambered aboard the #30 rush hour bus from Dublin to Howth (pronounced ‘Hote’) it had been raining for a while. The double decker was already crowded with folks so the backpack and I dragged ourselves up to the top level and found a single aisle seat in the very front. No room for the backpack except on my lap. The ride was uneventful, really, and the scenery through Dublin and out into the surrounding villages and towns was simply heavenly; every fantasy that I had indulged about Georgian townhomes, old industrial areas and housing, and thatched-roofed cottage-like dwellings standing within steps of winding roads (old and newer) was brought to life on that bus ride.
The young lady next to me did not say a word until I asked her if she was going anywhere near Howth (I was concerned that I could miss the stop since I was so unfamiliar with the bus route and travel time. She was getting off a couple of stops before mine and she was willing to help me from there. I noticed immediately that her heavily accented English was not Irish, and she struggled mightily with her English; it turned out she was Middle European–Romanian–and she had come over some years ago. Ireland has welcomed many Middle Europeans in recent years and they were the most populous non-Irish working folks that I met during my visit.
Leaving Dublin and the compact communities surrounding it, the scenery began to change as we neared the coast. Peeks of water in between dunes and marsh grasses began to appear more frequently and my companion would point out villages and towns known to be destination spots. The terrain began to change, too, and I noticed that we were winding up and down a lot of switchbacks and hills. The rain continued to fall so I pulled out my trusty Poncho and prepared to cover up for what looked like a wet walk once I made it to Howth.
Thanks to my companion’s directions, I made it off at one of the two Howth stops; the Discover Ireland woman had given me specific directions to ask the bus driver to be sure and drop me off at the library and I could find my way from there. No pay phone boxes presented themselves so I wandered into the library just in time for their closing; they directed me to “keep on just a bit up the hill there and take the 2nd left onto Nashville Road” and off I went. This would be my first experience with the Irish tendency to “Oh, it’s just a wee walk…” or “Oh, it’s just up around that corner…” or “No bother! Just turn at the next right…” or “’tis just minutes to where you’re headin’…” I learned very quickly that the Irish notions of time and distance are vastly different from mine.
Case in point: the direction to Nashville Road represented a very long, rain-soaked walk to the corner in question–and a very steep walk, as well. Here is my journal entry concerning that walk: “I trudge up the road where I see the Nashville Road sign and the ‘Glenn na Smol’ (the B&B) marker on a curving wall–huffing and puffing for sure! Gasping is actually what I was hearing my Self do, and talking to/encouraging my Self that I can make it–‘just breathe!’ I gasp. After hailing a passing car at the next far-away corner, the sweet lady calls for me and, as it would happen, I am standing right smack in front of the house, completely out of breath.”
And then I wrote, “Catherine–of the incredibly sweet face–welcomes me in, picks up easily the ridiculously heavy ‘backpack’ and places me in a quaint, simply-appointed front room with a double bed, sink and built-in wooden wardrobe, AND a lovely garden view. By now it was about 6 and I was done in. Off with the shoes, of with the Day Pack, and out come the toiletries, the iPad, the comp book and pens; I hang up the poncho, windbreaker and arrange some wardrobe items. After showing me the lovely ‘lounge’ with lots of books, Irish fan magazines, and lovely porcelain in the bookshelves, two comfy chairs and a sofa, she offers me tea and I want to cry. By the time she returns with the most beautifully laden-with-goodies tray, I decide to inquire, ‘Would the room be available for another night?’ ‘I’m sure it is,’ she responds and I begin to relax for the first time since I’ve landed. ‘Thank you, Catherine,’ I say to her of the incredibly sweet face. ‘Thank you, God,’ I say silently to HimSelf. So begins my Sojourn in Mystical Howth.”
And so it did.