January 16th, 2020
After a long day of traveling I step out into Dublin, Ireland for the first time and rush over to the Guinness factory for a quick tour and (more importantly) a glimpse of a glorious sunset. Smooth operation until I step out into Dublin for the second time and get completely lost in its cold, dark, quiet industrial streets with no WiFi and no one in sight to give me directions – not even a factory ghost!
Eventually, I make it back to the hostel. Half frozen and fully starved I casually approach one of the strangers I share a room with, hoping she knows of a nice local restaurant nearby (and that she would want to join me for dinner). Turns out she just had dinner and the only place she can suggest is – wait for it – Mc Donald’s. I don’t make any further attempt to befriend her (for obvious reasons) and head down to the check in desk in search of a useful recommendation. With more success this time, I step out into Dublin for the third time and start making my way to a local pub just around the corner. Charming.
Outside, a cheerful waitress wearing nothing but an apron over her t-shirt greets me, “Table for two?”
“Nope, just me,” I say bravely, my confidence still intact.
Inside, the warmth of a fireplace and an Irish fiddle dances over my cheeks. The pub welcomes visitors with traditional décor, dimmed yellow lighting, a bar and a band. The music somehow harmonizes with jolly chatter over beers and stews. I quickly close my coat so no one can see the brand new green Guinness sweater I purchased hours ago that shouts “I’m a tourist and it’s my first time here!”.
As I follow the waitress through the crowds, I decide to ignore the fact that I’m the only solo person AND the only tourist here. We pass all the nice things mentioned above, through a single door into a separate room. Cluttered among mismatched paintings, random wall signs and low hanging fairy lights are elderly people, young couples and a family with two baby strollers. Gulp. To rub it in, the table waiting for me is nicely isolated in a cozy corner with two chairs facing each other and a candle in the middle.
“Er, dont you have room on the other side?”
She replies without hesitation (which must mean that this is a usual request) “Oh yes, if you’re okay to share a table.”
I nod desperately, happy to sit at one of those long tables where all the singles are minding their own business, but are also open to starting a conversation with a stranger – like at Starbucks. Relieved, I follow her out of the chamber of torture.
Back in the light, we approach a table for four, occupied by two girls who seems to be enjoying a long overdue catch up session. The waitress interrupts them and asks bluntly if I can join their table. What follows is probably one of the most awkward, embarrassing moments of my life: Tbe girls look at each other, just as confused as I am (because this is not one of those tables they have at Starbucks), then nod politely (because do they really have a choice?). Unable to ignore the signs, I decline their kind offer and go back to the hidden chamber.
Instantly deciding I won’t spend much time here, I immediately order the Guinness stew and a water as I sit down. A mere minute later, before I could even remove my scarf, a single dish of soupey stew appears in front of me (no place mat, no bread, no condiments), followed by a giant Guinness glass containing water. Water with ice.
With no live band to watch and no potential person to talk to, I finish my stew and leave the water with ice along with a €20 note on the table as payment for my €15 meal (pricey for a pub don’t you think?). I consider the extra €5 a tribute to all solo travelers, like me, who finds it liberating to be able to go around the world and have dinner with a candle. This time I don’t bother hiding my Guinness sweater. I’m a tourist and it’s my first time here.
Back at the hostel I am covered in goosebumps as I stand in my flip flops facing a long anticipated shower… when I realize that I didn’t bring a towel.
Tomorrow’s forecast is slightly warmer with rain – may the luck of the Irish be with me!