It’s an odd sort of day.
Sunny, but with thick, nebulous clouds in the sky. Windy, but surprisingly warm. Rainy, but not so wet.
Sun rays pierce through the clouds, turning sideways rain drops into golden diamonds. A totally full, clear, crisp double rainbow arches across the sky.
There’s a hint of excitement, of hesitancy, of magic in the air.
We are freshly arrived in Dublin, Ireland, and the early afternoon streets are oddly, almost apocalyptically, empty. For whatever little mischief of lady luck, we managed to overlap our short stay in Ireland with a fierce tropical hurricane, an unheard-of phenomenon, and one of the strongest storms to hit Ireland in living history.
So far, we’ve stayed one step ahead of the impending doom every step of the way since our arrival in Cork three days previously. However, according to the desperate news reports, the hurricane is finally catching up to us.
Since the weather is still confusingly mild, and this is our only chance to visit Dublin, we decide to venture into the city from our Airbnb on the outskirts.
Here or there a pub is open for business–god bless the spirit of the Irish people–but almost everything else in town is closed. Entire city blocks are quiet, empty, battered down for the storm. To our great disappointment, even the fabled Guinness factory is closed for business.
We eventually find some activity in the heart of downtown, and decide to stay for lunch and get our round of Guinness all the same. By three o’clock, however, even the braver of the bars are beginning to close their doors and, besides, our parking meter is up.
We finally heed the advice of the news, which warns people to stay indoors and hunker down, and drive back north through the eerily empty city back to our Airbnb.
Oddly enough, aside from strong gusts of wind and an occasional sideways patter of friendly rain drops, the sun above remains fierce in its bright blue sky.
Confused by the lack of hurricane weather, we use the down time to explore the area surrounding our Airbnb.
Our final rental of the trip, a unique and quirky 18th century house we booked last minute on Airbnb, once belonged to part of a much larger estate, with lots of surrounding land.
At the absent owner’s invitation, we amble around the surrounding grounds, gardens, and countryside. The only living beings in sight are a friendly horse and her two donkey pals. We bring them scratches, friendly words and juicy apples.
On a different part of the estate, we walk through a series of garden courtyards, and I get the odd impression that I’m stepping into a different time, or a different world.
One particular archway, complete with a rusted cast-iron door, leads to a sort of wild, overgrown secret garden.
Tall, worn brown brick walls surround the space. Ivy covers an ancient, crumbling stairwell. Twisted, old, gnarled trees overflow with more heavy, juicy, tart apples. And everywhere you look: green. An Irish green. The deep, lush, fall green of cloves, and overgrown grass.
I am oddly reticent to leave the beauty and calm of this little secret garden. Something about it reminds me of my childhood, of getting lost in nature, letting the imagination run wild, of exploring paces you’re not quite sure you’re allowed to visit.
Our stay in Ireland only spanned mere days, more of a fly-by than a proper visit.
But, the place has history, and spirit.
All it once it felt odd, quirky, lucky, unexpected and comfortable.
And, despite the dire warnings, the hurricane never really showed up in Dublin.
Who knows, perhaps the land of Éire does have some magic of its own.
More from Ireland:
A Very Brief Tour of London
Huge groups of people bustle around, jostle each other, all staring distractedly at various Egyptian exhibits displayed here in the British Museum.
I’m enjoying the history, trying to let my imagination run wild in the world of Pharaohs and Sphinxes and lions and mummies, but the sheer volume of people around is making it difficult to concentrate for long on much of anything.
Finally, before calling the Egyptian portion quits in favor a a less-crowded section of the museum, I decide to change my tactic for a moment and focus on not the exhibits, but the observers.
A gaggle of school children sit, cross-legged, drawing their own versions of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
A throng of Chinese tourists, all sporting cannon-sized cameras, aggressively occupy an 8-foot circumferential residence around the Rosetta Stone, and fire away.
A young couple takes selfie after selfie after selfie of themselves in front of various exhibits, never focusing on the actual piece of history for more than a cursory glance.
After fifteen minutes or so of this spectator observation, I’m about call it quits and move along.
But, as I’m almost to a door, a curly-haired, coke-bottle glasses wearing young kid of perhaps 10 catches my attention. He’s seemingly all alone, going from exhibit to exhibit, staring hard at each object. He has a cell-phone camera gripped tightly in both hands, ready for action.
As I watch, he plants himself firmly in front of a 4,000 year old, larger-than-life carved statue of Pharaoh Ramses II, in all his glory.
Undaunted, the kid stares Ramses II down.
After a minute or so of thought, the kid brings the camera up to his eyes, and shouts:
I’m pretty sure the ghost of a smile passed across even old Ramses’ stone face.