Belfast to Dublin to Cork, OH MY!

Yesterday, I took the 6:50 AM train from Belfast to Dublin Connolly station, and then the 4:00 PM train from Dublin Heuston to Cork. Normally, riding the train longer distances (each leg was about two and half hours long) is a perfect time to reflect – much like highway driving, listening to music while a landscape rolls by usually prompts a ton of thought, and often some writing as well. But I spent yesterday morning’s journey napping by design (to rest up for the roughly seven hours I spent in Dublin), and while I meant to stay awake and absorb all of the Irish countryside I could handle on the evening’s journey, I passed out five minutes in and didn’t stir until a teenage girl in a Slipknot hoodie shook my shoulder and told me we’d reached the last stop.

It’s not that I didn’t have anything to internally reflect on – BOY, I had tons – but I’ve also been sleeping very little since leaving the U.S. nine days ago. I spend my days packing in as much archival research or museum touring as I possibly can, and as soon as my work-related sites close for the day, I run off to see as much of these cities as I can squeeze in. For the most part, this has been a solo adventure – I met up with a few friends and a cousin who live in London, and last night I had dinner and an amazing walking tour of Cork city centre with the parents of an old friend. I’ve traveled alone before of course, but by “travel” I mean taken solo road trips from New York to DC or Richmond to visit friends and family, or taken the Amtrak between various east coast cities. Mostly, I’ve traveled with friends or family, and the idea of being alone in two foreign countries for nearly two weeks was a little intimidating. But (and no offense to friends and family I’ve gone on trips with!), I am really loving the experience – not only am I finding exactly the sort of material I came here to seek out, but getting to set my own schedule and do whatever I want to do in a series of cities feels very liberating.

It’s winter here, and my research schedule doesn’t allow as much nature and famous monument viewing as my last trip to Ireland, when my family traveled together for a wedding and sightseeing in 2008. But I’m absorbing every experience I can get in, and discovering so much more about my surroundings. Fortunately, paying attention to surroundings and culture is ideal when researching a thesis about public, collective memories of historic events…