We’re locked down until at least some time in April. Can’t go anywhere. Can’t see anyone. The only place to travel is in your mind, down memory lane. This month I’m reflecting on travel stories from places I’ve been and thinking about that ever-growing list of places I want to go.
Dublin, Ireland: It was my second visit to Dublin. I was on my own this time, and I decided to stay in the same hostel as I had stayed previously with my friends because I knew the area. I checked in, was given a room number and told I was in “Bed C”. This was fine, I assumed it was a four-bed dorm room with beds labelled A, B, C and D. I walked up the stairs of the hostel to the top floor, opened the door to my room and realised the room I was in was huge. It occupied the whole top floor of the building. And it was full of bunk beds. I was bed C in a room that had beds labelled from A to Z. But it’s OK, because only beds A, B – and now C – had bags on them, so there would only be the three of us staying there tonight. I went out for a walk and to get some dinner.
Coming back from dinner to my room, I opened the door to see every other bunk bed in the room now had a bag on it. But there were no people in the room. Sure though, it was early, only 9.30pm or something. I did some reading and some writing and when the girls in beds A, B and D came in and were ready for bed, we switched off the lights and went to sleep.
BANG! The door to the room is flung open and the lights are switched on. I’m on the top bunk so this is particularly annoying.
“Sorry, sorry!” says a very drunk woman and her friend, in that particularly loud whispery voice that drunk people have. They switch off the light but then can’t find their bunks so have to switch the light on again. “Sorry, sorry!” they shout-whisper. They go out to the bathroom and come back in again.
BANG! goes the door with every entry and exit. Eventually they have their pyjamas and have brushed their teeth and they go to bed and the lights are out.
BANG! The door to the room is flung open as four drunk girls come in and the whole routine repeats itself. And again at 2am, 2.30am and 3.00am and until all the girls have come in, the later in the night it gets, the more noise they make and the longer it takes them to sort themselves out for sleep.
7.30am – my alarm goes off. I let it ring for a while before I switch it off. I hear some moans from the drunk girls waking up with hangovers but I don’t care. I get out of bed and head to the bathroom, taking great care that BANG! goes the door on my way out and BANG! goes the door on my way back in. I make sure to rattle every plastic bag in my rucksack while packing my stuff and maybe I got in and out of the room a few more times to make sure that door goes BANG! a few more times. Maybe the girls with hangovers are grumbling. Do I look like I care? I have a bus to catch.
BANG! I manage to get one more slam of the door as I leave for the last time to catch my bus to Cork.
Damascus, Syria: Part of the horror of watching the unfolding conflict in Syria over the past years has been our happy memories of visiting this country back in 2006. I have visited several Middle-eastern/Arabic countries but only in Syria did I ever feel that the Arabic tradition of welcoming guests was done purely from the heart and not from any kind of wish to sell you something.
As an example, I remember having a day walking about Damascus by myself because Husband-then-boyfriend had come down with a stomach bug, so I left him in the hotel, to go walk about this fine city by myself. I didn’t feel threatened, I didn’t get harassed, I just walked around taking some photos and enjoying the city.
In the evening Husband felt better (was it the magic date juice I brought him?) and we were able to go for a walk together, even stopping to get ice cream at the famous ice cream shop in the souk, which still had a queue outside even though it was close to their closing time.
Yes, I remember Damascus – and indeed all of Syria – fondly.
Travel wish list – Detroit
This might seem like a strange wish list destination but I really would like to see Detroit. I saw a TV programme about how Detroit – the motor city – drove the car culture that defines the USA even today; and how that same car culture cut the artery that kept Detroit alive and has seen the city slowly decreasing in size as people and industries move away, and parts of the city are starting to return to nature – buildings rotting away, roads becoming covered in grass because no cars pass that way anymore. What is a city when no-one wants to live there any more? I’m intrigued by this idea of a city in decay – or at least in transition – and so Detroit is on my to-visit list.