Chapter 10: Laying the Brick Foundations like Pouring a Pint of Guinness

“The room is fully furnished right? The bed is there to stay, and the duvet?”

“Yup, what you see now is what you get.” The girl who answered her had tanned skin, with luscious black hair. She had introduced herself as Camila. Everything about her was exotic in Ellie’s eyes.

It was a bit smaller than she wished for. But it was also the fourth room she had visited in a day, and two more persons had cancelled viewings. At least, it wasn’t the size of a closet, the bed didn’t take up all of the room. The wallpaper wasn’t peeling off from the humidity. The walls were bare of wallpaper actually. They were simply painted white, there were no decorations, and wooden blinds covered the windows. A few fairy lights and street art prints would make it a bit cozier and homey, she thought. And she did not need to buy a mirror as the wardrobe’s doors were in fact mirrors.

Most importantly, neither of the two other people who lived there had attempted to kiss her which had happened at her last viewing. The guy who was renting the room insisted he wasn’t being weird and that they should be friends. Ellie had darted out of there as quickly as possible without looking back until further enough, just to make sure he wasn’t following her.

“Okay, I’ll take it.”

It could be home for the next few months, even if it would take her at least a couple of days before comfortably peeing in the shared bathroom, let alone poop.

“Great,” she moved out of the room and into the hallway, “here’s the switch to turn on the hot water. It takes about 20-30 minutes for the water to get hot.”

Ellie nodded, not sure she really understood what the girl had just told her.

“And that’s the switch for the heat. Just turn it off when it gets too warm,” added Lonán - the other roommate. Considerably taller than both girls, he was lanky and completely Irish.

“What do you mean, when it gets too hot? Doesn’t it stop by itself?”

“Oh yeah we could set a timer… we just never really bothered.”

“… A timer? Yeah I suppose that’s handy. But, can’t you just… leave it on? Doesn’t the heating system have a thermostat?”

“A what?”

“A thermometer that controls the system? Turns it on when it’s colder than the temperature you want, turns it off when it’s good.”

“Nope, just switch it off.”

Ellie nodded again. Were thermostats just a Canadian thing? Perhaps winters here were not bad enough to warrant the constant use of heaters. That thought was comforting. Or maybe she’d invest in a small portable heater to put in her room.

“So when can you move in?”

“... Friday? After work?”

The two roommates looked at each other. Lonán spoke up, “yeah that works with us.”

***

The apartment wasn’t far off from the office - only one bus to take. For a newbie like Ellie, that was as adventurous as it would get. Since she had virtually only walked from and to places her first couple of days, she hadn’t realized buses needed to be hailed like cabs. Because of that, the bus she needed to take that morning for her second viewing had driven past her. She was too stunned to scream injustice. Thankfully, by the time a second bus arrived, an older man waited with her - and he had hailed the double decker.

Max had been nice enough to give her a bus (Leap) card that had credit on it (it was paid for by the company, but at least she hadn’t needed to go look for it). She had placed the card on the reader near the driver but was surprised when he asked her, “where to?”

She must have looked like a baby experiencing squishy balls for the first time. “Umm… I’m supposed to get off at…  Cabra Road?” She had attempted. The driver nodded at her then told her to take her card back.

This time though, this time, she would hail that bus properly. And she would step right in, and use the card reader on the right hand side that requires no talking to the driver.
Max had explained to her that rates differed on the zones you travelled to, but past a certain point, it was the same price. However, the second reader always charged the flat rate. And it was faster to use that one if you had a 7-day pass, which apparently was what Max had given her.

On account of late nights spent at the office trying to catch up on the branch’s work, Ellie had pretty much picked up food from places on her way to the hotel or eaten delivery with Max in the office. Finally, she had free time in the evening.

She got off several stops before and walked towards Temple Bar - following the directions Google gave her to a pub that had good ratings. The River Liffey cut the city in half; a lot of bridges, all of different sizes and builds, reunited the North and the South.

Ellie crossed the bridge and ventured into Temple Bar. From what she had seen throughout the day from the bus’ window and in the different neighbourhoods she had visited, Dublin was completely European. There were plenty of small streets. No looming towers grazed the skyline. Here and there, within the residential neighbourhoods, were squares of greens but there weren’t any actual children’s parks, with installations. They were simply large patches of green with several trees. The closer you got to City Center, the less patches of green - which made sense.

The streets bordering the River were filled with people waiting for buses and diverse shops and restaurants. Within Temple Bar, a plethora of bars and restaurants awaited her, and all the other tourists - seemingly, the only people that frequented the popular area. She made a mental note of the restaurants she wanted to try.

Dreadful cobblestone paved the way. As beautiful as the history of the streets is, how inconvenient is it for high heels! And how inconvenient are disregarding high heels for cobblestone pavements.

Thankfully Elena wore flats that day.

The pub she had flagged was slightly outside of the Temple Bar boundaries. At the top of the street loomed a large, white, classical building. It sat atop a flight of stairs. As she approached the crossroad, she realized it was City Hall.

She turned left on Dame St. and passed in front of a theater, and a Korean restaurant. She stopped, checked their menu and starred it on her map.

In front of her, at the end of the street stood the imposing gates of Trinity College. She looked at it sideways as she waited for the light to turn green and for the lazer sound that accompanied the pedestrian crossing to blare. After twists and turns into small streets that look more like alleys, she found The Stag’s Head. A tiny place built in length. She shuffled through the people already there and found a seat at the bar near the beer taps. A barman was quick to approach her.

“What can I get you today?” He placed a coaster in front of her. There were many beers on tap compared to the usual 3 or 4 most pubs in Montreal harbored. But she realized she hadn’t actually had Guinness yet.

“A pint of Guinness please.”

True to its name, a stag’s head was hung up on the wall. The bar itself was woody, old-fashioned and very pretty. She realized there was a second room at the end of the bar, behind doors. The patrons were a mix of Irishmen, some older, some coming for a pint after work, and tourists.

She noticed the bartender had filled only 2/3rds of the pint and then let it rest on the side. The colour of the liquid slowly turned blacker. He grabbed it after a couple of minutes and filled the tall glass. By her calculations, the pint glass was actually bigger than the ones in Canada. The bartender delicately rested the pint on the coaster.

“Cheers.”

She smiled at him then diverted her gaze to the glass. The foam was thick, not bubbly. She must have looked like her friend Kayla when she analyzed food. The bartender leaned forward on the bar in front of her.

“First time drinking Guinness?” Ellie nodded shyly. “Wait for it to turn completely black before drinking. Let me know what you think of it!” He walked away towards another patron. Her eyes followed him.

She followed his instructions and waited before drinking it. It was creamy, heavier than the bubbly beer she would down at the fraternity house. Sweet, like a dessert. She took another gulp. The bartender linked eyes with her. She smiled sheepishly as she put the glass down.

“So?” he asked her.

“It’s really good. I’m surprised I like it. I’m more of a wine girl.”

“Ye, it’s good, eh? Cheers!” The old man who sat next to her raised his own pint toward her. They cheered.

“Whereabouts you from? Canada?” the bartender asked her.

“Yeah. Is my accent that obvious?”

He shook his head, “Maybe just a tad. I’ve got a cousin who went there last summer. Never came back.”

“Oh where did he go?”

“Ontario? Is that possible?”

She laughed, “definitely possible. It’s pretty big though. Do you know where?”

“No clue. We barely speak. But I’ve heard it’s beautiful. I’d love to go to Alberta.”

She looked up at him, “... Alberta? Huh. Okay. Yeah, why not? If you like nature, definitely!”

He excused himself to serve another client, then came back 5 minutes later with a huge smile on his face.

“So, my coworker here thinks you’re pretty cute. He’s in love with you.”

She looked sideways to find said coworker. “Oh wow! Who? Introduce a girl!” Was that how guys approached girls in Ireland?

“Oh he actually already left. He saw you when you came in, but he messaged me. He’ll be at The Globe not far from here later. You should meet him.”

“I’d love to, unfortunately I’ve got work tomorrow morning. Maybe next time!”

She chuckled. As she took another big gulp of her stout, she wondered why no one had warned her it would be this easy to meet people in Ireland. Her bags would have been packed sooner.