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Vena McGrath

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Dublin, Ireland, through the eyes of an Aussie 2006
By Vena McGrath
Friday, October 06, 2006

Rated "G" by the Author.

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At last, I had arrived in the land of my dreams, Ireland.

Sydney/Bangkok/London/Dublin/Ireland/Dublin/New York/San Francisco/Sydney

21 August 2006 to 15 September 2006 Ė Mileage 25,418


London/Dublin Ė The third leg

27/8/06 to 30/8/06

Air bus Ė departed Heathrow 2.00 pm 27/8/06


The plane was late flying out of Heathrow, and we didnít depart until 2.00 pm.  It was a short flight, and I watched as the plane dipped its wings as we flew over the coastline of Ireland heading for Dublin.  I had a lump in my throat and tears welled in my eyes as I looked across the seats and out the window at the country I had so longed to visit.  I could clearly see the waves breaking on the shore and the mountains in the distance, not far away, and the green of the land, as we were flying low across the coastline.


The line for Customs wasnít too bad this time, but I was disappointed with the non-interest shown by the Customs official that stamped my passport.  No smile, no welcoming words.  I was so excited to be in Ireland, and hoped the rest of the people I met werenít as unfriendly as he appeared to be.  I always say at my workplace that the person on the front desk is the window to the rest of us in the building, and I maintain that view in every arena in life where people are greeting you as an outsider.  Iím still amazed that the only country we visited that stamped our passports on the way out, was at home in Sydney, and in Bangkok.  We could still be in England, Ireland and the US except for the departure forms we filled out each time.  Cuz and I had different dates in our passports for the length of time we could stay in each country as well.  Strange.  Should I be neurotic that on occasions she had longer time-spans than I had?


From Dublin airport and back were the only two legs of our trip that we hadnít organised transfers for.  The price was prohibitive according to my travel agent, and as we were going to be driving ourselves back to the airport on our way to New York via Frankfurt, it didnít seem to be important.  Probably the easiest transfer we had on the trip was from Dublin airport to our hotel, as we caught a bus from outside the airport that dropped us off at a corner right near the hotel. 


We were booked to stay at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin, and the bus trip took only Ĺ hour.  A short walk from the corner and we found the hotel. There was a ramp outside the front door of the hotel to drag your bags up, and once we arrived at the reception desk, the concierge arranged for someone to take our bags to our room for us.  The foyer was impressive, everything seemed to be made of wood, polished highly and not showing the wear of time.  I could see there was a bar behind the reception area, in another largish room, and another one off to the other side.  The restaurant, where we would be having breakfast, was to the left of the second bar area I saw on a scan around.


There is no smoking allowed in Ireland in any Hotel open areas, but we were allocated a smoking room. Our room was on the 1st floor, and the view was outstanding, out the window onto a car park and the rear view of many old buildings.  However, it was air-conditioned and a smoking room, but we couldnít open the window.  The room wasnít as big as the one we ended up with in London, but was much nicer with a marble bathroom.  There was no bar fridge, and when you are staying a few days somewhere, a fridge is really necessary so you can have cool drinks and perhaps some food.  This is something the hotels should cater for in my opinion.  Perhaps they hope you will utilise the bar areas for any drinks.


We were both bushed that day once we settled in, and only walked to find a local convenience store to buy drinks.  I drank a lot of bottled water while I was overseas and always had a bottle with me whenever I went out.  The world out there isnít like home where there are shops around all over the place to buy drinks and food.  After a light dinner in the Bar downstairs in the hotel, we returned to our room and cuz hit the sheets.  I did some washing and hung my wet clothes up in the wardrobe, placing a bath mat under them to soak up the water dripping out. 


I had a look at the list of charges for washing and dry-cleaning that was hanging up in the wardrobe, and couldnít believe the cost.  The charges ranged from 3.50 Euro for one pair of undies, to about 8 Euro for a pair of jeans.  It seemed totally off the wall that they could charge those prices for laundering guestsí clothing. Luckily the room had an ironing board and iron.  Needless to say my clothes took a couple of days to dry, and when cuz washed some as well the next day, I could tell she wasnít too impressed that I used up so many coat hangers. 


We had found quite a lot of brochures in the foyer of the hotel, and planned the next day to travel again on a hop on hop off bus around Dublin.  Before I hit the sheets I tried sending some sms messages, and was happy that the phone worked once more.  I had to plan when I sent messages so that it was at times when Bryan and my family were awake.  12.30 am in Dublin was 9.30 am in Sydney, so there was no point in sending messages at night unless it was around 11.00 pm in Dublin.


Monday already, and a week since we left Sydney!  I was up at 7.00 am and whilst cuz was sleeping, I dressed and put on my face so that I wasnít hogging the bathroom when she wanted it.  I had an okay sleep, but the bed was like a rock and I missed my waterbed big-time.  Once again breakfast was part of the deal with the hotel booking, and this time the breakfast room was delightful and so was breakfast.  We left there and walked to where we were to catch the hop on hop off bus, after visiting the post office and posting some cards home.  I bought some souvenirs at the Tourist office where we purchased our bus tickets.  I had decided to stow all my purchases in my carry on bag instead of taking a chance with them in my check-in luggage, so I had a bit of juggling to do once we returned to the hotel.  It would also alleviate concern about extra weight in that bag.


We got off the bus at the Guinness complex and did the tour.  I was going to have a Guinness, complimentary one, but the line-up was taking too long.  As anyone who drinks draught Guinness knows, it takes a few minutes for each glass to be poured as the contents need to settle before the glass is topped up, and again before you drink it.  I bought some memorabilia from the shop for family, and moved outside to wait for cuz.  We had, of course, toured the complex separately.  There was a horse and cart parked outside the Guinness complex and I took a photo. 


From there we bussed it to Christchurch Cathedral (Anglican) and again I paid to go inside.  It was a beautiful church and worth the visit.  I have this thing about Churches even though I really am not that religious, if at all. I was christened and confirmed in the Church of England, but once the CofE became Anglican, I lost interest and decided that I didnít have a religion anymore. Catholic Churches always drew me to them and I was angry, even as a child, that I hadnít been christened in the Catholic Church.  My father was Catholic but there was something in his family history that came from his father, that made him hide the fact he was Catholic.  Perhaps it was something that had happened in Ireland to his fatherís grandparents; as my father died in 1990 and I didnít think to ask, I will never know the answer.  All I know is that whenever he was in hospital, and that was quite frequent in the last years of his life, he made my mother promise not to tell anyone what religion he was as he didnít want any Priests coming to see him.  Therein lies a story I wish I had thought to question.


I believe yes, but in a power not a God.  My views on religion are my own and are strong ones.  Perhaps what I was told some years back, when I had my hand read, is true .  This person knew so much about my life, and me, knowing the exact years and what had happened to me, that I have to believe he had a gift.  He told me that in a former life I was a nun, so maybe I was one in Ireland. I probably was burned at the stake for sleeping with a priest.  Thatís another story because I actually did sleep with an ex-Irish priest, but in Australia, and in this life!


We began to learn about the weather in Ireland that first day out.  One minute it would be fine, next minute raining.  And unbelievable as it was to me, there are no awnings on shops in Ireland.  If it rains and you are out and about shopping, then donít look for an awning to shelter under because you wonít find one.  I actually did see an awning out of the hop on hop off bus and took a picture of it; it was so unique.  From that first day I thought it would be a good idea to carry an umbrella with me, which at least would stop my head from getting wet.  Unfortunately I kept forgetting to find it in my bag and went out most days without it.


I made some purchases at a Celtic Shop and also an arts and crafts shop using MasterCard.  I shuddered to think what the actual price in AU$ was; best not to think about it and just enjoy.  I bought a Claddagh ring (silver) for Bryan and slipped it on my middle finger for safekeeping.  A promise I made to myself a long time ago was to buy a silver Claddagh ring in Ireland, but Bryan gave me a gold one with tiny diamonds in the crown a couple of years ago.  Buying him a silver one seemed a good idea.  I remember my mother telling me that if you are going to give someone jewellery, then you should wear it first as itís supposed to be lucky.


We did a lot of walking that day with my legs causing me grief most of the day.  I pushed on though and cuz actually stopped once and let me sit down on some steps for a while.  We didnít have any lunch and after returning to the hotel we had a rest; again no dinner.  One of the brochures was for a Musical Pub Crawl and off we set later that evening to join the group.  More walking groan*.  Because we had trouble finding the pub where the group was meeting, it was too late to eat.  I didnít drink that night as I had an empty stomach, and for about 3 hours stomped from pub to pub.  Cuz was of course at the head of the group and I brought up the rear, limping along wishing I could lie down.  The music was okay; a two-man band.  Storytelling was part of the evening by the musicians.  I wondered how I would pull up the next day as I hit the sheets.


An interesting bit of trivia about the Republic of Ireland.  There are no Police, as they are called Garda, meaning Guardian.  In Northern Ireland they are called Police, as it is the UK part of Ireland.


Tuesday arrived, sunny, windy and cool.  Hard a good breakfast, just in case!  We walked uptown and visited the Trinity Library to view the Book of Kells.  It was worth the visit and a video presentation within the display showed how books were once made, from pages to covers to binding.  A lot of work lovingly put into something precious using archaic (to us) tools and materials.  The pages they wrote on were made from calfskin and the inks came from many sources of stones etc for colours.  They even used egg white and yolk.  A pointed tool made the lines on the calfskin that allowed the scribe to write straight, and three scribes usually worked on books such as this.  One scribe did the writing and the others mostly illustrated the pages.  The letters at the beginning of paragraphs were very ornate and colourful. 


The condition of the book is amazing.  There was no touching of course, as it lay under glass in a cabinet.  The walls of the rooms were covered in huge blown-up pictures of the pages. Unfortunately, like most of the Ďmust seeí things when you are a tourist, you arenít given much time to stop and ponder over anything as thereís always a throng behind you wanting the space you are taking up.  I walked upstairs to the library, the Long Room, where there were thousands of old books; shelf after shelf of them.  I just read on the Internet that there are over 200,000 books in the library, so no wonder I was in awe at the number of shelves.  All of these areas were roped off, so there was no chance of touching any of the books.  I left all the small change I had in my money belt in the donation box as I passed by because I considered the preservation of those precious books worthy of a donation. 


We found a camera shop later and I had the photos I had taken up to that time copied onto a CD, just in case I ran out of room on the camera and needed to erase some photos, and also just in case something happened to my camera.  More small purchases were made to take home.  The cost was 7.99 Euro for the CD.  Had dinner at a pub, salmon, mash and tomatoes and a piece of apple pie.  The meals I have had since leaving home have certainly been nothing to write home about.  Finding vegetables is like finding a four-leaf clover, with the exception of spuds (potatoes).  Fortunately breakfasts at the Davenport were exceptional, in a lovely restaurant.  So much classier than London where it was like a cafeteria (well a bit better).  Breakfasts so far have all been Ďserve yourselfí, in Bangkok, London and in Dublin.  Continental or the full-on breakfast with scrambled and fried eggs, bacon, hash brown, tomatoes, baked beans, black pudding, white pudding, toast, fruit juice, tea and coffee.


We tried to find the Distillery but after walking around in circles we gave up.  Hopping into a taxi seemed to me to be the most feasible idea, but walk we did, with cuz out front, map in hand.  Most of the time she had a really good sense of direction and I envy her that skill.  However this day the odds were against us.  We actually got lost a few times in Dublin and itís not hard to figure out why Ė it is after all, an Irish city with few, if any street signs! Some of the streets change name at almost every intersection;  now that is confusing!  


Cuz hit the sheets around 9 pm and I sat up writing postcards and my journal for the trip.  Ironed a few T-shirts that had dried in the wardrobe.  I hate having to wash in a bathtub and yet in all the walking Iíve done so far, I havenít seen a Laundromat in Dublin.  I cashed $200US today and received just less than 150 Euro in exchange.  To date Iíve spent $900US, so am online with what I worked out I would spend per day.  The extra on MasterCard wasnít in my equation of expenditure, but heck, I may never pass this way again.  Tomorrow morning we leave the Davenport to pick up the car and set out on our travels.  I queried the concierge regarding the best way to find Hertz, and the best way is by taxi as it is a distance from the city.  Another tip for travellers; check out how far your hotel is from the city you are visiting and also from destinations such as a hire car company.  What ever happened to the Ďdeliver to the doorí car hire?


We found an Internet Cafť close to the hotel on our walk back one afternoon, but because of the difference in time, and the shop only stayed open until 8.00 pm, there wasnít any point in trying to use Messenger to chat to anyone.  I only used a computer once while I was away and that was in London.  The cost for an hour in Dublin was 2.00 Euro, so much cheaper than London.  The Internet Cafť was an interesting little place.  It was a shop that sold a few bits and pieces, some fruit and drinks etc., and set up behind the shop counter were a number of computers.   Out the front on the pavement were a couple of tables with a few chairs.  Not much atmosphere at all about that little place.  Cuz went in and used the computer; I thought she went in to get drinks and waited outside.  After a while I wandered in to see where she was and found her at a computer.  It was very hot inside so I went back outside and waited for her.


Dublin was like most big cities.  Bustling and busy.  There was a lot to see and a lot we didnít get to see. People walked along the main street in droves.  Itís a very wide street with wide footpaths and a lane-width island in the middle of the road where you get on and off buses. I would have travelled around by taxi to get to places, but not my cousin.  Walking is good for you I know, but often itís not the best way to get from A to B, especially in places where you donít have a clue where things are.  It seemed that there was always a problem about how much things cost, and I looked at the trip from the perspective that I probably would never be able to do it again, so to heck with extra costs.  I found out about some Ďextra costsí the next morning at Hertz rental.  But thatís another story in the next episode.


Vena McGrath

7 October 2006


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Reviewed by Jackie (Micke) Jinks 10/8/2006
Brought back memories of my trip, only we WALKED most all over Dublin - City Center, South of the Lifey; SoWest to Guiness Brewery, to Modern Museum, back to St. Pat Cathedral, ChristChurch...then SoEast to Trinity College (Book of Kells was awsome!), St. Stephens Green, and shopping on Grafton St. Not all done in one day, 'tho! I had to slow-down my gr-niece and gr-nephew (18 & 21). We were at the Parliament, just across from Dublin Castle/City Hall, which served Irish Breakfast each morning - inluded in the hotel room fee.
Did you try the black sausage? I did...only the first day :o)

I think my most spiritual part of trip was standing on The Hill of Tara! Had the feeliing the Ancients were speaking to me; brought me to tears, it did.

Great remembrances you write...

Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 10/7/2006
Now I wanna' go to the Emerald Isle; what a beautiful capture of her charm and mystique! Very well done, Vena; brava!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in America, Karen Lynn in Texas. :D

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