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Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

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Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

Well, I’m back with another excruciatingly long and obsessively detailed trip report. What can I say? It makes me happy…and if it’s too long for you, remember, you don’t have to read it! I’ve put in headings throughout to help you skim if that’s your pleasure…or if you’re just looking for specific info.

This was my fourth trip in less than two years to Ireland. Alas, it was my shortest trip as well. Still worth it, though! A lot of this trip was returning to places I’ve been and loved. So I spent 3 nights and 2 full days in County Wicklow staying at the Glendalough Hermitage in Laragh. I then moved up to Dublin for the Dublin Theatre Festival for the remainder of my trip, staying at The Townhouse.

But there were new things as well. I spent ‘jet lag day’ exploring parts of County Kildare. Later I broke up the time in Dublin with a full day in and around County Meath (with tapl!...which was awesome!). New and old places in County Wicklow and Dublin as well.

Including travel time, the trip came out to 10 days and 9 nights. I’ve broken down the trip report into 10 replies, 1 for each of the days of my trip. Some are short. Most are long.

So enjoy…or not!

Keith

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1. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

SUNDAY, 3 OCTOBER – FLIGHT TO DUBLIN

For the first time, due to a cheaper fare, I flew American from Chicago to Dublin. I’ve flown on Aer Lingus for all three other trips. Unfortunately it was the most expensive fare I’ve paid for any of my trips. It seems that air travel has not had as many soft fares as I’ve found in the past.

I have to say that the American flight felt more crowded in the seats, but that may have just been because it was in a smaller plane, a 757. Only 2 movies, whereas the Aer Lingus flights had individual screens at each seat on 5 of the 6 legs I’ve flown with them…with multiple movie choices, too. The food with Aer Lingus was better than American’s, but that’s not saying much. The last disadvantage with American is that the flight to Dublin gets in about an hour later and leaves about 2 hours earlier on the return. That’s 3 hours less in Ireland! I still liked the monetary savings over Aer Lingus, though.

And now you’ve just read my shortest reply.

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2. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

MONDAY, 4 OCTOBER – COUNTY KILDARE

ARRIVAL

Like every trip I’ve taken to Dublin, the plane arrived early. This time it was around 8:30am. I don’t check luggage so I was quickly out in the arrivals hall. No lines. No waiting. Basically just walked right through other than stopping to get my passport stamped. I’m looking forward to experiencing the new terminal in May, but this one has worked just fine for me!

ATM

I took out €500 in cash at the ATM. It’s great to have this easy possibility for getting local currency. No hassle. All I did was call my bank in advance of the trip alerting them to the expected usage in Ireland and raising my daily limit so I can take out that much.

HERITAGE IRELAND

On to the Dublin Tourism desk where I bought the Heritage Ireland card for €21…in cash of course! This is a great deal. For this low price you get access to all the Heritage Ireland sites (with the exception of Muckross Farms in Killarney) for free. For a year. I had bought a card on my first trip to Ireland which paid for itself on that trip. I then came back to Ireland twice more within a year (barely) and was able to use the card even more. On this trip I only got €19 in value BUT I’m coming back in May of 2011. So very much worth it for me.

http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/

HERTZ CAR HIRE

Each and every time I’ve come to Ireland, I have booked a car with Hertz through Journey through Ireland. I prepay for the rental, SCDW excluded. My cost for 3 days (including CDW, etc.) was $91.26. I then purchase the SCDW at the car hire counter. Since I get a small car (always wise when driving on Ireland’s narrow roads!), my SCDW would only be €10 per day for a total of €30. Journey through Ireland is also nice in that they have negotiated a 2 hour grace period for returning the car. This can be very helpful given the early arrival of most transatlantic flights. (Note that I have never used their touring services, which have gotten mixed reviews. I have only ever used them for car rental and have always had an excellent experience. I will use no other.)

http://www.irelandtouring.com/

So I took the shuttle bus to the Hertz lot. Due to which cars were available onsite, they upgraded me to a Fiat 500 at no additional charge. (I really enjoyed driving this car and it was still nice and small.) Hertz provides the car with a full tank. You have the option of prepaying for a full tank at a low rate, being charged on return for amount of petrol used at a high rate or simply returning it full. I always choose to return it full (there is a petrol station at the airport which is very convenient when returning the car). This seems to be a much better deal than those companies which require you to buy a full tank and return it empty. How can you plan for doing exactly that? Also, I always get confused at the estimated charges that I’m presented with when picking up the car. I always ask. I’m always still confused when they just keep saying it’s an estimation. This time, the estimation was around €150, which I didn’t understand given that I had prepaid except for SCDW. Well, it includes the fuel charge in case one doesn’t return it full…and some other charges I never understood. Didn’t matter, because just like every other time, I was only charged for my SCDW on the return. €30. It has always worked out exactly right with no hassle.

One last thing that I like. Hertz has changed their policy regarding the M50 barrierless toll. On my previous trip I was responsible for paying it on my own (which is actually not really a problem). Now they simply charge customers after the trip. More convenient. Now that I’ve received my credit card statement, as far as I can tell, they charged me at the €3 rate which is what I would have had to pay on my own as an M50 user who is non-registered.

DRIVE TO KILDARE

By 9:30am I was on the road taking the M1 to the M50. I missed the turn off to the N7, not because it wasn’t well signposted. I was just in an “I’m in Ireland again!” happy reverie. Got turned around 2 stops later and continued the journey to Kildare. The goal was the Irish National Stud, which was well signposted. On the way I saw the hoped for sign to St Brigid’s Well. I agree with the advice I received that it was worth seeing, but not worth driving out of the way for. Small. Lovely. Nice meditation space. Thanks to Suzy_flag for the suggestion.

IRISH NATIONAL STUD

I arrived around 11am. I had prepaid for my ticket online, paying €10.50 rather than the €11 I would have paid at the door. I simply showed them a copy of my email and was in.

I spent the first 45 minutes or so walking around the two gardens: Japanese and St Fiachra’s. They were both lovely but the hoped for fall color had only just barely started. The Japanese garden takes you on life’s journey from birth to death. A beautiful, serene walk. But I think I’ve enjoyed Japanese Gardens more that were just a place to be, rather than having destinations. Still quite nice. St Fiachra’s garden, somewhat more expansive, is representative of a spiritual journey. I enjoyed the recreated beehive huts but not so much the, in my mind, misplaced Waterford crystal garden.

At 11:45 I went through the Horse Museum. I only spent about 5-10 minutes here just reading the main texts. It was enough for me. Someone with more interest in horses would spend more time reading all the detailed text, maybe 30 minutes.

My last stop was the noon tour. It was led by a gentleman (I didn’t get his name) who was in charge of all the stallions at the National Stud. The tour was far more fascinating than I had expected (given my small interest in horses…I had come for the gardens). The ’40 minute tour’ lasted about an hour. Educational. Bonus stories. Lots of commentary.

Highly recommended as a worthwhile stop and destination.

http://www.irish-national-stud.ie/

HIGH CROSSES

At 1pm I headed for Clauds suggestion of the Old Kilcullen High Cross. Despite directions from Megalithic Ireland AND a good map (although not the most recent….the motorway has changed some of the roads in the area) which were contradictory, and after lots of driving and looking, I eventually gave up and headed on towards Moone. I was never lost…I just couldn’t find the graveyard containing the remnants of the high cross…clearly my directions and maps were faulty. Next time.

On my way to Moone I drove through Ballitore, but since the Quaker Museum was closed on Mondays, it was just a drive through.

Drove on through Timolin. I looked for Timolin Pewter. Never found it despite 3 passes through the town. That may have been old info I was using. But things soon got better.

Arriving in MOONE, I easily found my way to the well signposted site. And Clauds you were right! Had it all to myself which was lovely. Phenomenal 8th century high cross that’s the 2nd tallest in Ireland at 17.5 feet. Themes of the carvings on the cross are of the help of God. I’m glad for the protective glass roof but didn’t care for the placards, helpful as they were, actually being in the church (would have had better photos without them). Made it feel more like a museum than a sacred site. I suppose ultimately that’s what it is since the cross has been moved for its protection. The other end of the ruined church would have made for some beautiful photos…if it wasn’t for the fenced in conservation area. Still, all in all a very worthwhile stop…and free.

On to CASTLEDERMOT to see the 2 excellent 9th century high crosses in a graveyard there. There’s also a picturesque Romanesque doorway remnant and a 10th century round tower. Very evocative free site that was also well signposted.

http://www.megalithicireland.com/ (links for the above sites under County Kildare)

BALTINGLASS ABBEY

Okay, this site is actually in County Wicklow…but just barely. After visiting Castledermot, I struck out cross country towards Baltinglass. No problem getting to Baltinglass with my detailed map but had a bit of trouble finding the Abbey. I first headed for the church tower that I saw. Just a church. Then I saw an Over the Top tour van parked by a cemetery. Thought the abbey might be behind it. Nope. Just a cemetery, cows and sheep. The cows were all gathered protectively around a dead calf staring hard and intensely at me. Creepy. Should have taken a photo, I supposed, but I was more than a little weirded out.

Then I remembered Clauds directions to me (which I should have printed instead of trusting to memory). After crossing the bridge IMMEDIATELY turn left. Went back and sure enough there was the road. Missable signpost to St Mary’s church. Just a short way to Baltinglass Abbey. Small but lovely site. Unfortunately it was raining lightly so I didn’t get many photos. I had left my hood for the camera back at home so my lens kept getting drops of water on it. (On the plus side this was the ONLY time I was rained on during my entire trip.) This is another great place to stop for free, but not going out of the way for (which I really didn’t).

I ended up spending about 10-15 minutes at each of these sites, which was just right for me.

LARAGH, COUNTY WICKLOW

On to my destination for the night. I arrived in Laragh about 4:45pm and was hungry! I had skipped lunch and only eaten an energy bar along the way. So first stop was the WICKLOW HEATHER RESTAURANT. I had the excellent Fish and Chips with mushy peas (€13.95) and tea (€2.30)

http://www.thewicklowheather.com/

Around 6pm I went to GLENDALOUGH HERMITAGE. I simply let myself in to the waiting hermitage where I had stayed before. Glendalough Hermitage was actually closed during my stay because they’re upgrading each of the hermitages. However, since I had stayed there before (3 times!) and was familiar with the place AND one of the hermitages was complete, they allowed me to be an exception. I had prepaid for 3 nights back during my stay in February. €45 per night for a total of €135. Very nice upgrade to the hermitage, too. A new comfy chair. The shower is now enclosed (used to be rather drafty with just a shower curtain). Everything now has well labeled electric switches. There’s a new corner armoire for clothes, etc. The provided table is new. I loved it and settled in.

www.hermitage.dublindiocese.ie/home.html

After a great ‘jet lag day’, I was asleep by 8pm.

Here’s a link to my photo album ‘County Kildare & a Bit of County Wicklow (Ireland, October 2010)’ which has 20 of the pictures that I took this day: www.facebook.com/album.php…

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3. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

TUESDAY, 5 OCTOBER – COUNTY WICKLOW 1

Slept for about 12 hours, getting up at 9am (I was awake from 3-4am…typical). Rested and on the other side of jet lag, I went and met Sister Margaret a bit before 10am. She was fairly new in her assignment here so we had not yet met. We had a lovely chat until about 10:30am. I booked and paid for my next year’s stay in May.

Then it was down to the Wicklow Heather for a late breakfast (served until noon). Nice chat with one of the waitresses. She clarified for me that black pudding is from the blood and white pudding is from the bits and pieces. Sounds a bit off putting BUT I happen to love both. Had the Full Irish…not because I’m a tourist…because I really like it! This one was egg, potatoes, 2 bacon, 2 sausage, white pudding, tomato, mushrooms, toast and tea for €9.95. Tea was €2.05. Excellent.

MOUNT USHER GARDENS

Around 11:30am I drove to Mount Usher Gardens and Arboretum in Ashford, arriving around 11:45am. Paid €7.50 for admission and enjoyed the gardens for about 1 hour. This was my second visit here. I came back because I really enjoy this place. I’m especially looking forward to seeing the gardens in May of next year. This place has what I’ve called before a ‘surrounding beauty’ with a huge diversity in its plant life, in particular the many tree specimens. The place is more wild and informal as opposed to formal plantings. That’s what I like best. I think this place is one of the big reasons why people should experience more than just Powerscourt and Glendalough when visiting County Wicklow.

At 1pm I decided to have an early ‘lunch’ after my late breakfast and eat at the adjacent Avoca Garden Café. For ‘lunch’ I had the Apple and Blackberry Crumble with Ice Cream on a Biscuit. Exactly what I had last year. Mmmm. €5.95 plus the tea for €2.40 PLUS the unusual (for me as a solo diner) service charge of €0.83. But I tip anyways so that was fine.

http://www.mountushergardens.ie/

AVOCA

2pm meant a drive to Avoca. I hadn’t been yet. Recently I had seen a few episodes of ‘Ballykissangel’ for the first time. So I thought, why not? It looks lovely…and it is. I stopped at the Avoca Mill Store (but skipped the café having just come from another Avoca café). I liked the multicolored blankets. But not enough to buy. Walked through the weaving area on a self-guided tour. Free and mildly interesting. On into Avoca proper. Nice to see the church and pub from ‘Ballykissangel’. I should have gone into the pub. Oh well.

MEETING OF THE WATERS

On the drive back to Laragh, I stopped at the Meeting of the Waters. Lovely place to sit and soak it in where the Avonmore and Avonbeg Rivers meet to form the Avoca River. Thomas Moore’s rather sentimental poem ‘The Meeting of the Waters’ attempts to capture the place (and is engraved on a monument in the small park):

“There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet / As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet / Oh the last rays of feeling and life must depart / Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart / Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart”

“Yet it was not that nature had shed o'er the scene / Her purest of crystal and brightest of green / 'Twas not her soft magic of streamlet or hill / Oh No 'twas something more exquisite still / Oh No 'twas something more exquisite still”

“ 'Twas that friends, the belov'd of my bosom were near / Who made every scene of enchantment more dear / And who felt how the best charms of nature improve / When we see them reflected from looks that we love / When we see them reflected from looks that we love”

“Sweet vale of Avoca! How calm could I rest / In thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best / Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease / And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace / And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace”

Okay, I’ll admit it…even if it’s heresy. I hate the poem. HATE it. Call me an uncultured boor. BUT I loved the place. Another reason for deeper County Wicklow explorations.

MOTTEE STONE

Heading on, I took a slight detour to the Mottee Stone. My OSI 1:50,000 map was indispensible. Got there with no problem despite the inconsistent signage. Grand views from atop the stone on this beautiful, partly cloudy autumn day. A quick…and great…detour. Yep. County Wicklow rocks! Sorry…had to say it…

Did some more very rural driving to Glenmalure and GLENMALURE LODGE where I took tea outside and sat enjoying the late afternoon. Just €2 for tea. This has become a favorite place to visit (and sit and think and read and journal) when in County Wicklow.

Then at 5:30pm it was back to Laragh. After dropping off my car at the hermitage, I walked down to the Wicklow Heather again. I ordered the Heather House Chicken (€18.95), a Guinness (€4.30) and an Irish Coffee (€5.95). The last two were why I dropped off my car first! Besides a side salad, the chicken also came with a sweet carrot purée, onion mash and broccoli. Really good and satisfying meal.

Then in for the night retreating back at Glendalough Hermitage.

You can see 20 of my pics from this day in an album cleverly called ‘County Wicklow Day 1 (Ireland, October 2010)’ here: www.facebook.com/album.php…

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4. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

WEDNESDAY, 6 OCTOBER – COUNTY WICKLOW 2

Stayed up WAY too late last night. What was I doing? Besides retreat stuff, planning possible future trips to Ireland! LOL Besides the SW trip with my friend in May, I’m now looking at the NW in September and Glendalough/Dublin after Christmas in 2011. Just sayin’. So I didn’t get up in the morning until after 10:30am. Down to the Wicklow Heather for another Full Irish with tea. While eating, I overheard an Irish couple talking about all the places they had just checked out on Google Street View. They were very into it. Made me smile.

WICKLOW MOUNTAINS

After breakfast I went on one of my favorite drives. First up to GLENMACNASS WATERFALL. Made a brief stop on this beautiful day. Onward to SALLY GAP and then LOUGH TAY. It was really windy and a lot colder up above Lough Tay. I only took one picture of the valley and fled back to my car (where my coat was). I had lots of pictures from previous trips, so I called it good and moved on.

SCULPTURE-IN-WOODLAND

I had planned to head to Glendalough next and perhaps do some hiking. BUT while at Lough Tay I noticed a number of tour buses around and realized that they were all on their way to Glendalough. So I changed my plans and took a detour at Annamoe and drove the R763 towards Ashford. Why? Thought I’d check out the intriguingly named ‘Sculpture-In-Woodland’ park.

On arrival I found out that ‘Sculpture-In-Woodland’ is part of Devil’s Glen Park. There were two trails: The 5km Waterfall Trail and the 4km Upland Trail. I took the Waterfall Trail starting around 1pm and hiked at a slow ramble until almost 3pm. It’s not a difficult trail at all, but I took my own sweet time enjoying the solitary walk. The first half runs along the cliff overlooking the small valley and gently descending along the way. The waterfall, with other small falls, is in the valley’s cul-de-sac. Beautiful place. I could have sat there all day. I didn’t, of course. The walk back was along the side of the Vartrey River, also gently descending until the end. I loved the sound of the river accompanying me along the way. It was very dark in the valley underneath the trees even on this sunny day. Cool. Then some switchbacks up and back to the car park.

The sculptures, though? Not so much. Some have been damaged severely over time and really not that much to enjoy. More interesting were the small discreet plaques with a short statement scattered along the hike. Presumably each statement was evoked by the specific site. The one at the waterfall viewing site said something like, ‘As soon as I find the ring, I shall propose.’

Very worthwhile detour that I’m glad I took. So why not another?

THE SEA

After the short hike, I decided I wanted to see the sea. So I headed through Wicklow on the R750 south towards Brittas Bay. Both parking areas were closed, but I did find a place near Mizen Head to pull over and look back at great views over Brittas Bay beach. Later I pulled off and walked briefly on Ennereilly Beach. Not as nice, but still good to listen to the sea. Always good to listen to the sea.

GETTING LOST

Well…sort of getting lost. On driving through Arklow, I missed the turn for the R747. I realized that when I saw signs indicating I was in Coolgreany! What? Should have been Woodenbridge. Nope. So I struck cross country with my 1:210,000 atlas. I had left my 1:50,000 maps at the hermitage since I obviously wouldn’t need them today. Whoops.

LOVED this beautiful, rural drive. Especially the last part, a steep, single lane, switchback descent that delivered me in one piece onto the previously missed R747. Some men were doing some work cutting trees right there. I asked which way to Avoca since I wasn’t sure where I hit the R747. I pronounced Avoca with the accent on the first syllable. The guy said, ‘Where?’, laughed, and then pronounced it for me with the accent on the second syllable. I laughed, too. He told me that I was real close, just 1km to Woodenbridge, a right turn onto the R752, then 3-4kms to aVOca. (When relating this story later in the week to tapl, I made the exact some pronunciation mistake. Laughed again.)

AVOCA REDUX

Drove on to Avoca and stopped in for a pot of tea at Fitzgerald’s that I had passed on yesterday. Yep. They really did film Ballykissangel in here. And full of locals much like the TV show. Horse racing on the television. Guinness on the bar. I suspect there was a nearby bookmaker as there was a constant in and out while I was drinking my tea. €2.

GLENDALOUGH

After all the detours, it was time to drive to Glendalough if I was going to visit at all. I drove through Rathdrum on the way. First time I’ve had smooth sailing through the middle of Rathdrum which can really back up with it’s narrow through street. I arrived at Glendalough at 6pm and sunset was just 50 minutes away.

I first stopped off at the monastic city (parking by the old monastic entrance), spending only about 15 minutes taking a few pictures (remember this was my FOURTH trip here). Because of the impending sunset I decided to move quickly on and walk the Green Trail to the Upper Lake. The bridge, which was out on my trip in February, was still out! Wanting to get on up there I ended up driving to the upper lake and paid my €4 to be the only one in the parking lot. I probably could have gotten away with parking outside the lot since virtually no one was around. No matter.

I’m so glad I did drive up there. There was an amazing sunset over the Upper Lake that I caught just in time because of the position of the clouds. I love the photos I was able to get. I could not have gotten them later, which would have been the case if I had walked. The clouds shifted and the glorious color washed out.

(Note to any visitors to Glendalough. This is entirely too short a time to allow for a visit here. It helps that I’ve spent a lot of time on previous trips…but I’d say plan on an absolute minimum of 2 hours…and more is better…a lot better.)

As last night, dropped off the car at the hermitage and walked down to the Wicklow Heather for dinner. Had the Salmon with Mediterranean Vegetables and Side Salad (€19.95) and Tea (€2.30). This time I had dessert. Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble (€5.95) and an Irish Coffee (€5.95). To finish it all off, they gave me a small Irish Crème Liquor on the house. Nice. The whole meal was fantastic and the Wicklow Heather continues to be a favorite place to eat in Ireland.

20 more pictures from this day can be found in my surprisingly named photo album, ‘County Wicklow Day 2 (Ireland, October 2010)’, at this link: www.facebook.com/album.php…

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5. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

THURSDAY, 7 OCTOBER – DUBLIN THEATRE FESTIVAL

Up early and drove to Dublin Airport to return my car. Took one hour to get there. I filled up the tank at the service station near the airport and returned the car to Hertz with absolutely no hassles or unexpected charges. Took the shuttle to the airport terminal, bought an Airlink return (round trip) ticket from the machine for €10 and rode the 747 into Dublin.

Arriving at Busáras, I walked the short distance to THE TOWNHOUSE where I stay each time I’m in Dublin. The receptionist recognized my face from previous visits. Nice! I paid my €270 for my 5 night stay (€50 per weekday night and €60 per weekend night) and booked my next stay for May, a twin since I’ll be travelling with a friend (€80 per night). And I already know what the twins are like since previously, and again this trip, I’ve been upgraded to a twin room from my booked single. I’ve also been upgraded to a double before. Actually, I prefer the smaller single rooms for their coziness, but I appreciate the sentiment. Overall, The Townhouse is great for me. Includes a good breakfast (a bit institutional as it’s served cafeteria style, but still fine). There are computers available for use as well as a free wi-fi area. The rooms are clean, simply decorated and have all the expected amenities (television, hair dryer, tea and coffee, in room safe, etc.). Plenty of water pressure and lots of hot water for the showers. The location is convenient to walking pretty much everywhere and is especially convenient to the bus station, LUAS stops and Connolly train station.

http://www.townhouseofdublin.com/

My room wasn’t quite ready (after all, it was only a bit after 10am…but on a couple trips it HAS been ready this early), so I stored my luggage with them and headed out to my favorite city anywhere, Dublin.

NATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE

I have a few places that I love to revisit each time I’m in Dublin (at least if they have a new exhibit). Such was the case with the small gem, the National Photographic Archive in Meeting House Square in Temple Bar. The exhibition was ‘Power and Privilege: Photographs of the Big House in Ireland, 1858-1922’. Interesting and a little bit disturbing (think about it). Spent 15 or 20 minutes here.

nli.ie/en/national-photographic-archive.aspx

CLADDAGH RECORDS

Normally, I would cross Meeting House Square and take in the Gallery of Photography. But it had not quite opened yet for the day. So I followed up instead with my regular visit to Claddagh Records. It’s located very close by on Cecilia Street and is an excellent shop focused on traditional Irish/Celtic music, a passion of mine. Each time I visit I ask them for a couple recommendations of some great trad music that I’d have a hard time finding in the States. I’ve never been disappointed with their suggestions. This time I walked out with Steph Geremia’s ‘The Open Road’ (which was playing when I was in the store and I had already decided that I had to have it) and Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly’s ‘The Living Stream’. Each of them were €18. Still a perfect ‘record’ for Claddagh Records…sorry, again…but, I love them both.

http://claddaghrecords.com/

GALLERY OF PHOTOGRAPHY

After a great chat with the proprietor, it was back to Meeting House Square and the Gallery of Photography, another place I repeatedly visit. The current exhibit was ‘Stephen Ahern: Close to Home (Gallery of Photography Artist’s Award Winner 2010)’ Nice pictures of ordinary life. But was I art? Or does the emperor wear no clothes? I preferred last year’s winner and exhibit, ‘Common Ground’. This is a very small gallery and one sees everything in about 10 minutes. Always worth popping in and checking out.

http://www.galleryofphotography.ie/

DOUGLAS HYDE GALLERY

Yeah. Still another place I regularly check out. I walked over to Trinity College and the Douglas Hyde Gallery. The exhibit was ‘Holding Together (an exhibition to celebrate 50 years of the Modern Art collection of Trinity College)’. Meh…except for a couple pieces. (I did really like ‘A Mystical Figure’.) Methinks that they don’t have as much to celebrate as they thought. I’ve enjoyed previous exhibits here more…but such is the way with contemporary art…you never know what you’re going to get! Still was interesting and intriguing, though. Spent 10 or 15 minutes here (it’s also quite small).

http://www.douglashydegallery.com/

QUEEN OF TARTS

Back along Dame Street to Queen of Tarts, one of my favorite places to eat in Dublin. In fact I’ve eaten here more often than any other place. Around noon I had the Oven Roast Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart that came with salad, broccoli, potatoes and bread for €9.95. Add in the tea for €2.10. And don’t forget the Hot Blackberry and Apple Crumble for €5.50. Oh, so good! Great way to start off my dining in Dublin.

http://www.queenoftarts.ie/

After lunch, I went back to The Townhouse to settle into my room. On the way I stopped off at The Winding Stair to make a dinner reservation for Monday night. I had not made a reservation on my previous trip and the result was that I didn’t get to eat at one of my favorite Dublin restaurants. I was going to be sure this time!

After setting in, it was on to…

THE GAIETY THEATRE

I had chosen this week to be in Dublin so as to partake in the Dublin Theatre Festival. I had booked tickets online for 7 shows (including 3 on this day) and first up at 2:30pm was Sean O’Casey’s ‘Silver Tassie’ put on by the Druid Theatre Company. The ticket was €20.The previous year I had seen a Druid production of ‘The New Electric Ballroom’ in the Peacock. I was left with an ambivalent feeling towards them but wanted to see more of their work. What can I say? I don’t know what to think of this play, the production or the acting. There were brilliant parts. Brilliant staging. Brilliant acting. In particular the main character’s acting was fantastic. But the addition of much of the music to the play didn’t really work for me. I couldn’t understand what they were singing. And in my defense, neither could the Irish gentleman next to me. PLUS overall they weren’t very good…which more than marred obvious intended moments of beauty. The loud shot from the tank at the end of the 2nd act felt more gimmicky than helpful to the play. Overall it seemed to pit comedy versus drama rather than integrating them, whether in contrast or complement. Poor writing choices accentuated by poor direction/production and inconsistent acting. Glad I saw it, but not top tier. The Druid is coming to Chicago in March of next year with a touring production of ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’. I’m going to give them one more chance. (And I do love Martin McDonagh.)

http://dublintheatrefestival.com/

One last note. I had seen a production in the Gaiety last year with a seat in the balcony. The most uncomfortable theatre seating I have ever endured. No place for my legs and I’m on the short side. I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone taller. So this time I sat on the main floor and was quite comfortable. (The aforementioned gentleman said he had the same issues with the seating, as well.)

http://www.gaietytheatre.ie/

WOLFE’S IRISH ARTISAN BISTRO

In August dublinminx recommended checking out Wolfe’s Irish Artisan Bistro on Capel Street. I decided to try it out for dinner and I’m glad that I did. After walking through George’s Street Arcade (which I always feel like I should be more interested in than I am) on the way, I arrived at Wolfe’s around 5:30pm when they begin serving dinner. I immediately liked the place. There is a small ground floor dining area, which is where I ate, an upstairs first floor dining (which I did not see) and an outdoor heated area (which I passed through on the way to the toilet). I ordered a 3-course pre-theatre dinner for €20. Garlic Prawns on Toast for the starter. Mackerel, Potatoes and Salad for the main. Apple and Blackberry Crumble for dessert (obviously a favorite of mine). The prawns were simple but quite good. The whole mackerel was flaky and easy to eat. Very good. The potatoes, which had been roasted with some kind of meat, was perhaps my favorite. Nah. It was the crumble. Always the crumble. I also liked the mix of music here which included some blues. Tea was an inexpensive €1.80. The service was excellent. Wolfe’s has made it onto my list of places to eat on future trips. I want to try it for lunch sometime.

http://www.wolfes.ie/

THE GATE THEATRE

At 7pm I slowly wandered down to The Gate and picked up my tickets for two plays that night: ‘Celebration’ by Harold Pinter at 8pm and ‘Watt’ by Samuel Beckett at 10pm. The tickets were each €27 which I thought was a bit steep for such short plays. But such plays! Ended up being worth it.

First up was the one hour play ‘Celebration’. Excellent! Simple set design. Simple lighting. Acting within the text and serving the text. Not a weak link in the entire production. I wish I could have seen it again so as to keep processing what Pinter was getting it. It certainly portrayed the longing all have for something more, something else and differing ways of coping.

Between shows I walked to the nearby Murray’s pub on O’Connell, a non-descript but serviceable bar. Had a Bulmer’s Cider for €4.90. Enjoyed watching darts on the television. Actually a bit captivated by it. : )

Back to The Gate and the almost one hour ‘Watt’. Another great, phenomenal show at The Gate. The play features just one man played by Barry McGovern. The actor’s delivery completely opened up Beckett to me. While not my world view, I can definitely appreciate him more. Had a lovely chat with Kathleen next to me, who had also been next to me for ‘Celebration’.

I have to say, after seeing several plays in Dublin on previous (and this) trips, I think The Gate Theatre is my favorite. The Abbey might technically be nicer (and I do like The Abbey), but I enjoy theatre in The Gate more for some reason. It probably helps that I’ve only seen great productions in The Gate including Conor McPherson’s ‘The Birds’ and Brian Friel’s ‘Faith Healer’.

Whenever in Dublin, I will always check to see if there’s something on at The Gate!

http://www.gatetheatre.ie/

Afterwards, back to The Townhouse and in for the night.

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6. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

FRIDAY, 8 OCTOBER – HOHO

Time to do some DE research for Dublin. This was my fourth trip to Ireland and Dublin and I had not yet experienced either of the Hop On Hop Off bus tours. I decided to check one out of them, while using it for transportation to sites that I already knew I wanted to (re)visit. So I bought a ticket in advance online from the Dublin Bus version (green bus rather than the red bus which is put on by City Sightseeing) for €12.80 rather than the normal €16. So here are my thoughts…

HOHO BUS

First, the good news. About 2 months ago both HOHO tours dropped the 24 hour ticket. They’re now for 2 consecutive days. SO you can get most value for money by starting earlier on the first day of the ticket. Same price as before. I suspect it was just too difficult to manage tickets expiring at all different hours of the day. So easier and better for all.

The live commentary buses (2 out of 3 buses) were informative all the way around the circuit. Lots of details, history and helpful tourist info. I did not take a multilingual bus which is accomplished with headsets and prerecorded commentary. Note that all buses are clearly marked so you know which you’re in for. I chose to skip any multilingual bus and wait for the next live commentary one.

Buses are fairly frequent, coming around to each stop approximately every 10 minutes. The multilingual buses are every 30 minutes and the live commentary ones are the rest. At each bus stop is a sign with the expected times for buses and which type it will be. So it’s helpful when you get off the bus to check the schedule so as to determine approximately when you want to return and hop back on, especially if wishing to avoid the multilingual buses. (Note that these are approximations, so allow a little time cushion.) BTW I wondered how they maintained the basic on time schedule throughout the day. After completing a circuit (stops 1 through 23), the bus returns to stop 1. Then all riders are asked to get off and reboard on the waiting bus at stop 1 that will begin at its appointed time. SO each bus starts its circuit on time.

Now, the mixed news (there’s no bad news). The HOHO bus CAN be a great way of getting oriented to the city. It can also serve as transportation from site to site. BUT it may not be the best choice. I didn’t learn anything that I had not already learned on my own and on previous trips. The bus commentary, while informative, is fairly dry and matter of fact. Not particularly ‘fun’. The amount of commentary varies by driver. Also, the tour only goes in one direction. It takes 1½ hours to make a complete circuit. If you decide to ride around it once for orientation and then see sites, you’re committing 3 hours more or less to the bus ride and half of that time will be a repeat. Plus you’ll need to allow time for waiting for the bus. This is less of an issue now that it’s a 2 day ticket, though. Be aware that many of the sites are in easy walking distance of each other and it would actually be far faster to just take the walk. And if you want to go backwards, you’ll definitely want to walk. Some sites that are further out, though, benefit from the transportation (although you can do it a lot cheaper and quite easily either on regular Dublin Bus service or the LUAS Tram, depending on your destination). Personally, I would not take the tour again and could certainly have done without it. (I mainly did it to have an opinion here on TA…how sad is that? LOL)

So who do I recommend the HOHO bus for? If you’re looking for an orientation to the city, and aren’t one for reading, planning and doing research on your own, this is as good a way as any. If you want/need transportation to some of the farther sites such as Kilmainham Gaol, etc., the HOHO can be a fine choice. If you have limited time in Dublin, this can be a quick, effective way to see the sights. Also, if you have mobility issues or just don’t want to walk very much, the HOHO is a particularly good option (thanks tapl, for catching this). Regardless of your reason, I would highly suggest at least tentatively planning your stops in advance to make best use of the time (which is what I did), rather than riding around once and then repeating.

I would not particularly recommend this tour if you are someone who likes to read, plan and research yourself, if you’re comfortable with using local public transport for the farther sights and/or if you’ll be in Dublin for a few days, rather than just a quick 1 or 2 days. (And since I recommend more than just 1 or 2 days in Dublin, ultimately I don’t recommend this tour!)

So I’m not particularly glad I took this tour (other than for the ‘research’), but it might be just right for someone else.

http://www.dublinsightseeing.ie/cityTour.aspx (for the green Dublin Bus HOHO tour, which I took)

www.city-sightseeing.com/index.phtml… (for the red City Sightseeing HOHO tour)

NATIONAL LIBRARY YEATS EXHIBIT

At 9am I caught the first HOHO bus of the day at stop 1 on Cathal Brugha street. I rode to stop 7 (St Stephen’s Green) and got off and walked to the National Library on Kildare Street (I could have gotten off earlier and been closer BUT I wanted to experience all of the HOHO circuit). I had visited before and seen the Reading Room, but I wanted to check out the W. B. Yeats exhibit. The National Library opens up at 9:30am which worked just fine with the HOHO stop. This is a great (and free) exhibit where I spent about half an hour looking at the collection that opened up the life and work of Yeats…and that was without watching any of the videos. Recommended. (Note that if you’re interested in visiting/seeing the Reading Room, most days visitors are restricted to before noon and only 2 at a time.)

http://www.nli.ie/

DEAD ZOO

From the National Library, I walked around to Merrion Street and the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History, also known as the ‘Dead Zoo’. This was the first time that this museum was open on any of my visits. I had seen the smaller ‘Dead Zoo’ exhibit that was temporarily at the Collins Barracks site on a previous trip. But this was so much better! I really loved this free museum…and I don’t normally go for Natural History Museums. The ground floor was all Irish animals. The first floor was filled with animals from around the world. Mostly stuffed, taxidermy, posed examples. Some skeletons. Some fossils. (There was no access to the 2nd or 3rd floor overlooks of the 1st floor. The best part of this museum, though, is what it’s famous for. It’s a museum of a museum. The glassed exhibits really work, especially with the mammals. You especially feel it on the 3 story high first floor. Very glad I decided to check out this museum for the first time. Unexpectedly recommended!

www.museum.ie/en/intro/natural-history.aspx

ROYAL HIBERNIAN ACADEMY

Another place that I love checking out on visits to Dublin is the art galleries at the Royal Hibernian Academy just down the street from the museum. I arrived when they were supposed to open at 11am…but it ended up being more like 11:05am. I had really enjoyed last year’s ‘Futures 9’ exhibit and so was looking forward to ‘Futures 10’. Whatever. Nothing moved me. Little entertained me. Those are the two things I look for in contemporary art (remember, I’m an uncultured boor). Still, I’ll keep checking them out on future trips.

http://www.royalhibernianacademy.ie/

MARSH’S LIBRARY

I walked back to stop 7 and caught the HOHO to stop 12, St Patrick’s Cathedral. My goal, though, was the nearby Marsh’s Library. I paid my €2.50 admission. This year’s exhibit was ‘Hippocrates Revived’, early books on medicine. It was fascinating, just like the two previous exhibits I had seen. And also like previous years, I almost bought the exhibition guide. Also like…didn’t. This is another lesser known gem that is definitely worth a stop. I just enjoy being with and viewing these very old book collections. The scholar’s cages, where they were locked in with their books so that they couldn’t steal them, are fascinating.

http://www.marshlibrary.ie/

IRISH MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (IMMA)

Back to stop 12, HOHO, and off at stop 14, Kilmainham Royal Hospital, where IMMA is housed. There were only 2 exhibits on, using little of the available space: ‘Graphics Studio: 50 Years in Dublin’ and ‘Post-War American Art’. Meh! Meh! Nothing grabbed and moved. Nothing entertained. Really striking out with this year’s contemporary art in Dublin. Oh well. At least it was a quick, free visit.

http://www.imma.ie/

RYAN’S

Stop 14 for HOHO to stop 18, Ryan’s Victorian Bar (No. 28). I liked this pub. A lot. Had an excellent pint of Guinness for €4.20. I had read somewhere that Ryan’s and Mulligan’s (on Poolbeg Street) are neck and neck as to who serves the best pint in Dublin (and thus the universe). While I loved this pint, my vote has to go to Mulligan’s. But why choose? Why not do both. I did! While there I also had the Seafood Chowder with Homemade Bread for €7.20. All in all it was very good. And I was very happy.

HUGH LANE GALLERY

Back to stop 18 and on to stop 23 (Writer’s Musuem). Actually I rode on around to the next stop which was the first stop, just to see how the tour continues (which is when I discovered that one gets off at that stop and moves forward to the waiting bus for the next round). It was just a short walk back to the Hugh Lane Gallery.

I continue to really like the Hugh Lane. The small permanent collection is quite nice. Every temporary exhibit has also been excellent. ‘Sir John Lowery: Passion and Politics’ was no exception.

http://www.hughlane.ie/

Whew! Very full day so far. I had planned on riding the HOHO again to the National Gallery, but I decided to postpone it to Monday, especially since it was a bit later in the day than I had expected and I’d probably only get a half hour in before it closed at 5:30pm. So I walked back to The Townhouse for a bit of a rest before tonight’s activities.

Bam! Out for 30 minutes. Good thing I set the alarm!

GALLAGHER’S BOXTY HOUSE

Let the controversy begin! Back in April there was a thread discussing the merits and demerits of Gallagher’s Boxty House:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g186605-i90-k35690…

A representative of Gallagher’s came on and politely defended their restaurant and challenged people to check it out again. Well, I couldn’t exactly accept their challenge as I had never been (I avoid eating in Temple Bar…unless it’s the Saturday food market). But I decided to check them out anyway.

So I had made a reservation for7:15pm on this Friday night. (Also note that I had some questions about their menu and had exchanged some very pleasant and prompt emails with them prior to this trip.) I walked over from The Townhouse (after my unscheduled nap) and arrived right at 7:15pm.

I ended up having to wait 25 minutes for my table, but the place was absolutely rammed (and I do understand the difficulty of managing tables). While I was waiting, 2 different waiters checked in with me, keeping me posted on my table status and asking if I wanted anything to drink. Also, anybody walking in without reservations was told 9 or 9:30pm. Have to admit that even though I had to wait, the friendliness and the fact that they kept me posted made me much more inclined favorably towards them.

Gallagher’s is two small rooms that are PACKED with tables and people. In fact, unless you’re a larger group, you’re likely to share a table with someone else. I was seated at a table for 6 that was flush up against another table for 2 (making it a table for 8). There were two people at one end and two at the other. I was seated next to the couple that were at the table for 2. I have to say that it didn’t bother me at all. I never felt like I was in anyone else’s space or that they were in mine even though we were so close. The waiter even seemed to deal with us in a way that accentuated that we were in different spaces. However, this won’t be for everyone. It really is crowded and if you’re looking for a quiet and semi-private space for your meal, this isn’t it. For me? I actually liked it. Know yourself and decide.

I liked the feel of the place. Wooden tables that were roughhewn. No farm implements on the wall! Some pictures. Books in an old cupboard. Some plates. A fire place (that couldn’t possibly be used as the tables were too close…have I mentioned that they’re absolutely packed in?).

The menu is à la carte with items that are eligible for the €25 3 course clearly marked (and that was most of the items on the menu). I decided to go for the 3 course. I had a Pear, Walnut and Bleu Cheese Salad for a starter. For the main I chose the Gaelic Boxty (filet in a potato pancake with some kind of tasty, mushroom sauce). I had no particular interest in boxty as an Irish food that pretty much only tourists eat…it just sounded good. For the dessert, I asked the waiter for his recommendation. He mentioned that both the Bread and Butter Pudding and the Cheesecake were made on site…so I chose the Bread and Butter Pudding. I also added a Murphy’s Red Ale (€5) and an Irish Coffee with dessert (€5).

Throughout the meal, service was appropriately attentive, fun and friendly. I suspect that they peg visitors by nationality and interact with them appropriately. I’m an American and I loved this service. It might have been too intrusive for someone else or not interactive enough depending on what one is used to. I did notice different levels of interaction. Wise waiting.

The meal itself? I loved it! I’ll have a hard time ordering anything else here. Just the right spiciness for the Boxty for interest and flavor without being overwhelming. Let’s call it upscale comfort food. And the Bread and Butter Pudding? Yes. Yes. Yes. Well recommended. I ate and drank too much. I was very, very happy. And my ultimate plus? I’ll be back.

http://www.boxtyhouse.ie/

So…what do YOU think of Gallagher’s?

STREET MUSIC

As I was walking through Temple Bar (not by choice…had to in order to get to my next destination) there were some street musicians playing. Of course. They often are, especially on a Friday night. BUT something caught be about their sound. They were a group fronted by a tin whistle/flute player who was VERY good. He was backed by a guitarist, guitarist/box player, bassist and drummer. Loved their sound. Totally unexpected. Bought their CD for €10. The group? Mutefish. The CD? Muteation. Nice, serendipitous moment in Dublin.

www.myspace.com/nonstopmutefishdance

SMOCK ALLEY THEATRE

After listening for a while, I walked on over to the nearby Smock Alley Theatre and picked up my ticket for Dublin Theatre Festival’s ‘Una Santa Oscura’ at 10pm. I had paid €25 for my ticket. This was a great performance piece that lasted almost an hour. Pre-recorded electronic track. One character playing the violin live. Set consisted of kitchen, fridge, table, heating unit, bed. Projected backgrounds. Words can’t describe, really. After all, they didn’t use any words. A fascinating expressed inner journey made all the more poignant because the actress/violinist reprising her role was now pregnant. I ended up buying the CD for €5. Another great Dublin Theatre Experience.

Afterwards I walked to M. Hughes to catch a session. There was no music on despite assurances from the gentleman at Claddagh Records the day before that there would be. It was around 11pm, so perhaps it had ended earlier.

Decided to head back to The Townhouse and get a good night’s sleep rather than check out a different pub and session. After all tomorrow would be a day long exploration of County Meath with tapl!

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7. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

SATURDAY, 9 OCTOBER – COUNTY MEATH AND TAPL

I was really looking forward to this day. In September of 2009 I had unexpectedly met tapl in The Cobblestone when they recognized me from my TA picture. Then in January of this year we took in a play at the Abbey together and had dinner at 101 Talbot. This time we were to spend the whole day together as they were going to show me some County Meath highlights. And that they did!

Previously on a day tour in January of 2009, I had seen Fourknocks Passage Tomb, Monasterboice, Mellifont Abbey, the Hill of Slane and the Hill of Tara. But I hadn’t seen the biggies.

SO I caught the 7:59am commuter train at Connolly and rode it north. I met tapl in their town a bit after 8:30am. Let the day begin!

First, they showed me a bit around their town and the lovely beach. Alas that it was hazy in the distance or I would have been able to see Howth, etc. Nice place.

BRÚ NA BÓINNE

That’s right. I FINALLY got here on my fourth trip to Ireland. For some reason when I had read about the site previously, I just wasn’t that interested. I was wrong to not be interested! This is a World Heritage site for a reason.

I used my Heritage Card for admission rather than paying €11 for the combined ticket for the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Newgrange and Knowth (tapl, of course, had their own family card). We spent a bit of time in the visitor’s centre and watched the short and fine 15 minute audio-visual presentation.

At 10:15 we shuttled to and took the tour of Knowth. Alan was the tour guide and, in typical OPW fashion, was great. Lovely views. The cool satellites of Knowth caught me by surprise. But the best part was the large number of carved rocks around the base of Knowth. (Unfortunately, the lighting contrast didn’t allow me to get any particularly good photos.)

After a bit over an hour on this tour, we caught the shuttle back and almost right away were on our way on another shuttle for the 11:45 tour of Newgrange. I was more impressed with Newgrange than I thought I would be. Far more. Whereas Knowth marks both the sunrise and sunset of the spring and autumn equinox, Newgrange marks the sunrise at the winter solstice. Mary was yet another excellent tour guide. After an overview, she showed us the carved entrance stone. While Newgrange only has 3 such stones (much less than Knowth), the quality was the best here. We then went inside Newgrange. Amazing! The watertight (for 5000+ years!) corbelled roof. The cruciform shape. The carvings. The illustration by electrical light of the winter solstice. It was the age (older than the pyramids) that really moved me. What was this place beyond being a passage grave? Who were these people beyond being the ‘neolithic passage grave builders’? Evocative and unanswered questions.

We then intended to eat at the café, but there was a long, very slow moving queue…actually seemed to not be moving at all. So we finished up viewing the exhibition and headed on out.

They really do a great job of managing the numbers and flow of visitors. I recommend allowing about 4 hours at the site overall. 1½ for each shuttle/tour (Knowth and Newgrange) plus an hour for the visitor centre exhibition, gift shop and café. Longer if you intend to grab lunch.

heritageireland.ie/en/…

(After having visited Brú na Bóinne, I’m really looking forward to checking out Carrowmore and Carrowkeel in the future, hopefully in September of 2011.)

BATTLE OF THE BOYNE

We drove to the nearby Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, used our Heritage Cards, saving €4 on individual admission each. There’s not that much to this site. There’s the field where much of the battle was fought. But there is a nice exhibition explaining the background, the players and the strategy of the Battle of the Boyne. It’s a quick stop, but worthwhile since we were in the area with Brú na Bóinne and had Heritage Cards. I was especially interested having learned more about this history shaping battle on previous trips. We then grabbed a quick lunch at the tea room there. I had vegetable soup, bread and tea for €6.85. Note that the vegetable soup was VERY different from what we would think of as regular vegetable soup in the U.S. Not a broth with chunks of veg BUT creamy and puréed (so like a ‘cream of…’ soup). It was orange and I think it was carrot based. Not sure but it was pretty good. Pretty cheap, too.

heritageireland.ie/en/…

TRIM CASTLE

Next up was Trim Castle. Again, using our Heritage Cards, we saved €4 each. We arrived just in time for the 3:30pm (and I think last for the day) tour. Another great OPW guide. Unfortunately I didn’t catch his name. He shared really interesting history concerning the use and development of Trim Castle…including years of disrepair when it served as his boyhood playground. We wound our way through and up the castle, past the models from different time periods, up the winding, uneven stone staircase, all protected by a canopy (since the castle is open to the elements). Great views from the top. The excellent tour lasted about an hour. We then spent a bit of time walking around castle and the rest of the site.

This is a HIGHLY recommended destination, even if you DON’T care that ‘Braveheart’ was filmed here. In fact I’m travelling with a friend in Ireland next May and hope to bring him here.

heritageireland.ie/en/…

Here’s a link to the 12 pictures in my photo album on these places in County Meath, ‘County Meath with tapl (Ireland, October 2010)’: www.facebook.com/album.php…

MALAHIDE

After this very full…and awesome…day seeing the sights with tapl in County Meath it was over to Malahide for drinks and dinner. We first stopped in a pub (tapl…you’re going to have to remind me of the name…I forgot to write it down…probably due to what comes in 2 paragraphs) for drinks. I had a Guinness, half of tapl had one and the other half had some red wine (€14.95). I made sure to pick up this round since I typically only have one drink…especially on an empty stomach.

Well, without noticing, the Guinness half of tapl bought another round and bam…there was another Guinness in front of me. Can’t let it go to waste, so I gamely and happily downed this one as well.

Whoa! Not being much of a drinker, I was quite definitely affected. I had to really concentrate to not sound stupid. Even to walk to the restaurant. I have NO idea if I was successful. We’ll all find out when and if tapl is able to come back with any stories! I will say this. I was in a very happy place. ‘Nuff said.

We then walked (at least I hope I was ‘walking’) to the nearby CAPE GREKO restaurant where we had 6:30pm dinner reservations. We each had a starter and then shared them all around: Saganaki, Tzatsiki and Hummus with Pita Bread. I had Prawns (with a spicy tomato sauce over rice) for my main and the highly anticipated Baklava for dessert. We shared a bottle of wine (which either helped or didn’t help me depending on your perspective). I had coffee afterwards while tapl each had an espresso. 3 starters, 3 mains, 2 desserts, 1 bottle of wine, 2 espressos and 1 coffee came to €89.55 which I thought was great for such a good meal. And in typical fashion, yes, I want to eat here again.

http://www.capegreko.ie/

After dinner, we did a quick walk through part of Malahide including near the sea and by the Grand Hotel. New thing in my bucket list. I WANT TO STAY AT THE GRAND HOTEL. I’m sure I’ll find an opportunity on some trip. It looks like a great choice if wanting to find a place fairly near to Dublin International Airport before flying out the next day. Probably a good choice for exploring Dublin, too, if willing to ride the DART into the City Centre and wanting to stay out of the city.

http://www.thegrand.ie/

And then that’s what I did. Around 9pm tapl dropped me off at the rail station and I rode the DART back to Connolly. Walked the 5 minutes back to The Townhouse and turned in, a happy and content man.

Tapl! Thanks for a great day!!!

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8. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

SUNDAY, 10 OCTOBER – VIKINGS AND THEATRE

VIKING SPLASH TOUR

I was out the door of The Townhouse a bit before 9:30am and walked to St Stephen’s Green for the 10am Viking Splash Tour. I had bought a ticket online for €20. There was no savings, but it did guarantee me a place on the 10am tour. I arrived at 9:45am since we were told to be there 15 minutes early.

Except that there was no 10am tour. They cancelled it. They also never contacted me to tell me. I had checked email just before I left The Townhouse. So I asked the Dublin Bus HOHO representative who was in the area, if he knew anything about it. He told me that the first tour was at 10:30am. So I decided to wait around and see what happens. This meant waiting around for about 45 minutes. I wasn’t particularly happy at this point.

But that was the last negative thing with this tour.

Just before 10:30 the DUKW (an amphibious World War II vehicle that they use for the tour) rolled up. My name was on the list for the 10:30am tour. No apology or real explanation from the guy checking us in…but who really cares. At least I’d get to experience the tour.

The tour was grand! 1 hour and 15 minutes. LOTS of information. Lots of corny jokes and all around silliness…including wearing plastic Viking helmets with horns. Now keep in mind that I’m a somewhat introverted, not wild 52 year old man. But I had a great time! We were instructed on how to give a Viking yell (after all, we were Vikings and we hated everyone who was not a Viking…which is everyone not in the DUKW). Fists up. Facial grimace. Viking roar. I NEVER participate in these things but found myself completely caught up in it. Lots of fun.

On the count of 3 we would give Viking yells to 1) Lost Celts (anybody on the streets with a map out or generally looking befuddled), 2) Coffee Celts (anybody seated outside a café having a coffee…or whatever) and 3) Competition Celts (either of the HOHO tour buses). We did NOT give Viking yells to 1) Cop Celts (obvious reasons) and 2) Whenever we were stopped because ‘then’ we’d look stupid. So it was just ‘drive by Viking yells’.

We drove around lots of sites in the City Centre, mostly south of The Liffey and then it was INTO the water in the Docklands, an area I had not seen as yet.

I’d push this tour almost to a ‘must see’ or ‘must do’. Lots of fun. Learned a lot. Embrace your inner Viking!

http://www.vikingsplash.ie/

IFI CAFÉ BAR

After the tour, I walked over to the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar to have brunch at the IFI Café Bar. Sunday brunch begins at noon, right when I arrived. I ordered the Sunday Grill for €9.50 and tea (€1.50). The Sunday Grill is 2 bacon, 2 sausage, egg, mushrooms, 3 tomato quarters, black pudding, white pudding, potatoes, toast. Good value and great food. This was my second time having a Sunday Grill here. Not my last.

http://www.irishfilm.ie/index_121.asp

PROJECT ARTS CENTRE

Time for some more theatre. I walked around the corner to the Project Arts Centre for two more offerings with the Dublin Theatre Festival: ‘Phaedra’ at 1pm in the upstairs space and ‘Diciembre’ at 4pm in the ground floor ‘Cube’. I had already purchased tickets at €20 and €25 respectively.

‘Phaedra’ was the best (and most disturbing) play I saw in this year’s festival. It was 2½ hours with interval. Great writing. Great music. Great directing. Great production, Great acting. This is what I love about festivals. You try things you otherwise might not try…and sometimes you are very pleasantly surprised. More than pleasantly on this occasion. A retelling of the Greek myth through the French adaptation. An original working of the music through the early opera. Bought the CD for €8. I wish that I could see this again.

Afterwards I simply went downstairs for ‘Diciembre’. This was a 3 actor (6 character) play in Spanish with surtitles. It was one act at just over 1 hour. I was fascinated by the ‘different’ rhythms in language and emotion of this Spanish play. I’m also VERY grateful to the theatre festival for making it possible for me to see it. When booking the plays, the website indicated that tickets might not be available and to contact the festival directly to see if there were any tickets. I did so, by email. They let me know that the show was indeed sold out BUT since I was travelling from America for the festival, they let me have a ticket anyway. Great experience all around.

http://www.projectartscentre.ie/

Afterwards I went back to the IFI Café Bar just for a pot of tea (€1.50) to kill a bit of time before…

THE MERMAID CAFÉ

I had made a 6pm reservation online for the Mermaid Café. Turns out that I certainly didn’t need to for this Sunday evening, but better safe than sorry! I was quite surprised to hear a group of Sufjan Stevens (an indie artist) songs playing when I entered. Made me VERY predisposed to like this place. After all I was going to see Sufjan Stevens live in Chicago in just 5 days!

And I did like this place. Casual atmosphere with great food. Rough wooden tables. Seating for almost 40. Two sides of the restaurant are basically a wall of windows to the streets outside. Works just right. Had a nice chat with the waiter too…especially concerning Sufjan.

I ordered the Swordfish (with lemon potatoes, watercress and tomato and tamarind relish). EXCELLENT. €22. Added in a glass of Pinot Noir for €6.95 and then the surprise. I asked the waiter to recommend a dessert. He recommended the pecan pie with ice cream. I thought (and said) c’mon. I’m from America. Have you ever had my late great-aunt Claudia-Mae’s pecan pie? It CAN’T be topped. He told me that Americans are always skeptical but then are won over. So I decided why not?

My mouth is filling with saliva as I write this. He was so right! Best pecan pie I’ve EVER had…and I’ve had lots of GREAT pecan pie over the years. Truly amazing. Had an espresso with dessert but forgot to jot down the prices for both. I don’t care. I’d pay a LOT to have that pie again.

http://www.mermaid.ie/

I had thought about checking out a bunch of pubs and sessions later in the evening. But honestly? It had been a great and full day. So after dinner I headed back to The Townhouse and was in for the night. Content again.

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9. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

MONDAY, 11 OCTOBER – GLORIOUS OCTOBER DAY IN DUBLIN

I planned to be more relaxed this day. Little did I know how wonderfully more relaxed I would be. After the Full Irish at The Townhouse, I walked to the Abbey Street LUAS stop and road it to the Smithfield stop (€1.60). Why? One of my favorite places to hang out in Dublin is there…

CINNAMON CAFÉ, PHOTOS, GRUEL and MORE PHOTOS

I arrived around 9:30am and chilled for a couple hours. On Mondays they have ‘Monday Madness’ when pots of tea are just €1.50. And it’s excellent loose leaf tea. Had a pot of Rooibos Orange Eucalypus. Then another of Wild Elderberry Tisane. Read. Journaled. Listened to Sufjan Stevens on my iPod. Relaxed.

I had plans to go visit the National Gallery and other places. But the day was amazing. Not a cloud in the sky. Absolutely beautiful. I needed to be outside. So I decided to hit the streets and just take a lot of pictures. I suppose that I was inspired by the recent TA thread commenting on the future removal of the statues on O’Connell Street to Collins Barracks when construction begins for the Metro North. Thought that this would be my chance to get photos of each of them ‘in situ’. By why stop there. I decided to go after what are iconic Dublin sights for me…including Cinnamon Café.

So I headed on out for my preliminary photographic tour. Four Courts. Christ Church Cathedral. St Audoen’s Church. St Patrick’s Cathedral. Leo Burdock’s. Queen of Tarts. Dublin Castle (the back). Dubh Linn Gardens. Mermaid Café. Spar.

At 1pm I bellied up to Gruel for lunch. Had Smoked Haddock Chowder (€7) and tea (€2). My first visit and I’d say that it’s a good place for lunch. Also looks like that have good sandwiches and there’s an option to do half soup and half sandwich.

1:30pm and more walking and more photos. Temple Bar. Gallery of Photography. National Photographic Archive. Gallagher’s Boxty House. Ha’Penny Bridge. The Winding Stair. O’Connell Street. Statues on O’Connell Street. The Spire. General Post Office. Charles Steward Parnell Memorial. Gate Theatre.

Then I thought I’d head around Parnell Square to the lovely Garden of Remembrance. On my HOHO day I had noticed that they had a large number of pink geraniums in the many planters and thought that they’d look great on this beautiful, perfect day. I got there and there was not a pink flower to be seen! They had all been ripped out by the workers who were now diligently planting some other kind of plant (not yet in flower) for the new season. I’m sure that they’ll look great later…but not today. LOL

Went back down O’Connell Street, taking more photos, and then went to the Abbey Theatre to pick up my ticket for ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ tonight which I had bought for €22. Custom House. Famine Memorial. The Liffey. Mulligan’s.

And then in for a pint (€4.45). Still the best ever.

Onward to Dawson Street and Hodges Figgis. Bought the latest OSI road atlas for €9.99 and four 1:50,000 maps for my upcoming May trip at €8.60 each.

Walked up to St Stephen’s Green and down Grafton Street and continued on to The Winding Stair.

Here’s a link to 60 of the MANY pictures I took this day in an album called ‘Perfect Autumn Day in Dublin (Ireland, October 2010): www.facebook.com/album.php…

And here’s a link to my 15 favorite pictures from this day in another cleverly titled album, ‘Favorite Photos in Dublin (Ireland, October 2010)’: www.facebook.com/album.php…

THE WINDING STAIR

Given that it was a Monday night, I guess that I probably didn’t need a reservation. But I’ll always make one just to be sure. I love eating here. I ordered Fermanagh Black Pig Porkbelly (with colcannon, carmelised apple and apple gravy) and a side salad. I had to ask what colcannon was. It’s potatoes and kale mixed. The side salad was just greens and very light dressing and not very interesting. At least it was healthy. The rest? VERY interesting (and probably not very healthy!) and full of goodness. I also had a Porterhouse Red Ale at €6 (they serve brews from the Porterhouse which I think is a change from my visit a year ago). For dessert, I had Bread and Butter Pudding again (and tea at €2.95). Best ever (which I know I keep saying). I really liked it. Actually, I loved it all!

One small strike against The Winding Stair. I ordered from the board on the wall. No one told me that I was ordering from the pre-theatre menu and the board had no such indication. I was charged for a 3 course pre-theatre meal (€29.95) but had no starter. I paid extra for the side salad (€3.95). I would have done without the salad and had a nice starter for less money. I didn’t figure this out until later that night. Oh well. Live and learn. I’ll be sure to ask more questions next time. The food is just too good to give this place a miss.

http://www.winding-stair.com/

THE ABBEY THEATRE

After dinner, I walked over to the Abbey Theatre for ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ by Ibsen. Pretty good but not great. The acting was excellent, though. Not much to say. Glad I saw it but not particularly memorable. The worst thing, though, was the ending. There has just been a very moving closing scene. It’s silent and the lights are slowly dimming. Then someone’s mobile phone goes off. Loudly. 3 times. Accompanied by 3 palpable groans from the audience.

http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/

Back to The Townhouse. Packed. Bed.

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10. Re: Trip #4 Report: Dublin and Surrounding (3-12 October, 2010)

TUESDAY, 12 OCTOBER – GOING HOME

GETTING TO DUB

Had to get up earlier due to having an earlier flight home on American versus Aer Lingus. Walked to the Air Link stop on O’Connell street and caught the 7am 747 bus to the airport. I arrived at 7:30am and to my dismay there was a long and non-moving line at American’s check in. Turns out that they hadn’t opened up yet! They did so just a few minutes after arrival and things moved along just fine. In fact I was pulled out of the line and taken to the front since I had already checked in online but still needed my boarding pass. Went through security and was in the food court for breakfast by 8:15am. I know that they say to be at the airport 3 hours before any transatlantic flight. I always have. But honestly? I’ve never remotely needed it. I should have stayed just a bit longer at The Townhouse and had my included breakfast (which wasn’t on until after I left for the bus). Instead I bought a Full Irish at the food court. 2 sausage, 2 bacon, egg, tomato, black pudding, white pudding, mushrooms (which I had instead of the included beans) and tea. €11.95. Actually a better breakfast than The Townhouse…but I had to pay for it. No worries.

THE FLIGHT HOME

Flight took off basically on time just a bit after 10:30am. Nothing to report (still just 2 movies, still average food at best, still felt more crowded) other than a lovely extended chat with the woman in the seat next to me. She hails from County Meath and I think we both enjoyed passing the time with each other. We didn’t even avoid the conversation ‘no no’s’ of politics and religion. After the flight we exchanged e-mails and hugged it out. Nice end to another fantastic trip to Ireland.

So now I’m back home planning my next trip to Ireland. Actually, my next three.

:-)