Around the World on $50 A Day

| Intro | London | Dublin | Paris | Budapest | St.Petersburg | Moscow | Frankfurt | Zurich | Delhi | Hong Kong | SF |

 


Dublin, Ireland

Our British Midlands flight left Heathrow for Dublin at 5 p.m., landing at the Irish airport an hour later. We took a city bus to downtown Dublin, a terminus at the rear of Cleary's Department Store on O'Connell, and walked through the alley to O'Connell to catch another transit bus to the Avalon House at 55 Aungier Street, our The Avalon hostel booked months earlier through its Internet web page.

The Avalon's historic facade belies a completely refurbished interior, which is clean and modern. Our private double room here, with both co-ed toilets and showers down the hall, was typically hostel priced at IR£14 ($21.55 US) per person per night.

The only downside for me was the absence (also typical of hostels) of a "lift"; it was at least six l-o-o-n-g blister-bustin' flights up to our "third-floor" room. The room was tiny but the plumbing in the hall facilities was modern, the water in the showers hot. There were lots of stalls in both facilities; never any waiting.

After settling in, we walked the three blocks to Grafton Street, Dublin's best known shopping "mall" (the street closed to vehicles). It being close to "late" Sunday evening, we had to search a bit for a restaurant for dinner, but found a suitable one in the Boulevard Cafe at 27 Exchequer Street, off Grafton. Bob had lasagna and I had equally Irish pizza for about IR£6 each (about $8 US). The kitchen being in the basement, the waiters keep in shape by constantly running up and down the long flight of stairs. The food was exceptionally good.


Daily expense tally—room, food, transit: $48.55

Monday

A short tour of Dublin and our hostel. Click > to play video. Double-click the image to make fullscreen.

We had breakfast at the Avalon, which deducted the price of our coffee, juice, and toast (included as the free continental breakfast) from our option to have the full English breakfast instead, with fried eggs, sausages, and grilled tomato slices. The Avalon is a larger hostel than most of the ones I've stayed in before, the clientele mostly college-age, which is generally the case. We never did meet the Tom Kennedy (namesake of our "other" brother) whom I corresponded with on the Internet and made our reservation through. Though they are called "youth hostels," all ages are welcome, and some of the youth hostel associations even have reduced membership rates for "senior citizens" or, as they are less euphemistically known in the UK, OAP's ("old-age pensioners"?).

An Internet email correspondent had advised that, when in Ireland, the "must-see" attraction is Glendalough (pronounced glenda-lock, we were advised—warned!—by a friendly Dublin dowager who'd waited with us in the Heathrow boarding area), "the most beautiful spot in the world" and the legendary home of St. Kevin, a plus for me as my youngest offspring is Kevin. Good news: The Avalon had brochures offering day trips to Glendalough and County Wicklow for IR£15 adults, £13 students, leaving the nearby Tourist Information Office at 9:45 and returning at 5:30 p.m. Perfect.

But when we arrived timely at the tourist office it was not open. And we waited long past the 9:45 departure time and saw no bus from Over the Top and Into the West Tours. Another waiting would-be tourist with a cell phone in his car called the tour office and got the recorded message that it was closed for the day, one of Europe's seemingly weekly "bank holidays." (A word to the wise: check holiday schedules and prepare to take them into account when traveling abroad.)

Dejected, we looked for consolations. I had seen the Book of Kells (Ireland's closest equivalent to the Rosetta Stone: a "Gospel Book" dating from c. 800 AD) at Trinity College Library on my previous trip, but it was within walking distance and even if Bob wouldn't have opted to spend £5 to see it, I knew someone someday would ask him if he had, so I took him there.

We discovered that Gray Line tours of Dublin were running, and caught up with one on O'Connell Street after finishing our Trinity College Library tour. I caught a glimpse of a sign indicating Grayline also had a tour to Glendalough, but the driver lamented that that one had left not more than a quarter of an hour earlier...if we'd only known! In consolation we settled for the Dublin tour, IR£8, and found that when we came up a bit short in Irish pounds the driver was willing to settle for what we had! The bus drove past government sites and through Phoenix Park, Dublin's huge main park, where the president of Ireland lives, past the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland (Anglican) cathedrals, and the home of Guinness Beer, Ireland's number one export and the publisher of the book of world records that bears its name.

After the tour we returned to Aungier Street and Bewley's, Dublin's famous coffeehouse and pastry shop-cafeteria, with locations on Grafton Street and elsewhere, for lunch. But they weren't serving lunch until after 1 p.m. (perhaps it was because of the holiday!), so we had a second late breakfast as our lunch instead. The coffee was perhaps the best I've ever tasted, I noted shortly afterward, and that's saying something as I'm a habitue of Starbuck's.

Back at the hostel we asked at the front desk for tour suggestions and a lady in the office suggested taking a commuter train south to Dalkey, which we did, at a fare of IR£5 return. We walked from the Avalon to the Pearse train station at the edge of the Trinity College campus and took a train that was crowded despite the holiday, arriving in Dalkey about 20 miles down the coast from central Dublin. The train was much faster than the American commute trains I've ridden in the Philadelphia and San Francisco areas.

The highlight of our Ireland visit was an afternoon in Dalkey. Click > to play video. Double-click the image to make fullscreen.

Dalkey was quaint—more so than St. Albans—but the main attraction is a hilltop park that offers a view of two bays, Bray to the south and Dublin to the north. We climbed the slope of a mile, maybe two, to the top, and enjoyed spectacular views and photo opportunities. The temperatures were cool enough that we didn't overheat but also not so cool that we needed jackets. We both agreed that this alone made the trip worthwhile—the first time we'd felt that way since meeting in London. To top it, I found genuine shamrocks in a wood along the trail and picked one of about three inches in diameter as a momento—a goal I'd failed to accomplish on my previous visit to Ireland.

The train back, a couple of hours later, was also crowded.

That evening we explored in search of another restaurant. I wanted to have a pub meal as an Internet friend had urged me to try Guinness stout at its source—supposedly an entirely different experience than the bottled variety available in California. But we couldn't find a pub open on the holiday that served meals, and as neither of us are "drinkers," we weren't interested in just visiting one to sit at the bar. And we couldn't find a restaurant that had Guinness on tap!

We settled for a restaurant similar in menu and prices to the one we'd gone to the night before. Afterward we visited an Internet cafe—of which there are four in Dublin, we were told (I was unaware of any such facility in greater San Jose, the ostensible capital of the computer industry, although I've been informed subsequently that there is one in the suburb of Cupertino). We went to Cafe PlaNET, which rents movie videos upstairs and cybertime downstairs. You can visit it via the worldwide web at http://www.irelands-web.ie.


Daily expense tally—room, food, transit: $65.35

Tuesday, May 7

We caught a 9 a.m. British Midlands flight back to London, where we had booked a room in the New Atlantic Hotel on Devonshire Terrace at Queen's Gate the previous Saturday, through a Thomas Cook office in the Charing Cross Railway Station. Seeming to cater mostly to student travelers, our double room with hall toilet and showers (co-ed again) was £40 plus £5 commission to Cook. Its location was good—a short walk from the Lancaster Gate Underground station, directly across Bayswater Road from Hyde Park. I got some excellent video there that evening, of the Long Water lake and Kensington Gardens and Palace, in which William and Mary once resided and Queen Victoria was born.

The evening after our return to London, and our trip out of London to the Chunnel the next morning. Click > to play video. Double-click the image to make fullscreen.

[An aside, after arriving back in London and checking into our hotel after noon, by the time we'd thought about lunch, it was approximately British tea time. We went to several pubs only to find they'd stopped serving lunch, and finally did find one that had extremely slow service. Tip: plan your meals close to normal times or be prepared to snack on food from a corner store.]


Daily expense tally—room, food, transit: $35

Wednesday

Our hotel wasn't serving breakfast as early as we were ready for it, and Bob's attitude toward continental breakfasts being that they aren't worth the trouble anyway, we took our luggage, checked out of the New Atlantic, and walked the few blocks to Paddington Station. We had breakfast in a modern cafeteria that's a little pricey for our budgets, but had no other complaints. Then we caught the Bakerloo tube to Waterloo Station, where we were scheduled to take the Eurostar, the famed "chunnel train" from London to Paris in less than three hours, reaching a top speed in the French countryside of 186 miles per hour.

Eurostar tickets are $98 booked in the United States; £59 if booked in London. All luggage is carried on and placed overhead or in luggage areas at the end of each car, a bit of a disappointment as it had to be "minded" under that circumstance, but it's efficient and probably faster than checking it. That feature also meant, however, that we had no freedom to wander in the vicinity of Waterloo Station once we arrived there; if you check your luggage, you check yourself in for the trip, also. Like airlines, Eurostar requires all passengers to go through security checks.

Eurostar TrainIt took us a full half hour to get from Waterloo Station to the countryside outside London. There we saw our first fields of rapeseeds, a yellow plant resembling mustard from a slight distance, from which canola oil is processed. It's apparently one of the most common crops in Europe, at least in the month of May.

The entrance to the English Channel tunnel is unnoteworthy, which was something of a disappointment. You come to a large rail yard with lots of electrical lines, stop briefly, then descend into the darkness. The lights inside the train cars make the tunnel itself invisible. There's never a climpse of water or the white cliffs this English coast is famous for.

 

 
 © Jon Kennedy 1996, 2009