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
hostel booked months earlier through its Internet
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.
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.
tallyroom, food, transit: $48.55
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"?).
email correspondent had advised that, when in Ireland, the "must-see"
attraction is Glendalough (pronounced glenda-lock, we were advisedwarned!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.)
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
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
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
highlight of our Ireland visit was an afternoon in Dalkey. Click
> to play video. Double-click the image to make fullscreen.
Dalkey was quaintmore
so than St. Albansbut 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 worthwhilethe 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 momentoa goal I'd failed to accomplish on my
previous visit to Ireland.
The train back,
a couple of hours later, was also crowded.
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
sourcesupposedly 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 cafeof 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
tallyroom, food, transit: $65.35
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 gooda 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.
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
tallyroom, food, transit: $35
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.
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
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.
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.