Ireland 2014 – Day 1 (Sunday, June 15 through Monday, June 16)

Planned Itinerary

  • 17:28-21:09 – UA1600 (DFW-IAD)
  • 22:15-10:18 – UA126 (IAD-DUB)
  • 11:45-13:00 – Tour of Trinity College
  • 14:00-15:30 – Tour of Leinster House
  • 16:15-17:45 – Tour of Guinness Storehouse
  • 18:30-20:30 – Hang out on Grafton Street; find a place to eat dinner
  • 21:00 – Check in to the Citywest Hotel & Resort
  • 22:00-1:30 – Watch US v. Ghana World Cup game

Kristalyn’s dad brought us to DFW Airport about three hours before our flight was scheduled to depart.  Mostly, this was to make sure that we had plenty of time to deal with anything unknown and unexpected.  By going through the gates on the end (E1-E10), there was virtually no one in line at security and we were able to get through very quickly.  While wearing a money belt is no doubt the right way to go when traveling in Europe, it’s not necessary and it makes it a little more difficult to get through security to have it on at that time.  The one thing I did right (more by luck than by design) was wear hiking pants with a lot of pockets, some of which have zippers.

Having gotten quickly through security, we then had a couple of hours before our flight was scheduled to board.  So, to TGI Fridays we went where I could have a couple of scotches, Kristalyn could have Spinach Florentine Flatbread, and we could watch the second half of the France v. Honduras World Cup game.

With the United iPhone app, I was able to keep track of our flights (both DFW to IAD and IAD to DUB) as well as the flights leading to them.  While our gate changed once, the flight itself looked to be on time.  We got into our respective boarding groups (Kristalyn was Group 3; I was Group 4) and waited our turn.  As we were waiting, they announced that it was a full flight and, since no one had volunteered to check their bags, those in Groups 4 and 5 would have to check their carry on item.  I pulled out the things that I thought I would need and gave them to Kristalyn or stuffed them in one of my many pockets.  As it turned out, however, by putting my now less full bag on like a backpack, I was able to get it on as a “personal item”.

During our flight to DC, both Kristalyn and I spent time reading, she on the iPad and me on the iPhone.  For the last hour or so, we used the headphone splitter to watch Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway on the iPad.

While I didn’t really realize it at the time, we were either a little late leaving Dallas or we lost some time in the air.  Fortunately, the flight attendant asked that those whose final destination was DC stay seated while those of us who were catching a connecting flight were able to get off and get through the airport.  Because the international flight boarded 45 minutes before takeoff (as opposed to the 30 minute boarding process for domestic flights), we got to the gate just in time.

Originally, we were seated in 35B and 35F, but we were were able to convince the woman who had the other window seat in the row to switch, and we sat together.

Despite taking Tylenol PM, sleeping was difficult.  Nonetheless, after what felt like an interminable amount of time, I was able to fall into a fitful, and often interrupted, sleep. Kristalyn was unsuccessful in falling asleep at all (neither Advil PM nor Tylenol PM made a difference for her).  Because she was awake, she got both a light supper and a light breakfast; I settled for one of the protein bars I had packed.

Upon landing at Dublin International Airport, we got our first stamp in our passports and were through Customs very quickly.

At the Dooley Car Rental counter, we filled out the paperwork and I very tiredly made the mistake of asking that she charge us for our petrol in US dollars.  Despite almost immediately correcting myself and asking that it be done in Euros, she had already hit the button and the damage was done.  My only consolation was that it is refundable if I bring the car back with a full tank.

Our wheels for the week

Our wheels for the week

Down the elevator and a couple of left turns later, we were standing on Irish soil for the first time as we waited under an overcast sky for the shuttle to get the rental car.  Silver, four doors and a hatchback, and a manual transmission, the Skoda Fabia turned out to be a pretty new, pretty zippy little ride.

Between the long time since I had driven a standard, and much more importantly, the fact that they drive on the wrong side of the road, my first few minutes behind the wheel were pretty tentative.  “Stay left.  Stay left.  Stay left.” became our often spoken mantra throughout the trip.

While all guidebooks and websites warned against driving into Dublin, particularly for Americans driving in Ireland or England for the first time, we nonetheless headed into town. With the GPS unit we very wisely rented with the car, we were able to get to the Guinness Storehouse Parking Lot (which is free…a rarity in Dublin) with only one set of extra turns. And, that was due more to the fact that streets are so poorly labeled rather than poor navigation or poor driving.

It was just cool enough that both Kristalyn and I decided to wear our light jackets.  Honestly, it probably would have worked out either way; while slightly cool, we ended up doing enough walking at a quick enough pace that we probably would have been fine without them.

As an afterthought, I decided to grab the GPS unit.  Looking back, it seemed like a no-brainer and I’m not sure how we would have found our way around Dublin without it.  We also apparently looked like the lost, first-time to Ireland tourists that we were because a very stereotypical short, red-headed man asked us if we were lost and then spent a few minutes asking us where we were from and how we liked it.

Even with the GPS, we took a few unintended detours through some of Dublin’s less scenic neighborhoods.  While they weren’t abundant, we did see a few homeless people sleeping or sitting on doorsteps and a few who looked to be druggies walking around.  The colorful doors on the row-houses were bright spots in otherwise dingy neighborhoods.

A short time later, we found ourselves walking along much more lively streets with lots of shops and restaurants.  Walking a little further on, we came upon Trinity College but, since we didn’t yet have any Euros (we were told our ATM card wouldn’t work until at least 8am Texas time – 2pm Ireland time), we decided to go find Leinster House where they provided a free tour.  We got there about 1pm which was about an hour and half before the tour started. So, back up to the tourist area around Grafton Street \we went.  Seeing a currency exchange shop, I decided to take the bad exchange rate in order to get the comfort of having some local currency on hand and I turned $100 into about 70 EUR.

With about an hour to kill and a hunger in our bellies, we looked for a restaurant that had something we were willing to eat and WiFi.  The Clarendon Bar looked to fit the bill.  While the WiFi was spotty at best, the Shepherd’s Pie and fries I ate were both delicious and filling. Kristalyn got salmon that she didn’t like quite as much; it was apparently pretty raw and fairly fatty.  I wasn’t sure 1) how to get my bill, or 2) whether they would accept my credit card.  I finally realized I just had to go to the bar to let them know I was ready to pay.  The waitress took my card and, because my card isn’t a Chip-and-PIN card which is the norm in Europe, she pointed out that I had to sign the receipt.  It wasn’t, however, an issue for either of us.

Leinster House

Leinster House

Having killed off most of the hour, we walked back to Leinster House, gave them our IDs, and waited for a few more minutes while other tourists arrived.  The tour started in the lobby where there were portraits of Éamon de Valera, Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith, and Cathal Brugha.  The tour guide, a self-proclaimed fast-speaking Dubliner, took us down a hallway to the right of the lobby to an area with law books from the days before the Irish Revolution.  Then, up the stairs, around the corner, and into the balcony above the Dáil Chamber. Originally built as a university lecture hall, it was renovated when it was purchased by Ireland (while Michael Collins was the Finance Minister) and is now an impressive legislative chamber.

After a few minutes and a few stories there, we went down the stairs and through the “Hall of Taoiseachs” (or something to that effect).  Originally built to make it easier for President Kennedy to get to the House Chamber, in part because he never used it, they renamed it and hung portraits of former Taoiseachs (Prime Ministers).

Next he took us to the Seanad (Senate) side.  Along the way, we went through a hallway which contained the offices of the Ceann Comhairle (House Speaker) and Cathaoirleach (Senate Chairman).  This led to a narrow set of stairs at the top of which was a door going into the Seanad Chamber.  It was very ornate but very small for a legislative chamber. Apparently, it was originally a ballroom when the House was a home and was renovated upon being purchased for the Government.

Finally, we stopped at a battle flag President Kennedy presented to the people of Ireland. The flag commemorated the contributions of the Fighting 69th, a predominantly Irish regiment from New York, during the American Civil War.

Kristalyn enjoying her Guinness

Kristalyn enjoying her Guinness

Having successfully accomplished one of our tourist goals, we began the walk back across town to the Guinness Storehouse. By this time my allergies were going nuts and Kristalyn realized I hadn’t yet taken my allergy pills for the day.  So, we stopped at the car and I got them out of my bag so that I could take them when I had something to drink.  Then, into the Guinness Storehouse we went.   We were able to quickly redeem our pre-purchased (and discounted) tickets at the kiosk and get up to the first floor where they have a large store with a great deal of Guinness-branded merchandise and an orientation area.

Gravity Bar

Gravity Bar

With orientation sessions starting every five minutes or so, we didn’t have long to wait to hear the story about Arthur Guinness leasing the land (and all-important water rights) for 9,000 years.  After a fairly quick walk through of exhibits about the brewing process, we headed up to the 7th floor which was home to the Gravity Bar and where we could redeem our tickets for a pint of Guinness.  This was where the action was; packed with people enjoying a pint, the glass-enclosed room gave close to a 360-degree view of Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains.  Much to my surprise, Kristalyn drank – and sort of enjoyed – her pint.  Guinness really is better in the mother country.

As tired as we were, we decided to forgo an evening on Grafton Street and, instead, headed for the hotel.  Plugging back in the GPS unit, we entered the Citywest Hotel address and began the journey.  Shortly thereafter, we began getting low-battery warnings from the GPS unit.  Thinking it just wasn’t plugged in well, I checked both connections and kept going.  But, it wasn’t too much longer before the GPS unit was dead.  Not really knowing where we were, and not knowing at all where we were going, we pulled into a McDonalds/Convenience Store parking lot where we tried everything we could to get the GPS unit working and then to find a map that would show us where we needed to go.  Unsuccessful at both and realizing that we would need the GPS for the rest of the trip, we decided to try and get back to the Car Rental place at the airport.

This turned out better than we probably could have hoped for as we could tell that the Airport was off of M50 to the north and we quickly saw signs pointing that way.  The folks at Dooley’s were great about diagnosing the problem (bad cigarette lighter fuse) and getting it fixed.  With a now-functioning GPS unit, we were back on the road and heading for the hotel.

Even with the GPS unit, we managed to get off at the wrong exit but, because the exit led quickly to a roundabout, we got right back to the right road and made it to the hotel without further incident.

Citywest is a really nice resort hotel with what looks to be a beautiful golf course.  Our priority, however, was a nap and it didn’t take long for either of us to crash.  We woke up too late – a little after 10pm – to eat at the restaurant in the hotel.  So, we settled for protein bars and water in our room.

While I watched the US v. Ghana World Cup game (US scored in the 1st minute, Ghana scored to equalize in the 82nd minute, and the US came right back in the 86th minute to win the game), Kristalyn tried to get some much-needed sleep.  With about 20 minutes left in the game, I took a couple of Tylenol PMs, hoping that they would help me get 6 good hours of sleep in spite of the allergies that were still bothering me.

Actual Itinerary

  • 17:28-21:09 – UA1600 (DFW-IAD)
  • 22:15-10:18 – UA126 (IAD-DUB)
  • 12:45-13:30 – Lunch
  • 14:15-15:30 – Tour of Leinster House
  • 16:00-17:30 – Tour of Guinness Storehouse
  • 19:00 – Check in to the Citywest Hotel & Resort
  • 22:00-1:30 – Watch US v. Ghana World Cup game
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