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Ireland with Go-Ahead Travel

Author: svitak5
Date of Trip: October 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005 Dublin, IE - mostly sunny What an adventure getting here! We left Kent early yesterday afternoon, October 16th, my 60th birthday. We arrived at the airport in Cleveland three hours before our scheduled departure time. When we went to check in at U. S. Airways, we were told our flight to Philadelphia had been cancelled because of mechanical problems, but that we had been re-booked on a Continental flight departing at 3:15 p.m., which was then less than one hour away. The ticket agent printed our Philadelphia to Dublin boarding pass and then sent us down the length of the terminal to the Continental desk to check our baggage and get our boarding pass for the first leg of the journey. Our vouchers were marked "involuntary" flight change. Involuntary, meaning it wasn't our idea!

By now we were down to less than 30 minutes before the scheduled take-off. We get to security and Carmen and I are both put into a "high" security check status because of our late check-in! We waited in line for fifteen minutes for our in-depth security screening. By the time we got to the gate after the security fiasco the plane's doors were closed and it was ready to pull away from the gate. The gate agent got the pilot to reopen the doors and let us on, but there were people behind us in the security screening who didn't make the flight even though we told the gate agent that they were stuck in security due to no fault of their own. Remind me never to fly Continental ever again. The TSA screener told me we were in the high security screening because of the way the ticket agent at Continental marked the boarding pass!

The flight from Cleveland to Philadelphia was 55 minutes on the 737 versus 1 hour and 25 minutes on the U. S. Airways Express shuttle we were originally booked on. So we arrived in Philadelphia with lots and lots of time to spare. Philadelphia airport is comfortable and the wait was not unpleasant. We boarded our aircraft in an orderly manner and we pulled away from the gate on time! I congratulated myself that we had gotten through our "glitch" and we were on our way to Ireland! Fifteen minutes into the flight, a woman on board suffered an apparent heart attack and we had to turn around and return to Philadelphia airport. It is really scary to be landing in a fully loaded 757 with full fuel tanks. We came in hard and fast, but the pilot was a real pro. The EMT's were waiting at the gate. The rest of us stayed quietly in our seats while the woman was taken off the aircraft. She was one of a party of four. Two others off loaded with her. The fourth passenger - a man - decided to continue onto Ireland and accepted responsibility for the luggage. This was a blessing because looking for and unloading their luggage would have been extremely time-consuming. The mechanics checked the wheels and the brakes to be certain nothing had been damaged in the hard set down and fast stop. Our fuel was topped off and we were on our way only 1 hour and 45 minutes late. While we were on the ground in Philly, I called Go-Ahead on my cell phone to give them a heads up that flight would be late arriving in Dublin.

We landed in Dublin at 9:15 a.m. local time and there was no tour guide. We waited an hour but he never appeared. We took a bus from the airport to the hotel, Jury's Inn on Parnell Street, registered, and as of 3:05 p.m., our tour guide has not appeared. We ate lunch at a little cafe across the street from the hotel. The menu offered both chicken sandwiches and chicken salad sandwiches. I ordered chicken salad. I received a chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion. It was a chicken sandwich with "salad" on it. I think what we call chicken salad, they call chopped chicken or something similar. This was my first experience with English as spoken in Ireland. Carmen and I went to a bank so that she could change some U. S. currency into Euros. For security reasons, the bank entrance had an airlock. You push a button to be admitted to the airlock chamber. Once the door from the outside had closed, you push another button to open the door from the chamber into the bank. A similar lock exists to exit the bank. Sure would make a quick getaway hard to achieve.

We wandered down O'Connell Street. It is the main thoroughfare on the north side of the Liffey. The City of Dublin is building an underground tunnel for through traffic, so O'Connell Street is all torn up. It is a challenge to get across and it must be worse for the drivers. We visited the General Post Office, the site of the 1916 uprising. It is being refurbished so we weren't able to see much. As we look out of our hotel window there are construction cranes everywhere. Dublin is in a building boom brought on by the growth of their economy. Wouldn't you know it, by the time I am able to visit Ireland, instead of being a cheap vacation it is now the most expensive of the European Union countries. But I am happy for the Irish. After centuries of poverty and serfdom, the Republic of Ireland is now a leading European economy.

Our tour guide, Sean, knocked on our hotel room door at 3:30 p.m. He and the London pre-excursion contingent had been fogged in at Heathrow. Sean had arranged for a cab to be at the airport to pick us up at 7:45 a.m. (our scheduled arrival time). He didn't receive our message about our delayed arrival so he is out of the doghouse. He even reimbursed us the expense of getting from the airport to the hotel. It was only €3.00 each, but I appreciated that the tour company stood behind their guarantee of including "all transfers". We had a get-to-know you dinner in the hotel. We ate with a couple - Melody and Steve - from Minnesota. She has a friend who works for the Pleasanton School District. Small world. ***

Tuesday,October 18,2005 Dublin, IE - Overcast w/occasional drizzle

We met this morning at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast in the hotel dining room. We were offered canned fruit (I guess fresh fruit is not an option in Ireland in October), fried egg (sitting in the warmer - not terribly appetizing), bacon (looked like very thin ham slices, tasted like neither bacon nor ham), toast (also sitting in the warmer, pretty dry and crusty), croissant (delicious), plain yogurt (used in place of milk on dry cereal), Muesli (tasty), orange juice (just like home) and Irish coffee (not Irish Coffee). Tomorrow I drink tea! We were on the bus and away promptly at 9:00 a.m. If today is any indication, this is a group that will not have stragglers holding everyone else up. Thank God for small favors. Our bus driver's name is Dan. He will be with us for the entire tour. We are an "old" group. At age 40, Carmen is the youngster in the group. At 60, I am merely middle aged. Most of the group is in their 70's and a few in their 80's. Dan is extremely helpful to us all getting on and off the bus, and very patient as we work our way into our seats.

We took a motor tour of Dublin. I didn't keep track of the exact route we took, but we saw Temple Bar, Grafton Street, the Liffey, Ha Penny Bridge, St. Stephen's Green, the President's house, Trinity College, Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Millennium Spire, all from the bus.

We arrived at St. Patrick's Cathedral just before 10:00 a.m. I was surprised to learn that St. Pat's is Church of Ireland not RC. Morning worship was just concluding so we were able to enjoy a few minutes listening to the Boys Choir. We received a guided tour of the Cathedral. I would have liked to have more time and to wander on my own, but you don't keep a tour group on schedule by turning them loose. I did take a picture of a manuscript copy of Handel's Messiah. It is not the original, but it is a hand copied manuscript of the same period. Books and music what a wonderful combination.

At 10:30 a.m. we were back on the bus on our way to Trinity College. We visited the Old Library building. I finally have seen the Book of Kells. It is a beautiful work of art and worship. The main chamber of the Old Library, the Long Room, is nearly 65 meters in length, and houses around 200,000 of the Library's oldest books. When built, it had a flat plaster ceiling, with shelves for books on the lower level only, and an open gallery. By the 1850s these shelves had become completely full. In 1860 the roof was raised according to plans by the architects Deane and Woodward, to allow the construction of the present barrel-vaulted ceiling and gallery bookcases.

"Marble busts are placed down either side of the room. This collection began in 1743 when 14 busts were commissioned from the sculptor Peter Scheemakers. Other sculptors represented are Simon Vierpyl, Patrick Cunningham, John van Nost and Louis Francois Roubiliac, whose bust of the writer Jonathan Swift is one of the finest in the collection. The harp is the oldest to survive from Ireland, and probably dates from the fifteenth century. It is constructed from oak and willow with brass strings. As an emblem of early bardic society, this is the harp which appears on Irish coins. The attribution to Brian Boru, high king of Ireland (died 1014), is legendary. One of the dozen or so remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic is on display. This signaled the start of the Easter Rising when it was read aloud by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office on 24 April 1916." (Trinity College Library, Dublin)

I saw on display an 1859 edition of Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species. That was almost as exciting as seeing the Book of Kells. I was able to look at it longer since there was no line of people waiting to view it. The library is fascinating. I can't remember ever seeing so many books - old and valuable books - in one place. There is a beautiful wrought iron spiral stair case going to the upper level of books. It is roped off. I am not sure it would be safe. But it is certainly a beautiful work of art. After the tour at Trinity we were on our own for the rest of the day. We spent more than an hour at Trinity gawking like the tourists we are.

Then Carmen and I walked to the National Gallery. We ate lunch there in the cafeteria. I had a panini sandwich of tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella and a diet coke. Not so different from what might be available in a museum cafeteria at home. After lunch, Carmen and I spent about an hour wandering among the Old Masters. We knew we couldn't see everything so we didn't even try. We just took our time and enjoyed what we were able to see. One could easily spend an entire day at the National Gallery.

From there we walked to St. Stephen's Green. We took pictures of the wonderful Georgians along the way. Every door and lintel is distinct from its neighbors - and the colors. The Irish love color - perhaps because much of their weather is dull and grey they paint their houses in bright vibrant colors. And the chimneys are an art form in themselves. We walked through St. Stephen's Green and exited at the Grafton Street Gate. We walked along Grafton Street (the Rodeo Drive of Dublin). We stopped at Powerscourt Shopping Mall (the converted Georgian townhouse of Lord Powerscourt). Then we walked through Temple Bar scouting out likely places for dinner. We crossed the Liffey on the Ha Penny Bridge (which is pedestrians only) and arrived back at our hotel in time for a wash up and a cocktail. Our guide, Sean, was impressed with all that we had managed to see. Carmen thinks we walked two miles, I think it was more. But then she is twenty years the younger. We were on our own for dinner tonight, so we walked back to Temple Bar and ate at Oliver St John Gogartys. I had lamb and it was very tasty.

Located in heart of Temple Bar, Dublin's Cultural Quarter and named after Oliver St John Gogarty (1878- 1957) friend of James Joyce and W.B. Yeats, Gogarty was a poet, a writer, one of the most prominent Dublin wits, and for some time a political figure of the Irish Free State. Enjoy the craic, live traditional Irish music, and great service in our award winning traditional Irish Bar or visit our traditional Irish restaurant on the second floor where you can sample our menu which contains Irish dishes dating back to the 1800's. The Oliver St. John Gogarty offers a wide choice of accommodation ranging from budget hostel accommodation to holiday apartments. Both are available for long or short term stays and are centrally located in the heart of Dublin City Centre in the Temple Bar district and within walking distance of Dublin's most famous landmarks including Trinity College, Christchurch Cathedral, and Grafton Street , Dublins' premier shopping street." (Oliver St. John Gogarty Brochure)

There was traditional Irish music playing on a sound system, but the live performers didn't start until 9:00 p.m. Neither of us was up to staying that late. After dinner we walked about some more and returned back across the Liffey about 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 19,2005 Dublin, IE - rain

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