The following events take place between May 15th and 17th, 2015.
Having packed most everything the night before, we pretty much just roll out of bed and throw our pajamas and phone chargers in the luggage and then go check out. We make our way over to the Tube and catch the Piccadilly line for the slow ride to Heathrow (about an hour). We could’ve gone over to Paddington and caught the Heathrow Express, but I’m just so not a fan of Paddington now that I’d rather spend twice as much time on the train than go back there. Plus we had enough credit on our Oyster cards that it didn’t make much sense to spend more money on the Express ticket when we can get there with the credit we already have.
We get through Security without incident, and have given ourselves enough of a time cushion that we have time to eat lunch and shop a little. We opt for a hot meal and get some meat pies. Jon got a beef one with mashed potatoes and gravy and I got a chicken and mushroom one, plain. Pretty tasty for airport food, though!!
And then we met the knights!!
Confused? So was I. Apparently they are rugby fans traveling to a match. They were very nice and got up to take a picture with me.
Then a few minutes later we ran into another group of guys for the same thing. These guys were much more rowdy (drunk), but got very excited when I wanted to take a picture with them. The blonde guy with the red cape next to me got beer poured on his head by the buddy standing above him in the first pic, but it didn’t seem to bother him as he was the one most determined to round up all the guys for the picture….and hugging me to him while doing so.
Eventually we had to leave the revelry and get to our gate. It was a quick hour and 20 min flight over to Dublin. It was raining there. We caught a bus to the Temple Bar area and had some fun walking around trying to find our hotel while dragging our luggage on cobblestone streets, but luckily the rain had let up for us.
We were staying at the Temple Bar Inn, which is one of the lesser known lodgings with ‘Temple Bar’ in the name. We knew we were on the right street but trying to find the number proved confusing. I discovered later that the street changes names like twice right in that area so the numbers kept starting over. After getting bad directions from a bartender and a street vendor, I decided I’d check out the Tourist Office we found ourselves near. THAT guy was able to help. The door to the hotel is randomly next to a grocery store, and the main parts of the hotel under and above the store and the signage is not eye-catching, so that’s why we weren’t seeing it.
The lobby downstairs was huge. We checked in and went up to our room. The room was Okay; a little small, if long. Hardwood floors (I much prefer carpet), no A/C–luckily the day was still overcast and not overly warm or I’d have been super annoyed.
We explored a bit of the Temple Bar area, and took some photos, and then were drawn into a pub because of the music. The place didn’t have any open tables. I was able to snag a stool but Jon was standing for a while. I was eying a couple sitting next to each other at a table for 4, with the opposite seats empty, and finally went and asked if we could use the seats. They were a young German couple and the guy was really friendly and chatty, but his wife wasn’t. After the band was done with their set (about a half hour), the couple left and we took their spots against the wall.
Some time and a handful of drinks later, we headed back to our hotel with a quick stop at the grocery store below the hotel to pick up some sodas and snacks and a bag of small apple pies because how often do you come across a bag of pies? About as often as you come across a pie vending machine, I think.
Anyway, we chilled in the room watching TV and I noticed how light it was for being after 9pm.
Then we were serenaded to sleep by the sounds of bad karaoke drifting up from the street.
~*~*~*~*~The Next Day~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The next morning was sunny, but windy and cold. I lasted about 10 mins outside before I decided I needed a sweater. We happened upon a comic shop, so we went in to check it out and I purchased a Batman sweater.
We walked the several blocks over to the Jameson Distillery. We didn’t have a reservation, so we had to settle for an hour and a half wait for a tour. We decided we’d have an early lunch, and luckily the distillery had a restaurant. Jon ordered fish & chips, while I ventured way out of my comfort zone and tried the oatmeal-breaded chicken in a tortilla cone with rocket and sweet chili mayo. It was definitely…interesting. I ate it all, but I don’t think I’d ever get it again.
Finally it came time for the tour. We watched a short video and then walked through, visiting each step of the whiskey-creating process. Then they gave us samples of their whiskey, plus 2 other brands, to demonstrate the difference in taste. I could definitely taste the smokiness in the Johnny Walker sample (because of the peat used in their barley drying process). Of the 3 samples, I didn’t particularly like any of them, but I disliked Jameson the least, so…I guess that’s a good thing. At the end of the tour we had the option of drinks between straight-up whiskey or a ginger lime cocktail (which is what I had). Not too bad, but it took me a while to get through it all.
After all this, we walked to Dublin Castle and took a tour there. Most of the castle is gone now, but there was some pretty interesting evidence of some of the older towers and stuff underground that they have excavated, and you could see a little bit of the underground river which was originally one of the borders of the castle. They have a large hall where they hold the presidential inaugurations and other important events. The queen made an appearance a few years ago and made a speech, partially in Gaelic, which was well received by the locals.
After this, my feet were rather tired, but since it was our last day I toughed it out. Also, I noticed these signs all over the place…pro and against marriage equality for a vote they were going to have the next week. (it passed, btw)
We did a quick walkthrough of Trinity college, but their giant old library wasn’t open so we didn’t stay long. Then we walked around looking at shops and buying a couple souvenirs. It was pretty crowded with mostly tourists and a couple street performers.
We made our way back to the pub we stopped at the night before, but actually to eat in the upstairs area. I had shepherd’s pie and Jon had a stew (and a Guinness) and we listened to the performers, which weren’t as good as the day before.
After dinner, I decided I had to get some churros. I’d spotted a Mexican restaurant nearby and I just had to know what churros in Ireland tasted like. They made them fresh for me, hot enough I had to wait until we got back to the hotel before I could eat them. They were smaller than I was used to, and the cinnamon-sugar all over it fell off in a way similar to eating a powdered sugar doughnut, but they were quite tasty.
After churros, It was time to pack again for our departure in the morning. I managed to make everything fit without over-stuffing anything. But also, after the day’s extensive walking around, one of the blisters on my feet was just ridiculous so I took some time seeing to that and then wrapping up that portion of my foot with medical tape and gauze so I wouldn’t have issues while traveling.
While trying to sleep, we were once again bombarded with karaoke sounds. Specifically, everyone wanted to sing Wonderwall. Why? I don’t know…that song is lame when professionally sung, but in bad karaoke rendition it’s just the worst.
In the morning, we ate the last of the tiny bag pies and headed out to catch our bus back to the airport. The ride was uneventful. We got to the airport and went through security. Then since we were traveling to the US, we had to go through US Customs Pre-Clearance, which involved another security (for which I was randomly chosen to receive a more thorough check which involved a pat down, looking through my bags and having me turn on my Netbook) and then waiting in a line to scan my passport at a kiosk and answer a bunch of questions about my travels, and then wait in another line to see an actual person to review my passport and the picture the kiosk took of me and printed out 5 minutes earlier (to make sure it was still me) and to verify the pictures they took of our luggage at the first security were in fact our luggage. All in all, that whole process was intense.
After going through all that, we discovered that if we wanted to go to the AerLingus VIP lounge, we would’ve had to have done that before coming through the US Customs pre-clearance. I was annoyed with myself that I didn’t look that up, but also annoyed at the airport setup. We decided it was not worth it to go back out and have to go through all that again and made our way to our gate to sit.
And so we sat. The board at the gate said our flight was on time and yet the time for departure came and went and we were all just sitting there. It just really got to me that it said on time when it clearly wasn’t. Just freakin’ tell me!
We finally departed, about an hour late.
We had our tasty meal of salads and beef and potatoes and parfait.
Then I watched Into the Woods, which turned out to have a far more depressing ending than I had anticipated. When we were about an hour away from landing, they served a power salad with quinoa and garbanzo beans and a pastry with tiny jam.
As we got closer to landing, I and many others on the flight were expressing their concern with making their connecting flights. I was trying to explain how we’d be landing in the International terminal and having to leave the secure area to go to the domestic terminal and go back through security to get to our connecting flight. The flight attendant thought that since we had gone through the customs in Dublin we would be considered a domestic flight. But guess what, we landed in the International terminal.
As we were taxiing in, I pulled down my large tote bag that still had some room in it and frantically stuffed one of the airline blankets into it. I barely got the thing zipped up in time and Jon was visibly nervous. But, I de-boarded with my comically-puffed tote bag.
Most of the passengers on our giant plane were trying to race out to the tram to get to the other terminals. The airport staff was helpful, with signage for us to follow, until we reached the domestic terminal, that is. It was like different worlds over there…the security lines were a hot mess and the airport employees were cranky (downright bitchy, really) and had zero sympathy for those of us whose flights were departing soon. It was just, get to the back of the line.
So we waited with as much patience as we could muster to get through the security line.
We finally make it through and get to our gate with like 10 mins until departure, and board the plane. Then the plane just sits……….
During our wait, I get to turn my phone on and have actual signal instead of relying on WiFi for the first time in 2 weeks. If I ever travel abroad again, I’m paying for the international plan.
That flight departs about an hour late, too, but it’s a quick flight from Chicago to Kansas City. Lindsey picks us up and it’s a 15 min drive home. We drop our luggage in the bedroom and pass out with the kitties.
We have now come to the end of our journey. Whether or not anyone cares anymore (because it’s taken me 3 months to get this all finished) is anyone’s guess.
I wish restaurants in the US would utilize the little mobile credit card readers.
Riding the London Underground is easy, even switching Lines…it’s finding your way after you exit that is the difficult part.
I’m glad I brought my keychain flashlight for when the power went out at the hotel in Brussels.
Ordering a Coke in a restaurant and receiving a single tiny bottle and trying to make it last through the whole meal makes me sad.
I shouldn’t have bothered bringing an umbrella.
Traveling by train was fun at first, but got old fast.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to travel to Europe again, but if I do, I’d like to spend more time in Wales and Ireland, and actually get up to Scotland.
I wish I’d sprung for the international cell phone data. Woulda saved us a lot of stress if we could find ourselves on a map and know if we’re going the right direction.
Business class is soo nice.
If you’re going to a cat cafe (anywhere), go as early as you can so the cats aren’t all sleeping.
I am unsympathetic to the plight of the German rail workers.
Some of the UK commercials are funny. Like this one we kept seeing: