Day trippin’

Claude is a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) and as such, is entitled to attend meetings and seminars given on computer privacy issues.  He had the opportunity to attend a meeting in Dublin whose subject had a correlation to his work at DERI, so we took advantage and scheduled a little day trip to the big city.  There’s something otherworldly about being able to hop a bus and end up in Dublin.

We took the City Link bus to the city centre, which meant stopping at every small stop along the way.  The trip took about 5 hours.  Here’s a tip: If the opportunity to take a rest room break arises before you have to ride for 5+ hours, TAKE IT.  What was it Jack Nicholson’s character said in The Bucket List?  Never pass up the chance to use the bathroom.  (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.)  However, it was nice to see all these small towns along the way and look at the Christmas light displays people have put up.  There was only one place that really could have qualified for overkill; not a bad ratio considering how many more we would have seen if we’d been in America.  There was evidence of it having snowed at some point before we passed through.  But Dublin wasn’t really all that cold.

Arriving even as late as we did, the streets of Dublin were filled with people of all sorts.  I had forgotten about the ladies who sit and beg for money on the quays; I wish I had a coin for every one of them.  We walked across the bridge and headed in the direction I thought was toward our hotel.  Thank goodness Claude has a more finely honed sense of direction than I do because I would have gotten us lost.  I am definitely a landmark person.  We asked directions and got our bearings, then ended up on Grafton Street.  It was all lit up for Christmas and I kept bugging Claude to take a picture, which he finally, reluctantly, agreed to do.  (He also discovered that the battery in the camera was almost dead, so no more pics for the rest of the trip.)  Sadly, the picture doesn’t really do it justice – the twinkling lights were quite beautiful.

We made our way to the hotel I had booked with the invaluable assistance of Trip Advisor.  We had a couple of choices in the area closest to Claude’s meeting in the reasonably priced range.  (There were others in the luxury price range that did not even merit consideration.)  One hotel got such consistently horrible reviews that it made the other sound like heaven, particularly considering the reviews it got.  We booked into the Harrington Hall Hotel on Harcourt Street, just down the block from St. Stephen’s Green – the location is excellent as far as touring the city and getting in some serious shopping.  This is a lovely little Georgian hotel with beautiful appointments and very friendly service.  Our room was quaint, with a sitting area and a large wardrobe in the bedroom.  We got the heat cranked up and it was very cosy.  I did have a complaint with the hardness of the beds and pillows, but Claude slept like a baby.  The breakfast they offered was certainly better than some I have had and overall the price was just right.

We had a very late dinner at a nice little Indian restaurant just down the street where the room was quiet, the service was excellent, and the manager was very friendly.  By the end of the meal he had invited us to his sister’s wedding in India!  We had eaten everything and were completely full but he offered us something at the end, free of charge, in such a manner that it put us both in mind of Mr. Creosote and his “wafer-thin mint.”  We couldn’t refuse.  I thought it was a dessert of some kind until he brought us two small glasses of some kind of flaming liqueur with coffee beans floating in it.  We didn’t want to be rude and not drink it, however Claude doesn’t imbibe, and I was not very fond of the flavor, which was licorice.  I sipped as much as I could and then tipped the rest into my water glass.  I was mortified when it turned the water a murky yellowish color!  We got the heck out of there shortly thereafter!  It sure was an adventure though.

Claude went to his IAPP meeting at a big-time law firm the next morning and got to meet some pretty impressive people, including the Data Protection Commissioner for the State of Ireland.  He got in some good networking.  While he did that I had breakfast and then wandered over to a calendar store on Grafton Street to pick up my desk calendar for 2012.  Not much to select from that fell within my realm of taste – mostly calendars of celebrity-types, comedic subjects I didn’t find amusing, froo-froo stuff like Hello Kitty and animals and cookery, or athletes.  I finally settled on a calendar of art by Jack Vettriano.  By the way, what we call desk calendars in the States are called diaries in Ireland.  I thought about doing some more window shopping but the stores just didn’t really sell anything I was interested in looking at by myself, so I moseyed back to the hotel to wait for Claude.

When we met up again we packed our things and checked out of the hotel.  Seeing as we were mere steps away from St. Stephen’s Green, it was only right that we take a walk through this lovely little park.  But first we walked through the Iveagh Gardens on our way there.  When we arrived at St. Stephen’s we saw the Fusilier’s Arch, the Lord Ardilaun statue, the playground, the fountain, the 3 Fates statue, and the Famine Memorial and Wolfe Tone statue.

Then off to the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, our ultimate destination.  Many of Ireland’s national museums are free of charge to the public.  How civilized is that?  This one had the advantage of not only being within walking distance of our hotel, but also of containing the types of artefacts and information that most interests both Claude and I.  This is a two-day museum; you need at least two days to see everything.  As you walk into the main hall you are surrounded by the Prehistoric Ireland exhibit containing a number of items found around the entire country.  In the middle of the hall is the gold exhibit, featuring jewelry dating back to 2200 BC.  (We saw an exhibit that contained ear plates from 500 BC that proved poking giant holes in your ears is way older than I thought!)  We viewed an exhibit about the excavation of the Mound of Hostages at the Hill of Tara, and an exhibition about bogs and their preservative qualities, including several bodies that had been found.  We also looked at the Vikings in Ireland exhibition, a favorite subject of mine.  There were some really exciting and special artefacts available for viewing.  We missed probably half of this museum – a great excuse to go back again!  There are also three other branches of the museum, 2 more in Dublin and one in County Mayo.  Oh, there’s no shortage of things to see in Ireland…

So there we were toward the end of the day, sated with our travels and wondering what to do next.  We had booked a return trip for 8 PM but decided to meander over to the quay where the bus was supposed to pick us up just to see what was going on over there – and lo & behold, there was a non-stop to Galway parked at the curb!  We rushed over and managed to get seats just as it was preparing to leave.  The non-stop trip has a lot less to look at through the windows, however it is only 3 hours long.  Claude grabbed a nap, I neared the end of my book, and soon enough we were back home in Galway.  We decided to grab some dinner.  I have wanted to eat at the Park House Hotel since we originally arrived back in October so Claude indulged me and we got a table.  It’s a high end restaurant but the people are very friendly and the prices are quite reasonable.  Claude ordered a fruit plate and it came with a very intriguing little fruit called physalis which looked for all the world like a tomatillo but was a smallish red berry.  So on top of everything else, we learned of a new culinary treat!  We had a nice, quiet meal with good food and good company.  (Claude makes me laugh every single day.)

A quick cab ride and we were back in our sweet little home.  What a lovely adventure – life really is good.

— Cindy

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