Saturday, March 26, 2011

Viva Dublin

Day Two- Dublin

Always take a Xanax on the plane if one is offered to you. Even if you think to yourself, "I'm really tired. Sleeping will be no problem!" You are wrong. So, we arrive in Dublin tired and hungry. The customs line moves quickly and I refrain from writing my nationality as "white" like a friend of mine did on about as little sleep. Instead, just thinking about it sends me into giggles.

When buying a package vacation deal, it's important to read the fine print and ask questions. Picking up our rental car was an experience. I expected to pay a bit more- I knew there was a local tax that was not included in the deal- but I had no idea how much more. As foreign drivers we had to buy supplemental insurance, of which there are two choices: You can purchase the accident insurance which is 1600 euro UP FRONT, refundable to you later; or you can pay 15 euro a day for full coverage against pretty much anything. I almost started crying. She gives us the daily rate at 12 euro and we have to take it. Grrr... We also decide to get the GPS since our maps are crap (more on that later as well) and the rental agent takes pity on us again and gives it to me for 4 euro instead of 10 a day. Double Grrr. Even better, it won't stay on it's mount so my sister has to hold it the whole time. Not helpful.

Driving on the left isn't so bad except it ended up taking me two days to get comfortable with my mirrors. I keep turning on the windshield whippers instead of my turn signal. Dublin roads weren't the worst we drove but they were far from the best. Street signs, if you're lucky enough to even have them, are located on the sides of buildings. Problem is, they were probably put up in the 20s and haven't been changed since. Most are impossible to read and the English names seem much smaller than the Irish. How do you find anything when the houses don't list numbers? Thank god for GPS and our B&B booklet giving us coordinates for each!
We are WAY too early to check into our B&B so we head into the city. My sister wants to visit a couple museums and I'm all about the Guinness. More complications- parking. There are a bunch of car parks, but the prices vary so significantly its hard to know when you're getting a good deal or when you're being gouged. Frustrated and about to stab the GPS, I just pull into the next car park we find. I've already backed out of two of them and one was on a "street" so narrow, the guy loading beer into his bar started laughing at us. When we leave, the 6-hour fare was about 22 euro- GASP!

Dublin is a maze unto itself. There doesn't appear to be any logical grid system or any system in place. Streets change name while still posting the original name. You can't do that! We get lost, a lot. Finally make it to Trinity College. Other than Guinness, all I wanted to do in Dublin was see the Book of Kells. The college is gorgeous and the book very interesting. It's amazing how detailed and old it is. Such beautiful artwork. Afterward, we head by Dublin Castle to the Chester Beatty Library. It houses some of the oldest books and art, and has been named one of Europe's Best Museums. Even better, it's free! The main exhibit was of the Shahnama, a 60,000 verse epic poem over 1000 years old! The art work is amazing and many of the stories can be traced forward to our own mythology and fairy tales. One in particular is just like Rapunzel. The Library also houses ancient religious works from around the world. Very interesting.

Checking our map (thanks Tourism Centre!), we decide to walk to the Guinness Storehouse. In true Dublin fashion, most of the signs have been blown or knocked off course so you're never quite sure you're going the right direction. We finally find it and have an amazing time. It is evident why it is the #1 tourist destination in Dublin. The Storehouse takes you on a 7 floor journey through the making and history of Guinness, ending in a free pint in the Gravity Bar with 360 degree views of Dublin. Amazing. The pint leaves me energized and ready to head for lunch!

Our must stop lunch location is Cornucopia, a vegetarian restaurant in the heart of the city. The prices freaked me out a bit (everything looks normal until you factor in the exchange rate), but there was enough food for two meals- score! I had the grilled leek and polenta cake with garlic new potato salad (with hazelnuts! Genius!) and coleslaw. Of the many coleslaws I ate, I think this was my favorite. It might also be that it was my first and they are heavy on the mayo in Ireland. After a few days, all you want to see is some dry cabbage.

Finally, it's time to check into our B&B.  Muckross House in Drumcondra is convenient to the city center and the airport. Our host was lovely and suggested some pubs around the corner for later. We passed out for a few hours, ate left overs, then headed in the direction of beer. Travel Tip #2: Do not tip waitstaff. They make a decent wage and it confuses them. Plus, then you're out of a few euro you could have used to buy another half pint. It's super cold at night here too. About 30 F in the day but the wind picks up at night. I'm thankful I packed both a long and short winter coat. We head back to the B&B and pass out again. Tomorrow is a long day of driving.

Next: Newgrange and Galway

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