Highs and Lows in Dublin

The Chicago Airport is nothing if not consistent. From the time Ray’s plane from Tampa pulled up to the gate to the time he got off the plane, walked to the tram between terminals, got to Terminal 5, got through the long security line, and got to the departure lounge for our flight, 64 minutes had passed. It took me 63 minutes to do the same thing coming from San Francisco.

I need to take back, or rather amend, what I have said about airbnb being unreliable and difficult, because in this trip already I have had reservations made on Venere.com and Booking.com rip themselves out from under me. In Dublin: The gal at Acara House B&B wrote to me a couple of days ago saying that her daughter was coming to stay with her and therefore the room I had reserved was no longer available, and I could go to Bradoge House which she would arrange if I wrote back and acknowledged this change, which I did. On the website for Bradoge house I found it was at 221 New Cabra Street, and even though the map on the website didn’t have a dot on it showing the hotel, who worries about a broken website?

We got to Dublin at 4:40 AM Thursday, got our passports stamped in a short line and waved past customs entirely along with the whole rest of the plane — so nice to be in a country that isn’t at war with the entire world — and after some consideration decided to splurge on a taxi to 221 New Cabra Street, which Garmin, Google, and the Taxi driver couldn’t find. And Bradoge House didn’t answer their phone.

The taxi driver let us off just north of the river where I made an angry phone call to Elizabeth Jones, she of Acara House, who was so apologetic that she would not hang up for apologizing; I couldn’t get a word in for the last five minutes which cost us who knows how much in foreign telephone fees but she did not do anything so apologetic as, say, driving to get us and take us to Bradoge house. She said it was too early.

The humblest little Indian immigrant in every America’s Best Value Inn knows that being available 24 hours a day is part of being in the hotel business. I have expressed my disapproval in Tripadvisor and to Venere. We sat in a Burger King using their WiFi to find a new hotel. Dublin is packed full this weekend. We got a room at the Beresford Hotel for last night and a Travelodge by the airport for tonight and tomorrow.

And Beresford gave us a room right away (at 7am) so instead of having to sleepwalk through Dublin until the room was available, we were able to take a nap until midday. Dublin hotels don’t have air conditioning: the fog usually does that. But it has been sunny here for the past three weeks, which is unusual, around 30 degrees, hotter than for the last seven years.   Our room was pretty hot:  they gave us fans, which helped a lot. When we arrived, two things failed right away: my belt and the GPS; we bought a new belt, and removed all waypoints, allowing the GPS to start up, so all is well there.

So finally about 2pm we started walking around, and had a nice snack at “brother hubbard” which an Irish guy we met a few years earlier had recommended. I have mixed feelings about reviewing them for TripAdvisor. Popularity might result in their becoming a chain. As it is they are really good and the staff is lovely and as we dug into the pulled pork sandwich I reflected that it was the first good thing that had happened in Dublin.They had programs for Gaze, an upcoming Dublin lesbian and gay film festival, which had a few films we’d seen at Frameline a few weeks ago but also had many films that hadn’t shown there.

We suddenly decided on the ten Euro tour, leaving in 2 minutes, of Trinity College which somehow supports 17000 students in a tiny campus. The guide was a recent graduate of that institution who will make a good barrister as he has an excellent speaking voice and a great familiarity with the facts he is called on to explain a dozen times a day. Trinity first admitted women in 1904 and the college head resigned and died. The ball outside of Berkeley Hall is the same artist as did the balls at UC Berkeley and the Vatican and the Berkeley is the same Berkeley, as well. The two Oregon maples are among the largest in Europe. I’m sure a lot of it is in Wikipedia but Wikipedia isn’t as good-looking as Henry Barrow.

On our trip in 2004 we’d tried to see the Book of Kells, but the line to get in was two hours long. This time it only took a few minutes, and we saw the exhibition, peeked at a couple pages of the book itself, and visited the Old Library.

We walked through St. Stephen’s Green, and noticed a statue of Robert Emmet, erected by the Robert Emmet Statue Committee. It’s good that a KFJC DJ has attained the stature to be memorialized several thousand miles away. The statue is a copy of one in Washington D.C., and Wikipedia tells me there is another copy in Golden Gate Park, at the Academy of Sciences.

After that we drifted north through the international tourist quarter Temple Bar. You would be hard challenged to distinguish it from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco unless the photo were zoomed out enough to include major bits of Dublin skyline. The shops are the photonegative inverse of the Barbie aisle at Toys R Us: everything pink has been replaced by green.

Dinner was at the Winding Stair, which is also a bit hard to find as the map services disagree where 40 Ormond Quay is. We did find it and it was pleasantly packed and the food was pleasantly good. The chowder was more like a white cioppino. There were eleven mussels, hard to share evenly. The lamb and polenta were huge and made me happy we are only ordering one main course these days. The pear ginger cake with rum raisin ice cream — the pear got lost I’m afraid but it’s not really pear season anyway.

Friday we checked out of the Beresford, left the bags at the front, and found a place with fresh-squeezed juice next to a nicer place with coffee and pastries, and lots of table space to write postcards. Then we went to the National Museum, Archaeology, to see the “bog people”, unfortunates who had been killed and thrown into the bog, only to be preserved over a period of several thousand years. One placard explained that there was a custom that commoners kiss the king’s nipples: some of the bog people had had their nipples cut off so they could never be king. There were many other gold and stone artifacts as well.

While we were in the museum I noticed that the single pair of travel pants I have on this trip, in their “short” configuration, had ripped, up the leg. So the next ultra-important mission was to find a place to get new ones. I found some functionally equivalent ones, though more expensive and a little less roomy somehow — all the pockets are smaller. Lots of guys are wearing camo cargo shorts — maybe I should just look for some of those.

Then we took a walk in Iveagh Gardens, two-thirds of which unfortunately was closed. We sat in the shade for awhile and watched a guy do yoga and a bunch of kids swing from a tree.

Our next destination was Chester Beatty Library, and as we approached it, a woman called out “Dave and Ray!” It was our wonderful friend June who I’ve known since 1976, and was there with her husband for an urban planning conference at the end of a seven-week European trip. This meeting was completely unplanned, and instantly changed the agenda of the day — of course we all hung out together for the seven or so hours we all had left together. This included visits to a temporary location of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (not unlike SFMOMA’s temporary locations for the next three years), and to the National Gallery. Plus we saw Oscar Wilde’s statue in Merrion Square.

They had dinner plans with friends which we decided to crash. These plans turned out to be at Winding Stair, the place we’d eaten the night before. So we went back. The staff grudgingly increased the table for eight to a table for twelve (two others had added themselves on as well), and we had the opportunity to sample many different things from the same interesting menu as the night before. Tonight’s most spectacular success was a plate of various smoked fish, though everything was delicious.

Now we’re at the Travelodge: we declined buying their WiFi service, but amazingly, the voucher we’d gotten for free at Beresford still works here, since they’re both provided by the same company.  Tomorrow we’ll give Chester Beatty Library another try.