Thursday, 18 June 2015
Our flight left JFK nearly an hour late and was on the ground in Dublin at 6am—50 minutes earlier than scheduled. (Gotta love those tail winds!) Gerry had already warned me he didn’t know what traffic would be like at that hour. “I’ve ordered a taxi for 6:40,” he said, “but if you don’t see me, don’t worry, I’m just late.”
But when he rolled out of bed he checked the flight status and saw I was already on the ground and hustled down to the airport and was there when I came through the customs gate. I love seeing his face among the hopeful crowd.
Tradition calls for a stop at Gerry’s house for breakfast. I’ve had many an Irish fry-up—black pudding, white pudding, rashers (bacon, sort of), eggs—but none better than at Gerry’s house. He has this butcher, see …
Conventional wisdom says that when you get off the plane in the morning after traveling all night, you should just step into the day as it is. Don’t go to bed (even though your body thinks it’s 1am). Take it easy—but try to stay up until your normal bedtime. But a day begun disembarking an airplane at 6am is gonna be a long day, and we had the time: it was only 9am and too early to check into our hotel.
So I unpacked my CPAP and went upstairs to take a nap. Just two hours. It was great. My Magic Sleep Machine puts me out in a couple minutes, so I got two really good hours of sleep.
Later we cabbed down to the hotel and got checked in. We were staying at the former Burlington Hotel—now the Doubletree by Hilton—on Upper Leeson Street just south of the Grand Canal in Ranelagh (pronounce this RON-a-lah), which is a quiet, upscale neighborhood.
II’ve had more than one meal at this hotel when it was the Burlington, and though it is not as luxe as it was then, the breakfast (we would discover) is good, the location is excellent, and it is very, very quiet (both the hotel and the neighborhood). I like that last quality in a hotel. I would stay here again …
… in spite of the miserably hard bed. I know one doesn’t call a bed hard; one calls it firm. But honestly, this bed—and every hotel bed we slept in, it wasn’t unique to the Doubletree—was so hard we might as well have slept on a pallet on the floor. What is it with the Irish hotel industry and their hard old beds? Who wants to sleep like that? To prevent excruciating lower back pain, I learned to sleep with my knees up, propped on two pillows. Still, I think I aged five years in that bed.
One more little surprise: although it was only in the upper 60s (Fahrenheit), Dublin isn’t air conditioned. The room was … stuffy. (OK, it was hot.) I’ve always visited Ireland in the spring or fall, so staying cool has never been an issue. Even in September 2003 in the midst of a historic European heat wave, my first visit, we just opened windows and all was well. But big hotels don’t really want you to be able use the windows as egress (they’re afraid you might jump), so they only allow a small opening … and you learn to deal with the stuffy. I was pretty cranky the first day; by the next day when an American woman was grousing about the heat to her husband in the elevator, I was able to laugh. What are you gonna do—fly home? No.
After we got settled, we went out for a walk up to and along the canal to Baggott Street, a retail area for the neighborhood. It was refreshing to get out, though by this time I was already starting to experience the effects of a long flight in my swelling ankles and feet. We walked very slowly.
Just a couple blocks up is O’Brien’s. Their website says it is a famous landmark bar, and I’m kicking myself that we didn’t make time to stop in. However, I’ve been in O’Brien’s on a previous trip and found it charming.
It’s just a half block from O’Brien’s to the Grand Canal, one of two large canals that connect Dublin—on the eastern coast of Ireland—with the River Shannon in the west. Goods, supplies, and people moved on Ireland’s canal system from about 1779 on; the last working cargo barge passed through the canal in 1960. Here in Murfreesboro we have the Greenway, a parklike path along the Stones River used by walkers, runners, and cyclists. The Grand Canal serves a similar purpose: it’s a little bit of greenery in the city—and there are periodic benches if you’d like to simply relax—along which mothers push babies in strollers, men in suits rush to a bus stop, joggers get their exercise … and tourists like me enjoy a breath of springlike air.
I say that because June in Ireland is more like April in Tennessee in terms of temperature and what was in bloom. Along the canal I saw iris, for example. I loved reliving spring!
We were headed to Baggot Street Upper, just to see what was there, a little get-your-Dublin-feet-under-you stroll planned for me by Gerry, who is, I must say, a very good tour guide. As we approached the bridge we saw a street-food fair, just winding up at the end of the lunch hour(s).
And right there, a little … what do you call these things? A street memorial? It’s not clear what happened here, or to whom, and it’s been here so long it’s a bit ragged, but …
Finally, Baggot Street, a retail district that falls sort of between the Ranelagh and Ballsbridge neighborhoods.
We walked slooooow (for me), but even so, I was wearing down. Nonetheless, I continued to be charmed, as I always am, by the architecture and the gardens and, oh, pretty much everything.
By the time we got back I was done in. We relaxed a little in the room—in retrospect it would have been cooler if we’d gone down to the large open lobby bar, and probably more comfortable in those big overstuffed chairs, and next time I’ll think to do that—and I posted some comments and photographs to Facebook. It was midmorning back home (there’s a six-hour time difference) and my friends were slagging me. Get off Facebook and get outside! they said, not thinking about the time difference nor the fact that I’d been up for well over twenty-four hours with nothing but my two-hour nap to console me. At that point in my day, checking in on Facebook was about all the activity I could handle. 🙂
Later we went downstairs to the hotel bar for pub food. For some reason, a burger sounded good to me, but I’d forgotten my hard-won knowledge that Irish restaurants tend to overcook beef. (I love lots of things about Ireland, but not that. Yanks should order chicken or fish or pork.) This burger was well-done (to me that means way overcooked) and dry as a bone. Ugh. We had to choose a menu for our party this fall, but I rejected the beef options out of hand.
Finally I hit my wall—lights out by 8pm! Tried to stay awake to read, but there was just no forcing it. Zzzz.