I’m Tripping!

That’s it, I’m off … so it’ll be hit or miss here for the next three weeks or so. Here’s what’s on the agenda:

Dublin City
We’ll be here the first five nights, sans car. Getting together for brunches and lunches and dinners with friends and family. In between, I have a few things I’d like to do and see (too much to mention here, but you’ll get a full report later), a few books I’d like to buy (and some more of my Moulton Brown hair product, oh yeah). I like Dublin, and I plan to enjoy this.

Portmarnock/Malahide, Co. Dublin
We’ll be three nights here, and we’ll have a car. We plan to finalize things with the hotel for our party later this year, including sampling and finalizing the menu. I want to check out their afternoon tea service (see how it stacks up to afternoon tea at the Shelbourne) and their spa services. I want to drive around the area and see if there’s anything to add to the sample itineraries I’ve created for our guests who will come from America for the party; for many of them, it will be a first trip to Ireland. Also I want to walk on the beach.

A Wedding!
The real reason I’m here is the first of the nieces is getting married (here).

Save the Date

We’ll move into the wedding hotel in Dublin for one night, then to an airport hotel for the next night, and I’ll fly away home. Possibly the last time I will fly home from Dublin alone. Fingers crossed. 🙂

An Afternoon Adventure. Sort Of. (3/3)

21 May 2013, Tuesday

So far today I’d been to the Glasnevin Cemetery and the National Botanic Gardens. Now I was going to meet up with Gerry and we’d figure out what the rest of the day might offer.  I left the Botanic Gardens and followed my GPS back to Gerry’s place, where we had tea and relaxed for awhile.

If you’re going to need a GPS (and, let’s face it, you probably are), it’s wise to bring one from home. It’s an extra ten euro per day to rent one with your car, which adds up quickly. In my case, it would have added 100 euro to the cost ($130), but the UK maps I bought from Garmin for my own GPS were only $70—that’s nearly half, so I was really glad I did.

Glasnevin—the community—is a pretty middle-class neighborhood, and I love looking at houses, so I took my time. I’ve always been fascinated by how different homes can look from one county to the next, one state to the next, one country to the next … I mean, the purpose is the same: roof, door, windows—a place to eat supper and sleep. But how different someone else’s house can be from what one is used to! For example, folks tend to fence their front yards in Ireland (I’m generalizing), but in the last hundred years or so, that custom has become much less common here in the States. So … I enjoyed my drive.

Picked up Gerry at his place, then we went back to the hotel, had another cuppa, and relaxed and regrouped for a bit. We had a dinner reservation but plenty of time … so we decided to go for a ride up toward Malahide, a pretty, picturesque little village Margaret and I had been in, briefly, last fall.

There’s been a settlement at Malahide since the eighth century, but it really took off in Georgian times, when it became popular as a seaside resort for wealthy Dubliners. It still is. As we approached the town Gerry said, “Oh, look, there’s Ronan Keating; he lives here.” (Keating was out jogging.) So that pretty, picturesque little village is just one little part of a thriving town; appearances can be deceiving. My guess is most of those upscale residents shop in Dublin.

We tourists shopped in Malahide. 🙂 I had a list of books by Irish authors I wanted to pick up, so we hit both bookstores, Manor Books and Village Books. (By the end of my trip I’d managed to find five of the seven on my list—Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship; Molly Keane: Good Behavior; Kate O’Brien: The Land of Spices; Aidan Higgins: Langrishe, Go Down; Orna Ross: After the Rising; Ann Enright: The Gathering; and Colum McCann: TransAtlantic.) TransAtlantic was a last-minute add—it was due to release in the States in June, but I wanted the Irish edition—which I found at Village Books.

Malahide Village, 2013. Manor Books is in the distances. (Remember you can click to zoom in.)

Malahide Village, 2013. Manor Books is in the distance on the right. (Remember you can click to zoom in.)

As we walked around we discovered the local library—a big brick building built in 1909. I know this because it is a Carnegie library (the sign over the lintel was a dead giveaway)—one of more than 2,500 built with money from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Between 1883 and 1929, 1,689 libraries were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, and 125 in Canada.

There was a lot of action at the library in Malahide.

There was a lot of action at the library in Malahide.

It’s a Carnegie library, established in 1909.

It’s a Carnegie library, established in 1909.

We decided against the castle, which I had never been to. Malahide Castle is a part of the whole village experience, and it looks interesting, sure enough, but at twelve euro per person, I think I’ll wait until the off-season. The place was packed.

With dinner reservations at Winter’s Restaurant coming up, we decided to start meandering that way. We’re considering it for a gathering we’re planning. Gerry’s brother lives in the area and regularly uses this place to entertain; Gerry’s eaten there and enjoyed it. It’s a B&B, day spa, and chef-owned/operated restaurant. And it’s also off the beaten track; the GPS was very handy.

On the way, we had a second incident of the “STOP light” coming on in the car. It had happened once yesterday afternoon: a huge red light with the word STOP screaming at us from the dashboard (it went off after five minutes and nothing untoward happened). I’d used the car all morning, and now, late in the day, another alarm. Today there was an additional message: you’re going to be stranded if you don’t stop right away, or words to that affect. So I pulled over. The icons in European cars are different than the icons in my American-made car, so I had no idea what it meant. But I know how to use an owner’s manual.

No owner’s manual in the car. The light went off. We continued to our destination. Hmm.

The chef at Winter’s Restaurant—his name is Gerry too—is a delight: funny, personable, friendly. So I asked him about the car (my Gerry doesn’t drive, and thus isn’t the one of which I can ask car-related questions). “Give me the key,” he said. “We’ll see.”

It was the thermostat, he informed us a few minutes later. The car was overheating. It was a brand-new 2013 Ford Mondeo, and it was overheating. Or not. “You never know about these all-electronic cars,” Gerry Butterly said. “It could just be dust on the circuit board.” We chatted a few more minutes and I decided I’d call the car rental folks in the morning and tell them I was going to bring the car back. On Thursday morning we’d be leaving for County Clare, and we sure didn’t want to have car trouble so far from Dublin.

But about that meal … Gerry Butterly—great name for a chef, no?—is a guy who likes to cook. Order something from the menu and it might be tweaked for your personal tastes, should you have mentioned such things in your conversation with him. For example, a plate of scrumptious garlic fries appeared. The whole meal truly was outstanding, though I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t write it up in my notes, so I can’t remember what we had. (Other than those outstanding garlic fries. Oh!)

But this is why I can’t remember: on the way home the car overheated again. This time it wasn’t a warning, but a threat along the lines of If you don’t stop, the car will blow up like a nuclear bomb over Bikini Atoll. Or words to that effect. So I pulled right over. We were on a very busy highway at the tail end of rush hour. We got out the papers from the rental company and called the emergency number the clerk had circled. The tow truck would arrive in forty-five minutes or so, we were told.

Ah well.

The garda, however, arrived within five, pulling up on his traffic motorcycle, and squatting down outside the passenger window. “You folks OK?” We explained our problem. “So the car will move, then?” We weren’t actually broken down at the side of the road, you see, we were preventatively stopped on the side of the road. I didn’t want to seize the engine on a brand-new car. “I can’t stay with you the whole time,” the officer said, “but I’ll hang out for a little bit.”

Our personal garda, standing watch over us by dusk. I wrote his name down, intending to write and thank him, but I’ve lost that slip of paper, it seems. :(

Our personal garda, keeping watch over us by dusk. I wrote his name down, intending to write and thank him, but I’ve lost that slip of paper, it seems. 😦

The sun was beginning to set, cars were whizzing past us on the highway. I was glad he was there. The tow truck driver called at minute forty; he’d be another half hour. Doh! At that point the garda said he’d call his tow service and get us off the busy highway; he was a bit nervous about our situation too.

And then the clerk from the car rental desk at the airport called us. “Why didn’t you call us?” he yelled. Um, because when you gave me the car you circled the number for emergencies. I thought I was doing what you’d instructed me to do. But he was having none of it. “You’re five minutes from the airport!”—still yelling—“I could have had you in a new car ages ago!” I explained the engine was overheating; I was afraid to drive it further. “I’m bringing you a new car!” he yelled, and hung up.

The garda was still with us when the man arrived with a new car. He (garda) seemed a bit astonished as we and our things were hustled out of one car and into another just inches from a heavily traveled highway, with tractor-trailers whooshing by at 120 km per hour. “I’ll see you back at the airport!” the man yelled, and drove off in the broken car.

We sat there and watched him go. The seat had to be adjusted, I had to figure out how to turn on the lights. Every car is different. But boy, I wished he could’ve given me sixty seconds so I could have followed him.

If you’ve ever tried to drive in or out of the Dublin Airport, you’ll understand what happened next. (I got lost.) Honestly, the place is a nightmare, even after nine o’clock at night. (Why can’t it be a nice circle, like the Nashville Airport?) I missed a turnoff, and the way back was a long one. Gerry endured not one but two testy phone calls from the fellow who’d been yelling at us alongside the highway. “Where are you?” (I would’ve liked to’ve answered that question, but Gerry knew better than to hand me the phone.)

Ultimately we got a new car, one I liked much better. But instead of a nice relaxing evening, we weren’t back to the hotel until well after ten o’clock. I consoled myself with the thought that at least I didn’t have to deal with that jerk by myself the next morning. Tomorrow would be better.

Just Another Day in Paradise … Er, an Airport

Day 3 / Thursday, 13 September 2012

Today my sis, Jill, and her daughter, Alli, were arriving—Jill from the family home in California and Alli from London. I’m so proud of my sweet niece: she’d just spent the last six weeks traveling in England, Scotland, and Wales … all by herself (mostly). With a tiny little suitcase. (Those of you who know what a clotheshound she is might be surprised. I’m just impressed.)

Alli’s an experienced singer/songwriter and also is a member of her community choir (Monterey Peninsula Choral Society). MPCS was one of just six choirs in the world invited to perform at the 2012 Olympics in London; they pieced together a little tour that included three dates in Paris (here’s a video of one song; Alli’s the female soloist in the foreground just right of center) and a few more in London, including one at the Olympic Park. After that, the choir went home—and Alli stayed, knowing she’d be coming to Ireland for a wedding soon.

Yes, Gerry has been a part of my family for a long time, too, and his nieces stayed with my California family a few years ago; later that year Alli flew to Dublin, where she became close with Eoin and Tracy, the couple whose marriage we’re all here to celebrate.

Margaret, Gerry, and I drove in from Laytown. Jill was already on the ground, and from her we learned Alli’d missed her early morning flight, so we had a forty-five minute wait. (The airport had several shops, so I bought postcards and stamps while we waited.) Although we’d thought we might go into Dublin, we were all still very, very tired, so we scrapped those plans. Gerry cabbed it home and we gals drove out to Portmarnock village, where the wedding reception would be held (at the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links). We’d all stay there Friday night; Jill and Alli were checking in today.

It’s a beautiful hotel. (Be sure to check that link. Wow.)

This is the lobby of the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links. Gorgeous day!

More of the hotel lobby.

Looking out those windows toward the back, with the sun streaming in. I really liked this room.

And it has a beautiful view. I’d seen Ireland’s Eye (a small island in the Irish sea, just north of Howth) from Howth (pronounce this with a long O, like hoe-th), but never from this angle.

Ireland’s Eye from the Portmarnock Hotel.

That’s Howth Head in the distance.

I would definitely stay there again.

It was quiet in the midafternoon. All the golfers were out on the links. So when we simultaneously realized we were hungry, we had the dining room almost to ourselves.

Alli and Jill in the dining room at the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links. So tired! So happy to be here!

Tea, please! And then: May we see a menu? I had the most wonderful vegetable soup I think I’ve ever had; it was pureed.

After lunch, Jill and Alli checked in to rest, and Margaret and I drove back to Laytown via the Coast Road, which took us through Malahide village. We stopped here, took some photos and bought some Kleenex, as Margaret had unfortunately come down with a ferocious cold.

Margaret was charmed by the beautiful windowsill flower baskets in Malahide. She took this photo.

We were back in Laytown in time for the races. And Neil and Maureen’s subdivision is right across the R150 from the strand where the ponies run.

Walking up the street into Neil and Maureen’s subdivision.

The Laytown Races are unique in all of Europe: it’s the only horse racing event run on a beach under the Turf Club’s Rules of Racing, which it has been doing since 1868. It’s a huge event in tiny Laytown village, with as many as ten thousand people showing up to eat, drink, place bets, and watch magnificent Irish thoroughbreds run on the beach at low tide in the late afternoon.

Margaret was exhausted from travel and being sick, so I walked down to the races by myself. There are bleachers, but many people just stand along the edge of the beach to watch. This is where I found myself, since I didn’t really know where to go; I asked a gentleman standing near me, and he gave me the down-low.

Laytown Races 2012. The only sanctioned beach races in Europe (and possibly in the Northern Hemisphere).

Walking the horses down to the starting gate.

Here they come! Laytown Races 2012.

Turns out he’d come all the way from England for race day. We had a lovely chat. When he heard I was from Nashville (and this is my standard response when asked where I’m from; everybody has heard of Nashville) he waxed poetic about Duane Eddy (he’s a fan). Then he mentioned the flood we had in 2010, which surprised me, since it barely got any coverage in the national news.

I watched a few of the races (I didn’t buy a program, so I can’t tell you which horses I saw, really), and then I walked around a bit. There were all sorts of folks there, from the very well-heeled horse people—who were dressed up in suits and dresses and, yes, elaborate chapeaux—to folks like me in casual clothing. I bought an ice cream cone and ate it on my way back to the house.

A day at the races.

Some folks watch the race on the big screen. And then they watch the replay. And the replay of the replay.

Margaret and I made simple sandwiches for dinner—to tired to go out—and I discovered Maureen’s stash of chocolate in the fridge. Dessert!

There was trouble with the wifi here—Neil had been bickering with his service provider for days prior to our arrival, but the fix never did come—so I caught up on my notes, did a little work on the manuscript I’d brought with me, and then we called it a night. Tomorrow (Friday) was the wedding, and it would be a long day.

Today’s Observation

No matter where you are in the world, an airport is a great place for people-watching. 🙂