After flying across the ocean overnight, we arrived in Dublin in the early hours of October 13th. After a long wait in line for our rental car, the rental company handed over the car keys with a much higher level of belief in my ability to drive on the left side of the road than I had.
Driving in Ireland was a trick. It wasn’t just driving on the wrong side of the road; it was shifting to the left and going around the roundabouts to the left. That first day I felt like my head was going to explode from sensory overload. My sister kept telling me to look at the GPS, but every fiber of my being was focused on the three issues above. I’m sure I was quite polite when I informed her that she was going to have to watch the GPS for me.
After more wrong turns than either of us could count, we finally got on the correct road and made our way to Portmarnock, a seaside community to the North of Dublin. When we got to the B&B we dropped off our bags and walked down the road to a neighborhood grocery store to withdraw some Euros and relax over a cup of tea in the café next door.
Everywhere we went in Portmarnock it felt like we were on the set of a movie from the 80’s. The décor was all creams and mauves with lots of flowers, both real and silk.
That evening we walked a couple of blocks to a seaside restaurant that served Italian food. The view was breathtaking and we both managed to stay awake long enough to eat our food and walk back to the B&B where we were staying.
The next morning we got up early and ate a traditional Irish breakfast which is a large meal of meat (bacon, sausages and black and white puddings), eggs, vegetables and potato all fried in creamery butter, served with a generous helping of homemade Irish soda or brown bread, along with a strong cup of breakfast tea.
After breakfast we cleaned up and headed out to find the Dart (train) station. This would seem like a relatively easy task, but not for us. After stopping at least 3 times to ask for directions, we never did manage to find the station that was located in Portmarnock. With perseverance though, we did finally stumble on the station in a neighboring town. Relieved, we climbed on the train and into Dublin we went.
Once in Dublin, we walked around town for quite a while, not stopping in, but walking by, a number of famous landmarks. Then we headed for the only landmark I was interested in seeing: the old Jameson distillery. This particular landmark is no longer a working distillery, but the short tour did offer a tasting of three different whiskeys followed by a glass of whiskey at the end of the tour. Somehow, we lost our bearings coming out of the distillery (doesn’t that sentence make perfect sense?)
While in the distillery, we had mis-placed the River Liffey, which is the river that flows through the center of Dublin. As we stood in the middle of a crosswalk trying to figure out which direction to go in, a very young man, (Claire guesses around 11,) heard us talking about where we were going, and stopped to give us in-depth instructions on how to find our way. His mum stood there laughing at all of us and told us he was directing us by every retail store he knew. It was wonderfully helpful that he stopped though.
Once we found the river and the Dart station we needed to catch the train from, we were back on our way to whatever town it was where we’d parked. Despite our exhaustion and fuzzy heads, we managed to find our way back to where we’d parked the car. Once we got that far, it was relatively easy to use the GPS to find our way back to the B&B.
That evening, Nikki, one of my friends in Dublin who I used to work with, drove an hour and a half out of her way to pick us up and bring us back into Dublin. Bless her heart. Another friend, Paul, who also lives and works in Dublin, told me he thought she was flat crazy to be willing to do that. It probably was crazy of her, but it was so nice to go somewhere and not feel the stress of finding my way in a car that’s backwards to how my head works.
We had a wonderful time that evening. We ate at a tapas restaurant that is popular with the locals. In my experience, tapas restaurants generally bring you Mediterranean food in small portions that you are expected to share with everyone else at the table. The menu at the restaurant in Dublin had regular bar food on it, not just Spanish items, and the portions were generous. We all shared, but no one left the table hungry. I can’t remember everything we ordered, but I do remember it was good. My friend Paul joined us at the restaurant and it did my heart good to spend time with those two young people. When you don’t see someone for a while you can forget how smart and funny they are.
After dinner, we went to what Nikki called “One of Paul’s old man bars.” It was located in the area around Grafton Street, but it was off on a side road and felt more like an Irish version of a dive bar. Think crowded Irish pub with a mix of old and young people mingling somewhat comfortably. Claire and I were both still too tired from the trip over to stay out very late, but it was nice to feel like we were in a regular pub, not just a tourist stop.
At our last breakfast in Dublin, I was lucky enough to be seated across the table from a nice gentleman who works as a driver for tourists visiting Ireland. He was quite sympathetic to my concerns about driving through the country. He assured me I could do it and gave me a piece of advice that was our mantra the rest of the trip: Take your time.
With that advice ringing in our ears, we were off to Galway.
Our Bed and Breakfast hosts in Dublin were Ailene and Pat Lynch. You can find more information about them here: http://www.bandbireland.com/tradeclient/accommodation/26604/oakleigh