Saturday, September 03, 2022

Last Full Day Dublin

Our last full day of Irish adventures began with a pre-opening hours exploration of Dublin's EPIC Irish Emigration Museum. This museum captured my interest immediately with modern, interactive, immersive experiences covering everything from the reasons people left Ireland through the contemporary worldwide impact of the Irish diaspora in music, arts, entertainment, literature, science, engineering, politics, and labor. Each section of the museum presented a new invitation to explore. I highly recommend Dublin's EPIC Irish Emigration Museum. Our entire tour group enjoyed this experience.

Entering the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum

Epic sculpture depicting the many waves of emigration from Ireland

My favorite experience room was the library with glowing books!

After leaving this museum, we hopped back on the tour bus. A local Dublin tour guide joined us, and narrated history while pointing out significant structures as our bus wound its way through Dublin. Stops included St. Stephen's Green, Trinity College Library, and that quintessential Dublin tourist trap: Temple Bar

Look at this very refined tree at St. Stephen's Green.

gorgeous gardens at St.Stephen's Green

more gorgeous gardens at St. Stephen's Green

idyllic little corner of Trinity College Library

Trinity College Library: ultimate old book smell

clueless tourists loitering at Temple Bar

Just a half pint for me, please.

Author James Joyce sitting at Temple Bar.

Chad reading some plaque at Temple Bar.

supercute Dublin pub

Dublin has some beautiful areas, and it is a city packed with history. It is also a big city with international influence. There are dirty parts, smelly parts, traffic, clueless tourists stumbling about (myself included), so I think just two or three days in Dublin is perfect. The Irish countryside is where the real beauty lies.

One place we did not get to experience while in Dublin was the Kilmainham Gaol, a foreboding former prison that is now a museum of Irish nationalism history. This museum was fully booked to capacity for group tours on that day, but came highly recommended for insight into Irish political history.

After our guided tour of Dublin, it was back to the hotel for a quick wash up and brush up before the evening dinner and entertainment. Our tour group posed for a picture outside the hotel before boarding the bus. 

Our (mostly) jolly holiday tour group. I seriously love nine of these people.

Most of our group loved the traditional Irish song and dance night at the Merry Ploughboy. Chad and I fell more in the camp of politely smile and bear the evening's show. Remember in an earlier post when I told you to go ahead and enjoy what you enjoy? It's acceptable for different people to like different things. I appreciate the cultural heritage of dance and song, but that doesn't mean I need two hours of it at ear-splitting volume. Guess what the vegetarian option was for dinner at Merry Ploughboy? Yes! It was veggie curry! Are you psychic? Quick, what are the numbers for the lottery?

After the dinner show, our tour group members said our goodbyes to each other in the hotel lobby. I hugged a select group of my favorite tour companions, and ducked out before my not-favorite tour companions could make their way across the crowded lobby. Most tour group members still keep in touch on WhatsApp.

The following morning, the British tour group members had to be in the hotel lobby by 5:45 to catch a ferry at 6:15. The nine Americans from our group, Chad and I included, got to sleep in a bit, and have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Our cab showed up right on time to take us to the Dublin airport. The Irish airport staff were all so friendly, even at customs! Everything went smoothly for our flight from Dublin to Boston. We very much enjoyed the Delta Comfort Plus seats on that flight. We looked forward to the Delta Comfort Plus seats on our next flight from Boston direct to Austin. Hahahahahahahahahaha! 

We had a four hour layover in Boston. Our flight did not board on time. I started feeling antsy. The Delta gates at the Boston airport got more and more crowded. Chad started to feel bad, and bundled himself in a travel blanket, like a six foot tall, gangly, swaddled baby. I figured he was just exhausted from so many days of travel. Chad perked up momentarily when we saw Conan O'Brien walk by in all of his unmistakable lankiness. 

I started hearing announcements that some flights had their gates moved.  I thought maybe our flight would be delayed a bit. No big deal. Hahahahahahaha! At the time we should have been taxiing the runway for takeoff, the announcement came that our flight from Boston to Austin got canceled!  The Federal Aviation Administration ordered a full ground stop at Boston airport that night, because flight routes were jammed up with inclement weather, and many of the short-staffed flight crews were about to go over their safety mandated work hours limits. The line to get to the Delta service desk was hundreds of stranded travelers deep. Even if we stood in that long line, the best Delta could offer was a cot on the floor at Boston airport for the night, and maybe a flight to Austin with a connection through some other city in about two days. 

There was not a spare hotel room to be found near the airport. That day in Boston was popping with events: Boston Red Sox MLB game, Boston Celtics NBA Finals game, and a PGA golf event in town.  Despite feeling bad, Chad got on his phone and found a hotel for the night in a suburb thirty minutes ride outside of Boston. He also booked an American Airlines direct flight to Austin the next day. Guess where our seats were on that flight? Chad had the middle seat of the back row next to the bathroom. I had the middle seat in the next to the last row! Hahahahahahahahahaha! 

I was just so happy to be going home finally, albeit a a day later than planned. Big thanks to our cat-sitter from Loving Pet Care for showing up an extra day on short notice!

A not so fun souvenir of our trip came in the form of positive COVID-19 tests the morning after we got home. Yes, Chad and I were both vaccinated, and both had a booster. Thanks to those shots, our illnesses weren't too bad. Honestly I couldn't untangle the jet lag, from travel exhaustion, from COVID-19. We both stayed home for ten days, and produced negative COVID-19 tests before rejoining polite society. We saw on the WhatsApp trip member group chat, that lots of other group members also caught the dreaded COVID-19. Thankfully, all recovered. (You may be wondering: each tour group member had to show proof of vaccination to be allowed on the tour.) 

I'm so glad that Chad and I got to finally take this trip to Ireland! Republic of Ireland is a beautiful place with welcoming people. That said, I would not book through the same company again. I thought there would be more train travel. Apparently this is a common complaint for this particular Irish tour package. Our tour bus carried our luggage from place to place, making the train travel completely unnecessary. I'm not sure that we saw much from the train that couldn't be seen from the bus. Also, Chad and I felt very out of place for the age demographics. Some of our tour elders were so welcoming and lovely, but others went out of their way to make us feel like sore thumbs sticking out. I get it. We were unwitting interlopers with our (relatively) good knees and our young at heart, middle-aged joie de vivre. I didn't love all of those monotonous hotel dinners. I would have liked getting out to local restaurants more. For a first trip to Republic of Ireland, wow, we saw all of the things! I'm glad that we had a company planning and booking everything for us. I also wish we had been able to skip some things we weren't interested in to allow for more time at other attractions we liked better. 

Thanks for joining for the Irish trip travelogue! I hope you've been able to get outside of your pandemic bubble safely, or that you've happily embraced your inner homebody.

I never shared our trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico from October 2021. Maybe look forward to that soon on this blog? Or maybe I'll write a ghost story over here?