Thursday June 2, 2016
The 9 hour flight from Houston to London Heathrow was (dare I say it?) actually a pleasure. As we were boarding and being personally escorted to our seats (“Welcome, Mr and Mrs Torkington. Shall I show you to your seats?”) there was a bit of doubt whether we would have a smooth experience. I glanced around the cabin and noticed that it was almost empty. There were only 6 passengers and probably as many flight attendants. I even texted Janet my fear that service might be lacking… Not to worry – we were very well taken care of!
I am no rookie to this game and immediately donned my British Airways “sleep suit.” Rich quickly followed and we hunkered down with champagne. Take off was followed by dinner (we both ordered the lobster starter and the Sea Bass entree). While Rich enjoyed watching the movie Creed, I watched something lame and then asked for my bed to be prepared. Good night Sweet Prince.
When we woke from a nice long nap there was only an hour or so left in the flight. Just enough time to have breakfast and watch a stupid video called something like “Cats Make Us Laugh Out Loud.” (It actually did make me laugh out loud a couple of times!)
We have a couple of hours in Heathrow before our flight to Dublin. No problem to make the connection, right? Everything is going along swimmingly until we turn a corner at the Arrivals section (where we have to clear immigration/customs) and see a HUGE back-up. We are able to “Fast-Track” it since we are priority, but even the fast track lane is super long. When we finally make it to the passport control area we are in a line of about 20 passengers. No problem. Except that there is only one officer and he is taking literally 15 minutes with each passenger. Security is definitely stepped up.
We soon realize that after passport control we are going to have to go through actual security screening AGAIN. As we look at the flight display and notice that our flight is “boarding” we know that we will not make it. However, we hoof it to security and think we may have a slim chance until they screen my backpack and move it off to the side. After dumping out the entire contents and finding nothing, the officer asks if I want him to re-pack my things. Ummm – no, thank you very much.
We run to our gate to find out they are still boading. Sweet. The hour long flight to Dublin is uneventful. As we approach the Dublin airport I look out the window and am stunned at how green everything is. The Irish landscape is literally a patchwork of every shade of green you can imagine. Beautiful.
The Airlink bus from the airport to the City Center is easy-peasy. The bus stops just around the corner from our hotel – The Harding Hotel. Early check-in awaits us and we are very tempted to hit the bed for a nap. However, Dublin is waiting to be explored. We take off on foot in search of a pub lunch.
The hotel receptionist has suggested The Brazen Head pub – the oldest pub in Ireland. It is about a 15 minute walk on a beautiful, sunny day.
The Brazen Head was built in 1198 and is a stellar choice for our first Guiness!
I go for the Fish-n-Chips and Rich chooses the Guiness Stew. Both are delicious and a great introduction to Ireland.
Our loose plan for after lunch included an ambitious journey to Phoenix Park (sort of like Central Park in NY) and a bike ride around the park. We are going to try not to nap so that we will be able to sleep tonight. However, that plan quickly disappears as jet lag creeps in. We give up, walk back to our hotel and crash for several (much needed) hours. We have to force ourselves to get up in order to enjoy an evening out in Dublin.
Live music is what we are seeking tonight. We already had a suggestion from Janel to go to the Cobblestone Pub where she went when she was here. It is out of the “tourist” distric and therefore is appealing to us. A sketch of a plan is made to hit up the Cobblestone early (7-ish) and then find somewhere else for dinner later. A quick glance at my iPhone map and we step out into the Dublin evening. It is already 7pm and is still very light outside making our walk very pleasant.
Almost immediately upon entering The Cobblestone we know that we have found a gem. Evidently there are music “events” scheduled for some nights downstairs and then there are nightly jam sessions on the main floor (where we are). There is a little area just inside the door reserved for musicians who come and go all night. When we enter there are several musicians with instruments sitting and there is one young gentleman singing unaccompanied. He is terrific and the entire bar is respectful and quietly listening.
We order up a couple of pints (Guiness for Rich and Galway Hooker for me). I am interested in trying some more beer varieties and have zeroed in on the IPA’s – the hoppier the better. I like ’em bitter. We stand at the side bar and enjoy the music. There are a couple of fiddlers, two flute players and an accordian. They play tunes, stop and chat/drink beers and play some more. It is all very relaxed and we are loving it. Thanks to my persistence and eagle eye, we finally manage to score a couple of seats at the bar and order another round. This time I ask the bartender how the other IPA on the menu (Piper) compares to the Hooker. He lets me try a taste. One sip and I already know I love it. Rich sticks with the Guiness. We make a few new friends and continue to listen and people-watch.
When I check my phone I can’t believe we have been here for over 2 hours already! We had better head off to dinner before it gets too late. We cross over the famous Ha’Penney Bridge and stop for a couple of pics of the River Liffey at sundown.
There is no shortage of choices for pubs as we make our way through the Temple Bar area (touristy, but cool).
We settle in on Gallagher’s Boxty House and score a great window table (some might say the “catbird” seat).
A boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake that can be filled with different items. We must be in the mood for beef and both choose the steak boxty. Turns out to be a wonderful choice. We are starving and they are delicious. Our server tries to tempt us with dessert, but we just cant.
It is almost midnight (gasp!) when we return to the Harding. Our only plan for tomorrow is breakfast and to get on a train to Galway at some point. We do NOT have to set an alarm. Today has been more than a full day and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Sleep comes fast and hard.