We flew in and out of Dublin, so we spent one night at each end of our trip at the Hilton Dublin Airport Hotel. I’m not a big fan of giant chains, but I have to say, Paris Hilton’s family got it right. We had a beautiful room and excellent service for not a ton of money.
Also, since it was close to the airport there was less chance I’d kill us getting there that first day. Ha ha! (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this first.)
On the flight over I learned two things about long plane rides: first off, booze does not help with jetlag. Don’t drink anything on the plane, other than lots of water.
This made a huge difference. Not that I’m such a boozer (leave it), but in the past I’ve had a glass or two of wine on the flight, and man did I feel it the next day.
Secondly, points for sitting next to someone who’s from where you’re going. My seatmate was a man from Tipperary who’s lived in Chicago the last 17 years. Back in the ‘90s he was having a hard time finding work, and someone from the U.S. offered him a construction job. He took it and has lived here ever since.
I said it must have been tough to leave his home country, and he said it was, but that the U.S. had been really good to him and he’s never had regrets. (He also gets home fairly regularly, so he doesn’t suffer Ireland withdrawal too much.)
When he was getting ready to leave Ireland for the States a farmer he knew gave him some good advice, and he said it was the reason he’s been able to stay employed and happy:
“You work six days. You go to the bar on Saturday night and drink your fill. Then it’s back to work on Monday.”
I love the simplicity of it, don’t you? And not just because it’s about drinking, which I happen to be a fan of. I’m also a fan of hard work and discipline, and this is such an elegant way to describe that.
It didn’t hurt that my seatmate spoke with a charming Irish brogue. He could have said anything with that accent (“You don’t know how to use Excel? Well, let me explain how to open a new worksheet…”) and I would have been enthralled. Plus, airplane knives aren’t sharp enough to hurt dull conversationalists.
The best part is he gave me a quick-and-dirty rundown of what to see in Ireland. I had a few of those places on my list already, but he helped flesh it out. Here’s some of what we saw:
How strange to have your university be a tourist attraction. There’s plenty to see there, but you can’t take pictures of most of it. We visited the Long Room in the library, which smelled of dust and old leather and history. (There are plenty of photos online and this blog has one I especially liked.)
We also saw the Book of Kells, which is the four Gospels in Latin. Such tiny writing, and exquisite calligraphy and drawings. (Again, you’ll have to Google for photos. Sorry.)
Ireland is full of castles. You’re just walking along, minding your own business, and Look at that! There’s a castle, just sitting there. This one is, oddly enough, called Dublin Castle:
Then there was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and this building dates to 1220:
This is where St. Patrick baptized the pagans into Christianity:
He apparently wanted you to become a Christian, but didn’t want you to get too comfortable:
That evening we met my friend Ned in the middle of the Ha’ Penny Bridge and wandered into Temple Bar (a neighborhood and also a bar) for a spectacular salmon dinner, then to a pub to watch the World Cup.
Next up: Galway.