Leaving Belfast we made our way back down to Dublin, but first we stopped at Newgrange, a stone age passage tomb in the Boyne Valley that was built around 3200 B.C. Our GPS took us directly to the site - unfortunately, you can't park there and visit. You have to drive another 15 minutes or so away to the visitor center, park there, and then take a bus with a bunch of other people to Newgrange. While it was so frustrating to be there - and yet NOT be there - by going with the group we were able to actually enter the passage tomb to see how it was built (that was mightily impressive!) and the carvings that have become known worldwide as ancient Celtic communications. I won't tell you that going inside was the most awe-inspiring thing I'd ever seen or done because truthfully I don't fully understand what it was I was seeing. Our instructor/guide, kept telling us what all the theories are (using broad generalities) but never really gave you anything that you could grasp onto.
According to various sources, megalithic mounds such as Newgrange entered Irish mythology as sídhe or fairy mounds. Newgrange was said to be the home of Oenghus, the god of love. The Passage Tomb at Newgrange was re-discovered in 1699 by the removal of material for road building. A major excavation of Newgrange began in 1962; the original facade of sparkling white quartz was rebuilt using stone found at the site. Newgrange was built in such a way that at dawn on the shortest day of the year - the winter solstice - a narrow beam of sunlight for a very short time illuminates the floor of the chamber at the end of the long passageway.
From Newgrange we dropped the car off at the airport and then went to check in at the Clontarf Castle Hotel in a suburb outside the city center. We were worried about returning the car because of the lost license plate but because we clearly didn't do anything wrong and there was no damage, we just had to pay a 15 euro replacement fee and then be on our way. I wish dealing with the idiots at Clontarf Castle would have been as easy. Arriving it at the castle you can see they've done a great job taking an actual castle and remodeling it to include a whole modern facility around the main hearth. Not much of the original castle stands except for the lobby area, but they've done a great job integrating ancient and new. Too bad that's where them doing a great job ends.
We go to check in and the lady is like, "oh, I need you to speak with the manager." Someone whose name I can't remember but who's lying stinking face is ingrained in my memory came over to tell me that unfortunately they'd booked some parties and now they couldn't accommodate our reservation anymore. Never mind that we'd already paid. According to this filthy stinking liar of a man, they'd been trying to reach us "for days" to tell us that they'd moved us to their "lovely" sister property - the Burlington - in Dublin's city center and had made sure we were getting "a beautiful upgraded room." I was so pissed off at this point because I knew he was lying to me - he had that sleaze factor about him that just oozes dishonesty and utter crap. Unfortunately at this point I was exhausted and knew that if I started talking I'd end up making a scene because I was so utterly angry at the fact that he was standing there lying to my face and trying to make me feel like he was doing me a favor. To make up for the trouble, they paid our taxi to the new hotel, what is described as a "lovely modern four star property in Dublin's city center" but is actually a shitty tourist trap for people who don't really know what four stars in and oh by the way, that's not Dublin's city center. The first thing I noticed was the hordes of people that were very clearly all there from a bus tour geared toward partying; the second thing I noticed was when we checked in our bill was for significantly less than we'd already paid to Clontarf. Fuming, I don't say anything - again, because if I started talking, I'd start screaming and I really didn't want to make a scene. But then we got to our room and I lost it and a scene was the last thing on my mind.
Let's just say the view was the best thing about the room - double bed with stained bed sheets, dirty hand prints on the wall, mold on the shower and in the toilet bowl ... you get the picture. And then I remembered the filthy stinking liar from Clontarf who told us we were getting an upgraded room for our trouble. And then I lost it.
I called down to the front desk and explained the situation to a woman who while not entirely helpful was at least honest with me. No, they weren't supposed to give us an upgraded room - it was a completely packed hotel and they were doing the Clontarf a favor by fitting us in at all and sorry that was all she could do for me. I asked her if she could transfer me to the Clontarf Hotel, you know, being sister properties and all. She did at which point I spoke with someone named Maya who was even more helpful than the previous person, but still not really helpful at all. She apologized profusely for the situation - there's a first! - but still wouldn't admit they had been in the wrong or that the asshole her colleague had lied to us. Instead she told us she'd see what could be done - about 25 minutes later we were upgraded to "an executive suite" a few floors up on the concierge level and she acted like she'd done us a huge favor. Unable to address the fact that they still took our money when the room was NOT the same price, she offered to comp us dinner in the hotel's restaurant. You know, the one with 50 partying tour bus people in it. No thanks. With the exception of the view which was slightly improved, the executive suite might have been even worse than the regular room because at least here they were trying - and failing miserably - to be a four star hotel.
Oops, just realized I didn't put a W at the end of yellow. Please forgive me - I labeled & uploaded these at 12:45 a.m. and clearly I'd lost my ability to spell.
Not pictured is the water stained 80s furniture, more dirty walls and mold growing in the shower where the plaster/drywall has started to crack and fall away from the wall. And yes, that really is a black, rotten smashed banana lying in the middle of the hallway about 3 feet outside our door - given its smell and color, it had to have been there for days.
After a pretty large freakout that had me throwing things and using a lot of very unladylike language, we decided to walk to Dublin for dinner before the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl we'd been wanting to take. Because of the season they only run on certain nights so we were lucky to be able to catch it on our last night in town. After a 35 minute walk that had me hot and sweaty - and then even more walking while we tried to figure out where and what to eat - we finally found ourselves at O'Neill's Pub which is a beautiful multi-story, multi-room pub that had a hofbrau style food set up. The food wasn't great, but it was hearty and it hit the spot. Alan was also finally able to get a pint of Harp, something he'd been trying to do for the entire length of the trip. It was during this stop that we noticed just how trusting the people in Dublin are - at one point the couple sitting next to us got up to (I think) go outside and smoke a cigarette. They left their jackets and she left her purse. They just got up and left - never asked anyone to watch their stuff for them or anything - just assumed it would be there when they returned, and of course it was. That would NEVER happen in NYC, SF ... or anywhere else!
Finally it was time for the crawl and I am so glad we made a point of doing this as it was one of the funnest things we did during our entire trip. Led by two trained actors who are very clearly up on their history of literature as it relates to Dublin and its environs, we hit up 4 bars, got a history lesson and watched them reenact a couple of scenes from various Dublin playwrites, including Waiting for Gadot by Samuel Beckett. Our first stop was Duke's which is where we checked in and were introduced to Colm and the other actor whose name escapes me (bad, I know!) and kicked off the tour.
Next stop was Trinity College where we heard about all the writers' disdain for the college, including Oliver Wilde who was very clearly a dandy.
After Trinity we made our way ... back to O'Neill's Pub where we'd just been a little bit ago. I was hot again (too heavy a jacket paired with too much indoor heating) so I stayed outside more than the rest of the group, but I got a chance to wander around the bar a bit and really take in how pretty it was and how interesting the floor plan was - another place I could have probably gotten lost in.
After O'Neill's we went to The Old Stand which has been located at its site in Exchequer Street for over 300 years. Yeah, while we were still Brits, people were regularly gathering there for drink and craic. It was also a local meeting place for Michael Collins, the Irish revolutionary leader. In addition to being in such an historic location, we were also excited because we were able to get a table and sit down for awhile. Laziness to the core.
When the pub crawl was over we didn't feel like going back to the sad excuse for a hotel - why kill our buzz and bubbling good mood?! - so we decided to head over to Temple Bar to see if there was live music playing again. With a belly full of food and drink we didn't need to worry about provisions so Temple Bar was as good a place to go as any. Unfortunately, the bar had a live musician playing Tom Petty hits so we left nearly as soon as we got there. As we stepped out onto the street we heard music coming from down the way being piped out onto the cobblestoned streets - following it we stumbled on the Ha'Penny Bridge Inn which had a huge crowd for a trio on the guitar, fiddle and accordian. At first we were in the back of the cramped room but with people leaving and moving, we found ourselves over by the bar. Then before we knew it two girls were being asked to give up their seats because they weren't drinking anymore and suddenly we had front row seats for the best live music we'd heard the entire trip!
We left the pub around midnight and walked back to the hotel which took a bit longer than the walk from it as (1) we didn't really know where we were going and (2) we both had to use the restroom something fierce! I was surprised to find the restaurant/bar area of the hotel was still going strong when we got back around 12:45 a.m. If you're in Dublin, explain to me why you're partying at your hotel bar listening to bad 90s pop? Why aren't you off in the city exploring and hanging out at the real bars? Some people I'll never understand.
Our flight the next morning was at 6 a.m. so we had to be out of the hotel by 4 a.m. to get to the airport, check in and go through security. According to the fine folks on the Fodors, TripAdvisor and Frommers message boards, we needed to be there at least two hours early because security would be a nightmare and there would be hordes of people - yes, even in November (slow time) during a recession. Nearly every single person I interacted with on those boards implored me not to think I could waste even a second. You see where this is going, right? When we checked out of the hotel about three hours later - exhausted, but ready to go home - I was SHOCKED to find the party STILL going on in the hotel bar. These people never sleep! It definitely made me realize I never want to do a bus tour with anyone under 60; old people are seemingly more my speed. Our cabbie to the airport was hilarious - he (like me) thinks Hillary would have done a much better job than Obama is currently doing and he talked about idiots who make $50,000/year thinking they could afford $1 million homes. Needless to say, I think our politics aligned. Oh, and the airport? Yeah, pretty much deserted. We could have gotten another 45 minutes of sleep and been fine!
I'll say this about our flight though: Adavan is amazing and KLM is a great airline. With the exception of the ridiculous way each of the gates are set up at the Amsterdam airport, we had a very positive experience with KLM. For one, they never stop feeding you or giving you something to drink and the onboard entertainment options were quite diverse and not at all outdated. I didn't do much TV watching on the way home because I slept for the majority of the flight, but Alan was able to watch a couple of movies, our seats were comfortable and the stewardesses were very nice and accommodating. If I ever have the option of using KLM again I will. A lot of people warned us about their outdated planes and lack of amenities but I have no idea what they're talking about - it was great (and that's saying a lot since I abhor flying).
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And thus concludes the long, long, long Ireland trip recap. If anyone is interested in further information, I'm happy to tell you what I can. You can email me at beckycaudill at gmail dot com.
For as many issues and setbacks as we had during the trip, I'm looking forward to visiting again. I'd definitely want to do it during the summer months when there is more daylight and less chance for insane winter storms. I would reduce the number of stops along the way - focusing more time in the south and west - and I'd stay in town versus out in the country in order to make access to things like food and entertainment more readily accessible. Oh, and I'd find a way to sleep since we got so little of it during the entire duration of the trip.