Robert Frost

The best way out is always through.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our first Irish day (August 15, 2009)

We awoke Saturday ready but a little forlorn about leaving London (not Lou though). We had enough time to have a snacky breakfast of leftover items that we couldn't stuff in our one allowed Ryanair carry on pack. I was the official packer for all of us, especially with the strict, strict, Ryanair limits, but Lou had gotten up super early and packed all her goodies away before we were up.

Mark ("London's best cabbie" ....so he told me) proved to be just that and more. The almost hour ride was filled with lively talk about London, his beloved East Hammersmith neighborhood (future home of 2012 Olympics), favorite TV shows, politics and favorite vacations spots (who knew Las Vegas, and Florida were so popular with the cabbie set?). Once we arrived at the airport I noticed that the cab total read 120GBP (yikes) and as I handed him the cash, he cheerily counted it to 100 pounds and handed me back the rest saying he would be as good as his word, and that he was glad to drive a nice family to the airport and have a good chat. What a dear. If we were not in a hurry (my constant travel state of mind...my poor, poor, family) I would have been so glad to have taken his picture with our crew.

Then a glitch. We actually had plenty of time and as we were orderly going through security I was called back (double yikes!) in an assertive tone. "Is this your bag ma'am?" Me: "um, uh, well it is my family's bag but my mother-in-law packed it." (yeah, I am such a fink) Then he showed me the industrial size shampoo and the way too large specialty lotion bottle packed in her carry-on and Lou said, "Oh, no, I wanted that to go in my checked bag" And in no uncertain terms the man let her know that those items were no longer hers and asked her a few more questions and briskly sent her on her way.  "Oh, no" thought I. Lou was very glad to be traveling, but these small hassles were mounting and I could sense they were starting to snowball in her mind. 

Ah, Ryanair what should I say about thee. Well, it is most definitely the least expensive for us. But the luggage restrictions were in the extreme and outside of the shampoo debacle, we made the cut! I even paid extra for our priority seating and noticed that we were not at the front of the line, but of a mob that pressed us forcefully onto the stuffed small plane. Then there was some kind of ticket mishap (thankfully not any of us) but it had us waiting on the plane, parked for almost 2 hours.

So when the mood of our group should have been refreshed by our arrival to the coolness of the Emerald Isle, we were all a bit quiet and edgy.  What a shame.  At the airport, I bought our bus passes for our ride into Dublin and for our transportation for the next two days.  But after our ride into Dublin and problems "ala me" not exactly knowing the Bed and Breakfast's location...well, Lou stated again that she did not want to take another bus. 

We stayed at the The Charles Stewart Guesthouse (budget B & B), referred by our old friend Rick Steves
It was a good stay for the price plus location.  But being in such a historic and near central area it was compact, plain but clean, creaky but quaint, and a bit musty.  David, the girls, and I expected this and I was actually delighted (cleanliness goes far with me) but again Lou, was troubled by her room, on a separate floor from ours (it could not be changed but Anna was her roomie) and how decidedly different the room was from the luxury we had in London.  Ack! We needed some cheering and what we got was a dose of Irish charm in the being of our grandfatherly hotel manager, William.

Even for us twangy Texans, we craned our necks, and squinted in the effort of trying to make out his quick and lyrical welcome and information about our amenities.  He chuckled after we asked him kindly to repeat the times for the (excellent) price included FULL IRISH BREAKFAST.  I then wondered aloud if there were alarm clocks in the rooms...
William: "No there aren't dear, but what time would you be needin' the wake up call?"
Me: "Oh, there are phones in the room?"
William: "No, by way of wake up I think a quick toss of water should do the trick."
Me: "Er?"
William: "See there's where you should be sayin' that 'it's my husband needs the wake up.'"

Oh, you silly, silly William.  We chuckled and settled on a time and I knew I was in love with the Irish lilt.  Lou was slightly charmed too, but I was hoping our dinner stop and scheduled entertainment would set us to rights.

You silly, silly Jenny.  The evening was chill and breezy.  August and jacket weather....it boggles a Texan's heat scorched brain.  We moved along with the quick moving crowds on our way down busy O'Connell street's nice wide side walks across the River Liffey to the Temple Bar area.  But here is my silliness.  It was a Saturday evening! If we thought the walk to our eating spot was crowded well Temple Bar (not a building but a street and night scene area) was swollen with people chumming about, drinking, slowly pub crawling....and here were the Griswolds, eh, us, stroller and all trying to snake our way through the crowds to our stop, Gallagher's Boxty House (Boxty being a Irish specific dish).  Once we found the place(happiness!) they told us we could be seated in about two hours (despair!)  I whispered a prayer that inspiration would strike...and the Lord is so good. 

What the Lord sent David's way (as I was head in guidebook trying to find another option)was a pretty college age girl, dressed to get attention, handing out coupons to any that needed them to the nearby Luigi Malone's restaurant.  He pointed to our girls next to him and asked if it was family friendly and she cheerily announced "Of, course!" and walked us the half block to the door. 

Now for the Irish warmth, and friendliness. It abounds.  Ireland is beautiful, tortured and lush geographically with a hard history so that you would think that people that inhabit this territory could be hard bitten and, let's face it, cranky.  But what we encountered at each turn was open friendliness, willingness to help and listen, some kidding around, and smiles.  What a welcome.  So as we walked in the somewhat posh looking Luigi Malone's and the young woman called to the host to help us, I was hopeful.  I explained to him that yes, we were a larger party of 6, and yes, it was near 7pm and we hoped to be done eating and out by 8pm for a show....could they seat us?  (all this asked as I peered over his shoulder and saw the full dining area behind him).  The young man smiled, unfazed by the request, and looked over at the reservations and said, "That'll be perfect for us, as we have a table waiting for a large family at eight.  It'll be a bit of a rush dinner, is that alright?" "Yes!", David, Lou and I seem to answer at the same time. 
And dinner....well I can hardly remember who had what.  What I distinctly remember is just the sense of relief of the friendly timing of our meal, and thankfulness to the Lord for its provision.  We all remarked at how the demeanor of the Irish people we had encountered thus far was good for travel beaten spirits.  They were good to their word and we were in and out in great time and off to find our entertainment.
Now in Dublin there are plenty of nighttime possibilities for the over 21 set...but with our wee ones...well besides the movies, eh, cinema...there wasn't much else.  Through the always helpful Trip Advisor, I had found out about the less racy Irish House Party at the Lansdowne Hotel and Bar. 
There are a number of venues of Irish music, dancing and comic banter, but typically ages are restricted. This is what we needed to cap our night.  The chatty and audience involving entertainers taught us a few things about Irish music, culture and history.  Even the girls were grinning and Sophia caused the musicians to chuckle as she would giggle and clap loudly, tickled by the uplifting music.   

It was late when the evening ended, and I wished I could say that the last thoughts of the night were happy ones....but we got quite turned around about directions and a bit lost on our walk back and forced Lou on a bus to the B & B.  All I could do was cover us with prayers and give all our hopes for a better tomorrow to the Lord.  He is so very very capable and I was oh, so tired.    


Debi said...

Oh, how I love reading your accounts of European travel with a family of 6--always interesting challenges, right? Loved your description of the cabbie--they are the greatest at what they do, and you can really learn a lot. We have yet to try Ryan Air- I hear mixed reviews, so I was anxious to hear what you had to say. Looking forward to the next "chapter."


Anonymous said...

Like Debi, I am looking forward to the next chapter too. You are amazingly brave to travel with a group of six. With a mixed age group like you had it sounds as if you were ready with a plan for just about anything thing.

Jenny said...

Hello Debi! I am glad you came by for a visit. yes, the cabbies we had were very good and I know they go through rigorous training to do what they do. OUr cabbie was a retired policeman. and Ryanair..well it was what it was...budget airfare. Just gotta be ready to travel light at it is a great deal.

Elizabeth...thank you too for tagging along on our journey. And, yes, I know my travelogue is lengthy...y'all are so sweet to read and comment. I just have found that I got all these stories and remembrances pent up and it is fun to retell and see it in blog form. Happy Blogging.

Teri said...

This is such an interesting post... makes me want to go to Ireland for sure now!!!

I added a video to my post today incase you want a laugh!

As always... love your blog and your humor!

BonjourRomance said...

Bonjour Jenny,
Wow, what an action packed day. I have always found London cabbies to be so friendly, it's a mixed bag in Paris. Glad your busy day ended on a sweet note.
Happy weekend,

Jenny said...

Thank you dear Mimi!


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