We flew Gatwick to Dublin on the 29th at 1:30pm via Ryan Air. In Dublin we used the Air Coach. Two return trips were 12 Euro and it was a 45 minute ride to Burlington Hotel. From there we walked to 98 Beech House, Mespil Estates, Sussex Rd.
Mike and I wake up at 9 am. We have to be out of the easy hotel at 10. He jumps in the shower and I pack and dress. Mike comes out of the shower and starts organizing his stuff. I sit in the window of our hotel room and watch the traffic. Earlier in the trip I'd been shouting the name of the brand of car that had been going by: "Audi, Porsche, BMW, Porsche", but this, our last morning in London, I sit quietly and watch the fog and the people. After about half an hour it's looking like Mike's got most of his stuff packed and I read the end of Lady Chatterly's Lover to him. It's beautiful and I'll post the best bits here sometime.
We check out and head to Victoria Station and I buy Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, which is supposed to examine the English country house society closely. As we're tripping around, I'm overwhelmingly pleased with my teeny backpack. We get tickets to Gatwick, sit with two nice American girls on the train and then find the Ryanair desk. We're there an hour early and go through security anyway. I'll take this time to examine Mike fussing in great detail, since the rest of the day is made of waiting, standing, sitting ect...
We enter the ribboned gates for the security queues. Mike calls a halt. He takes off his backpack. He takes off his rain coat. He starts emptying the contents of his pockets into his coat. Camera goes from the front pocket of his pants into the front pocket of his coat, is patted, removed, examined and replaced: repeat for all the content of his pockets. Mike has lots of things in his pockets. He works hurriedly for a few minutes, as people push past us, trying to get to security. He works with so much focus that it's hard no to laugh at him. He used to be more relaxed about things like rearranging, but now he knows that it bothers me to stand around waiting and watching him freak out. (My word is freak out. I just don't care about things like in which pocket in particular is my 50p piece, my camera battery or any of the other things that Mike carries around. To tell the truth, the reason that Mike has all these things in his pockets is because I make him carry them: he carries our cash, my cards and has his camera in his pocket because I've given him crap before for not having it easily accessible) Today his fussing doesn't bother me. I just mellow out, stand and wait.
There's a lot of waiting in our future. Our 45 min, 1:30 flight is delayed until 2:45. We wait - I eat chips and read, Mike has a chocolate muffin and listens to his iPod - and eventually arrive at the Dublin airport. We walk down a sketchy addition to the airport - constructed of painted plywood - and into the main terminal. We find the bus and drive into Dublin.
The houses of Dublin are not as pretty and well kept as in Earl's Court, London and I get a bit scared by the sketchiness of it, but Mike's friend Mike Schmidt and Caroline (pronounced Caro-lynn) have a beautiful, large apartment that's full of light. Their place is beautiful and roomy. They have a pull out couch and everything. It was such a relief to me when we got here and had such a nice place to visit.
We arrived and I was sleepy, but Schimdt was really keen on seeing the city, and since it was Caroline's birthday we all headed out. We walked through a park and arrived at the downtown shopping district and had dinner at a tapas bar that's in an old shoe factory. One end of the restaurant has a wall entirely covered with shoe forms. There must be at least 500. We had a yummy dinner of potatoes, mussels, chicken tikka and deep fried potato/cheese thingys. Mike and Schimdt drank pints of Guinness and I had cider.
Right after we got there more and more people started arriving. The girls were dressed in all sorts of crazy crazy clothes: beautiful dresses and amazing tights and shoes. Their hair and makeup is amazing. I would feel totally under dressed, but Caroline keeps telling me that the girls are overdressed.
We walk through the famous area of Temple Bar and through crowds, still subdued, and cross the Liffey river via the Hot Penny bridge. In the distance we can see the Post Office. We go to a bar that is art deco-gothic, where one of Schimdt's friends is having his birthday. We meet a bunch of people and, in particular, Caroline's friend Kate, who lives and works in Ireland because of her boyfriend, Frank, who is Irish. Kate's from Chicago and is awesome.
Kate, Caroline, Schmidt and Mike and I leave the bar. Rather, we try to leave the bar. Mike gets lost and just stands where he was and Caroline has to go back into the bar to find him. We walk back across the Liffey and through the centre of the Temple Bar, which is lined with bars and thick with drunk people. Drunk people like you'll only find at Homecoming in patches, but here they're everywhere. We go through the district and to a more traditional bar that's carved wood and three stories high. We go to the top and dance a while. It's full of kids who are just hanging out, drinking and talking. We leave after a while and go up the street to a more subdued bar, where, once again we climb to the top of the bar and find classy leather chairs and sit and have drinks. It's quieter here.
After a while, Caroline is tired - I was tired about the second bar, but hid it to the best I could - and we catch a cab through the twisty, winding streets back to Schmidt's place where Mike and I promptly fall asleep.
P.S. The whole night there was music I would hear in North America playing: standard, poppy, Britney, 70s flashback music. It's nice and yet a little creepy.
After the big night we just had, Mike and I are wiped out and sleep until about noon, when his friend Schmidt bounds into the room where we're sleeping and announces that he's going to get some breakfast. <sigh> Mike and I take this as an indication that we can sleep for another 30 mins and we do.
Schmidt comes back with sausages - deep fried - and ham and proceeds to make us an amazing breakfast of fried potatoes, ham and eggs. There was some toast too. Caroline gets up and is sleepy, but not as grouchy and thundercloundy as yours truly. Mike and I get up and get dressed and we have breakfast, which was amazing.
Schmidt suggests we start hitting some pubs, much to my amazement, and Mike stares blearily at him. Caroline, taking pity on us, suggests something else and between the two of them they sort out that we will visit Powerscourt. I don't care what we'll be doing: I know Caroline has a hairdryer and I want a shower and to blow dry my hair.
After we all shower we walk to the train - the DART - and catch it to Bray, a small seaside town. From the train station we catch the city bus to Enniskerry. (Not sure about the spelling of that...) On the way to Enniskerry we hit trees overhanging the road and - to our surprise - a power line. The bus drops us at the gate to Powerscourt and we walk for about 15 mins through a beautiful park with many nice trees. To our left there appears an amazing, large building which turns out to be the Ritz Carleton. It's either being built or being refurbished. It's huge and made Mike wish he was rich.
So, we arrive at Powerscourt, which is an old country home. It's beautiful and I'll make sure to post some pictures here.
We have 1 hr to see the extensive gardens of the place and I spend the time rushing Mike, Schmidt and Caroline through the gardens so that we can see everything. It took 10 years to build the valley that the house of Powerscourt looks out onto. It was stunning. They have a Japenese garden, a proper English rose garden and tons and tons of lawn.
We finish our time there and don't have enough time to buy a postcard before the owners are ringing the bells for us to leave. At the gate Mike and Schmidt eat bananas and talk about whether it would be possible to climb the wall, while Caroline and I watch the sunset and eat chips.
We walk back to Enniskerry and exhaustively search the square we're in for a place to eat. Caroline is keen on going to a place a 15 min drive from where we were - it's her birthday and she wants something yummy to eat - but we can't get a cab. We start waiting for the bus to Dublin... but it doesn't come.
I spend my time walking over to the Spar - the grocery\liquor\covienice store - and buying things like chocolate for boys, "Not for girls", Mediterranean flavoured crackers, Skittles and nutty chocolate. (The bus took a long time!)
We ride back into Dublin, expecting the bus to tip over onto the wall at the side of the road at any minute, and get there about 9pm. We walk to a nice place for dinner and Mike has chicken, but I have an amazing goat cheese salad, with cooked lentils, roasted zucchini, red pepper and warm goat cheese and nuts on top. It was great.
Schmidt takes Mike out for a pint after dinner (!!!) and I wash our clothes. Most of them didn't smell, but it's still nice to have them clean.
Mike and Schimdt came back before midnight, I think, and we went to sleep.
Today was not a great day for Mike and Amanda. Mike woke up with a hangover - 2 pints in less than an hour and too tired to stay up - and Amanda woke up too late, about 11 am, to be in a good mood. I started working on my blog and Mike, the darling that he is, tried to recover. After a couple of hours of e-mail and blogging I felt niceish again and Mike proposed climbing Sugar Loaf, a big hill, bordering on mountain, that we had seen from Powerscourt. I agree, provided I get a nice lunch... Well, with all the blogging and fussing, we didn't get out of the house until after 1pm, I think it was 2, actually.
We got a sandwich, that was good, but by no means nice, and then Mike tries to tolerate my whighneing and badgering, but fails and basically we ride to Bray in silence. We get to Bray and sit by the seaside, watching the people walk their babies, older parents and dogs, and talk about how we should be nicer to one another. So then it's WAY too late to try to go to Sugar Loaf, but we decide to climb a shorter mountain near Bray. We walk to the base and up the mountain, pausing in our puffing every now and then to look out over the city and the quickly approaching clouds. Oh! I forgot to mention that it's beautiful.. warm and sunny. I took off my sweater and scarf and jacket for the climb up because it was too hot.
We got to the top just as the last sun went behind the clouds and the fog rolled in. Mike ran all over the surrounding hills and I sat and watched the sunbeams stream through the thickening clouds. On the way back down the hill it got really damp and cold. We were in a forest, so it wasn't windy, but it felt like the air was wet. Very Irish.
We caught the train back to Dublin and we're friends again. We walked along the canal to Schmidt's house and got a pie and a bottle of wine to go with the lasanga that Caroline had promised to make us.
We got back around 7pm, had dinner and then basically went to bed: everyone was so tired from the day.
Schimdt woke up us up at 8am. We got up before 10am and left their house. We're bound and determined to see Dublin and not waste another day. We walk up to St Stephen's Green through some lovely old streets and I see some photos of endangered animals. Then we walk along streets lined with traditional pubs that Schimdt was very keen we visit. It's early, so they're all closed.
In an antique shop Mike points out a sign that says "My dad says condoms don't work." (It used to be illegal to get condoms in Ireland. You used to have to get a prescription for them.)
We go to Dublin castle, which is mixture of Victorian gothic, Roman and everything in between. Mike and I have a fight about whether they're filming a movie or whether someone is getting married. Turns out they're filming a series and there's people getting married in the background. At the castle. Which is funny. For the life of us we can't figure out where to go to get inside the castle, but we do find a circular green with thin brick walkways running through it. It's used as the helicopter landing pad when the president - a woman! - visits the castle. So we ask, find it and sign up for a tour. The castle is amazing. We saw bedrooms, negotiation rooms, throne rooms and rooms where balls used to take place, but now where the president is inaugurated.
After the castle, I want some lunch so we go down to Grafton street - the busiest street I've ever seen. And it's pedestrian - and into one of the alleyways and have lunch at a carvery. I have corned beef, scalloped potatoes and vegetables. Mike has stew. We have a nice slow lunch and decide what we're going to do with the rest of the afternoon.
I try to find something for Carloline at Avoca - a store that sells Irish things - but can't. Then we go shopping and Mike suggests we buy an outfit for Kate's party tonight. I say no, but look anyway. Then we find a card for my Aunt Grace and are done the store shopping we're going to do.
We cross the river and come to the spire, a huge, tall shiny spire that stands on the north side of the river. We walk alongside the river and find a market where a woman sells me a ton of fruit for 3 euros, which is unheard of. I chalk this up to me being so cute.
We get home about 6:30 and Caroline, Mike and I chop fruit and make the biggest fruit salad ever. We have some time, so Mike and Caroline nap while I read Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, which is amazing, too. I also eat some of the leftover lasagna from the night before. Mike wakes up long enough to steal some.
I blow dry my hair and we walk, with Schimdt, to Kate's house. She lives in a street that looks very similar to other streets so we have a fun time trying to find it. When we get there we meet Diana, a Berlin German, and Claudia, a West German. Diana, when she hears we're going to Munich tries to warn us against it because Berlin is so much better.
Then Kate's boyfriend, a real big Irish guy named Frank, arrives with a ton of flowers and the party starts. We're sitting around Kate's front room, which has a dining table that Schmidt, Caroline and I are sitting around, a fireplace where Mike is and a couch and chair where Kate sits when she has a second. I'm beside Diana, who is an accountant for Deloitte. So is Frank, so they exchange info. Claudia's firm employs Deloitte, so that's the common thread. Kate's an American, so there's some comments exchanged about the American-sized fruit salad. Catherine, Kate's old housemate, arrives and we have a dinner of spaghetti tossed in butter and garlic, with vegetables on the side, fruit salad and cupcakes. OH! And Kate made guacamole and she and Caroline had a terrible time finding corn chips. Because chips are fries to the Irish.
Catherine is a barrister and in Ireland they don't have law firms: she has to build her own practice.
We have fantastic conversation about Ireland, women's rights, arts and the different cultures we've got in the room. And different work ethics. It was the best time I've had here, that dinner. I've got to add them to my facebook.
We went home and to sleep, full and tired.