This trip to Ireland began many months ago with detailed planning, travel insurance procurement and precise attention to detail. However, its the small things that lead to potential disaster and in this case, it was a simple act of gravity that led to the trip almost getting cancelled.
The passport had fallen off the side table and improbably landed on its edge, effectively concealing its presence to anyone who might want to find it. As expected, the disappearance caused some degree of stress in the owner of the passport who was looking everywhere for it. Trash and recycling bins were upended in the yard in an attempt to see if the passport had somehow been inadvertently deposited with some of the junk mail that shared the kitchen table that morning. Computer bags taken to work, the car, pants pockets and everything that I might have come into contact with was suspect. Crazy ideas pop into ones head in situations like this… Did the cat take it to some dark corner of the house? Did I somehow forget that I took it to work with me? Did it slip out of my pants pocket onto the street somewhere never to be seen again? The horror of course was that despite the meticulous planning, a lost passport the night before an international trip would have nixed the whole affair. My calm exterior demeanor was utterly betrayed by the rivulets of sweat running off my scalp as I walked about the air conditioned house searching my mind and any possible hiding places for any indication of where the passport might be.
The passport eventually made it’s location known after about 20 minutes of searching as I crawled along the floor and looked up to see the edge of something next to the night stand. A wave of relief swept over me as the passport was picked up and tossed onto the bed much to the relief of H.
That small drama aside, we began out journey the next morning and all was smooth until trying to depart Atlanta where we had a two hour delay on the tarmac of the Atlanta airport waiting for weather to clear in the North East corridor. The wait was made more tolerable because we managed to use Skymiles to redeem a couple of first class (business elite) seats on Delta. I do have to say that the service with Delta was exemplary. Good food, most pleasant flight attendants and lots of leg room which made sleeping actually possible as opposed to my last flight to Europe which was made in coach with sleep gained only by contorting my head against the bulkhead.
Dublin was fantastic. My only complaint was the limited time that we had to visit and explore. I have friends and colleagues in Dublin and it would have been most excellent to have been able to visit, even briefly with them. In the limited time we had, Dublin proved itself to be perfect for on foot exploration as we walked everywhere in Dublin from the Maldron Hotel in Smithfield to the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland to the South side of town.
We arrived at the Dublin airport and grabbed a cab into town to our hotel over in Smithfield. The hotel was clean, affordable and had a great location right across from the Jameson Distillery with which to explore Dublin. It was also close to where my friend Toby lived, but unfortunately, I could not get ahold of him. The only downside to our hotel was due to the warm weather, we had to keep the window open to keep things cool and unfortunately had to deal with a certain level of noise outside in the wee hours of the morning as people headed home from pubs in various states of sobriety. In cooler months, I am sure that this problem would not be an issue.
The Bontanic gardens are absolutely worth seeing with old school style wrought iron and glass greenhouses. Unfortunately, the palm and fern house were closed and while the menu at the onsite restaurant is a decent place to try and get something to eat with lots of meat and potatoes, more greens in the restaurant might have been nice. Though they did have a spectacular assortment of sweet cakes and desserts.
The Woodstock Cafe is just down the road a bit from the Bontanic gardens and well worth a stop for a meal. High quality, tasty food at a reasonable price and constantly busy which is a good sign.
Somewhat surprising to us were all of the fantastic eating options that totally exceeded my expectations. From the sandwich and breakfast options at the abovementioned Woodstock Cafe to *exceptionally* good vegetarian fare at Cornucopia and Cafe Fresh, our day in Dublin could easily have been extended to several more days just to enjoy the food options that were available to us.
Dublin is an eminently walkable city as well. We walked from the Botanic gardens up by Glasnevin then South to Warrenmount and over to the Powerscourt Townhouse Center where a meal at Cafe Fresh and some decent shopping can be had.
Of course Dublin is the home of Guinness and as such a pilgrimage to the Guinness Brewery and Storehouse was in order. I was a bit disappointed in the almost over the top tourist feel around as well as the seemingly exorbitant price of admission for a self-guided tour. Regardless, I was satisfied we went if only to see where Guinness is actually made and to explore some of the streets surrounding the facility which had the most amazing turn of the century factory feel to it. Had we more time, some fantastic photography could be done around there.
Dublin is also home to one of the largest walled city parks in Europe in the form of Phoenix Park. Phoenix Park is a great place for running, playing soccer and even polo. There is a zoo present as well as a surprising number of animals living free within the boundaries of the park. Squirrels were expected, but unexpected were the fallow deer that are living in the park. H and I were walking up a path and looked up to see a fallow deer looking at us. “Hello” I said, to which H thought it was not a real deer until it blinked, then ran off. This deer was tagged and thus known to someone. Interestingly, it also appeared to have a pretty bad cataract in its left eye.
Other mammals in Dublin also make for great photography. I wished for more time simply to do street photography as Dublin is such a target rich environment. The street performers were fantastic as well as the musicians who were making amazingly good music. Coming back to Dublin just for the street photography would be an interesting possibility and one that I might actually entertain just to keep my medallion status with Delta.
As a departing gift, Dublin provided us with a great experience walking through Smithfield when we heard the clop clop clop of a horse coming up behind us. Sure enough, we turned around and were treated to a wonderful non sequitur… a man in tennis shoes, track pants and no saddle riding a healthy looking paint in the middle of Dublin bode well for our trip North to Castle Leslie where we would be riding horses in the Irish countryside for the better part of a week.
This pleased me to no end.