Everything is so close.
Get a plane ticket for the price of lunch at the Hardware Store Restaurant, hop on, and an hour or two later you are in a different country.
It was in this spirit that we decided to ditch the kids (God knows they are old enough to take care of themselves at this point…”Here is some money…order a pizza”), and do a weekend city break. Dublin. Why not. Its close.
I met Kath at Victoria Train Station on Friday evening to take us to Gatwick airport. She was coming straight from work. I was sporting my newly trimmed beard/moustache…in the style of The Three Musketeers this time. Stuff like that always provokes jaw-dropping reactions from family members: “Why?! What?! What have you done?!” The white around the chin was getting to me. I started to look like an old dog. Not sure if the new cut helped my despondency any…hey, I tried.
We arrived at our hotel just before midnight and had a couple of pints of Guinness. Guinness doesn’t travel well, so, “When in Rome…” drink Guinness. (I only drink this life giving elixir when I am in its country of origin).
The next day we spent walking the city. In my opinion still the best way to get to know a place. Both Kath and I had been to Dublin before….about 30 years ago with our dear friend Deirdre. My friend Torin and I also took the U.S. GRE exam in Dublin (hated every minute of that test). So there were some lingering memories.
The Georgian architecture mirrors that of London in many aspects. Not surprising, seeing that the British shaped the place for hundreds of years. In comparison to London, Dublin is a city on a smaller scale and quieter. People are friendlier and the neck-breaking pace gives way to a more relaxed atmosphere. The parks we went to were nice. What really stands out in everything we saw were the pubs. We only spent a day and a half in the city, so the number of places we could visit were limited. Memorable were Café en Seine and Farrier and Draper.
Café en Seine seems almost out of place and time. You walk into an opulently decorated series of rooms that are styled after Paris’ Belle Époque era. Chandeliers with floral decorations, glass ceilings, tile mosaic, palms and Absinthe fountains. (no Absinthe though…in case you were wondering). I could have easily lingered there for a day or two.
The other outstanding establishment was Farrier And Draper. The walls of their Georgian rooms upstairs is decorated with hundreds of prints and paintings. The inviting, warm, subdued atmosphere (at least at 5pm) is truly enjoyable. I felt transported back to 1890 (in a good way).
Sunday we had six hours before our flight. We had seen Trinity College and the Book of Kells thirty years ago…it couldn’t have changed that much since then. So, we decided that rather than trudge through yet another museum, we would educate ourselves on the artisanal craft of whiskey making. We walked to the Jameson Distillery and got the last remaining spots in a tour that would end in time for us to make it to the airport.
While we waited for the tour we wandered to the nearby Dublin Pets Fair. One way to kill time. Llamas, rabbits, hamsters, baby goats and little lambs (Mary was nowhere to be seen), and one particularly hairy, yet patient sheep dog, inexplicably named “Shadow.” Hm.
None of that. We found out that the production site had been moved to County Cork some time ago. What we were “touring” was some selected rooms of the original site where J. Jameson began his operation.
Did I feel gypped? Not really. The tour guide took us to 3 different rooms, each dedicated to a specific topic: History, Production, Tasting. Each room had state of the art AV effects and hands on samples. Plus, there was a “free” drink after the 45 minute tour ended…so it was all good.
I love my children dearly. Having said that, we realised at the start of the trip that since Hannah was born, 19 1/2 years ago, Kath and I had not taken a vacation together, just the two of us, without one or more kids. This newly found and realised “freedom” was indeed a new feeling. “Have we made it to the other side?!” It almost made me giddy.