"Why are you here?", asks the customs agent.
"To see a concert", I reply.
"Which one?", he asks.
"Depeche Mode", I answer.
"Whatever works for you", he continues. And then wishes me a good time.
I landed in Dublin today shortly after 13,00. It wasn't until well after 14,00 that I made it to the hotel, although the Clontarf Castle Hotel is a mere 5 miles from the airport. I learned from the Leith experience the other day and asked three different people how to get to Clontarf without having to take a taxi.
People are very friendly here in Ireland, I noticed. I was told there was no bus that would take me directly there. I had to take a bus to City Centre then take another bus - number 130 - for another 30 minutes or so. Really?
At this point, I would have gladly paid for a taxi because in addition to the hour and two busses thus far, I was told to exit at the bus stop at the base of Castle Drive where I needed to walk another 15 minutes - with luggage - up the hill to the 'castle'.
When I finally reached the top of the hill, my illusion of a castle hotel was shattered when I entered my room. The reception area might be the small part left over from the original castle, but the room was nothing better than the Holiday Inn Express hotels we stay during our road trips, yet quite overpriced.
Wikipedia is correct when it says it's 'a much-modernised castle'. I should have read further the reviews on various sites, but it's not always possible to trust the reviews. After all, it was rated as a 4-star luxury hotel.
Sometimes I wonder why I decided to add Dublin to the itinerary. I guess it was the fallout of other plans I had that didn't work out as expected. Not everything works out as we'd like. Reality is not always what we wish it to be even after months of planning and looking forward to something. Regardless, I'll make the best I can of the three nights I'm here.
After dropping off my bags in the room, I went downstairs to the Knights Bar intending to have some whiskey. Instead, as I sat at the bar a chair away from an older retired gentleman, I noticed he was drinking Guinness in the pint glasses. I, too, decided to have one in the smaller half-pint size. Not bad, I thought.
As I started talking with the man, I learned a lot that I wouldn't have if I'd simply stayed in my room. It turns out he used to work at Guinness and lives around the corner from the hotel. Almost every day he comes to the bar and drinks about a half dozen pints. We started talking about cities around the world and he revealed that he's been to several of the major US cities - Chicago, New York, San Francisco - and many European cities.
When I asked his opinion of the three cities I'm visiting during this trip - Edinburgh, Dublin, and Glasgow - he rated Glasgow as the worst. He even went so far as to say that he preferred Manhattan to Glasgow. I told him I'd be staying at the train station and he said I should be ok but not to venture too far from there, especially after sunset.
Everyone I've asked so far agree that Edinburgh is a most beautiful city. I miss the simplicity it has to offer. The small winding and sometimes cobblestone streets. The authenticity of an old city without too much of the modern.
The man continued to list the cities he liked - Rome and everywhere in Italy he's been - and the cities he disliked - Paris and the French parts of Canada where they are rude, as he said, to any kind of English being spoken. He argued with the French-speaking people that he was Irish. They didn't care. It wasn't French. Italy, I gathered, was his favorite place.
Upon inspecting the bar menu, the man warned me not to eat the food at the bar. He said the Fahrenheit Grill upstairs was pretty good but grossly overpriced. Since I hadn't eaten all day, I reluctantly decided on fries. They were oversized and not crispy but they would do.
The rest of my 'dinner' consisted of a scone, which I ate with clotted cream (a first time for me eating that), and more Guinness. This time I ordered a pint. The taste is much different than regular beer, of which I wouldn't know too much since I'm not a beer drinker. I prefer wines. Red and full-bodied.
Back at my room, I grabbed my laptop and headed back downstairs to the lobby to research a day tour to take tomorrow as it is my only full day. Saturday is the concert and Sunday late afternoon I fly to Glasgow. The concierge passed by and asked if I needed anything. I told him I was looking into a day tour and he said he could organise it for me if I'd like. Sure. And a taxi to the meeting point too.
Tomorrow will be an interesting day exploring the countryside of Ireland. I will climb the 125 stairs at Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. Perhaps I will then be blessed with the gift of eloquence.