Saturday, July 02, 2016

Ireland and Scotland vacation - Days 1 & 2

Diana and Hubby ready to get going!
I promised a travelogue of our recent trip -- here are the first two days!

Day One

Thirty-five years ago I married the man of my dreams. Since then we’ve: raised kids together; bought a house, renovated it and sold it, bought another (still living in it); bought a cabin, renovated and enjoying it, planning more projects for it; gone on several family vacations; dealt with ENS (Empty Nest Syndrome); gotten older together. He’s my best friend as well as my husband and there’s no one I would rather travel with.

So its appropriate that we began this travel adventure with a stop in the same town where we spent our wedding night. We didn’t stay overnight this time, but we did have lunch just down the road apiece from that hotel. And because it’s become a bit of a tradition to have at least one meal there, naturally we chose Cracker Barrel!

No stop this year at Niagara Falls. Too anxious to get going to Europe to finish the trip we started last year. Since flying out of Toronto is MUCH cheaper than flying out of the States, yes, we went west to fly east.

Getting across the border at Lewiston wasn’t hard. Only four or five cars ahead of us in line. Typical questions and we were on our way. I’d printed out the directions to the airport and we were fine, right up until we got to the airport. Wound around and about before we found the parking garage—which is HUGE. We drove around it for nearly ten minutes before finding a spot on the top level at the point furthest from the terminal.

It’s okay. We needed a walk after a long car ride. Found the right terminal and managed to get our boarding passes printed with very little difficulty. Now sitting and chilling until we know what gate our flight will leave from (it’s 5:00 and our flight doesn’t board until 10:30. See what I mean about being anxious?). Once it goes up on the board, we’ll leave our very comfy seats and head over.

Step one of our journey – complete!

The view from our hotel room.
Dublin, looking exactly as I expected!
Day Two

We are here! Exhausted by the flight, but here!

Good flight, left on time, arrived on time. As soon as our flight was posted, we got in the security line, which was perpetually long. Took nearly a half an hour to get from one end to the other. But then it was smooth sailing through. Didn’t have to take off shoes, didn’t have to pull liquids out, or meds. I did have to take out my little laptop – I threw my glasses and my watch into the bin for good measure, but I’m not sure I needed to do even that much. No muss, no fuss and we were through.

Sleeping in economy on an airplane is hard. We both took sleeping pills and that helped, but I still slept in only fifteen minute increments. Steven didn’t do much better, although he had one good half hour nap. I know because I was awake for that part. They fed us, sort of. Small meal, which was probably best for travel. Chicken and rice with a roll, a very brown salad and a very dry brownie/cake thingy. I ate the entrĂ©e and roll, ignored the salad and took two bites of the dessert before I gave up entirely. At least the banana bread we got for breakfast was pretty good.

Met our driver – he brought us to our hotel and gave Steven some driving tips.  Making the turns is what feels the weirdest about being on the other side of the road. And roundabouts – here they go clockwise and again, weird! I’m sure by the end of the week it’ll feel normal and then we’ll have to adjust when we get home. J

Taking naps now. Just short ones. It’s cloudy and rainy (hey, this IS Ireland!) and we need to take the edge off the jet lag. Will be going out and about later this afternoon.


We found Trinity College with no trouble at all. It’s just a few blocks down, although the streets do like to curve in unexpected ways. I hadn’t gotten tickets for the Book of Kells exhibit since I wasn’t really sure when we wanted to go. But as we crossed the green, we realized there was no line, so we thought we’d give it a try. Apparently about 2:00 on a Tuesday afternoon is a good time to go – there were about five people ahead of us in line inside and that was it.

The exhibit was crowded inside, however. A tour group milled about, several probably. We’d passed at least a half a dozen on the street outside the college. A well-laid out exhibit, giving the history of Christianity on the Emerald Isle as well as explaining how the Book of Kells came about. The monastery where the books were created was sacked, pillaged and burnt down nearly two dozen times over the centuries. I’m not sure that I might’ve given up and moved somewhere else!

Of course, it was the book itself I wanted to see. When it was found, it was quite thick and the gold leaf covers had been stolen (by some of the aforementioned pillagers). It was gifted to Trinity College because of the mission of their library: to collect in one place, every piece of writing written on Irish soil (or something like that). Restorers separated the single book into the four gospels it contained and gave each section a new cover. Today, two parts are shown at any given time – one page turned to an illustration, one to a page of text. But even the text pages are not plain. Illustrators often chose an important word to embellish with artistic flair and it was a point of pride to never write the same word the same way twice.

Three times a year, the books are rotated so no one book spends too much time in the public eye (and in the light). Each time a book’s turn comes, it’s turned to a different page than before, so if you’ve been to see the Book before, chances are we saw a different set of pages than you did.

The barrel vaulting of the Long Room
And of course, one cannot go to Trinity College and not go see the Long Room. The room built specifically to hold all those Irish books. This is what Heaven looks like, to me anyway. Shelves and shelves of books, their knowledge and stories just waiting to be opened and shared. We walked the whole length of it, pausing to take pictures of some of the nooks and crannies. Seriously, it makes me want to find something I need to study there just so I can curl up on a bench and read!

Don't you just want to curl
up here and read the
afternoon away?
Afterward, we walked around the campus some and came out at the front gate, a beautiful structure in and of itself. We stood on the street outside, trying to determine which way we wanted to go and what we wanted to do next when a very nice Irish man stopped and asked if he could help with directions. I asked him the way to Temple Bar, since there’s a pub I’d seen online (Temple Bar Pub) and thought we might try it for dinner.

Now understand. I thought Temple Bar was just the name of the pub. I had no idea it’s an area, like Greenwich Village is an area of NYC. The slate brick surface couldn’t stand up to today’s vehicles, so it’s pedestrian only (although I did see some bicycles slide past on the side streets).

Steven in front of Quay's.
We ate on the 2nd floor.
Eventually we did find the pub I’d seen online, but we liked the menu of Quay’s better, so we backtracked and ate there instead. It was early (4:00 PM), so no crowd yet. It filled up as we ate, though, so I’m glad we’re still partly on New York time.

Speaking of which, we headed back to the hotel right after dinner. By that point, we’d wandered nearly a mile from the hotel. Good walking! The drizzle had stopped and the sun came out – a beautiful night for a stroll.

And that’s our first day in Ireland!

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