May 15, 2004
Arriving at London Heathrow Airport nearly an hour late, we briskly trekked, trammed, and trekked from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1 and still had time to wrangle two tickets for the coveted emergency exit row for our British Midlands flight to Dublin. I had never been in the domestic-and-Ireland flights section of Heathrow and was intrigued by the bizarre design and shape of the terminal itself. The interior looked like it was made out of a hollowed out jet complete with uncomfortable chairs, curved metal walls, and unflattering carpet. We had our first breakfast, a simple meal of Triscuits and York Peppermint Patties, standing up while waiting around in a general area until our gate was displayed on one of the rickety computer monitors trembling overhead. On-board the surprisingly spacious and comfortable BMI flight, we had our second breakfast, a wince-inducing panini (mine was a tomato and gruyere omelet) that tasted remarkably like plastic to me but which Amelie appeared to relish with gusto. 45 minutes later, we slid into the Dublin Airport which is nicely situated on the east coast of Ireland.
We got some cash (100 euros to last us the week), got our Rambler Bus Tickets (there goes 10 of our euros for the one-way trip to the City Centre), stepped outside and got our first view of the Republic of Ireland. Dubh Linn, or "Black Pool", in mid-May is lusciously green and admirably clean. The ramshackle residential areas north of the city slowly gave way to the modern, sleeker buildings of the city center. We were dropped off on Upper O'Connell Street, which was smack-dab in the center of the city, but several streets away from where we actually wanted to be let off. Toting our backpacks, whipping out our maps, and determining which way was north, we hiked up to Clifden Guesthouse, the nearly 200 year old, refurbished Georgian townhouse that would serve as our abode for precisely one night.
After being buzzed in, we learned that our room was not ready as it was only 11 a.m. and check-in was not until 2 p.m. We were given a detailed map of the city, were permitted to leave our bags underneath a table in the entrance hall, and were shown the door. We stood outside of the guesthouse for a moment, blinking in the sun and feeling the jet-lag setting in, and gradually stumbled our way back down to O'Connell Street.
We found an internet cafe where, for 1 euro per half hour, we could pacify our families and inform them that we were safe. We gawked at the Dublin Spire, or "Spike" (no relation to William the Bloody), the 120 meter tall structure that was built last year to replace the Nelson's Pillar which was built in 1808 and blown up in 1966 by an Irish Republican in the middle of the night. We counted the redheads we saw and absorbed (and graded) the Irish accents lilting around us as we made our way towards and then south of the River Liffey. And then . . . AND THEN . . . we found Wagamama, a Japanese noodle bar. ding ding ding! Amelie and I are creatures of habit and once we find a place we like, we keep returning to it regardless of the other options around us (until such time as something pisses us off and then we ban it, but that's another list). In merely one hour of stepping foot on Irish soil, we found a winner. Could we eat any more Cha Han? Yes. Yes, we could. Halfway through, I was so tired and my eyelids were so droopy (a condition hereafter known as having Wagamama Eyes and sung to the tune "Betty Davis' Eyes"), that I could have laid my head down on the soft pillow of fried rice and fallen asleep right there.
We lugged our heavy bellies back up to the North Side, threw our bags into our enormous suite (one and a half rooms, two beds, clean and sunny bathroom), and collapsed. The room was one short flight of stairs away from the front door and its security buzzer, which, now that it was officially check-in time, was in constant use. Luckily, I still managed to nap the nap of the dead. Vampire-like, I rose near sunset and needed to feed again. Actually, I was more like Woody Allen's Count Dracula who misjudged the sun's timetable, when I learned that the sun did not set until many, many hours later!
In search of a good fish and chips shop, we made our second trip through north and south Dublin and finally found a ready table at The Shack in the busy Temple Bar neighborhood. The friendly host let us peruse through the menu while we waited for our table to clear, made helpful suggestions, and told every other would-be patron that came after us that the place was booked for the night. Tuna on Basil Mash for me; Pasta with Chicken for Amelie. It was still light out when we finished our meals so we felt safe walking through what was reputed to be a dangerous area north of the river. By 10 p.m., I was knackered (ooh, ahh, local slang in use!) and went to bed to the sounds of Amelie watching the Eurovision song contest finals.
Next up: "Blood pudding" is neither blood, nor pudding . . . well, maybe a little blood.