Upon waking in the lovely Cairbre House, we looked out the window and had our first inkling that our amazing luck with the weather might be about to change. The morning dawned decidedly grey skied and cool. Following our noses, we made our way down to breakfast in the dining room. Vicki had fried eggs and bacon, I had a vegetarian scramble (sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions with freshly picked herbs) and Mom had a “Full Irish Fry”. She also confirmed her suspicions that she did NOT like black pudding. Breakfast was delicious and had an amazingly lovely presentation. Unfortunately, one of the other guests was one who likely gave rise to the “obnoxious American tourist” stereotype. She was traveling by herself and continued to interject into our conversations with unsolicited advice and comments even though we were sitting at a separate table. After breakfast, we reluctantly bid “slan” (goodbye) to Cairbre House and headed out onto the Irish roads for a final time.
Once on the road, we decided to head over to Ardmore before turning our way towards Waterford and finally Dublin. Ardmore is a lovely seaside town. Ardmore actually means “High Promontory” in Irish Gaelic and has a lovely ruined church and St. Declan’s tower on the hill overlooking the town. We ran into a lovely lady tending a relative’s grave in the cemetery and Mom and Vicki had a great conversation with her while I snapped pictures.
Back in the car, we headed to Waterford. We anticipated a quick stop at the Waterford Factory (where they make the crystal) before continuing towards Dublin. Three hours later, we were trying desperately to fit all of our purchases into our luggage. The gift shop in the factory was an amazing place. It was huge and had selections of many Celtic gifts and not just Waterford Crystal. There was also Wedgewood and other types of jewelry and crafts. Mom found a beautiful Lismore pattern party bowl and salt and pepper shakers. She also picked up some souvenirs and Christmas ornaments. Vicki found a crystal necklace and 2 sets of salt and pepper shakers (one Waterford and one Beleek). I found a stunning Kildara pattern lamp for my bedroom which I am having shipped and a miniature crystal thatched cottage for my curio cabinet. We found the prices to be very reasonable, especially since we didn’t have to pay VAT tax (over 20%).
Since by this time, we had used up our allotted visiting time (plus our budgeted lunch time), we grabbed a quick cuppa and a pastry from the factory cafe and then jumped back in the car. We fought Friday afternoon traffic out of Waterford and then headed north on the N50/M50 towards Dublin. By this time, I was comfortable enough driving a) not to flinch every time a car approached in the villages we went through and b) to be irritated by slower cars holding up my progress ( I’m practically a native Irish driver now!). We eventually reached Dublin about 5:30 pm and found this to NOT be good timing. Friday afternoon traffic on the Dublin motorways closely resemble the same timeframe on I-285 and the Downtown Connector. Eventually though we arrived at the airport and returned our rental car to the very obliging Hertz guy. Gratefully, I handed over the keys and breathed a huge sigh of relief. We also packed up our ever-helpful GPS Lady for a well deserved rest.
I guess this would be a good time for confession being as we are in Ireland and the car is now safely back in the Hertz rental lot at the airport. Our driving adventure was not completely without incident. We didn’t want anyone to worry while we were still driving, but our first day on the Irish roads was eventful to say the least. We had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere in southwest Ireland. Luckily, we were able to pull over next to the barn of a very kind Irish lady. Being as it was a bank holiday (and NOTHING is open in Ireland on a bank holiday, even the shops close), she helpfully called a neighbor to help change the tire. (Although at this point I want it noted that I DO know how to change a tire thanks to a Father who wouldn’t let me on the road with my new car at 16 without changing a tire first). The freckle-faced, red-headed young man looked quintessentially Irish and kept up a running commentary with us while he made short work of the tire. When he was finished, Mom had to make him accept 20 Euros. He clearly didn’t want to but finally accepted. For those who are interested, the flat tire was the result of narrow roads, opposing traffic and jagged stone curbing. On my first day driving on the left, I could handle each of these individually and even 2 of 3 without too much trouble but all three at once was the stroke that brought us low (pun intended). Back on the road, we pondered our lessons learned. First, that driving with jet lag was not a good idea and second that the phrase “luck of the Irish” is facetious. No wonder the Irish are always looking for four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, et al.
Safely car-less, we caught a cab from the Dublin airport where we returned the car to the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin City Centre. The cab driver was very personable and I very much enjoyed the fact that was someone ELSE was driving. I actually was able to look around and enjoy the scenery. After a 20-minute drive, we arrived at the hotel where the helpful cabbie unloaded our bags and handed them over to the hotel bellman who whisked them away on his little trolley. Mom, Vicki and I entered the hotel and walked across the wood-paneled and marble lobby to reception.
After checking in, we were directed to the special elevator that serviced the Heritage Wing of the Shelbourne Hotel. The Shelbourne is one of, if not the, oldest hotels in Dublin. There has been a hotel on this site since the early 1800’s. Upon entering the elevator tucked into a corner of the reception area, we immediately noticed a unique feature; the elevator had 2 doors. This in itself was not unusual but I have never seen an elevator where the two sets of doors are perpendicular to each other rather than parallel. Upon exiting the elevator, we turned down the corridor towards our room (or what we thought was our room). As we approached the correct number, we noticed that the door was marked the Elizabeth Bowen Suite. Opening the door, our jaws literally dropped open.
Upon entering the suite, we were in a large room containing a sofa bed already made up and complete with turndown and chocolate on the pillows. There was also a LCD flat screen television, a large desk and a floor to ceiling window overlooking St. Stephen’s Green. We walked through the next door into a bedroom with two double beds complete with feather beds and duvet comforters. A large closet, another flat screen TV and floor to ceiling window completed the room. Lastly, we entered the bathroom. The bathroom was a very large marble floored room containing a marble shower (complete with rainhead shower head and body spray) and the deepest bathtub I have ever seen. This room also had a floor to ceiling window overlooking the Green and a towel warmer on the wall. All-in-all, the suite was almost 400 sq feet and is by far the nicest hotel room (I mean suite) I’ve ever experienced. Amazingly, this is courtesy of the hotel points I’ve earned with all my recent travels and isn’t costing a dime in real money.
After settling into our suite, we went out in search of dinner. We wandered down nearby Dawson Street and stopped at every restaurant to peruse the posted menus. We finally decided on a restaurant called Harry’s. The restaurant was very busy even at 9 o’clock at night which is always a good sign. Mom started with the Wild Mushroom soup and then had a main course of scallops and fettuccine. Vicki tried yet another version of fish and chips which she said was the best so far and I had Harry’s Fish Pie. The Fish Pie was salmon, haddock, and shrimp in sauce with a mashed potato top and then baked. It was very good.
After dinner, we returned to the Hotel and made our nightly call to Dad on the web cam. We even gave him a tour of the suite by carrying the laptop with web cam from room to room. Snuggled into our down comforters and feather beds, we went to sleep already planning our next day’s Dublin adventure. Stay tuned for details of our soggy day of hopping on and off buses, the Book of Kells and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.