Last day in Dublin and crossing the Irish Channel

Woke up this morning and we were planning to try breakfast at Foley’s but being as it was a Pub and it was Sunday, Foley’s was not allowed to open until noon.  So we decided to…go back to Bewley’s.  Hey, it was good and we were too hungry to look for something else.  After breakfast, where Mom had her last full Irish fry and I again had porridge, we headed back out to Grafton Street for the last time.  It was a much better day than yesterday and there were vendors and Buskers on the streets.

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Most of our fellow companions in the street appeared to be enjoying the Sunday morning stroll as much as we were.  Vicki and I popped into the Marks and Spencer department store for some more shopping.  I found a beautiful black and white linen dress and a gorgeous gold linen trench coat that was on a clearance rack.  Vicki bought several cute t-shirts that were on sale, 2 for 10 pounds. I ran the purchases back to our hotel (taking any opportunity to try and work off some of the calories I’ve consumed this week) while Mom and Vicki explored a little of St. Stephen’s Green.  We then we got back on the hop-off tour using our tickets from yesterday.  Luckily, due to the distinct lack of pouring rain, we could actually SEE the things the guide was pointing out (Today, deciphering the brogue of the guide was the bigger challenge).

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We got off the tour at Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham Gaol has been a purpose-built prison since the 1700’s.  It was used to house prisoners as young as 5 years old for offenses such as stealing flowers and bread.  During the famine years, some people would commit crimes just to be put into gaol where they would at least be fed.  Kilmainham is most famous, though, for housing political prisoners after the failed Irish uprising of 1916.  The last prisoner (Aemon de Valera) was freed in 1924 and the prison fell into disuse and decay.  In the 1950’s, the Irish people began to recognize the historical importance of this building and many volunteered time and money to restore it. Aemon de Velara, now President of Ireland, presided over the opening to the public.  It now has excellent exhibits and a fabulously fascinating guided tour.  Many of you may recognize some of the shots below as the prison has been used in many movies such as “In the name of the Father” and “Michael Collins”.

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After the moving visit to Kilmainham, we hopped back on the bus for the last time and made our way back to our hotel.  We made a slight side trip to the nearby shopping mall that is cunningly disguised behind the facade of a Georgian townhouse.  Vicki and I were eager to see the offerings of TK Maxx (the European version of TJ Maxx).  However, we found it hot, crowded and (with the conversion rate factored in) overpriced.  We escorted Mom back to the hotel and then Vicki and I dashed back to Merrion Square.  We had noticed on our tour route that street artists line the railings of the square with artwork for sale.  We got there just as the artists were starting to pack up for the day but I found a lovely watercolor of the Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey that I bought directly from the artist.  He even signed and titled it for me right there on the spot. I’m going to have a hefty framing bill when I get home.

We finally made it to Foley’s for dinner in the evening.  There, we had a classic Irish pub experience.  We sat at low pub tables and consumed real “pub grub”.  We even sampled some Guinness (OK, it was the shot intended to go on top of Mom’s Seafood chowder, but we all took a sip and I thought it was pretty good.)  As we were leaving, we noticed a musician was making his way in with a guitar.  Mom and I escorted Vicki back to the room and then returned for an hour or so of pub music.  We also poked our head into O’Donaghues to listen to a jam session.  Unfortunately, there was so little room (and we had an early morning ferry to catch) that we didn’t stay long.

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On Monday morning, we reluctantly packed up our things and decamped the Elizabeth Bowen Suite at the Shelbourne.  I have warned Mom and Vicki that this likely concludes the glamorous portion of our lodgings and things will likely be much more standard fare from now on.  The helpful hotel bellhop took our bags down and loaded them into the taxi for us. Mom, Vicki and I piled into the taxi and we took off.  About two minutes later, the colorful cabbie (who I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying but Mom apparently understood perfectly) asked what time our flight was.  “Uhhh, we’re going to the Ferry Port”, I replied. “Glad we cleared that up now and before we got almost to the airport,” he responded.  He kept up a running dialogue for the entire trip and I can only hope that I made appropriate responses as I mostly had no idea what he was saying.

Crossing the Irish Channel

At the Irish Ferries terminal, we checked in our suitcases and took a seat to wait for the ferry.  About 8:15, we boarded a shuttle for the short ride to the ship.  We are taking the Jonathan Swift “fast” ferry to Holyhead, Wales.  The fast ferry is a catamaran type vessel and can make the trip in just under 2 hours.  The slower ferries take twice as long.  The forecast was for a moderate sea and once boarding, we were a bit worried by the stack of little white bags on every table.  According to a conversation overheard in the ladies room, this was not a normal practice.  Just in case, Mom and I each took one of Vicki’s over-the-counter motion sickness pills (and spent the rest of the day trying to stay awake).  However, the ferry crossing was very uneventful and I didn’t see a single white bag in use (Thank goodness).

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Once we disembarked the ferry and picked up our luggage, we walked out of the ferry port and discovered that the train station was part of the same building. We’re not usually that lucky and had planned on a taxi ride.  Gratefully, I stood in line to validate our rail passes and check to make sure I had correctly interpreted the train timetables (I had).  We settled into the handy cafe to wait for our 12:30 train to Cardiff (We could have taken the 11:22 but that involved a train change and I didn’t want to press our luck after being up since 6 am).  We boarded our train and settled in for the 5 hour train ride to Cardiff.

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During the trip, we went past the seacoast and mountains, through sleepy little towns where the train didn’t even stop and bustling towns.  We passed castles, cathedrals and more sheep than I can possibly count.

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We passed the time trying to stay awake, admiring the views and taking bets on the pronunciations of towns we passed.

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Finally, after slight delays due to a “bridge smash” which we sincerely hoped was caused by something other than a train, we pulled into Cardiff Central station.  We gathered all of our luggage (more of a challenge now than when we began our trip) and departed the train station.  While looking for the taxi stand, I happened to look up and spy our next Marriott, only about 300 yards away (Again, how lucky can we be?).  We checked in and made our way to our room and found it to be all the more humble when compared to our last accommodations.  However, a local resident did stop by to check out the new arrivals.

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After reviewing the executive lounge offerings, we made our way out into Cardiff in search of dinner. Cardiff is a very walkable city with many pedestrian streets and arcade shopping areas.  Perusing the menus posted outside of many of the restaurants, we found the meal prices to be very, very reasonable.  We weren’t sure if that was because our recent experience in Dublin (one of the most expensive cities in Europe) or if the economy is taking its toll here in Cardiff.  At the Italian place we chose to have dinner, we had a 3 course meal including appetizer, main course and dessert for 10.95 pounds (about $15).  After dinner, we strolled back to the hotel, window shopping along the way.  Back at the hotel, I vaguely remember hearing Dad call on the web cam but was otherwise down for the count until about 8 am Tuesday morning (I still blame the motion sickness pill).

Stay tuned tomorrow for exploring Cardiff and Cardiff Castle plus sometimes you just gotta have a burger.