7 May 2012
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We still have no plans on where to go next, and book another night here, £21. We called the hostel in Kilkenny as they didn’t reply to our email. Yes, they said, they got the email, but they are a young persons hostel and are really looking for under 25’s to work there. Tony suggests they put something in the listing to indicate that, though they have to be careful someone doesn’t sue them for age discrimination. We book in for another night here in Dublin, and spend the morning trying to find somewhere else to go for a few days.
Booking difficult, it is a bank holiday weekend coming up so most places we want to go to have vacancies for one night, but not two, and we feel we need a couple of nights in a place to see it. There are no cheap airfares this late because of the holiday weekend (it is a bank holiday in the UK as well as in Ireland), so that puts paid to flying back to Scotland early.
After spending most of the day trying to sort something out we give up in despair. Tony feels the day has been a bit wasted, but Cynthea says he needed to rest up his ankle. It will need more than a day sort that out though.
Later that night we are looking at other options, and Cynthea spots a bargain – EUR55 to train to Belfast, take ferry to Scotland and bus/train to Edinburgh. Cheaper than flying, and certainly cheaper than a single train ticket, they are really expensive last minute. We have to book at a ticketing agent, and Tony has a few questions, so we will look at that tomorrow. The price seems too good to be true, and there must be a catch, surely? The website says that this is a non-fluctuating price, the combo ticket cost will not change no matter when you buy it.
Friday 4th May
We decide to stay in Dublin over the weekend if we can, and Cynthea goes to reception to see if there are rooms still available. We are enjoying the city, it is nice and compact, easy to walk anywhere we need to get to, and good, cheap transport when we need it. The hostel does a bit of rearranging bookings, and can fit us in without changing rooms. We get a bit more discount too, as we will have stayed a week. The weekend rate is still a bit higher though, and we pay £92 for the four nights.
As we head out to go to the train station to make our bookings we meet up with our tour guide, Dave. We tell him about the deal we have found, and that we are trying to see if the ticket will allow us to stay overnight in Belfast. Dave tells us to go to Connolly Station to do the booking as it is bigger, and they will have a better idea about the ticketing details.
Cynthea wants to ride on the Luas trams, so we walk a few blocks to the tram line and then find the stop, eventually. We buy tickets, though they are more expensive than the bus. We are going just three stops, and it will cost us EUR1.60 ($3NZ) each. The bus would have been 60c, but Cynthea wants to ride the tram so we can say we have done it. By the time we have waited for the next tram we could have walked it.
At the ticket office we are asked if we want to go via Belfast, or from Dublin via Wales. We haven’t been to Wales yet, so ask about that trip. We also ask if we can break the trip and stay overnight in Belfast. The answer to that is no, we must complete all our travel on the one day. We have two options, leave Dublin at 7.30am and get in late afternoon, or take a later train and get to Edinburgh around midnight. Neither option really appeals!
We also get the details for going via Wales, we can choose one of two ferries from Dublin, the slow one at 8am, for EUR45 each, or the fast one at 8.45 for EUR51 each. Both options will get us to Edinburgh by 6pm.
We think it over, and the Welsh connection wins out, so we go to book the ticket but the only person who can do it is now on a break. We head over for a coffee and are approached by marketers giving away samples of hazelnut milk and a new brand of yogurt. Cynthea tries the hazelnut milk, and says the second mouthful is better than the first, Tony disagrees, neither are that wonderful. We take a yogurt, that is much better and takes away the taste of the milk. As we head back to wait for the ticket office we are offered more, Tony says thanks, but have just been given some, and the guy says he knows, but it needs to go so we can have as much as we like. It must be getting near knock off time for these guys…
At the ticket office we the ticket we are given is a voucher, and has very little information on it, it is valid for 30 days from purchase, but we are told we must book for the ferry when we decide which day we are travelling. We book the later ferry for Tuesday, as we have paid the hostel accommodation until then, and ask about how to get to the port. She is not really sure, there is no direct bus, we have to take one to get to the bus station, then another to the port, it is about EUR2.50 each from the bus station. We get given a print out of train schedules to use from Holyhead, and are told that check in closes at 8.15am.
Cynthea wants to see a movie, and asks where cinemas are, there are two close by so we head off. As we pass a backpackers by the bus station we see a sign up, volunteers wanted immediately to work 2 hours/day in return for B&B. Bugger, wish we had seen that earlier.
Tony calls into Dublin bus HQ to ask about buses to the port, but they are pretty hopeless and vague about it, in the end we figure it is just as easy to take a taxi, we are told it will be around EUR10-15.
The cinema is across the road, but it is not playing to movie Cynthea wants to see, so we head off to the next one. On the way we decide we are hungry, no lunch yet and it is after 5pm, so we decide to go to the food hall we saw earlier in the week. We head down Moore St and find a lot more buffet restaurants, offer much cheaper deals. A chinese place offers EUR5.00 all you can eat, but we are not that keen on it. Further along the street we find a place offering different dishes (Chinese, Mauritian, Thai, etc), all you can eat for EU6.50. We decide that there is a good variety here, and go in for a feed. The food is nice, but not particularly well set out, and nothing is labelled, so the meal is a bit pot luck.
We head to the cinema, and find we have missed the movie by half an hour, there is another screening at 8.30, but they have no early screening (when the price is significantly cheaper). We will probably give it a miss and see it in Edinburgh.
Saturday 5th May
We head down to the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) station to take the train to Howth Peninsula. We see in a brochure that Howth rhymes with “both”, unless you come from Dublin, because all the locals drop the “h”, and it rhymes with boat! It is a pretty place, and popular with walkers and hikers. A return fare costs EUR4.70 each, and the trip will take about 20-30 minutes, with a train every half hour.
We have a bit of a wait for the next one, and it is bloody cold out on the platform. The sun is shining, but the wind is cold and lazy, going through, rather than around you. At Howth we start exploring, but need a loo first. We have a tourist map, but it fails to mention public toilets, however there is an information centre at the end of the West Pier, so we wander that way. An information centre will also have a toilet, right? No, not right. The information centre is hidden in an art studio, a single info sign is hanging above the doorway, and if you walk past you don’t see it, because there is nothing on the other side. And the public toilets are some distance away, at the town end of the East Pier.
We take a few photos of the harbour, and on the way back to the town centre we spot a big seal in the water. He (she?) is begging for food, and we hope that no one is feeding it junk. Someone reaches into a bag and brings out a fresh fish (from one of the many fishmongers along the pier), and we think that he is being a shit, teasing the seal. But the seal does get the fish after all, so that is ok.
We get to the East Pier and Tony is looking for Cynthea, she was not that far behind him, and he is sure he saw her heading towards him while he was looking at the town map poster. He gets a text saying she is at the end of the pier with the lighthouse and will meet him there. Tony isn’t sure what end of the pier she is at, but cannot see her nearby, so figures Cynthea went for a closer look at the lighthouse (but cannot understand why, when we had a good look from the other pier). As he gets near the end of pier he gets another text, telling him she will see him when he gets back from looking at the lighthouse. Sigh. Apparently she had been calling out to him back at the town end, but he didn’t hear or see her.
Cynthea decided she wasn’t up to a six or seven kilometre walk, so Tony went on his own, expecting to take a couple of hours. The walk soon turned into a steep grade, something about the name of the track being a cliff top summit walk should have been a clue. The bloody ankle kicked up a fuss, but Tony carried on, at some stage it will be down hill again. The summit was reached after about 50 minutes, there were lots of stops on the way to take in the amazing scenery. Some parts of the track were narrow and close to the cliff edge. By the most spectacular cliffs were lots of little side tracks, probably there because many had been that way, rather than being created like the other pathways.
Although Tony had a map of the area it was not a hell of a lot of use. Roads were marked out on the map, though very few were actually named. The map also had colour codes for the four walking tracks, it was unfortunate that the track markers did not match the map colours. It was fortunate that the tracks did not split off more than they did, so working our what went where was usually pretty easy. The map labelled some bays and cliffs, but these we not identified on the track, so most of the time it was guess work as to how far you had gone.
At the summit you could cheat and take a bus back to the harbour (for that matter you could cheat and take a bus to the summit and walk back to the harbour!). Tony spent a bit of time admiring the view, and then set about trying to find the track back along the cliff tops. It was not that well sign posted, the first attempt was someone's drive way. The second attempt was also a driveway, and involved a bit of cross county to meet up with the track proper. Lots of others were also wandering about trying to make sense of it. After a couple of kilometres the track became a residential street, and there were no more route markers. Tony made a wrong turn, should have turned left back UP the hill at one intersection, but instead turned right and down the street. No bloody street name on the map, but a bit more time taken to read it would have avoided the mistake. He finally realised he had taken the wrong was when he reached the church marked on the map, but by then he was near the bottom of the hill and there was no way he was going back up to find the proper route.
He ended up back at the start point, instead of at the railway station a kilometre away, and sent Cynthea a text telling her where he was. She was already at the railway station, and said she would start walking towards him. They sat on a park bench in the sun, and watched everyone else eat big snow freeze icecreams. The temptation became too much, and they went to the store to get one. For a shop next to the railway station where all the tourists arrive, this shop had very reasonable prices, we were impressed. As we headed to the platform the train left, so we sat in the sun and ate our icecreams while we waited out the half hour for the next one.
We were back in Dublin soon after 5pm, and called in to a souvenir shop for a couple of bits and pieces, there will be another parcel to be sent home from Edinburgh, sigh. As we walk back to the hostel we pass a barber shop, dry cuts are advertised at EUR4.99, that is pretty cheap for a cut. We have tea at the hostel and spend the night talking to other travellers.
Sunday 6th May
A bit of a lazy day today, reading and relaxing, and trying to write up the diary. The photos need a good clean out too. Tony gets cabin fever mid afternoon and he and Cynthea head out for a walk, but the weather is a bit on the horrible side. Cynthea heads back to the hostel, and Tony carries on down some of the alleyways, wandering down a few streets not previously explored. He finds the Hard Rock Café, and across the road is a large Tescos, bugger, he is not pleased that we didn’t find this much sooner. He is soon walking along the river front, and walks past the barber shop he spotted yesterday. The guy has no customers, so Tony asks about the EUR5 cut. It hasn’t been that long since Cynthea cut his hair, maybe two months, but it is at the stage were it sticks up in the morning, and is a damn nuisance to look after.
It has turned into a really nice afternoon, so Tony heads over to the Cathedral district part of town, another unexplored area, though we passed through here on the bus the other day. He finds busy, wide pedestrian streets, the place is fair humming. There are all the usual street performers, balloon artists, clowns, magicians, etc. A couple of people have brought along a suitcase full of sand, and have made sand sculptures in the street, when they are done they will pick up the plastic sheet by its’ four corners and chuck it all back in the cases. The buskers are a bit different, there is a lady playing the harp, and one feller is playing the fiddle. Half expected someone on a Dublin Tin Whistle, but not today….
Back at the hostel after a few hours wandering we are cooking tea when Kylie, who was on the first five days of the tour with us, arrives. She is just back from a three day tour, and they are planning a night out on the town if we want to come along. It sounds like a heavy night, so we leave them to it and arrange to meet up for lunch tomorrow. We book the accommodation in Edinburgh for next week, we will have a few days in town before heading to Tortys.
Tonight was just past the full moon, but this was different, it is a supermoon, when the moon is closest to earth and an even more spectacular sight. Unfortunately it was cloudy in Dublin tonight, again, so we couldn’t see it.
Monday 7th May
Today is a bank holiday, here and in the UK. We thought the town was closed up yesterday, but even more stores are closed today. We had been told yesterday that lots of places would be closed, but the main streets are all busy.
We meet Kylie and decide to grab something from the supermarket for lunch in the park, though it starts to rain as we head out, so that plan could change. We get some meal deals at Tesco, and then head over to St Stephens Green, well at least in the general direction of… Tony is not quite sure of the way, but is confident he will find it, he was just there yesterday. We walked a wee bit out of the way, but found it without too much trouble. The park was beautiful, and the rain even stayed away long enough to have lunch in the sun and a wander around. As the rain comes down we take shelter in the huge shopping mall, we hadn’t been in here before, (tend to avoid these places unless we are looking for something specific). There were three floors of shops, all under a huge glass roof, it has a nice airy feel to it. We did a few laps of the shops, going into one or tow to look for something specific, but not finding what we were after.
We headed back to the hostel via a couple of arcades, and called in at the equivalent of a $2 shop to pick up cheap snacks for the boat trip tomorrow. Cynthea headed back to the hostel, and Tony headed to Tesco to raid the reduced to clear bins. There was so much to choose from, it was a bank holiday Monday, and those days are always really good for lots of bargain buys. Tea tonight cost less than two euros, we have stuffed chicken and bacon roulades, fish cakes and lasagne. There was cheap fruit too, with a big bag of bananas for 30c, and some pottles of blackberries. Tony got some salad and bread for sandwiches for lunch on tomorrows’ long train trips.
We had to call the ferry company at 8pm to check what sailing we would be on, we called at 8.05, but there was no answer to the two calls we tried, so we will go with what we booked and hope the weather has not cancelled the fast crossing. We had been told the fast ferry cannot sail in rough weather, so we needed to check the night before.
Tony is in the dining room when Trevor from Colorado mentions his sailing is at 8.45, the same as ours. They compare tickets, and although issued by the same agent they show different ferry companies. Both itineraries to Holyhead show an 8.45 sailing, but Tony is told check in at 8am, Trevor is told 8.15. They assume they will be on the same boat, and that the ferries probably code share like the airlines do. They arrange to share a taxi to save a few Euros, and plan to be at the ferry terminal for 8am. The guys at reception tell us a taxi can just be hailed at the door, despite the double yellow lines, or there is a rank around the corner.