Vacation Part 3 – Getting to Ireland

Part 3 of this series talks about our trip getting to Ireland including an unplanned meetup with a friend who also happened to be at the airport.

(Be sure to check out both part 1 and part 2 if you haven’t read them yet.)

So the reason for our trip to Ireland was that we could piggyback our vacation onto the Magic Pro Tour Theros event. It was taking place in Dublin, Ireland, and it happened to be taking place the day after my third anniversary. So it seemed like a great idea to turn this into a vacation for both me and for Katie.

I’ve only been to Europe a handful of times and of those times I’ve never been to the UK or to Ireland. Katie had been to Ireland once before but it had been a long time and there was plenty she didn’t do. So, together we headed for Ireland.

Unlike our flight in, thankfully the flight out of Jacksonville went perfectly fine. It was another small plane again but it was empty enough that we had space and we were able to catch a few Z’s before arriving in Dulles.

I’m someone who checks in pretty regularly on Facebook while I travel. It’s good for posterity, government tracking, and letting my friends and family know where we are and that we are safe. So, when I checked in at Dulles, I got an excited message from Allison, a friend of ours, from Orlando. Allison was on her way to Dulles for her own flight to LAX on her way to Australia for the next leg of Beyoncé’s tour. Allison is a light rigger and currently on tour with Beyoncé.

Because I didn’t adequately examine our flight schedule, I didn’t realize Katie and I had a five hour layover in Dulles. A mistake I won’t make again for a while. However this extra time proved excellent because it allowed us to catch up with Allison.

Allison & Katie

Left: our friend Allison. Right: My wife Katie

A brief aside about Alison: When Katie and I were moving away from Orlando Allison stopped by to see us on our last night before leaving. We were taking a break from packing. She brought us some cookies and a mix CD for the road. That CD is one of the the few CDs that is still in the car, we break it out whenever we have a sizeable drive ahead of us. The cookies? They didn’t last nearly as long.

A brief aside about Dulles: I’m not a big fan of Dulles. In fact I’m not a big fan of any east coast hub airport except Chicago. I don’t like Newark, Dulles, or even Atlanta.

One of the things I dislike about Dulles is that if you have to walk from one end to the other, it feels like miles. So for example, if we have to go from one end to the other to meet a friend, it can be quite tiring to wade against the current while carrying carry-ons. But for Allison it was most certainly worth it. I just don’t like Dulles.

The Large-Hadron Collider built in Dulles airport.

The Large-Hadron collider built inside the Dulles airport.

So we met up with her in the terminal and grabbed a bite to eat. She caught us up on her life, told us why she was carrying a bagpipe (it was small and in its case, in fact I didn’t even see it – she might have been lying.) But she also told us about her trip to Ireland and the tour she had taken.

She booked through a site called Viator. Basically it’s a central website for booking tours while traveling rather than having to book it through random questionably trustworthy websites. During her trip to Ireland she said she was a big fan of the Cliffs of Moher tour, with that word of support we decided we would do take it too.

Eventually Allison had to leave for her flight to LAX. We bid her farewell and snapped a goodbye photo. However it was not a simple event for her either. As she discovered, her plane had technical problems and there was no other way for her to get to LAX to catch the same connection to Australia. So she was forced to spend another day in DC so she could fly the next day. So we got to see her again as she left the airport, but that was again in passing.

We had such a great time visiting with Allison that I’ve resolved to always accept opportunities for airport meetups on coinciding layovers. They are wonderful chances to catch up and just generally awesome.

Once we sent Allison off for the second time, Katie and I continued the never-ending layover. I explored Viator and eventually booked reservations to the Cliffs of Moher as well as the one to the Giants Causeway.

Now, I am not normally one to take part in large group tours. Normally they’re disappointing, over costed, and generally sub par experiences. But I decided to do these for a few reasons. The largest of which is that I didn’t want to rent a car, and since both of these venues were far from Dublin, this made good sense.

Eventually our layover ended and we were allowed to board for Ireland. As with most flights from the US to Europe they set it up so we would fly overnight and arrive in the morning. The flight went fine, I slept fitfully some though it wasn’t a lot. I did a fair bit of reading, finishing Alexis Ohanian’s Without Their Permission. Dublin airport was nice, the airport was fairly empty as we arrived. We went through customs and were welcomed to the emerald isle.

After collecting our luggage we found a cab and off we went to the hotel. The cabbie, Declan, was entertaining and told us quite a bit as we drove. He drove a Mercedes and was retired, now just being a cabbie to make some extra money.

Declan the cabbie

His name was Declan, officially the most Irish of names ever created.

We got to the hotel too early to check in so we dropped our bags off and, half asleep, went down to the hotel restaurant to eat lunch. We were bone tired but we needed to stay up most of the day to help get our sleep schedules on track. The secret to adjusting your time zone is to force yourself to be exhausted at the new timezone’s sleep time. I know of a friend who will stand for hours on end to avoid risking falling asleep while sitting somewhere.

After eating and sitting for a little while we got into our room. We took a quick nap and then rested and relaxed watching TV before deciding to head down to the Dublin Tourist Office to scout where we were meeting the tour in the morning. Based on Google Maps it was just 3.3 kilometers (roughly two miles), so we decided to get some exercise and walk down to check it out. We walked by the Royal Dublin Society, which would be the event venue later that week and then walked by a few embassies including the US Embassy. Eventually we found the spot, it was a corner outside a very old stonework building and near Trinity College.

Bewleys

Our hotel was a converted boy’s school from the 1800s.

We found the spot and realized that walking it was not a reasonable plan in the morning. If we were meeting them around 6:30 then we would need to wake up early enough to allow us to get ready for the day and walk down there. So we decided to cab it the next morning.

As it would turn out, whether it was from timezone confusion or just excitement at the tours, I wouldn’t sleep much that night.

Next time: the Cliffs of Moher and a few other sites we saw.