17.04.2006 12 °C
Emboldened by the ease with which we had walked into reasonable acccommodaton at Killarney, we simply packed up the car and headed east. It became a long, long drive in terms of time at least, as the roadworks that seemed to afflict every main road in Ireland had brought the city of Cork and twenty miles either side of it to a standstill. I’ve been in some traffic jams, but this one was from the sixth circle of hell or thereabouts. In damp and darkness we hauled our hungry bodies into the town of New Ross, with nowhere to stay and shops visibly closing down around us. A hotel clerk tipped us that there was an Italian restaurant at the far end of a dark lane that could have had a doorway to a Thieves Guild or something equally shady. However, the restaurant was there, open, and putting something resembling food – but not very good Italian food – before us. So it was with a heavy gut that we humbly asked at the hotel if they could give us a room. Inspection showed it to be clean and with plasma screen tv mounted on the wall – quite unexpected from the appearance of the old fashioned pub downstairs.
Breakfast the next day was notable for the attitude of the serving girl at breakfast , who dished out poached eggs that were stomach turningly undercooked. It’s the first time in history I’ve had to send eggs back to the kitchen. Indeed, for all friendliness and willingness to help that the people in the streets show here, the service attitudes of shop assistants has been disappointing, with a few cases of us just up and leaving after waiting excessively long for attention. Enough griping for now, the car must be taken the last hour’s drive to Wexford before I start incurring more charges beyond the excess milage.
After dropping off the hire car at Wexford, just over the bridge where fifty seven odd rebels had been executed in the eighteenth century, I rejoined Miriam who was waiting at the station /bus stop guarding our baggage. A slow bus ride up along the east coast and inland took us through the streets of Arklow , the rolling green hills of county Wicklow, and at last into the fair city of Dublin. Tired from another long afternoon of sitting still, we decided to grab a cab to the Mespil Hotel, where I had managed to book a room via internet from Killarney. After settling in briefly we headed out for a walk along the Grand Canal opposite the hotel, where a statue of local poet and character Patrick Kavanagh sits on a bench waiting for people to sit alongside and have a yarn in spirit at least. Through St Stephens Green, where James Joyce walked and wrote of , and where a bust of the writer looks out on the lovers of this generation as they court upon the damp but sun tinged grass.
The streets of Dublin are lined with rubbish and papers that blow around wildly, catching in the spikes of fences and festooning the many building sites. A few old men with long handled tools pick ineffectually at the flotsam, resplendent in their high visibility vests, a fashion item that has been all the rage right across England and now Ireland as well. Stepped into a huge church with many fine pews labelled with the long dead who had paid for the privilege. Massive dome arcing above, and beautiful marblework everywhere. Once we had driven our feet to the edge of pain, a great famine descended on us. This was duly resolved at an American style diner with burgers, chili for me and the standard vegeburger for M. Delicious onion rings and a thick, thick shake to sluice it down.
Fitful sleep after little but Irish TV or the CNBC exposing maltreatment by the Chinese authorities in land seizures in the cities. Early to bed with a plan to rise and see the town some more.
14-4-6 Good Friday
In the morning a brisk walk through the centre of Dublin, hello to Oscar Wilde reclining on a large boulder in the park, a busker grey and immobile jerking into a convulsive dance if given coins, a small boy startled running to his Dad for comfort, and coming back with another coin for more thrills.
Researched the way out of here – a five minute walk to a stop where the airport bus comes by every fifteen minutes. Throw the bags in the luggage bay and off we go, as always when driving to the airport of cities everywhere you glimpse the seedier, dilapidated side of the city, then wind on to a blank motorway with nondescript half dead plantings struggling for life among the fumes.
On reaching Dublin Airport, we played queuing games for an hour or so, first lining up at a RyanAir counter but that was only for the flight to Stanstead, next counter, wrong flight showing on the monitor, at last a Host unhooks a barrier and marshals various would be passengers into a newly formed queue in the correct location. It was a bit like being a bee in an unknown hive, where the energy flow eventually pushed you into the required behaviour.
Onto the flight, 737-800 just like Virgin and Qantas use back home, but this one decked out in the gaudy yellow and blue of RyanAir. And they delivered us safely and on time despite late departure to Eindhoven airport.
Eindhoven airport is relatively new, with a sparse modernist architecture and no kiosk or shops hat could be found. Bus connections to Amsterdam though are no problem, and cost no more than Heathrow to London. As evening descended we rolled across the flat land of Holland, cris crossed by canals, and glimpsed a few old windmills and more contemporary wind generation mills, rotating gracefully and without ruining the aesthetics of the landscape.
The bus deposited we few passengers – just us and a small group of youngsters out for a lark in the freedom of Amsterdam – at the Centraal Station. In the darkness of Good Friday night, it took us a little while to find the right tram to get to our hotel. IN the end it was a short ride of 20 minutes to the RAI station precinct, where a large convention centre and theatre provides a venue for businesses to meet. The Holiday Inn was visible from the tram stop, and after a quick meal we crashed, exhausted, into bed. Holiday Inn like similar American hotel chains everywhere, you could be in Geelong and it would look the same, but the toilet is bizarre and difficult to flush.
Have nicknamed it the Hitler toilet it is almost sexually macabre.
This travelling lark can take it out of you when it goes on and on. Memo: factor in more substantial rest breaks in the future. More later……