With the Wind Always at Our Backs ... (Canadians Driving in Ireland, Part I)

This is the last leg of a series of posts taking you on a June 2014 tour of Southwest England, Wales and Ireland.  If you've enjoyed the ride so far, tagging along in the backseat for a small summer vacation with this Canadian expat family from Doha, you should know that the best of the trip is all right here in the next few posts ...

May the road rise to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again may the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand.   - Irish Blessing

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again may the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand.

- Irish Blessing

First of all, to everyone and their brother who told us to dress in layers because of the unpredictable weather in the UK and Ireland, let it be known that not once did we get rained on while on our magical tour.  Not once.  Not one single time.  Not even on the ferry ride over from Holy Head to Dublin.  Sunny skies and +/- 20C the whole trip.  So PFFFFFFTTTTTTTTH! to the meteorological Bah Humbugs!

Early glimpses of the Emerald Isle from the ferry ...

Early glimpses of the Emerald Isle from the ferry ...

Moving right along from traveller smugness now ...

Since Smilin' Vic had so royally missed the opportunity to secure 'fit-for-human' accommodation in Wales the previous night, I feverishly Googled the 'best places to stay in Dublin' and set to work finding us the quaint little inn experience we'd been craving.  

Unfortunately everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, was booked.  I tried desperately to find something, anything, that was

  • quaint,
  • half decent,
  • clean, and
  • within walking distance of Temple Bar Square.


Though there is an actual Four Seasons (as opposed to THIS) in Dublin, we really didn't feel like spending such an exorbitant amount of money on a posh hotel room with a bed that begs you to languish in its feathered fluffiness all day.  

Those are the rooms you book on a weekend oasis escape in Doha when you've had just about enough of the sand.  We, on the other hand, were looking for a true taste of Ireland.  

Desperate, I entered the dates one last time and ...


Somehow I managed to book us a night at the Ariel House, aka the best kept secret in Dublin.  We were IN!

So it was that after a 2-hour car ride followed by a 2-hour ferry ride, relying on an amazing GPS that brought us exactly where we were meant to be, and all my fears of driving on the wrong side of the road abated by the free wine provided on the ferry's Club Class, we arrived at our Victorian home for the night, filled with excitement at our brief sojourn in Dublin.

Unfortunately our night at Ariel House was not to be.  This was obvious as we walked up smiling to the Reception and provided our name and booking number.  While one eye was already devouring the snacks and tea laid out in the parlour room to my left, the other one was taking in the look of confusion and eventually dismay on the receptionist's face.  

''I'm so sorry'', he said.  ''It appears you've booked for NEXT Thursday; what a dreadful mistake.''

I could have cried.

Smilin' Vic, though disappointed, was obviously struggling not to be smug about the fact that he was now not the only one who'd screwed up accommodation on this trip.

Apparently every single inn and hotel in Dublin was booked for an International Flower Show.  Who knew florists jet-set across the world to look at buds?  Anyhow, our 'un'-host was on the phone in a flash, desperate to find us somewhere in the city to stay for the night.  What a star he was.  And that was to be but our first taste of what truly sets this Emerald Isle apart:  easily the friendliest and most helpful people on Earth.

Apparently flower shows attract a pretty significant crowd ...

Apparently flower shows attract a pretty significant crowd ...

He provided us with our only option:  The Westin.  Bye bye hopes of the Irish Experience, hello reality of paying for just about everything including the elevator ride up to your room.  Ah, well, at least there would be a fancy rain showerhead and King-sized bed.

We made our way there, checked in, and quickly dropped off our battered duffle bags, narrowly escaping the allure of the 2-foot deep down feather comforter and 22 pillows tempting us into their embrace, and headed out to discover Dublin with what little daylight was left.

By the time we got around to Temple Bar Square, many places had stopped serving meals for the day, but we got lucky and found a little spot seated outdoors on the corner just opposite the Temple Bar.  And that is where we sat and enjoyed THE. BEST. MUSSELS.  I'VE.  EVER. HAD!

We guzzled down sipped a bottle or two glass of wine with our meal, and just sat there for quite a while watching revellers go by. These consisted mostly of Americans and Spaniards, with surprisingly few Irish accents. But the air of festivity was catching, the night was warm and clear, the taste of scrumptious profiteroles lingered on our palates, and we had a humungous, comfy, sleep-inducing bed to crawl into once it was all over.

Bellies full, night upon us, we finally made our way slowly down the bustling streets.  Buskers and musicians entertained at every corner, and we joined in the crowds to cheer them on.  Kiddo got an eyeful of bare bellies and short shorts, an uncommon site in the Middle East, and was obviously overwhelmed by the site of young girls teetering down the street in stilettos and barely-there mini-skirts (common dress for Qatar, but always under cover of an abaya).  We let her revel in the sights and sounds so foreign to her as an expat child in the Middle East.

As we stopped at the last corner to listen and sing along with the happy crowd to a particularly engaging rendition of Whiskey In the Jar, a lone rake-thin forty-ish woman whose jeans had fallen just below her g-string to just above her knees began jumping up and down enthusiastically in front of our songster.  

Sigh.  Based on the bulging of Kiddo's eyes at the sad sight of 'just a dozen too many' we knew we'd spend the next four days trying unsuccessfully to explain the sight of skinny, saggy butt cheeks, and decided since it was closing in on 11 p.m. it was time for bed anyhow.  We decided to call it a night. 

Our short time in Dublin had come to an end, but we had miles of green left to visit.  As our heads hit the 300 Euro a night plush pillows, Irish hospitality still warming our hearts, good wine and grub filling our tummies and Irish tunes still playing on the reel in our heads, we couldn't have been happier!

(To be continued ...)