Saturday, June 12:  Crossing the Irish Sea

Woke at 6 AM so we could make our ferry departure time. Elaine and Alan put together a continental breakfast for us, since we were early for breakfast. Pat gave further counsel on Jake’s arthritic hips or weak spine. Got the car loaded, added a bit of fuel to the car and we were underway just barely on schedule.

Called Europacar yesterday and was told to park the car at the terminal, and drop the keys in the box behind the Stena Line counter and they would collect it later. Simple enough. Arrived at the terminal and short-term parking was only for 20 minutes, so we headed for long-term parking, which was a half kilometer away, and required a shuttle bus ride back. Hadn’t figured on that. And the minimum charge was 5 for 24 hours. Hadn’t figured on that, and only had 4 in British coin. Myself and another fellow figured how the machine worked (backwards from most, you set your time before putting in coins), and then my machine ate one of my coins. I offered him a ten euro note in exchange for one pound. He shrugged and donated the pound coin to the cause. Back to the car at the far end of the lot, we got out our luggage and we saw the bus approaching. Pat took off at a trot, I took David’s bag and sent him away at a gallop. On the bus, Pat produced a handful of coins, and I was able to repay the generous fellow who’d helped us out.

Located the box pretty easily, and there the instructions say to park out front in the free spaces. Damn! They could have told me that yesterday. Dropped my keys, and tried to explain on the paperwork where they’d find the car. Cleared the ticket desk and asked about a phone, so I could call about the car. No time, we had to board right now. Hadn’t figured on that. Checked our bags, and got bussed out to a dock where we walked on to the catamaran-hulled ferry through the ramp the cars load on. We put about 1,900 miles on the car in the UK.

Last on, so most of the tables were taken, thus Robert and I joined an older couple around a table with two vacant seats. She appeared to be nursing a hangover, and he returned from the bar with a Guinness and a rum & coke. About 10 minutes underway, and I looked at my watch -- it was 9:20 AM, our scheduled departure time. No wonder we’d been rushed through the departure process. Hadn’t figured on that.

During the crossing of the Irish Sea we saw several large freighters, and had a close pass by Great Bart, a replica of Black Bart, a ship that looked to my eye to be from around 1800. It was quite a sight to see it cruising the Irish Sea from such a close vantage point on its way over to Liverpool for a tall ships parade. Arrived at the Irish Ferries dock south of Dublin, showed our passports, and then tried to locate Rick in our luggage. Seems his Ireland lobe got left behind in Keswick. We felt a bit lost with no map, no transportation connection advice, no suggestions on dining or sights. A woman working the terminal suggested politely that we pack up and board one of the three buses out front that were very nearly loaded. Her advice would have to supplant Rick’s. 7.50 euro and we were on our way to central Dublin, and were dropped off at one of the bus stations.

The bus station was hopping, since the Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing a concert this evening for 110,000 fans. I went inside and bought a pocket city atlas (ala Paris and London) and a Michelin road map for the rest of the country. With a bit of poking around, we finally hailed a taxi and arrived at Jury’s Inn, Christchurch, our first departure from the B&B and small-hotel routine. Jury’s Inn is probably best compared with a Ramada, except this one has Christchurch Cathedral across the street rather than an interstate freeway exchange, and a pub on the next corner. Being still in advance of noon, our room wasn’t ready, so we stored our bags, raided the tourist info rack and headed out on the streets.

Photo 217  Dublin Streetscape
Photo 218  Trinity College
Bought a phone card and found lunch just down the street (quesadillas for everyone). At lunch, Pat concocted a scheme to take in Riverdance. And why not, since it was having its first-night show for the new season tonight? So off we went in search of the Gaiety Theatre and the ticket office. Along the way we reloaded in euros, and found contact lens solutions. At the ticket office we got seats for the evening performance, a box all to ourselves with restricted sightlines, all for about 33 Lion-King units. The matinees the past three days had been “preview” performances, so tonight would be the first “real” performance of their tenth season in Dublin. Back on the street, we hit an excellent Internet cafe, where I printed Robert’s soccer form, had him sign it, and they faxed it out to the Millers for me. Things were starting to improve, if only momentarily.

Back at the room, I began phoning about the car. No answer at the local office near Conwy (found out later that they’d closed at 1 PM on Saturday). Phoned the Dublin office (which we’ll be visiting on Monday anyway) and they couldn’t even give me a phone number to call. They acted like I was crazy, “I can’t help you if you’ve left your car behind in Wales and now you are in Dublin without it.” Found a scrap of my Europcar documentation and called their “concierge” number. Only open weekday business hours. Phoned the Europcar reservation desk, where they understood my situation and wanted to help. With a manager on the phone, she intimated that they probably wouldn’t fetch the car until Monday and I’d be liable for any parking fines or towing charges. I didn’t even get into it with her about the discrepancy in the pick-up charge. Called Kemwel next, the broker we’d used in the US to make all our car leasing and rental arrangements. Didn’t really expect anything of them, just wanted to register the situation. Guess we may find out on Monday what’s what.

Through all this, Pat and the boys took in some sights across the street, and then we gathered up for an early dinner in the hotel restaurant prior to the Riverdance show. Dinner was OK, but nothing special. Walked to the theatre, to find a throng outside, complete with television cameras. Our seats were passable, and we gave the boys the best sightlines. We had a small box all to ourselves, on the second level of boxes (the Grand Circle), just one away from being closest to the stage. I could see about half the show, though there were entire solo performances dead-center, and deep on the stage, when I couldn’t see anything. The dancing was indeed spectacular and it was an enjoyable performance. this was their first real performance of the season (the preceding ones had been “previews”), so the bows and flowers were more overdone than usual. Robert enjoyed it and David seemed to find it delightful. Letting out at 10:30 PM, we walked outside to find dusk just descending.