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20 August 2014 @ 09:17 pm
The Trip To Europe - Part 4 - Ireland  
As I stated in PART 1 - ITALY, PART 2 - AUSTRIA & GERMANY, and PART 3 - SCOTLAND & WALES, it may be helpful if you follow along with the photographs. The link is here, and it should open in a new window. Enjoy!

Tue., July 22 – Wexford to Waterford
Today started with breakfast in the hotel restaurant, followed by a little downtime in the room. Then, since it was only about 10 AM at that point, and we didn’t have to check out until noon, we went to the hotel pool and swam until 11. Weeee! Okay, everybody shower quickly! We made it out by 11:45 AM, called for a cab to take us to the center of town (the train & bus station), and off we went into the day.

The bus took about an hour from Wexford into Waterford. It was the same #40 from the day before, and yes, it ran right by our hotel on the way out of town. Yes, we understand that the inter-city busses must only stop at their designated places, but I still grumbled a little at passing right by the front door. E smacked me for that. I really wasn’t all that upset, rules being rules and all that.

Once we hit Waterford, we found our connecting bus (the #601) pretty easily. It dropped us about ¼-mile from our hotel, which was just fine by us. We checked in to the Travelodge, and set our stuff in our room. It was here that my mind kept running one word over and over…dodgy. That’s not really a word I would think that I would be using, but there it was. Dodgy.

The door is a regular key, not an electronic card. Okay, in and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. The fact that there isn’t even a deadbolt on the inside of the door, on the other hand, is a strong comparison point. The bathroom here compares differently, too. The past two hotels have had signs that read something to the effect of  “Bathmats have been provided for your safety. Please use them.” This hotel has a sign that reads, “Please be careful because the surfaces may be slippery.” No, they did not provide a rubber bath mat for the tub. That went with the, ummm, dark coloration on the ceiling (mold? Simple lack of paint?). The fire door to the street was just outside our room, and claims to be alarmed if opened. It was propped open. We told the front desk about it. When we returned from our journeys, it was still open. E pushed it shut. Like I said, it’s not any one thing. But in combination, yeah… I kept thinking “dodgy, like the local equivalent of the Hotel 60 Minutes.” I hope my instincts are wrong. We’ll see.

Anyway, as I started to say above, there was still plenty of daylight left, so we headed out to see what we could see. We started to walk back in towards the city center. It really is a lot easier to do that without towing all of our luggage behind us, y’know? We soon came across the round-towers of the Old City Wall, and made a point of walking the perimeter of the old part of the city, tower by tower. They were all locked up, but it was still a fun walk. Hey, we got our mileage in for the day!

The last tower we went to, Reginald’s Tower, is a large, round tower on the water’s edge, and still has a cannonball lodged in it from the Cromwell World Tour. There is still a slight chance (very slight, really) that it could fall out and Cromwell could still potentially claim one last victim. E and I remember it from the last time we were here. We had stayed in a hostel around the corner from it. The Chinese place we ate at last time was still there, too. Kidlet rejected eating there.

A few doors down, there was another pub which showed a menu with a seafood chowder. That sounded good to all of us, so that’s where we ate dinner. That was a good bowl of chowder, I must say. It’s called the Munster Pub, and it is next door to the Royal Theater Company of Waterford. The pub featured several posters from plays across the years. It was obvious that this place is a favorite of the troupe. After dinner, we walked back, picking up a scoop of ice cream along the way.

Wed., July 23 – Waterford (Reginald’s Tower, Waterford Crystal, Medieval Museum)
Today we started off by walking out to the Waterford Crystal factory. We took the tour through it, of course. As many of you know, the workmanship is amongst the best on the planet, and they show you up close exactly how they do it. How close? You can talk to any artisan at any point of the tour if you have a question, not just the tour guide. Some of the craftsmen were wearing earmuffs and clearly were deep in concentration, but most were happy to answer a question if you had one.

Naturally, the tour ended in the retail showroom, which shows most of their finest pieces in the best possible light. You had the life-sized Irish harp, and Sword In A Stone, and for the Disney fanatics, they also had Cinderella’s Coach with Six Horses. That last one was retailing for a mere €40,000, but could be shipped with the Value Added Tax returned to you for a mere €32,500. Rellie, what do you say? For the Lt.Colonel, I recommend the €10,500 (okay, €8,500 tax-free) bodhran, although I don’t know how well it will play being crystal and all…

We went into Reginald’s Tower on the water’s edge next. Built by the Vikings originally, it’s been added to a couple of times through history, and the walls around it (as well as the river next to it) have either been raised or removed depending on when in history you’re referring to. Yeah, they moved / re-routed the river tributary that ran beside the old wall on one side. That area is now known as The Mall. That’s where Waterford Crystal now has their factory and showrooms.

The Medieval Museum has their original, intact wine cellar, as well as the original charter for the city. That charter made Waterford a primary trading center port with a monopoly on the wine trade. The nearby town of New Ross challenged that. The dispute went on for a very long time, leading to a small war between the two towns, and a challenge that eventually brought the original charter to King Edward III to secure Waterford’s monopoly through the challenge.

The museum’s featured pieces are the Cloth Of Gold Vestments. These robes were woven to be floor-length, covered in gold filament thread, featuring panels of various New Testament scenes on them. They are the only full set of medieval vestments to survive in Northern Europe. They were buried when Cromwell came to town. They were re-discovered 123 years later when the medieval cathedral was being demolished.

Thu., July 24 – Cashel (Rock Of Cashel, Grey Abbey)
Today, we traveled up to Cashel. Patrick was our host at the BNB called Rockville House. He is a tall, slender man with a quiet manner and soft-spoken voice, but with a quick Irish wit and humor. We settled in fairly quickly and set out for the Rock of Cashel. Our BNB was just around the corner and down the hill from it. Impressively close, it was.

We wandered all over the hill, then decided to head down to the bottom of the other side of the hill to Hore Abbey, or Grey Abbey named because of the color of the rock. This is where E tried to kill me. Last time we went to Ireland, I had us walking to one of our stops on narrow roads at sunset. This time around, E had us walking out into the open while thunder and lightning were in the immediate area.

It was worth it, of course. Kidlet got a chance to climb on a lot of the rock walls. It only rained for a few minutes at a time, and the bulk of the thunderstorm cells ended up going mostly around us instead of over us.

Fri., July 25 – Cahir Castle & Swiss Cottage
Today, we took a day trip down to Cahir Castle. We saw the castle, of course. This is one of our favorite castles. They let you crawl on almost every wall. They let you go in rooms. Kidlet had a blast crawling on things.

We walked a mile out to the Swiss Cottage. One of the Butler family, Earl of Ormand decided to create a fortified house on the edge of town, which is now a hotel. In the late 1800s, they created a house to entertain their friends with for garden parties and hunting parties. The original family never lived there. Rather, they used it for afternoon and evening parties, then went back to their home in town. The staff went with them, but there was a family of caretakers who lived there after about 1890 through 1980. The Butler family died off, and the caretaker family died off in the early 1980s. The property was sold, eventually, back to a historical trust after a few years of neglect, vandalism, and abandonment. Restoration started in the mid-1980s, and by 1991 it was re-opened as a historical site.

We did the tour, walked back to our bus, and went back to Cashel. Once back, I took the fiddle up to the Rock and played for a couple of hours while E and Kidlet went to the Medieval Village Museum and tourist center. I made enough to pay for dinner. That felt good.

Sat., July 26 – Travel Day To Birr
We took three busses today: Cashel to Cahir, Cahir to Limerick, and Limerick to Birr. We stayed at Emmet House, a beautiful old three-story tall BNB in the center of town. This was, by far, the easiest place to get to and from the bus we had the entire trip, in that we got off the bus, crossed the street, and walked in the front door. Our hostess, Shirley, met us and helped us get settled in.

We took a walk around town. After a couple of kilometers, tops, and we had covered most of the town. We went back to the hotel, dropped our walking stuff, and went to dinner. After dinner, I played tunes on the door stoop for anybody passing by. That was cool, and made Shirley very happy. She even offered to watch Kidlet while we went to a bar two doors down so that I could play tunes there for a while. The owner had heard me play, so we knew it would be okay to do that.

Honestly, that was one of the more disappointing things I had done the entire trip. There were three rooms as part of the bar setup. There is a front entry room, which was empty, a second room, which was the main bar area, and a third, back room. The second and third rooms were full of people talking loudly. The owner suggested that I play in the front empty room. That was tough enough, but he also forgot to turn off the radio, so I was competing not just with conversational noise, but also with the noise from the radio as well. It wasn’t my place to complain about that, so I just let it go. We had a few people come in and listen, maybe seven across the hour and a half that I played. But hey, we each got to enjoy a pint of apple cider.

Sun., July 27 – Birr Castle
Today we took all day and explored Birr castle.

Kidlet is showing signs of focusing only on negative things today. She chose this place. She had a really good day, full of good things. She wanted to go swimming in the local river. E objected on the grounds that the river is polluted enough for her to be concerned, as well as having talked to a lady last night who said a couple of kids drowned in that spot recently. But today was full of good things.

Birr castle is actually a private residence, and there are no tours through the main castle itself. The grounds, however, span 120 acres, house a science museum, a private lake, a couple of kilometers of walking trails, and what at the time was the largest astronomy telescope in the world. Oh, yeah, there was also a spiral tree trail to commemorate the finding of the spiral nature of the Whirlpool Nebulae, a giant tree house, and a kids play area that included a large (and I mean 15 feet by 30 feet) air bubble / bouncy pad that fits 30 kids at a time. Kidlet spent an hour and a half just on that at the end of the day, all smiles at the time.

We started out by spending about an hour reading everything in the science museum. Apparently, and I didn’t know this going in, the 3rd Earl of Rosse was something of a scientist and engineer. He discovered the spiral nature of some of the galaxies. Well, the whole family is or would become engineers, but I digress. From the Birr Castle description (Birrcastle.com)

“In the early 1840’s, the Third Earl of Rosse designed and built the largest telescope in the world. With this telescope, he discovered the spiral nature of some of the galaxies, and from 1845-1914, anyone wishing to witness this phenomenon had to come to Birr. And they came, in the hundreds, from across Europe and beyond to observe the stars with Lord Rosse or simply to marvel at this feat of engineering in the middle of Ireland.

This Reflecting telescope remained the largest in the world for over 70 years and is arguably the largest historic scientific instrument still working today. This ‘leviathan’ as it is named, remains in the centre of the Demesne as Ireland’s greatest scientific wonder and represents a masterpiece of human creative genius.

The Science centre demonstrates how the extraordinary telescope, now magnificently restored, was built in the castle workshops by the people of Birr. Scientific instruments are displayed, alongside interactive models to explain how they were used.

The interactive centre reveals the wonders of early photography, engineering and astronomy with a special emphasis on the design and assembly of the world famous Great Telescope. [On display are] the astronomical instruments, cameras, photographs and photographic equipment used by the Third and Fourth Earls and Mary, Countess of Rosse, in the middle and late 1800s. Also on display is electrical and engineering equipment originally belonging to Charles Parsons and used in his experiments.”

Charles Parsons was the son of said Earl Of Ross, and designed steam-powereed turbines to make ship engines what they are today. His designs were incorporated into the engines of the largest ships of the time, including the Mauritania, Lusitania, the Titanic, and HMS Dreadnaught. He and his brothers and sisters were, well, home schooled…by the scientists working with the telescope. Yeah, there’s a partial job description: Study to unlock the secrets of the universe, and tutor the kids with what you know.

We spent the better part of the day wandering the grounds I described above. Then we discovered the kids play area. Did I mention the giant tree house and the bounce pad? Yeah. We made a relatively early evening of it, knowing we had to be out on the early side tomorrow.

Mon., July 28 - Travel Day To Dublin
Today, we caught the 9:00 bus right out the front door. That bus took us to Nenagh, about ½-hour south of town. Then we transferred to the Limerick to Dublin bus for the ride into the center of Dublin. We had a brief moment of being turned around once we arrived at our Bus Eireann bus stop while we tried to find the correct Dublin Bus stop (a different company) a couple of blocks away. Once we found the correct place, it was really easy getting to St. Stephen’s Green / National Concert Hall and then walk to our hotel a block away. Since we made our connections, we got into Dublin about 12:30 or so, and made it to our hotel by about 1 PM. It was nice to not have to spend all day traveling. If we had missed our connection, then we would have arrived into Dublin at either 4:30 or 6 PM. We were just as happy to not have to do that.

We stayed at the Harcourt Hotel (60 Harcourt Street, just south of St. Stephen’s Green). It would be good to be anchored for the whole week in one place. It was expensive, but centrally located. Okay, it was actually really damned expensive on Monday & Tuesday, and back to a normal rate from Wednesday on. (I didn’t find out why that was until Tuesday night. Yes, there’s a story there.)

And then…E declared naptime and crashed pretty hard. We woke up in time to find some dinner, and that was about it.

Tues., July 29 – Dublin (Trinity College) and Stag & Hen Parties
Today we went over to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and the Long Library. We went with Grace, her husband and kids, and also happened to meet up with Fools_and_Irish while we were there. Our tour guide was a Jedi, I mean graduate student. The Trinity undergraduate uniform includes a cloak-like piece that is reminiscent of the clothing worn in those movies. Actually, in Attack of the Clones, Trinity’s long-hall library was used as the Jedi library, but that’s beside the point. Our guide used to be an undergraduate scholar there, and he is now back working on his doctorate in the historical effects of religion. He told us about several aspects of the college, of course.

Some of the most interesting parts included the one provost who, very grudgingly, was forced into signing the document allowing women into the college for the first time. He is quoted on his opposition as saying, “Over my dead body will women enter this college.” He died before the next school term opened, and thus women really did enter Trinity…over his dead body. There is a statue of that provost in a sitting position in the main courtyard. We are told that it is somewhat common, if not exactly condoned, for women graduates now to climb the statue and sit in his lap with their new degrees and get their picture taken. Women now account for about 65% of the students at the university. Ah, irony.

The architect for the dining hall failed to allow for the fact that the river used to run underground under it, and thus it collapsed into itself…three times. Students won’t walk under the bell tower because superstition says that any undergrad who does so will fail their end of term exams. The library hall itself is the longest single-room library in the world. During its’ construction, there were two other colleges building libraries designed by the same architect. Trinity decided to wait on the final stage of construction until the others were finished, then they added six meters to make this one the longest. The books are arranged…by size. The books are not arranged by topic, by author, by anything that would be logical to normal people. Nope, as our guide said, “If you know the dimensions of the book you’re looking for, it’s pretty easy.” I’m certain they are catalogued, but oy! Can you imagine being the one to catalog that in the first place?

Trinity College Library Dublin is also a legal deposit library, and is thus entitled to a copy of every book published in Great Britain and Ireland. They get over 100,000 new books every year. The library contains about five million books, including 30,000 current serials and significant collections of manuscripts, maps, and printed music.

There is also a Berkeley Library on campus named for the same person UC Berkeley is named after, although they pronounce it Barkley. There are matching sculptures on both campuses – spheres with inner spheres on a rotating pedestal.

Inside the main library is the Book Of Kells. This is the famous illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament. The illustrations are very ornate, featuring traditional Christian icons with swirling Celtic art and knotwork with figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts worked into it all. They rotate the page about every three months, so it’s always going to be different when you go.

We ate lunch on campus at The Buttery (a restaurant café). By that time, it was late enough in the afternoon that we decided to split up to get ready for the stag and hen parties that evening.

Trust me when I say that a few of the guys really wished that we had gone with the ladies to their party instead. They went to dinner, followed by a trip on the Ghost Tour. E tells the story of how the tour guide was saying that Dr. So-And-So used to do anatomy demonstrations, and he liked nothing better that to have a fresh corpse on his table. Her response was, “Sounds like a man after my own heart!” Yeah, it took the tour guide a while to figure out why E refused to be grossed out or creepified in any way. That included the crypts under Christchurch. The tour is not allowed to play anything truly horrifying to desecrate their being allowed to use Christchurch. Spooky music in that part, she said, was Gregorian chant. E basically said that her reaction was, “That’s not scary, it’s holy!” It wasn’t until the end of the tour that she told the guide what she does for a living. E said she had a great time.

Lt.Colonel had to remind herself, as she was sitting in a chair with the tour guide right behind her telling the werewolf story, “I don’t have to defend. I don’t have to defend,” and swing her elbows around to catch him where it would hurt most. Then the girls went pubbing after that, and ended the night with really bad pizza, but a good time.

By contrast, the guys started with dinner at least, and that was really good. That was at the Porterhouse Temple Bar. The food was really actually good. The seafood chowder, listed as a starter, could have been a meal in and of itself.

We then went pubbing. One place had the coincidental timing of having a pub-crawl come through. We ended up on the other, quieter side of this place. There, we met Not-My-E , Alice, and Nina. This E had just finished writing her Master’s Thesis. She had until the following day by 5 PM to turn it in, and dang it, she was going out drinking to celebrate. Her mother, Alice, encouraged this, and so Alice, E , and her sister Nina were at this pub as well. The guys were in full flirt mode, and made their evening. It was also these three ladies who explained, at least indirectly, why our hotel rate was so outrageously expensive on a Monday and Tuesday night.

It turns out that Garth Brooks was scheduled to perform five sold-out concerts from Friday through Tuesday nights. The Dublin city council would only approve permits for three of the five concerts. Garth apparently said something to the effect that it would be like making someone choose between their children; make it all five concerts or none at all. It apparently went to none at all. One expert later said that the country was about to lose an estimated $63 million over this, as each concert would hold 83,000 people. Let’s see: 400,000+ people at, say, $75 a head is ~$30 million. They all need a place to stay in town, and to eat while they’re in town, and buy souvenirs while they’re in town… Then they all started canceling hotel reservations in the tens of thousands… Like I said, at least now I know why our Monday and Tuesday night hotel rate was so expensive, not that I could do anything about it.

I won’t go into too many details about the rest of the evening after that. What happens at the stag party, stays at the stag party, right? Let’s just say that I ended up getting into a decent conversation with a girl from Malawi who moved to Philadelphia and later Chicago, graduated UPenn, and was now dancing in Dublin. Think about that for a moment. Why would I know that? Because, I talk to people…even the dancers. She did at least hit me in the shoulder the first time I said “Yes, Ma’am” to one of her questions. (*Grin*) Yeah, I’m a goofball.

Wed., July 30 – Dublin (Guinness, Wedding Rehearsal, Rehearsal Dinner)
I knew the Guinness tour would be starting right at 10 AM, so I set out on foot about 8:45-9:00. I still made it right at 10:00 because I made one wrong turn, followed by finding the employee parking lot, which had a security gate and an attendant. The attendant told me I was close, but there was no way to go through the wall, and would have to walk all the way around the couple of blocks to get to the entrance. But I made it, and I was not the last one there, either. Yay!

We did the Connoisseur Experience before the regular Guided Tour. The Connoisseur Experience is a private, small-group tasting of the four main beers Guinness produces. Our group tasting was led by Donnel. I asked, and he fortunately had no problem with me taking photos of the group while I was there. Sweet. So, I set up a bare flash in diagonal corners of this very dark room, and got a few shots while I was enjoying the presentation Donnel was giving us.

We went through a brief history of the brewery, which included things like: “Arthur Guinness started brewing ales from 1759 at the St. James's Gate Brewery, Dublin. On 31 December 1759 he signed a 9,000 year lease for the unused brewery and the water rights to go with it, and it recently celebrated 250 years in operation. Later, in the main tour, we learned that the harp, which is the main logo for the brand, was copyrighted by the Guinness company. This presented a slight problem when the Irish country was formed, and they also wanted a harp for their national logo because, well, Guinness had copyrighted the Irish harp as a logo. So, they came to an agreement: The Guinness harp faces to the right; the Irish flag’s harp faces to the left.

The other thing I found interesting was this (credit to Wikipedia for all of this verbiage): “On 10 November 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director of the Guinness Breweries, went on a shooting party in the North Slob, by the River Slaney in County Wexford, Ireland. After missing a shot at a golden plover, he became involved in an argument over which was the fastest game bird in Europe, the golden plover or the red grouse (the former being correct). That evening at Castlebridge House, he realized that it was impossible to confirm in reference books whether or not the golden plover was Europe's fastest game bird. Beaver knew that there must be numerous other questions debated nightly in pubs throughout Ireland and abroad, but there was no book in the world with which to settle arguments about records. He realized then that a book supplying the answers to this sort of question might prove successful.” Yep, that’s how the Guinness Book Of World Records came to be.

Near the end of the hour-and-change presentation, which included a brief history as well as four different types of Guinness product, who should walk in but Fergal Murray, the Master Brewer for Guinness. Yeah, you read that correctly. The Lt.Colonel and HuskerJAG had met him somehow before, and managed to not only invite him to their wedding, but also have him accept the invitation. So there he is, the Master Brewer himself, and then he personally takes the group down to the Guinness Academy and shows everyone how to draw “the perfect draught of Guinness” himself. At that point he had to make his graceful exit to go to a different meeting, but the fact that he was there at all was a very special thing. No, he does not appear like that in general at all. We all then got to draw a draught ourselves before heading off to the main tour of the factory.

The wedding rehearsal was held at the Unitarian Church, a block down from where HuskerJAG and Lt.Colonel were staying. The rehearsal was at the same time of day as the actual ceremony, so at least I got a chance to see what the conditions would be like ahead of time. Score! Believe me when I say that I’m glad I got a chance to practice before the actual ceremony. Seriously.

The rehearsal dinner was held at Bang Restaurant. This was not the first choice of location. We were going to go to a place called the Mansion House, at a restaurant called Fire. Then it changed to Bang. At first, I honestly didn’t realize that these were two different restaurants, as opposed to two variations on one location. But no, they are indeed two different restaurants in two different locations.

The food was quite good. After dinner, we cleared the tables to the sides, played a little bit of music, and did some dancing. It was a good day to meet a lot of the people who would be making the wedding.

I made a point of charging all of the batteries and making certain that the equipment was ready for tomorrow.

Thur., July 31 – Game Day, I Mean Wedding Day
We started off with a quiet morning of breakfast and slounging in the room. Then it was time to go, go, go.

Hair and Makeup was done at Whetstone. I walked over to there with a camera and a flash to get shots of the ladies getting that done. Robin (Lt.Colonel’s mom), Barb (HuskerJAG’s mom), Gerbille, Sarah L., Grace, Kidlet & E , and of course Lt.Colonel were all there. E had done Kidlet’s hair into a twist-braid wrap thing that looked really easy to do, but had an elegant look to it because it’s not a normal braid as such. E herself got her hair straightened with just water and a brush with a hair dryer. It was such a different look for her. I had to laugh, in that she actually ended up looking a lot like my sister.

I then headed back to their hotel to get a couple of detail shots of the wedding dress, the shoes, the rings, and the cufflinks. Running short on time, I then headed over to the church to pre-set the lights for the post-ceremony formals. I had them out of the way, but ready to set up in a hurry so that people aren’t standing around forever later. It was a good thing I did that. I was told later that the formals went quite smoothly. Whew!

Anyway, after I pre-set and tested the lights, I got changed. Then I headed back to their hotel to get a few shots, and followed them back to the venue. Before I knew it, we were up and going. Having practiced the day before, I knew what to expect in terms of who was speaking, and who was likely to react to what during the ceremony itself. Then the ceremony was over, and I was in charge.

Okay, then. It’s showtime. I’m trained in theater and faire. I can do this! Everybody, fill in the first section of pews. Leave the front two rows for the wedding party and immediate family. Yes, I want a group shot. Fill in here. You go there. Bam, group shot from the raised pulpit. (Yes, I pre-set the camera, and arranged to have one of the church workers press the button so I could be in the shot itself.) Alright. Everybody out of the second row, I’m moving light-stands in there. Groom, come front and center. You’re my guinea pig while I re-test the lights. Cool, my settings from earlier are correct. Stand just so. Good! Best Man, join him. Okay, you step out. Next Groomsman. Next. Okay, all three of you. Great! Now clear out, all of ya! Bride, front and center! Maid of honor, can you please arrange the train? Thanks! Okay, while she’s there, Maid of Honor step back in. Next! Next! All of you get in there now. Mothers, you’re on deck. HuskerJAG, you and your brother are in the hole. NEXT!

It really did go smoothly. A couple of people made comments to that effect. The toughest part was the fact that the church staff wanted to close down the church, so I felt rushed in packing everything down. Fortunately, I had both E and Fools_and_Irish as The Voices Of Reason keeping me from completely melting down…mostly. They really were terrifically helpful, even though they would each say they didn’t do much, I’m sure.

Once I got everything packed down, we got a taxi (Thank you for the idea, E and Fools_and_Irish!) over to the reception venue. Yeah, I had it in my head that I would walk the ½-mile over to the reception. Better heads prevailed, and I didn’t argue the point at all. Yes, I even welcomed the idea.

The reception was at Fallon and Byrne on Exchequer Street. The ground floor is a grocery store, but the second floor is a very nice space to hold a reception in. It has plenty of space for up to, say, 75-100 people. We had 35-40, and room to dance. Virginia, the event coordinator with Fallon and Byrne, later said that she preferred our small, energetic group to many that they have dealt with over time. I set the lights up in diagonal corners, and the reception got underway. Shay Black’s nephew has a band in Dublin, and they provided the music for the night. There was a point in there where they took a break, and we filled in by putting a small session together. Yeah, we were told to bring our instruments, and who really tells Lt.Colonel no to anything? We played a few jigs and reels, and Tesser did mouth music while a competition Highland dancer, who happened to be the Best Man’s wife, did a demonstration.

The evening was filled with the music, laughter, dancing, drinking, more laughter and a few tears during the toasts, more dancing, more music, and a lot more laughter across the remainder of the evening. Then it was time to get a taxi, and fall on our noses asleep.

Fri., August 1 – Dublin Castle
Today was our last chance to get some sightseeing in. So, we went to see Dublin Castle. Take the guided tour. It gives you access to the underground area, which you do not get when you’re doing the self-guided walking around thing. Our guide said he would take about an hour. We got an hour and a half. This guy was terrific. The underground area shows the oldest part of the original walls and battement base of the powder tower and part of the original old wall.

Our guide also talked about some of the artwork in the courtyard, including the insults about the statuary that was there. “That’s Justice and Fortitude. Fortitude is that strapping young lad with the javelin. That’s supposed to be a lion next to him. Ignore the fact that it’s the size of a sheep dog. This one over here is Justice. She faces inward towards the courtyard and is not wearing a blindfold, leading to a common phrase that ‘Justice is not blind, and has her arse to the nation.’” Other more polite versions simply have her turning her back to the nation, but that’s semantics for ya’.

He also showed us the Viceroy’s main palace, room by room. That included the staterooms, the dining hall, the reception ballroom, and several other smaller rooms. The details, paintings, and sculptures were, of course, of the finest craftsmanship.

The girls wanted one last chance to go shopping for charms before heading home. I went back to the hotel and made a point of transferring all of the wedding picture files from the camera cards to my computer’s hard drive and the backup drive.

We ended up having one last dinner with everybody who was still in town. That was a lovely end to a pretty good day. We spent the rest of the evening re-packing and moving things around to make certain we came in under weight on each bag for the return trip home.

Sat., Aug. 2 – Travel Day Home
The day started with a drunk jerk pounding on our hotel door at 4 AM. Yes, I said four o’[*censored*]clock in the [*censored*] morning. He was looking for his friend, which was on the opposite side of the hallway from us. But we didn’t know that at the time. All he said when I opened the door was, “F**k, wrong room,” and walked away without so much as an apology. Yes, I made a phone call to the front desk to ask security to have a word with them.

When we made a formal complaint with the front desk in the morning, the lady behind the desk hung her head, and as politely as she could without saying too much, said that they knew whom we were talking about, and she personally was also not happy with that particular group. This desk operator relayed the story of how she was using the ladies restroom, and while she was washing her hands, one of these guys came in and used the stall…without closing the door behind him. Did I mention that she was in the ladies’ bathroom? Yeah…

Our flight, originally set to leave at 12:15 was delayed. That was a good thing, considering that there were not one, not two, but three separate really long lines at Dublin airport. Each line took cues from Disney on the idea of switchbacks to cram the most number of people into a space. We couldn’t check in online for whatever reason, so we had to do that in person. That was line number one. It turns out that I had forgotten to call Aer Lingus within 30 days of the flight to arrange our seats. Remember, we’ve been gone for 35 days. They split us up, but not too badly. The girls were together in the last row, and I got put into a family row designated with baby bassinets in front of me. Translation: I got put into the exit row over the wing. This meant I got a boatload more legroom than I otherwise would have gotten. I thought I scored a prime seat. I didn’t even mind the family sitting next to me. You know the kind I mean, mom with two young kids, ages two and four. Seriously, I was doing just fine. It was a good flight. But I’m telling the story out of order.

Irish Security / bag scan was line number two. We did the usual thing of getting some food and drinks after security. Then we headed towards line number three: US Customs Pre-Clearance.

We thought that was simply a “declare what you did while you’re here” kind of thing. It was that, but also it was another clearance / security bag check area. Yep, having just gone through security and then getting things for the flights, you now had to go through security again, complete with liquid limitations, bag scanning, and shoe check. (Irish security didn’t do the shoe thing). At least they (the TSA equivalent) said that food court liquids were fine as long as they were still closed with the original seal. So, if you bought a soda, you didn’t have to dump it. The nice thing about this last part, though, is that they (USA, SFO) would treat this like a local flight at the end. So, after landing, all we would have to do is go to baggage claim and go home.

All of those combined took us almost two and a half hours. We had left ourselves about three hours to travel to the airport itself and have time for things like that. Our flight, as I said above, was delayed. We boarded the plane about a half hour late, or 12:45 or so. I remember sitting in my chair on the plane and seeing 12:55. The pilot came on several times across the next two hours to explain why we weren’t moving. One explanation was tower control dealing with issues. The second was something about cleaning the tarmac from bird carcasses. (He didn’t actually say “bird-strike residue,” but that was the implication.) The third was something to the effect of, “Well, we were about to pull out of the gate, but then a warning light came on. Fortunately, we were able to get a mechanic up into the belly of the plane and fix it fairly quickly…” We pulled away from the gate at 2:45. We should have arrived into SFO about 3:15, ten and a half hours after taking off plus time changes. We actually arrived at 4:30.

It took them another hour to finish getting the bags to baggage claim. It happened in three stages. By that, I mean that one set of bags came onto the turnstile. They went round and round, and the bags stopped coming. Interesting, considering the many people remaining around the turnstile. Then it started up again. Set of luggage number two came and went. Still, there were about 35-50 people remaining when the bags stopped, including us. Time passes. Nobody from any airline said that it was finished, so we were all just sitting around, waiting. After another ten minutes or so, the ramp started up again, and the last set of luggage finally appeared. We could finally head over to the BART train, and head for the last leg towards home.

Thank you, Renee, for coming out to meet us at the train, and for taking care of the house while we were gone!

The cats really weren’t talking to us much. They basically said, “Hi. Welcome home. Can I go out now?” Yep, we’re home.

Amazingly enough, they talked to us plenty the following morning, having just spent the night getting locked outside because they refused to come in…

If you're still here and reading, thanks! I hope you all enjoyed that.