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Touring Dublin by Bus

[This is a recap of a trip taken in September 2009. A post had bot been previously written on the subject]

On a recommendation from Tim’s mum, my mom and I decided to take the Dublin Bus Tour on our first full day. There is more than one bus tour company in Dublin. All stop at mostly the same places, but the tour we took was operated by the Dublin city bus company, and our driver explained to us that they rotate drivers – a driver will be a regular route driver for 2 weeks, then he’ll go and drive the tour bus for 2. Our driver explained this was mostly because they’d lose their voices if they were tour bus drivers constantly, but also told us that all the drivers absolutely LOVE being the tour bus driver.

The bus is “hop on/hop off”, which means that as long as you hang onto your ticket, you can ride the tour bus as many times as you want from 9 in the morning until around 5PM in the evening. The busses go in a continual loop, reaching stops every 10-15 minutes, so if you get off, chances are you’ll have a different bus driver on the next bus. The full length tour is about an hour and a half, not counting stops.

We boarded one of the first buses of the morning and decided to ride it the full loop before making any decisions on where to stop. We rode up on the upper deck so we could see better and it was fantastic. We saw loads of things we had passed on the airport shuttle, but hadn’t paid attention to. On our second loop around Dublin, we got off at the Guinness Storehouse. I purchased a ticket online before we left the US, but Mom wasn’t interested in seeing the brewery. She had a book tucked into her bag though, and planned on finding a bench to sit on while I did the tour. Fortunately, there was a really nice person working at the entrance, and he let Mom through so she could go up to the cafe to sit and wait for me. As it turns out, the cafe was on the third floor of the exhibit, and if we had been dishonest, Mom could have toured the facility for free!

The Guinness Storehouse was incredible and well worth the trip if you’re a fan of the beer! You even get free beer at several stops throughout the tour as you go through a tasting room (where you can have as many as you want), learn how to pull the perfect pint, and finally up at the top where you get a complimentary pint of Guinness and are treated to a 360 degree view of Dublin and the surrounding countryside.

After the Storehouse, we boarded the bus again, and decided to get off at the Writer’s Museum. Our plans didn’t quite go as we thought, however, when our bus driver received a message that there had been a major bus/train accident along the main shopping street in Dublin…which also happened to be the street many of the attractions were on, and where the bus needed to go to get to the rest of the stops! Our bus driver was incredible, and told us that we could all get off at the next stop and do whichever attraction it was and hope the mess was over by the time we were done OR we could stay on the bus and he would do his best to get us around Dublin and promised to show us “areas of Dublin not included on a typical tour”. Mom and I decided to stick it out and see where the driver would take us.


Direct Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOshnFiUbWo

True to his word, he took us through the more residential areas of Dublin and told us stories about the city and buildings (and about himself!) that we would not have heard otherwise. He finally reached a point where he needed to discharge us, and we were directed to find the next bus that would (hopefully) resume the route and get us back. Unfortunately, we got a little mixed up, but did finally find a tour bus stop in the end.

We never did make it to the Writer’s Museum, but I think our adventure was well worth it. We certainly got our money’s worth out of the tickets!

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For more pictures, please see: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/index.php?album=Dublin+Bus+Tour

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me.]

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Hotel Review: The Fleet Street Hotel in Dublin, Ireland

When my mom and I went on our European trip, we started in Dublin. Primarily because the airfare into Dublin was less than any other European city we had been considering, and I wanted to take my mom to more than just the United Kingdom. So we picked Dublin, and I began my hotel hunt. Unfortunately, the hotel I had decided on in my previous post was no longer available when we were finally ready to book, but I found a just-as-inexpensive hotel in an even better part of Dublin for around US$40/night. The Fleet Street Hotel at Temple Bar. Reviews on TripAdvisor were favourable (at the time), and the photos on Travelocity and their own website looked nice, so we booked it for our 3 night stay.

After about 3 hours in the hotel room on our first day, we really wished we had stayed elsewhere.

The hotel itself is fairly rundown. There used to be a pub/restaurant attached, but it was closed down and made the place feel a little creepy. We asked for a room in the back to avoid the street noise, and we were given a room facing a back alley. The back alley that all the delivery vehicles used for the stores, so we were woken up around four in the morning each day by the noises of the deliveries.

It’s an odd building, quite literally looks like something designed by MC Escher. The most likely explanation is that the hotel took over several row houses and converted things to rooms, making it a bit of a maze. But the funnier thing had to be being told we were on the second floor….and to take the lift, turn left, then go down 2 short flights of steps. I wish I was kidding. The worst thing was, my mom and I both had large suitcases (with wheels) as this was leg 1 of a 15-day trip! Trying to carry the suitcases down the short flights was rough, and it was even harder when we had to check out. The staircases didn’t have any railing to hold onto, you just had to use the wall for support. At one point, I really thought one of the steps was going to give out on me.

Our room was….a room. We had two twin-sized beds, one chair, a desk, a table, a bedside table, a suitcase rack, and a dresser with a TV on top of it. There was a heater/air unit up against the ceiling but no matter how many times I tried to adjust it I just couldn’t figure it out. Not all of our outlets worked (and yes, I flipped the switch), so it was hard charging devices. On first glance, the bathroom was really nice looking. What appeared to be all new tile lining the walls and floor, and a towel warming bar (which didn’t seem to work) next to the shower. The sink could have done with more counter space, as there was plenty of room for it, and they really needed a new toilet. The shower looked to be pretty decent. It was just a standard shower stall, or at least appeared to be.

Since we were coming off of a long flight to Paris, followed by the short flight to Dublin and a bus ride, I really wanted to take a shower before we did anything outside the hotel. The shower went on alright….but the floor soon filled with water as if the drain was clogged. Fortunately, I take a fairly short shower. I went t o get out of the shower and tried to turn the knob to off…and it wouldn’t go. I wrapped a towel around me and called for Mom, and she couldn’t get it to turn off, either. Oh, and did I mention the rooms don’t have phones? Mom starts bailing out the shower into the sink, and I threw on the first clothing I could find and ran down to the lobby to tell the desk person about the shower. He comes up and tells me there’s nothing wrong with it, and turns it off. Then, he calls housekeeping and all the woman does is plunge at the drain! Plunging? Plunging isn’t going to get out the major clog the drain probably has! We get offered a new room, but neither one of us really feels like lugging our bags around, so we declined. Each morning we would have to take a towel, wrap it around our hand, and tug the shower off.

Travelocity claimed the hotel had free wi-fi. And they did. In the lobby. The only place in the entire hotel the wi-fi worked was sitting in the Lobby. Get 2-3 people in there with their laptops and there wasn’t any room to move! Fortunately, I had my N810 and iPod and didn’t need to get out my laptop, but it was really annoying trying to make private phone calls on Skype (to my aunt and to Tim) with other people hanging around.

In the end, I found the hotel tolerable. It was in a great location central to a lot of the Dublin attractions, and the bus that took you over to the Ferry port even picked up right outside the hotel. However, I don’t think the hotel was pleasing to my mom, and I don’t think she’d ever stay there again. Really, it’s debatable if I’d stay there again, though for the price and location, you really can’t beat it. It’s right at the entrance to Temple Bar, Trinity College is 3 blocks away, and it’s a short walk over to Guinness.

One thing I do have to say about the staff – ALL of the desk staff we interacted with were friendly…even if they didn’t have any good suggestions for places to eat. I felt safe staying there and sleeping there, and I wasn’t too worried about leaving our things in the room while we were away (though I did still lock the expensive electronics in my suitcase while we were out!). Since the hotel is at the opening to Temple Bar, which is essentially an entire street of pubs, they use a buzzer system to get into the hotel after dark. You press the buzzer and tell them your room number before they will let you in….and they have close-circuit TV at the door to check people’s appearances. So I do need to add that it was a friendly and safe hotel to dtay in…even if it wasn’t quite what we were expecting.

On our way back through Dublin, we just had a stopover and I booked us at the Travelodge Swords, as it was close to the airport. The Travelodge was so much nicer, and only $10 more. The only negatives of the Travelodge was the €27 cab ride from the ferry port (which I paid for ALL in small coin), and the fact that if you based yourself there for sightseeing, you’d be paying for cabs into town daily. The Travelodge also had a restaurant attached…even if it was super expensive for a small pizza (€10!).

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Trip Itinerary

We leave on Monday for our trip across the pond, so I thought I’d share our rough draft of plans with you –

Monday – Depart PHL
Tuesday (AM) Arrive DUB (with a layover in CDG). Check into hotel (Fleet Street Hotel), relax, Guinness Store House
Wednesday – Writer’s Museum, Trinity College
Thursday – Dublin Castle, Cathedral
Friday – Stena Ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, meet up with Tim. Welsh Highland Railway
Saturday – Lancaster in AM, Beamish in afternoon
Sunday – North Yorkshire Moores Railway & Howard Castle
Monday – York
Tuesday – Coastal drive (lighthouses), to Tim’s house
Wednesday – Lincoln
Thursday – London
Friday – open
Saturday – open
Sunday – open (but Tim’s day off, so possible stratford?)
Monday – Rail and Sail from Lincoln to Dublin via Hollyhead
Tuesday – depart DUB 🙁

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Planning September’s Trip

Mom and I are headed over to Ireland in September, and then plan on meeting Tim in Holyhead (Wales) over his long weekend to travel around the UK. Mom kept making lots of suggestions for things she wanted to do, so Tim and I decided to buy her a guidebook and map. We picked out Great Britain (EYEWITNESS TRAVEL GUIDE) as it looked like it was the best guide book in terms of lots of information and pictures, some Post-it brand tabs, and MapEasy’s Guidemap to England.

First, we went through the guidebook and marked EVERYTHING she expressed an interest in seeing, as well as places Tim or I thought she would like. Then, we started looking at the map and mapped out three different routes making lists of the places we could stop along the way. The Easyguide map was perfect for this, as it’s more of an artistic map and you can easily view the town names. However, I do not recommend liquid highlighter. A week later, I had to break down and cover the routes with clear tape since the marker was still wet!

We presented this all to mom, and told her she was free to pick from the three options for this trip (noting that we would at some point do all three trips. After all, we’ll be going back!). She picked option one, so we will be visiting:

Liverpool
Lancaster
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Beamish
North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Castle Howard
York
Flamborough Head

before returning to Lincoln. IF we have an extra day with Tim, we will also visit:

Stratford-upon-Avon
Warwick Castle

In addition to this, Mom and I will be going down to London on our own for at least one day, and possibly other day trips.


[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me.]

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