Dublin 2014

Another trip completed, only put on about 4lbs (spot the person on a diet!) and a great time had by all, at least until the return journey but more of that later.

Wales were playing in the land of my ancestors, Ireland. So off we set merry band of travellers we are. Rob (Me), Andy (Brother), Rob (the other one), Ceri, John, Alan, Phil and Bill.

Cars to Llansamlet, outside Swansea where the Coach was being met. This being provided by Edwards Coaches our chosen courier. We waited in a heated waiting area with seats, TVs, toilets all the mod cons. The coach arrived more or less at the agreed time and we all boarded and our journey began. Coach to Fishguard, and a Ferry to Rosslare. This was a somewhat nervous aspect of the journey due to the appalling weather the UK has suffered in the last few months. Luckily it passed without incident, and we were able to partake of a repast, Steak & Ale Pie and a few beverages. Whilst wandering the decks I viewed an example of the new generation of Rugby fan as I spied a male rugby fan partaking off the free moisturiser display in the duty free shop!

Then back to the coach for the journey Rosslare to Dubin, approximately 3 hours driving to our hotel for the trip, the Maldron Hotel Cardiff Lane (nice of them to name the street after the visitors homeland )

The Maldron Cardiff Lane is one of a chain of hotels with according to their website 13 locations. Primarily in Ireland but with one in Cardiff, Wales. I must say I was impressed. This is a well appointed hotel with all modern amenities including: en-suite spacious rooms, with somewhat unusually, at least in my experience, 1 double and 1 single bed in each (I got the double!), Trouser press and Irons, TV with (I believe, couldn’t get it to work myself) movies, Free Wi-Fi in all areas, computer centre, phone charging ports in secure “safety deposit” type boxes, a Spa, as well as the usual restaurant and bar.

I was very happy with the atmosphere, cleanliness and design of the areas I visited, these being my room (239 if memory serves), the bar and restaurant. I didn’t make it to the Spa although travelling companions said the pool and Spa was very nice.

The only meals I took there was the breakfast, this served in a self serve buffet style but with a good selection including: Scrambled eggs, black & white Pudding, bacon, sausage, beans, toast, cereals, fruit, tea, coffee and fruit juices. Very nice it was too, although finding a strawberry jam sachet there was like trying to find the Leprechaun’s pot of gold!

The staff I came into contact with were friendly, courteous and extremely helpful. The rooms were, as I said well appointed and spacious with one aspect I especially noticed, the most effective curtains for cutting out the external light, some other hotels I have visited appearing to  believe gossamer is a good material for window coverings! This positive more than once causing me to attempt (and not always succeed in landing) the triple salchow with splits as I ventured from my bed to the ablutions of an early hour whilst trying not to wake my brother in the bed in between. Not fun after a few sherbets as they say. The Beds were on the firmer side but comfortable and the pillows bigger than the wafers supplied by some hotels.

All in all a Hotel and chain, based on this experience, I would be very happy to visit again.

We arrived at about 8:30 to 9:00pm, the bus having left Swansea at 10:20am. So  as is our want on this sort of event we head out for a drink, and some food. After asking for directions we pass a few places  we don’t fancy until we stumble  across those providers of typical Irish sustenance … KFC & Subway!

Suitably reinvigorated our next requirement is for liquid refreshment, and having bumped into a local who used to work about 15 miles from my front door we head to Fitzgeralds a typical Irish hostelry, where we have a pint or two and then head back to the hotel ready for sleep in preparation for our first full day.

Friday morning and an admission here I didn’t make it to the Spa that the hotel offered, but  at 8am we head in to the complimentary breakfast, and not feeling too hungry I just partook of 2 rashers of bacon, 3 sausages, White Pudding (Please no one tell me what was in it as I loved it and I really don’t like the sound of what’s I know is in Black Pudding) scrambled eggs and beans. Oh and 3 pieces of toast!

Then we venture into a city exploring under a thankfully dry, brilliant blue sky. Okay back up a little here,in the spirit of full disclosure just as we meet to venture out we discovered a little known phenomenon had afflicted one of our number, he shall remain nameless to spare his blushes, well some of them as I’m still adding this photo…

But the “I’m away from my significant other for less than 24 hours and suddenly have forgotten how to dress myself!” curse had struck, we were assured by the gentleman in question that the amount of falling down liquid imbibed the night before had NOTHING to do with this strange and thankfully fleeting affliction.

We walk up the side of the Liffey, passing these haunting statues to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Potato Famine.

Then having a serious discussion when spying this mode of transport, of trying to hire it for the return journey.

Why you ask, well, on the run up to the trip the member of our group who had kindly taken on organisational duties (thanks again Rob it was a great trip!) Contacted Edwards to get details of the return journey, as strangely it was not featured on the website. He was told they couldn’t tell him, strange we thought, they then stated it was driver discretion as to when the return journey was to be made. Well as we had arrived at Dublin the night before the driver had informed us we were taking the 8:30am ferry on the Sunday morning so needed to be on the bus at 6:30am! The morning AFTER the match!!

He said it  was not his choice and had been organised by the firm in advance, so one of them was was not telling us everything, I personally am inclined to believe the driver. So this frankly glaring omission from the itinerary, and the way it was “hidden” from all paying participants until it was too late really did put a dampener on the trip. Shame on you Edwards Coaches for this underhanded attempt (I believe) to save money, as I can think of no other reason why they would book such a ludicrously early return journey, Oh and it got a lot worse, but more of that later.

Getting into Dublin centre within about a 10 minute walk, and having decided to visit the Guinness Brewery, or to give it its proper name the Guinness Storehouse. We ventured through the Dublin City Walls & Gate.

As we approached the area where the storehouse was I was a little behind my colleagues as I had stopped to take some photos, and I stumbled, almost literally  in this case, upon a gent with his baby in a pram who was not, as I first assumed changing the baby in a quiet corner, but rather was re-enacting a scene from “The Wire” plastic strap around the arm needle in the vein, strange that if our group was slightly differently paced he would have done this in the immediate vicinity of approximately 50+ years of combined law enforcement personnel. Suppose it takes all sorts in this world!

The Guinness Storehouse

Is a multi-media visitor attraction to all things related to “the Black Stuff”. So we pay  our 16.95 Euro entry fee (a little steep if you ask me) and wind our way around the 7 floors, starting with the obligatory gift shop. Where you could buy anything from biscuits and strangely enough Guinness to T-Shirts, Baseball Caps, Bottle Openers, Fridge Magnets, Hoodies, Jackets, glasses, get the picture yet. All items emblazoned with the free advertising of the global  brand that is Guinness.

You can get free audio gizmos to get additional information on what your looking at, which included: interactive displays, a rather impressive indoor waterfall to illustrate the amount of water used to produce the Irish national drink,

which to be honest illustrated to me the need for public conveniences at attractions like this, that much water reminding me I needed a pee! Thankfully conveniences were plentiful and, as far as my visit went clean and excellently managed.

You can learn how to identify and pull the perfect pint, something I didn’t bother with as, and I spent my whole time at this location fearing getting lynched for this next sentence but … “I don’t Like Guinness!” and as the “pull the pint” area included a try some option I waited outside this particular facet of the attraction, for my friends and family to return, something they didn’t do as I didn’t know there was another exit! Deserted, left bereft of company, unceremoniously dumped, and all other ways of saying forgotten about, am I bitter and twisted about this slight .. well yes to be honest, I mean what means more your friends or your drink … good point! So we, using the international method of finding lost friends these days… text messaging, found each other on the 7th (and top) floor where I was given my free Pint of Guinness, which I promptly gave away, and took in these spectacular views!  

After all this looking at how they made drink, especially as I didn’t partake on the tour, I  was ready for a drink and something to eat, so thanks to a colleague from work, Dee, we headed to Fitzsimons a Hotel / Bar / Club in Temple Bar, where I tried a local (Irish) lager Harp, very nice and had a great meal excellently prepared and served with real customer service. This venue offers live entertainment, unfortunately not on the days we were there and a roof terrace. Definitely one to visit I would say if you visit the Temple Bar area.

Next we made a repeat visit to the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn and was treated to some great (solo female voice could give our own Katherine Jenkins a run for  her money) … and how can I say some … enthusiastic (Only Men Aloud would NOT be quaking in their boots) singing by some Welsh compatriots.

At this point of the day we decided to try and basically drink the city dry so headed to another pub. On the way viewing an attempted do-it-yourself vasectomy as a gent who had obviously sampled the Guinness at a few establishments staggered past us and right, at shall we say eye watering height, into the handlebars of a bike tied to a lamppost! Much lifting of one leg and uttering of the international sentiment of male solidarity “OOHHH!!” ensued I can tell you.

As well as sourcing all alcohol dispensers in the immediate area we were, being ticket-less, also looking for a place to watch the match the next day. So acting on the advice one of our number had found whilst at the gym (yea don’t ask strange chap in a gym when he could have been drinking I know!) we sort out “The Living Room” a bar we were reliably informed had the biggest screen for sporting events in the city, and we eventually found it.

The Living Room is a pub with a main bar inside and at least 2 others outside, a dizzying amount of screens showing every sport known to man, and a few I’d never even heard of. It has a good selection of drinks, serves a perfectly acceptable range of food and, luckily for us took a booking for a table the next day for the match.

Whilst here I visited the little (male) leprechaun’s …Hang on can you get female leprechauns? … anyway I digress .. .room and was treated, wrong word but anyway, to a great universal truth … this being, your mind is viscous and often takes almost demonic pleasure in not warning more sensitive parts of your anatomy when they about to be threatened… as the gent arriving 30 seconds after me, was heard to illustrate when upon … well lets leave it as when 5 seconds after undoing his zipper he was heard to cry “**** Me! I forgot how cold me hands were!“

In this small, not a compliant but a suggestion, a bar this size would I believe warrant larger ablutions, was a gent who’s job it was to monitor the room, going above and beyond the janitorial basis of his chosen career by offering sweets and other small items for purchase, at least I believe to purchase, as to be honest it is another unwritten but internationally recognised “man rule” you don’t make eye contact with a man you don’t know whilst in the confines of this room. But anyway I would like to offer him my apologies for the repeated visits to his little domain as regrettably once the seal is broken I have the bladder capacity of a malnourished chipmunk!

After this we were ready for food again and so we headed to a French themed establishment in, the now teeming rain, only to discover two things one I can indeed lose a baseball cap WHILST it is on my head, and secondly this place was too expensive to breathe let along drink or eat.

So we skulked back out and came across the Blarney Inn,

a small but welcoming hostelry where we had a nice meal, for me bangers and mash, not the best photo but I can tell you it tasted delicious, for my fellow travellers Chicken Burger, and Cabonara, oh and Garlic bread which although not on the menu they made for one of our number! Nice customer focus. It was then back to the hotel via a quick pint at O’Briens which was on the corner of the street where our hotel was situated.

Match Day and we breakfasted and headed out, wandering the centre of Dublin taking in the atmosphere and then came across the Parnell Heritage Pub, where we had a pint

then we headed to The Living Room for an afternoons … torture! Quickly pulling a veil over the afternoons “sport” I will say it  was a good venue to see sport and I have no hesitation in recommending it to visitors to this fair city.

Up at 5:30am the next morning, no you didn’t read that wrong, we get a “continental” breakfast which I skip as I don’t travel well by bus at the best of times, and it’s a quick 15 minute drive to Dublin Port, where we board the Ferry for the return sailing, this goes without incident meaning I didn’t need to partake of the “convenience bags” so much nicer phrase than “Pavement Pizza carriers”, “technicolor yawn catchers” or “sick bags”. We managed to bag, no pun intended, some seats at the front so had this view  on the journey  home.

At the end of the sailing there was a mass visit to the facilities probably due to the fact that the coach driver had informed us that the privy on the coach was “for number 1’s only not number 2’s” now this could have been a problem had not it been superseded by the fact I was bigger than the toilet anyway and the only way I could have used it for a number 1 would have been to stand on the step outside… and  yes I could have reached from there! ;-)

Now I’ll return to my wale against the firm that organised the trip, when we got on the bus  we were informed that due to roadworks on the M4 we would have to take a diversion, circumstances beyond their control I understand. UNTIL, we realised and then had to live through, a journey SO convoluted and obtuse that from hotel to home it took 13 hours PLUS to complete!

We, upon leaving the ferry, obviously on the West coast of Wales, were driven to the England / Wales border then down along that, with 2 stops at services, across to the WRONG side of the Severn Bridge at which point I was beginning to be concerned my extended absence from the land of my birth may have resulted on me having to apply for asylum upon my return! Then to two drop offs and a bus swap until we were eventually reunited with our cars, at after 8pm! Terrible customer service and organisation by Edwards Coaches, shame on you, and I can tell you that listening to those around us, you have lost a number of customers on what I can only hope was a worthwhile saving on the crossing fees!

So all in all a great trip, for the company of friends, the hotel, the city and the Craic, but not sadly for the Coach firm, and their frankly appalling organisation.

Next stop quick visit to London for Miss Saigon in May, god and the holder of the family purse permitting!

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