Yesterday was much better.
For one thing, I got enough sleep that I felt well rested, even though I woke in the night shivering from cold and had to pull all the blankets around me. The same room had felt like a sauna earlier, but had cooled to a reasonable temperature by the time I went to bed. Then it kept cooling while I slept, on top of the blankets as I usually don’t need them. This time I did.
I went down for breakfast. It included a ridiculous amount of white toast (dry, butter on the side, in the usual British fashion), one fried egg, some Heinz beans, a sausage, one rasher, two patties of compressed potato, floured and fried, and two slabs of soda bread, orange juice and coffee. I did what I could, but that’s more carbs than anyone should eat for breakfast.
The talk among the other guests, mostly older, was about “parades”. It’s marching season in the North. I didn’t participate in that conversation, but said good morning, agreed it was looking to be another warm day, and read the news from home on my phone. Mostly just the latest outrage by or from or about the Cheeto-coloured moron who is running America into the ground, and trying to take the rest of us with him. I tired of that pretty quickly, too.
After that, I loaded up the bike, paid the hotel bill, and set off for Dublin.
Thankfully, I’d figured out the settings a bit better on the GPS, and finding my way out of Lisburn was less problematic than finding my way around it had been the previous day. Soon I was on the A1 pointing south. I rode past places I’d been the previous day when I’d got turned around and took the wrong exit from a roundabout. Passed the point where I’d seen a car with its front end completely engulfed in flames, the driver standing about 50 or so yards away, looking completely unimpressed.
After an hour or so, I saw a sign for an observation point, and another for a “natural wonder”, and I pulled off the highway to investigate. I mistakenly assumed the “outlook” would look out at the natural wonder, for which I never did see another sign, but it did not. When I reached it, I wondered why they’d put up a sign. Mainly it looked at the farmland below, bisected as it was by the highway I’d exited from. It was a pretty enough view, but not really worth the trouble of reaching it.
The route to get to the observation point, however, was worth every minute. It was a twisting, turning, route through narrow country lanes, often no more than one vehicle wide, rutted with potholes, and with grass growing through the asphalt in places. The Tiger ate it up, it’s three cylinder engine whirring happily through it all. It really is an excellent bike.
The GPS said to continue in the same direction to get back to the highway, so that’s what I did. For the next half hour or so, the Tiger and I wound our way through rural lanes, past cows grazing, dogs barking, a horse shying away to the roadside as I moved past as quietly as a motorcycle can, joggers, walkers, a ruined castle, a “chapel” that would have been a cathedral in Canada, a shrine for a saint. Eventually, I came out into a town and noticed the speed limit was posted in kilometres. I’d crossed the border and not even known it. I don’t think the “hard Brexiters” understand the complexity of the problem the Irish border is going to be for them. For that matter, I expect only the Irish really appreciate it, and those in the North voted against Brexit, while those in the Republic had no say.
The town became a small city, with a polytechnic university, and a technology park, and whatnot. I followed the GPS’s lead through it, and it eventually deposited me on the M1. I’d initially planned to avoid M roads, but after an hour or so of rural lanes, I was fine with it. So was the Tiger, which was more than happy with a 120 speed limit. Even with stopping to pay the one euro toll at the toll booth, I was still in Dublin about an hour after getting on the M1.
My first impression of Dublin is that is cleaner and more modernized than songs and movies would have you believe. The city is busy, buzzing, and very cosmopolitan. Old and new architecture blend together without making either look out of place. History is on display everywhere, in place names and monuments, but without seeming pushy or exclusive in its intent. Most blocks seem to have at least one pub, sometimes several.
When I pulled up to my accommodation in Ringsend, which has a pub on the main floor, I thought I’d made a horrible blunder. It looked a bit run down, there was once again no desk to check in at, and this time no indication of where to check in. I asked in the pub, and they directed me to the off-license attached to them.
In fact, once I managed to check in (and pay for the room in advance), it turned out be just fine. Plain, not very large, but bigger than the previous night’s B&B, and with a much nicer bathroom (although the shower is still slightly smaller than a phone booth). Cheaper than the previous place, too, although there’s no breakfast here. I’ll have to see what’s open in this area on a bank holiday Monday morning when I’m done this post.
After I’d showered and changed, I set off to look for a 3 Mobile shop to get a SIM card. I had looked on Google Maps while connected to the hotel Wifi, and saw there was one on Grafton Street, near the statue of Phil Lynott, the founder of Thin Lizzy, and possibly Ireland’s first real rock star. It was only about a half hour to walk there, so I did, and found the place fairly easily.
After inserting the SIM card, I found the statue, and then set off to look for a quiet place for lunch. That’s more easily said than done. Nearly every pub near Grafton street was overflowing with people. I wandered through the side streets, and came out near the Temple Bar area, where I found a relatively sleepy bar in the Bloom Hotel. I ordered a pot of mussels and a pint of O’Hara’s Irish Pale Ale. It was fantastic. At least a pound of mussels in wine and butter, and soda bread on the side. The O’Hara’s tasted very much like a second one, and left the pub feeling happy, which is how one should always leave a pub.
I wandered down the quayside, past some tall ships in town for a regatta, and waited for my good friend Scott to ping me. He had arrived in Dublin that morning, and wisely chose to have a short nap before venturing out for dinner. We eventually met up near the O’Connell monument, and went to fetch him a SIM card from 3 as well. (Canadian cell phone companies could learn from those here. For 20 euros I get ‘all you can eat’ – i.e., unlimited – data in Ireland and 6GB in the UK. At home I pay $80/month for 8GB that I share with my wife.)
The Grafton Street pubs were still buzzing, and if anything were even busier at six than they had been at two, so we went back to the VAT Lounge at the Bloom Hotel. Busy places are hard on people, like Scott, who wear hearing aids. We had Guinness and bangers & mash, and only left when the live music began.
On the recommendation of a friend who used to live in Dublin, we went looking for Grogan’s, a literary pub, and found it on a side street near Grafton. It may well have been the busiest pub we encountered, with people spilling into the streets on all sides. Scott pointed out that was likely because it was the Sunday evening of a bank holiday weekend. I’ll try Grogan’s again when I’m back here at the end of my journey. Hopefully, it will be a little less busy on a Tuesday.
We ended up in a quieter place advertising 100 Irish whiskies. We sat at the bar and had another Guinness each, and then called it a night. I think Scott was fading, as you’d expect after a long flight. He caught a bus near the Liffey to take him back to his hotel. I walked back to mine, which was closer, but still a decent hike.
All in all, it was an excellent day. If I were planning the trip from scratch, I’d have stayed here another day or two before setting off. But I’m happy I’ll be returning in a couple of weeks’ time.