Our last Scottish breakfast was delicious, if not bittersweet. After breakfast we walked about three miles round trip to the Harley Davidson shop for a t-shirt for Ken’s brother (and I found a favorite as well). We finalized our packing, leaving us each with our overflowing backpacks and a rolling carry-on bag packed to maximum capacity. We left our wimpy cooler in our room for our house keeper, it wasn’t worth keeping. And then we left our bags in the hall of our inn and settled our bill, before heading for Arthur’s Seat. Finally, some hill-walking! We didn’t have time for a full summit – but made it halfway up the 822 foot hill overlooking Edinburgh and had a beautiful view. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining. We said our farewells.
We will be back. Of all of the places we saw on this grand adventure, Scotland felt like home. If there’s such a thing as genetic memory, Scotland was it for me. It’s my place.
We hustled back to the inn for our pre-arranged cab to the airport. Our inn host ran out to tell us a million thanks for leaving the cooler, apparently their housekeeper was overjoyed to have it as a gift. We’re glad we could make someone’s day! We have decided that UK taxi’s are perfect. Comfy and with plenty of room for us with all our crap.
At Edinburgh airport we went through airport security, which was shoddy at best compared to American security. Shoes were left on, pat downs were willy-nilly and not at all thorough, officers were less than intent on their work. I’m sure many Americans might see this as an improvement over TSA – but I was less than impressed. We found lunch, and bought a couple more souvenirs – and then we were on a plane to Dublin. And then, on arrival, we found a taxi with a very talkative driver. A new accent, a new lilt. New politics, new points of view. It was a very fun drive, and a jolt into another world. He dropped us off at the Celtic Lodge downtown, on point with “the Spire” for us to use as a landmark. It was a hot, sunny day and we were ready to explore.
Our inn also owned a pub and a fine restaurant right next door. We enjoyed both. Guinness tastes the best in Dublin – where they know how to pour it and they take pride in serving it. For the rest of the evening we simply wandered the streets of Dublin city, and took it all in. Tomorrow would be our one full, action packed day!
The streets were full of musicians. We walked past the statue of Molly Malone multiple times and a jovial bodhran player was there every time – he had the place staked out! We peeked into shops and walked off our dinner, but it was getting late and we were tired. The pub at the Celtic Lodge had live music, so we sat and listened and then heard it still from our room upstairs when we decided to call it a day.
The next morning, we became vikings! We decided an organized tour of Dublin would give us the best bang for our buck – and so we went with Viking Splash Tours because it seemed the most fun. We donned plastic “viking” helmets, and boarded a bright yellow World War II amphibious DUKW vehicle with a hilarious tour guide. The best part was roaring at all of the “celts” on the sidewalk! We were encouraged to make as loud of a noise as possible, and especially at stoplights the poor celts on the street would suffer the wrath of us raucous vikings!!! It was hilarious. We drove through Dublin at lightning speed, with only really enough time to catch a glimpse of the famous places our guide described to us. For the water portion of our tour, we cruised past Bono’s recording studio. According to our guide, Bono is the patron saint of Dublin – or at least that’s how he’d like to be considered.
After our tour ended, we walked a few blocks to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. We waited in line outside for almost an hour just to get in the doors. The museum was brief, but the book was beautiful and of course elaborate. A page is turned in the book weekly, and if we lived there we would want to visit each week to see more. It was incredible artistry. The library itself was also beautiful, and I wished we were allowed to explore it rather than just pass through. Photos were not permitted but I can still see it all in my mind… beauty like that simply becomes tattooed into your brain.
Next, was on to the Guinness storehouse. It was a long walk on a hot day, but worth it. This place is more than a brewery tour, it’s a museum of Dublin history and the story of Guinness itself. It was self-guided, in-depth and very well done. At the top of the storehouse is the Gravity Bar, where your complimentary pint of Guinness is served with a view of the city. When we arrived, a hostess made an announcement that if anyone could pick out the one famous person in the room, they would have an additional free pint. Ken deduced that the woman who attempted to hide her identity by placing her hat on someone else’s head was the individual in question, so he pointed her out — and won! Even now we don’t know who she was – a backup singer in a 60’s band that we didn’t register the name of. Ah well, Ken was happy! And the view was incredible! The room was also packed. Ken walked away for a moment and I was plunged into a ferocious celtic battle for his honor – or at least for his seat next to mine. I emerged victorious.
We spent far too much time in the gift shop – we really didn’t have room for more goodies in our luggage. Afterward, we saw horse-drawn carriages parked outside! Neither of us had ever had a carriage ride, and we had a bag full of souvenirs to carry yet. What better place than on an ancient cobble-stone street? We were treated to a ride from Molly and her master, and felt transported back in time.
Once we were closer to our hotel, we still continued to browse and enjoy the music on the streets and to window shop. We had hit all of the must-sees that we had planned for the day. We meandered back to home base to clean up for dinner. The music and art everywhere was beautiful, and is what I remember the most about Dublin.
We had no plans for dinner, but walked to Temple Bar to stumble upon something. What we found was overpriced and rather disappointing considering what we had savored over the last month of travel. But, enjoying Temple Bar made up for it. It was a quiet walk along the river back to home.
We spent the evening tapping our toes in the pub near our room, to live fiddle and accordion. We went to bed late, and woke up early, managing to pack our bags to bursting with all of our souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home. We secured our bags in the lobby, and then hit the streets to see what we could see before leaving for the airport. As we walked down the street, I suddenly decided I wanted a tattoo! This would be my first ever tattoo, and I had always wanted a tattoo to have meaning if I were to do it. Honestly, I had anticipated finding a symbol on an ancient stone somewhere in Scotland, but I’d never found something that grabbed me by the shoulders and insisted that I keep it with me forever.
We strayed from what had become our normal route into the busy area of Dublin, taking a side street on a whim. And, there was a tattoo shop! It seemed clean, reputable – and it was there. We walked in, and I laid €50 in the hands of Kit at Live Fast Tattoo. I had chosen a simple triple spiral, a symbol that is known for being carved into pre-Celtic stones, not the least of which being Newgrange near Dublin – a tomb we didn’t have time to see, but which reminded me of all of the Neolithic stones we had seen in Orkney. Simple, Celtic, Neolithic, and on my right ankle forever. And I love it to this day.
With not much time to spare, we flew through a couple of exhibits at the National Museum of Ireland, and walked past the birth home of Oscar Wilde on our way to visit a memorial to him in a park nearby. And, suddenly, our time in Dublin had come to an end. I wanted to stop in so many shops on our way back to the hotel, but Ken kept me moving. We had an appointment for a shuttle to take us to the airport, and we didn’t have time to be late. We had lots of stuff and we felt overloaded, and couldn’t wait to check it all in at the airport and forget about it!
Life was a blur from here on. We made it to the airport, checked our things without issue, and successfully retrieved them all again in Frankfurt. The shuttle driver to our hotel in Frankfurt asked Ken if he had a bomb in his backpack, because it was made of camouflage fabric! We looked at him like he was insane, and he decided it wasn’t worth pushing the issue. Our hotel in Frankfurt was close to the airport, and we weren’t interested in leaving the room. We were once again blasted with German, nothing in English on TV and snooty Germans at our hotel looked at us like we were bums because we carried our own bags to our room. At our hotel was Restaurant “Unterschweinstiege”, a 230 year old forester’s house – turned German buffet. And we buffeted… and buffeted… and buffeted. It was all very strange, delicious food. We went to bed full, and tired, and happy. We were ready to go home.
The next day would become one of the most miserable on memory. At the airport there was no organization or reason. We checked-in, then we were told to go to one place and then the next to continue our journey toward the gate. All 300+ travelers on our flight were soon standing in one massive line that completely filled a major corridor, where other people could not get past us. Once through security, we were all crammed into a tiny boarding area with only a single, handicapped toilet that did not have a sufficient supply of toilet paper. And, there was a screaming baby. Not just a screaming baby – a bloodcurdling, top-of-the-lungs, I’m being murdered right now screaming baby. Everyone was looking at each other like it was going to be a very long 9-hour flight. And it was. The screaming baby sat next to us. The stewardesses were rude and did not even offer to help the child’s mother. The child’s mother did not seem to think that there was anything wrong. Not even when this three-year-old child took his sister’s wet diaper and decided to unwrap it and try it on. Or wave it in the faces of the people in the row behind him. We were all looking at each other in horror, as if it were some kind of Jackass-show stunt we were about to see unfold. But we quickly forgot it again when the kid started screaming. Really, how can a human scream for 9 hours straight?
We had to stop in Anchorage for customs. My head was about to explode. I felt exhausted from the stress. And then, because they were picking up new passengers in Anchorage, we all had to scramble to find an empty seat when we got back on the plane. Ken and I were seated at opposite ends of a 747, and he couldn’t tell me that he had left one of our suitcases behind for me to pick up on my way out. It was left on the plane. And then, after retrieving it and attempting to go through Fairbanks customs, it was stolen. A whole bag full of our painstakenly-chosen souvenirs was stolen. I was so upset! It was quickly solved by a customs agent who had snatched it, thinking it was abandoned when it was obviously set down right next to me. We felt discombobulated and irritated and why-did-we-ever-come-back!?
For the next week, we had time at home to unpack, catch up on life, and prepare to reassimilate to normalcy. I only remember being the happiest and most relaxed I’ve ever felt, ever. I had completely forgotten about work and had to call to remember what my schedule was, and what the code to the secured door was. Neither of these things had changed while I was gone – I had simply forgotten.
But I will never forget this trip.