December 11 to 27, 1997
This is a transcript of the trip journal Chris and I kept during a trip we took to Europe in 1997. The first week of the trip was business related for me. I was supposed to meet some folks in the Symantec sales office in Maidenhead, England, near London, then meet with our European technical support staff in Leiden, The Netherlands, then on to Dublin, Ireland, where our localization and European manufacturing are done.
Before heading to Europe, we spent a week in North Carolina, where, among other things, we celebrated Daddy’s 70th birthday. We left for London from there.
Thursday, December 11, 1997
[Chris] Dale and I are relaxing (with a beer) in the Raleigh-Durham airport. Our flight leaves at 4:10. We awoke to a breakfast of waffles, bacon, and fruit. After breakfast, we packed and showered. Then it was time for lunch of Brunswick stew and meatloaf sandwiches. Ida wanted a current photo of us, so we posed in front of the tree. Hope it turns out. They left for Williamsburg around 1:00.
Theresa came to pick us up around 2:00. Check-in went smoothly.
Friday, December 12, 1997
5:45am (London time)
[Chris] We boarded the B-777 at 6:15pm and settled in. I read as did Dale. After a nice bottle of wine, we got interested in “The Full Monty”. What a great movie! Dinner was chicken, rice & green beans. Also a lettuce salad & celery salad. Dessert was a white cake with chocolate frosting. After dinner we brushed our teeth, took 1/4 Valium, put our blindfolds on, and went to sleep for about 2 hours.
I woke up feeling nauseous, but after some water and chewing some gum, I felt better. I slept a little more. Dale read.
Breakfast was served about 5:30am. We had juice, fruit, a croissant and a hard roll. It is now 6:10. We should be landing in less than 1 hour.
[Dale] Our processing through passport control and customs were uneventful. Throughout the landing we had been told of a fire in one of the terminals that was slowing down ground traffic. Once we emerged from customs, we started to realize how severe the problem was. The terminal was packed with people carrying or carting baggage and looking around confusedly. Shortly, an announcement was made that, due to an “incident” in Terminal 1, all traffic into and out of the airport was stopped. The Underground station is in Terminal 1, and it was closed as well. Fifteen minutes later, the traffic tunnel was opened, but traffic could “expect long delays.” We decided against a cab or bus and waited for the Underground station to re-open.
The station finally opened after we had been waiting 45 minutes. Hundreds of baggage-laden people descended to the station. Chris and I got onto the 3rd train out, occupying 4 seats with our bags.
When we finally got to Knightsbridge station, we rushed to get our bags out before the doors closed, barely making it. Then it was up the (long) escalator, then up the steps (a nice local man helped Chris with the big suitcase) and out to the street, right at Harrods!
We got directions to Lowndes Street, then walked about 4 blocks to our hotel, arriving out of breath and over-heated at about 9:15am. It was too early to check in, so we stored our bags and popped into the lounge for breakfast number two. Tea and French toast for me, bagels and cream cheese for Chris.
We met a nice couple from Chapel Hill in the lobby. His name is Rollie (Raleigh?), but we didn’t catch their last name or her first name. We got tickets for tomorrow afternoon’s show of “Scissor Happy”, a comedy whodunit play. The concierge called the theatre for us and the tickets will be billed to the room (about $100). We then went for a short walk (it’s too cold for a long one), and changed currency at a local bank.
It is now 11:00, and we’re sitting in the lobby of the Lowndes Hotel, waiting for a room to become available. It’s been a busy 4 1/2 hours!
[Chris] It’s clear and 43º. We decided to go for a walk while waiting for a room. We happen to be staying in a very ritzy section of town, only 3-4 blocks from Harrods. Lots of clothing and jewelry stores. All very austere and expensive!
We walked in Hyde Park, breathing lots of fresh air. People were walking, jogging, skating. The ducks, geese and pigeons were abundant.
We were getting chilled, so we headed back to the hotel. Our room was ready, so we went on up. It’s very cozy, with warm yellow and dusty burgundy being the main colors.
We showered, changed clothes, and headed back out. This time to have dinner at the Spaghetti House. The first table they sat us at was right by the kitchen. We almost left, but asked for a different table instead. Apparently the no-smoking sections in restaurants here are much smaller. We had excellent hard rolls to start and bottled water. Dale had tortellini in a white sauce. I had pasta in a red sauce with broccoli. We had to try hard not to fall asleep over dinner.
Back at the hotel, we got the list of magazines Michelle wanted, then went out and bought them. We came back to the room, read the newspaper articles regarding the fire at the airport, and crashed.
It’s 5:30pm and Dale is sound asleep. I’m on my way as soon as I finish here.
Saturday, December 13, 1997
[Chris] It’s sunny, windy, 43(. We woke up around 8:15. We slept for 16 hours! Woke up only a couple of times during the night. Got up at 8:30, got dressed, and went out searching for the pub we saw yesterday. After a few wrong turns, we finally found The Gloucester. We were the only customers except for one other woman. The waiter had a great sense of humor. He told us we could sit anywhere, but, after we selected a table, he said, “Oh, you can’t sit there!” (We did anyway.) We both had eggs, bacon, sausage, juice, and tea. One funny aspect of the waiter – he had only one hour of sleep and he kept saying the day was going to be “messy,” referring to his level of consciousness, we think.
After breakfast, we headed to the Underground to St. Paul’s cathedral. We opted not to go inside.
We walked from St. Paul’s on the Thames River Walk to the Tower of London. We spent 1 1/2 hours touring the castle and its grounds.
From there we took the Underground back to the hotel. We showered, ate some crackers and left for the theatre. We thought the tickets were in will-call, but we had them in our possession all of the time [Dale – “I thought these were just the receipts!”]. The fellow in the box office had a good laugh at us! We had a drink before the play. “Scissor Happy” was great. It was a whodunit with audience participation. Great fun!
After the play, we found a place to eat (the White Lyon pub in Covent Garden). The White Lyon was a typical pub that attracted us. I had fish and chips and Dale had bangers and mash. I had cider; he had beer. We managed to find our way back to the hotel by means of the Underground. Once back at the hotel, we watched some TV and went to sleep. We did stop to buy a bottle of wine, but didn’t open it since we were both very tired.
Sunday, December 14, 1997
[Chris] Happy Birthday, Dale! Since I gave you your present two weeks ago, I don’t have anything for you today. Sorry!
We’re on our way out for some breakfast. Also to see Westminster, Buckingham Palace, #10 Downing St., Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Madam Toussaud’s and Baker Street. Hope we have time for all of it.
[Chris] We are back from a full day! We started out the day with a walk up Piccadilly St., until we found a place to eat. We settled on Henry’s Bar & Grill. Dale had bangers, chips, scrambled eggs and toast. I had a bacon (ham), mushroom, and cheese omelet with chips (fries) and some sort of greenery. Plus juice and coffee. Henry’s resembled a Bennigans without the brass. The breakfast held us over until 6:00pm!
After breakfast, we walked along St. James Park and saw both St. James Palace and Buckingham Palace. We tried, but could not get to #10 Downing St [it’s walled off, now]. From there we walked to Trafalgar Square. We got on the Underground there and that took us to Baker St. Station, where we saw Madam Toussaud’s Wax Museum.
We had to stand in line for about 45 minutes. The wait was well worth it! The wax reproductions were fabulous. Dale took my picture with the Beatles circa 1962. They were represented in their collar-less suits and “radical” black boots. I took Dale’s picture with Martina Navratilova. He’ll give that one to his dad! The Chamber of Horrors was gruesome, depicting torture techniques of the 1400’s on up until 1950. The “cab ride” through time was fun, showing a very brief history of London.
From the museum, we walked to 221B Baker St., where we saw the outside of the Sherlock Holmes’ museum. We even saw a man dressed like Holmes walking down the street. Dale purchased a postcard of Moriarty, Holmes’s nemesis.
By this time, it was getting dark, so we decided to look for a place to eat. We were not in the right part of town for this, though, so we ended up on the Underground coming back to the West End. We decided to eat at the same place we had breakfast on Saturday, The Gloucester. It was hot and smoky, but we were too tired to go anyplace else. Dale had bangers, chips and beans while I had cottage pie with peas, carrots and boiled potatoes. We both got our starch for the day!
After 1-1/2 pints each of beer, we headed the three blocks back to our hotel, exhausted! I took a nice hot bath. Dale downloaded his e-mail only to wonder who all the birthday messages were from. [Dale – Apparently there is a web site that lists birthdays and e-mail addresses. I got at least 10 birthday messages from people I’ve never had any previous contact with. It’s weird!] It was a fun day! 50º and sunny.
Monday, December 15, 1997
[Chris] Woke up around 7:00. Dale showered and packed. We went to breakfast in the hotel (Lowndes). I then sent Dale off to work. He returned 5 minutes later looking for the umbrella (not to be found). I’m now packing and plan to go to Harrods. Dale will be back no later than 5:00.
[Chris] I checked us out of the hotel around 11:00am and headed to Harrods. The store is pretty incredible and expensive! I wandered through the entire store and saw nothing I couldn’t live without. I did purchase four ornaments before I sat down to have lunch at Harrods Café. I had a latte and a vegetarian club sandwich. Greek olives were the garnish. After I ate, I searched for the toilet. I managed to find the luxury version with charged £1. It was very clean and worth the £!
The thing that impressed me the most about Harrods was that the salespeople did not approach customers but stood by “on alert” in case someone needed help. In fact, I felt as though some of them completely ignored me! They were all dressed in stylish versions of black and all seemed slightly arrogant. Guess I won’t be going back there real soon!
After Harrods, I ventured to Harry Nichols, another department store. Neither quite as expensive as Harrods, nor as well kept. The sales staff wasn’t quite as polished, either.
By this time, it was 3:00 and I headed back to the hotel. It had turned cloudy and cold (45º). Dale had just arrived at the hotel and was sipping tea. I ordered a latte. We decided it was too early to go to the airport, so we went to our “hangout”, The Gloucester, and had a pint. Back at the hotel, we got our bags, jumped in a cab, and headed to the airport. The cab ride was £36.50.
[Dale] Dale’s Day: I woke to the alarm at 6:30, then showered and shaved. I had to wake up Chris then, because the hair dryer was in the desk drawer. I don’t mean that it was just stored there, the base, cord, and all were in the drawer, so I had to sit in front of the desk to dry my hair!
After breakfast, I asked the concierge for the best way to get to Maidenhead (answer: Circle Line from Sloane Sq. Station to Paddington, British Rail from Paddington to Maidenhead. Total cost, £9.30, round trip). I started to walk to the station, noticed it sprinkling, and went back for the brolly (not there!) [The umbrella later turned up in an inside pocket of the garment bag.], then started out again. The rain had stopped, though, and didn’t bother me the rest of the day.
In Maidenhead, I found the office, only to discover that no one expected me. I borrowed a phone and network connection to retrieve voice mail and e-mail. One of the voice messages told me that no one would be available in the office to meet with me.
I had lunch with an ACT! user from Reading (nearby Maidenhead), then went back to London. I got turned around (lost) on my way back to the hotel from the Tube station, and ended up walking twice as far. I found a cozy seat in the hotel lounge and ordered a cup of tea, which arrived 5 minutes before Chris.
We are now about to go to the gate for our flight to Amsterdam.
Tuesday, December 16, 1997
[Chris] We got up at 6:30 am, both of us having a restless night. Getting to the breakfast buffet was quite humorous, with winding halls and several stairways. We “finally” arrived and had a great meal of scrambled eggs, bacon, croissants, fruit, coffee, and tea. The eggs had either lemon or orange zest in them. I liked it, but Dale wasn’t that impressed. We then bundled up (weather was just above freezing with wind chill around 10º to 15º). We walked 20 minutes to the train station, got tickets and settled in for a 1/2 hour ride to Leiden.
The cab we hailed knew exactly where Symantec was. The receptionist helped me decide where to spend my day. The cabby who took me to town was also very helpful. I was dropped off at the Rijksmuseum where I paid ƒ10 [about $5] to see Egyptian and mummy exhibits. I spent 2 hours there, then headed to Haar Lemmer St., which is closed off to car traffic. The shops were not exclusive, like Harrods, but there were a lot of them. I wandered through many shop and furniture stores, sometimes just to warm up. I stopped in a small café called het Leidshe eet-En Pannekoekenhuis and had a coffee and ham and cheese baguette. Then I headed to another museum called Volkenkunde, where I spent two hours viewing a Tibetan exhibit.
I had asked the cabby to pick me up there at 4:00, but at 4:15, he had not arrived. The personnel at the desk helped me call a cab. This fellow arrived 5 minutes later and was very friendly. He told me a brief history of the area. A couple of other things I saw today were a windmill museum in the center of town and the Borcht, a circular fort. Both very old (400 years).
I arrived at Symantec about 4:45 and waited for Dale and Anna Gude, Dale’s Symantec contact here. We headed to the Pizza Nicolletta and had a great meal of salads, pizzas, tiramisu, and wine. Dale’s pizza had ham, mushrooms, and an egg in the middle. I had a folded pizza with ham and cheese – salty, but good! The tiramisu was great. Anna kept the conversation flowing with tales about herself and work. I gather she works more than she needs to. At 9:30 or 10:00 we finally left the restaurant, which was very cozy and had Italian music playing. We took a tour of the city with Anna in the lead. She showed us where she used to live and other historic places, including another windmill and Rembrandt’s birthplace.
We arrived back at the train station around 11:00. The walk from the station in Amsterdam to the hotel was very cold, but interesting. I have never been through a Red Light District before. The young girls were literally sitting in the windows in their underwear, posing, talking on the phone and to each other! We were frozen by the time we arrived back at the hotel. After thawing out, we climbed into bed. I still can’t quite get over how everyone rides a bike. Small children are passengers, usually in front. Also, the majority of people did not wear hats and gloves today, whereas I had on cotton tights, socks, long pants, undershirt, T-shirt, denim shirt, sweater, long wool coat, scarf, hat and gloves, and thick-soled boots! I did stay fairly warm, but did get windburn on my face.
Tomorrow I’ll stay in Amsterdam.
Wednesday, December 17, 1997
[Chris] Woke up to a cold and windy day. Dale was up and out of the hotel by 8:00. I slept in until 9:30, had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, and packed. I then set out for the Van Gogh Museum. It was about one mile, but seemed longer because of the wind. I passed quite a few antique shops and art galleries on my way. It cost ƒ12.50 ($7.00) to get into the museum. I spent about 3 hours there, including eating lunch and purchasing postcards. On my way home, I stopped at a small gallery and purchased a pin shaped like a chair. The owner of the shop was originally from Colorado.
I got back to the hotel by 4:10 and waited for Dale. I started to get nervous when he wasn’t there by 5:00. At 5:15, I received a call from him… he had missed a transfer and was not going to be back in time to catch our 7:10pm flight to Dublin. I rescheduled our flight to tomorrow morning and checked us back into the hotel. Once Dale arrived at the hotel (6:00pm), he made some phone calls to reschedule meetings, cars, etc.
We then went in search of a place to eat dinner. The concierge recommended several places just down the street. One, however, looked like a private party. The other had what was called a “Disco Dinner” with “Disco Duck” as the main entree! We passed on that. After walking around for a while, we came across a neat little place called Het Zuiden. The waitresses were very accommodating and gave us a table right away. I selected the grilled shrimp in olive oil, which came with a salad. Dale had the rib eye with green beans and fries. Both were very good. I also had 2 small glasses of wine and Dale had 2 Palm beers.
It was an exhausting and stressful evening for Dale, and I was just plain tired, so we headed back to the hotel and went right to bed. The alarm was set for 4:30am.
[Dale] Dale’s Big Adventure – 17 Dec.
It was a dark and stormy…afternoon. At lunch, we had noticed some snow flurries, but I hadn’t given them much thought during the afternoon. At 3:15, Anna tried to call a cab, but none were available for an hour, because, by now, the streets were slippery with a thin glaze of ice. There must have been some rain mixed in the snow flurries.
Anna recommended that I take the bus to the Centraal Station, since I had just missed the local train there, and the next one wouldn’t leave for another 30 minutes. I walked to the bus stop (right next to the local train station) and waited with a growing crowd for 40 minutes. I watched the next train leave the station, headed for Centraal. I finally gave up on the bus and bought a local train ticket, making it to Leiden Centraal by 4:20 – still enough time to make our flight.
Checking the train schedule, I saw that there was a train leaving for Amsterdam Centraal from Stoor (platform) 4b, which is the same platform Chris and I had left from the night before. “Great,” I thought. “I’ll be back in Amsterdam by 5:00, get a cab, pick up Chris, and be at the airport by 6:00.” It was tight, but we’d still make it.
The train arrived and left on time, making stops at stations along the way. Finally, the train stopped at Haarlem, one of the stations we had passed through on Tuesday night. Many people got off, but others stayed on. I stayed on. When the train started moving again, my heart sank. It was going back the way we had come! In my mind, I saw myself running up and down the aisles, shouting “Nay, nay, nay, nay!” (Dutch for “No, no, no, no!”). I wanted off! But I knew there was nothing I could do.
After an eternity (about 10 minutes), I asked the men around me if they spoke English. One did, and he confirmed that I was not headed to Amsterdam. I was supposed to change trains at Haarlem. He said I could get off at the next station and get a train to Amsterdam, but I would have to change on that train, too. I thanked him and waited another eternity (about 10 minutes), until we arrived at Beverijk station.
I was off the train like a shot! The first thing I did was to call the Pulitzer, where they found Chris for me. I told her I would be late, and asked her to re-book the flight and, if necessary, get us in the hotel for another night. I then found the train to Amsterdam and struck up a conversation with a couple of young men on the platform. They told me I would need to change trains in Haarlem.
My train arrived and left (on time). When it arrived in Haarlem, there was a train 20 feet away (at the other side of the platform) that was leaving for Amsterdam in 2 minutes. I got on, hoped fervently that it was the right train and waited.
It was the right train. At the second stop, I debarked at Amsterdam CS and practically jogged back to the hotel, where Chris was waiting for me in the lobby.
Thursday, December 18, 1997
[Chris] We checked out of the hotel (again!) and left for the airport on schedule. I would love to come back when we have more time and when the weather is warmer. The scenery, with all of the canals, cobblestone streets, bicycle riders, tall narrow buildings that are 300-400 years old, are all fascinating. The mix of retail shops with residential and business makes for a very eclectic mix of neighborhoods. Taxis are always called (never hailed on the street), and the three that I rode in were all very clean and new. The drivers were 30-ish, good-looking, and well spoken. The drive to the airport this morning was very quick due to the lack of traffic. The driver said he loves to drive at night because there are no “speed checks.”
[Chris] The flight from Amsterdam to Dublin was non-eventful. I slept through it and Dale dozed. We arrived in Dublin where it was pouring down rain, got the car and headed “gingerly” to the Hotel Davenport. We had to keep our wits about us because they drive on the left side of the road here. We did well until we arrived downtown, where the map was not as clear as we needed it to be. We managed to circle the roundabouts several times before we stopped to ask directions. Finally I spotted the hotel! We checked into our room, which has Georgian-style furnishings. Dale immediately called a cab to take him to work. I unpacked and then headed to the Grafton St. shopping area.
On my way, I struck up a conversation with a very nice elderly woman. She told me about all of the popular shopping areas, and that I should “mind my purse.” I guess there are a lot of pickpockets in Dublin.
The Grafton St. area is jammed with shops, tons of people, music, flowers…lots of energy! I walked through a shopping mall called St. Stephens and decided I was too tired to enjoy anything, so I headed back to the hotel. There I took a bath and a nap.
Dale arrived at 6:45pm and woke me from my nap. We then went to an Irish restaurant called Foley’s and had a great meal of beef tenderloin in gravy and roasted duck. The table next to us was celebrating “Christmas Drinks”, the Irish version of an office party. We were thoroughly entertained by this group telling silly jokes from “Christmas Crackers.” [A cracker is a paper tube, twisted on both ends like a candy wrapper. Two people pop it by pulling on each end. When it breaks, it makes a bang, and one of the people gets the “big end” (like a wishbone), which contains a paper hat, a toy prize, and a very lame joke – Dale]
After dinner, we went back to the hotel, massaged our feet and went to sleep.
Friday, December 19, 1997
[Chris] Woke up at 6:30, ate breakfast at the hotel. Sent Dale off to work and I gathered all the dirty laundry. The Georgian Cleaners was only a 10-minute walk from the hotel. I arrived with no problems and was greeted by an attendant who told me to put my clothes in an empty washer. She added the soap and turned the washer on. An hour and a half later, I had two loads of clean and dry laundry. While I was there, I met a young girl who had walked 45 minutes to find the laundry! She and her husband were from Australia. We had a nice chat, comparing notes of our travels.
After doing my domestic chores, I headed out for some more shopping. I found a beautiful brick-colored chenille sweater with hearts in black and fuchsia accents. I also bought myself a manicure set. Now I can do my own nails. I also found some postcards. Lunch was spaghetti with salmon, tomato and basil, and a glass of red wine at a restaurant called Stephens on the Green. Very contemporary interior, with large colorful paintings. I made it home through the mobs of people by 4:30.
Dale arrived back as I was getting out of the shower. He was ecstatic about being (formally) on vacation. We opened a bottle of wine we had been dragging around with us since London, and celebrated. I gave myself a manicure. Dale relaxed watching TV. We had a 6:30 reservation at La Stampa. We made it there on time (walked) but had to wait anyway. As we were settling down with a glass of wine, I discovered my new scarf was missing. We looked everywhere that we had been in the restaurant, and Dale even searched almost as far back as the hotel. Unfortunately, no scarf. In spite of that, we had a great meal. I had sole, which was perfectly cooked and laid on a bed of mashed potatoes, salad, and vegetables (snow peas, carrots, boiled potatoes, and beet root). Dale had beef tenderloin. His first choice had been venison, but they had run out. The décor of the restaurant was very eclectic. Low light with lots of candelabras. The paintings were in art deco style with very intense color and, of course, the tables had white linen! We also shared another 1/2 liter of wine.
As we walked home, we passed people of all kinds: drunks, lovers, couples, panhandlers, performers… Needless to say, the streets were packed at 8:30 in the evening. The sidewalks were slippery, too, and I managed to slip and scrape my knee. Good thing Dale was hanging on to me!
We arrived back at the hotel in time to watch “Bean.” Pretty funny stuff.
Saturday, December 20, 1997
[Chris] We slept until 9:30 and decided to go out for breakfast and to get some insole shoe supports. As we were ready to leave, Dale decided to bring the good camera. Unfortunately, we couldn’t seem to find it.
[Dale] We looked in every nook and cranny of the room, then I checked the trunk of the car. No luck. The last time I had seen it was at the airport, on our luggage cart – two days ago! I could only think that, in our hurry to get out of the rain, we had left it hanging from the back of the cart, which we had left in the Hertz car lot.
I called Hertz, but they hadn’t seen it. They recommended that I check with the airport police, which I then did. I described the bag and its contents, and the woman on the phone asked if there had been a pair of binoculars in the bag. I had forgotten that I had brought my mini-binoculars, but, reminded of them, I said, “Yes!” Incredibly, the police had my bag and camera!
Chris and I drove to the airport. I went to the police office, paid £1 and picked up the camera. Everything was still in the bag! I still can’t get over how fortunate we were to get it back. It turns out that someone with Budget Rent-a-Car found the bag and turned it in. I owe them a big “thank-you.”
[Dale] Chris and I are now back at the hotel, enjoying a beer in the hotel bar. I’ve just learned that a “proper” Black and Tan is made with Smithwicks on the bottom and Guiness on the top (the bars in the states use Harp or Bass on the bottom). Later, we’ll go see the new James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.
Tomorrow, we check out and drive to New Grange, hoping for a cloudless dawn. New Grange is a Druid ruin sort of like Stonehenge, but covered with a mound of dirt. At dawn on the winter solstice, the sun shines down a corridor into an interior chamber.
Sunday, December 21, 1997
[Chris] Today is the winter solstice, so, after checking out of the Davenport, we headed to New Grange at 6:00am to see the New Grange Farm, a Druid ritual site. After a few wrong turns, and two hours later, we came upon a park that we thought was the site only to find out that it was another five miles away.
At last we came to the right spot and people were beginning to gather. It turns out that you have to make reservations to get into the chamber at dawn, and they’re booked up through 2006!
While we waited, we struck up a conversation with a man who looked like Bill Clinton. He was very helpful with giving us information about the area. As we waited (we found out we were an hour early) the Prime Minister of Ireland and a small entourage arrived. Of course they got to go into the chamber first, which should have been the time period for the sun to shine through the passageway and into the chamber. We were finally allowed to go into the site after 9:30am. Unfortunately, the sun never broke through the fog, but it was interesting nonetheless.
We then made our way to a small town called Trim (again, after making a few wrong turns). We had lunch there at a cute Bistro. The waitress was very young, and every time she brought something to the table, she would put it down and say “Here!” The cream of chicken soup was good.
We saw the ruins of the Trim castle, also known as King John’s Castle. The owner of a souvenir store we stopped at was very helpful and friendly. He suggested we stay and visit the southeast area of Ireland rather than drive all over the country.
At 3:00 we headed back towards Dublin to find our new hotel, which we will call home for the remainder of our visit. It took us 2 1/2 hours to find our way to Killiney. Instructions from the hotel personnel were very poor, as they took us back through the center of Dublin, which is exactly what we wanted to avoid! Several more stops for directions finally got us to the court Hotel.
[Dale] The best directions we got were from a man in a petrol station. He said to get back on the main highway, then follow the signs to the ferry port. Killiney is near there. He even drove in front of us to get to the main highway! The ferry signs got us very close to the hotel, then a young woman in a Texaco station gave us exact directions to the hotel.
[Chris] At the hotel, we announced our arrival and were asked if we wanted a twin room. Dale said, “No, we need a double.” Then we were kept waiting for a porter, even though we said we would bring our own bags in. We thought the porter would take the bags from our car and put them on a cart, but Dale and I both helped carry the bags into the lobby! The same porter walked right past me and didn’t offer to help with the bag I was struggling with. Then another porter picked up 2 bags and again Dale and I both carried bags to the room. It was very awkward.
Once in the room, we discovered twin beds instead of a double. I said to the porter that we would have to have another room. He looked at me like I was nuts and left the room! Dale immediately called the desk and explained what happened. The desk clerk explained that the only rooms with a view were twins and they assumed we wanted a view!
After waiting in vain for 10 minutes for them to move our bags to another room, we decided to go have a bite to eat and calm down. We found a neat little restaurant called The Laurel Tree. The service was excellent and very friendly. Dale had beef tenderloin. I had spicy pasta with zucchini. Starters were spicy chicken wings and fried mushrooms. The third course was eclairs and toffee ice cream. A Guiness and a couple of glasses of wine later, we were feeling much better. Back at the hotel we were given another room that will be just fine for the next 5 nights.
[Dale] Here, as in the Lourdes in London, the hair dryer is installed in a desk drawer!
Monday, December 22, 1997
[Dale] We woke this morning to the sound of wind and rain at 7:30. After leisurely getting clean and goofing off for a while, we talked to the manager of the hotel about yesterday’s problems. After discussing the issues, he agreed to see if he could relocate us to a better room or reduce the rate. All other rooms are booked, though. We’ll see if they remember to reduce the rate when we leave.
We had a late breakfast, then took the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) train to Dun Leary, the ferry port. The weather was awful – strong wind and steady drizzle. At Dun Leary we went to the tourist information center and got better maps of Dublin and eastern Ireland. The currency exchange was closed for lunch. While we waited for it to re-open, we planned where to visit in the next couple of days. We want to get to Arklow, Enniskerry, and Glendalough tomorrow, Waterford on Wednesday, Dublin on Christmas (it should be quite quiet). Friday is, as yet, unplanned. December 26 is another holiday here (St. Stephens day, a.k.a. Boxing Day), so we won’t be able to do much besides site seeing.
We returned to Killiney on DART and found a quiet table in the lounge where we played Scrabble (Chris won both games!) and then read.
Since we had skipped lunch, we had an early dinner at the hotel’s grill, called The Library. Chris had pizza and I had a huge burger. We were tired from doing nothing, so we returned to the room for TV. We saw a Simpsons episode we had previously missed (Bart gets a credit card and buys a new dog). We’re looking forward to a more exciting day tomorrow.
Tuesday, December 23, 1997
[Chris] Awoke around 8:00, got dressed, ate some of the fruit that was compliments of the hotel. We drove down to Bray, took some photos, and ate breakfast at a coffee shop called Dixon’s. We both had their full breakfast, which consists of brown bread, one egg, three kinds of sausage, and bacon. We both passed on the piece of “blood sausage”. By 10:30 we were back on the road to Avoca Linen Mill. The store had clothing, blankets, pottery, and food. It is located in Enniskerry, southwest of Killiney.
By 12:00 we were in Glendalough at the visitor center. We watched a video about the monastic ruins and St. Kevin, who lived there in the 9th century. Dale walked out to one of the ruins, but I chose to stay inside, out of the rain.
We left Glendalough, then stopped to eat a lunch of brown bread, fruit, and juice by an ancient ruin. Then we got back on the road towards Arklow. There we visited two pottery (factory) stores. Neither one was very interesting. We headed home (still raining) and went into Enniskerry. All of the towns we visited today were small and quaint. We saw some beautiful scenery along the way.
Back at the hotel we played Scrabble in the Coast Lounge. Dale won both games tonight. Dinner in The Library grill was sirloin steak, baked potatoes, salad, and wine. Hopefully, tomorrow will be dry, as we are driving down to Waterford.
Wednesday, December 24, 1997
[Chris] Woke up to 50º and rain. Left the hotel around 9 o’clock and headed to Arklow. Had and we hearty breakfast at JoAnne’s deli of eggs, toast (soda bread) sausage, tea and coffee. It was still sprinkling as we arrived in Waterford around 12 o’clock. The town was very busy with Christmas shoppers and, like all the other cities we have visited, the sidewalks are very narrow. I really wanted to find a Waterford Crystal outlet store, but all we managed to find was a Pemrose Crystal factory store. We walked a little farther into town and noticed that the wind was really picking up.
We stopped at a restaurant called the Brasserie and had a light lunch of potato leek soup, brown bread, and chili potatoes. Right next door was a gift shop where they sold hand blown crystal candy. I bought eight pieces for the girls at work. Each piece was $3.25. As we walked back to the car the wind continued to pick up.
In wind with gusts up to 70 mph we headed back to Killiney via New Ross. At around 2:30, we were stopped because of a fallen tree and a car accident. I took pictures from the car, while Dale went to see if he could help. We did not know any farther on this road so we turned around and went back to New Ross around 3:25. We stopped for gas and decided to take the safest (but longest) alternate route back to Killiney. At the gas stop we got a cup of tea and watched while the signs’ fascia blew apart and left a mess all around the gas station. Needless to say, a normal 2 1/2-hour trip took four hours!
[Dale] The newspapers all say that the windstorm on Christmas Eve was the worst here in 23 years. Four people died in Ireland as a result of the storm. A man with Alzheimer’s and his daughter with Down’s syndrome died when their house burned after a candle tipped over. The candle was lit because of the power outage. Another man had a heart attack while trying to free a family trapped in their car by a fallen tree. Another man died when a wall blew over on him. More than £25 million (about $40 million) in damage was done.
[Chris] We had dinner reservations that the Laurel Tree, so we had to hustle to get there on time. Dinner was wonderful! I had the vegetarian eggplant and salad, while Dale had the honey-glazed duck and vegetables. We split a bottle of Romanian wine and a piece of lemon tart with raspberry and chocolate sauce. We asked if we could take the remaining brown bread and bought another bottle of wine, as we were told food would be hard to come by the next two days! We plowed our way through the wind and rain back to the DART station, only to find them shut down because of power failure!
We decided to go back to the restaurant where everyone had been extremely friendly. They were very understanding and helpful by offering us a table and coffee and calling us a taxi. We were told it would be at least 45 minutes to one hour but the taxi showed up in 20 minutes! We gave everyone our thanks our compliments and headed to the hotel.
Thursday, December 25, 1997
[Chris] Merry Christmas, Happy Christmas, Festive Solstice!! We had food and bread in our hotel room for breakfast, and headed out to Dublin to sight see in what we thought would be sunshine… wrong again! By the time we got downtown and walked the deserted streets for one-half hour it started to rain. We drove to several of the government buildings, took photos, found an open convenience store, and headed back to the hotel.
Christmas lunch consisted of ham and cheese sandwiches, ruffles, fruit, and wine. We watched some TV, played some Scrabble until we went to high tea (dinner) in the hotel dining room. We both had lamb chops with peas and mushrooms along with chips (French fries). Dale had the cheesecake for desert, and I had the Mandarin orange meringue with whipped and ice cream! Yum!
We decided to pass on the sing-along in the lounge later on in the evening and watched a really good movie that neither one of us can remember now. Must have been the wine! Backing up to this morning, we arranged our gifts under the vanity lamp, which looked similar enough to a Christmas tree. We took some pictures and opened the packages. I gave Dale two shirts (one red, one blue) and two T-shirts (one red, one white). He liked them all. We gave me a huge bottle of Oscar as well as the gift package of other Oscar items. I’ll smell great for a long time!
Friday Dec. 26 1997
[Chris] Boxing Day, a.k.a. St. Stephen’s Day. It is a legal holiday here, so once again the stores and restaurants are all closed. We had enough bread and fruit in the room for breakfast. We planned on driving southwest to the countryside, but changed our minds and headed in the opposite direction to the peninsula.
We drove through several small seaside-resort-type towns with Howth being the largest. We stopped again at a convenience store to get lunch items and drove to an area where people were strolling along the sea walk. Once again we had ham sandwiches and chips. The sun was out most of the day, but it was still windy.
We were able to get tickets for the Moscow State Circus. It was a wonderful way to spend our last night in Ireland. The circus was a fantastic display of gymnastics and athletic prowess. It was also interesting because the performers were also the crew and marketing people. That home around 7:30, packed, and went to bed.
Saturday Dec. 27, 1997
[Chris] Got up around 7:00. Ate breakfast in the hotel and left on schedule around 9:00. We were very confident in knowing our way to the airport and made only one wrong turn the City Centre (Dublin). Oh, by the way, the sun was shining beautifully and there was no wind or rain!
As we left the downtown area, I reminded Dale that we needed to get gas. We drove a little farther and decided we were not going to find a gas station. So, we did a U-turn and, after two stops, we found a petrol stop that was open! We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to return the car, check in, and resign ourselves that we would be home in 17 hours!
The first leg of our trip from Dublin to London went without a hitch. We were served a nice snack in business class. The second leg of the trip will be tiresome as we’re flying straight through from London Heathrow to San Francisco. We are also going to be challenged by the noisy 21 month-old child sitting three seats from us!
[Dale] The baby across the aisle slept most of the flight, but cried (screamed) when she had to wear her seat belt during landing and takeoff. Other than that, the flight was as good as can be expected. We both managed to sleep some (about one and one-half to two hours). We must have flown above the Arctic Circle, because much of the flight was in darkness, despite the fact that it was always between 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
We landed in twilight at SFO and easily collected our bags and got through customs (no hand inspection of our bags). We found an airport shuttle bus right outside, and we were headed for home within 30 minutes of landing.
We arrived home at 6:45 p.m. Bruce and Michelle had dropped off Toots Saturday afternoon, so we were greeted brightly at the door. We think she missed us, because she didn’t leave our sight until Sunday morning. Bruce also bought us milk, bread, and bagels. What a pal!
We called both sets of parents, then collapsed in front of the TV until 10, when we couldn’t stay up any longer. Chris slept until 10 on Sunday, but I couldn’t sleep past 4 a.m.