Holyhead ferry at 1pm, Dublin at 5pm, spend the night and away again to Dublin ferry at 7pm Wednesday, eventually getting back to Holyhead in the early hours of Thursday. I've been to Dublin just once before, Louise and Molly never. Molly was incredibly excited, not least because she'd stropped a few months back that she'd never been abroad and as she pointed out "Scotland doesn't count" (sorry Scottish friends, but you know what she means).
Personally, having not been on a ferry for a long time, I was a bit disappointed that they've changed the layout (at least on Stena) and you can't get to the front or the back anymore - that was always the best bit, seeing the land disappear one end and then the destination get closer and closer hours later at the other. Instead you get a very restricted view along the sides.
But Molly was very happy with it anyway - the ferry crossing was just one long fun thing for her, finding lots and lots of things to do all over the ship.
We got in, headed into town, and off to O'Connell Street for the hotel. Having Google mapped it before we left I had no problem finding it - seeing as it's almost directly opposite the 121m gleaming spire thing:
Our hotel (Lynam's) was a cheap boutique hotel. The photos had looked lovely and Louise and I were looking forward to spending a relaxing night once Molly was asleep enjoying the atmosphere of what looked like a lovely little hotel bar. Sadly, Lynam's, although lovely and boutique-y, is also a little tired and the bar no longer opens. But it was merely a minor inconvenience (for me at least - more on that later) and the hotel bedroom was lovely - clean, comfortable - everything you need from a room you don't intend spending more than a few hours asleep in.
Off out we went to the Dublin night. O'Connell Street, Temple Bar, seeing all the sights. Unfortunately, as Molly later pointed out very succinctly, Dublin seemed to consist of far more than it's fair share of "fighting, homeless people and drunks". Oh dear. It hadn't helped when we stopped off for tea at a lovely Pizzeria and then walked out almost right into the middle of a group of chavvy kids having a fight over something or other. It was a proper fight after a fashion as well - once the requisite round of shouting, squaring up and pushing were done with, chav #1 decked chav #2. There was blood. Molly was most unimpressed. And Louise and I started to feel a little bit unsettled.
I know it's not that we're some country bumpkin family just in from the sticks. Pocklington may be a sub 10k market town, but Louise and I spent years in Birmingham and I'd regularly wander through areas of the city that most people avoided. But something about the vibe in Dublin when the lights go down just seemed a bit too threatening. Shame.
Anyway, onto the nice bits. I'd already decided it was time for a Guinness. Louise and Molly headed off to a lovely little ice cream place in Temple Bar for dessert so I headed off to the Temple Bar. Now I may be doing the typical tourist thing with the Guinness but at least I wasn't being really bloody annoying in the Temple Bar like the group of students in front of me and taking pictures of the bloody pints they were having. It's not so much that I minded them taking pictures, after all, they were students and if there's ever a time to be annoyingly young, it's those years of studenthood. No, what I minded was that they decided to do it at the bloody bar, in my bloody way.
But nevermind. That first sip of Guinness soon took any irritation away. It really is so deliciously light and goes down so quickly. Or mine did anyway. Still had the taste on my lips 20 minutes later when we all met up to head back to the hotel. I know the old adage about it being better in Ireland isn't necessarily true - the stuffs the same all over the world, but the fact that more of it's drunk in Ireland, so the kegs are fresher, the lines are cleaned more regularly and the barstaff know how to pour it all makes a big difference.
And here's where the bar would have been a great boon to Louise and I. Because it was already 10pm, Molly was knackered and was going to go to sleep fairly quickly. Since Louise is so nice and since I'm the one who doesn't mind sitting in a strange pub on my own and had some reviews to write up, I got to head out whilst the girls went to bed.
I can't remember the name of the bar, but it was suitably good. Not too many tourists, got busier as the night wore on, had a great barman who remembered everyone's drinks, no matter how long they'd been in the bar. Guinness #2 was just as smooth and lovely as #1. Guinness #3 was the same. Then I decided to not push my luck, remembering how heavy Guinness could be and what a Guinness hangover felt like, I switched to good old reliable G&T. A lovely, lovely night out in Dublin for me.
Wednesday morning we were all up early, breakfast in the hotel, off out shopping and sightseeing. Molly was determined to visit one of the crappy Irish shops that pump out trad music, sell every manner of green tat and generally exist just to sucker in the tourist money. And bless her, Molly loved it. Tacky and 10 just fit so well. After going round the shop at leasrt 5 times, she decided that she was going to get herself a T-shirt. And thankfully, she picked a pretty nice one.
(The GPO building is well worth a look - a beautifully maintained, old fashioned post office, all gleaming marble and gold fittings)
(The Oliver St John Gogarty pub - Molly just liked the flags)
After that we had a very nice, although very tiring day round Dublin, which we all agreed was a damn sight more hospitable and better natured during the day than it was at night.
We did the tourist things:
Lunch was traditionally Irish. Sheehans Bar off Grafton Street. Or at least the drink was. And after me telling Molly and Louise about my annoyance with the tourists photographing their Guinnesses she insisted on this......
Then we wandered some more. We have a habit of seeing someone famous every time we go away. It never fails. And this time, as we wandered around a lovely deli, we realised the very lovely man buying stuff at the counter was Neil Hannon, he of The Divine Comedy.
Afternoon treat for tired legs was Murphy's Ice Cream Parlour. Absolutely gorgeous ice-cream, fantastic coffee and brilliant service. We'd popped in earlier to be greeted by a lovely guy. "Can I get anything for you?" he says. "No thanks, we're just looking" say we in our best uptight English manner. "Oh, there's nothing worse than looking at ice cream - would you like to try a couple of flavours?". It was lovely, and we made a definite resolution to go back. But I get the impression that he wasn't necessarily doing the hard sell, more that he just did it anyway, just to be nice. That's customer service, and I'm gladly recommend Murphy's Ice Cream parlour to anyone who happens to ask.
And that was pretty much Dublin done. We did some more walking, some shopping, some starring at places. But come 6pm we were all absolutely wiped and just wanted to get the bus back to Dublin Harbour and get on the ferry. So another cup of coffee was sought and eventually we found ourselves on a mostly empty ferry.
But because of the terrible discrimination against foot passengers that Stena operate, even with very few people on board, we still couldn't get a seat where Molly could stretch out and get some sleep. Every sofa, every comfy bench - all taken up by the car passengers. It had struck us as strange when coming to Dublin that foot passengers don't actually walk on board. Instead, we get to wait in a passenger lounge, get on a bus and the bus drives onboard the car decks. Car passengers can get onboard up to an hour before departure. Foot passengers can't. We have to wait until the bus goes. And it was 10 minutes before departure when the bus pulled onto the ferry, by which time all those car passengers had settled down in every single comfy seat/lounger/sofa/bench and had stretched out for a nap. Damn them all.
Manny, many hours later, with Molly wired and hyper through lack of sleep we arrive in Holyhead and drive home. I appear to have a slight sniffle, a bit of a sore throat and a throbbing headache.
And it just got worse from there. Nothing bad, just a shitty cold, sinuses burning out, nose running/blocked/running, sore throat, shivers, hacking cough, and a pulsating, eye straining headache. Pretty much the sort of thing that always gets described as "man-flu". Except I don't get "man-flu". I fight and struggle and keep going, dosing myself up with olbas oil, painkillers and alcohol, refusing to let it beat me down.
Maybe it was the holiday that did it, maybe the actual relaxation, the winding down? No matter. I spent Thursday sprawled on the sofa, snuffling, dosed up, olbas stinking. Molly and Louise went down to the beach after tea and had great fun. I lay on the sofa. Molly went to bed. I lay on the sofa. Then I started to feel better. Then I got up and realised I only really felt better when I was lying down. Repeat for the next four hours until bed. I did try sitting down and writing some things, but trying to concentrate just didn't happen at all.
Bah. Holiday sickness. Not good. Repeat on Friday. Louise and Molly had a great time, off to the beach, lunch, ice creams, relaxing playtime. I lay on the sofa.
But I wont moan too much (or have I already?) - we went home on Saturday, I still felt like shite, but it didn't matter, 2/3rds of the Brutons had an excellent week in wales and Dublin, and me, as the remaining third, had had a blast right up until Thursday.