Wednesday, August 13, 2014

And... a long walk on a long pier

Here I sit in Heathrow, sippin' tea and charging everything that plugs in (bless lounges with outlets at every seat), getting ready to head back home.  Technically, the trip back home has been in progress for some six hours already, as I had to wake at 5 freakin' o'clock to leave at 6:00 a.m. for my flight out of Dublin.  My folks and I were on the same flight to Heathrow, and we parted company at the "Flight Connections center" as we were off on shuttle busses to different terminals for our flights back to the States.

(People in Ireland get huffy about Heathrow, saying what a horrible place it is and that you're much better with a direct flight out of Dublin.  I like Heathrow  Always have.  Now, sure, maybe that's because I haven't had to deal with a tight connection or lost luggage, but the place has generally worked according to plan for me.  I actually found myself defending it a bit on this trip.)

Yesterday was our last day.  It was to begin with a city tour (on the bus) of Dublin, ending with a tour of Dublin castle.  The whole procedure ended around 1:00, at which time we were free until something like 6:30 for our farewell dinner.  I had no interest in the city tour of Dublin and begged off, on the basis that I'd been to Dublin twice before.  This was both a truth and a lie.  I have been to Dublin twice, but I've never actually done a city tour.  I just couldn't bring myself to do this one at this time.  I'd been on the damn tour bus for about two weeks straight, and couldn't imagine one more morning sitting on it.  Cabin fever, big time.  Giant's Causeway had reminded me how much I liked being outdoors on vacations, and I needed me some open spaces pronto.

The day before (I realize I didn't write about the day before.  It started off at St. Patrick's grave and the visitors' center nearby -- the only place on this entire tour where I felt like I was getting a sales pitch for Catholicism -- followed up with a two hour bus ride from Northern Ireland down to Dublin, and ended with a visit to Trinity College and the Book of Kells.  OK, now you're caught up.)  ANYWAY, the day before, after the Book of Kells (see?) we were at liberty in Dublin and they had shuttles back to the hotel every hour.  I did some shopping (actually, some attempted shopping -- they didn't have what I wanted), had some yummy dark sippin' chocolate, and took the shuttle, which was really just some dude in a car, hired for the occasion.  I asked the dude for advice on what to do the next day, assuming I ditched the tour.  It would be my one day in the Dublin area, the weather looked to be (mostly) nice (for Dublin) and I wanted to do something active.  Walk a bit, ride a horse, shoot at something (not the horse), kayak someplace ... just something that wasn't sitting around looking at the sights.  Dude in the car said he could recommend a pub where I could sit and listen to good Irish music.

Not quite what I was looking for.  He suggested I talk to the hotel concierge.  By luck of the draw, I got the new trainee concierge, who also didn't have many ideas.  I went back to my room and spent two hours on Google and TripAdvisor.

Look, I don't want to make broad generalizations about the entire city or anything, but holy cow, nobody has anything active to do in this place.  The Phoenix Park website said you could rent a Segway and tour Phoenix Park that way ... but the business that rented Segways in Phoenix Park was closed.  Various other tourism suggestions for kayaking, sailing, Segway rental, and other outdoor activities all sent you to the same business ... and that one only did kayaking, and had nothing available for the day I wanted.  I stumbled upon a website for an activity company in Dun Laoghaire, a little seaside village near the city.  The Trainee Concierge had recommended Dun Laoghaire (hell, he'd actually known how to pronounce it) as a possible destination and this company had Segways (again with the Segways), archery, a climbing wall, kayaks ... pretty much everything outdoorsy.  Hell, their website didn't give an address, just gps coordinates.  I sent them off an email to see what sorts of activities would be available for me the next day, and figured that I'd hear back around breakfast.

I didn't.  I waited until about 10:30 and figured I'd just hop the train (it was only 15 minutes away and the views of Dublin Bay were quite nice on the way) and see what I could see in Dun Laoghaire once I got there.  (And I'd check my email all along the journey.  They never wrote back.  Never.  It's today.  Still haven't heard from them.)

Mastered the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) system pretty easily, although they could do with a little more signage at the stations.  Found my way to Dun Laoghaire.  Got off the train.  Now what?

I was in a lovely little harbor.  Walked from one of the harbor to the other and saw no signs -- not one -- advertising sailboat rides or kayak hires or any way at all that a tourist could give them money to have form of pleasant journey on the water.  It was all "yacht club" here and "sailing club" there, and if you're not a member, up yours.

I did find a pier.  Two of them.  One on each side of the harbor, going out and forming something of a horsehoe shape.  And there were lots and lots of people walking on the piers.  This seemed to be the thing to do.

OK, I'd been looking to do some scenic walking.  When in Dun Laoghaire, walk the pier.

I walked.  Damn thing wasn't so much paved as gravelled, and, with each step making the rocks known through the soles of my shoes, I started thinking maybe I should turn back.  I also thought it didn't look all too far to the end, so I might as well finish.  (Here's a fun fact:  I have no depth perception.  I have no damn idea how far away the end of the pier actually is -- or the length of any walk on which I embark, for that matter.  I judge distances really poorly.)  I did, in fact, make it to the end of the pier.  Here's what the cute seaside city looked like from the pier.

Also, for a brief moment, the sun was shining at that cool angle where you get glittery ripples in the water.  I like glittery ripples in the water.

Yes, I do.  Like 'em a lot.

Walked back into the city center and found a "Tourist Information" map, which cheerfully informed me that the West Pier (which I had walked) was actually the lesser-walked of the two, and also the longer.  It was 1500 meters; I made google do the math ... up and back on that thing was nearly 2 miles.  Indeed, with all the walking I did around town that afternoon (found a place for lunch; found two shopping centers with a lot of depressing vacancies; found the "high street" which had an odd mixture of jewelry shops and charity shops), it was probably more like 2.5.  (I guess all that pre-trip time on the elliptical helped.)

I did feel bad for the town, with the mall vacancies and the charity shops.  I also thought it was really kind of sad that they were trying to position the town as a good place for visitors (with the tourist maps and the Trainee Concierge suggesting it as a day trip destination), but there was an utter disconnect between the tourist (that would be me) and the tourist activities.  (OK, yes, in retrospect, I probably should have spent the $1.50 a minute to call them; and it does appear that I, in fact, walked right by the adventure place on the West Pier, but dude, not one sign, not one.  I was looking.) 

Still, I had a lovely walk, and it was great to spend a day nowhere near the tour bus.

1 comment:

Wil said...

I am saddened your trip wasn't close to what you hoped it would be. While I will take a local guided tour to get the lay of the land, so to speak, I pretty much prefer self-directed jaunts over tours. I realize that wasn't in the cards this time. You seem to have made the best of it. I sure enjoyed your descriptions. Glad you're home, safe and sound.