|In a break from tradition, we actually managed to make our flight to Dublin with no problems after work on Friday night. It helped that we were flying out of Leeds-Bradford and did not have to fight traffic across to Liverpool or Manchester. Dublin is a city with masses of construction fuelled by its roaring economy, particularly in the late 1990's. In practical terms, this made finding our hotel nearly impossible, and the taxi driver needed to ask several times as it was not on the map.
It turns out that the 'hotel' we had booked from www.lastminute.com was the residence associated with the IMI - the Irish Management Institute - so it was kind of like staying in the Executive Residence at Otago Uni. Everyone else there was attending some conference or other which was a bit odd - but otherwise a nice place, if quite concrete intensive.
Saturday initially saw a round of relatively unsuccessful touristing - starting with the Guiness factory which had several hundred people cueing outside it, and then on to Dublin Castle - which only takes in tours of 35 people at a time so you need to be early. Tip here is to go to the factory outside of the peak hours of 1-3.30pm and to be at the castle 15 mins before the first tour.
So we ended up in a traditional pub in central Dublin, just in time for the kick-off of the rugby. I had thought that the ABs might garner at least a little support, but it was an entirely hostile crowd, which did not greatly appreciate our clapping every referee's call that went the AB's way. Turns out that the ABs are actually in Dublin next week, so I guess we didn't organise this particularly well! The welcoming committee is ready in Dublin, with several pubs already having notices up barring Tama Umaga!
After the (much-enjoyed) game, we then went on a 'literary pub-crawl', which involved actors giving performances of different authors that frequented some of these establishments. Not being particularly literary-ily inclined, Korina and I took this opportunity to sample much of the Guiness that we had missed seeing earlier in the day (which also provided a simple explanation why we did not return to the brewery the following day! Felt very unwell in a way in which a Thomas hangover is reknowned).
So a slow start to Sunday morning, but ended up looking around the centre of Dublin, going to the Castle (it had been a few day's since our last castle) and sampling traditional Irish fare. The castle was OK on my Castle-o-meter, above Howard House although somewhat below Dover and Scarsborough Castles and the Tower of London). The Irish fare was somewhat more difficult to find than I had expected, although eventually I found a nice Irish stew.
We finished up Sunday by going on a bus tour of 'haunted Dublin'. Aside from visiting an ancient graveyard that surprisingly contained Captain Cook's widow's grave, the highlight was visiting the 40 steps - apparently the most haunted site in Dublin. This was not a highlight because of the 'haunted orbs' in our camera shots, which looked suspiciously like a reflection from a foil packet of crisps, but because of the image that appeared in a guy's cellphone next to us.
The story goes that on this site people always see strange things and cameras frequently malfunction. The guy's cellphone initially refused to take a picture, and when it did, a strange hooded, ghostly figure appeared in the corner of the shot - completely freaking out the tour guide, the photographer and most of the rest of the group. Upon closer inspection, it looked to me like a guy in a hoodie - and looking around the group it turns out that I was the only person wearing one with the hood up. So my theory is that when his cellphone initially did not go, he turned it around to take a look, and in the process managed to take a blurred black and white picture of me!
So all in all, a booze addled but amusing weekend in Dublin. Dublin felt quite safe and quite a bit more laid back than most English cities, despite the surprisingly numerous homeless people that seemed to congregate in various doorways around the city centre...