Days 3798-3823, 11 Aug-5 Sept, Madam, Charlie, Jack and that’s that
By the time we'd spent 6 weeks in sunny, windy, seaside Dun Laoghaire… it was time to move on. Little did we realise we would end up spending almost 3 months in Ireland. What can we say - we're popular. But we are fully realised adults these days and we've also realised we are 100% city people. We like the buzz, the shops, the walking, the food for the eyes - all of it. We were robbed of it during the four month lockdown in Sydney and are still catching up.
We farewelled our two darling girls in Dun Laoghaire, welcomed home their owner and then ordered a huge taxi to get our four massive bags, fridge and pantry supplies and cabin bags into the city and our new home in Heuston South Quarter, Dublin 8. What a difference. Suffice it to say we were fighting to do 4000 steps per day in Dun Laoghaire and on our first day in the city we walked close to 20,000. Our hosts were working from home on their final day before departure so we left them to it and hoofed it to all our thrifting haunts and lunch at Dunnes cafe. In La-La Land, which is where our TARDIS-like bags apparently exist, we want to make sure we both have ski goggles and dive masks and all sorts of other extras for the forthcoming jaunt from Ireland to Paris to Barcelona to Morocco to the Canary Islands to Brazil to Argentina to Antarctica to Chile to Easter Island to Tahiti to the Cook Islands to New Zealand to Tasmania to Sydney. Seriously. The bags are stuffed to the gunwales as it is. I picked up a pair of SMITH ski goggles in a thrift shop in Dun Laoghaire - but managed to upgrade them to a stunning pair of BOLLE ones during our thrift haunting endeavours in Dublin - donating the Smith pair to the same shop. Speaking of bargains - some weeks I struck oil and picked up gold earrings, glorious silver chains, pendants and pearls. Other weeks we were limited to a couple of pairs of Birkenstocks (our weakness) - fortunately, though €15 a pair was great - they were 50% off shoes that week - even better. And into the bags they were stuffed.
We are huge fans of the Osprey luggage brand - dare we say - we are paid up members of the Osprey family and our two main bags are Sojourn 60 packs, but the latest addition to the clan is a Daylite wheeled duffel, 85 litres - which is now being stress tested with far too many clothes rolled tightly into compression bags - if any one of those packs fail it'll be like an inflatable life-raft deploying - while inside a plane. Not good. But. Awesome bag. Suspect we'll need another one for James as he is using an old black duffel we bought in Italy years ago as his second big bag - unfortunately not constructed out of Superman type components. But we'll see how it goes in the near future and can always add another Daylite duffle to the family prior to leaving Europe in November.
We were overjoyed to be in Dublin city after our time on the coast and our apartment was next door to the Old Kilmainham Hospital. Literally, out the door, walk to road, turn right, go up the drive to the Hospital. This is now the Irish Museum of Modern Art and we spent a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon strolling about and (trying) to improve our appreciation of modern art. The buildings themselves were an absolute dream (albeit a shame the Great Hall and Chapel were both under renovation and closed to visitors). The structure was based on Les Invalides in Paris and predates its sister hospital in Chelsea by a couple of years. It started out on an early Christian site and was a location for caring from very early on with the Knights Hospitalliers (think St John and Malta…) all being involved over time. This site was looking after old soldiers over 300 years ago - around 1690 and the Battle of the Boyne. The walls were fairly vibrating with history as we walked around. Our favourite part of the visit was the exhibition devoted to the history - from its establishment as a home for retired British soldiers all the way through to it becoming one of Ireland's national museums. There were some great stories and displays including the ghost searching for his medals which were hidden by other residents before the man died. It certainly seemed lke it would have been a place of serenity when compared to the rough and tumble of daily life as a pensioner out in the real world of the time.
Speaking of. We usually walked into the heart of the city via another very old part of the city and took a minor detour one day to look around 'The Liberties' and the Liberty Market. This is one of the oldest working class neighbourhoods in Dublin and was made up of different manorial jurisdictions and separate from the main city government. It actually goes back centuries to medieval times. We felt like we'd been picked up and transported to London's East End - even the street names were similar. The market itself was cheap, tatty and small… nothing to write home about but the area itself was fascinating and we finally found where the horses and buggies hang out when they're not out braving Dublin drivers.
Living next door to Alice may be a favourite old song, but for us, living next door to Kilmainham meant we had front row (listening only) seats to a massive Liam Gallagher concert in the grounds. In fairness neither of us a huge fans but we turned out onto our balcony for the crowd pleasing finale of Wonder Wall which was great drifting through the trees. We're not sure what the crowd was hoping for after a couple of encores but we think they were there for a good hour after it finished, being cajoled into going home quietly and peacefully. That was a huge night in Dublin altogether as there was an exhibition NFL college football match on as well and the city was bursting at its seams with Americans over for the game. For a laugh we looked on booking dot com at hotel rooms available in Dublin for that night and there were exactly 2…. and thousands of euro each.
It's not all old geezers, concerts, beer and skittles though. We've visited a couple of fascinating churches in our Dublin perambulations, including one of Dublin's oldest - St Audoen's dating back to 1190 odd. It's the oldest still functioning parish church in Dublin and has a great history exhibition as well courtesy of the Office of Public Works (OPW is like the National Trust for Ireland). They even have a talismanic stone (known as the Lucky Stone) which has all sorts of good luck legends and stories attached - almost as if a well-intentioned soul is trapped within it. That gave off a hard to describe energy - but any luck is good luck.
The saying goes that man plans and god laughs - so true. We had planned to split up for the last part of our Dublin housesit and have James head down the coast for 5 nights to start our 3 week/4 cat sit near Killiney. That was going to take us out to 19 September, with a night in the city and onto the ferry to France on 20 September. Unfortunately for the owners, one of the four old boys who was chronically sick but manageable, became seriously unwell and spent the week on fluids at the vets. They weren't keen to leave him and in all honesty, we weren't keen to be left with a little man on his last legs - we've lost a couple of old-timers in the last 12 months and it's devastating when it happens on our watch, even if it comes as no surprise. So the engagement was cancelled and we were looking at accommodation in Dublin for 5 nights to see us out to the first available ferry to France. It must have been the 'end of August' sold-outed-ness striking, but 5 Sept was the soonest ferry available.
Have we mentioned Dublin is pricing itself out of existence recently? Inflation and insane pricing is everywhere - hotels, airbnbs, everything. Even beggars are piling on - we have been asked for €7 for a pint of cider and also for €5 so the beggar in question could sit and have (another) coffee at a cafe we were walking past. We even saw a genuine bloke give a hard-up-arse-sitter €2 - and she looked at it and said "surely you can spare some more?" They'll have credit card readers soon. Given that we don't sit in pubs drinking cider or in cafes having multiple coffees, pigs will fly before we subsidise anyone elses outings. Right. So that's that hobby horse given a good run. As it turned out, us being available at super short notice was a godsend for someone in need at the last minute. We're so good at this caper, we're now doing two housesits at once. The crossover period was only three nights and less than an hour door to door, via walking and bus - so orders of magnitude better than doing the crossover with the Killiney housesit for 5 nights and almost 2 hours of travel each way.
On 28 Aug we did most of the housework and all of our packing and left James in situ with the single cat and just his immediate needs in a cabin bag (due to finish on 31 August). With everything ready to go we took ourselves off for a couple of hours and went to St Patrick's Tower for Dublin's monthly flea market. This building had been fascinating us from afar for the duration of our time in Dublin and it was great to head on into the market for a closer look. It was (apparently) the largest smock mill in Europe back in the day. Well may you ask… A smock mill refers to the tower's resemblance to smocks worn by farmers and rural workers in the fields. The cap at the top would rotate to bring the vanes into the wind. This mill powered the Thomas Street Distillery and was built in 1757 and rebuilt in 1815. Looking pretty darn good 207 years since it was rebuilt. We learn something everyday. In the afternoon we whistled up a big taxi and took everything else across to the new housesit for two hilariously adorable little boy cats in the very ritzy suburb of Dublin 4 (7 nights in total, 4 of them together and with the upshot that we 'only' had to cough up for 1 nights hotel stay in Dublin - thankfully a Sunday so 'only' €165 instead of the usual week night rate of €240 odd (or A$360 in Pacific Peso format).
It was a strange experience multi-sitting but needs must - we wouldn't do it for fun, that's for sure as it was tiring for James to do his jobs in the morning and get over to me by 9 am ish for breakfast (with me looking after the two boys for food and litter and general tidying up after the two rambunctious little lovelies had deconstructed the apartment over night). But we still had fun. (Doing a bad Sargent Schultz… 'vee vill alvays be 'aving zee fun!').
We visited Dublin's Archeological Museum from our new base and enjoyed a lovely walk to and from the city via Ballsbridge high street. We proceeded to visit our haunts and one of the staff at a favourite thrift shop is now saving bits for me to look at. I picked up a lovely silver Ankh pendant from him which was something I hankered after in Egypt 10 years ago - but never got around to buying. My Ankh has finally caught up with me. The two new kitties, Charlie and Jack, are hilarious - I call Charlie 'Mr Muscle' as he is such an amazing surface cleaner… one swipe of a paw or tail and surfaces are clear of everything.
We are walking loads and enjoying the cooler weather. Day 2 in our new spot saw us visit the Natural History Museum - the only one of the free museums you actually have to book online as it turned out (we didn't realise). It was booked out for the day but, we look harmless, so got to go in for 20 minutes or so. Every screaming school kid in Dublin was already there (finally - the last day of the world's longest school holidays) and the stunning upper level was shut for renovations, but still, the Giant Irish Deer were amazing to see. We had intended to visit the Chester Beatty at Dublin Castle - but passed a sign at the castle entrance saying the Garda Museum was open so followed our noses there instead (never even knew it was there). It was all a bit cloak and dagger (like Dublin in the olden days) and we had to press a bell for entrance - fortunately we looked safe enough to merit entry. It was a very interesting self guided tour of the journey from 1722 odd to the present day. This visit kept us off the streets for a while and then we headed home, postponing the Chester Beatty visit for another day or another visit to Ireland (which could be a long while away).
On the stroll home, we visted the green lungs of Dublin's CBD in the form of beautiful St Stephen's Green. Truly a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day here in Dublin but the air is getting much cooler. It will warm up again when we get to France on 6 September which will be a shame as we're enjoying Autumn but it should be well under way by the time we reach Paris on 28 September.
After three nights apart, I went over to finalise the last day of the housesit with Madam and quite enjoyed the early morning bus ride around Dublin city. It didn't hurt that I snaffled a front row seat on the upper deck - a bird's eye view of everything. We did the final housework, loaded the final bits and pieces and said our sad farewells to Madam around midday. Her owners were due at 10.30 pm (as it turns out they didn't get home until 1 am… she was ecstatic to see some humans apparently). Finally together again for 4 nights. So happy.
We both loved Ballsbridge. It was a world away from Dublin 8. Dublin 4 - half the postcode, triple the price and at least 10 times as nice. Genteel, Georgian and generally posh. There are a great many embassies including the UAE, the USA, Chile and Jordan. There are probably more, they're just the ones we passed in our travels.
We had plans to visit a couple of places but canned the plans on our second to last day as it was absolutely pouring rain. All day. Reminiscent of South East Asia in the monsoon season, torrential. All day. So hung around, Netflixed, played with our final packing and ate our final dinner. We took our final bath and had our final sleep (here). An air of finality hung over us. Sunday dawned fine (miraculously as it was still chucking it down in the early hours). Our fabulous owner was delayed at Dublin airport - held on the plane (no staff to let them off), waited for ever for only 50% of her luggage to arrive, waited even longer to file a property irregularity report. And longer again for a taxi to get home. Dublin airport's code is DUB. Basically 'Doing Utterly b******s' to further the cause of international travel. We're not stepping on a plane again until the end of January 2023 and even then it'll be too soon.
We eventually tootled off to the city for our final night in Ireland. We picked up a Thai takeaway from a cheap and cheerful hole-in-the-wall we like to visit, couple of bottles of vino from Tesco, had dinner in our room and then went to the lobby bar for drinks on the house (via assorted methods we're elites with IHG and welcome drinks are just some of the perks - James had a Guinness and I partook of a Hennessy.) We were definitely starting to relax - all ready to get off to the port on Monday and on to the big white Irish Ferries ship to Cherbourg, France. Woo hoo! Bring on the freshly baked baguettes.