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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Bacon, Guinness, Coaches and a return to work..

It doesn't seem to be that long since my last blog entry, but almost a week's gone by! We had a lovely trip to Sussex on Saturday, popping by Vanburger's Bacon Crematorium (best bacon sarnies in the world!) on the way, meeting up with Jon and Lisa to make it an extra-entertaining gathering, before driving to my Mother's to exchange present (just in time before Epiphany and the last day of Christmas!) Unfortunately, with the gusty wind and intermittent rain, a trip to the seafront wasn't really in order.

Beth was kind enough to buy a pair of return tickets to Dublin for me for Christmas - a bargain from Ryanair for �2 each return! Unfortunately, since she's in the late stages of pregnancy, she wasn't able to fly; since my Dad had expressed a wish to come with me on one of my occasional travelling jaunts, he was an ideal choice for a companion. I'd never been to the Republic of Ireland before, and was intrigued to find out what it was like - Dad had been to visit his wife's relatives in Carlow, south-west of the capital, but hadn't been anywhere else.

We weren't in any rush as we walked to the airport - the free shuttle-bus saved a good fifteen minutes of rather dull trudging - which was to our benefit, since the plane was half-an-hour late (according to Dad, a tradition with Ryanair). The flight went well, though - it was interesting to watch the flight path, which took us over Northampton, Leicester, Derby and Liverpool before heading over the Irish Sea just beyond the tip of North Wales. I'd not realised that Dublin wasn't far from the coast, and it was only 12 euros return for a 30 minute drive into the city centre.

Here's a rather interesting map of the path we took - unfortunately our trip back wasn't recorded because the battery on my ipaq ran out... (once again, courtesy of gpsvisualizer.com):

Impressive Church (of Ireland)Anyway, after taking a bit of a wander around the Trinity College / Temple Bar area (some striking churches) we took to tourism; it was 4pm by that time, and we were concerned that the city tour buses wouldn't be running (or we couldn't find them) so I asked my satnav where the Guinness Visitor Centre was. It was a mile and a half north, perpendicular to the river - I'm quite glad we walked, since it gave us a chance to see the inner reaches of the city by all accounts. It reminded me a little of Glasgow, although last time I was there it wasn't really finished. The people were nicer, though, and there seemed to be a Spar or Londis shop on every street (so plenty of oppportunity to buy Kimberley biscuits - not so oft seen on the mainland - as gifts for the children!)

Waterfall in the Guinness Store Visitor CentreThe Guinness factory was excellent - since it was twenty-to-five when we arrived, many of the visitors had already left, and we had a great opportunity to look around. The exhibition was very well laid-out, with clever projections to illustrate the preparation and brewing process, and videos of the master brewer explaining everything clearly. My favourite bit (apart from the tasting area, obviously!) was the waterfall in the first exhibition area - it was spectacularly noisy, textured and colourful.

Once we'd completed the tour, and watched a remarkable video about the skill of the cooper, we trooped to the top floor, which was high above the plant, and gave a 360 degree view over the now-dark town. A free pint of Guinness awaited us, which was sweeter and smoother than I've had before. In summary, it's an essential part of a first visit to Dublin!

A pint of the good stuffAfter a brief taxi ride back to the Temple Bar, we looked for somewhere to eat, then - on the recommendation of the driver - settled in the Palace Bar for a traditional pint in a Proper Irish Pub. It was quiet and covered in wood inside, with countless miscellaneous items, including rather unflattering sketches of folk, antique 'notices' and a hurl, hanging from the walls and ceiling. This gave us just enough time to return to the bus stop (I can't extol enough the benefits of satnav, even by foot!) and take the coach to the airport.

A brief aside - if I may - on the coaches. I regularly commute between Luton and London on the Arriva-run Greenline 757. I've also taken the coaches into and out of Stockholm and Dublin, and they have both been cleaner, more spacious, more comfortable and the air conditioning actually worked. On our last trip to the airport it was rather enjoyable to be serenaded by Country Mix playing through the radio, and on every occcasion the drivers have been patient, polite and wiling to take the time to explain (in English). Compare that with some (a blessed few) of the frankly odious drivers I - and other travellers - have to contend with, and it's almost embarrassing to think about the experiences of visitors to the UK.

Speaking of Arriva, their Christmas present was to raise prices again, and to stop selling the 'ten tripper'. Why? I have no idea, but it has entirely removed any flexibilty from my commute, since I don't work enough days to justify an annual season ticket (since I work four days a week), and a day return would increase my journey costs by �2 a day, and causing me to have to walk home from town. So now I book my tickets in advance using EasyBus - I am happy to spend £2 a trip for this barely adequate service, since they have done me no favours over the past six years of travelling with them.

So.. we were back at Dublin Airport, and it was only while we were waiting for the flight (late again! I guess the half-hour delay had percolated through the rest of the day's trips, although we were on a different aeroplane on the return journey) that I realised how massive the airport was.. but how deserted! I'm guessing during the peak holiday season it can get far busier, not least because there were large display boards advertising Terminal 2 being built, and ready in 2009. Luton Airport (the map link is to the same scale as that of Dublin!) has grown beyond all recognition in the time I've been in Luton, taking upwards of fifteen minutes to walk - at a reasonable pace - from the check-in area to the departure gate, but Dublin's taxi-way, apron and runways just seemed so much more expansive. I suppose, being Ireland's primary airport, it's not much of a surprise, really.

By midnight I was home - sorting out shower coming out of the overflow above the terrace; this was caused where the Christmas Tree box was hanging over the cold water tank in the loft, stopping the ball-cock reaching its zenith... oops! - and preparing for my return to work today. I'm working from home tomorrow, since Beth has a scan - but Thursday and Friday will be business as usual. Yup.. 2008 has certainly started in style!

(You'd not think so considering the traffic on the way to work this morning.. the motorway was so jammed up, I ended up nearly an hour late into the office!)

Posted by james at January 8, 2008 9:42 PM

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