Friday, June 13, 2008

Off we (don't) go

One of the things that is highly frustrating about travel is delays. These days, you can practically count on them, and you consider yourself extremely lucky if you make it through a trip without them. But they become even more frustrating when they cause you to lose entire chunks of your trip.

Take this trip, for instance. We were scheduled to leave at 9:45 from JFK (which, in JFK time is really 10:45, because taxiing at JFK requires at least an hour: ("okay, ladies and gentlemen, we're number 402 in line for takeoff, so just relax and hold your bladders for the next two hours while we wait for our opportunity to take off.") However, when we got to the airport (at about 8:00), we were told that our flight had never left Dublin and, as a result, Aer Lingus had leased a plane from Omni Air International (never heard of them - oh, greeaaaaaaat) that would be taking off at a revised time of 1:15 a.m. 1:15 a.m.! So that would ruin our first day, because instead of arriving around 9:30 a.m., we would arrive at 1:00 p.m., which, after picking up luggage and the rental car, would cause us to miss the rugby matches our team was supposed to play that day. One day of the eight-day trip, totally blown to hell all because the airline didn't have its shit together. That pisses me off. What makes it even more inexcusable is that we made the reservations through a travel agent...American Express Travel...and they should have called us to let us know the flight was delayed and didn't. Had they done their job, because that's part of why you pay the travel agent, to tell you of things like this, we could have driven to Newark and caught a 9:30 flight that would have gotten us in on time. Boy, are Aer Lingus and AmEx ever going to get scathing letters from me.

We arrived, tired and wrung out from the 6-hour flight. We left the plane, collected our luggage without incident, and went to rent the car. When traveling abroad, consumer groups often don't recommend that you waive the auto damage insurance for the rental car and use your credit card's policy because there are often big problems associated with making a claim if it happens that you have damage or an accident. And you have to stick around until those matters are settled. So, you opt for the car co's insurance, which is ridiculously priced. In our case, it was an additional €400 for the week, about $600US. We were raped and robbed of a day's worth of vacation funds before we even left the airport.

Leaving the airport, we tried to find the rugby pitch. We got close, apparently, but the signage was so terrible that you couldn't find the location and we were tired and frustrated. We left, dejected, frustrated, and insulted. This wasn't a good start. At one point, we were so angered by it all that we considered going back to the airport, turning in the car and getting on the next plane back to New York. Oh, and by the way, we got NeverLost (or as we call it, EverLost) with the car and it's a damn good thing, or we certainly would have turned around and gone home. Most of the streets in Dublin aren't marked at intersections, making it practically impossible for visitors to navigate...maybe they like it that way.)

We left the college campus where the rubgy matches were being played and found a McDonald' had been many hours since we had eaten and we were almost hysterical over the fact that we couldn't find the rugby pitch. We ate, which helped a bit, but were surprised that the prices at the McDonald's were not comparable to New York prices...they were about a third higher! Ridiculous! And on top of that, you're paying with euros, so there's another 50% fee for US to euro conversion. So our little McDonald's lunch for two wound up costing €13,40...a little more than $20US. To eat at McDonald's!! That's rape.

Hunger abated, we set off to find the hotel. Entering the address into NeverLost was of no good; NeverLost didn't have the street as it was supplied by the hotel (it was supposed to be Church Road, not Church Street - idiots). So we thought we would try to call the hotel to get the street information. The international phone we rented kept giving us an out-of-service tone when we tried dialing. Pressure was building, and our patience was fast retreating. After several tries, we called Vodafone (the rental phone co) to see what was up. They called the number and said it was out of service. The young man I spoke with, hearing my desperation and frustration, was kind enough to do an internet search for the hotel and found that it had a different number than the one we had been given. We called and explained that we couldn't locate them because there was no Church Street in our guidance system. "Oh, that's R121, you have to look up R121." As if we would have known that?! "And what is the address on R121?" "It's just R121."

Well, after driving R121 for about twenty minutes back and forth, we stumbled onto Church Road, and in desperation we took it. Now what you have to understand is that Dublin is 1) driving on the wrong side of the road and (2) a city composed of one traffic circle "roundabout" after another. These add up to some very scary and frustrating driving. We finally saw the hotel ahead, but because there was no road signage telling us how to get there, we didn't see that we had to use a specific exit from the roundabout to get there, and wound up off on the wrong road. I was ready to boil. Of course, we could have easily turned around at any other point in the trip, but this road we were on didn't have a roundabout for several miles. The other roads we'd been on had them almost every quarter-mile. We were seething.

We finally found a roundabout and made it back to the hotel. We checked in and went up to the room. Fortunately, this is a brand new hotel and it's in the middle of nowhere...well, it looks as though the area is preparing for a boom, but right now, it's very sparse, and everything appears to be new. So it was super-quiet and the accommodations were very nice (pictures later). We were pleasantly surprised.

Exhausted and frustrated, we napped for about an hour and then decided to hit the hotel restaurant for dinner. I was none too sure about that proposition, but we were really unwilling to go driving around looking for places, so we basically decided we had no choice. I don't like "no choice".

But for a second time, we were pleasantly surprised. The restaurant, Maya Ché, was actually phenomenal. I wish I had had the clarity of mind to bring the camera (sorry, Anita!) and photoblog the food, because it was very nice, but I was just working on too little sleep and too much anxiety. We started with a spring roll of duck and something else and vegetables. It was heaven. The spicy soy-plum dipping sauce was had a bit of heat...the roll was super-crispy and delicious. For entreés, Jess had salmon and I had a green Thai curry with chicken over mixed rice. Jess' salmon was very nice and I thought my curry was about the best I have ever had..ever. It had a coconut milk base and was ever-so-slightly sweet, with just the right amount of heat. Scallions, red onions, bok choy, and an amazing blend of spices were mixed with a small amount of chicken in a velvety-textured sauce that made me wish for a spoon...because there wasn't quite enough rice to soak up all that lovely sauce that was left. I had a brownie with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert and Jess had an exotic white chocolate and lemongrass mousse with biscotti on the side. Both desserts were beyond amazing. And for coffee, we each had a Bailley's coffee, and they knew how to make it. The coffee was strong, as was the Bailley's, and it was just delicious. It was truly an outstanding meal that I will not soon forget. I must learn how to do that curry!!!

So now, having made it through the first day, it's time for bed after this long rant of a post. It's almost midnight Ireland time, and we are wiped. Stay tuned for more.


At 11:06 AM, June 14, 2008, Blogger Matt said...

Glad you made it through the first day (even though it sucked).

Your hotel sounds great -- nice to hear you guys had a relaxing and delicious meal to top off the frustrating day you had.

Enjoy the rest of your trip!

At 4:59 PM, June 14, 2008, Blogger Greg said...

Now I'm doubly pleased you had my garden to comfort you at the end of this most hellish day...not to mention what sounds like a fantastic dinner.

Here's hoping the rest of your days there are delightful and full of discovery.

Of course, now I'm picturing clusters of Dubliners on some random unmarked intersection, pointing and laughing EACH time you pass through.


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