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5 days in January, a Dublin area trip report

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Jan 23rd, 2009, 09:29 AM
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5 days in January, a Dublin area trip report

Each winter we like to take a short break to Europe. US Airways offered very low airfares to Dublin this year so we chose a flight from Chicago to Dublin for $362 round trip. January proved to provide a great variety of weather for the 5 days we were there, but nothing that interrupted our plans. It was -16 F when we left a very snowy Chicago. We connected in Philadelphia and when we landed we saw on the TV screens in the terminal news of another US Airlines flight which landed in the Hudson river after running into a flock of birds while in flight. We were so thankful that all survived that flight and of the expertise of US Airlines pilots.


The planes we were on weren't well maintained. Toilets that didn't work were the main problem. All drinks must be purchased on domestic flights, although on the international portion soft drinks, juice and water were free. All overhead compartments were filled to the max. As passengers bordered, almost all had their luggage with them. At the point all the overhead compartments were filled, those of us still to board, had to surrender our luggage to be checked through to our destinations. We hoped as we gave them our luggage at the gate, and flimsy tags put on, that we'd see our luggage again when we arrived in Dublin. The flight from Philadelphia to Dublin wasn't full. We had 3 seats for the 2 of us, which was great. The food was the worst we've had on any flight. Best to bring your own.

Tail winds were so strong that we arrived in 5 1/2 hours, 1 hour early. Unfortunately no gates were available, so we were held on the ground for 1 hour and 15 minutes before we could deplane. There were many, many Ryan Air planes here. Later we talked to some residents of Dublin who told us the immigration agents are on a slow down in Dublin right now. They liked to question us a bit, asking us how long our stay would be in Ireland and writing the duration in our passports. Odd.

Aircoach bus service from Dublin airport to the city center was wonderful. We had no wait. Tickets are 8 Euros one way or 14 Euros round trip. We were staying at Lesson Bridge Guest House, and the fare listed was actually 8 Euros one way, so our 14 E. round trip was a discount. This guest house is actually slightly out of the center, but just a 5 minute walk to St.Stephens Green at most. It's right by the bridge of the canal. On the Aircoach web site anything past Trinity College is 8 Euros one way now or 7 Euros closer in. We weren't able to check in yet, so we left our luggage and walked through the park, into the center.

Just a bit about the Lesson Bridge Guest House. I found it on a web site which listed many guesthouses. Checking it against Trip Advisor reviews, and the discounted winter rates they were offering, it seemed a great choice. We had a studio with full kitchen, internet access, comfortable bed, TV with BBC and free breakfast with good variety of food. We paid 375 Euros for 5 nights, with the weekend nights higher priced than the weekday prices. No extra charges, not even for the ethernet cable which they provided. The only problem was the bathroom. The shower had no raised area to contain the water. The bathroom was very small, and the shower drain is in the center of the bathroom floor, directly in front of the toilet. When you shower, the whole bathroom floor gets covered in water. It does drain quickly though. Also the toilet was difficult to flush at times. This was irritating, but the room was a decent size, and we loved the full kitchen with washer/dryer unit also in it. The local bus stops and the Aircoach stop were just out front which was so convenient. We would return here if we ever return to Dublin.

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Jan 23rd, 2009, 09:41 AM
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Hi Images2,

I always look forward to your trip reports because I gain so much information from them. I was debating whether to do Dublin after you posted those sale fares on US Airways but my son and husband couldn't commit for President's weekend. Anyway we took advantage of another fare sale to Paris in the Spring.

BTW, we just came back from Austria/Germany, spending the holiday season there....again thanks to you as it was because of your TR that made me decide to go there. And BTW2, we will again be spending some time in the Provence Verte region this summer (though going more on the northern portion).

Will be eagerly waiting for the next installment on Dublin.

JoyC
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Jan 23rd, 2009, 12:31 PM
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Hi Joy, Thanks so much for the compliments. I'm happy to give back on this forum. It's so helpful isn't it. I'm trying to plan for our China trip in May and I don't know what I'd do without all the tips the great people on this board give!

I'm glad you had such a great time in Austria/Germany. Isn't it just wonderful for the holidays! It's great you found discounted tickets for Paris. I couldn't find any great fares this year for paris. We usually go there in the winter. Our daughter is having a baby in a few weeks so we were limited in when we could go. I'm actually staying in Chicago now with her full time since she's having problems with her pregnancy and needs help.

Have a super time in Verte Provence. It's so wonderful there!! I'd love to hear how you like that trip. Where North are you staying? Will you rent a gite?
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Jan 23rd, 2009, 12:34 PM
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The Heritage Island Explorer Touring Guide gives you discounted admissions and 2 for 1 admissions to several sites around Ireland. It's normally 6 Euros but I downloaded it for free here:
http://www.irelandvisitordiscounts.com/full_list.php Trinity College's Book of Kells is listed here for a 2 for 1 admission. Everywhere we presented this downloaded copy, it was accepted. Unfortunately, the Book of Kells is not actually on display right now. They are redoing the display case for the book, so a hand copied edition is now on display. The admission to enter this area and the Long Room library is priced at 4Euros now, actually half price of what it should be. With this pass we paid 1/2 of that. It's very disappointing not to see the true Book of Kells right now though. The copied edition doesn't have the depth of the original, although it is also impressive. The Long Room is amazing.

After leaving the college we stopped into some of the Woolen Mills along Nassau street. They were having a few sales, being January, but nothing to impressive. I didn't find anything I needed.

The weather was so nice and warm on this day, in the mid 50's F. After coming from very bitter Chicago weather we were thrilled that January in Dublin didn't seem to bad at all.


Daylight was from about 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. We saw few American tourists, but many French. I asked one French man about all the French we saw in Dublin. He wasn't sure why the numbers were so high, except that Ryan Air had great flights between the 2 countries. He was there because he found jobs paid better in Ireland than in France. Overall we found the economy much worse in Ireland than the last time we had visited. Dell Computer is leaving Dublin, moving those 1,900 jobs to Poland where the pay is just under 3 Euros an hour. For each job lost here they believe 4 others will also be lost in the overall economy. Several large apartment complexes under construction won't be completed now. Rents are very high still, but dropping. A 2 bedroom apartment is listed at 315,000 Euros.

We felt we needed to use the bus lines a few times in the city. There are so many buses, and many bus lines although many buses will be cut back soon. The problem was that it was impossible to find a map of Dublin with the bus lines printed on it. The TI didn't have one, the bus station didn't have one. They may be available at the bus office building in a different location. Most routes in the center cost 1.15 E per trip. We asked each bus driver if he went to the location we wanted. You learn the routes eventually. The drivers are very helpful and will let you know when you arrive at the location you request. We found the buses ran north and south on some routes, others west and east. You couldn't combine these two directions. We couldn't transfer buses, but must buy a new ticket to change directions.


It's very easy to walk the sites in the city center. Dublin center is very compact. We found the Chester Beatty Library behind the Dublin Castle very interesting. It's small but has so many treasures in it, that it deserves more time than we could spend. Also having just arrived, we were pretty tired. The exhibit in the City Hall, Story of the Capital was included on the Heritage Island Explorer Guide, so we stopped into this display. It wasn't as detailed as I had hoped. We walked by Christ Church Cathedral and of course Grafton Street, where there were many people begging. Dunne's grocery store was in the area so we stopped in. It wasn't to large. We actually found that the food hall at Mark and Spencer's on Grafton Street was the best grocery store. They also have some great prepared food we could just heat up in our microwave. Time to return to our guest house and check in.

Lesson Bridge Guest House was very casual and friendly. We were quite happy with it. They helped us figure out bus routes when we needed help. My husband found out you can go to Google maps and put in a street and see what bus route went along the street.

After a rest we went to Temple Bar for an early dinner (5:30 pm.) at Gallagher's Boxty House. They have live music from 4-6p.m. but it actually was played longer. Boxty's are like crepes, but we ordered off the early bird menu which is 2 courses for 15E. I had some good tomato soup, irish stew and brown soda bread. Most Pubs don't serve food at dinner time, so I don't think this is a pub. It was pretty good for dinner though and we enjoyed the music.

The Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl www.musicalpubcrawl.com meets upstairs at Gogarty's Pub just across from Gallagher's Boxty House. We met here around 7:30 p.m. and bought tickets. Being winter there wasn't any problem getting the tickets at this time. In the summer this tour fills quicker. You can also buy your tickets at the TI earlier in the day for full price. We mentioned Rick Steves tour book for 1E discount per ticket. The TI won't honor this discount. This tour stops in at 2 other pubs. They don't play any music at the first pub. It's really quite a good Pub Crawl, as they share a lot of musical history along with their music. At the last stop they ask you to join in with any songs you know. The beer is great and I found that cider is also popular in the pubs. I prefer the cider. If you order wine you get a small screw cap bottle of not very good wine.

Tomorrow we'll go to Kilkenny!

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Jan 23rd, 2009, 02:53 PM
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Bus Eireann www.buseireann.ie runs buses all over Ireland and to Belfast. The bus station is east of O'Connell on Abbey Lower st. It's great. The buses were on time, clean and have discounted tickets if you buy them on-line. Just give your driver the confirmation that you'll receive.

We took this bus Saturday to Kilkenny for 12,30E round trip each. The day return ticket had to be used on the day you selected, but at any time you wish for outbound and return. You don't need to select which bus you want to return on. The trip took just a little over 2 hours. It was sunny as we left, but of course a storm rolled in during the day. It wasn't just a storm, but was hurricane like. The winds were 70-80 mph in a downpour. We were told this rarely occurs, so we just got lucky I guess! There was some incredible damage over Ireland and Scotland from this storm.

The bus stop in Kilkenny is near the castle. First it stops at the bus station, but stay on the bus and it continues to the city center. The castle tour is very interesting. Just the right amount of detail. It's about 1 hour. During our tour, we could hear the gale force winds start, it was eerie inside. Then the rain pounded down. We were happy to be indoors. After this tour we went across the street to the Kilkenny Design Center. Most of the shops were closed. I guess they don't bother to open in the winter. A couple were open, a jewelry shop and a larger general shop. Don't make a trip here in winter just to see these shops, you'll be disappointed. I was hoping Kilkenny would be similar to Kinsale, which we visited a few years ago. Kinsale is much nicer

We followed an excellent walking tour of Kilkenny http://www.knockahopple.com/Kilkenny.pdf which covers all the important sites and had lunch at Kytelers Pub while drying off by one of their many fireplaces. The food here was very good. There is a nice book shop in town and many friendly people.


A hail storm even poured down for 10 minutes while we were here. Thankful after this storm passed the weather improved greatly. I loved the cemetery outside of St.Canice's Cathedral. It was raining so hard and wind blowing so strongly while we were there we could barely walk. This just added to the atmosphere!

After walking around the streets near the bus station we caught the bus back to Dublin. There is no sign marking the bus/train station. It's up a hill, we asked someone walking down if this was the location.

While we were at the bus station in Dublin I picked up a notice of a tour Bus Eireann did to Powerscourt Gardens and Glendalough the next day for 25E per person leaving at 10 a.m. This is a great price so we joined it the next day.

Two web sites I looked at while planning our Ireland trip were:
http://www.irishfireside.com/past.htm and http://www.irelandexpert.com/

This evening O'Donghues Pub 15, Merrion Rd. had live music. The bar area of the pub is quite small. The music was set up right as you walk in. It was very crowded, almost impossible to enter. We slowly walked through the crowd. There is another room where people were playing cards, and an outdoor area with tables. We wanted to be by the bar so turned back indoors. Two men at the bar invited us to stop and visit with them. One was from Dublin and another from a coastal town. They were about 55-60 yrs old and quite entertaining. They were excellent at bantering. Jim was easy to understand, living in the U.S. for a number of years, but John who won't fly anywhere had a thick Irish accent. What I did understand was quite entertaining. Jim bought us a round of drinks once. We spent 2 hours with them, skipping dinner, but enjoying every minute of their stories.
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Jan 23rd, 2009, 04:19 PM
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Wonderful report, Images!!

I don't want to hijack your thread, but to answer a few of your questions:

- Yes, there was a sale from US Airways last week up until Monday,in virtually any city in the US to Paris, Amsterdam, even Rome. We got ours from the Midwest for ~$640,all in. (we got ours though from AA). Here's the thread on that sale:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=35177506

- Yes, we will be staying in a gite near the village of Bauduen, around Lac Ste. Croix and explore the area. Then, my husband and I will go to Portugal, come back in ~10 days, stay in a b&b around La Ciotat, and then I will stay in another gite in Le Thoronet, to await my son to finish his summer school (he goes to a french language school every summer for about 3-4 weeks. Then my son & I will go biking in the Netherlands (this is our quality time every year- mother & son)...dad & son usually has theirs in the spring.

-We very much enjoyed our stay in Austria/Germany. It was really a fantastic experience. We have been to Salzburg before, during the summer, so we didn't do anymore any tours except visit the Christmas market. If you get a chance to come back to Austria in the summer, fall or spring, I would highly recommend a bike ride along the Wachau Valley. It was incredible!!

Sorry for the long post. Looking forward to the rest of your post since Dublin is in our radar.

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Jan 25th, 2009, 01:44 PM
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Wow, I'd love to go to French language summer school each year! What school does he go to? What a great way for you to spend the time with him in Europe each year!

I really loved the Le Thoronet area. This isn't to far from the Correns area, maybe 15 minutes. Your trips sound just wonderful!

We'll be back in France for almost 3 weeks in September.

Thanks for your biking tips in Austria. We will be back someday. We were there once in the summer years ago, but didn't bike.

Do you book your French gites on the gites-de-france web site? I wish there was a way to find gites with internet connection on that site. We love the gites so much but it would be better to have our computer available also.
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Jan 25th, 2009, 01:47 PM
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Lesson Bridge Guest House offers one breakfast with a great selection, scones, meats, cheeses, cereal, yogurt, fresh croissants, hard boiled eggs, juices, tea etc. in the downstairs of the guesthouse, and an Irish breakfast in a different location. You can choose between them each morning. This was Sunday and the sky was bright sunshine. We took the bus to O'Connell Street, then walked to the bus station again.

The Bus Eireann tour this morning left at 10 a.m. They'll do the tour to Powerscourt gardens and Glendalough if there are 10 people going. We had 12 on the full sized bus. The driver was our guide. This tour was 25 Euros per person in the winter and included admissions. This was such a great day! The driver talked about Dublin as we left town then drove down the coast through Dun Laoghaire where we saw the harbor and he gave the history of this area and of Bray. We arrived at Powerscourt and were allowed at least 1 1/2 hrs here unguided. We were able to leisurely walk around the gardens, shop in the Avoca store, which was a good size with wonderful scarfs and blankets available. There was also a small display showing a ballroom model. You can't go inside this mansion which was damaged by fire after it was built. Powerscourt Gardens are filled with large trees, a Japanese and Italian garden and pet cemetery. Even in the winter it's quite enjoyable to visit. It reminded me of Keukenhof gardens near Amsterdam but without the tulips! There was a bit of damage in the gardens from the high winds yesterday. Thankfully it was sunny most of the time we were here, but rain arrived just before we were to meet back on the bus.

Back on the bus our driver continued his entertaining commentary of the area. We drove by Daniel Day Lewis's home. Once we arrived at the monastic settlement of Glendalough we saw the film describing the monastic life. We had a short time to see the museum room. Then an official guide took us through these ruins and cemetery, giving us the history of this area. We were told about the round tower and went inside the ruined church and the church which is still standing. Without a guide we would have not understood all that was here. We had plenty of time with our guide and once the guide was finished, we had over an hour and half on our own so we could walk to the lakes, or just see more of the area on our own.

We walked the Green road to a lake, then the rain returned so we walked back to the hotel where there is a nice warm dining room with excellent soup and brown soda bread. Shops were outdoors here, but they were closed. We felt we had enough time here since there wasn't good enough weather to take the hikes available in the area.

Next the bus drove through the Wicklow Gap area where it started to snow. There is an overlook area where a few brave souls got out of the bus in driving sleet and snow to take in the view. Our bus driver said this was the first time he'd seen snow up here and wasn't to excited about driving in it! He told us about the bog bodies which have been found in these bogs. Following a route to Hollywood and the highway back to Dublin our full day trip was very worthwhile.

The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl is a 2 hour tour lead by two actors which leaves from The Duke Pub on Duke Street around 7:30 p.m. It stops at 4 pubs and a few other locations outdoors. The Duke Pub is large and very nice, with many small areas to have a drink. We were hungry so asked about food, but of course, no meals in the evening at the pubs. Thankfully they had a few sandwiches left over for us to choose from, so we had a sandwich with our beer and cider downstairs, before the literary pub crawl began.

A large group of college students from the U.S. was joining the tour tonight. They had been in London seeing 10 theater productions before coming to Dublin. The tour started out enjoyable, but as the evening progressed, the tour was got worse and worse. It wasn't literary, it wasn't funny, it wasn't interesting. It was crude at times. I'm sorry, but we thought it so poor, we left when arriving at the 3rd pub. I don't think the college students appreciated it either. They had to stick it out, we didn't. Don't waste your time or money on this. If you decide to go anyway, you can each get a 1 Euro discount with Rick Steves book.

Monday we'll take a tour with Mary Gibbons to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara.


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Jan 29th, 2009, 07:43 AM
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Monday was bright and sunny all day. The Valley of the Boyne, including the Hill of Tara and Bru na Boinne, or Newgrange were our destination today. I e-mail Mary Gibbons http://www.newgrangetours.com/ for her availability of tours while we were in Dublin. She doesn't do this tour everyday in the winter, so if you want to go with her, find out which days she's doing tours before you arrive. The tour was 35 Euros for everyone, admissions included, and she wasn't honoring discounts. She acknowledged our request for 5 Euros off with the Rick Steves' book, but still charged us 35 Euros, the same as everyone paid. She's quite a businesswoman. Everyone is picked up at their hotel, or a pick up spot close to their hotel. We were the first pick up and then it took about an hour to complete the process. Along the way Mary tells you some Irish history and points out historical areas in Dublin, so it's not wasted time. She uses a large bus, & we had around 25 people on our tour. One woman was in a wheel chair so she wasn't able to go into the sites except the visitor's center, but still was able to see the area and hear the history.

Her tour is very, very informative. She knows her history and it's very interesting. We stopped at the Hill of Tara first. The site was very muddy from yesterday's rain, but with a bit of slipping and sliding, we made our way to the site and up the hill. With the bright sunny day the views we had went far. The site seems remote and may be hard to find on your own, not sure. We had 45 minutes or so here to walk the area. The visitor's site is closed during the winter so we missed the video and had no guided walk of the area.

When we arrived at the visitor's center, there were a few minutes available to see some of the displays. Then the film was shown. We all had stickers noting the time of the tour to the actual site of the tomb. There is a very expensive cafe in the visitor's center where you can have lunch.

Our group was divided into two and we took two buses out to the tomb. Another guide meets you at Newgrange and shares the history outside, then takes the group inside the mound. Our group was about 16. He arranged us so no one would block the light when he simulated the light of Dec. 21. You'll notice a lot of carvings in the rock inside, some from the period of construction and more graffiti from around 1900. The walk in is a bit narrow, and in one spot you do squeeze, while standing, between two stones. The lights were off for just a moment, it wasn't completely dark for long. We spent around 20 minutes inside the mound. After most everyone left, the guide allowed myself and 2 others a chance to lie down on the ground and positioned us, one at a time, so we could see the slot the sunlight enters the mound. It's at ground level when you're inside. That was a thrill! While the other half of our group went inside, we walked around the mound seeing many of the stones which have carvings on them. After returning to the visitor center there was more time available to visit the information center and the book shop.


Returning to Dublin we decided to go to the Evensong at St. Patrick's cathedral. We arrived at 5:30 p.m. and heard the choir practicing music for the 5:45 service. The music carried beautifully in this very large cathedral. It was a blessing saying a prayer here for our grandson who was almost born to early, 2 weeks ago. Thankfully our prayers are answered and he's still developing inside his Mommy, mother and child doing well.

Needing a bit of down time, we picked up dinner to go and had a relaxing evening at our hotel. Tomorrow we'll stay in Dublin and see many sites we've missed so far.


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Jan 29th, 2009, 08:21 AM
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Oops, we went to O'Brian's Pub after a bit of a rest, which was in a small corner of pubs just down from Lesson Street Bridge. It's a very local pub, with an upstairs area with bar that had several TV screens showing the Manchester United Football match. The match began at 8 p.m. and at 7:59 many Dubliners rushed in for the game, still in their suits! We spent the evening drinking several glasses of Guinness and cider, watching the teams play to a tie!
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Jan 29th, 2009, 10:04 AM
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Since we were going many different directions in Dublin today we bought a one day bus pass for 6E each. They can be purchased at some newstores. A list is on the bus web site. I think the shop we bought our pass was called the 101 newstore on the east side of St.Stephens Green. Kilmainham Gaol on the west side of Dublin can be reached on bus 68 leaving from Aston Quay. The bus site listed 3 different buses that you could ride, but 68 dropped us right at the entrance. The Gaol opened at 9:30 a.m. The tour is guided and the first one left around 10:15 a.m. The visitors center here is fantastic and there is plenty to read and see to fill the 45 minutes wait. The actual tour of the jail is very good and covers a large area. I highly recommend it. The wind started blowing very hard and temperature dropped quickly while we were outside. It was actually warmer in the jail than outdoors. Our tour was 1 hour. I'm very intrigued by the story of Grace Gifford after this tour, and hope I can find a book about her life.

Next we caught a bus to the Guinness Storehouse, but didn't go inside. Instead we walked from here to Collins Barracks which houses the National Museum of Decorative Arts and History. This is an excellent museum. There is also a new exhibit on soldiers here in a different area. The museum is worth half a day but we had only 1 1/2 hours to view it. The 4 Bog men in the National Museum of Archaeology and History were fascinating. This museum has artifacts from the Stone Age to present which are beautifully displayed. The National Gallery nearby houses a Vermeer that I wanted to see. All of these museums have free admission except for the special exhibit at the National Gallery. It was heavily raining by this time, but we walked to Merrion Square, with is actually a park, were some rhododendrons were blooming as were some pink flowered trees. I was amazed to find this in January!

Number Twenty-Nine Georgian House, a 1790 Dublin Home is located here. The Heritage Pass allows for 2 for 1 admission. We were the only people wanting a tour so after a nice visit with the man collecting the entrance fee and the film they show, we were treated to a private tour of the home! I learned a lot and very much enjoyed our time here in this beautiful home.


Dinner tonight was at The French Paradox, 53 Shelbourne Road in Ballsbridge, Tel:+353 (0)1 660 4068. This is a wine shop that also serves lunch and dinner, and wine tastings. It was excellent! The owners are French. Wonderful service, a small, but very French menu with many choices of wine by the glass or bottle. We chose to order by the glass so were could try a few. We also had a nice cheese tray after our meal. We reserved dinner on-line. The French Paradox is near the American Embassy. Highly recommended. http://www.thefrenchparadox.com/


We felt that 5 days was perfect for a short break to the Dublin area and found the weather warmer than Paris in January, but also wetter. Maybe we'll do the same flying into Shannon one year. We prefer not dealing with the crowds of summer.

Wednesday morning the Aircoach bus stop just down from our Guesthouse proved so convenient. There are so many security checks at the airport, even another in the gateway boarding our plane. US immigration is also at this airport, so you're "welcomed home" while still in Dublin. This did save time when we landed in Philly. Our plane was on the runway ready to leave, when just ahead of us a Ryan Airliner aborted it's takeoff. There was a flock of birds at the end of the runway and we needed to wait for a crew to go survey the situation. No one was taking any chances after the previous weeks accident. Our flight back to the U.S. was quite a bit longer, we flew against the tailwinds this time. The food was horrible. Thankfully we brought some prepared food from Marks and Spenser for our trip home.
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