Making New Friends in Ireland

We were fortunate to have friendly drivers for all our HailO/Uber rides in Ireland and NYC.  From all walks of life and ethnicities, it’s always eye-opening and interesting to meet new people in our travels.  On the taxi ride home (using HailO as our Irish go-to app for taxi service) we were greeted with a hearty smile and lots of good conversation with Mark Rooney, our driver.


Asking Mark what rush hour looked like in Dublin, as we were leaving around 8 a.m. when the roads would be choked with traffic in Seattle or NYC, he said that he has seen the rush hour creeping earlier and earlier there but certainly not this early.  When we were in Amsterdam last year, we were surprised that the streets were deserted until around 10 a.m.  The work day starts later in Europe as it did in China when we lived there.  I remember going into the office at 9 a.m. and being the only one there.

As we cruised along with far less bus (double-decker of course) traffic than I had seen mid-day, we started discussing the Irish economy as compared to the US and then we finished the trip discussing Trump and politics.  Of course.  The Irish are having a good laugh at our messy election process.  Their election cycle is 6 weeks from start to finish.  None of this year-long reality show that we have gotten ourselves into, especially with the latest drama.

Mark was saddened by the state of the Irish economy.  He told us that his teen-age sons had asked him how much a house would cost to buy in Dublin.  In an average neighborhood, it would be $300,000-$400,000.  Not cheap.  Home buyers can get mortgages (30-year) and have to put at least 20% down but, as Mark bemoaned, how can most people save money to the tune of $60,000 or more on average wages.  He felt that the government should require companies to take their profits and pay their employees more money.  Though colleges cost far less in Ireland with government assistance, there is still student debt looming over the youth as they start careers, adding to the concern that buying a house will be out of the question for his sons even if they go to college and graduate.

Complaining about the “rich” corporations again, Mark had asked Google to sponsor his son’s sports team and never got very far.  He wrote them a letter, trying the old-fashioned approach to communications.  He wondered why tech companies don’t give more back to the communities.  I told him all about my company and how much they donate through free software, matching funds for employee donations, etc.  He was surprised and said that the company should make people aware of these efforts.  He had no idea.  I related that the company is proud of its giving back but doesn’t want to capitalize on it through advertisements.  They are very humble in this regard.  I am proud of them.

The conversation inevitably turned to “WTF-how can the US have Trump as a candidate for President?”  Well, how do you answer that?  I am ashamed that he is one of the two possible leaders.  He is neither qualified nor quite frankly sane.  He does understand how to tap into the uninformed voter, the frustrated out-of-work voter looking for any type of assistance including the empty promises that Trump is making and the racist who wants to build walls and close borders.  Mark assured me that the people of the US would not let this world catastrophe happen and that Hillary would win.  I hope to God he is right.    If not, we may be using Thom’s Irish citizenship to immigrate to Ireland to escape the madness.  Feck it!  Cheers to HRC for taking on the bully and dedicating her life to public service.  Well done.

Adventures on our last day in Dublin

Hallelujah and hot damn-we made it alive with the car in one piece back to Dublin after our road trip across Ireland.  Not that Thom isn’t a great driver but all roads except the motorway are teeny tiny lanes and frightening not to mention the whole driving on the wrong side of the road.  Left, left, left.  Yesterday, we reached an impasse, going head-to-head with a taxi driver on such a road and he won with Thom having to back up along with the car behind us until we could find a place on the side of the road to pull over so he could pass.  Fecking mental I tell you!  Yes, that’s my favorite Irish phrase now. I heard a youth on the street say it and it reminded me of Ron Weasley in an Irish way.

Now back in Dublin after chasing the rain storms all the way from Galway, we immediately checked back into the Westin Dublin and off we went.  One minute it was sunny and the next raining, very much reminiscent of Seattle weather.  After an Irish coffee and the ploughman’s sandwich for me and the bangers and mash for Thom, we were suitably energized to walk to Merrien Park again so that Thom could take more photos of the beautiful Irish doors on the townhouses across from the park .  We wandered the neighborhoods where the fancy townhouses are home to the France Embassy, a Montessori School and private residences.

In one section of the park, there were tributes to author Oscar Wilde who lived around the corner while in Dublin.  Sent to jail in the UK for being gay, he never returned to Ireland after serving two years in jail and died in France at age 46.  His most notable works were The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray.  The Irish are very proud of their literary history.  Our cab driver told us his family story of 5 children and 9 grandkids.  Proud of them all, he bemoaned that fact that none of the children every married and one of his daughter’s significant other was in prison for a “very bad” crime.  Quoting Yates, “Youth is wasted on the young”, he discussed being a parent and loving your children no matter what life brings, hoping only for the best for them all.  Amen.

Of course, there were many fine buskers performing in the streets and we stopped along with crowds of others on Grafton Street to listen and appreciate their talents.  We finished up some last minute shopping, going back to the vintage shop we had found earlier and visiting the classic whiskey store for some liquid souvenirs.  I’m always impressed by the art pieces in front of the Irish stores, making them very special and unique.  Now, it’s time for a rest before the long journey home.  It was a brilliant trip that we will never forget!


Great talent busking on the streets of Dublin


Random Irish Observations

On our vacation from Dublin to Galway, there were daily observations made by Thom and I on the uniqueness of Irish culture that I thought I would share:


Barak Obama car plaza near Tipperary, between Dublin and Limerick on motorway.  I guess he has relatives here and has been honored with a gas station named after him.  I am sure he is thrilled to celebrate his Irish heritage with this useful store vs. a museum or other nonsense.

Seen as we entered the motorway on big reader board:  “Project Edward Day” sign, which is acronym that means European Day Without A Road Death, with current tally at “0”, which will hopefully stay that way with us driving on the wrong side of the road, I mean:  Left, left, left.


No fancy cars, no trucks, no SUV’s or mini vans.  Just standard manual transportation to get you where you need to be.  Lots of dents and scrapes on cars and no wonder because everywhere but the motorway, the roads are just too damn narrow.

SOS boxes on the side of the road.  What?  Not everybody has global cell coverage??


Shoe repair/locksmiths everywhere as well as tailors, signaling a culture that repairs vs. disposes of their wardrobe.

Bookstores-small independents-also on every street but not big chains and mostly featuring Irish authors vs. worldwide

Newspapers, they are still relevant here with multiple different papers offered in all the grocery and book stores for your reading enjoyment.  Love it as we still enjoy a daily newspaper delivered to our door in the States but we are the only ones in our building to do so probably because we are also the oldest residents as well.  Blah.


Resale/consignment/vintage stores are plentiful.  Thrifty and trendy at the same time.  We stopped by the Salvation Army one and browsed the wide selection of clothes, housewares and some vinyl.  One small gallery of shops had not only a great vinyl shop but a vintage clothing store and a variety of stalls selling everything from nuts to posters.  Love places like this!

Gyms are few and far between with the main sport being lifting a pint.  Irish excel at that sport.  True-I’ve been to many a pub on this trip and witnessed this sport first hand.

Knobs and Knockers was one of the best titled stores, selling, you guessed it, just door knockers and door knobs.  The doors of Ireland are beautiful and a subject of many photographs.  Thom told me a red door means the house is paid off.  Now when I see a red door, I’m thinking to myself, “well done” to the occupants and enjoy no more mortgage payments.

Travel agencies are still around and, based on the number of them, I would say fairly popular.  Thinking the “seasoned” generation is not tech savvy and needs assistance scoring a ticket or reservation.

Grocery shopping with the locals is always a great way to understand a culture.  At Aldi’s, there were literally bulk stacks of meringue circles.  In the bread aisle, always a huge focus here where carbs rule, there were packages of pancakes and waffles in with all the other items we would normally see.  The cakes/buns/jelly roll selection was wide and varied.  Tea time!  Beside a stack of goose fat jars, you could also find baked beans in ready-to-go single service packs.  Yum.  Irish yogurt is tasty and comes in tiny glass jars.  Cute.

In many groceries, there are loaves of bread, scones, etc. heaped in open air baskets.  Kind of yucky to us uptight Americans who are used to everything being covered up or behind the counter vs. everyone can touch and feel and explore the pastries with their grubby, germ-infested hands.  No thank you.


Smoking restrictions inside pubs are more of a “guideline” with many drinkers huddled outside around barrels and on adjacent outdoor patios enjoying a pint and a puff.  No restrictions here about staying 25 feet away from the building to inhale carcinogens.  That would be very inconvenient for the pub staff to service the refills.

300,000 people attending the Ploughman Competition outside Dublin where they do farm games.  Headlines daily in the newspapers-big deal here.

Sheep are sometimes spray painted blue or green or yellow.  What.  The.  Hell.

Hen Parties for bridal parties and Stag Parties for the guys are HUGE in Galway.


There is a two day bus/rail strike planned for Thursday/Friday.  Thank goodness we have a car and aren’t reliant on public transportation as we usually are when we travel.  Then on Saturday there is a huge “Repeal” protest in Dublin to protest the strict abortion laws.  Thom usually attracts protests so surprised we won’t be there for it.  In this very Catholic country, they are fighting with the church which never goes well.

Finding a Real Irish Pub in Dublin

“Where can I find a REAL Irish pub?” I asked the vinyl shopkeeper in Dublin.  “You mean one without tourists who believe in fauking leprechaun and want to see River Dancers?” he replied with disdain for tourists.  I get it and appreciated his predicament.  He probably relied on the stinking tourists to make a living but hated their ignorance of true Irish history and culture.  After some discussion with he and a customer who was trying to be helpful, we had some recommendations and were ready to experience real Irish food and music.

First, we walked to O’Donoghue’s where Glen Hansard, our Irish singer we love, frequents when in town but it was early and not too much was happening so on we walked.  As usual, we then wandered into a beautiful local park, which we wouldn’t have normally sought out.  A big event was going on with entertainment and music but unfortunately it was sold out and we couldn’t talk our way in but we still had a lovely time seeing how the locals used their parks with jugglers juggling and groups of people doing yoga together on this lovely late summer evening.  We had stumbled into Merrion Square, which had been a private park for the rich surrounded by townhomes and is now a public area to be enjoyed by all. 

Needing substance, we sought out a pub that I had researched in advance, The Old Storehouse, which did not disappoint with hearty shepherd’s pie for Thom to pack away.  After asking the waitress for an Old Fashioned, she asked how I wanted it made.  I wanted to give a smart reply like, “If I need to make it or tell you how to make it then why do you have a bartender?” but didn’t want her to spit in my drink so I just replied nicely that whatever way they normally made it would be fine by me.  Ha!  I received a shot of whiskey (and not a generous one) with orange peel.  You would have thought I might learn from that experience but, no, not really.   After Thom astounded me with his knowledge of Irish pub songs (which he learned from hanging out in NYC Irish bars since he was a wee lad), we sang along to Molly Malone and other Irish pub standards as well as American classics.

The Real Deal-The Brazen Head pub

Looking for more real Irish music since the singer at The Old Storehouse ended his set with John Denver, we decided to go with Thom’s brother Pat’s suggestion of the self-proclaimed oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, estd. 1198.  Now, it is WAY off the beaten path and quite the walk from Temple Bar area but off we continued until finally finding it.  Sharing tables with two gals from Germany, the place was packed and authentic.  I felt sorry for the Asian tourists in the corner who were huddled up with strangers and looking very uncomfortable sharing space.  I gave up my seat so an elder couple could sit together and I stood at the bar.  Got to give it to the seventy-something with a cane venturing out to the pub still to enjoy the music.  He deserved a stool.

I sidled up to the busy bar to order a coke for Thom and an Old Fashioned for me to compare with the previous one.  “We don’t do cocktails.” The bartender sneered at me and then ignored me.  Okay.  Should have known better.  My bad.  “Shot of whiskey and side of water” was better and I was rewarded with a tiny amount of whiskey and a water I would share with Thom.  We were there for the Irish music not the spirits, so all good.

Smoking outside the bars and in outside patio areas is common.  One guy lit up a cigar and you could smell it all the way inside.  I sneered at him on the way out.  Didn’t faze him at all and he puffed away, sharing his stench with everyone in and around the pub.  Classy.  Cheers.

Hidden Gem-Chester Beatty Library in Dublin

Having decided to skip the long line to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College, instead we opted to enjoy a much less known gem in Dublin, the Chester Beatty library.  Next to Dublin Castle, this library/museum houses an extraordinary, vast collection of ancient manuscripts and texts.  Taking advantage of a video loop showing the history of Chester Beatty, we learned that the wealthy American mining magnate, who bequeathed his collection to Ireland when he died in 1968, left them treasures that you can see for free with no waiting in line. 

We wandered and gawked at all types of artifacts that date back to 2700 BC to present day from various religions:  Judaism, Christianity, Islam Buddhism and Hinduism.  There are beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, European medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and more.  The Christianity room featured third century Greek letters.  Really rare stuff on display to enjoy.  There is also a gallery devoted to the Art of the Book with books from all over the ancient world showing fancy leather bound engraved editions to simple volumes.  I have many fond memories as a child visiting the Noblesville Public Library in the old downtown brick building every Saturday to load up on books I could devour.  Now, I am blessed to experience this magnificent collection after also going to the NYC Library and the Morgan Library and viewing their Guttenberg bibles.  This all in one week of vacation.  This has been a dream come true for me. 


Knighted for his contribution of strategic raw materials to the Allies during World War II, Sir Chester Beatty was a traveler and experienced adventurer, travelling the world to collect rare items.  So glad he decided to donate them so we can enjoy them today.  There is even a roof top serenity garden where you can enjoy the view of nearby Dublin castle or just sit on a bench and reflect on all the ancient texts you have just viewed.  Truly one of the best museum experiences I have had around the world.

Wandering St. Pat’s Cathedral in Dublin

We walked by a Catholic Church almost immediately as we turned down a lane off Grafton Street exploring Dublin on our first day.  We have since visited so many churches across Ireland that I can’t keep them straight but they are all historic and beautiful.  With the history of Ireland so closely tied to the Catholic and Protestant churches, it is no wonder they dominate the landscape.  Well, not as much as the pubs dominate but still, there are a LOT of churches here. 

The church we spent the most time in was St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.  It is really a museum now mostly with some services but beautifully preserved with groupings of historically significant relics to read about and enjoy.  We found a video loop playing the in back corner and sat through a nice overview of the history before we explored, giving good context to what we were going to see which dates mostly back to the 14th century but a religious building stood on this site a thousand years before that. It is the largest church in Ireland and also houses the largest ringing peal bells in Ireland as well, whatever those are.  Bet they are loud.

One story we learned from the video was that during a feud in 1492 there came a point where the warring families were deadlocked so the two leaders agreed, as a gesture of good faith, to extend their hands through a slot in a massive door to shake and call a truce.  This “Door of Reconciliation” now hangs in the church and thus the Irish expression, “to chance your arm” meaning to take the initiative.  Here’s betting that if Hillary extended her arm through a door, Trump would cut it off and call her a loser for wanting to negotiate. 

Along with the velvet covered pew benches that are preserved and roped off in the sanctuary, there are stand-alone chairs for people to sit in and worship with embroidered kneeling cushions that some little old ladies probably created for use by worshippers. Charming AND useful.

Though you do have to pay 6 euros to enjoy St. Patrick’s, it was money well spent given not only the beauty but the historical experience of it all.  Amen.


Walking the history of Dublin

Our first day in Dublin, we had decided to take a historical walking tour with a highly recommended company, www.historicaltours.ieThey do two tours daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. for 13 euros per person.  You can pay online which they prefer or just show up and pay the guide.  We also tipped her as she did such a good job.  Really a bargain given that Grace, our tour guide, has a PhD in history from Trinity College and knew her stuff. 

We had to brave the “Freshers” (incoming freshman college students) in the main square of Trinity College to meet up with our tour group.  All very Hogwarts feeling with the medieval buildings and packed with students talking to the various club members in tents attracting rowers, rugby players, magicians, political, etc.  Our tour group ranged in age but mostly couples and a nice size of 12 people so we could all huddle around Grace to hear the tales of the religious wars and many invasions that Ireland has experiences throughout the ages.  Damn, they’ve seen a lot of turmoil on this small island.

Heads up, cobblestone streets are repaired to stay with Dublin’s historical look but are hell to walk on even with sensible Uggs.  I can’t even imagine navigating in a heel.  Be warned and dress appropriately including a rain jacket. 

Group introduced, off we went throughout Trinity College, Temple Bar, and the Viking neighborhood where ruins were plowed over to make way for a new government building.  The Irish seem good about preserving many buildings but since the Vikings were marauders and invaded them, they weren’t so particular about preserving their ruins.  Shame.

Temple Bar, the lively bar area, used to be under water and it still runs under the streets.  Close to the river, it is now the hub of pubs and shopping.  Grace pointed out many historical sites here and then off we went to Christ Church and Dublin Castle.

After the two hour tour, we were famished and just happened upon a place I had read about as having the best fish and chips in Ireland, Leo Burdock’s.  The counter guy greeted us and when Thom asked how he was doing, he replied, “Living the dream.  I work here” and gestured to the humble abode where they dished out the best slab of fish and hearty chips I have ever eaten.  Funny.  Sharing the 10 euro special while sitting on a park bench at Christ Church, we chowed down, gaining our energy back before we meandered home through Temple Bar and back to the hotel.  I was beat and jet lagged!  With the awesome Westin bed to tuck into, it was an early evening and 12 hours of sleep for me after our first day in Dublin.

Dublin Westin Delights

After a very long flight, really only 6 hours from NYC but felt like more, we landed, grabbed the bags and off we went on the one of many double-decker buses to the city of Dublin.  AirCoach double-decker bus is only 6 euros one way to get to downtown and from my perch in the upper front seat, it was thrilling/frightening to see just how close the driver could get to the car/bus in front of him (I’m guessing less than an inch) and how he could maneuver the big rig through Dublin’s curvy tiny streets.  With the entire downtown all torn up and under construction for streetcars being built, it was traffic cones galore for the bus to avoid.  WTF-who tears up the Entire Fauking City??  Hint-do it block by block Dublin urban planners.  Pedestrians beware-those buses go fast and do not stop—look left for oncoming traffic and cross with the lights in a group-safety in numbers!day-1-5

After sweating and silently screaming just a little bit, we were dropped off a block from the hotel and in the midst of Freshers Week at Trinity College near our hotel, The Westin.  Freshers are the college freshman who were packing the streets to get enrolled and meet/greet with upper classmen.  We learned to avoid this block as we walked Dublin.  Red heads are everywhere.  The ginger runs strong in Ireland. 

After the long flight, we decided to check in and take a quick nap before heading out for our first adventure.  The wake-up call was quite interesting—a loud banging on our door and the guest clerk subsequently opening up the door just a little bit to ensure we were indeed awake.  This was certainly personal service.  As we were dead to the world with jet lag, we appreciated their dedication to making sure we got our asses out of bed to see the city.


Exiting the hotel after nap time, we asked the doorman to verify that where we were going was on the next block.  Instead of just pointing as most would do, he proceeded to walk us to the corner, talking and assisting the whole way.  Now, here’s a guy who has been trained in world class customer service.  Never point when you can show.  I appreciated his efforts.

BTW, we got breakfast buffet included in the Westin package and the next day after a 12 hour catch-up sleep, it was delicious.  Lots of pastries, Irish soda bread to toast, Irish cheeses and Irish yogurt.  Yes, there was fruit but it just didn’t call to me like the carb and dairy offerings. 

All in all, the Dublin Westin delighted this weary jet-lagged traveler.




Crazy American Political Race as Viewed by an Irishman

“I’ve got 300 euros bet on Hillary.  She’ll win.”  The Irish vinyl shop owner filled us with confidence after a hearty political debate.  “Hope to God you are right!” I replied.  ireland

Thus ended a very spirited conversation that began the moment we walked into Spindizzy Records in the heart of Temple Bar in Dublin.  (

I overheard a customer and the shop owner reflecting on the crazy election race we find ourselves in where a reality show guy could be President.  “Are you people out of your fauwking minds?”  Why, yes, in a world where Trump could be elected as our leader, a basket of the voting public is obviously uninformed and looking to be saved by Cheeto Jesus.  Like he cares about anyone but himself.  Not.

I weighed in and said that realistically he could win and then Mr. Vinyl made a mistake.  He said that Hillary wasn’t much better than Trump so it didn’t really matter.  Oh NO he didn’t!  Thom took up the conversation then stating Hillary’s qualifications and defending her honor.  Is she perfect?  Nope.  Neither am I but seeing that Trump is a psychotic, pathological lying racist among other things, while Hillary has the skill and the ability to be our leader, it is very much a clear choice who to vote for.  Trump can not and should not win.  Period.  Mr. Vinyl listened and agreed reluctantly and reinforced that Irish politicians are incompetent so he shouldn’t be talking about American politicians as being any better. He watches the election results like he watches our Super Bowl-both with bets placed.

With a good selection of vinyl to browse and politics to discuss, we stayed awhile and enjoyed the conversation.  He recommended a good pub and then another customer weighed in with her choice of a “real” Irish establishment we could go to for music and some spirits later.  Hopefully my jet lag will subside by then-last night I went to bed at 6 p.m., got up at 1 a.m. for an hour or two and then back to sleep until 8 a.m.  Damn.  Missed out on the Irish music last night but am determined to go out tonight after a long nap, of course.  Cheers!