Europe Day 3-5

This post was written on 2015-09-12 and revised, updated, and published on 2016-08-09.

The Irish are too quiet.

2015-09-09 DUBLIN (Guinness Storehouse) (Approximately 8 km city walking)
2015-09-10 DUBLIN (Howth) (Approximately 30 km round trip by train + ~7 km hiking)
2015-09-11 0835 flight, DUBLIN -> CARDIFF for 1/2 day (Doctor Who Experience) (Approximately 295 km flight) & 1530 drive to LONDON. (Brand New concert) (Driving distance: approximately 265 km)
-> Days 3-5

We started off Wednesday morning sleeping until around 1400. Somehow. I guess that’s how jetlag might work. Since that didn’t leave a lot of time in the day, we decided to find the Guinness Storehouse and take the legendary tour. I’m really glad that we did. They have an impressive museum-type exhibit dedicated to showcasing their company’s history and advertising, as well as showing in layman’s terms how beer, specifically stout, is brewed. They also had crazy Willy Wonka style aromatic mist cloud machines at the start of the tasting experience that gave a rough idea of the aromas from the base ingredients (hops, grain, & yeast). We learned how to pour our own proper Guinness pints. The staff gave us an extra pint and then a local gave us tickets for two more free pints. It was nice. From the top of the storehouse there is a 360° view of Dublin and they have glass walls and a circular bar. It was a really good experience that was definitely worth the relatively small student ticket price.

Afterwards we wandered around exploring for a bit and then started to head towards the Temple Bar tourist area downtown to find some dinner at a pub. Porterhouse makes some of their own beers, so we went there. Erin had a black pudding boxty and I had some delicious tomato and pesto fusilli pasta. I also tried their “An Brainblásta” strong ale. Strong ale is a weird style because it is relatively broad and you never know exactly what to expect. I figured this one would be more of malt forward and have a caramel/nutty aroma and a drier finish like a typical British strong ale. It was relatively mild though and not too exciting. From the few beers that I tasted in Dublin, fresh Irish beer is different than I expected. It was all relatively traditional and boring. After dinner, a band started playing cover versions of American songs, played on American guitars, through American made guitar pedals, and with American made amps. It was interesting but not what we were there for. We left and went to Temple Bar to hear some actual Irish music played by a wonderful little band. Lots of banjo and bodhrán and some penny whistle. Drank another pint there then headed back to our Airbnb.

Thursday we decided take the light rail (the Luas) out to a Dublin suburb fishing village called Howth. It was eerily quiet on the tram. The ride was cheap and scenic. We arrived in Howth, got our bearings, checked when the last return train was, and set out on an easy hike along the coast. It was beautiful. We walked the longer trail around the point of the peninsula and took our time to look at all the cliffs and homes and fields and views. We got to the highest point (“Binn Éadair”) and then came back into the town. We decided to have dinner at a local pub and discovered that they can’t legally serve a medium or rare burger in Ireland. My well cooked burger was tasty though. After dinner we took the train back to Dublin and called it a night.

Later I read about a legend that the burial cairn at the highest point of the path (171m), “the Ben of Howth,” is said to be the final resting place of the last of the Irish giants (I don’t really know what an Irish giant is though). There is also an extremely old Howth Castle there that we did not see. I also wanted to know what the bird was that was flying around and following us for part of the walk. I’m pretty sure it was a common magpie (P. Pica, which is a funny name).

On Friday morning, we got up early and missed a bus to the airport (we were inside asking the bus station attendant why the bus was late and then it drove by without stopping). There was a taxi driving by that probably recognized that we were waiting for a bus that had just left, so he stopped and let us split the fair to the airport with a man who was already in the passenger seat. We got to the airport in time and everything worked out. We then flew to Cardiff and rented a car. I asked if they had any maps for sale and the woman happened to have a really nice UK road atlas that someone else had left in a car that she gave to us for free.

The rental car we got was a manual Ford C-Max, which is a big vehicle for tiny UK roads. The layout of the gear shifter was different than any American shifter either of us had ever used, which initially caused some trouble. Eventually we made it out of the parking lot and Erin drove on all the crazy left hand roundabouts while I navigated. We made it from the airport to Cardiff Bay.

I’ll have to write an entire separate post about the Doctor Who Experience. I am so glad that we were able to see this, even though it’s all that we did in Wales (except drive). Really cool and unique stuff.

Afterwards we grabbed some snacks and coffee and Erin started driving us to London. In Friday rush hour traffic. That was a mistake that we did not even consider. It was a relatively scenic drive though and our weirdness helped us pass the time yelling things in the car and looking at cows and making up silly songs. Eventually we got into London and using our map, I navigated to our new Airbnb home. I might have mentioned in the previous post that we did not get international cell phone coverage. In hindsight, that was probably something I would have changed, but in the moment we were always able to work around it using wifi. It was only really a problem when we weren’t in cities.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by our Airbnb host (he was an awesome violinist with a crazy & unique house – we slept in the recording studio), who had just greeted someone. We got directions and drove to a venue called Alexandra Palace (“Ally Pally” as he called it) to see one of my favorite bands, Brand New. We had seen them a few weeks earlier at Brewery Ommegang, but when she saw that they would be in Europe while we were there, Erin bought tickets. We had planned to stay one night in Wales, but the London tour date changed our schedule. I’m so glad that we were able to be flexible with all of our travel dates. It was such a unique and memorable experience to see and hear all the British fans singing along to songs I grew up with. Such an incredible show.

Side story about parking at the venue – in the US, when you pull up to a parking lot attendant, the first thing they say is “$20” or “$10,” so when we pulled up to the nice British man and he said “Bay 12” in a British accent, we thought he said “Pay £12.” It was awkward. Erin offered to give him £10 and he said he would take it, but parking was free. We kept the money, awkwardly laughed, and parked in Bay 12. Then we had to pick up the tickets at will call which was slightly complicated because even though we purchased will call tickets, they had for some reason mailed them to our US address, but after we had left the country. Also a big security guard told us to be careful of pickpockets, which we had read were a problem near that venue.

The drive home was easy enough and we fell asleep on a mattress on our host’s recording studio floor, surrounded by instruments and audio gear and with a disco ball above our heads. It was an excellent first day in London.

Want to read more? Previous Euroblog post – “Europe Day 1-2”

Europe Day 1-2

This is a series of mobile honeymoon blogs/journals posted from wherever we can find wifi access in Europe. Please excuse any misspellings or errors. The WordPress mobile app isn’t great.

“Silence felt like land in a sea of screams.”

2015-09-07 1925 redeye transatlantic flight, BWI -> REYKJAVIK -> DUBLIN
-> Day 1-2

We are really, really awful at planning things ahead of time (alternate excuse: we’re all planned out from having just planned a wedding). We have also never traveled international before. You’ve seen scenes in movies and TV where people sprint down the terminal to board a flight that is beyond final call. That was us. We hadn’t thought through the day properly and we hadn’t slept well in a few weeks, so we ended up leaving home late. It was our own fault. Erin’s mom drove as fast as she could through Baltimore Labor Day weekend traffic. We pulled in to the airport and found the ticketing gate with nobody working there, only a sign that read that they had closed 10 minutes prior. It was our worst fear. Their 800 number was a pre-recorded message. What do we do.

We asked at another airline and he said they had just left. Somehow that amazing man contacted the airline and someone came out to see us. We pleaded our hardest and pulled the “we’re on our honeymoon” card. She explained that the flight log was already closed. I begged her to call anyone that might be able to make an exception. Our fate was completely in her hands. Her name was Susan. She disappeared. What felt like ages but was probably only 1 or 2 minutes later, Jay appeared. He said that he shouldn’t be doing this but they made an exception for us because we’re on our honeymoon. I thank him and apologize and cannot express how grateful we are. He boots up the ticketing console and scans our passports. We have tickets. We thank the two of them. It was hard to read their emotions. They probably thought we were idiots. Thank you Susan and Jay. We ran.

Security scans went smoothly somehow. There were only a few people in line and we took off our traveling shoes before they had even checked our tickets. We got x-rayed. We survived. We didn’t have any bombs. I think we put on our shoes and belts and somehow grabbed our bags and tickets and passports. We sprinted.

We got to the gate. They said they were closing. They said they had called for us. We said sorry. We ducked under the queue barrier, scanned our tickets, and rolled down the ramp. BWI staff was amazing. They said there were still a few people waiting in line to get on the plane. I held my breath as we ran to the bottom of the boarding ramp. We boarded. We did it. How.

We squeezed each of our carry-on bags into the overhead compartments. We could finally relax for a nice quick flight through Iceland to Dublin. We took off on time. The sunset was incredible. It is completely new from that altitude. You can see the curve of the earth and the colors spread out beyond imagination.

One hour in. Erin was the row behind me. I was next to a baby and her mother. Things were okay. I was re-reading the start of the first GOT book for the third or fourth time. I’ve never finished it. I wasn’t hungry or thirsty or sick. I had only eaten breakfast up to this point. I wasn’t sure why. We should have planned better. At this point I’d rather wait for an authentic Irish breakfast than pay for microwaved airline food.

Two hours in. I started feeling tired. It was dark out and I kept looking at the stars and watching tiny ant sized boats float by. I think there was either an aircraft carrier envoy or some sort of island below us. Airplanes are cool. Most people were settling in to sleep. I tried to shut my eyes. The screaming began.

Prior to this, I could not have imagined that a baby could scream continually for hours. Now I know that this is a thing. Other passengers stared at our row. The flight attendants kept stopping by to check in and offer crayons or toys. Nothing worked. I was okay. You can’t blame a mother traveling alone or a tiny baby for crying. It was tough. Everyone was trying to sleep. There were blood curdling screams in my ears. There would be a few momentary pauses, but then she started right up again. At this point I wasn’t planning to get any more sleep. When I first tried to sleep, I think I had passed out for 20 or 30 minutes,  because I woke up and my contacts burned and my overhead light was off. It was 2250 in my home time. I’ve never experienced jet lag, but I’m starting to imagine how miserable I’ll be on Tuesday morning when we land at 05something local time and we have to stay up until the evening. Time travel is hard.

Throughout this entire ordeal I tried not to move or interfere. I didn’t want to make it worse. I really wanted the flight attendants to read my mind and bring me a complimentary scotch, neat. The screams hurt. I could ignore most of them, but then something would change in the baby brain and the screams would worsen.

2320. Quiet. The baby is staring at me. What do I do. Erin poked me. She said the flight is miserable. She pokes me again. Aurora boureilis is our the window. That is the first incredible experience we’ve had and we aren’t even in Europe yet. I’ve never been far north enough to see our sun’s radiation bounce off the upper atmosphere. Wow. The baby is still staring at me. I try to take some pictures of the sky. It’s unbelievable. Is the baby staring at me or out the window? The Northern Lights are now spread across the entire northern horizon. The baby is definitely staring at me sleepily. It’s quiet. I can see so many stars.

The colors in the sky fade. It’s 2340. The baby is finally asleep. It was an experience that makes me never want to bring our future children on an airplane. How can one little baby make so many people so miserable. I don’t want to move or think about how badly I have to pee. I will not disturb the baby. It’s for the common good.

0030. I can see the palest grey of a sunrise on the horizon. I’m trying to sleep and all I can think about are scenes from Donnie Darko, which I haven’t seen in years. Also considering writing a song about Oxford commas. Also missing my band and thinking about what our best show was. It might have been our first show in fall 2010 when we opened for Jenny and Tyler.

We start our descent. Wow Air got us to Keflavik. We wait for our connection to Dublin. It has been a day.

Thanks Debbie for driving us to the airport at questionable speeds and for putting up with us. You’re awesome.

Let’s talk about packing. We each brought a single carry-on for our 17 day trip. Hopefully that works out. The single most important item that I wanted to bring was missing – my usb charger battery. Help. It was supposed to be my backup plan/insurance that we could always somehow get Internet access and not worry about finding outlets to charge with. I grabbed an older and smaller one before we left, but I still haven’t seen my big one since before the wedding.

We measured our suitcases the night before the trip and realized that they were just over the limits for most of our European flights. Oops. We got decent one from TJ Maxx for $40 each. They were small clam shell style bags that would force us to take only what we needed. We had a luggage scale and kept weighing the bags. When we ran through check in, I assume the staff saw that we just had tiny carry ons, because they did not end up weighing them. Meh.

I have a DSLR but didn’t want to travel with something that bulky in Europe, so I added a fancy Canon point & shoot to our wedding registration. Luckily someone got it for us (thanks!) and we were able to bring that along, so hopefully we’ll get some decent photos.

The only other important thing I packed was our itinerary/flight confirmations and our power adapter. I have like five days worth of clothes and some single load tide laundry detergent packs. I have a lightweight, unfashionable, waterproof spring jacket. Erin bought a fashionable travel jacket that doesn’t look as waterproof. I’d rather be dry than look good. I wore the jacket, jeans, a t-shirt, and lightweight leather boots. I packed some sneakers and shorts and shirts, along with clean socks and underwear. We’ll see how this all works out.

That was all written on the flight. We landed in Dublin and got on a bus to where our Air BnB host was meeting us. I didn’t know until then that we didn’t have an address to go to, just an intersection. We waited and eventually Gill found us. She showed us the apartment and then Erin and I went out to grab some breakfast. It was delicious Irish food, exactly what I had been waiting for. We took a quick nap, looked around the city some, then settled down at a pub for some dinner (Irish stew + stout) and to watch the England v Switzerland football match. It was one of the longest days of my life. We found our way home and fell asleep immediately.