Tuesday & Wednesday, June 14 & 15

Flew to Dublin; drove from Dublin to Drogheda; Irish cell phone; St Peter's church; dinner at Bru

Westcourt Hotel


Black VW Passat sedan


Of course the reason I needed to get home from San Jose with my luggage sometime Monday is that I was being picked up at 11:30 AM Tuesday morning for the first leg of my trip to Ireland.

I woke up about 8 AM on Tuesday and had to go by my pharmacy to pick up two last items from all my many prescriptions that should see me through until I actually return home at the end of September, including my daily shots that I'm going to need to keep at least sort of refrigerated all the time I'm traveling. Since I think ice is something that will be hard to come by, and I'll probably not have a refrigerator in my hotel rooms (I don't here in Drogheda) I'm trying a whole bunch of something called insulin cooling cases by a company called Frio. They have these crystals that are supposed to stay cold(ish) for 48 hours after being soaked in water for 15 minutes. I just checked them here in my hotel room and although they definitely don't feel what I would call refrigerated they are still well below the ambient room temperature, and that's not very warm at all.

After I got home I finished packing (almost) everything I'd set out to take with me on my long trip (it turned out I forgot a couple of things but have been able to find replacements locally already in the short time I've been here so far). By this time it was after 10:30 so I decided that as much as I disliked having to skip my daily walk for the first time in five years and four months, I didn't have time to take my walk or use the treadmill before my ride came. I knew I'd probably not feel like taking a walk after I got to my hotel in Ireland the following day, knowing from experience how badly lack of sleep can make me feel. I've managed not to miss a day's walking at home simply because I have a treadmill I can always hang on to when I need to.

The driver from the shuttle service I use (the local branch of Go Airport Shuttle) was as nice and helpful as they usually are.

The first leg of my trip was on Jet Blue, which I think I'll never use again if I can help it. When I was checking in at Ft Lauderdale, the clerk was going to charge me $100.00 for all three of my suitcases. I told her I was flying first class on Aer Lingus and that meant I could check three bags for free which is why I had so many, and when she checked I was right.

As we were waiting at the gate for our flight they announced the flight was going to be full and offered to check any of our carry on bags for free if we wanted to free up some room in the overhead bins. Since I knew I'd have almost three hours in the JFK airport while waiting for my Aer Lingus flight, and more importantly needed the available, barely adequate leg room on the Jet Blue flight and so didn't want to have to put either of my two carry on items under the seat in front of me, I had them checked at the gate.

There was no first class on the Jet Blue flight and they didn't feed us either. The flight from Ft Lauderdale to JFK was short, fortunately, so the lack of amenities and barely adequate leg room were acceptable.

First class on the Aer Lingus flight was much, much more comfortable with all the leg room I needed. I'd picked one of the seats along the sides instead of one of the two in the middle, which was also very nice. We were greeted with a glass of champagne or orange juice, or both, had a very nice dinner shortly after take off, and a small breakfast shortly before landing. There was also much more in the way of entertainment options viewable on the monitor in the back of the seat in front of us, or in the wall in front of us for those of us in a front seat.

The flight was quite smooth much of the time. I did watch a program on the viewer and read a bit on my Kindle Fire and listened to several things on my iPhone, both of which I was able to keep plugged into a charger on the entire flight. I couldn't sleep on the plane as usual and spent a lot of time just sitting there with my glasses off resting.

We got to the airport in Dublin right on time, about 8:30 AM Wednesday morning, on a very lovely, clear, sunny if chilly day. I was quite surprised and disappointed to learn that once you've left the immediate area around the terminals where you get on or off the plane, there were no public restrooms along the entire way from there past the baggage claim, through Irish immigration, and out of the airport. Thank God there was a restroom I could use near the check in desk for my Enterprise car rental in the building next door.

I don't think I'll have too much problems with driving on the other side of the car, or driving on the other side of the road, from where I'm used to. I have been watched a lot of programs set in Ireland and the UK, after all, and it's easy to remember that in Ireland and the UK drivers are on the right side of the car and drive on the left so that when you approach an oncoming vehicle your sword arm is towards them.

Round abouts are going to be a bit of a problem, though, as everyone–including people who live in Ireland and the UK and not just travelers-say. I drove around several a couple of times before I could figure out which exit I was supposed to take; I think at least once the road I was supposed to take wasn't called what the GPS said it was.

The car, although comfortable with enough room for all my bags, will itself take some time to get used to. Although it's an automatic transmission sometimes it turns all the way off if I'm stopped in one place for too long, like when I was paying a toll, and has to be started again.

I got here to my hotel in Drogheda, the Westcourt , about 11 AM. I apparently drove past it a couple of times and had to call for directions, and am very glad I did because it turns out the hotel is in the middle of the main streets right downtown and has no on street parking or even an unloading area in front of the hotel–you have to go all the way around the block, down a side street, and park in the large pay lot where the hotel comps the parking for its guests.

I'd forgotten the hotel also doesn't have any elevators, but they will have someone on staff carry your luggage up and down the stairs between the parking lot and your room.

The Westcourt is an older but still charming and comfortable hotel, and my room is very comfortable with a desk and lots of places to plug things in (I remembered to pack all my Ireland, UK & French chargers and the alarm clock I bought in London last year), with a shower that although a bit tiny has plenty of hot water with decent water pressure.

Because my flight had arrived at 8:30 it was still only around 11 AM when I got to the hotel. I was able to check in, and a room was ready for me within about half an hour even if no one would be able to bring my bags up for me until around 2 (mandatory Monday morning staff meeting followed by lunch). I asked the nice younger woman at the desk where I could buy an Irish cell phone in the area, and she mentioned that there was a Vodafone outlet in the shopping center in the middle of the block about five minutes away from the hotel.

I really liked what I'd seen of Drogheda, one of Ireland's oldest towns with lots of medieval relics and remains, while I'd been driving to the hotel and while the woman on the desk had been giving me directions over the phone to the parking lot behind the hotel. It's set in the small range of hills along the Boyne River, which is a couple of blocks down the not too steep hill from the hotel. I enjoyed wandering around downtown to the Vodafone outlet in the shopping center and back to my hotel.

After talking to the woman at the store I bought an Android smart phone which should give me enough data daily coverage to use Google Maps when walking around. I'll be able to just buy a new, UK local sim card when I get to Glasgow and one for France when I get there as well to avoid the huge overage costs Verizon, my own home cell carrier, charged me when I was in London last summer.

The small shopping center where the Vodafone outlet is is quite pleasant. There's a small sho there selling fresh produce and making fresh smoothies, so I bought one to take back to the hotel while I was waiting. I'd also seen a couple of places just between my hotel and the shopping center advertising fresh local strawberries.

Shortly after 2 PM I went downstairs to the parking lot with the guy who carried all three of my bags up to my room here on the 1st floor (2nd for us Americans). I don't plan on keeping all three at once in my room at any of the places I'll be staying, but I did need all three of them last night so I could unpack everything, sort it all out, and repack so that all the stuff I'll need for a week at a time is in the bag I plan on taking to my rooms while the other two can stay in the locked car trunk until I need them.

My room here is on the street side of the hotel but that hasn't made much of a difference except for being able to hear the trash trucks around 5 this morning. Last night I could hear some noise from the bar downstairs (there's a note on the desk right here that says ear plugs are available from reception if needed, but the noise didn't bother me too much once I'd left the fan in the bathroom on and plugged in the small USB powered fan I'd bought for this trip.

I undressed, stretched out and rested for a couple of hours, even if I don't think I actually got any sleep, and then took a shower and changed clothes. That helped me feel more rested than I actually was for a while, long enough to wander around for a bit looking for a place to go for dinner. I stopped in for a look at St Peter's RC church, a lovely older building, right down the street but didn't know to look for the shrine to St Oliver Plunkett towards the front along a side aisle. I eventually decided to have dinner at a very nice restaurant down alongside the river, Bru, which was one of the places the woman at reception when I checked in had recommended.

Bru turned out to be a very good choice, although I couldn't get a table along the river wall since apparently they were all booked for a private party later (who hadn't arrived before I left). The food was very good although it look longer than it should have at the end to get my bill and pay–almost Parisian long.

After I got back to my room I unpacked everything from all of my suitcases, which is when I learned that I seem to have left a small bag with a couple of styluses for my cell phones and Kindle and a couple of chargers and small cables I should be able to buy here in Ireland if I need to (I think that I'll also replace one of my two larger suitcases, which I'd bought to go to Paris only two years ago since there's a rip along a zipper no later than when I leave Dublin to fly to Edinburgh–it'll do fine when I'm traveling by car). I read a bit and watched something on my computer and did some research online using the hotel's good wifi before going to bed around 2 AM this morning.

When I was in Paris over the Christmas–New Year's holidays two years ago, I'd signed up for a VPN (virtual private network) that disguises where I actually am connecting to Netflix, YouTube or Amazon Prime videos so they think I'm just watching them from at home in the US and don't restrict what I can watch based on where I actually am. It's pretty cheap, and since I was then in Paris for three weeks, and spent that long in London last summer, and will be traveling for over three months before I get home again, the small cost is really worth it. For some reason, though, although I used the service on my Kindle Fire while in Paris and London the current version of the software doesn't work on my Kindle and isn't available for my iPhone, but works fine on my laptop.

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