Roundabout: Circling the Emerald Isle, Day Fifteen

Day Fifteen (9/28/18): Home, or, Steve Can’t Hold His Liquor

I awoke this morning to a spectacular sunrise and accompanying ocean view from my bedroom windows. While Tim decided to go out for an early morning run (clearly the adventure run of a few days ago did not dampen his desire for self-torture), I sat in bed, worked on my writing, and watching the sun rise gloriously above eastern Ireland.

It was with great reluctance that Tim and I packed our bags for the final leg of our journey. After a quick breakfast, we headed to the Dublin airport. We were running a bit late when we arrived, so naturally, we kept running into delays. For the first time on the entire trip, I was stopped by security. I knew this moment would be coming eventually. After passing through so many airports in the past two weeks without a hitch, it was bound to happen. However, I had always figured that it would be my passport that caused my undoing (see for more details on that). No, it was a bottle of Bunratty Meade that I had purchased as a souvenir for a friend, then stupidly packed away in the wrong bag, and forgot about, until…

A couple of security personnel joked with me, as they began to rifle through my bag. “You aren’t tryin’ to sneak some whiskey on board, now are ya?” said one in a wide Irish brogue, but with a suspicious look in his eye. I stammered that no, I won’t do a thing like that, all the while frantically  thinking “Where on earth did I pack that bottle?” Meanwhile, a crowd was starting to form as my extended bag search started attracting attention.

“Faith and begorrah!”

“Uh oh, what’s this?” He said as he dramatically pulled the carefully wrapped meade from the bottom of my carry-on bag. I heard snickers and murmuring around me. I could imagine them thinking, “Oh aye, so the Yank’s trying to pull one over on us now? Sneakin’ somethin’ past customs, is he?” I stammered out an explanation of what had happened. I wasn’t trying to sneak anything out. I made an honest mistake. I don’t think anyone believed me though. Security then gave me two options. Go back to baggage check in to sort it out, or leave the mead behind. Just then, the final boarding call for my flight was announced. The decision was made for me: I was going to have to give up the bottle. I purchased it early on during the trip and had kept it safely with me, only lose it at the very end. I guess you could say that after living the Irish/Scottish life for two weeks, I still couldn’t hold my liquor.

We managed to get aboard our WOW Air flight in the nick of time, and an hour later, we were back at the Keflavik Airport in Iceland. We had a seven-hour layover, so we tried to make the most of it. We hopped onto a bus, and traveled north to Reykjavik. Although the weather had not improved much since our last visit to the island, we determined to explore the city. We first stopped off at Hallgrimskirkja, a large, imposing, ornate church which towered over the Reykjavik skyline. It was an active place of worship, run by the Church of Iceland (Evangelical Lutheran). It was an awe-inspiring building, both inside and out. Despite the cold and drizzle, we continued to explore what turned out to be a very nice city nestled along the rocky western shoreline of Iceland. We popped in at a few shops, and as a final souvenir purchase, I bought a copy of Harry Potter in Icelandic, (a must-have for all true Potter fans).

Learning our lesson from that morning, we arrived at the airport in plenty of time, and had no security hassles to boot. Still, Tim and I were in a somber mood as we boarded. Essentially, our trip was at an end. After a long, uncomfortable flight, we would be home. As for me, I would be hitting the ground running. I had plans in place for the following few months, which started the very morning after coming home (Jet lag? Psh! Who has time for that?).

We arrived at O’Hare around 11 pm, and began the most difficult part of our journey: actually trying to get out of the airport. I quickly came to appreciate the quiet efficiency of European airports as we bounced from line to line. We planned to order an Uber car, but then, most likely from sheer exhaustion, Tim and I could not locate the pick-up zone. We wandered around, asked for directions, studied the maps. Finally, we hopped a shuttle bus that took us to another terminal at the other end of the airport, where we found the illusive pick-up zone, and secured a ride. By 2 am, we were back home (or, at least, I was. Tim still had to head back to St. Louis the next day), ending what I considered to be one of the best vacations I had ever spent!

Roundabout: Circling the Emerald Isle, Day Fourteen

Day Fourteen (9/27/18): Howth Your Shepherd’s Pie?

After a delightful continental breakfast served in our B&B’s dining room, Tim and I took our leave and set out to explore Edinburgh in the daylight. The weather proved to be overcast and windy for much of the day. In addition, our time was limited because of our approaching flight back to Dublin that afternoon. Still, we had plenty of opportunities to gawk at some old buildings and to enjoy the performances of several street musicians, including a kilted bagpiper. Our wanderings took us to Calton Hill, a prominent outlook with a panoramic view of the city. Sadly, the time quickly flew past, and we regretfully had to say our goodbyes to Edinburgh and make our way to the airport. Although, not in our original trip plans, Edinburgh proved to be one of the highlights of our vacation! We barely scratched the surface of what the city had to offer, and we hoped for a return visit someday.

Upon our arrival at the airport (which I was pleased to note no longer smelled like a barnyard), we hopped aboard a small Aer Lingus plane, and within an hour, we were back in Dublin, our home away from home it seemed. After collecting our excess luggage (and paying a steep price for leaving it at the airport), we picked up our third rental car, and drove north to Howth, a tiny village located on a small peninsula that jutted out into Dublin Bay.

Our final Airbnb host home was a private beach house that sat along the southern shoreline and had a stunning view of the bay. Our host welcomed us warmly, made us tea, and we sat together at her dining room table, looking at the bay through large windows, and having an enjoyable conversation. After all the walking and hiking we did throughout our trip (and in Tim’s case, biking and kayaking as well), our final stop in Ireland proved to be very restful. We learned that our host, her husband and daughter had recently moved to Howth from the south of England (which she strongly encouraged us to visit on our next European jaunt).

Upon our host’s recommendation, we had dinner at the Dog House Blues Tea Room on Howth’s main drag. It was a very unique place in terms of décor. The interior looked almost like a grotto with low, rounded archways, unfinished stone walls, and a rounded ceiling of brick. The waitress said that the building used to be a tram station, but wasn’t sure what it was before that. It was definitely an old structure repurposed for casual dining. As to the décor, the low-lighting and rather eclectic decorations left me feeling somewhat disturbed. Many of the paintings that hung upon the red walls of the dining room depicted naked people in varying degrees of anguish. I suppose this was supposed to be trendy (something I can never claim to be). And so, I mainly just kept my head down and ate my shepherd’s pie, which was good. And despite the angst-ridden artwork, the atmosphere was very genial. When asked how my shepherd’s pie was, I told the waitress that it was the best that I had ever eaten. What I didn’t tell her was that it was the only shepherd’s pie I had ever eaten (so technically I was telling the truth, right?). But she seemed really pleased by the compliment and promised to inform the cook, so I decided to forgo further explanation.