Dublin Down

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times – from Two Tales of a City, by Joyce James.

The first impression of Dublin was not encouraging. Our hotel seemed over-priced. The room needed a facelift. The neighborhood would never be described as charming. The pub in our hotel had stopped serving food fifteen minutes earlier.

On our first foray into the city, we got totally turned around, and when we finally stumbled into the Temple Bar region the crowd was do dense we thought it was the Hajj – well, perhaps not, given the role of alcohol in the revelry.

Neither of these places is in Temple Bar.

Things will be better in the morning. There’s a nice breakfast restaurant just down the street . . .

. . . which didn’t open until nine because it was a bank holiday. And we had a bike tour to catch at ten.

We grabbed a pastry and tried to find the bike tour. It was hidden in a parking deck just around the next corner, or the next, or the one we just passed, but we did arrive in time to join our tour.

Every day looks better from the seat of a bicycle (well, every day save one). Our tour was led by Kate, who was great.

The upbeat day continued into the evening, when we joined a literary pub crawl led by Culm Quilligan, a dead ringer for Kelly Bunning. Culm and his protege began the tour by acting a scene from “Waiting for Godot,” in fact the very scene Steve Schaffer and I read to our inattentive senior English class. Had anyone been paying attention, we undoubtedly would have gotten in trouble for crossing the boundary of indecency.

We hadn’t planned on going to the National Gallery, but, well, there’s a Vermeer.

There’s also a portrait of Henry Shefflin, the Michael Jordan of Hurling.

Waiting for Godot

One of the sidelights of the tour was a trivia quiz. We were given most of the questions in advance, with clues as to where to look in the pubs for answers.

The quiz itself was a free-for-all, with all the tourers shouting answers and the protege giving points to first responders.

Now after the first pub stop, where I found the picture of the bearded Nobel prize winner (G.B. Shaw), I realized it was too much of a distraction to focus on the trivia contest and determined not to worry about it.

Then came the contest, and halfway through I’d not scored a point. I got a point for the Shaw question in a tie, another point for something that must have been about Beckett. On the last question, “What Beatle withdrew from writing O Calcutta? everybody screamed out John Lennon, but the moderator did not give a credit. Then I realized they’d all jumped the gun, answering before he’d finished delivering the question, so I said “John,” and got the point. Putting me in a tie.

The tie breaker was “What Nobel winner also won a Tony?” to which I essentially rattled off all four before coming up with Shaw first. So I won a t-shirt.

Brainiac

On our final full day in Dublin, and in the British Isles, we went to the national archaeology museum, where we saw several bodies of ancient people who were discovered well-preserved in Irish bogs.

Very old little gold boat.

We wrapped things up with an amazing meal at Da Mimmo restaurant, possibly the best Italian eatery in Dublin, if not all Ireland, located near the Five lamps.

Dublin football field

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My Fair City

On a clear day, London is a photographer’s dream. Today was one such day.

The return trip. No champagne before noon.

We started with a boat ride down the Thames to Westminster Abbey.

We were serenaded by the bells of Westminster Abbey.

After our tour, we headed for Westminster Notabbey, e.g. Parliament. However, admission to the building was not free since Parliament was not in session, so we passed in protest.

After brief visits to Hyde Park and Harrod’s, we ducked into the National Gallery to take in a couple of Vermeers.

Hyde Park Rose garden.

Did I mention we walked by Buckingham Palace, where we heard the booming salute of twenty-one cannon, possibly in celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

It turned out the National Gallery is a really nice art museum, and we spent a little time there. For example, the guide said there was a Rembrandt in room 22(?), whereas in fact it was a room full of Rembrandts.

Double your pleasure. Vermeer and Vermeer flanking Rebecca.

Van Gogh draws a crowd no matter where.

A visit to the Tate Modern completed our day.

Self portraiture. Which one is Andy Warhol?

This work of Salvadore Dali raises a lot of questions about fishing while driving.

More photos.

Only Rembrandt with the subject on a horse.

On the other hand … Rembrandt self portraits are a dime a dozen.

Me too!

City Hall.

St. Paul’s.

Below is a shot of that building with the bar and restaurant at the top. (Also prominent in above shot.)

Well, that’s just cuckoo

Clock room

We found a room in the British Museum dedicated to clocks. At four o’clock they started going off, chiming, ringing, tinkling, and even cuckoing. Rebecca’s grandfather in Europe repaired watches.

We also added the Rosetta Stone to our haul of ancient wonders.

We spent the morning in the Tower of London. The Beefeater tour guide we followed put on an informative and entertaining show.

He had a big voice.

Our final adventure of the day was attending the theater.

We went to Her Majesty’s Theatre where we saw Phantom of the Opera. Lavish would be putting it mildly.

Just outside our flat is a really big, curvy building with restaurants and bars at the top (35-38th floors). It’s free, and it offers incredible views. The drinks at not cheap.

Busy City

Driving day, took in one of the older sites over here.

Drove right into the heart of London

Dropped car across from St. Paul’s. Took a wild taxi ride to our flat.

Tower of London

Went for a walk, got swept up in a wave of humanity walking at rush hour. There are a lot more people in London than in Bath.

Ah, Bath

Bath has the only hot spring in Great Britain, and it’s been a hot vacationing spot since Georgian times.

Before that, it was a hot spot for the Romans. The ruins of the Roman bath were unearthed relatively recently, having been covered up by streets and the more modern Georgian era bath.

Now there’s a museum to which tourists flock. There’s also a live bath/spa for anyone who wishes to take the waters.

Other tourist attractions include an interesting abbey, and a lot of Georgian buildings. Tour buses roll into town mid-morning and disgorge themselves of the hordes, and late in the day swallow them up, so the town seems a relative ghost town in the evening.

Very interesting fanned ceiling in the abbey.

At one time Bath was a small, walled medieval town. There is one stretch of the wall, about 20 feet long, intact, and a single well-hidden minor gate.

The town was bombed by the Germans in 1942 in retaliation for an allied bombing of a couple of historical German resorts.

The Avon River borders the town.

That bridge is lined with shops, reminiscent of Florence’s Ponte Vecchio.

We happened upon this boat diverting from the Avon into a canal by way of locks that were operated by the boaters. Fascinating to see.

There’s a really great free walking your conducted by the “Mayor of Bath” that runs three times a day.

Bonus to whomever identifies the speaker whence this entry’s title was parodied.

We met this pair at breakfast, then ran into them on the walking tour. The lady, Susan, grew up in Greensboro.

Paradise

It might be presumptuous to call your B&B “Paradise,” unless you can back it up. Our home here in Bath is living up to its name.

Room view

But first … we had to get here. Departing the maze of reconstruction that is downtown Birmingham was no cakewalk, but miraculously we found the highway.

Most of the way to Bath was smooth, albeit uninteresting, sailing. Then we took a few turns off the highway, wound down a narrow, winding hill, and arrived within sight of a roundabout leading into the town.

A totally choked roundabout. It took 15 minutes to get into the roundabout, and another 15 to get halfway through it. Maybe longer. And town was still a couple of miles away.

GPS to the rescue. We were able to sneak into the escape lane so we could return in the direction whence we had come, and reroute to the back way into town.

Twenty minutes later we arrived at Paradise. Perfectly trained, attentive staff. A relaxing flute of champagne in the parlor. Recommendations and reservations for dinner at the nearby White Hart Tavern, where we had a truly memorable meal. Seclusion from the hordes of tourists who clog Bath during the daytime, yet an easy walk into town. Poached eggs for breakfast cooked to perfection.

City of Canals – Birmingham?

Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice – who knew?

The city may not have the highest reputation, but there’s a renaissance going on there. Vibrant downtown, interesting waterway, tons of eateries. Sounds like Raleigh, except for the canals.

Queen Victoria looks down with approval at statue of nude bather.

Building boom should be complete in a couple of years.

Symphony Hall and Conference Center.

That weird yellow and ? building with the circular hat is the city library.

Well, and a little bit of history. For instance, the city’s museum, which is suspiciously similar to the Scotish Museum in Edinburgh, is housed in a Georgio-Victorian building that matches a lot of the older architecture standing in stark contrast to the modern buildings growing downtown.

I suspect Prince Albert had a hand in the development of the museum.

Birmingham Museum has a nice collection of stained glass.