Irish Tour -Homeward bound

Ok, so now I’ve corrected yesterday’s post (Day 7, not Day 6), it’s now our final day in Ireland and we are on a tight schedule…  read on.

We started this tour on a fixed budget – we didn’t want to spend any more money than we would have spent flying abroad to a sunnier setting.   For instance, our trip to Lanzarote the previous year cost about £850 with flights and accommodation (self catering) plus one day’s car rental and so far, we’ve spent £850 for seven nights accommodation and ferry fare, and about £70 in fuel, which Joe has kindly contributed towards.  Note – it was much cheaper to take the car on the ferry than to hire a large car from the airport for the week.

Now that’s pretty reasonable considering that in Lanzarote we were also paying daily for breakfast, and up until this morning, we’ve been getting our breakfasts in Ireland included in the price.

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But, our stay at the Radisson Blu Athlone is room only.  And considering we had such a poor experience in the restaurant the previous night, we decide to give the hotel breakfast a miss.

Instead, Joe suggests we head in to town and find a cafe for toast and tea.  Having packed their cases, they have found they have a little room left so want a return visit to Tesco’s for more supplies!

Although I hadn’t planned this detour in the itinerary, we head to the Golden Island shopping centre half a mile or so from the hotel.

While heading to Tesco’s we notice a little establishment offering breakfasts, O’Hehirs Bakery & Cafe, and we decide to call in and try it.  And we weren’t disappointed – much better value than the hotel.

Topped up, we have a steady walk back to the car, while Joe and Renata hit tesco’s again for a second raid on the Earl Grey shelf.

At this stage we are about a hour and a half behind my planned schedule, but I’m not complaining.  I personally plan things to the n’th degree and Joe just goes with the flow, so I need to learn to live more dangerously.

However, our next stop is my biggest trial yet.  Joe’s only request for the whole trip was to visit Trinity College, Dublin – a place he has been to before and admired the grounds around campus (he is after all a head groundskeeper by trade) – and I have pre-booked a timed slot in the Q-Park Setanta car park, for a reasonable 12 euro, but now the task is to find it.

Even with the sat-nav, the drive through the city is frightening!   Winding up and down one way roads, crossing over the river, I found myself in a complete maze of junctions, trams bearing down on me from two directions, sat-nav trying to force me the wrong way down a one-way road, pedestrians crossing on red right in front of me – I’m sure at one point I drove straight through a red light, as I concentrated on avoiding a tram driving at me head on!  there;s just TOO much to look out for if you aren’t a local – catch a tram!

After ignoring the sat-nav and instead just following the map on the screen, we reach the car park and make the short walk to the college.   We stop for a quick cup of coffee in an adjacent cafe before entering the campus.  At that point, we let Joe and Renata head off as he has specific places he wants to re-visit, while we wander around the grounds.

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Apparently the library is a popular tourist attraction with a huge cathedral like vaulted ‘harry potter’ like interior, and indeed there is a huge queue of pre-paid ticket holders stretching around the front of the building.

Inevitably our time is done, and I have to insist that we head back for the airport – from experience while working in Dublin, I know the drive back out of the city can be slow and tedious, and it was no different on this occasion.  It would be awful to spoil such a brilliant trip by missing their flight home!  But we have left plenty of time and eventually we are pulling back into the airport car park, where Sue says her goodbyes before I escort Joe and Renata back to departures.

It’s a slightly sad moment;  when I first met Joe through work, I could have never imagined the friendship which would develop, and that years later we would be sharing vacations abroad.  And of course this was the first time Renata and Sue had met, and it was great that they hit it off so well.    With promises that we would visit them in Czechia soon, we say our farewells and I head back to the car.

We have four hours before we need to be back at the port for the ferry home, so it had been our plan to find a restaurant on a retail park somewhere, but can we find anything?   It appears that everything is back towards the city, exactly where we DON’T want to go.

One place keeps appearing on google, Peacock’s Grill in the nearby town of Swords, so we decide to check it out.  On the way I treat our car to a car wash, in thanks for its loyal, steadfast performance on the whole trip!

Arriving outside the Grill, it is a bit off-putting.  For a start, River Valley Shopping Centre looks more like an industrial park, not at all what we were expecting, and secondly, from the outside, the restaurant looks like it is upstairs, possibly inaccessible for Sue.

Although Sue wants to turn the car round and head somewhere else, I opt to at least pop inside and give it the once over.  There is a lift, so I go back and persuade her to give it a go.

Unfortunately when we get out of the lift, the room is obviously in use for a private party – so we head back down.  As we exit the lift again, there is a pair of double doors to our right.  I was convinced the restaurant was upstairs, so head for the car.  Sue chooses to take a peek through the doors and I’m glad she does.  Hidden inside is a monster of a room – A huge pub with a long bar and lots of tables on different levels, and two huge screens.  A pleasant waitress quickly comes across and sits us at a table and brings a menu drinks.

Within minutes we have ordered chilli nachos to share and two steaks served on a bed of mustard mash, and when they arrive they are without doubt the best meals we have experienced all week.   It just goes to prove looks can be deceiving!

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Now, you may recall that I’m not a great football fan,  but had thoroughly enjoyed the big game while we had dinner in Muckross, and today I was about to have a new experience.

Suddenly on the big screens, we were watching the start of the European Champions Cup Final between local team Leinster and the Saracens.   It’s fair to say I have NEVER watched a rugby match in my life, and here I am at the most important game of the season – well virtually!

Within minutes, the places is packed out, and we realise we have timed our arrival to perfection – not a table left in the house.  And of course we were all cheering for Leinster.  After all, I have a vested interest, having laid the pitch at Donnybrook a couple of years before they moved to RDS arena.

And what a fantastic game it turns out to be, although unfortunately Leinster lose.
The timing couldn’t have been better, and soon we are back in the car, and 30 minutes later (city traffic now at a minimum) we are queuing in glorious sun ready to board the ferry.

The trip back is uneventful, the only slight downside being the downstairs facilities closed almost immediately after sailing, which was a bit odd.  But there is still plenty to do before we arrive back in Holyhead at midnight.

I knew it was going to be too far to try to drive home that night, so we had booked a reward stay at the Holiday Inn Chester, which turned out to be a bit of a trek in itself, and we were glad to arrive about 2 a.m. and climb wearily into bed.

After a good night’s sleep and a nice McDonald’s breakfast next door to the hotel, we decide to finish off our holiday and break up the drive home with a stop off at the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet.   To be fair, Sue has missed out on her retail therapy this last week!

One Michael Kors handbag and two bridesmaid dresses later (for our upcoming daughter’s wedding) and we head off into the sunset over the peaks back to our home in the Midlands.


Our first visit to Ireland has been a resounding success.  Our friends from the Czech Republic later sent a lovely letter telling us how much they had thoroughly enjoyed touring the island without the worry of driving, which was exactly my aim.   Sue had loved the places we visited, and I was pleased that she had felt the same way as I had when I first worked here a few years before.

I know we will be back for more.

It’s one of the few benefits of travelling for work, that you get to experience some fantastic places, and note them down as potential future destinations.  So far we’ve visited Singapore, Malaysia, New Jersey in the States, to name just a few, all places I’ve worked extensively in the past, and now Ireland.  It’s nice for Sue to get to see some of the places where I’ve spent so long away from her and the kids in the past.

The next obvious destination has to be Czechia, a place I have been to many times for work.   I had the good fortune to visit Joe and Renata at their home at the base of the Krkonose {Krok’o’nosh] mountains in Dolni Lanov, and I would love to take Sue to see the spectacular scenery and sample the beautiful food over there.

So, until we venture out next time, I hope you have enjoyed our whirlwind tour of Ireland – please let us know if it has inspired you to jump in the car and drive over there too!  We hope to see you back with us soon.

Don’t forget, you can tag along with us on twitter, instagram, facebook and on our YouTube video channel – look forward to you joining us on our future travels.

Fee free to click like and subscribe to our journals if you have enjoyed your visit!

Best regards

Rob and Sue.

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