Monday, August 02, 2010

Two go mad in Dublin

I’m blogging this trip to Ireland so long after the event, that it seems forever ago, although it was only just over a month.

I must admit, I almost skipped writing this up altogether, but Jay and I had such a fantastic time in Dublin, it would be a pity not to record it properly here. I use this blog more as a personal diary than anything else, and I find that I really enjoy going back to re-read old blog posts and re-live the memories. And this was a trip I definitely wouldn’t want to forget.

It all started just before Christmas last year, when the mighty Pearl Jam announced their European tour. It was a given that I’d be getting tickets for at least one gig (I’d do the whole tour if I could! Very very jealous of my pal Leanne who, almost, did just that!) – it was just a case of which one?

There was only one date in England – the Hard Rock Calling festival in London, and I almost went for that one….but….I never really rate festival sets, they are so much shorter than headline gigs and it’s often a struggle to get within a mile of the stage. Festivals are great to see a lot of bands that you like – but for one band that you LOVE, it has to be a headliner.

So – my two most feasible options were Dublin and Belfast….. I was open to either, but plumped for Dublin in the end as the acoustics are a lot better in the O2 than at the Odyssey in Belfast (dedicated music venue vs the Giants’ rink), plus I haven’t been to Dublin in years and miss the place (I used to work there).

I booked the tickets, flights and hotel and then kind of forgot about it a bit until the beginning of June, when I realised 1) I’d better get something arranged in relation to Connor as we weren’t taking him with us and he would need looking after! (HUGE thanks to Michelle and Tracy for stepping up to the plate on that one!) and 2) wooooo hoooooo we’re going to one of the best cities in Europe for TWO WHOLE DAYS without any kiddiwinks in tow :) :) :)

Other than the gig itself, on the Tuesday night, we had nothing planned, so we had all of daytime Tuesday and daytime Wednesday available for sightseeing and geocaching, fab!

So – on the Tuesday morning we were up bright and early – our flight left at 8am from Bristol airport, so we needed to be out of the house by 6am at the very latest – yawn! Darby was all primed to wake Connor at 8 and walk him up to school – I presume that happened as I didn’t have the truant officer on the phone :) Our flight was on time and we were in Dublin city centre by a quarter to 10.

As we got off the airport bus, outside the bus depot on O’Connell street, Jay produced a parcel from his bag, all wrapped up in Christmas paper. I was mildly taken aback, it being the middle of June and everything, but happily opened it anyway (a pressie! yay!) – and it turned out to be a super cool Pearl Jam watch, which he originally bought for me for Christmas last year, but then when the gigs were announced decided to sit on it until we got to Dublin. He even had it engraved with “Pearl Jam Dublin 22.06.10 love Jay xxx” :) :) :) I have the best boyfriend in the world :) :) :)

After a quick brunch in Subway, we jumped straight into sightseeing with gusto. We bought tickets for the hop on hop off open topped double decker bus thingy and started our tour. The commentary was entertaining, and we saw all the main sights – the impressive Millenium Spire (aka the Stiffey by the Liffey) on O’Connell Street, which is new since I was last here (apparently there were so many delays in its construction that the MILLENIUM Spire finally got erected in 2003 lol) – Trinity College – numerous Cathedrals – Grafton Street & Temple Bar – the Guinness Brewery and so on.

The first place we got off the bus was at Dublin Castle, we didn’t go inside but we did gatecrash a guided tour for a while outside. The tour guide told an interesting story about the Justice statue. Apparently the sculptor who designed it thought that it would be cool to give her a working set of scales. The only problem was, that one pan of the scales ended up largely shadowed by her arm, the other was right out in the open. So whenever it rained (which it does a LOT in Ireland :) ), the scales of justice tipped. This was considered to be a fitting analogy for the corrupt British justice system. Eventually, they drilled a drainage hole in the bottom of both pans :)

(you can just see the holes if you click to see this photo montage at full size)

We also explored the gardens nearby, looking for Ireland’s most visited physical geocache, Castle Rock, which was our first find on Irish soil.

After our stop off at the castle, we hopped back on the tour bus and went round to Killmainham Gaol.

Opposite the old prison is this moving monument to those executed by firing squad for their part in the 1916 uprising.

Next we did the prison tour. Which was sooooo interesting! It takes in both the social and political history of the prison, from the early days of prison reform, through to the events of 1916.

It did take ages though, so by the time we emerged, we needed to hot foot it to our hotel.

We hopped off the tour bus one last time to log the virtual geocache at the spire:

and then we took it round to Merrion Square, which was the closest drop off point to where we were headed (near the Lansdowne Road rugby stadium), and walked the rest of the way.

And some!

Turns out the hotel wasn’t where I thought it was :| So I checked a map online, and walked what felt like forever further on to where the map said it was. It wasn’t there either. We asked a few people for directions, nobody had even heard of our hotel! I was starting to panic big time by this point!

Eventually we went into an estate agent and asked him, he sent us back to the first place I had thought the hotel was at. Turns out it was there after all!  We had probably wandered around for at least an extra hour, all tired and sweaty and hungry. Rather silly.

As we walked into the (very posh!) hotel lobby, I was panicking about the time, we hadn’t eaten since our early brunch, and hadn’t had a single alcoholic drink yet (what’s the point of coming to Ireland and not having a beer? :) ). Our original plan had been to get back to the hotel about 4, shower, change, get ready for the gig, and then have a drink and a bite to eat in the hotel bar, before walking up to the gig for about 6:30pm.

Given it was already 6pm, that clearly wasn’t going to happen! And then the next set back – the hotel had no record of our booking! And they were full! While they looked (for a seemingly interminable amount of time) for the booking I had made months before, they turned a couple of people away who had walked in looking for a room, and I was convinced at that point we were going to be sleeping on the streets. But hallelujah, they eventually got their systems sorted out and miraculously produced a room key….and the room was really really nice (and a bargain too – rate on their website 189 euros a night, I got it for 65 euros, which was about £58)

There was no time for food, I straightened my hair at lightning speed, we took a quick pic of us and the room (using my gorillapod which I haven't seen since - I wonder if I left it there?) and we just managed to catch a bus heading to the gig which left our hotel at ¼ to 7 or so. The hotel had a little convenience store next door, and I had managed to grab a pack of cakey things in there just before the bus came, so that was our dinner :) To be fair, they were lush!

So - onto the gig.  It was awwwweeesoooommmmeee!!!!! :) :) :)

We got there just after 7pm, by which time they had taken down the big 10 Club banner and so we didn’t really know where to go. I approached a security guard, and as soon as I mentioned we were 10 Club he whisked us past the long queue outside to a side entrance where we were handed our special wristbands and all that jazz – we felt like guest list VIPs :) very cool :)

Once inside, I had a good look around for Leanne but couldn’t spot her straight away, so I texted her. She said she was down at the front on Mike’s side so I wandered down to have a look. I saw one girl who did look a bit like her, same frames on her specs, similar hair, etc, standing in the right spot. She wasn’t wearing Leanne’s trademarked triple-heart necklace though, but I thought it was worth a try. “Leanne??” “me?” “yes” “no, I’m Sandy, nice to meet you :)”. Oh well, at least I made a new friend :) A few minutes later I spotted the real Leanne, looking unmistakeably and exactly like Leanne, 3 hearts proudly on show :) Doh.

Here we are, I am sporting my usual care-in-the-community smile that means “I am very happy and excited! yay!” You might have spotted it earlier on the tour bus also :)

I gave her the necklace I made her, I hope she liked it, it’s hard to tell in the hustle bustle of a busy gig. And she gave me a very cool custom-made-just-for-this-tour PJ sticker and a PJ Europe badge. Hooray for pressies!

We were in plenty of time for the actual music, despite our flustered rushing about – the excellent support, Ben Harper and Relentless7, came on about half an hour after we arrived – so we had time to get a drink in. Well, we could have had we taken out second mortgages before the trip. SEVEN EUROS (that’s over a fiver) for one little bottle of Smirnoff Ice! Pints of lager were similarly horrendously expensive. There was no cider at all. Sob. In the end, Jay drank coke, and I had some little teeny bottles of white wine at 6 euro a pop, as I figured that was the best alcohol to price ratio available.

I’d downed 2 or 3 of these by the time Pearl Jam came on, not enough to fall over and forget things, just enough to have a nice warm glow and an even bigger grin than usual :)

The band were fantastic – it was the opening night of the tour and I was worried they might be jetlagged, but apparently they had been in Europe for a few days and they seemed lively enough to me :) It was a good set list, Backspacer heavy – but then this was the Backspacer tour – and a few people complained that some of the big classics were left out – but personally I prefer hearing the more obscure stuff anyway. We even got a brand new song never played before anywhere, because we is speshal :D

  • Long Road – great opener – sound was fantastic too
  • Once – got everyone singing and jumping about
  • The Fixer – sped up the jumping about :)
  • Why Go – emotional
  • Corduroy – ditto “absolutely nothing’s changed, take my hand, not my picture…” – singalong heaven
  • Severed Hand – one of my favourites from Avocado, good live for getting everyone bouncing again
  • Amongst The waves – great to hear this live, my standout fave from Backspacer and a song that means a lot to me at a personal level
  • Even Flow – claaaasssssicccc
  • Unthought Known – gorgeous
  • Nothingman – more singalongaDublin :)
  • Lukin into Not For You – singalong becomes shoutalong
  • Down – always good to hear a Lost Dog
  • Got Some – nice feel good number, good for a smile and a boogie :)
  • Comatose – great start to this one, gets everyone going
  • Arms Aloft – this is a Joe strummer cover, and it had a nice long spoken intro from Eddie. It went down really well.
  • Do The Evolution – Connor will be upset he missed this one, it’s his favourite – another good shoutalong number
  • Just Breathe – first song of the first encore - just Eddie and an acoustic guitar, just beautiful
  • Given To Fly – another emotional one
  • Of The Earth – the brand new song – or at least that’s how it was introduced – it turns out it was very likely an Avocado outtake. Liked this one a lot. It had a kind of prog rock vibe to it almost.
  • Porch – always great live
  • Elderly Woman…. – this kicked off the second encore, excellent
  • Better Man – the O2 sang this one on its own, the band might as well have gone for a comfort break :) brilliant
  • Kick Out The Jams – fantastic energy and one of my favourite covers
  • Alive – last song of the night, everyone in the building had their arms in the air and was singing their hearts out. A great end to an amazing set.

I can thoroughly recommend the O2 as a gig venue – great acoustics, not a bad seat in the house in terms of line of sight – just have a drink before you get there, or take lots of money!

So, that was the Tuesday.

The next morning, we woke up fairly early, checked out of the hotel, grabbed some brekkie, and wandered down to the DART (train) station to catch a train out to Bray – a seaside resort about ten miles outside of Dublin. The train journey was a treat in itself, it went all along the coast, right up alongside the sea, passing through some lovely resort towns and also the hustle bustle of Dun Laoghaire ferry port.

When we got to Bray, we thought it wise to locate the bus stop where our airport transfer coach was due to pick us up later in the day, before we went off exploring. So we asked an old lady walking past, who, to my delight, said “to be sure to be sure” as part of her answer to us. In all my years of working in Dublin I had never heard anyone actually say that :) Made my day :)

Bus stop duly tracked down, we set off along the sea front and up onto Bray Head, in search of a very special geocache – the oldest surviving cache in the whole of Europe – “Europe’s First”.

There was a fab view from up on the Head:

apologies for my bad photo-stitching
We duly found the cache (more details on an upcoming geocaching specific post) and walked back down to town, by which time the sun was shining strong.

A few more piccies from while we were up there:

aha - I can't have left my gorillapod in the we used it for that pic of us together too...hopefully it will turn up

We had a bit of time to kill after finding the cache, so we went looking for another, then had some (very delicious) smoothies down on the sea front, and then took a slow wander to the bus stop. To be sure to be sure :)

We looked in a few shops along the way, bought some postcards for Postcrossing, and stopped to take some pics of the gorgeous river that runs through the town. But eventually we could put off going home no longer, and we got on the aircoach and headed back to the airport (sob).

Like any good Pearl Jam fan would who comes from a country that doesn’t have “yield” signs (we have “give way” instead), I got all excited to see this from the bus window:

And that just about wraps up my Dublin diary. I’d love to go back again someday. I’m sure I will.

I’ll leave you with a purty picture of clouds from the journey home…..

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