“What is this Madness?”

If you’ve read the previous entry about our absolutely incredible Hotel stay, you have some idea of what I’m talking about. Each day, when entering the bathroom, I would notice that the tissue was a bit disheveled. It looked like someone had accidentally taken a few too many tissues out of the box and tried shoving the rest back in.

After a few days of this, I noticed that the tissues were sticking straight up. I asked Courtney and Scott who had been doing this, and neither seemed to know what I was talking about. I went into the bathroom, grabbed the box and walked back out and showed them, shouting: “What is this Madness?!”

Turns out, that was their idea of “Decorative Tissues.” It was different every day, so we were always excited to see in what new formations the tissues would be found upon our arrival back at the hotel. I’m glad they cared enough to give us the very best.

“There is nothing great about the Great Southern Dublin Airport Hotel”

Guest Post by Courtney.

This is a phrase that I coined early on in our trip when we really discovered how wonderful our hotel in Ireland was….

Granted, any hotel with a name like The Great Southern Dublin AIRPORT Hotel, is not going to be the most expensive or best accommodation. In fact, it was the cheapest to be found rated at three and a half stars, so we took our chances….

First, we get to the Dublin airport and find that while the hotel is on the grounds of the airport, you must take one of the hotel’s free mini shuttle buses from the front of the airport. Okay, that sounded reasonable. The same was true of the Clarion hotel located on the grounds of the airport, just across the street from our hotel.

Here begins our tale of why our hotel stay was not great:

1. We get to the little waiting area the hotels share in common for their shuttles to pick up passengers…Yet, our shuttle says “CG Hotel” on the side, with small letters underneath reading: “Formerly, the Great Southern Dublin Airport Hotel.”

—Okay, so while the website and information inside the airport says differently, the Hotel has changed its name?

2. We get to the hotel only to find that the building also still reads “The Great Southern Dublin Hotel,” along with all of the papers and things inside.

—Hmm, strange, very strange. We never got an explanation on what the actual name of our hotel was.

3. The lobby was nice, with lots of pictures of their upscale restaurant, conference room, and people enjoying these aspects of the hotel.

—Well, just walk into the hallway on the second floor to find stained carpet that was either very poorly installed or is very old, coming off the floor in corners and creating little mounds here and there.

4. We wanted to have an extra bed in our room, but accidentally ordered a cot, which in Ireland means a baby crib. So, upon discovering this mix up, the hotel said they would bring up an extra bed.

—Yeah, that happened when we called the front desk and reminded them the next day that we needed one (having stayed at my friends the night before anyways). Plus, they still charged us for having the extra bed the night that we didn’t actually posses it.

5. The room itself was not great, what I expected for the price, but not so wonderful to look out the huge glass window in the room to see a parking lot and industrial buildings for the airport.

—At night you could hear announcements from the airport, garbled enough by distance to be unintelligible, but just loud enough to keep you up.

6. What they don’t tell you before you book this hotel as travelers wanting to see more of Ireland than this international airport, is that the sojourn from the hotel to downtown Dublin is a half hour on the Airlink bus that goes directly from the airport to downtown. It is 45 minutes or longer on the city buses which make a lot of local stops.

—Now, a half hour is the shortest time it will take you to get downtown when the airport’s free shuttle actually comes every 15 minutes like it says. Which, well, it doesn’t.

7. We noticed a few nights into our stay that when we returned to the room and it had been cleaned that our hotel’s cleaning staff had a very interesting idea of what a clean bathroom should be.

—Not only did they fail to properly display the tag that informed us we should use our towels more than one day and leave dirty ones in the tub to be cleaned (I found it buried under our extra roll of toilet paper and just on top of a stack of sanitary disposal bags right before we checked out yesterday) but they left us four body washes. Two of one color, and two of another. Not shampoo or conditioner, but two different kinds of body wash?

—The most intersting element, instead of just folding the first facial tissue in the box to have a point easy to grab, they took out 4 to 6 tissues, and then shoved them precariosly back into the box. Was this supposed to be decorative? What I found was that it made it incredibly difficult to get only one tissue. You grab the one you think is on top of the shoved in pile, and you get at least three. Plus, all I could think was that someone else had already handled these tissues.

8. Having this wonderful restaurant in the hotel should be wonderful…except the prices. The cheapest breakfast was 15 Euro, and a full Irish Breakfast cost 19 Euro. Meals that cost 5 to 10 Euro at normal restaurants.

—Not to mention the restaurant isn’t open on Sundays or Mondays. Guess they just want to promote their over priced room service.

9. Internet. The hotel advertises that it has internet access that you can use on your laptop or tv.

—Yep, failed to mention it costs 8 Euro an hour, or 20 Euro a day. The city is populated with internet cafes that do much better on prices, but they have you because your computer is still sitting at the hotel, and the buses stop running to the airport at a certain time every night.

10. Travel. The buses stop running to the airport at around 10:20 to 10:50 at night. So, does that mean the every 15 minute shuttle, explained as a 24 hour-a-day service, should not run as much either?

—Apparently the answer is yes. The shuttles at night came almost every half hour. One night, the shuttle dropped someone off, on the fly, and was just going to keep on going back to the hotel. It was good that we were able to flag it down, or we would have had to wait another half hour. The next night, the shuttle took the longest it ever had. We were waiting out in the wet cold, where it was cold enough to see your breath. When the driver finally came, he said “Sure is cold out.” All I could think was: yeah, sure is….especially while waiting for you!

So, basically, don’t stay at CG/The Great Southern Dublin Airport Hotel unless you are just going to be in the area of the airport. It takes too much time to get to and from the hotel to make it practical to travel to Dublin every day. While I did enjoy my stay in Ireland, I would do it differently next time.

Just spend the extra money, you will thank yourself later.

Back from Ireland

Well, we’re back from Ireland. Tired. And in need of a good rest. We’ve a retreat to help run this weekend and much sleep is required.

We started the day by taking the shuttle to Dublin Airport, and boarding the plane to Shannon, Ireland. There, we went through customs and re-boarded the plane to fly for about seven and a half hours to Chicago. At the Dublin Terminal, they said that NO amount of liquids would be allowed on the flight. Courtney and I both threw away our travel stuff that we found out later we COULD HAVE KEPT! That really made both of us angry. Why would they tell us one thing and then change that rule only moments later?

After the flight to Chicago, we looked for food and wound up going to a gas station and then a restaurant area over the toll roads. We finally got back to Grand Rapids around 9pm.

We’ll have a few awesome closing thoughts posts within the next few days. Stay tuned!

I don’t want it to end!

Guest Post by Courtney.

Today was indeed our last day to see the hustle and bustle of Dublin, ride the wonderful and long public transportation, and see the rolling green hills. But, we did all of these! It was a long day, full of fun which taught me a few things…

1. Don’t rely on public transportation to make a fast and speedy trip

2. Check times of the attractions you want to see (again, refer to number one)

3. Try different Irish foods when you are here, it will be worth it whether you like it or not

4. Bring pain medication with you when you know you will be walking around for a long time and you might become stiff

5. Have Euros with you when going to small villages, they don’t take credit cards

6. Spend the night when you go to Glendalough, the three hours you have between buses is not enough

7. Irish hot chocolate is really good

8. During the Irish winter/rainy seasons, it will rain almost everyday

9. Even just wandering around with good friends in a new place is worth it, you will learn so much and see more than you imagined

and

10. I am sorry that I didn’t get to say good bye to Rachel in person. Things didn’t go as I would have exactly hoped yesterday or today, and I am sorry for that, but I really enjoyed seeing you again. Goodbye dear freind, may we see each other again soon…

Sheep!

Guest Post by Scott.

Alas, our last full day in Ireland was today, but it was a great day. We spent a few hours of the morning in and around downtown Dublin before our bus departed for Glendalough, home of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. The ride to the park was beautiful as we saw the rolling hills and grassy plains of the Irish countryside, full of sheep, horses, and cows. The scenery we saw today was much more accurate to the images that come to my mind when I think of Ireland and was a nice escape from the bustling city of Dublin. On our wilderness hike around the park, we saw waterfalls, lakes, sheep, and good ol’ Irish wilderness.

Returning to Dublin later this evening, we had pizza at a place in the Temple Bar part of town. Temple Bar is a foot-traffic only part of downtown Dublin with small shops, restaurants, pubs, etc. I had a chicken and pesto pizza, which really hit the spot. It reminded me of the chicken and pesto pizzas I used to get all the time at Schlotzke’s Deli when there was one in Grand Rapids. It is sad to be typing this blog entry as I know we will be leaving Ireland tomorrow morning, but it has been a great trip. Ireland is a country I could definitely see myself visiting again.

Last March of the Ents

Today was the last day in Ireland. How sad… we will be returning though, at some point in the future. That I know. Ireland is too beautiful a country to not see more of it.

We started the day going to Trinity College again to buy sweatshirts. Mission: Accomplished. We also looked for a square Old Library Key chain for Courtney, but NOT A SINGLE ONE REMAINED! I cannot believe it! How ridiculous. I hope they have it online..Otherwise, I’ll just request it via e-mail.

We then tried to go to Castle Greyskull… It’s actually Dublin Castle and looks nothing like Castle Greyskull, but for some reason I couldn’t remember the name of the castle that resides in the middle of Dublin… so I called “Dublin Castle” by the name “Castle Greyskull.” I’m sure there’s a “Johnny Rockets” somewhere near by.

We only had about 45 minutes to get to the bus stop for the Wicklow Mountains National Park at Glen da loch, and the only way to see Dublin Castle is via guided tour that lasts 50 minutes, and the next tour would not start soon enough anyway, so we said next time we’ll definitely go there. It looked awesome from what we could see from the door way.

We went via charter bus to Glen da loch, and walked a trail and saw an old stone Cathedral and a very old graveyard, that was surrounded by mountains and an amazing lake and waterfalls in the hills. Awesome nature area that I could spend days wandering. It’s no wonder that Tolkien loved the environment of the hilly woodland so much.. it’s really amazing. The trip went by rolling hills filled with sheep and horses. Pretty impressive.

After we got back, we got food over at Temple Bar at a cafe. We then wandered around and went to a grocery store and then listened to about 30 seconds of real LIVE Irish music. Then we found our way to a small Ice Cream shop and got Hot Chocolate. After which we caught our bus back to the Hotel by the Airport, and waited at the Airport for our Hotel shuttle for about 30+ minutes (for a shuttle that runs every 15 minutes to and from a hotel that is 3 minutes away). Now we’re getting ready to depart for Chicago tomorrow morning.

We have much to say about the trip so keep reading.