We de-planed in Dublin Airport 35 minutes ahead of schedule. John and I were first off, after Business Class passengers. Getting through passport control was quick. First in line, again.
And, we were among the first to arrive at baggage claim, but we had to wait for our two suitcases. If you travel with checked baggage, there's no way to beat the wait. It was forty minutes before we saw our two small suitcases drop onto the carosel. Limiting luggage to carry-on definitely saves time. Next trip.
Bags in hand, we opted for a taxi to the hotel. Our cab driver was a congenial chap and made easy conversation. After a 30-minute ride from the outskirts of North Dublin into South Dublin on a quiet Sunday morning, we arrived at the lovely, centrally located Buswell's Hotel, where we were cheerfully greeted by the desk clerk, Luis. He told us our room was guaranteed by 2:00PM, but staff would be happy to hold our luggage, and we were welcome to move into our room as soon as it was clean, which might be much earlier than 2:00PM.
It was 9:30AM Dublin time (4:30AM Boston time). I was hungry for a full Irish breakfast. Luis said the hotel dining room would be serving the morning meal for another hour. What luck!
Photo: Buswell's traditional full Irish breakfast
Buswell's Hotel serves a generous Continental breakfast, which includes eveything listed on the left side of the menu, free to hotel guests. A hot breakfast - in addition to the Contenental breakfast - is only £2.50 more.
Photo: Breakfast menu at Buswell's (1 of 3)
Photo: Breakfast menu at Buswell's (2 of 3)
Photo: Breakfast menu at Buswell's (3 of 3)
I particularly appreciated the coding of ingredients by small icons - a great help for people with dietary restrictions and allergies.
Luis had provided us with instructions for free (fast) wi-fi access, so after a leisurely breakfast we settled into comfortable chairs in one of several elegant seating areas and caught up on email and news.
By 11:30AM, our room was ready. I don't recall if we had expressed a preference for two beds or not, but our room turned out have a "hidden room," a second bedroom for our use.
Photo: Main bedroom
Photo: "Hidden" bedroom
Photo: En-suite bath with deep soaking tub and hand-held shower
Photo: The rest of the bathroom facilities
Photo: Work area and TV in the main bedroom
According to the Day One schedule, our Welcome Dinner would be at 5:00PM. The group would meet in the hotel breakfast area. John and I had ample time for a nap.
Photo: Rick Steves' tour schedule for Day One and Day Two, posted above the fireplace next to the reception desk
At 5:00PM, we met our guide Susie Millar and 22 other members of the tour at a pre-dinner orientation meeting. We knew as soon as we met her that Susie was a gem. Here's her Wikipedia bio:
In April 2011, Susie published her new book "The Two Pennies" telling the story of the Millar family & their links with RMS Titanic."
Susie has been leading tours for Rick Steves five years.
After setting our expectations for what was to come, Susie had us introduce ourselves, one by one, to the group. What a variety of delighful fellow travelers - among them two teachers, two lawyers, and a family of librarians (father, son, daughter, and son-in-law; two generations of librarians, and two teenage children, future third-generation librarians no doubt). Two of the couples present had just completed the Rick Steves Scotland tour, and five people were seasoned Rick Steves travelers; one had made a total of five trips with Rick before this one. Luck of the Irish! A great guide, and an excellent group of people to share this 14-day adventure.
After orientation and introductions, Susie led a group walk to a local restaurant for the Welcome Dinner. We were seated at tables of six. Dinner conversation was as good as the food, which was some of the best I ever tasted.
Photo: Farm Restaurant, a farm to table restaurant in Dublin. Here, we enjoyed our Welcome Dinner in a group of 24 travelers. "No grouches" as per the Rick Steves' rule. :)
Photo: Welcome dinner menu at Farm.
Photo: Farm Super Food Salad
Photo: Farm Surprise
After dinner, Susie led the group on an optional walk through parts of Dublin we would not see on the Day Two walking tour. Everyone joined in.
Photo: Spectacular hanging flower basket. According to Susie, some businesses compete to have the best outdoor floral displays.
Photo: Twilight time in Dublin on a quiet Sunday night. Monday is a "bank holiday," so this is a long weekend for local Dubliners.
Photo: The river that divides North Dublin from South Dublin
Photo: A crowd gathered round to hear a young steet evangalist
Photo: James Joyce in Dublin (1 of 2)
Photo: James Joyce in Dublin (2 of 2)
By the end of the walk, John and I were ready for a Jameson's and a good night's sleep.
Next: Day Two in Dublin: Walk and Book of Kells
Note: While I'm writing this post in Buswell's bar, a man sitting nearby is reading poetry aloud in a quiet voice to his female companion. One of two men at a table across the way is helping the other with his camera settings. The three men from my tour group's "library family" are discussing tomorrow's itinerary. Classical music is playing in the background. Perfect!