Super Nanny

Max and I are home – YAY!!  Today Gerry and Hannah arrive (I messed up when I booked the flights, entirely my own fault) but this arriving on different days is kind of cool, too!

Max Studies over the Atlantic

I’ve realized over this trip that traveling with the 4 of us can be like herding cats.  In traveling energy, Max and I are similar while Gerry and Hannah are two peas in a pod.

A very slowly moving pod.

Max and I get up early, travel quickly, and plan ahead.  Hannah and Gerry tend to want to sleep in, stroll, and let things take them by surprise.

These are two VERY different energies that can clash in an enforced high-pressure setting like international travel.  Thus, although I didn’t consciously plan it this way, it’s probably VERY good that our travel was divided in this manner.


Why am I starting with the worst?  Because it’s like a spicy appetizer to a VERY satisfying meal.  Tomorrow I’ll write all about the BEST stuff we did, but today is catharsis…

Family Biking at Phoenix Park

Biking in Phoenix Park

In some ways Dublin was the BEST of our trip (This Is Knit, The Book of Kells, biking in Phoenix Park – all AMAZING memories!)

And in other ways Dublin was the absolute pits.

Having lived in New York for 20 years, I understand the dynamic of a large city, how cramming so many folks into a limited space ratchets up the tension a few notches.

Each large city – no matter how wonderful – has it’s own flavor with a slightly sour after taste.  To me, NY feels brusque, LA feels self absorbed, London feels a bit patronizing and Dublin feels like an inefficient-but-controlling nanny constantly telling one that they’re being naughty.

Nice Cockles

Naughty tourists.

Most of the negative interactions we had in Dublin revolved around us misunderstanding what someone in authority wanted us to do, and thus our inability to walk the invisible line they’d drawn.  See my post yesterday about the Nanny Hotel experience.

The wallet loss aside (which could have happened ANYWHERE) there seemed to be an almost – delight? – when our family was confused or had a hard time understanding something, and thus had to be admonished.

There was a, “Well, that is what happens to naughty children who don’t follow the rules…” attitude in Dublin, which we hadn’t run into at ALL in the rest of Ireland.

I’m sure it springs from the huge number of tourists who come through, and the Dubliner’s exhaustion with dealing with them.

An example was when we visited the National Museum.  We’d looked forward to this, there were exhibits that interested EACH of us, and after seeing the book of Kells we wandered through Georgian Dublin over to the Museum.

National Museum of Ireland, Front Door

As you walk in the building you’re overwhelmed with the architectural detail – the carving, the tile work, the interior of the entry dome, it’s all AMAZING!  I love architectural detail, I take photos of parts of buildings all the time and spent a few minutes outside photographing the front doors before walking in.

What I didn’t see was the hidden image of a camera with a line through it which was etched into a glass wall (seriously, it was HIDDEN behind a door.) No photography.

Now, I would NEVER photograph an exhibit unless I had permission or knew that it was allowed.  I wasn’t in the exhibition area, I was in the gift shop area.  What I was interested in photographing was the tile in the floor.  But if no cameras are allowed, I totally understand and I’m happy to put the canon away.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see the sign.  No one did.  NO ONE.

So when I pulled out my camera to photograph, I was yelled at.

“NO CAMERAS!” Very harsh, like the Soup Nazi.  SO I put it away.

But the fellow who’d yelled had to come over and say,  condescendingly, “You cannot take photographs in the museum, you have to put your camera away.” (it was away)

But he wouldn’t stop.  I don’t know if he was making an example of me in front of the other visitors, or if it just made him feel good, but he walked over to the “no camera” etching (which was only visible once you were INSIDE the museum looking back out through the front door) and said, “The sign is right here, there is NO photography.”

Thanks.  No pics.  I get it.

Once through the entry foyer we did what we usually do at museums; separated to view what interests each of us most with a ‘meet up time’ set about an hour later.

Now, I swear it was NOT my paranoid take on things, but I am positive that there was one guard who was trailing me to make sure I didn’t whip out the camera and sneak a black market pic of a stair railing.  I’d go upstairs, there he was.  I went downstairs, there he was.  I watched a video, he was outside the theater when I left.  I went to the cafe to meet the family and get a bite, he was right behind me.  Very odd.  I hope he had a good time – I know I did!

One of my favorite places to eat are museum cafes.  Often the food is just wonderful, and it’s usually not terribly expensive.  This cafe was strong on the great dishes, but the prices were higher than I’d expected.

They weren’t listed on the items, they were posted clearly on the wall by the cash register, but I found it hard to match the long descriptions of the dishes with the written text.  Let’s face it, reading a menu board, especially at a oblique angle, is NO ONE’s favorite thing to do.

So I was totally unprepared that an entree for me, a few cookies and tea for 4 would total €36.  We put back the cellophane wrapped cookies (much to the disgust of the woman at the counter) bringing my chicken roullade and tea for 4 to €24.  Looking at the receipt I saw we were charged for something we didn’t order, which further PO’d the cashier when we pointed it out (she looked at us as if we’d just made a big mess in her cafe – “Naughty, naughty Americans…”)

However, the museum was AMAZING.  We could have spent days there.  The cases themselves were not labeled extensively, but there was very good text along each exhibit and the arrangements were very good.  I saw a WONDERFUL video episode from a series called “Legacy” (which I would LOVE to find and purchase!) and seeing the bog people close up was an experience no one in the family will forget.  Amazing.

I also saw a knit beret-type hat with a flat brim that had been found in a bog, dated to the 16th C.  It was definitely knit in the round.  Food for thought.

As we finished up at the museum and started to leave,  I asked one of the gift shop cashiers about the video,

“Hi – I have a question; the video I saw about Vikings, would —“
– [clipped & short, interrupting] “‘S’not available.  Don’t have it.”
– Okay.  Thanks very much.  Sorry I bothered you…

Can You Spot The Duck?

Just then Max looked up and saw a DUCK sitting on the glass in the oculus of the dome  and asked the guard if it would be okay if he took a picture of it.

Happily, the guard said, “Yes” so the kids snapped a few shots of the duck

(And in the process the kids got a nice shot of the ceiling for me, too!  A nice companion to a ceiling at Aughnanure Castle)

Ceiling at Aughnanure Castle

Unhappily, some other visitors saw Max with his camera, so they took theirs out, and were  swiftly deterred with a strong and snappish, “NO CAMERAS!”

Naughty tourists.

The duck was not admonished.

Fumin’ & a-fussin’

Today was Dublin Redux day, a day for a do-over for our family and Dublin, and it was a magnificent one!

Because Max & I are flying out Sunday and Gerry & Hannah are flying out Monday (idiotic mistake on my part…) we knew we’d have to stay over in Dublin at least one night.  The flights are morning flights, so that added a day, too, so Gerry & Hannah will be here in the Dublin area for 3 days.

All the hotels I’d looked into were booked (perhaps because it’s the last weekend in May), so I went with a recommendation I’d received from a travel video (BIG mistake) and booked us into the Bewley’s Hotel at the Airport.  BIG MISTAKE

Please, whatever you do, AVOID BEWLEYS.

I’ve heard of the “Nanny State” – but I’d never experienced the “Nanny Hotel” until now.  At each turn I feel as though the hotel guests are treated like naughty children who can’t be trusted.

When one checks into the Bewley’s one is met with the frustrating inability to open the window more than a crack.  I know this isn’t unusual in European lower & mid-level hotels, but until now I’ve usually found a fan in the room.  Not here.

Our room is SO hot it’s difficult to be in it without having the door open onto the slightly-cooler hallway.  We can’t BUY a breeze, a passing whiff of air, nothing.  No fan is available and there is NO air conditioning because – as the woman at the desk smugly told us – We are eco-friendly…”

The implication was clear, “We are eco-friendly, you fat sow from the US who can’t live without central air for more than 1 day…”

Or maybe I just read that into what she’d said – after all, I was very hot.

Did I mention this was after a VERY hot 4 hour bus ride from Lifford to Dublin Airport in a non-air conditioned Eire bus?  Before you think I’m just being a fat sow of an American, EVERYONE on the bus was sweating and a brief survey at the ladies room during our rest stop netted the results that NO ONE had experienced such a hot bus before.  HOT, baby.

But back to Bewleys.  So we can’t open the window because their “insurance won’t allow it.” Read: “We get a break on our insurance if we don’t let folks actually USE the windows…”

Dirt, or a Heat Filtration System?

And we can’t really use the windows for their other intended purpose as they are SO dirty it’s hard to see out of them.  Why even HAVE windows, Bewleys?  Just to torment us?

Okay, we figured that we could just spend time in the FRIGID lounge area (no air conditioning?  Yeah, right…), paying twice as much for a cider as in any pub in Dublin, and it was only for 2 days.

Besides, it had taken SO much effort to get all of our luggage into the very tiny room (they call it a “family room” – but it’s the same size as any other room, just with an extra bed in it and costing €20 more) that we quailed at the thought of finding and moving to a different hotel.

After one of the most expensive dinners we’d had while in Ireland (and we ordered from the cheap bar menu) we headed back upstairs to drown our sorrows in some fine, fine television.

Except…  The Nanny Hotel won’t allow us to raise the volume high enough to hear the damned TV.  Some channels (sports, live audience shows) are relatively loud.  But the shows we want to watch (science documentary or movie) are so quiet that we have to – literally – gather around the TV so we can hear it.

Whatever it takes to bring the family together, right?

When I called the front desk to ask if there was a problem with the TV we were told that this is how all the TV’s are programmed (only to go to 50% volume.)

Why?  So we don’t disturb the other guests. Naughty, naughty guests, to make SO much noise with your TV-weevy…!

However, as I write this neither kid is able to fall asleep because the music from the disco below is SO loud that it actually drowns out the quiet science documentary we’re trying to watch (we put the TV on to drown out the DJ and the party downstairs)

My first call downstairs was met with, “Disco?  We don’t have a disco.  Or any parties tonight.”

It was like Agnes of God.  Baby?  What baby?

I told the fellow at the desk that I’d been downstairs 5 minutes earlier and the music from the disco/party was so loud folks had to shout at the desk to be heard.  So he conceded, “Yes, I will speak to the DJ…” That was 40 minutes ago – no movement in volume.  Perhaps the DJ couldn’t hear him?

But enough about the annoyingly smug and non-user-friendly Bewleys.  “Eco-friendly” my aunt Fanny. Back to Dublin and our lovely day there!

Up Top & In The Front!Since we’re at the airport, we had to take the hotel bus to the airport, then buy a €10 family all-day pass to ride the bus into the city, all over the city, and back to the airport from the city.  It turned out to be quite a bargain, we really used the busses today!

We visited Trinity college, saw the Book of Kells and walked all over Georgian Dublin.  We visited Merrion Square Park and the statue of Oscar Wilde, the National Library and the National Museum.  Mostly, though, we just enjoyed riding around on the top level of double decker busses – something Max had wanted to do the entire trip!

After investigating the city center to our fill, we took the bus to Phoenix Park where we rented bicycles and rode through a lovely landscape (VERY reminiscent of Prospect Park in Brooklyn) for an hour.  It was, without a doubt, the highlight of my time in Dublin and I owe great thanks to whichever of my students suggested it during my class 3 weeks ago.  THANK YOU!

Bravery In The Face of Scrapes

Unfortunately, we had a casualty when Hannah took a spill on her bike and not only scratched up her knee pretty badly, but ripped her favorite pair of jeans.  It’s hard to tell which she’s most upset about!

I was very proud that even with her aches and pains, she hopped back on the bike and made it back to the bike rental station where we did an initial cleaning of her wound and bandaged it loosely.

Then back on the bus to dinner, and a brief walk to a lovely cafe for tea and dessert (we like to split up our meals when possible as it allows us to see more of the city an experience more restaurants.)

One wonderful thing that happened this evening was as Gerry was experiencing a bit of his ulceretic colitis flare up (that wasn’t the wonderful thing) we happened on the idea of visiting the chemists we’d passed which advertised a “Doctor On Duty”

The doctor allowed Gerry 2 days of his Asocol, the drug he takes back home but which he was running out of, and that seems to have done the trick.  We felt so lucky to find the doctor/pharmacy.  Yay!

Update: It’s 12:40 and the drums have stopped.  Does this mean they’ll be attacking soon?  At least we can sleep…

A New Day

Last night after so much heartache, disbelief – who knew that losing a wallet would be so terrible? – we all returned to our apartment. I went out to the local pub so I could get online (no internet at our apartment, but it’s free at the pub!) I needed to cancel our credit cards and freeze our bank accounts and I knew it would take hours.  THAT was the big nightmare.

Hannah went with me and after my 4th skype phone call to yet another “press 2 for lost cards…” automated phone call (by the way, those calls are impossible to make in a loud Dublin pub – just sayin’) I was very, very thirsty.

I asked Hannah to take my last €5 up to the bar to get me a cider. She was 30¢ short, but an American fellow at the bar offered to come to her rescue. She quickly explained to him that she was just in high school, and was getting the cider for her mom (who’d had her wallet stolen)

I watched as the fellow chivalrously paid for the drink, and I could tell Hannah was a little blown away by the experience when she came back to the table.

Gerry said later, “Well, she feels terrible about leaving your bag behind at the bus stop, but it’s got to be a great night when a guy buys you your first drink…”

For The Birds

Cards canceled, Han and I returned to the apartment and we all watched The Birds on TV. The kids had not seen it before, it was EXACTLY what we needed; we laughed and laughed as a family, and somehow we were able to get our heads on straight.

The cleansing properties of a wonderful, terrible, suspense film are highly underrated.

It sucks that I happened to have most of our credit cards (all but one American Express card) in my wallet last night, something I NEVER DO.

And, further, it sucks that I had ALL of our money (well, all but a €50 euro bill Gerry had) in my wallet.

But sadly, I did.  Those are the breaks.

No Rest For The Wicked

This morning I was up early and walked all over the Dublin city center looking for ANY bureau de change that would be open on Bank Holiday – none were.

I  stopped in at the Garda (Police) station only to discover that the crime report wouldn’t be ready until Tuesday.  Bank Holiday.

I also looked into a hotel for Monday night in case we had to stay over another day, and I talked with a very nice guy at one place who offered a good rate AND said they’d accept American Express.  It felt so good to have a back up plan in case we weren’t able to take our scheduled bus to Lifford.

So we loaded up the luggage train and took the light rail to the Busaras  (Irish for Bus Station) where – after emptying our collective pockets and coming up with €60 – we learned we were €5 short for the family fare to Lifford.

And, of course, the bus line would not take American Express.

I knew that the folks at This Is Knit would help us out, but they were closed for Bank Holiday (oh, how I am learning to HATE those words) We could have called our host family, but we had no cell phone and the pay phone or my computer’s skype just wasn’t accepting the number I was typing in.  I am evidently missing something very basic and very important about dialing a phone in Ireland.

Short of having the kids tap dance in front of the statue of Michael O’Connell, we just didn’t see how we’d scrape together the last €5 euros.  Such a small amount, but when you don’t have a phone, don’t really know anyone AND it’s a bank holiday, it might as well be €500.

The Kindess Of Knitters

We dragged our sorry suitcases back to the hotel I’d investigated earlier and explained our situation to the new woman at the desk, who happened to be a knitter.  AND, because knitters are very kind and special, she volunteered to lend us €5. Hannah was the first to say, “Yes!” – and we all agreed.  The kind woman  was lovely, and I gave her a few of my books as a thank you.

Once again back with all of our luggage to the Busara (It was very smart us to by a 1-day light rail pass the day before – and even smarter for Gerry to put it in HIS wallet, huh?) to triumphantly purchase our ticket, onto the bus for Lifford and 4 hours later our host family was driving us back to their lovely home. Huzzah.

They’ll be leaving for St. Paul on Wed, they’re just a wonderful couple and we’ve bonded pretty well already. It’s lovely here, and if the local banks can’t give us a cash advance on our Amex card, our hosts have agreed to allow us to paypal them some funds and then ‘cash a check’ for that same amount.

So we’re good – we are safe – and we are very lucky. It could have been much worse.  We’re all good, we all have our passports, I have my camera and my knitting, and we’ll get the cards replaced and the money is just money.

And we will never put all of our “eggs” in one wallet again.

Now if I could just figure how to get my driver’s license replaced we’d be golden!


A huge, heartfelt “THANK YOU!” to anyone who helped us scrape together our stolen funds.  Your love and kindness are overwhelming!

If I haven’t already, I’ll be writing to each of you when I’m not half asleep tomorrow!  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

We’re Here, Lots of Good & A Big Piece of Shite

We arrived in Dublin yesterday and whilst Hannah and Gerry rested, Max and I wandered along the Liffey, seeing the sights and getting our bearings.

Max, in Happier Days

Gerry and Hannah both seemed to be suffering from some travel illness, so this morning instead of the three of them heading off to sight-see, G&H stayed home and rested.

The class at This Is Knit could NOT have been better!  Engaged and GIFTED knitters who responded well to what I had to teach them.  I felt like such a piker, teaching IRISH women to knit – who do I think I am?  But they found me amusing, and I found them charming, and it was a love fest all over!

Max and I walked home, picked up Hannah who was feeling a bit better and headed to Marks & Spencer to get Han a new hoodie and dinner for Gerry.  Back home, dinner in the oven, and I took the kids to the corner pub so I could enjoy a bit of wifi (the only free spot open near us)

For whatever reason Max had a meltdown.  I think it was just too much excitement, too much missing out on what HE wanted to do (ride a double decker bus) and too much following me around and helping me today.  He got terribly upset over some stupid joke Hannah and I were telling, and it made me feel like a piece of shite.

But the fun wasn’t over.  We went back to the apartment and after a brief discussing decided we’d sally forth, get a bus/light rail pass and just ride around on double decker buses to pay Max back for being such a big help to me today.

While waiting for a bus that never came, Hannah set down my bag.  She’d offered to carry it for me because I was exhausted, and I didn’t think twice about it.

Unfortunately, when the bus didn’t come and we walked away to go to the next bus st0p, the bag remained behind us.  It was just too much responsibility for a 13 year old girl.

I realized it was missing about 2 blocks away, Hannah run like the wind back to the stop, the bag was there but my wallet and cell phone were gone.  I’m still a bit in shock.  As luck would have it, and for the FIRST time in my life, I had Gerry’s 2 credit cards with mine in the wallet, so we’ve lost all our cards but the one he still had with him.  It’s bad news.

Fortunately, the bag was there, Max & my passports were there, my camera was there AND my current knitting project was there.  And my makeup.  So the vitals.

I feel so foolish, so irresponsible.  Hannah felt like a bit piece of shite, too, and it took a lot of talking down to get her to understand that it really was MY responsibility.

Police reports were filed, after 2 hours online the credit cards are cancelled.  We have no phone service here and we’re hoping the bus service will take American Express for the tickets tomorrow.

The US Embassy is closed tomorrow, we’re supposed to go to the police department and get some form and take it to the embassy so I can MAYBE get a license to drive here.  MAYBE.  But that won’t be until Tuesday, and that means another night in Dublin.  Ch ching.

And here we sit at the corner pub, me with my last 6 euros, posting to my blog.  At least I have my priorities straight…

At the advice of several readers, here’s a button if you’d like to donate something to help us offset what we lost.
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Everyone here in Dublin’s been most kind, but it’s a very hard situation to be card-less & euro-less on Bank Holiday in a foreign country…