We flew into Denpasar on Bali by noon, via Air Asia. I’d never heard of them before this trip and now I can tell you they’re much like a cross between Virgin America in style, with a dash of RyanAir low-cost thrown in. We splurged the extra $5 to reserve in the front section, but passed on any of their meals or shopping deals. I was impressed overall with Air Asia and wouldn’t hesitate to book with them again.
Our hotel, La Taverna, sent us a driver with an air-conditioned SUV. He was a welcome sight after a humid, 30-minute wait in the Visa line. After another half hour drive, we checked in, cranked up our AC immediately to counter the oppressive heat, and made hunting for lunch our first order of priority.
We only made it one more hotel down the boardwalk to Tandjung Sari before realizing it was not within us to trek further. I ordered my first Mie Goreng with Satay. (“Put an Egg On It!” would be my de facto request for the next few days.) He ordered his first Nasi Campur of many of the trip — an Indonesian mixed plate consisting of rice and a variety of other tastes.
And then we both crashed for 14 straight hours.
For years, I’ve read Singapore’s Changi Airport recommended as designed for long layovers, and today we finally put that advice to the test. We were lucky to have a quick 2-hour connection at Tokyo, but conveniently direct 19-hour routes from Seattle land you in Singapore very early in the AM. As in, 1 AM early with an 8-hour layover before our next leg to Indonesia. This makes for a very long journey, I tell you what.
I followed the great Internet’s advice and reserved ahead at the in-terminal hotel. I didn’t know what to expect. What this place going to be gross? Was my luggage going to be stolen? Was this going to agitate Singapore customs and immigration if we didn’t show up right away to collect our luggage? I was very nervous about the arrangement. We’d have to head directly to the hotel from the gate. No customs, no immigration, no picking up baggage because you can’t re-enter the terminal once past a checkpoint.
I emailed the hotel manager beforehand about the luggage –> Is it safe? Did people do this routinely? I was assured yes. Google backed me up. Mr. T wasn’t too worried about our bags being stolen and reminded me the city-state was famously strict. I wasn’t sure if this would work for or against us.
We gambled for the solid 6 hours of sleep. We arrived on schedule. Lo and behold, our gate was one escalator from the hotel. I’m glad we made a reservation because we watched someone get turned away as we arrived. We whisked through check-in, showered in a private room, and were asleep within 15 minutes. (Bonus: I felt pretty pleased with myself for having remembered to pack fresh sleeping clothes in my carry-on!) It could not have been easier, plus they provided coffee, tea, and TV! Make no mistake, it was no frills and basic. We had a good laugh over the fact that the curtains didn’t actually cover any windows but hey, nice touch! The water was hot, everything was CLEAN, and the bed was better than some you’ll find in certain central European 3-star hotels.
When it was time to answer our wake-up call, we moseyed out to immigration. We found zero lines and zero hassle. Next, we found baggage claim. Our bags were kept safely in a secure area — we showed our boarding passes and baggage tickets to leave with them. This was a detail missing elsewhere on the internet, so I’m sharing that knowledge here.
In minutes, we were on our way to our first Asian breakfast of Laksa and Chicken Rice, before our next ride to Bali!
Those are some clever artists at the Atlantic Crossing. (We were en route to Pies and Pints, the long way.) There’s always a different sign out there.
Smith Tower, just before sunset, Fall 2011.
(Also, I finally published my post on our day in The Connemara.)
If you ever get an invite to eat pasta made by the Gastrognome and her DHBiker, you should jump all over that.
(I loved her fall flowers, too!)
I love what my friend, Brook, did here with the lighting and color in her main room. She hosted our Foodcentric discussion tonight of The Feast Nearby, by Robin Mather.
By noon, we’d gone from the metropolitan east coast of Ireland to the rural west. We stopped at Westport, for lunch at a place I imagine is your typical Irish-style diner. I ordered a chilli chicken sandwich (I was going for spice). I don’t really know why I keep doing this in Ireland when I should EMBRACE THE POTATO. Mr. T fared better with this shepherd’s pie thing.
We found a Fall Festival going in Westport.
After admiring their livestock, we moved right along to the coast. Mr. T’s (Irish) colleague strongly recommended we take the N59 from Westport to Clifden to Ballynahinch. Conveniently, this specific drive is also Rick Steves recommended so we had a handy Kindle guide to provide more context en coastal route. The whole shebang loops you through The Connemara, so you get a scenic drive past lakes and Kylemore Abbey and the bogs and a national park.
Our first stop out of town was the National Famine Memorial, situated near Croagh Patrick. This Croagh (mountain, not pictured) is the site where St. Patrick expelled those snakes which is very near where many Irish left for other lands to escape dire poverty. We took a photo break at the famine ship sculpture before continuing onto the boglands.
At Connemara National Park (pictured above), we got out for a brief hike to see what a bog is all about. It is this precious energy resource that looks like it could easily be taken for granted but is now protected from over-development.
I kept asking Mr. T, so is that bog? What about over there? What do you think?
We rolled on through the wilderness, past sheep and the coast and lakes and farmland.
Before nightfall, we arrived at our evening’s destination, Ballynahinch Castle, in time for an early meander around the grounds and dinner at a pub.
Pictures on the castle tomorrow.
I reached the point I always get to in our travels, where I paid a quality solo visit to a grocery near where we’re staying. The Fresh market I found is bigger than a EuroSpar, but smaller than your average American cousin. Inside, my favorite find today were the Haggis chips from Scotland. Options seemed global in scope, I presume for all of the transplanted tech workers living in the D4.
Tonight, we visited Dublin’s Crackbird out with an old friend — Sasha — and her partner. She’s lead me to all of my favorite Dublin restaurants. This one will be worked into my regular rotation for they specialize in my favorite addiction: fried chicken.
On this evening, they also happened (unexpectedly) to have a DJ…whose mixing made it practically impossible to carry on a dinner conversation but seemed popular with a hipster crowd. I took to calling the joint a Fried Chicken Disco.
Once we polished off our birds, we retired to a quite civilized watering hole, where our ancient ears could recover and we could catch up on life since our last dinner together.
Late this afternoon, I met up with a Seattle friend who just relocated to Dublin. We headed over to the Dublin Oktoberfest at St. George’s Dock. They channeled Munich well — the entire festival smelled like sausage and beer and sauerkraut and pretzels.
For the first time this week, the sun broke out from behind clouds as we walked home along the Liffey.
That little island in front of my favorite Dublin bridge (the Samuel Beckett) with the orange tent is an art installation for the 2011 Fringe Festival — No Man’s Land/No Man is an Island. An artist is supposedly living there during the entire Fringe Fest. Later, a cabbie told me the conspiracy was that he had a trap-door to a warm room below. Conspiracy!
When I signed up for “That About the Size of It” as part of Fringe Fest, I was expecting an entertaining but nerdy 40 minutes of science talk by Niamh Shaw. Actually, I don’t really know what I was anticipating based on this festival sheet, but what I watched was better.
Yes, she started about CERN, the search for the God Particle, atoms, neutrinos, but quickly moved into very autobiographical stories about trying to find her calling, about lives she didn’t pursue and where those paths live on now. We imagined the co-existence with her as she talked, while videos projected behind her of those possible alternate lives, running along at their present courses in a 10th dimension.
It was absorbing and gave me a whole new way of re-imagining my past and present, for the next time I go wandering down those paths of my own.
One of the things you should know about Dublin is that as a matter of course, it punches well above its weight class with its (frequently free) museums, special libraries, and cultural activities. We are especially lucky to be visiting during September for Dublin’s Festival Season. During our two week visit, there’s the GAA All Ireland Finals, Dublin Fringe Fest, Dublin Theatre Festival, Arthur’s Day, Culture Night 2011, Dublin Contemporary 2011, and even an Oktoberfest on the Liffey. That’s just in the city.
Today at lunch, I checked out “All Things Considered, It’s a Nice Place to Start”, a play for Dublin’s Fringe Festival. These playwrights wrote letters to 300 strangers, targeted amongst all the counties and social classes, thanking them for the good things they’d done. Then they wrote a play about the response of their attempt to combat a grim climate in a dark time, fighting cynicism with quirky Irish optimism. It was a good hour.
I also made a quick stop at the National Photographic Archive, to check out their “Irish Children through the Ages” exhibit. It’s a small space, and this year, I enjoyed the 10 minute stop more than last year.
For dinner, we discovered Dublin’s Smoked Haddock Fish and Chips, at Leo Burdock’s. We’ll be making a regular place for this in our Dublin restaurant rotation. Does anyone in Seattle make smoked haddock? They should.
We then visited The Longstone Pub, whose backroom reminded me very much of Return to Oz.
One of the city’s Fringe outdoor art installations was next door — the “I am afraid” wall.
I awoke this AM, fearful of a looming cold. My 2nd thought: find pho. Between that and Emergen-C, it is my anti-illness voodoo. The internet turned up zed Vietnamese options in the Dublin metro area, so a Chowhound post suggesting Wagamama‘s chilli chicken ramen was my best bet. I doctored it up with extra chilli. It worked well enough, for I was cured of the cloudy head and my fear.
I made a quick detour to Boots to stock up on Berocca Boost. Then, I walked all the way home to Grand Canal Quay, looking for changes of the last 18 months.
After dark, Mr. T & I walked over to South Great Georges St to hit up our favorite restaurant in Dublin: L’Gueuleton. Very French and remarkably good — we ate there twice on last year’s visit. The menu’s totally changed (I presume for Fall), but tonight, I had maybe the best french onion soup I’ve ever had.
I awoke as we descended into Ireland. My transcontinental sleep routine had been foiled by flight attendants who left the cabin lights on 2 hours longer than normal, so I wasn’t exactly bright eyed nor bushy-tailed at Customs.
We gave awake-ness a fair shot on this blustery (and very Seattle-gray day), starting off at our beloved Junior‘s for brunch, then continuing along the Liffey towards the new Dublin Wheel, near the ferries to England and Wales.
Funny story: while out walking, I spotted a Seattle friend on her Sunday run. She moved here two weeks ago, but I hadn’t yet emailed her I’d arrived. This kind of random thing happens to me, more often than you would expect. It’s a small world.
Later, after an unintentional 3-hour slumber, we checked out the new Ely at Grand Canal Quay. Skip it if you’re in the hood — it’s not worth going out of your way to visit.
We cut our dinner losses and returned to the hotel for the thrilling Season 2 Premiere of Downtown Abbey! Huzzah! I can’t remember the last time I watched something on the night of broadcast, on its originally intended channel.
On our way to say Hello to Dublin, 2011-style.
I’ll be away soon, and when I return I suspect my precious basil won’t have made it through the Fall rains. I’ve had the good fella since June, and it’s kept me in Caprese salads at least 3 times a week ever since.
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