Drumshanbo

Another grey and wet day. I have the flight out at 16:00, but there’s a few meetings before that! We quickly meet a guy in a hotel just off the Dublin ring road, then we’re off to the countryside! Destination: Drumshanbo, co. Leitrim. I have difficulty locating it on a map, it’s way out in the sticks, almost by Sligo/Sligeach on the west coast. About 200 km. from Dublin. In weird Irish fashion, distances are shown in km, but speed limits are in miles! Confusion reigns.

We drive past flat countryside, much like rural England: green fields, hedgerows, grazing sheep and cattle. Several lakes (locally known as loughs) dot the scenery. Many road improvement projects financed by the EU regional development fund. No wonder many Irish are against EU expansion (and there will be a referendum on the Nice treaty in a couple of weeks) – they would lose out to the countries east!

I am told that the best scenery in Ireland is to be had in the South West – wild coastline, country pubs, friendly locals. But the cost per person for a B&B is now around EUR 40! Will hence give Ireland a miss for holidaying unless I travel in a motorhome or something.

Meeting with customer in Drumshanbo, then back down to Dublin just in time to catch Ryanair to Standsted and then to Treviso!

Dublin

A grey drizzly day. Ok, the Emerald Isle must get rain to stay green I suppose….

My MII’s family problems have caused disarray in the trip. Ivan (despite the Russian name, he is a genuine Irishman) tries to reorganise visits and make sense of the intended schedule. We visit a few accounts dispersed around Dublin in dreary industrial estates. There is no big deal to be done on this visit: this is a “distributor support” trip – a chance to talk shop, discuss possible new business areas, and a chance for the distributor to wheel me in to a few people to show what a fine company he is representing. They supposedly like this kind of treatment!

At one point we pass through Phoenix Park – a vast green area in Dublin. The presidential palace is located there, with the American ambassador’s residence just in front. A large cross nearby marks the spot of a Papal Mass a few years ago.

I am fascinated by the bilingual English/Irish road signs: Dublin/Baile Atha Cliath – Cork/Corcaigh. The roots of the Irish language are way unfamiliar tro me!

I have to arrange my own evening meal as Ivan has another meeting. It is raining. I am tired. I elect to dine at the hotel bar: steak and chips and a couple of pints of Guinness. Nothing worth writing home about…

Dublin

Ryanair gets me to Dublin in a B737 decidedly older than the Treviso-Stansted leg, with a far narrower seat pitch. But the flight is only one hour, so no big deal. DUB is a 1970’s concrete style airport in need of extensive renovation: this is in fact taking place, hanging ceiling fixtures and missing floor panels testify to this, but certainly do not give a good impression to the first-time visitor.

I exit the customs area; my Man In Ireland is not there – after a while, I spot his boss, named Ivan. He bears bad news: apparently MIIs father in law is gravely ill, so he cannot meet me. The visit plan has to be rescheduled and Ivan will now take care of me. No matter: Ivan is an urbane 35 year old, he drives me to my hotel in an industrial area outside Dublin, a standard British style establishment with thick red carpet and a tea-making apparatus in the room. On the way, I remark on the M25 style traffic jam on the Dublin ring road (the M50) and the fact that the Irish drive on the wrong side of the road.

I glance at the name tag of the hotel receptionist: he is called Iqbal. His colleague is Siobhan. The global village has arrived in Ireland too!

We start the evening well: a couple of pints of Guinness in the hotel bar. We then get a taxi to the town centre about 20 minutes down the road. No great sights: apparently Dublin has no cathedral as expected in a Catholic capital city. The town center regretfully resembles that of Birmingham: a few Georgian style civic buildings left over from the colonial past and a dilapidated, now being renovated city centre area known as Temple Bar. Apparently there are green squares further on, but I don’t see them.

We dine at a modern restaurant, designer lighting, designer furniture and matching designer prices. But the food is excellent: I choose a Guinness organic beef stew with root vegetables and expect a Shepherd’s Pie sort of thing, but no! I am served a delicious bowl of tasty, tender meat chunks in a beer jus, with a side of potato purée and a golden brown croûte. A good Spanish merlot to drink and a lime and chocolate cheesecake to finish. Ivan generously takes care of the designer bill.

Some typical Irish entertainment follows: we go to Fitzsimmons pub, featuring a Man U vs. Everton match showing at a wide screen video at one end and an Irish folk group at the other end playing on the tin whistle, fiddle, guitar and banjo, with a foursome of tap-dancing girls. A crowd of Italians (!) and Americans look on. Seems touristy stuff, but Ivan assures me that similar entertainment is common throughout Ireland – OK, but maybe not all over on Monday nights. We partake of a pint of Kilkenny’s and a pint of Guinness – then a taxi back to the hotel!

Stansted

Another departure lounge. The flight from Treviso was uneventful, smooth baggage pickup at Stansted, where my Woman in UK was waiting for me. Went with her to eat and talk shop. Located a self-service café-restaurant in the terminal and helped ourselves to two sandwiches (dry bread), one salad, one small beer, one orange juice. I spluttered when the till rang – total cost GBP 19.00!!! How do these locals survive????

Flight to Dublin seems full up – must be full of refugees escaping British prices!

The Emerald Isle

Short hop this week over tio Ireland. Hey, I’m curious, I’ve never been to the place before! I’m flying Ryanair, so no Chardonnay, no lounges, indeed, no service at all. Not even any seat allocation. You are handed your boarding card stub, and you then race to get to a seat. First come, first served. But hey, what do you expect for an EUR 75 flight to Stansted and then a GBP 8 (yes, eight…) flight to Dublin!

Treviso airport is basically a one terminal, one runway ex-military airfield, served daily by three Ryanair flights to Stansted, and one to Charleroi and also a mysterious Carpatair service to assorted Romanian destinations. It’s actually closer to my house than the “proper” airport at Venice. My fellow passengers are an assortment of Great Unwashed and besuited biz people. Still, the plane is completely full, there is an empty seat next to me and a grand view of the Alpine snow from my window.

Lunch at Stansted with my UK agent before onward flight to Dublin.