My first stop, the National Art Museum, where the first thing I discover is that in Ireland, art is free. What a concept! All museums should adopt this policy. I spend much of my time there hypnotized by Caravaggio's Taking of Christ, a masterful study in chiaroscuro.
Somewhere en route, I come across all small park with a memorial to native son, Oscar Wilde. I like that the sculpture is very explicit.
I decide to take the hop-on-hop-off bus, as much from curiosity to see Dublin, as from the lack of navigability of the place: except for signs pointing to specific attractions, you'd never know where you are - there are no street signs. My map is soaked from constant consulting, but it's useless; I inevitably end up getting more help from strangers.
As for the bus, I hop on but never hop off, unsure when the next bus will arrive (I hear rumors they're not all prompt). Instead, I find myself dozing - on a public bus! Eeek! This is something I would NEVER do in New York. But I'm not alone. The bus is host to many a jet-lagging and tired tourist. It's as safe a place as any to put your feet up, I guess.
I return to the hotel, which gives me a recommendation for dinner - and a final confirmation that America is the only place still serving traditional (bad) pub food. They don't do that in Ireland anymore. My pub dinner once again is superb.
I'm up at 4:30am for a 6am flight, and leave Ireland without ever having a chance to say farewell to my tour mates which is rather a shame. If I'd known that the bus to Dublin was the last time we would see each other, I would have at least said a proper good-bye. They were a lovely group and up for anything (well, within reason).
A couple of notes about Ireland I didn't get to mention:
1. The Romans never came to Ireland, but the Vikings did. And they left the influence of their language behind. Which is why 7 years of Latin did me no good when trying to learn (or remember) any Irish. The Irish language has more in common with Icelandic than any of the Romance languages - ádh mór! (that's good luck in Irish).
2. If you're interested in how the politics of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain came about (you'll find parallels to other countries if you read it - humanity is the same all over the world), you might look at this link. It's dated from before the Scottish referendum, but is otherwise fairly comprehensive, and not too long.
So how does this trip stack up with my Back Roads experience?
It's apples and oranges really. If what you want is to bike many interesting miles in a foreign country (say 40-60 per day) and do some sight seeing, then Back Roads would be a good choice. The group is likely to be young and athletic as a whole; the Back Roads guides are truly amazing (and hard working) global citizens who will take great care of you - though you're still better off as a couple; I had a hard time of it navigating alone even with three guides.
The accommodations are equally luxurious.
If you're willing to bike less in order to spend more time exploring the country you are biking in, then VBT is a better fit. The group is likely to be older (but don't count them out as athletes); the local guides and their connections with the local populace - musicians, dancers, pubs etc. - cannot be underestimated; and frankly, I felt better cared for, even though there were only two of them. I also liked our bikes much better than those from BR.
I return to NYC a little unnerved by the direction of traffic (now it seems OK to ride on either side of the street), but glad to see Lucille and Lola again. I plan to get out on the road soon, but I know myself: I will record no rides until this blog is done.