Monday, March 30, 2009

Enschede to Dublin via Amseterdam

On the evening of Friday March 21, Roxi and I left Enschede by train bound for Amsterdam where we spent the night before flying to Dublin the next morning. We stayed at an interesting experiment of a place in Amsterdam called the Qbic Hotel. It is supposedly a hotel where the staff is invisible, i.e. you check yourself in and out at a machine and if you want food, you buy it from the vending machines in the dining area. It is only an experiment though because when we arrived we were greeted, albeit by a lone staff person, who proceeded to check us in and direct us to our room. As the hotel's name implies, our room was a cube with very limited amenities. It was a clean but sparse room, so much so, that there wasn't even a window to the outside world, only a mirror claiming that "You are the view!" It was all a little too trendy for Roxi and a little too spartan for me. But it was cheap and couldn't have had more convenient access to the train to the airport that we would take early the next morning.

We arrived rather late in the evening, but it being Amsterdam, we figured things would surely be hopping in the city center. Indeed they were. After a short tram ride to Dam Square, we set out to our new favorite restaurant, The Golden Chopsticks, which we learned about during Leah and O'Neil's visit a few weeks ago. After a very filling dinner of steamed oysters, spicy chicken and crunchy pork, we raced to catch the last tram of the evening back to the south side of the city. Unfortunately we missed it by few minutes and found ourselves with about forty minutes to kill before the night bus started at 1:00 AM. From our bus stop, we found the nearest bar and had a couple of Jupiler beers while waiting. They were very refreshing, but being as full as we were from dinner, we both felt very stuffed as we made our way back to the bus stop thirty minutes later.

Neither of us slept great that night. I never sleep well the night before an early morning flight, especially when I'm in a hotel. To make matters worse, there was no clock, let alone one with an alarm, in our room. There wasn't even a phone where I could set up a wake up call! I talked to the lady at "reception" and she said we could request a wake up knock on our door. So with that I went to a restless sleep. I woke up several times and checked my iPod clock only to find that it had been an hour or so. Finally, 6:00 AM rolled around and I got up and showered to make myself more alert. I got Roxi up about thirty minutes later and by 7:00 we were checking out and on our way to Schiphol Airport.

The train ride was only a few minutes and then it was just a matter of finding the Aer Lingus check-in kiosks. I've always heard how busy Schiphol is so I was expecting a DFW or Bush Intercontinental sea of humanity, but it was really not that bad. Check in was very painless and there was no metal detector security line to get into the terminal area, only passport control. It really speeds things up when there is no TSA style bottleneck right from the get go! We did a little walk around the gate area to keep ourselves busy before boarding the flight. Once they opened our flight for boarding, we got in line and at that point went through a more traditional security screening. It worked so well it really makes me wonder why US airports don't adopt a system like this. You still need ID to get into the terminal but you don't have to take your shoes off until you are about to board the plane. It seems like there would be a lot less people missing flights because of security screenings if this were the case in the States. Maybe it wouldn't work in the US but it sure wouldn't hurt to try it seeing as how miserable travel has gotten from just about every airport in the States!

The flight from Amsterdam to Dublin was one hour and ten minutes of ease. It's great to fly internationally in such a short time, but I guess it's no different from flying between neighboring states in the US. We arrived in Dublin, claimed our checked bag and looked for ground transportation to our hotel. After a thirty minute bus ride we arrived at the nearest stop to our hotel and were told by the driver that we had about a ten minute walk. At least twenty minutes later (!) we were sure we were lost. Aparently in Dublin, there are very few numbers on any of the buildings and we hadn't seen a street sign yet. Suddenly, we noticed a sign for Cardiff Lane, our final destination, and sure enough, the Maldron Hotel was just a few yards down the street.

Since our arrival to Dublin was so early, we couldn't check in yet, so we stored our bags at the desk and inquired about some traditional Irish pub food. We got a few suggestions and started walking down Pearse Street looking for a nice lunch. Several blocks down the road we found a pub offering a daily special of fish and chips among other things and decided to give it a go. Roxi decided to go with the special while I went with a beef burger, hoping that it would be better than the burgers I've been having in the Netherlands. Although Roxi's fish wasn't great, my burger was fantastic and much better than the beef that's available in Holland. I also took the opportunity to order my first of many Guinness beers of the trip. After finishing our food, it was still too early to check into the hotel so we had another round of drinks to kill the remaining time. Finally it was nearly 2:00 PM and check-in time.

We made our way back to the hotel, checked in, got settled into our room for the next week and then went swimming! The hotel had a great complimentary health club and spa in the basement. We knew it going in, so we planned ahead and found some swim suits before we left Enschede. It was so relaxing after the late Friday night and the travel on Saturday morning. We spent some time in the steam room, the sauna and the whirlpool. It was really nice except for the steam room which was so musty I felt like I was going to leave with Legionaire's disease. The sauna and whirlpool where very nice and we frequented them on several occasions during our time in Dublin.

After our trip to the spa, we were both pretty relaxed and tired so we decided to take a nap. Several hours later, it was late and we were both pretty content with staying in for the night so we decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. I had a fancy version of bangers and mash while Roxi opted for vegetarian curry. They were both great and very filling. After dinner, we decided to officially call it a night so that we would be well rested for some sightseeing the next day. We didn't do a lot on our first night in Dublin but with seven more to follow, we certainly needed to get rested!

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