Monday, April 06, 2009

Farewell to Ireland

The last two days of our Irish journey were fairly uneventful because we were both pretty exhausted and ready to get back to Enschede. After a night of drinking a little too much, I woke up Friday morning and worked on packing up our things for a hotel change. In the process of making plans for our trip, Roxi had originally reserved a room for us at the conference recommended Trinity Capital Hotel. In the weeks that followed, she learned from some of her colleagues in the department that the Maldron Hotel was a much cheaper alternative. In trying to cancel our reservation at the Trinity Capital Hotel, she was informed that we would lose a 90 Euro deposit if we completely canceled the reservation. So she rightly decided that we would spend our last night in the Trinity Capital Hotel while we would spend the rest of the time in the cheaper but further away Maldron Hotel. So it was my job to cram everything into our travel backpacks for the afternoon transfer to the new hotel.

During Roxi's lunch break, we made the switch into the new hotel and were immediately glad that we chose to stay at the Maldron for the majority of our stay in Dublin. The Trinity Capital Hotel may be old and historic, but it wasn't nearly as nice as the Maldron and it certainly didn't have the amenities offered by our other hotel. Plus it had a much higher daily rate! I was pretty much through walking the streets of Dublin by myself, so in the afternoon I went with Roxi to the conference to sit in on the last couple of talks. They were mostly interesting and very related to some of the signal processing courses I had during my Masters program at Georgia Tech.

The conference concluded a little early mainly because I think everyone, including the organizers, was completely exhausted. During the closing speeches, they announced that there would be a happy hour at O'Niell's about an hour later. Roxi and I were both torn; on the one hand it would be good for Roxi to do more networking with the other attendees but on the other we were both beat and were tired of spending so much money. We decided to go back to the hotel and decide how we felt after dinner. It had started to rain and we didn't want to get wet looking for a place to eat, so we decided to have our evening meal at the hotel restaurant. After dinner we went back to the room to lay down knowing that probably meant that our minds were made up about the happy hour. Sure enough, by 8 PM we were both in bed falling asleep. Kind of a quiet last night in Dublin, but neither of us cared a bit; we were too tired!

On Saturday morning, I awoke early and took a short walk to scout out where we could catch our bus back to the airport for our afternoon flight. When we had made the flight reservation, Roxi had found a late afternoon flight back so that we would have more time in Dublin. When she made the reservation we had big plans to take advantage of the time, but on Saturday morning, both of us were ready to be home. We didn't want to have to carry our bags around for too long nor did we want to get to the airport too early, so we requested late checkout. This gave us time to take it easy in the hotel and have breakfast before we left. We made sure to take advantage of the complimentary full Irish breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Of course this being European travel, there was a hitch!

When we had checked in on Friday afternoon, the receptionist informed us that we had breakfast included in our room rate. Remembering the cost and trouble that we had with breakfast in Brussels, I made sure to have her double check so that we wouldn't be hit with some crazy extra charge. Flash forward to Saturday morning and while I was making up my breakfast plate at the buffet line, the waitress told Roxi that the computer showed that our breakfast was not included. When I got back to the table Roxi told me but I wasn't concerned because I had our room check-in card that indicated our breakfast was included. While I was getting some juice, the hostess tried to get Roxi to sign a bill for 30 Euros. The nerve of her trying to do that before we even had a chance to show her our proof that breakfast was included! Of course Roxi refused to sign the bill and I brought out our room card and she took it from me to check with reception. For the rest of breakfast, we had no idea if we were going to be comped for the meal. It made for a very unpleasant experience. Finally I asked our waitress what the deal was and she said we were supposed to pay. So we explained the situation again and she went to talk to the hostess. Eventually she came back and said that it was reception's fault and that we wouldn't have to pay. We were both pretty turned off that the hostess didn't have the nerve to tell us herself and we were both sure that they were going to try to sneak it onto our bill at check out. From that experience alone, I would never recommend the Trinity Capital Hotel to anyone traveling to Dublin. That all being said, I still had a pretty good full Irish breakfast.

Breakfast of Champions

Following the unpleasant breakfast experience, we went back to the room, did our final packing and managed to fit everything perfectly into our backpacks. We checked out of the hotel (making sure to scrutinize the bill for hidden breakfast charges! -- there were none) and tried to decide what to do with ourselves for the next hour and a half. In the end we decided to head to the bus station and get a cup of coffee somewhere along the way. We ended up at a little pub and had a coffee and a Coke. After killing as much time was we could, we headed for the bus station and took the forty minute ride to the airport. We checked in for our flight, went through security (no passport control at the terminal entrance in Dublin airport) and then wandered the shopping areas. We were thinking of buying some duty free whiskey until we learned that as long as you are traveling within the EU, you cannot take advantage of the duty free prices. And boy was the duty crazy! Most the liquors showed the duty free and non-duty free prices side by side and in some cases the difference was more than fifty percent! Taxes are high in the EU, that much is for sure!

We ended up getting some reasonable priced souvenirs and then had a drink at the bar by our gate. Finally we boarded our plane for the short flight back to the Netherlands. Of course once we were back in the Amsterdam, we still had a two and a half hour train ride back to Enschede. But that went off without a hitch and at 11 PM we were back home in our apartment. All in all, I had a good trip and enjoyed my time in Ireland. If it weren't so damned expensive I might go back, but at this point, there are other places I've never been that I would like to see first. I think Roxi had a pretty good trip, but they really over scheduled the conference attendees. I hope next time she has one of these opportunities, there will be more flexibility for her to see some of the sites of the host city.

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