Our first two weeks in Europe as we traipsed through Budapest, Paris, and London, we scheduled our own days, lingering and loitering with abandon. We squandered mornings, wandered through museums as long as we liked, and generally stayed out of reach of the clock’s little hands. When we locked the door of the London apartment, we left that life behind.
At London’s Euston Station, we abandoned our lackadaisical ways, forsook lingering and loitering, and took the vow of obedience that joining a tour requires.
Becoming a tour-ist is like joining a cult. You must agree to obey the rules (“Carry these papers with you at all times and don’t lose your tickets.”), be on time (“Or we may have to leave without you.”), eat when you are told to eat (“You have one hour.”), drink when you are told to drink (“Is this koolaid?”), and cheerfully donate all of your money to the group (“We take Visa, Mastercard, or your firstborn.”)
The cult we chose was Railtours Ireland. As far as cults go (and this one goes all over Ireland and back), they’re a good one. A yellow-vested representative met us at Euston station in London, handed us the information packet and tickets, and remained with us until the train left the station for Holyhead in North Wales. We saw beautiful scenery along the way, so I took a picture of a red sign. Sadly, our train did not stop at Llanfairpwilgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwillantysiliogogogoch Station, one of the longest place names in the world: Welsh for “St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio with a red cave.” (Amaze your friends by learning to pronounce it.) More sadly, the place name is not authentic Welsh, but a ploy to draw tourists to the place. And most sadly of all, this station really has nothing to do with my trip to Europe but does support my contention that the Internet should be called the worldwide warren because once you enter in, you find yourself heading down rabbit trail after rabbit trail.
At Holyhead we boarded the Ulysses (Largest ferry in the world!), reportedly decorated according to James Joyce’s book of the same name. If you’re like me, and I’m sorry if you are, you’re thinking, “What a novel idea.” We got on the ferry with what seemed like thousands of English tourists eager to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by going to Dublin, where it wasn’t celebrated.
When the ferry docked in Dublin Port, we followed the crowds down six or seven floors where the cars were parked. It took us that many floors to realize (1) we could not exit that way, and (2) we didn’t have a car. Going up the down staircase does little to foster good will and gives American tourists a bad name, so we excused ourselves saying, “Sorry, we’re from Canada.” (Note to Canadian readers: Just kidding! We excused ourselves with an accent and said we were British. Note to British readers: Sorry.)
Another yellow-vested tour guide kindly met us when we de-shipped and took us to our hotel. After settling in, we noticed it was past time for our repast, so we put on warmer clothing, activated our push-button umbrellas, and took the tram downtown in search of a restaurant. We discovered 101 Talbot and had the best appetizer ever: an organic hen’s egg with broccoli and some kind of wonderful lick-worthy sauce, that made me rue my slavish obedience to the rules of polite behavior. Some plates were meant to be licked. Both of our entrees included potatoes cooked in duck fat, which for some reason creates a picture in my head of Robin yelling at Batman as an oily criminal lobs lard bombs, “Duck! Fat!”
Our official rail tour would not begin until Monday. We arrived in Dublin on a Saturday, which left us Sunday to see some of Dublin. The tour package included a pass for the Hop On, Hop Off bus, so before I went to bed I read through the brochure and selected the one stop where we had to hop off. No matter what.