Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dublin to Glasgow

Went to sleep rather late after the Dublin concert; Bob Dylan’s ended at 10:30pm, then a long walk back to the guesthouse (the trams were packed with people, and traffic was horrendous; walking seemed to be the best option) and finishing up the previous blog entry before going to bed.

I acknowledge the fact that the previous post wasn’t too elaborate with respect to the actual concert. Frankly, I spent most of my time being somewhat excited for actually being there and being overwhelmed with the new songs; plus, I wasn’t going to provide any ammunition to those, who might be reading this blog and then going complaining—about a show they hadn’t seen yet, might I add—to our honourable Guy Fletcher in his forum. This has happened before, during the Get Lucky tour, when things I wrote were taken out of proportion and out of context and then used as basis to all sorts of senseless complaints to the band. Pissed me off to no tangible end.

So… I hope you understand. More details about the shows will be provided as we go along. For example, tonight.

Charles Stewart’s Guesthouse’s walls were too thin to bear the noise and yells carried out by my merciless neighbours. In other circumstances I might have done something proactive about it, but being front row in Bob Dylan’s show meant a tremendous headache afterwards and all I really wanted was to shut my eyes and go to sleep. Popped a couple of earplugs and went to sleep in that cold, cold room (heat only works for one hour every evening).

Woke up early, filled with joy knowing that that was the last night ever that I stay in that God awful guesthouse. At least now I know what “3 stars” means in Dublin; further research shown that the Charles Stewart’s is actually of the better ones amongst them. For the North Americans who read this, I’d suggest staying in at least a 4-star hotel while visiting the city as “star ratings” vary from country to country, and 3-star hotels here certainly don’t measure up to 3-star hotels across the Atlantic.

Got some time to kill, efficiently used to roam around Dublin’s more popular areas. A walk down to Grafton Street and then off to Temple Bar, took me to this magnificent tea place called “The Joy of Chá” which is a heaven for tea lovers (which I am not; but it seemed like the right time to sip some tea). Their “Bad Weather” blend is very good.


The Dublin I was visiting this year is different than the Dublin I remember. I had first visited Dublin in 2007 when I was being interviewed for a high-profile role within IBM (which I didn’t get), and I remember it being vivid and colourful. The next time was last year during the Get Lucky tour, when it was slightly less joyful. This year, however, Dublin looks a bit cold and gloomy.

Dublin has been experiencing a tremendous growth during most of the 2000’s: businesses thrived, real-estate prices jumped through many roofs. However, the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 seems to have greatly affected this cosmopolitan city. You can sense that there’s quite a bit of stress in the air; less people roaming the streets and even Temple Bar seems to be less thriving than it used to. Businesses cut their prices, trying to lure people to spend money which, for the most part, they don’t have.

In fact, these are hard times in Western Europe in general, as the Euro zone is on the verge of collapse following potential defaults of Greece, Portugal and Spain (the latter experiencing some 20% unemployment rate amongst young people). There’s a great deal of uncertainty here and it is well felt.

Still, though, this city is pretty and is well worth walking around.


Birds are aplenty along the river…


This picture is a good representative of Dublin’s atmosphere:


And then off to Henry Street for a stroll.


Time passed quickly, then we took the Airlink to the airport (possibly the best deal for an independent traveller to get from Dublin’s airport to the city centre).

Flight to Glasgow departed shortly after 4:00pm carrying, amongst others, a few of the band’s technical crew. Remembering some of these fellows from the last tour, I was happy to say hello. Short flight to Glasgow, shuttle to the city centre and before I knew it I was already at the Holiday Inn Express up West Nile Street at the city centre. I remembered this hotel from my previous visit here last week—comfortable, clean, affordable and in great location (Pret-A-Manger, upon whom my UK diet is happy to rely, is a stone throw away).

Glasgow is a beautiful city and the difference in atmosphere between this place and Dublin is extremely hard to avoid. As soon as I departed the shuttle right at the city centre, and while walking up West Nile Street towards the hotel, I was able to feel it. Things move slower here and appear to be calmer and more soothing. This is exactly the same Glasgow I had visited last year, only colder (well, it was late May when I last visited here). Something in the city’s air made me feel much better; I was very happy to be here.

Quick set-up at the hotel and we went on our ways to hunt for food, walking around this city which is gorgeous at night. Friday night, lots of people in the streets walking out and about. Walked south on West Nile Street, then east to Exchange Place which is a beautiful walkway filled with shops, restaurants and whatnot.

Gazing at the menus posted outside, we came across a place called Rogano. The place features a cafe as well as a restaurant, but we didn’t know that, much to Jeroen’s dismay (as will soon be illustrated). Upon entrance, we were asked whether we’re headed to the cafe or the restaurant. I said “restaurant” because I was sure I knew what I was talking about—and that prompted the usher to make a phone call announcing our arrival. That was when I first came to think of the idea that maybe we’re missing something.

Well, what do you know. Turns out that this place is a well known dining experience in Glasgow, boasting an excellent menu. Clearly not the type of place when someone would dare stepping into wearing something like this, unless someone happens to have just escaped prison:


An respectable-looking couple was celebrating her 70th birthday in a table nearby; by the type of people around, I was able to recognize that this is not your everyday dining place. Next to us, a couple from England—Hillary and Iain—were seated, which provided the opportunity for a long, interesting cross-table conversation about everything and anything. Amazingly educated people with deep knowledge and understanding in arts. Was a pleasure to meet with these folks.

Oh, and there was food, too.


(Legend, top to bottom, left to right: Spicy potatoes & cauliflower pastries; Grilled fillet of sea bass, smoked haddock fishcake, mussel and saffron cream; Red berry mille-feuille with caramel cream, mascarpone ice cream; Crème brûlée, highlander shortbread)

Mediocre sleep in Dublin for the two preceding nights meant that I was dead tired after this long day. Back to the hotel and I was happy to finally rest my head on a comfortable pillow, without having drunken neighbours challenge my eardrums all the way through the night.

Signing off this post at 4:45pm; short snack now and then off to the Braehead Arena, for the second concert in the tour.


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