On The Road Travel Essays

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Banks and Foreign Exchange  Changing money is best done before you leave, or at ATMs; the banks charge one percent commission on currency exchanges. Banks shut early except for Thursdays, when they stay open until 5pm; the hours are 10am-12:30pm and 1:30-4pm (staff usually take an hour for lunch). Facilities are also available at bureaux de change and main hotels. There is a currency exchange at the General Post Office, Mon-Sat. 8am-8pm; Sun 10:30am –6:30pm. The Bank of Ireland branch at Dublin Airport is open daily in summer 6:45am-10pm; in winter, open daily 6:45am-9pm. Travelers' checks are another option. But getting money from an American bank is easiest via the ATM network, which carries no charge: Plus network machines are affiliated to Allied Irish Bank ATMS while Cirrus machines are part of the Bank of Ireland network. Allied Irish Bank (AIB) headquarters are at 100 Grafton Street, Dublin 2, tel. 671 30 11. Bank of Ireland headquarters are at Suffolk Street, Dublin 2, tel. 679 57 77.

Lost Credit Cards  Visa cards: call Freefone at 1-800 55 80 02, or AT&T operator at 1-800 55 00 00 and ask for a collect call to 410/581 3836. Mastercard International: Call AT&T operator at 1-800 55 00 39 and ask for collect call to 314/275 66 90.

Tipping  Some restaurants and hotels include a 15% tip, while others do not. If there is no evidence or wording on the check that a service charge was added automatically, it is customary to leave 10%, and it's usual to leave a five or 10 pound note for the chambermaid in most hotels. Taxi drivers also expect 10%. Porters usually get 50 pence per bag. Tipping in pubs is not expected, but is certainly always appreciated.

Entry Requirements  A passport is required for non-EC residents. No visa is necessary for citizens of the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand (either business or tourist) for stays of up to 90 days. For a longer visit, you must prove that you have sufficient funds and hold a return ticket.

Wet Weather in Dublin  Bring an umbrella and mackintosh. Because of the Gulf Stream, Ireland enjoys a temperate climate with very little snow but a heavy average rainfall that is popular with the grass and cattle, but not so beloved by tourists. The wettest months are December through February, while the warmest are June through August, with temperatures reaching 68F (20C). The weather is generally showery with bursts of sunshine (hence the vivid green of the grass and plumpness of beef), so take a shower-proof coat or umbrella. The best time for visitors is June through October when the evenings are endlessly light, and you may even be advised to book in advance for July and August. For sightseeing or shopping in summer, try going about on foot or even rent a bicycle (Dublin's an ideal city for walking or cycling; but remember, they drive on the left hand side!)

The Bad News  "Weather is here, wish you were lovely" is the old postcard joke about variable weather conditions that can leave you looking for the next open fireplace in June and seating in October. Take your umbrella, your rain gear, even a hot water bottle – and also your sunscreen, hat and shades. Always unpredictable at best, Irish summers can benefit from generally pleasant weather, with long light evenings and balmy days – or may drizzle and bluster. Occasionally Dublin has heat waves when the always-sociable natives espouse topless beaches, and radically alter their behavior to become even more so. It gets dark very late in summer and light by 4am in June, bringing an appreciable lift in mood, whether it's sunny or not. Fall and spring range from the damp and cold to the bright and brisk. Winter temperatures rarely drop below 40F (5C); any rare dusting of light snow melts instantly.

March/April  Temperatures: 36 to 51F, 2 to 11C
Rainfall approx. 2"
Days with rain about 10-11
Humidity about 76%-82%

May/June  Temperatures: 45 to 61F, 7 to 16C
Rainfall approx. 2"
Days with rain about 10-11
Humidity about 75%

July  Temperatures: 51 to 66F, 11 to 19C
Rainfall about 3"
Days with rain about 13
Humidity about 78%

Trains  There are three main line stations in Dublin. Heuston Station, tel. 703 18 42, located at Kingsbridge on the south bank of the River Liffey, runs trains to the West and South West, including Galway, Limerick and Cork.

Connolly Station at Amiens Street, beyond Busaras and Customs House, tel. 836 62 22 (office hours), tel. 703 18 43 (Mon-Fri 5-9:30pm; Sat 7:30am-9:30pm; Sun 5-10pm) runs trains to Belfast and northern towns.

Pearse Station, Westland Row, behind Trinity College, runs trains to Wexford and the southeast towns. 24-hour Talking Timetable: Dublin-Belfast, tel. 873 44 44; Dublin-Cork, tel. 872 42 22; Dublin-Galway-Westport, tel. 872 47 77; Dublin-Killarney-Tralee, tel. 873 33 33; Dublin-Limerick, tel. 872 46 66; Dublin-Sligo, tel 873 11 11; Dublin-Waterford, tel 873 00 00; Dublin-Werxford-Rosslare, tel. 873 55 55.

The Irish Rail Information Office is located at Connolly Station, Tel. 836 33 33. Mon-Sat 9am-5pm.

Buses in the City  The bus service, operated by Dublin Bus, crisscrosses the city and its suburbs with 120 routes, some more frequent than others. The system runs 6:30am-11:30pm, from 9:30am on Sundays, and Nitelink routes run into the small hours of the morning. All buses originate at O'Connell Bridge or nearby; when heading into town from the outskirts, take any bus marked An Lar (Irish for "the center"). Fares range from 55 pence to 1.80 pounds, or nearly double at 3.30 pounds for the Nitelink rate. A shopping fare (25 pence) is offered Mon-Fri 10am-4:30pm in the city center. A weekly commuter ticket from the Dublin Bus main ticket office, 59 Upper O'Connell Street, tel. 872 00 00 is good value (information Mon-Sat 9am-7pm, tel. 873 42 22). Lost property, Earl Place, tel 703 30 55 (Mon-Fri 8:45am-12:45pm, 1:30-5pm).

Dublin Area Rapid Transit System (DART)  A little trip around the bay on DART is something of a pleasurable excursion in itself, if you are in the mood for some ravishing views of the bay: but pick the off-peak hours. The Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART), tel. 836 62 22, is an electric railway that connects Dublin with Howth to the north and Bray to the south on a fast, efficient line. There are 25 stations on the route, which is the best means of getting to seaside destinations such as Howth, Dalkey, Blackrock, Dun Laoghaire, Killiney and Bray. Trains run on a romantic north-south curve from Howth to Bray daily 6am-11:30pm; at peak periods, 8-9:30am and 5-7pm, trains arrive every five minutes. At off-peak periods, the intervals between trains are 15 to 25 minutes. Tickets are sold at stations, but it's also possible to buy weekly rail tickets at the Irish Rail Travel Centre, 35 Lower Abbey Street, tel 836 62 22.

Buses Around Ireland – Bus Eireann  Irish country buses link train stations and take train passengers to smaller towns not served by the main lines. For information, contact Bus Eireann at: Travel Centre, Bus Aras, Store Street, tel. 836 61 11 (Mon-Sat 8:30am-7pm; Sun 10am-7pm). For lost property: Lost Property Office, Bus Aras, Store Street, tel. 703 24 89.

Practical Information  Shops are generally open Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm. Sundays are quite firmly a day of rest here. Pubs are open on Sunday, of course, though they close a little earlier in the evening; they are generally open Mon-Sat 10:30am-11:30pm (11pm in winter); Sun 12:30-2pm, 4-11pm. The convention of the pubs' so-called "Holy Hour" is an hour-long rest from drinking in mid-afternoon.

The local time is 5 hours ahead of EST. Please note that Ireland changes to and from daylight-saving time a few weeks before the U.S., so time differences will vary in March and October.

Holidays  The Irish take their days off seriously. Don't attempt to do any business on New Year's Day; St. Patrick's Day (March 17); Good Friday (April 14); Easter Monday (April 17); Labor Day Bank Holiday (May 1); first Monday in June; Whitsun Bank Holiday (June 5); the first Monday in August; August Bank Holiday (August 7); October Bank Holiday (October 10); last Monday in October; Christmas (December 25); St. Stephen's Day (December 26). Many people's idea of Christmas is retirement to the sofa with the remote control; around Christmas and New Year, the entire country is liable to be extremely quiet and other holidays are taken literally as well. Remember to get whatever you need from the post office (public phone cards, stamps, letter forms) in large quantities before Christmas Eve or any other Bank Holiday.

Tourist Information  Dublinisms: You'll find the Irish use the language of the Saxon in a wholly different way; i.e., "I'm after finding me car stolen," or "I am not!" even "I am in me granny!" instead of "No." The usual greeting among Dubliners is a robust "Howyer!" – a slurred version of "How are you?" with an optional punch to the shoulder. An idiom of disbelief is "Get away!" – but it is not meant literally. Dubliners call themselves "Jackeens" and country people "Culchies," and though four-letter words may litter many a conversation quite casually, they don't cause offense. A drink is a "jar" and "on the gargle" means sustained drinking. You'll quickly find out the adjectives for how you feel after several "jars," along with more colorful idioms.

Post Office  The main post office is at O'Connell Street, tel. 705 70 00, and is open Mon-Sat 8am-8pm, Sun 10:30am-6pm. It has international telephones, fax machines and a money changing service. The smaller offices, convenience for shoppers, are located: St. Andrew's Street, off College Green, tel, 677 86 21, Mon-Fri 8:30am-6pm. South Anne Street, just off Grafton Street, tel 677 71 27, Mon-Tue, Thu-Sat 9:30am-6pm; Wed 9:30am-6pm. Greene's bookshop at the end of Nassau Street has a tiny post office counter. There are also numerous suburban offices. A letter to anywhere in Europe currently costs 32 pence, a post card is 28 pence.

Telephones  To get an overseas operator, call 114 where direct dialing is not possible, or 10 if you're outside Dublin; or dial toll-free 1-800-550 000 (AT&T), 1-800-551 001 (MCI) and 1-800-552 001 (Sprint) for calling-card calls. For a local operator, dial 10; information is at 1190 but costs the price of a call for locating up to three numbers; the weather forecast is 1199. Try not to use your hotel room phone; it's more expensive. The Post Office and some other outlets, like newsagents, sell phone cards which can be used in new public phones. The General Post Office is at O'Connell Street, Mon-Sat 8am-8pm; Sun 10:30am-6:30pm; international pay phones are available during regular post office business hours. All the Dublin phone numbers were recently changed and the numbers "6," "4" and "8" have been prefixed to turn them into seven-digit numbers. However, you will get a recorded message informing you of this in most cases.

Phonecards in Ireland  Buy a Callcard from the post office, newsagent or any other licensed vendor, in units of 10. You stick this card into any new public phonebox while making any call; and it has precise instructions on use printed on the back. You'll find this a lot easier than the old-fashioned coin box telephones, romantic though they may be.

Ireland Direct  Calling Home More Easily. A Telecom Eireann booklet is available with AT&T, Sprint and MCI access numbers for people who want to call home from post offices and newsagents and other licensed outlets.

Phone Numbers Have Gone 7-Digit  When Telecom Eireann finally went 7-digit, it plonked a new numeral in front of its numbers – the most common being a 6 in front of numbers starting with a 6 or 7; or 4 in front of a 5; or an 8 in front of numbers starting with 3 or 4; or 2 in front of numbers beginning with 8; 4 in front of the ones starting with 9. By now most published numbers should be correct; if not, call inquiries at 190.

Embassies  U.S. Embassy, 42 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, tel. 668 87 77. Mon-Fri 8:30am-5pm. Canadian Embassy, 65 St. Stephen's Green South, tel. 478 19 88. Mon-Wed 8:30am-12:30pm. 2-4pm; Thu-Fri 8:30am-12:30pm.

Tracing Your Ancestors: How to Start  So you are a Kelly or a Murphy or a Farrelly, and want to trace your noble lineage backwards, be it to king or to peasant? Here's what you need to start your quest: the parish name or townland of where your family originated, the dates (if you can find them) of their births, marriages and deaths, their religious denominations and jobs, and their children's names. Armed with all this, plus whatever other family lore you may recall, take yourself down to Dublin's Public Records Office, on the quays next to the Four Courts. Some of the data is missing, destroyed during the Civil War fires; but you can also consult the Genealogical Office in Dublin Castle and the National Library, where helpful staff await. One firm which has found many a missing forefather (Ronald Reagan's, Brian Mulroney's, and Regis Philbin's) is the Hibernian Research Company, P. O. Box 3097 tel, 96 65 22. By the way, if your father or mother or grandfather or grandmother were Irish-born (i.e., in the 32 counties before 1942) you are entitled to an Irish passport, and to dual citizenship. Take along your papers to Kildare Street's Passport Office and claim your just birthright!

Visiting Northern Ireland  Until a couple of years ago, only the most intrepid of guides and travel agents recommended a trip to Northern Ireland and its six counties of Ulster, despite the fact more people die violently in Chicago on a good night than in any year here. But sadly, prospects are deteriorating in the province again and extreme loyalist sympathizers are on their annual "outings." The on-again, off-again truce between England and the IRA recently collapsed again with the IRA's bombing of London's Canary Wharf and a double-decker bus, which has now caused a regrettable new British presence of army units upon the streets of Belfast. This should not affect foreign visitors, who in any case were never in danger, but many of the 75,000 Americans who were expected to visit Ulster this year may not materialize until the cease-fire is back in place. Those who do visit will find Ulster a very friendly place and can expect many invitations for cups of tea or pints of beer. Sadly, the formerly pretty towns of Newry, Armagh and Limavady were badly bombed in the past and never rebuilt to their original glory. But Derry is still a fine-looking city with its own indefinable charm, and Belfast has much to recommend it. Beauty spots, like the Antrim coastline, the Mountains of Mourne, the shores of Lough Erne and the Slieve Gallion Mountains, remain as lovely as ever.

Where to Buy Foreign Newspapers  Eason's in O'Connell Street and Read's in Nassau Street (in front of the side gate of Trinity College) stock foreign newspapers, a day or so late, as does the new basement CD and music store, Tower, in 6 Wicklow Street.

Electricity  The electric current in Ireland is 220 volts AC. Outlets take plugs with three prongs.

Dublin Information and Tickets  This expensively renovated and picturesque little church in the heart of town is the new tourism nexus for every visitor in town who needs help finding any cultural attraction or transport connection or accommodation. Maps, brochures and rosters are available in spades, and you'll find the staff helpful and eager to solve your problem.

The hotline also offers a booking service for tickets to concerts and plays, while tour buses stop here all day. One warning: the public holidays here do not always coincide with those in other countries, and the tourism office opens much later than usual on a bank-holiday Monday. 9am-6pm.

Dublin Tourism Centre  St. Andrew's Church. Suffolk Street. Off Dame Street. Any bus to city center, Tel. 605 77 55 (tickets hotline and information). Fax 605 77 57.


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