Wednesday, January 06, 2016 Road Junkies 0 Comments

, Chapter 29: 

Days 35-37:  Edinburgh to Dublin to Home

Monday, 4 January—Edinburgh

For the third consecutive day, we visited a post office to mail a card and found it closed.  Apparently this is the "substitute" bank holiday for January 2 because it occurred on Saturday—and was also a holiday.  So interesting.

We walked on to the National Museum of Scotland, arriving just after 10 a.m.  Admission was free, and we were given a brochure with a floor plan, which indicated there were actually two museums.  Somehow we started in the middle of an exhibit and struggled to make heads or tails of it.  
Obviously, some curator decided to maximize confusion.  And it worked!
Signage didn't help as it was unnecessarily confusing.  Even when there was space to do otherwise, one had to find the number of an item on display, look somewhere else for the description of it, and yet another place to figure out the estimated date of the item.  
And let's get the kids playing next to patrons studying exhibits.
Like a museum we had visited in Glasgow, displays and activities for children were interspersed with the primary exhibits.  It all just felt like a muddle, and we were glad to leave when a docent helped us find our  way to the exit after a torturous hour.
Christmas market
After our escape, we finally went to check out Edinburgh's Christmas market at Princess Street Gardens.  All manner of vendors were on hand—some to sell you gifts, others to keep your hunger and thirst at bay. The market was still quite busy on this last day.  Kids' school holidays extend from December 23 to January 5, so there were plenty of families enjoying the activities.
Vendors hope post-Christmas discounts will move a bit more inventory.
We passed on the fair fare in favor of one last meal at Henderson's on Hanover Street.  I couldn't resist having the vegetarian haggis again and Ken enjoyed a veggie lasagne with salad before we walked to the National Gallery, which also offered free admission.  When we saw a sign near the entrance proclaiming Room 1:  Begin Here, it was already an improvement from the National Museum.
Portrait of a Man (artist unknown), c. 1520-25
Room 1 housed mostly 16th century paintings, oil on panel.  Many had undergone restoration and cleaning with amazing results.  The detail and clarity on some of the paintings made them look like high resolution photographs.  Many of the paintings were commissioned works that once hung in churches and chapels.  Biblical scenes often included the benefactor's image in the painting.  It was an interesting collection in a well-organized museum.
Lamentation of Christ with a group of donors (artist unknown), c. 1518
Our final museum of the day was the National Portrait Gallery.  We have thoroughly enjoyed museums of this type in London, Washington, and Canberra.  The Scottish version was no exception.  An imposing neo-Gothic red sandstone palace designed as a shrine to Scotland's heroes and heroines, the museum opened in 1889 as the world's first purpose-built portrait gallery.  The building's exterior is adorned with thirty-one figures from Scottish history with William Wallace and Robert the Bruce guarding the entrance.
National Portrait Gallery
Any visitors who aren't suitably impressed with the architecture of the exterior will be dazzled upon entry with the elaborately decorated Great Hall.  A colorful frieze lining the first-floor balustrade offers a parade of key figures in Scottish history, including Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, David Livingstone, and Adam Smith. Upstairs, large-scale murals adorn the walls, depicting important chapters from Scottish history.

Great Hall, National Portrait Gallery
Through a wealth of imagery including paintings and sculptures, the museum relates many aspects of the story of Scotland and her people—from historic and literary figures to modern scientific pioneers.  We found it to be a superb collection and experience and had to drag ourselves away after an hour and a half.

Fittingly, rain was falling when we left the gallery and walked to Princes Street, through Princes Mall and Waverly train station to Market Street.  Down a few short yards, we walked to the Doric for dinner. As when we visited this historic establishment previously, the food was delicious and the service friendly.  By the time we left, the rain had paused, so we walked through Advocate's Close to High Street, out the George IV bridge to Forest and back to the Residence Inn.  

Tuesday, 5 January—Edinburgh to Dublin

With a 2 p.m. flight to Dublin, we had plenty of time to pack and make our way to the airport without rushing.  After returning our rental car to Hertz, we walked 15 minutes in the rain to the terminal.  The hour-long Ryanair flight was unremarkable except for the rain at both ends.  This wouldn't have been a concern with a conventional airline but since Ryanair is a budget provider which doesn't usually rent a gate with a jet bridge, we had to deal with wet air stairs and a puddling tarmac at departure and arrival.
Fittingly for this trip, we had rain in both Edinburgh and Dublin.
A friendly Dublin taxi driver delivered us to the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel, where we had dinner and fell into bed early in preparation for a long flight tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 January—Dublin to Home

After a taxi back to the airport, we were prepared for another confusing security screening.  Fortunately, we found better conditions.  Signage made the requirements clear—remove belt, shoes, hat and jacket, take liquids and electronics out of bags and into a tray.  All went smoothly.  So why did we need to go through a second identical complete security screening as part of "USA PreClearance"?  We did have a tiny concession with Global Entry as far as the passport line after the screen.
Deja vu:  Clearance #2
But wait, there's more.  When we were ready to board, we were hassled at the gate on the way to the jetway because the Delta agent failed to attach a security clearance sticker on our passports when we started there for check in.  

With no direct service from Dublin to Atlanta, Delta dropped us off at JFK in New York for a one-hour layover before our short flight home to Atlanta which arrived about 6 pm.  We had a text from our faithful Around Atlanta driver as soon as we landed.  He was waiting and drove us home.
Our Gaelic Getaway
Though we weren't able to visit all the places we had hoped to see, we did learn a valuable lesson about Gaelic winters—not a good time to visit.  Only after we began experiencing the weather did we seriously study the latitudinal location of these countries.  The most surprising fact we learned was that Scotland's northernmost point is farther north than southern Alaska.  Needless to say, when we return to see the places we missed, it will be at a different time of year.