We’d been emailing, facetiming, and planning for so many months that I almost couldn’t believe it when I was finally on my way to pick up Dad from Heathrow. And when you’re picking someone up from a London airport you feel like you’re reliving the opening scene of Love Actually in the arrivals terminal, and you can’t stop smiling.
Heathrow Express dropped us quickly in London, so we snapped some photos at St. Pancras station and rode the bus top level, front window to Angel to get a warm welcome from Corey at our flat. We took my dad to his first Sunday roast at Smokehouse, a great little spot in our neighbourhood that has yummy Yorkshire pudding. We spent the rest of the day strolling through our neighbourhood so my dad could get a sense of where we were living.
We realized how much FaceTime makes the distance between us feel shorter. We hadn’t seen each other for eight months, but we felt completely caught up with the goings on of our daily lives as Grandad and Tia. But that didn’t stop us from keeping our tradition of staying up late the first night we’re reunited to share our stories all over again.
The flight to Dublin was an easy yet early one. Honestly, the entire three days in Dublin felt like we had good karma following us around. We voted to cab into Dublin, and ended up with the nicest cab driver who told us about the previous week’s events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. We ate lunch at a well-known café bar that we found on a random side street with delicious traditional Irish stew. Our hotel was a stone’s throw from Trinity College, and included traditional Irish breakfast every morning, no additional charge. I should also note that any time we saw something that was advertised as “traditionally Irish”, we basically bought it, ate it, or saw it.
Doing Dublin on foot was the best way to go from our experience. The Book of Kells was the obvious first stop as we could walk directly to Trinity’s campus so easily. The small museum is set up with large posted images of the book to show the intricate details of the pages. My favorite part was watching a video clip how the book’s spine was created, and then bound with pages. Also, make sure you don’t miss the library upstairs with hundreds of tomes.
Our map showed that Guinness storehouse was about a twenty minute walk from Trinity. So we found places of interest on the map along the way: the Molly Malone statue, the bells at Christ Church, and the Dublin Castle. I’m sure we looked so cute, dad and daughter, snapping away on our ‘dad and daughter’ cameras.
The Guinness storehouse was a fun treat. You have to earn your free pint by touring through the bottom floors of the storehouse. You learn about the process of making Guinness beer, the history of the Guinness family, and how this stout is transported around the world. On the fifth floor, one can learn to pour a perfect pint (the line was too long), and on the 6th floor, you can have lunch with your pint (again, the line was too long), so we opted for the obvious choice: a glass of the “the black stuff” at The Gravity Bar on the top floor- with 360 degree views of the city. It started to rain as we toasted to our first day in Dublin- a beautiful sight in a room made of windows.
The rain stopped as we tipped the last of our glasses back, and we walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Each evening at 5:30pm, there is free entry to see the Choral Evensong. Hearing those voices echo throughout the chapel was just beautiful. The church is also next to a lovely garden where we spent some time with our cameras
Temple Bar is a part of the city that is touted as the nightlife, food, and live music part of the city. We weren’t sure how much time we’d want to spend on the strip, but ended up wandering through to find the Porterhouse, a restaurant claiming to serve the best stouts in the city. We thought this seemed a bit blasphemous seeing as though the Guinness storehouse was less than two miles away. Yes, we had to do a taste test comparison. The porters and stouts in our flight were yummy, but my Dad said that he’d stick to Guinness for the rest of the trip. Also, the fish and chips were the best I’d had, though I ended up with a strange ham cream dish. To finish our evening, we stood outside of a crowded bar to listen to a duo singing U2 songs as a free concert.
The traditional Irish breakfast at our hotel was the perfect way to start our second day. We decided that we wanted to see some of Ireland’s natural beauty so we found a little seaside town called Howth about 3o minutes outside of Dublin. The train dropped off right on the piers. What a gorgeous day! We walked the trail along Howth’s head, and were in awe of the beauty of the Irish coastline.
Along our hike, we were herded into a ‘free’ walking tour with an Irishman named John. He let us know that his retirement gig was to give walking tours every day to anyone he picked up along the trail. As we walked along he shared fun facts, and legends about the area. He was optimistically trying to collect other hikers along the trail as well. Other hikers would make up excuses to leave his little group at some point, yet we were too nice to tell him we’d make the journey on our own. We knew we wanted to do the entire hike, and if so, John would be coming with us. I guess that nothing could ruin the gorgeous seaside views, and the fact that we ended the tour over a pint with John and a very sweet couple honeymooning from Costa Rica, we decided it really was a great morning. Lunch was fresh oysters, fish pie, and traditional Irish salmon with rye.
Returning to Dublin, we decided to head North of the Liffey. We poked our heads through the Garden of Remembrance, and then made our way to the General Post Office. As a side note, on this walk, I learned a bit more about my dad’s travels connected with political work, and his stories coming out of Cal.
The General Post Office was also closed, but strangely had a line around the corner at one of the doors. While I snapped some shots of the bullet holes remaining from the Easter Rising, a kind woman in line struck up a conversation with my Dad, letting him know that it was the last showing of a play about the Easter Rising in the GPO. We could stand in line but it might be a sold out show. The folks running the door, asked us to stand aside when we got to the front of the line as they’d have a better idea if tickets were left after everyone else was seated. After a short wait, we were told we’d have to sit separately, but we were incredibly lucky to get two of the last tickets that evening! Everyone in the audience was a local, and it was a treat to see the play in such a historical setting.
We laughed on the walk home recapping the events of the day. I felt like I had a lucky four leaf clover in my pocket since most of the things that we’d experienced wouldn’t have happened if we’d tried to plan it that way.
Our final day in Dublin was spent picking up small gifts for our family, and trying on wolly Irish textiles that were way out of our price range. We walked St. Stephens park, and ate lunch at a local chain before heading back to the airport. Corey made us a meal of stew chicken, rice, and green beans for our return back to London.
On the fourth day of my dad’s trip, reality set in that I’d have to go to back to work. But we didn’t let us slow us down. We hit up Westminster Abbey at 9am to beat the rush, and I left my dad midway through the audio tour to make my first meeting. Boo! However, I intended to use my flexible hours to ensure that I was out of the office by 3pm to meet my dad at the British museum. While I plucked away at a few more emails, he visited the Rosetta stone and other sections of the ancient Egypt exhibit. Over dinner, my dad shared his trip to the Churchill War rooms, where he got to hold Churchill’s top hat, and where he was so taken with the exhibit that he basically forgot to eat lunch. We spent the evening doing what I think we’d do in Oakland together: relaxing on the couch, watching a four part BBC documentary on President Obama’s eight years in office. It felt like a bit of home here with me. The series is great btw but I’m not even sure if it’s out in our own country.
For Friday, I spent some time answering emails for work, but our day really got started at St. Paul’s cathedral, a highlight of the city that I didn’t even know about. The mosaics inside were breath-taking, and is was so fun climbing to the top of the cathedral for a panoramic view of London. I pointed out the other landmarks we’d see throughout the day. We walked across Millennium bridge, and popped into the Tate for a quick view. The Thames river walk led us right into Borough Market where we feasted on salt beef sandwiches. We walked the remainder of the South Bank, towards Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. We were less enthusiastic about seeing the crown jewels after having such an energetic tour by the local Yeoman Warder. The Yeoman Warders live in their own community within the walls of the Tower to this day! The men, and one woman, and have served over 22 years in the Queen’s military, and have very expensive and elaborate uniforms. Our guide really made the history come alive with his dry British humor. PS- they don’t like being called Beefeaters!
We ended our day taking the bus to Bloomberg so that my dad could see the London office. We picked up Corey from work, and walked along Regent’s canal before making our way to Ottolenghi, another neighbourhood favorite. During dinner, we also decided that our last day in the UK would be spent out of London on the white cliffs of Dover.
The weather in Dover promised to be wet and wild. About two hours outside of the city, we were welcomed with a grey, drizzly day, so we took a cab to the trail head of the chalky cliffs. It was so windy out on those unprotected cliffs, but incredibly beautiful. We passed ponies, and saw ships coming in and out of the port. It really felt like some of the images we know of England- just being on that craggy coastline. The saving grace was a quaint light house out on the cliffs serving cream tea! Well, we couldn’t pass up tea and scones when my dad hadn’t had one yet, so our hike ended at Mrs. Knotts Tea Room.
Admittedly, we hailed a cab to the Dover Castle- though there wasn’t really another choice in the gusts of wind and rain. The castle is definitely built for families taking a day trip, but I think we did alright when we found out there was a tour of old WWII tunnels on the grounds! After a visit to the dark tunnels that saved the Allied forces in Dunkirk, we had a pint at the local pub while waiting for our bus. What an incredible day! But wait, it wasn’t over until the last supper was staged at Lahore! My dad said he’d probably be able to live on the lamb chops and the naan as we all wiped our plates clean. Nothing like sharing the stories of our adventures over steamy curries and spiced lamb.
As usual, the week went too fast. On Sunday, we packed up my dad’s bags, got him a final cup of coffee and headed out to the airport. You better believe I took that train the entire way to soak up the final minutes of our time together. I couldn’t believe it. I just spent a week with the two most important men in my life: the man who taught me what it means to be loved by a man, and the man who I’ll share that love with for the rest of my life. To have time with them together, I really felt too lucky.
Dublin Day 1:
- Lunch at Davey Byrne’s cafe/pub
- Book of Kells at Trinity College
- Christ Church– we didn’t venture inside
- Guinness Storehouse– worth the walk or an easy cab ride
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral– go any day at 5:30pm for Evensong
- Temple Bar has loads of restaurants. We chose The Porterhouse. Next time, we’ll go back when they’re playing live music.
Howth Day 2:
- Train from Connolly station or your closest DART
- Easy to find information booth with trail maps
- Maybe you’ll find John out there?
- Don’t remember where we ate lunch on the pier
Dublin Day 3:
- Walk St. Stephen’s Park and do some souvenir shopping at Kilkenny’s where they ship to the US for a flat fee
London Day 4:
- Westminster Abbey: get there at 9am to avoid the lines and pre-purchase your tickets
- The Churchill War Rooms: no need to pre-book, but plan to spend some time in the map room
- Walk through any park surrounding Buckingham Palace
- See Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery
- Head to the British Museum
- Take the bus back home
London Day 5:
- St. Paul’s Cathedral- yes, walk up to the top, and then see the crypts
- Walk across Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern (you can stay as long as you want for free but modern art wasn’t really our focus)
- Walk along the South Bank towards Shakespeare’s Globe and end up at Borough Market (super crowded on Saturday; go Friday if possible; closed on Sunday)
- Continue on the South Bank to see London Bridge, City Hall, and the Tower of London
- Get a Yeoman Warder tour before you rush to see the Crown Jewels
Dover Day 6:
- Train from home to Dover. Might have to transfer to a bus if the rails are still wiped out.
- Cab to the trail head to find the White Cliffs visitor center
- Maybe you want to stop at Mrs Knotts Tea Room? The scones were fine but the cream could have been better. You don’t have to pay to see the lighthouse.
- Do the WWII Tunnels at Dover Castle (there are two options- we opted not to do the medical tunnel)
- Eat at Lahore before you leave! BYOB (and there’s an off license next door)