July 15, Wednesday
We left Wales for one last night in Dublin, where we had planned to catch an early flight to Paris the following morning. Three weeks before, we made reservations to have dinner at “the oldest pub in Ireland.” For those who have heard, correctly, that the food on the British Isles has improved substantially over that past two decades, there are hold-outs. The company at our assigned table were pleasant enough (all Americans), but the overpriced meal was served in the manor of a wedding reception where the bride’s mother spent a few weeks paring down the price in creative, if gastronomically questionable, ways. Of this there are no photos.
On our long walk to said pub, we stopped at this quiet pub for a whiskey and coffee, respectively. Somehow, I got into a long conversation with another patron. Rod says that this was just a ploy for me to show off my political erudition—hardly an opinion auditioning for the Book of Revelations.
The walk back to the hotel at about 10:00 took us one last time down Temple Bar, the street of many pubs. Costco on a Saturday afternoon handing out free pizza and beer would be less busy. These people do not understand the excitement of seeing a stranger “voted off the island,” asshole though he may be. There must soon be a push to install televisions in Irish homes.
We were early for both flights, but noticed that our return flight from Paris to SFO would be La Premiére or first class. It was, in a word, acceptable.
The food was outstanding and the beds were a nice way to pass the time…sleeping.
Here’s some examples of the food we were served on Air France:
It was the extraordinary salmon tartar with caviar and gold leaf that made me realize that this was not a meal to be ignored. Rod had duck foie gras; I had yellow zucchini soup, Rod had (heart healthy) salmon pàté and sesame duck foie gras; I had grilled mixed vegetables in Creole-style aïoli sauce; Rod had slow-cooked fillet of John Dory with a tomato and eggplant compote. The banner photo is of a salad of ingredients, specified by the passenger, with a selection of cheeses. The Chardonnay and Burgundy were more than tolerable. An 18-year-old Glenlivet rounded out the meal nicely.
This proved to be an outstanding trip. All accommodations were exceptional and many of the places we visited were completely outside and beyond our expectations. The people of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are more advanced than one might think. They put a high value on education and on common, social space. Edinburgh appears to be about 50% park. Wifi is everywhere and free. Scotland’s unemployment rate is under 5%. Ireland’s is higher (though now under 10%) but the country has infectious optimism.
There remains substantial acrimony in Scotland and Wales toward Maggie Thatcher, but it is hard to see how the absence of coal dust has dulled life in these quasi nations. I once thought it crazy for writers and artists to move to Ireland to avoid taxes on their windfall incomes. Now I only wish I had the talent, skill, intelligence and energy to have earned an invitation.