Follow the adventures of our intrepid travelers with blogger Gloria Gorton, Goodspeed's Director of Major Gifts
Our last day in Dublin was a free day and the group dispersed all over the city to explore and shop. Some of us went to Dublin Castle first thing in the morning for a private guided tour. This castle, located in the heart of Dublin has beautiful grounds and houses the Irish State Apartments. They are spectacular. Especially noteworthy is the State Drawing Room, which has five huge Wedgewood chandeliers running right down the middle, and St. Patrick’s Hall, which is where 13 Irish presidents have been inaugurated and where state dinners are held.
After a day spent exploring Dublin on our own, we gathered at the Shelbourne Hotel for our Farewell Dinner. It was a lovely evening. The Shelbourne Hotel is located on St. Stephen’s Green, which is one of the loveliest parks in Dublin. It’s a grand old place, built in 1824 and magnificently restored. The staff is as gracious as their surroundings and the food is spectacular. It was a truly special evening and a wonderful way to end a wonderful trip. Then it was early to bed. Our guide, Felicity, would pick us up at 5:45 Saturday morning for our flight back to the United States. Everyone was sad to be leaving but relieved to be returning home before Hurricane Sandy made her appearance in Connecticut.
Farewell Dinner at the Shelbourne Hotel
Felicity came to our hotel this morning to collect us and bring us on a tour of three Irish castles. We started out at Dalkey Castle, which is south of Dublin. Here our guides were dressed in medieval period costumes and treated us to various demonstrations, including how to make coins and stock a medieval kitchen. The “doctor” offered to pull a tooth or amputate a limb if we needed such treatment, but we made a beeline for the bus before he could pull out his instruments. Next, we visited Rathfarnham Castle, which enjoys a lovely country setting. It was purchased by the state in 1987 and has been undergoing a beautiful restoration. Then it was back to Dublin for lunch at the Brazen Head Pub, the oldest pub in Ireland. Following lunch we went north to visit Ardgillan Castle in Balbriggan. Ardgillan was built in 1738 and has a spectacular location overlooking the Irish Sea. There is a 200 acre park, which is enjoyed by the local residents.
Thursday evening we went to the Gate Theatre to see a new show, The Last Summer. It was interestingly staged and well acted, and we had the opportunity to talk to the author, Declan Hughes, after the show. Declan is a well known writer who has been writing crime fiction for the last few years. The Last Summer is his return to playwriting. He explained how he got the idea for the play and how he worked with the director, set designer and cast to stage this first production. We also talked with Vincent Brightling, the Front of House Manager, who gave us a bit of the history of the Gate Theatre.
After a wonderful Irish breakfast at our hotel (yes, they really will put Irish whiskey in your porridge!), we met our guide Gerry Cooley who took us on a tour of Dublin. Gerry is a quintessential Dubliner. He told stories, recited poems and even sang songs. The only thing he didn’t do was dance a jig in the aisle on the bus! He knows everyone in Dublin and has a radio program in which he interviews some of the “behind the scenes” people who make the city so special. Click here to meet Gerry as he takes you on a tour of his favorite Dublin pubs.
Gerry took us to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and The Long Room Library. They are both spectacular and are not to be missed if you visit Dublin. He also took us to Phoenix Park, where we saw the home of the president of Ireland and the US Ambassador to Ireland. And, of course, he brought us to his favorite place and Ireland’s top tourist attraction, the Guinness Storehouse. There is a state of the art museum that tells the story of Guinness and how it’s made and the tour ends with a visit to the seventh floor Gravity Pub. There the bartenders will pull the perfect pint of Guinness and draw a shamrock in the foam freehand. You can enjoy your pint while taking in the 360 degree view of Dublin and the surrounding countryside.
After our tour some of the group stopped at Christ Church Cathedral. We went to Leo Burdock’s for their world famous fish and chips, which we ate on the grounds of the cathedral. After lunch we had a private tour of the cathedral, including the crypt, which is Dublin’s oldest surviving structure. The crypt has recently been used as the Tower of London during the filming of the television program The Tudors and they had several of the costumes from the series on display. Wednesday evening was a free evening, but everyone went to Oliver St. John Gogarty’s Pub in Temple Bar for dinner and an evening of traditional Irish music.
It was time to say “goodbye” to London and our friends at the Montague on the Gardens Hotel as we boarded our bus for Heathrow and our morning flight to Dublin. Our Dublin guide, Felicity Manley, met us at the airport and escorted us to the Brooks Hotel, our home for the remainder of our trip. It was overcast with a light rain falling and Felicity taught us a new term for a rainy day when she told us it was “a soft day.” It was our first introduction to the poetic nature of the Irish, but it would not be our last. Goodspeed Director of Development Caitlin Quinn did graduate work at Trinity College in Dublin, so she lead us on an afternoon walk to explore the Grafton Street area, which was very near our hotel, followed by a late lunch at Davy Byrnes’ Pub, which was James Joyce’s favorite spot for a pint of Guinness.
Tuesday evening we went to the Abbey Theatre to see a new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was a spectacular production, with wonderful acting, costumes, and sets. Following the show we were treated to a talk back by Oonagh Murphy, the Assistant Director, and Lisa Farrelly, who is in charge of customer relations at the Abbey. The Abbey is Ireland’s national theatre and they are very proud of the work they do there. It was interesting to learn a bit more about the theatre and the production we had just seen. And, we learned that Oonagh’s real passion is musical theatre! Of course, we invited her to visit us at Goodspeed the next time she is in the States.
Tom Canton as Dorian Gray
Today was our last full day in London and we made the most of it. In the morning we went to the Globe Theatre, where we had a private tour. Did you know that the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London was founded by American actor and director Sam Wanamaker? It is built just 750 feet from where the original Globe Theatre stood (the original site is now covered by a parking garage). After our tour of the theatre, we were treated to a demonstration of the clothing worn by ladies in Shakespeare’s time, using costumes from the Globe’s collection. Luckily we had Claire Cummings with us because she was small enough to fit into the costumes and she was a very good sport, as you can see by the picture of her dressed as a 16th century farm girl.
Our last afternoon in London was free, allowing us to do last minute shopping or take in a few more sights, and then it was off to the Gielgud Theatre to see Chariots of Fire. This show, based on the 1981 movie, is the story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, two British runners who competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics and won. It has struck a chord with London audiences in this year when London hosted the Olympic Games. The play was cleverly staged, with running tracks that ran through the audience. We felt part of the action as the actors whizzed by and marveled that none of them fell off the narrow, banked tracks and into our laps! The famous music by Vangelis is as stirring as ever and we all enjoyed the show.
Today was a free day. However, a large group of us went to the Menier Chocolate Factory to see Charley’s Aunt. It’s showing to sold-out crowds and no wonder—it’s hysterical! We loved it. Many of us remember seeing the musical version of this play, Where’s Charley, at Goodspeed a few years back. Tom Siracusa, the General Manager, was kind enough to spend a few minutes with our group before the show. Tom is from Buffalo, New York, but he has lived in London for over 20 years. He’s very proud of the Menier, as he should be. The theatre is only 8 years old, but it has a distinguished history of producing award-winning theatre. It’s a small venue—only 180 seats – but they have moved quite a few shows to Broadway and two of them have won Tony Awards!
We have one more full day in London and then it is off to Dublin. Watch for the next installment of the 33rd Goodspeed London – and Dublin – blog.
Today we went to a matinee production of Singin’ in the Rain at the Palace Theatre. It was interesting for us to see a show that was done so successfully on the Goodspeed stage. I think we all agreed that this production was as good as the Goodspeed one—but certainly no better. They did have more rain though—and the actors really enjoyed splashing it at the audience. If you sat in the first four or five rows, you were sure to get wet. We warned some of our group to take their raincoats! After the show one of the actors, David Lucas, came out to talk to us. He was charming and obviously loves his job. He answered all our questions about how they got so much water on the stage. It turns out that it wasn’t only raining; they also flood the stage from underneath. That explained the lip around the perimeter of the stage that formed a kind of pool—perfect for splashing.
Tonight was a "free night," with no scheduled activities, but Caitlin (Goodspeed's Director of Development) and I took about half of our group on a nighttime ride on the London Eye. It was spectacular! You can see all of London spread out beneath you, lit up like a Christmas tree. And the Eye itself is a marvel of modern engineering.
A view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament through the London Eye
This morning we set out bright and early for a half-day private coach tour of London. Caroline, our guide, is an accredited Blue Badge London guide and she seems to know everything about this city. She did a tremendous job and, no matter how many times we have been to London, we all learned something new thanks to her.
Friday evening we went to our first show—Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical at the Royal Shakespeare Company. This is the biggest show in London, with every show sold out months in advance. It’s a Royal Shakespeare Company production and it’s very creative. The story takes place in a school, so there are lots of children in the cast and they are incredibly talented. It’s a quintessentially British story. The show is opening in New York in the spring, so it will be interesting to see if it strikes a chord with American audiences like it has with British ones.
Photo: Dorothy Cummings and Goodspeed's youngest traveler, 14 year-old Claire Cummings, pose for a picture
After traveling all night, we took it easy this afternoon and explored our neighborhood a bit. With the British Museum on the corner and Russell Square in the other direction, it’s a fine neighborhood to explore. In the evening we gathered in the Great Russell Suite of our hotel for our Welcome Dinner. Our speaker at dinner was our own Bill Rosenfield, who serves on the Advisory Board of the Scherer Library of Musical Theatre at Goodspeed. Bill has lived in London since 2002 and he filled us in on everything that is going on in the London theatre scene. After dinner it was early to bed so that we could try to catch up on the sleep we had lost the night before on the plane.
Our home base in London, The Montague on the Gardens in Bloomsbury
Our group left from The Norma Terris Theatre on Wednesday afternoon and took a coach bus to the Newark Airport, where we boarded a United Airlines plane for our overnight flight to London. Our favorite London guide, Jane Tizard, was there to greet us at Heathrow and escort us to our hotel. When we arrived at the Montague on the Gardens Hotel in Bloomsbury, the staff, from the General Manager on down, was on the steps waiting to greet us. We felt like we had just arrived at Downton Abbey! This was a good indication of what was to come because the service at this hotel is spectacular.
After an overnight flight, the Goodspeed
travelers arrive at Heathrow