Old Trafford Stadium Tour

On Saturday we took my 8-year-old nephew to the Old Trafford Stadium Tour in Manchester. He’s a big Manchester United fan, and had been eagerly looking forward to the visit for weeks.

We set off early for the airport, to catch our flight from Dublin to Manchester. We then took the tram from the airport to Trafford Bar, which is 18 stops and a 40 minute ride. We changed platforms and got onto another tram, and took 1 stop to Old Trafford. The tram station itself is beside the cricket ground (also called Old Trafford), and so there’s a 1km walk to the football ground.

We arrived at the ground at about 1pm, and headed for some lunch in the Red Cafe, which is part of the visitors attractions in the ground. The food is pretty standard fair – burgers, fish and chips, and so forth – but it’s pretty good quality, and reasonably priced around the £10-12 range.

After lunch we headed for the museum, which is included in the price of the tour. The museum contains thousands of items of memorabilia stretching over the lifetime of the club. There’s hundreds of different trophies, football shirts, programmes, and other items – and an interesting section about the Munich disaster, when a plane carrying the team in 1958 crashed and killed 23 people.

At our pre-booked tour time, we gathered up at the meeting point, and our two guides took us into the stadium.

It was pretty cool to see all the different parts, including the dressing rooms, VIP room, press theatre, director’s box, and the player’s tunnel. My nephew was especially excited as he was picked to lead out the ‘team’ from the tunnel to the pitch-side.

Old Trafford Selfie
Old Trafford Selfie

I was interested to note the marked difference between the home and away dressing rooms. The home team definitely have an advantage, in terms of facilities and atmosphere, to help them in their preparations before the game – but I’m sure that happens in all sports stadiums.

After the tour, which takes around an hour, we then had just enough time to visit the Manchester United Megastore to pick up a few souvenirs, before it was time to head back to the airport for our flight home.

It had been a long day by the time we got home, but we enjoyed it – especially my nephew, who will no doubt be talking about it to anyone who’ll listen for weeks to come!

A suitable punishment for drivers that use their mobile phone

If you take a look at the passing traffic in Dublin, it generally only takes a minute or two until you spot a driver using their mobile phone.

Clearly some drivers are not worried about the prospect of 3 points on their driver’s licence, or a mandatory court appearance and fine of up to €1,000 if they’re caught texting.  Or the fact that they’re 4 times more likely to crash when distracted on the phone.

So I got thinking about a more suitable punishment, that would be reasonably easy to implement, and would be an added deterrent to people. The Garda and courts, in addition to the other penalties, would be able to enforce a 6-month outgoing call/text ban on an offender’s mobile.

The ban on outgoing calls/texts would remove the temptation from drivers to pick up their phones when driving, and it would be an enormous inconvenience to offenders generally. Incoming calls/text would still be allowed for safety purposes, as would outgoing calls to the emergency services.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping people switching to a new phone number, but that’s a massive inconvenience in itself, and would be embarrassing to explain to friends and family.

Passengers on flights from the UK still have to go through Passport Control in Dublin Airport

Yesterday afternoon I arrived home on a flight from Edinburgh, and had to queue for 25 minutes at Passport Control in Dublin Airport. When I fly the other way, into the UK from Ireland, there’s no passport checks when I arrive. So why am I forced to go through Passport Control in Dublin?

Ireland and the UK have what is called a “common travel area” that is meant to allow people to travel freely between the two countries without having to show their passport – and includes everyone travelling between Ireland and Britain, and Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately in 1997 the Irish government changed the law so that the rule about not requiring passengers to present a passport only applies to Irish and British citizens. People from other countries (including other EU nationals) are required to present their passport when arriving in Ireland.

And because a flight or ferry from the UK will probably include people who are not Irish or British, then everyone has to be checked when they arrive.

And although all passengers have to go through Passport Control, if you are Irish or British you don’t actually need to show your passport. Your only requirement is to satisfy the Immigration Officers (who are members of the Garda Síochána) that you have travelled from within the common travel area (your boarding card should suffice) and that you are an Irish or British citizen.

Of course, the easiest way to prove you a Irish or British citizen is to show your passport! But according to the citizen’s information you just need to show any form of photographic ID to prove who you are, such as a driver’s licence, bus pass, or work ID. However none of these other forms of photographic ID show your nationality, so I don’t know how that’s supposed to work.

On the buses

Dublin Traffic - Cars and Buses

I’m carrying a bit of an arm injury at the moment, and can’t put any weight on it, so I haven’t been able to cycle to work for the last couple of days. Instead I’ve had to switch to the bus.

This is the first time since I’ve moved out to the ‘burbs that I’ve resorted to the bus on my commute. There are no direct routes to near my work, so I have to catch one bus into the city centre, and then transfer on to another bus to take me out to the office. Even in ideal conditions the journey takes a total of 55 minutes; roughly twice the time it takes to cycle.

Yesterday wasn’t too bad a journey. As I hadn’t ever done the journey before I left especially early at about 7.20am, and I arrived into work before 8.30am. However this morning I made the foolish decision to leave a bit later, and paid the consequences.

Leaving the house at 7.50am, I was on the first bus at 8.00am – but that bus took a full hour, crawling in traffic, to reach the city centre. The second bus took a further 20 minutes to get me to my office. And so it was almost 9.30am by the time I arrived at work – 1 hour and 40 minutes after I set off. I could have walked it quicker! I certainly could have cycled it in a fraction of the time.

I looked on enviously this morning as all the cyclists sped past the bus. On a bike the impact of traffic congestion is minimal, and it take roughly the same amount of time to do a journey, regardless of the time of day or season of the year. I guess that’s one of the reasons I love to cycle.

I just hope my injury clears up quickly, as I don’t think I can stand many more of these bus journeys!

Larnaca Avis Hertz Car Rental

I’m just home from a lovely holiday in Cyprus. We flew in and out of Larnaca airport, and hired a car through Avis. Unfortunately, neither Avis nor Hertz have allocated space in the airport car parks, and so share a compound outside the airport grounds. It’s a 5-minute minibus ride away, and they provide the transfer 24 hours a day.

When you arrive, you can safely ignore all the permanently-installed car rental booths on your left. Avis and Hertz have separate temporary structures to the right (as you exit) of the arrivals hall. The people in the airport don’t handle anything to do with the rental – they just direct you out of the building to the pickup point, and call the driver to come and collect you.

As you exit the arrivals hall turn right, and follow the footpath on a slight uphill. You pass the queue of taxi drivers, and look for a large road sign (painted grey on the back), and wait in the small carpark just beyond. There are no signs indicating the pickup point, but the minibus when it arrives is clearly marked.

The minibus will take you out of the airport to the compound where Avis and Hertz are based. When you arrive there will be staff on hand to process your booking. Take careful note of where you are when you drive off, because when it comes to returning the car you’ll need to know where to go.

We had trouble finding the location again, because we had arrived in Cyprus in the middle of the night, and Avis don’t provide a map showing their location (Hertz do). And so, when we returned the car, we had no choice but to drive into the airport, jump out, and run to the Avis desk in the arrivals lounge to get directions. That’s not ideal, so I thought I’d put together a Google map showing the location of the Avis and Hertz compound, for future travellers to reference: Larnaca Airport Avis Hertz Car Rental

One other thing is that we were told that it’s mandatory to pre-purchase a tank full of fuel when you take out the rental. The car comes filled up, and you’re meant to return it empty – which is harder to judge than you might imagine. The price they charge for the tank of fuel also seems pretty high, so be warned!