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- Hi, I’m from Sweden and I’m stupid! The credit card that was valid as an entry ticket to the U2 Concert was left at home in Sweden in the safe …
Time to brush up an old travel dream, to visit “The City of Angels”, Los Angeles. When it was decided that the U2 rock band were to go on tour again we were of course eager to know in what cities they would perform. As the tour schedule was published on their website I instantly decided on LA and some time later we were eight buddies having tickets for U2 in “The Forum”.
I immediately booked a flight and I planned my journey for one week on site. My first ideas had been to stay in LA for a couple of days, attend the concerts in LA and then fly up to San Francisco for a final trip by car down to LA. After having informed some friends who had visited these places before about my plans, I made up my mind for one week in LA, no point in rushing around. Las Vegas will be some other time, for I will definitely return to California.
We split up in two parties, four of us went to Vegas directly while the rest of us stayed in LA for the whole week. And the tip-off given to me as to staying in LA for the whole week proved to be a piece of good advice. Even though we remained there for a week I didn’t have time to visit all the things I had planned to see.
Los Angeles is situated at the Pacific Ocean in Southern California and has a pleasant subtropical Mediterranean climate. We visited the city during the last week of May and experienced the weather phenomenon called “June Gloom”. Cool mornings with clouds and hot afternoons with sunshine.
If you want to go all over the city as a tourist to visit all sights, renting a car is a must. And we spent many hours in our car ….. It’s a big city with heavy traffic so you must allow for plenty of time cruising between different venues. It’s well worth the time to plan ahead and schedule the day and maybe choose one neighbourhood per day to minimize the time in traffic jams. There is an excellent network of public buses in the city, but there you lose valuable holiday time at every bus stop …..
We had a direct flight from Stockholm to Los Angeles and landed late in the afternoon. The difference in time was nine hours, which meant middle of the night Swedish time for us. We were rather tired as we were met by our friends at the airport. Tompa and Lotta had already stayed in the city for a couple of days so they were bright and cheery when they picked us up at the gate. We got the rental car and headed for Santa Monica and the sight of all palm trees, the view of Los Angeles and the feeling of finally being on holiday gave me shivers all up my back.
Santa Monica beach.
Our accommodation was next to the beach in Santa Monica, a four-minute walk from the famous pier with its amusement park twinkling in bright colours at night. Two blocks away was the Third Street Promenade Complex where jerseys and shoes were purchased during our stay. There were also a great number of restaurants, and the tastiest dinner of the trip was had at the Chipotle Mexican Grill, 1218 3rd St. One day 3rd Street was chaotic. After a while we found out that the Kendall and Kylie Jenner sisters were visiting a clothing store to launch a new summer collection. Well over 500 fans were queuing to get into the store. Me and Bengt just walked on ……
I certainly liked strolling round on Santa Monica Pier. The pier is more than 100 years old and on it there are restaurants, shops, an aquarium and an amusement park, Pacific Park. Right furthest out on the pier anglers are trying to catch a fine dinner from the Pacific. The pier is the end point of the famous Route 66 and it has appeared in many movies and TV shows, and it felt almost unreal when we were sunbathing next to the pier and all the towers used by the lifeguards of today and also used in the Baywatch TV show. But I woke up when I went for a swim in the cold ocean, which was just as well for then I realized that I wasn’t dreaming :)
Santa Monica Pier.
One day we went for a long walk along Santa Monica Beach to Venice Beach. What an abundance of people and different personalities! ‘Be Yourself’ is a good description of the crowds mingling along the Promenade.
Nice mix of people at Venice.
We slunk in among the shops in Gingerbread Court where we met Berit from Sweden who has lived in Los Angeles since 1981. She told us that Chaplin and Hendrix had resided in the house we were standing in front of, and then she gave us some good tip-offs for our stay in the city.
The atmosphere was marvellous all over Venice that Sunday afternoon. Shops, market stalls, musicians, street performers and people practising jogging runs mingled with us tourists. At the Muscle Beach Gym sturdy men were exercising and in an adjacent small area people were standing on roller skates dancing to music. In the Venice Skate Park skateboarders ran around at seemingly perilous speed but they had full control. The sun blazed down and our thirst made itself felt. I had checked out some rooftop bars at home before our trip and one of them was to be somewhere in Venice. Finally we had made our way to the Erwin Hotel and we took the elevator up to the rooftop bar. There we were welcomed by a wonderful view of LA and Venice Beach. The palm trees were swaying in front of us as we enjoyed the first mojitos of the trip :) I honestly recommend a visit at the Erwin Hotel Rooftop Bar, 1697 Pacific Avenue.
Rooftop Bar, Erwin Hotel.
This day came to an end in the cosy Ye Olde King’s Head Pub, 116 Santa Monica Blvd. We might as well have been singing karaoke there, for our faces couldn’t have been more glowing red than what they already were from the strong spring sun.
Naturally we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour. We paid $44 for a 24 hour ticket with access to five different routes. We only had time for two of them and those routes took us around Santa Monica, Brentwood, Westwood, Beverly Hills and Hollywood. In Westwood we hopped off the bus and explored UCLA and the Los Angeles National Cemetery where soldiers killed in war are interred. Then we went on to the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park where Marilyn Monroe is buried. Her plaque has a different colour from those of other graves because it has to be cleaned so often on account of all kiss marks …. The grave next to hers is empty, it is reserved for Hugh Hefner, the founder of the Playboy Magazine.
Marilyn Monroe’s look a likes are everywhere.
We hopped on to the bus again and went on through Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and Hollywood. This was a long day in the sun where we watched many well-known venues from the world of films. I always highly value these hop-on hop-off buses for they give you the opportunity to visit all sights and likewise a general view of the city making it easier to find your way later.
Bus load of tourists.
Another fine tour was “Stars’ Homes”. A classic tour where you go in small open-air mini-buses watching celebrities’ houses and a few other sights in the city. I really appreciated the tour running through small cosy quarters in Beverly Hills and Bel Air. We also drove up in the mountains on Mulholland Drive and from there we had fine views of the city. We passed houses and big mansions belonging to celebrities including Hugh Hefner, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Aniston, Tarantino and Steven Spielberg. Several times during the tour we cruised past one of the world’s most expensive shopping streets, Rodeo Drive. We contented ourselves with watching all stores, there was no opportunity of entering to try on a pair of Sunday best trousers ….. We didn’t have the time …;) Something I will never forget are all those palm trees lining the streets in the city, magical for me :)
Nice residential areas at Beverly Hills.
Obviously we couldn’t miss visiting Hollywood Boulevard with all stars at the Walk of Fame. It felt like walking in a film set with the stars in the sidewalks, the Dolby Theatre where the Academy Awards Ceremony takes place every year, the El Capitan Theatre, the Roosevelt Hotel and the TCL Chinese Theatre. Outside the Chinese Theatre approximately 200 stars have left their footprints and handprints in the street. Some day it’ll be my turn ….. Along the street there is a crowd of star “lookalikes” who happily have pictures taken together with the tourists in exchange for a dollar or two. We couldn’t resist being tourist labelled when we spotted a “lookalike” from the “Hangover” movie ….. this made a very fine photo :) After that I went all in for touristing and traditionally bought a fridge magnet in Hollywood Boulevard!
Look a like from the movie Hangover.
This was an intensive week also containing a lunch in Korea Town. We spent some hours in our car to find our way there and thanks to that we watched the Downtown Skyscrapers from all directions … We had some Olympic History as we visited the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Summer Olympics were held there in 1932 and in 1984. I’m sure you remember the opening ceremony in 1984 when Bill Suitor came flying by Jet Pack in front of 100,000 spectators, a classic sight! The Coliseum was on my “must see list” and so was the Hollywood Sign.
Olympic history at the Coliseum.
We got into the car and drove up Beachwood Drive. Several times we passed signboards saying you couldn’t drive there if you wanted to see the Hollywood Sign. Naturally we paid no attention to the warnings and continued up the street. At last we reached a fine vantage point where we were close enough to the sign to feel content. The letters are made of steel from Australia and are almost 14 metres (45 ft) tall. They are protected by trademark owned by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. We could also watch the sign when we visited the Griffith Observatory but from there the view of the city was more attractive.
Tompa and me by the Hollywood Sign.
In Los Angeles there are many film companies and you can visit their studios. We chose a visit to Universal Studios. The US was celebrating Memorial Day so in spite of its being Monday the roads were quiet when we headed for Universal. I was in a state of tourist glory as I was walking towards the entrance and saw the big globe with the sign Universal Studios.
A visit to Universal Studios is a “must”.
We entered the world of films and we were happy to discover that there were not many people in the park so we headed directly for the “Studio Tour” attraction where according to the large screens of the park the queue time was zero minutes. That was correct and we immediate jumped into a vehicle and then we were off towards the set constructions of the park. We went through various town backlots used in movies and afterwards we went into the King Kong 360 3-D attraction where we experienced King Kong fighting against dinosaurs on both sides of our vehicle while the vehicle was simultaneously rocking and water spurting, very fine contraptions! Then we passed set constructions for “Grinchen”, “Desperate Housewives”, “Psycho”, “Earthquake” and a major plane crash. A very fine tour where we were almost eaten by the shark from the “Jaws” movie as we were passing a small lake.
The shark came dangerously close during the Studio Tour.
Our next stop was the “Waterworld” attraction which was certainly hot and wet. People sitting closest to the show were thoroughly soaked as boats and jet-skiers whirled round splashing water. Fire came out in flames, people flew in the air and suddenly an aircraft came rushing in the air and landed in the water just in front of us … Action on a high standard!
Waterworld, a good show at the Universal Studios.
The best attraction of the day was equally fast and good. In “Revenge of the Mummy – the Ride” we were off in an indoor roller coaster running in darkness. To begin with it proceeded at a moderate speed and various mummies were lit up and slime fell down from the ceiling onto us …. But suddenly we were shoved forwards at 70 km/h (44 mph) and everybody was screaming and laughing till the tears came. The vehicle halted and we had time to breathe for a few seconds before we were shoved off once again …. backwards ….. Absolutely, that was the best ride of the day.
The “Jurassic Park” offered white water rafting with dinosaurs spurting water all over us, and if you had avoided getting wet before the final raft plunge you certainly were soaked as the raft hit the water after a high treacherous drop :)
“Animal Actors” presented an entertaining show where cats, hens, rats, guinea pigs, birds and dogs appeared.
“Shrek” was a 4D cinema where water splashed and spiders tickled our legs, well worth visiting :)
Wherever you went in the park film soundtrack music was being played on top volume and the star lookalikes strolled round and had pictures of themselves taken together with the guests in the park. Outside the park was the Citywalk mall where we made a stop at the Hard Rock Café to have dinner. What an amazing day at Universal! This day was concluded with cruising along Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. There we passed famous clubs like Whisky a Go Go, Viper room, Roxy and Rainbow.
Whisky a go go.
Some Events, too ……
The reason for going to Los Angeles was initially watching the U2 band. They were playing at the legendary Forum in Inglewood and when booking tickets they were registered on a credit card, and the credit card was valid as an entry ticket. In the morning of the first concert day I was lying in bed checking my receipt and my credit card, the numbers didn’t match ….. I had brought the wrong credit card!!!
This day of waiting was long before it was time to go to the arena. We were received by one of the most beautiful arenas I have seen, and the only right thing to do was handling the problem directly. I went to the ticket office and met a giant-like man behind the desk.
- Hi, I’m Swedish and I’m stupid. I had imagined that start would break the ice, but the man was no way amused, even though my friends were… I told him what had happened and the man directed me to the entrance. I nervously went on to the entrance where I was directed back to the ticket office, of course. There I chose another desk and met a nice woman who told me to find a table next to the entrance where I would get assistance. Quite so, the man at the table set my mind at rest, I just had to present my driving licence and I was given a new ticket so that I could enter the arena in the company of my pals. There we met our friends who had visited Las Vegas and we had an agreeable pre-party before it was time for Bono, the frontman of the U2 band, to enter the stage and start the show with the song “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”. The band made a fine performance but the audience wasn’t much enthusiastic. That was a pity, we thought for this was a marvellous arena and the opportunities for a magic night were at hand but they were not fulfilled. The American audience enjoyed the show with beer and food in their mouths rather than participate in the community singing. But obviously we were nevertheless content with our experience.
We had time to see two good U2 concerts during the week.
Only myself and Bengt had tickets for the second night so we went to see my best buddy at the table who helped me with the ticket once more, he recognized me from the previous night …. During that day we had concerned ourselves thinking the concert might be cancelled since U2′s longstanding tour manager Dennis Sheehan had been found dead in his hotel room in Los Angeles. On their website the band wrote that they had suffered a loss that had caused them great sorrow but that they would continue the tour in the spirit of Dennis. Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” was ringing round the arena where the light was put out, Bono came walking in the audience and passed just a metre away from me as he entered the stage and started the show with the same song as the night before, “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”. The audience and the band were somewhat better than the first night, but the show didn’t quite get off the ground. My favourite songs were “Beautiful Day” and the lovely “With Or Without You”.
Myself, Tompa, Lotta and Bengt had also booked a Nostalgia Night in the small town of Agoura Hills, located north of Los Angeles. In our car we drove along the coast to Malibu where I kept a lookout out of the car window for a glimpse of Lindsey Vonn who was there posing for photos but there was no sight of her and the car turned off Highway 1 and we drove north among picturesque peaks and valleys in the Santa Monica Mountains. In Agoura Hills we entered The Canyon rock bar and it felt like participating in an old Tarantino film. It’s hard to find a description of this venue other than ….. different. We had a table near the stage and had time to eat up our dinner before it was time for one of the highlights of the trip, the iconic Skid Row band! A wonderful feeling to hear the old classic hits in a small town outside Los Angeles. “Big Guns”, “18 and Life”, “I Remember You” and “Youth Gone Wild”. After the concert we went to the legendary Rainbow club at Sunset Strip. There were many people around in the quarters since U2 had played a club gig in the bar next door, The Roxy.
One week is much too short time if you want to explore Los Angeles, but we certainly did our best, and now we just have to wait for Bruce Springsteen’s next tour and a new visit to the West Coast of the United States might very well be close at hand :)
You’ll hear from me,
Popular hotels to book in LA and surroundings:
Carmel by the sea
This hotel is located 300m from the beach, 50m from a shopping mall and 8.5km from a golf course.
Dunes Inn Sunset
Hotel located in the heart of Hollywood, right in Sunset Boulevard and 3,2 km. from Beverly Hills.
Nice, extravagant hotel in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles.
Renaissance Palm Springs
Located in the San Jacinto Mountains.
The Garland Hotel
Charming hotel in Beverly Garland´s honour with nice location in the heart of Hollywood, free shuttle to Universal Studios & Citywalk.
Shangri La at the ocean
Shangri La Hotel is located just 300m from the beach and 27 km from Los Angeles center, close to Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach and J. Paul Getty Museum.
Located next door to the Anaheim Convention Center and one block from Disneyland.
Hyatt Regency Long Beach
Located at the edge of Long Beach’s beautiful Rainbow Harbor.
The capital of the Czech Republic has always appealed to me, because I have been stuffed with stories about the glory of the city whenever people have been talking about it. I visualized myself walking in the historic old centre of Prague, an UNESCO heritage site, and my enjoying the crowds on the famous Charles Bridge which leads the tourists across the Vltava river. The Wenceslas Square seemed to be a beautiful site to explore and I had also heard that food and drink would be very affordable.
Nice view of Moldau, the Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle.
According to all positive opinions on Prague, the right thing to do was waiting for some good event well worth attending to be arranged in the city, so that I could perform the traditional trick of combining an event with a visit to an interesting city. When it was clear that Prague would host the Ice Hockey World Championship in 2015 plans were being formed for a visit there. A couple of buddies of mine had taken over a travel agency and they came up with the brilliant idea of arranging a group tour to the World Championship and I signed up at once. We were 30 travellers to experience an interesting and memorable weekend in the Czech Republic. We had time to watch two ice hockey games and likewise doing some sightseeing in the centre of Prague.
To combine events with sightseeing in interesting cities works perfectly.
Already at Arlanda Airport it was clear that the weekend would be successful when I saw the glorious individuals who had signed up for the tour. In Prague a coach was waiting for us at the airport to take us to our hotel in the Malá Strana neighbourhood. None of us had received his room key before the hotel bar had served the whole company with beer (Absinthe Beer for me …)
I shared the same room with my buddies Emil and Johan. Johan had visited the city several times before and was looking forward to a new visit to explore new gems in the city. One thing that he hadn’t experienced before in this city was the sound of a firecracker attached to the shoes exploding …… We’ll never grow up …. however we worried a bit if the fire alarm would go off because of the gunpowder smoke …. The travellers were hungry after the journey and the party entered the Zlatý Klas restaurant located just outside the hotel. The friends in charge of the tour were celebrating the fact that they had run the travel agency for a year so there were complimentary speeches and toasts.
Later that evening we were to watch the first ice hockey game, so even as early as the visit to the restaurant many people in the party wore their Swedish match jerseys and a number of cheer chants started rolling out in between the tables. Later I heard that a firecracker had apparently been attached to one of the tour organizers …. They say he was somewhat stunned as he as leaving the restaurant …
Outside the O2 arena thousands of fans gathered in the Fan Zone with beer tents, big screen TV and sponsors’ tents. Sweden was to meet the home nation Czech Republic and we yellow-dressed Swedes were outnumbered in the Fan Zone when the singing of cheer chants started. I had arranged a meeting with Radio Sweden and the reporter found me among my friends in the beer tent. Holding a Mojito people from Radio Sweden’s coverage of sports made an interview with me which was broadcast back home in Sweden later that evening. Getting some media time is fine ;)
The O2 Arena was built in 2004 and has a capacity of up to 18,000 spectators. In spite of the fact that the arena is a bit elderly we all found it very attractive. We had our seats on the second floor and from there we had good view of the ice.
Czech Republic – Sweden. More than 17 000 viewers at the O2 Arena.
Sweden started best and after 07:30 in the first period Sweden was leading 2-0, what a beginning of the weekend :)
The Czech team reduced the score after 13 minutes and the roof of the arena was nearly brought down, it felt like an earthquake when the Czech fans cheered the goal. An even and extremely interesting game followed. We blue and yellow supporters actually imagined victory was at hand when Sweden was leading 4-2 in the last period with less than nine minutes to play. Six minutes later Czech Republic was leading 5-4 and the whole arena was swaying as their fans were jumping to the beat. We Swedes could not understand how it had happened, what a turn for the worse! We were totally run over and I took out my video camera to record the joy of victory among the Czechs when Sweden suddenly managed to equalize 5-5 with 53 seconds remaining of the game. My God, how we cheered and shouted!!
The game went on to overtime and came to an end with a penalty shootout. Sweden succeeded in winning and happily we made our way to the Fan Zone where the win was celebrated in the company of Czech fans who congratulated us with fine sportsmanship. The floor of the beer tent swayed hazardously up and down as hefty fans from Latvia were jumping to the beat of the music and as they went on by climbing benches and tables this was wonderful entertainment to watch. As I said, I love events :)
What a nice group of people we were at the O2 Stadium…
Our plans for Saturday included sightseeing in Prague and the whole party came in practically full force as we left the hotel in the morning. We walked along the Vltava River passing the “Dancing House”, we saw tourists renting pedalos in the Slovansky Ostrov Island and took mandatory selfies on the Most Legii Bridge with the Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle as a background. By then we had been going on for 30 minutes and grumbling could already be heard indicating that the old men were thirsty so we sat down in the Café Lávka near the Charles Bridge having a break in the sun. Spirits were high in spite of the early hour. All Friday’s impressions were talked over while our thirst was quenched with mojitos and beer. When bottles of wine were being ordered I felt it was time to move on if there would any possibility of exploring sights …..
Café Lávka at the Charles Bridge.
The warm spring sun made us very thirsty…
Some of us visited the Torture Museum located just east of the Charles Bridge. On three floors various torture instruments were exhibited and you could feel spirits lowering after the enjoyable break at the café terrace. But we soon recovered our high spirits walking out on the Charles Bridge in the crowds of all tourists and artists. We were lucky with the weather and the spring sun blazed down forcefully as we enjoyed the view of the river. We met some people from our party who intended to walk up to the Prague Castle but we were hungry and made up our minds to go in another direction to find a restaurant in the Old Town (Staré Město) to have lunch. About that time sightseeing ended as for us ….
The Charles Bridge.
After making our way along small cosy alleys we reached the Old Town Square where we had planned to watch the famous Astronomical Clock on the south wall of the City Hall. This clock was constructed in the 15th century and for one thing it is famous for its animated figures, moving when when the clock strikes the hour. We didn’t quite get to it ….. but we heard the clock strike the hours six times ….
Mingle in the Old Town.
Just adjacent to the City Hall we spotted the U Prince Hotel. I had checked up on some rooftop bars before my trip, and this hotel was said to have a fine terrace so we entered the reception and took the elevator to the fourth floor. There we were met by a woman waiter who asked if we had made a reservation, but of course we hadn’t. But we we were welcome out on the terrace to have a drink so we sat down at a table with a marvellous view of the city and ordered a cocktail each. It was now two o’clock and the City Hall Clock struck for the first time, we were still not far from watching the clock-face …
Well, we were only allowed to order a drink but we took a chance and ordered food, which worked as easyly as anything and there we remained …. The Astronomical Clock struck time after time without us being able to watch the show, but who cared? We sat in the sun and had a wonderful afternoon with beer, wine, sparkling wine, cocktails and food. Our faces were getting the same red tint as the tiles on the roofs around us, we were not used to strong sunlight so early in spring. When the clock struck for the sixth time we had been laughing so much for five hours that we were totally exhausted. The 16½-inch bill was settled with pleasure for after all it was quite cheap :)
The rooftop terrace at Hotel U Prince.
The evening was continued with visiting the Staromáček restaurant and after that dancing in the basement of the James Dean Prague Club. A day coming off very well with sights and partying.
Sunday and time for another game, Sweden vs Austria. I was extremely tired after the enjoyable night and it was no optimal situation sitting in a taxi cab for more than an hour to get to the arena. The Prague Marathon was run just that day and large parts of the city centre were closed to traffic so the taxi had to make a long detour to get to the O2 Arena. Having reached our destination we could just enjoy the atmosphere again. More than 15,000 spectators were on site although the game was played in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Austria had plenty of fans present and they created a glorious background setting as their team started the game best. We had fine seats and were zoomed in by TV several times. I was criticized from home for wearing sunglasses indoors, but ….. it was very bright light in the arena, you know, and hot ….
The game turned out well for Sweden. Filip Forsberg scored three goals and the final result was Sweden winning 6-1. The victory celebration continued for a couple of hours in the Fan Zone and then a taxi ride towards the hotel.
As the taxi was passing the Old Town I jumped off, I just had to watch that clock strike ONCE … Hundreds of tourists were present when finally I could watch the show … But I was a bit disappointed, I had imagined much more to happen with the figures standing round the clock-face when the clock strikes, but there was not much “action” in the show …
There was a lot of tourists on spot at the Astronomical Clock.
BUT, I had watched a “must” in Prague and now I could peacefully mingle in the alleys of the Old Town.
In the evening dinner was partaken of at the Hard Rock Café and then the weekend was brought to an end with drinks on the rooftop terrace of the U Prince Hotel. The evening view of the Old Town Square was magnificent and made a happy ending of the trip.
View over the old town from U Prince rooftop terrace.
Two ice hockey game wins, fine weather, entertaining travel company and a beautiful city. A successful weekend that made me want more of Prague. I didn’t have time to see everything that I had written down on my “To Do List” before the trip, so definitely there will be more journeys to the Czech Republic and Prague, it’s just a question of awaiting some fun event ;)
Popular hotels to book in Prague:
Housed in a 19-century building and situated directly in the centre of Prague, only a short walk from famous Wenceslas Square and all major sights.
Located in a historical building from the 19th century, directly in the heart Prague and near the main railway station.
Three Crowns Hotel
Hotel Three Crowns is situated in a residential neighborhood and is a hotel since 1918.
Hotel situated in the quiet cobbled streets of Vitkov in Prague, close to the central station, Charles Bridge, Republic Square, Prague Castle and Wenceslas Square.
Located in Mala Strana area
Floating hotel on the Vlatava River in Prague, about 900 m from Old Town Square.
Dublin, the largest city of Ireland, is a welcoming city with nice and and helpful inhabitants. It has a popular shopping district including Grafton Street and Henry Street. It also offers many cultural options with sights, theatres, musicals and museums in the city centre, BUT naturally, what has enticed me into visiting the city is sports and music.
In 2009 some of my friends were going to Dublin to watch U2 perform at Croke Park. After a while I realized that this was something I couldn’t miss, so the only right thing for me to do was booking flight and accommodation and trying to get hold of a ticket for the concert. I found an ad in Sweden where a guy wanted to sell two tickets and I thought this might be a favourable deal, the second ticket was most likely to be sold dear in Dublin and in that manner I could gain some pocket money.
At the Croke Park before the U2 concert.
I arrived in Dublin earlier than my friends so I had time to stroll around in the city and visit a number of souvenir shops on my own. Obviously I am the type of tourist who buys a fridge magnet in every big city that I visit, in Dublin it was a trefoil one. Moreover I am a classic tourist photographer so there were some fine pictures taken of the river Liffey running through the city. When you have been watching sights for several hours you need to quench your thirst and the best place to do that is the Temple Bar area. Along Fleet Street and Essex Street the bars are located next door to each other and inside the beautiful façades there is room for music, friendship and warm atmosphere. I was tired after a long day and I had only intended to have a Gin and Tonic at Temple Bar but I lingered there for more than six hours … U2 fans from all over the world had found their way to the bar and the singers were highly successful in performing U2 songs with the bar customers at the same time time joining in a mighty community singing. I met Yogi and Wendy who had come from Boston to Dublin to attend the concert. We made friends and had a marvellous night in the bar. I prefer travelling in company but at nights like this when you find new good friends I don’t mind gadding about on my own :)
Why not buy a souvenir magnet for the fridge from one of the stands on the bridge over Liffey?
The famous Temple Bar.
The following day I met my friends from Sweden and we visited the iconic Guinness Storehouse. On several floors one can follow the creation of this famous beer and on the top floor there is a bar with panoramic views of entire Dublin. A pint of Guinness is included in the price of admission and we sat down for a long time in the bar just enjoying the sun and the views.
View from the seventh floor of the Guinness Storehouse.
Today was concert day so after sightseeing at the brewery we warmed up for a while at Temple Bar before it was time to head for the Croke Park Arena. We had purchased some goodies and sat down beside a small canal running alongside the arena. At the same time as the first bottle of wine was opened U2 began their soundcheck. I hovered about the arena several times trying to sell my extra ticket, U2 at home ground, I had intended to make money … It didn’t work out at all, there were far too many people with the same intention, there was not a chance of getting rid of the ticket so in a surprised and disappointed mood I passed the entrance with two tickets … But my disappointment was quickly turned into sheer happiness as we entered the inner field of Croke Park and just at the moment when U2 entered the stage the rain clouds dissolved and the sun appeared, 80,000 fans were cheering, the time had come!
After a hard month with rumours of conflicts in the group, tax problems in Ireland and bad reviews in Amsterdam a psyched up U2 set off at home ground. And as early as the first song, “Breathe”, the victory was won, the cheers of the audience were deafening!! When everybody joined in singing “Desire” I got goose pimples. The singing must have been heard all over Ireland! Bono said: “Fans have come here from all over the world tonight, just because they know that if you want to watch U2 this is the best place in the world!!!” And everybody cheered of course :) My personal favourites “Where the Streets have no Name” and “With or Without You” were magical. The only thing to criticize at all was the fact that the concert was far too short with just two hours. But I am a bit spoiled by Springsteen playing for more than three hours …..
U2 on their impressive stage.
After the concert we took a breather in the arena field, happy and exhausted. A dream had come true, watching U2 at their home ground. Unfortunately I was going home the next morning so a group hug had to be it, and while my friends set out for a Dublin night what remained for me was walking home to the hotel bed … But Dublin made me want more and a couple of years later we returned there!
In 2013 the Swedish National Football Team played qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the away game against Ireland was played in Dublin. For a long time we were uncertain whether to go or not but when flight fares went down in price we were five mates who seized the opportunity and made reservations. Sweden’s away games always keep up the high spirits with thousands of fans travelling along and supporting the team. The gathering of supporters before the matches generally takes place in a public square, and there bars are open and entertainment provided. That’s something we like and normally several trips are made during every championship qualification period.
Invasion of Swedish vikings on the streets of Dublin.
I checked in at the Bridge House in the centre of Dublin and got a room on the top floor including a balcony with views of Parliament Street and Essex Street, in other words: views right into the Temple Bar area :)
This was a day in the company of many blue and yellow friends in Dublin city centre. In the Temple Bar Square there was a “Swedish Corner”, the site for all Swedish fans to come together and prepare for the important game. When kick-off was close at hand it was time for the mandatory march to the arena. A long yellow procession passed through Dublin to the Aviva Stadium and along the route happy Irish people were standing cheerfully waving their hands. We were approximately 6,000 Swedish fans on site stirring up a mighty atmosphere before the match. It’s always the same happy feeling being on site when the Swedish National Anthem is being played. We were nervous for the important game and got no better after the start of it …
Swedish fans on the march in the city of Dublin.
Sweden opened miserably and Ireland repeatedly attacked towards the short side where we we standing. To the wild delight of the home fans Robbie Keane scored 1-0 for Ireland and it didn’t feel like we would be able to turn the game the other way round. Like a miracle Sweden managed to equalize before half-time and hope of World Cup in Brazil was alive once more. The second half was much better from the Swedes and in front of the Swedish cheering section Anders Svensson scored 1-2, which was the final result. Naturally we jumped an cheered, now we had a fair chance of qualifying for the World Cup and a good reason for celebrating in the streets of Dublin. The only cultural feature of this trip took place after the match as we went by horse drawn carriage in a rainy Dublin. This was a short visit in the city, but still we were immensely content when we left Ireland the next day, three points in the qualifier game plus much laughter and entertaining experiences in the company of good friends.
Sebastian, me and Kimmo celebrated the Swedish victory at the Aviva Arena.
In the same year Bruce Springsteen concluded his long Europe Tour with two gigs in Kilkenny, a small town 120 kilometres south-west of Dublin. I had watched 25 Springsteen concerts and actually I didn’t need another few … but nevertheless it was tempting to watch the very last ones of the tour, they might be special .. I made inquiries among my friends but nobody wanted to accompany me so finally I booked flight and concert tickets on my own. Kilkenny is a city of 20,000 inhabitants, famous for its medieval buildings. Facing the fact that 30,000 Springsteen fans needed accommodation wasn’t easy for me but at last I found a hotel for the first night. The remaining two nights I had to spend in an indoor camping ….
I succeeded in timing my visit well with fine weather so I really had a good time strolling around in the little town which certainly invited us to a Bruce Party. All bars and shops were decorated with US flags and Springsteen pictures. Standing on the bridge across the river Nore running through the city one could watch the handsome Kilkenny Castle on one side and on the other a bar beautifully decorated with an enormous Springsteen guitar on the roof. It felt like coming to heaven together with thousands of other fans :)
The trip started with a 1½-hour journey by train from Dublin to Kilkenny across beautiful natural surroundings. Before the concerts with Bruce the fans regularly arrange a queueing system for those who want to enter the pit in front of the stage. Certainly I wanted to be in the front line so I walked directly from the railway station to the arena where many fans had gathered even though this was the day before the first show. I had number 276 written on my hand and my name was also put on a list. I was informed that the next roll call was in two hours. Those who were not present at the roll calls had their names struck off the list and had to stand at the end of the queue once more … I checked in at my hotel and two hours later I was present outside Nowlan Park for the roll call. There were plenty of fans camping outside the arena and the atmosphere and expectations were perfect. Kilkenny definitely appeared at its best. Clear blue sky, cosy bars everywhere, restaurants along the riverside, shop windows decorated with Springsteen items and Kilkenny Castle like a movie setting. I just strolled around enjoying the scenery until hunger set in and it was time for dinner in St. Kieran’s Street. At 10 PM the next roll call was due and at sunset outside Nowlan Park several hundreds of fans were present. We were ticked off and afterwards we were informed about Saturday’s schedule. The next roll call was due at 9:30 AM. The rest of the evening was spent inside a couple of the cosy bars of the city with live music and nice conversation with the local population.
The magic town of Kilkenny.
The following morning time had come to check in at an indoor camping with 200 tents in a sports centre … with a gap of 2 metres …. 90€/night.
This was an awful place. Small tents, noisy of course, stinking toilets and small showers in a trailer outside in the car park. But anything for the sake of experiencing adventure …. I had ordered a taxi to get to the arena and the roll call but the taxi never showed up. Time passed and I was all the more pressed for time since I didn’t want to lose my place now that I had such a good queue number. Finally I found Maurice, an elderly gentleman who could certainly take the matter in hand and drive me to the arena. Happily I jumped into his car only to find out that I had sat down in the right-hand seat … behind the steering wheel .. Maurice and myself changed seats and a few moments later I arrived at Nowlan Park. At lunchtime we were let into the arena and I managed to get in the very front row.
This weekend featured a festival called the Wrecking Ball Weekender and in the Saturday afternoon Josh Ritter, Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard performed. The latter was quite good and later that evening he made a guest appearance with Springsteen.
At 7:00 PM it was finally time for Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band :) After the opening “This Little Light of Mine” the real party began! In consecutive order came “Badlands”, “Out in the Street” and the request songs “Shake” / “Sweet Soul Music”. To the cheers of the audience Bruce chose to play the whole “Born in the USA” album from beginning to end. As first encore he made a magical version of “Drive” together with Glen Hansard and then many tears were shed at Nowlan Park. I was so happy standing in the front row and when the whole band had left the stage after the last song Bruce remained and performed an acoustic version of “Thunder Road”, easily one of my favourite songs, What an ending of the concert!
Nice rock ambience at the front of Springsteen’s stage.
After the show celebration went on in the bars, and the singers performing Springsteen songs won acclaim of course. When at last I arrived “home” at the camping the police were there to evict a gang who could not respect the rules of keeping quiet at night. I certainly slept poorly that night, such lousy sleep …
Tired and worn out I headed for Nowlan Park again at lunchtime, Sunday. Although I was late I succeeded in getting a wristband for the pit, but I hadn’t planned standing in the front row so I could take my time and mingle around the arena. I met Mari from Norway whom I got to know earlier that year when Springsteen performed at Wembley Stadium. We found our way to the very back of the pit where we met Andy and Gayle from England, among others. Those are people I count among my friends for life. When the concert started I was standing beside another old acquaintance, the legendary NBA coach Pat Riley. We had been standing side by side during Springsteen’s concert at Giants Stadium in New Jersey in 2009 ..
Friends for life thanks to Springsteen’s concerts.
Just like the night before, the concert opened with “This Little Light of Mine” which was followed by one of my favourites “My Love Will Not Let You Down”. “Badlands” and “We Take Care of Our Own” concluded a cool opening that brought all of Nowlan Park to a boil. In honour of the evening the band played the entire “Born to Run” album live. There are many moments that night that I will never forget, and one of the most intense was when after the show me and my new friends joined in a big group hug. The tour had come to an end and we had all experienced many memorable moments all over Europe. The evening was finished off downtown in a great gathering where we summed up all our experiences.
Springsteen’s closing concert on his Europe tour.
After yet another night in the tent with bad sleep it was time for going back home to Sweden. I travelled alone but returned home with many new friends!
I would gladly come back to this fabulous city of Kilkenny!! And Bruce, you’re welcome to return for another couple of shows there, OK!?
Popular hotels to book in Dublin:
Maldron Hotel Cardiff Lane
Located off the south banks of the River Liffey, a stone’s throw from the city centre.
Temple Bar Hotel
Located in Temple Bar in the heart of Dublin.
Arlington Hotel Temple Bar
The hotel is situated on Lord Edward street in the Temple Bar area, 300 m to Grafton Street.
4 stars hotel in the centre of Dublin.
Hotel located in the heart of the Theater District, in Dublin center, faces the Dublin Spire.
Popular hotels to book in Kilkenny:
Situated on the bank of the River Nore, 500m from both Kilkenny Castle.
Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel
Situated 250m from the Rothe House, 300m from both Kilkenny Castle and a shopping mall, 600m from St. Mary’s Cathedral, 800m from the Black Abbey, 1.5km from St. Canice’s Cathedral and 3km from a golf course.
Aspect Hotel Kilkenny
In Smithsland South Springhill, 4km from centrum.