Friday: there was enough time to drop the cats off at the cattery before the drive to Holyhead. It was a bit windy at the eastern edge of England, but it became somewhat calmer as we drove westwards, which is the way we prefer it when going for a ferry.
(Anglesey has become much more pleasant to drive across now the dual carriageway is there, and is probably nicer too for the villagers who no longer have traffic queues snarling up the centres of their lives.)
At the ferry, we'd gone for the Premier option, which includes boarding first and the Stena Plus lounge. This meant we could sit above the hurly burly, with free drinks and snacks, free papers, and with waiter service if we wanted to order any food there. This is not quite so great for a driver who is avoiding food (so the Tyrrells vegetable crisps and the wine don't get the workout they could deserve), but it does feel nicer. Oh, and we also got to disembark first, so we were out onto the streets of Dun Laoghaire before the rest of the ferry. Being carried along on the wave front is much easier, though this was rather ruined by the SatNav giving rather dodgy instructions that led us into a home for retired nuns ("Keep straight ... " meant turn left *cough*).
(SatNav and Irish mapping is a sorry combination. The GPS may tell the system where it is, but the maps are pretty low quality compared to UK ones, and you do have to get used to driving along a road being told "Keep following the R113 for another two miles" when the road signs allege you are on the N81. Oh, and postcodes? What are they?)
dduane and petermorwood live in the West Wicklow wilds, and the closest I could preset the coordinates was a local village - not the hamlet that's in walking distance, but one from which we actually know the route. It's a measure of the Irish road system that the estimated journey time was over an hour for a 30-or-so mile trip.
Arriving with them, we got some quick hugs in, and then Diane and I hit the Baltinglass supermarket for supplies. Diane was cooking a Dublin Coddle - which is a traditional cheap dish composed from sausages, bacon and potato, baked in a slow oven, so while that was cooking, we were down the local pub. And indeed, we were down there until midnight, finally walking back with only the starlight to guide us (well, once we turned off the torches).
Then dinner (highly recommended) , then bed.
Saturday, and it's time to head for P-Con. We'd understandably had a bit of a late morning, and getting to the Park Inn in Smithfield (recommended, by the way, just ask jemck if you won't take our word) was a bit confusing, since the street setup has been slightly messed up by the Luas going through a street behind the Quay, and thus between the road we came in on and the hotel itself. At one point we saw the hotel the other side of the tram tracks, but weren't able to drive across because of a no-entry sign. But we got there in the end, got checked in (and admired the room - it's a very stylish hotel in a modern way, with a frosted glass curtain between the main room and the bathroom, and with a simple steel column for the wash basin arrangement). Then down the Luas to Wynn's, three stops away. There we encoutered clanwilliam outside the main door. Inside, well, everyone seemed to be there. I might as well dump the LJ username list here: autopope, ephiriel, feorag, fluffcthulhu, jacobsmills, jemck, krabbe, lostcarpark, mizkit, natural20, nwhyte, sacristan, slovobooks and xnamkrad. Not all were there during the day - some we only saw in the evening (when a large contingent of us went out for a meal organised by slovobooks). And the observant will notice that dduane and petermorwood weren't in that list - sadly they weren't able to make the convention, due to a visitor arriving from overseas. It had originally been part of the plan that we gave them a lift up to town.
Sunday, and a late lunchtime was spent with autopope and feorag at a Chinese restaurant up by the market not that far from Abbey Street. Definitely not one of those dumbed down for the Westerner, with the menu including chickens' feet and jellyfish, but large, cheap portions, with basic décor. Price for a filling lunch was under €10 each. In the evening, after the closing ceremony, it was back to the hotel where we ate with jemck, her Dad in from Co. Laoish and gaspode_girl. It was fascinating chatting both to gaspode_girl (or 'the other female fantasy writer from Scotland', as I think she mischievously terms herself), and to Jules's Dad, who is full of anecdotes and whose natural story-telling abilities have obviously carried through to his daughter.
And Monday, when it's time to depart. We chat to jemck over breakfast before checking out, retrieving the car, and heading for Dun Laoghaire. Instead of directly driving to O'Connell Street and crossing the bridge there, we drive further down the quays and cross over the East Link bridge. This brought us out onto the coast road, and we followed that down to the southern port. The Ferry was a bit more crowded on the way back, and the Stena Plus lounge somewhat overrun - I do wonder how hard they check that only the entitled are let in. But still a good trip. A fairly easy drive, though the level of roadworks at the M56 and on the M6 itself weren't such fun, and traffic levels were high enough that one could spot a car ahead, and then not see it again for 20 miles. Happily, the M6 Toll was a relief, though having slowed down to use the services there, I was relieved to note that that meant I didn't get spotted by the police traffic camera on the bridge.
And then we were home in time for the cattery, which meant we had two somewhat happier moggies.