Beautiful Days... With Photographic Evidence!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I feel like blogging about the weather is getting old but since it has been so nice out this week and this kind of weather is so rare in Ireland I will at least share some pictures!

Myself and some friends spent Sunday wandering around the city enjoying the first day of daylight savings time.  After the Sunday market we lounged at Saint Patrick's Cathedral for several hours and then ate dinner outside while the sun stayed out until almost 8:30.

Today, on my day off, I took a trip to the Iveagh Gardens.  I had heard about this place from my friend Rachael who described it as a secret garden.  Since my goal in life is to some day have a secret garden of my own, there is no way I couldn't check it out.  Not surprisingly after wandering through the garden I found Rachael and her sister Candace (who is in my program) there!  It was another lovely afternoon in the sun though unfortunately I think it will be back down in the 50's for tomorrow.  I'm glad I managed to enjoy as much of this week as I did considering finals time is quickly approaching.
Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Saint Patrick's Park

Where there was once a well St. Pat used to baptize people

Ninjas doing their thing

Waterfall in Iveagh Gardens

Statues in Iveagh Gardens

Saint Paddy's Day in Dublin

Saturday, March 17, 2012

As I said before, it seemed like Dublin transformed over night.  Most of the buildings in the city centre lit up with green lights at night, there were Irish flags everywhere, and traditional music came pouring out of every bar in the city.  I suppose this isn't entirely different from how the city normally is but there was a huge influx of tourists which made everything crowded and uncomfortable.  Saint Patrick's Day is when most of the Irish flee Dublin and, though there was a few moments where I really considered doing the same, I figured that if I only get to experience it once I should attempt to stick through it.

My original plan was to attend the parade which was happening just down the street then meet up with a few friends to watch the Ireland v. England rugby match and then call it an early night to avoid the craziness that was going to take place in the city centre.  That, of course, is not at all how my day turned out.  I should have known plans would change as soon as my friend walked up to me at the parade and said, "my dad just gave me money to buy irish coffees and hot whiskies so which do you want?"

With my warm irish coffee in hand we settled in to watch the parade.  Because we didn't bother to arrive 2 hours early we of course weren't in any position to actually see.  The parade itself was interesting though I think the only "Irish" related groups were the marching bands or bagpipe groups that were flown in from the US.  The parade goers were also pretty tame compared to home but I think they intentionally make the parade more family friendly while those who intend to get a little rowdy wait until later in the day to come out.   After getting stuck talking to a man who, after twenty minutes, could not seem to comprehend the fact that we lived in the city and were not tourists looking for advice on what bars to go to, we decided to skip out on the end of the parade, grab some lunch, and head back to the apartment.
One of the more interesting floats
Though we thought we had escaped the worst of the craziness we were quickly commanded to meet some friends at a bar to watch the rugby match and get free drinks from our friend's dad's company card.  Obviously I wasn't going to refuse free drinks.  This began as a few casual drinks during the match, which then turned into a search for another bar to find food (which didn't have food so we got Guinness instead), then finally found some kebabs, then a third bar, and a fourth... I eventually just lost count.  It was pretty crazy on the streets of the city but it wasn't so bad once you stop trying to fight it and just become a part of it instead.

Bar number 3... or 4?
Crowded Streets
Overall it was an unexpected night with some great friends and, though I don't know if I'll want to be in Dublin again for Saint Paddy's Day, I'm definitely glad that I lived through it once!

Giant's Causeway

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It was yet another early morning for yet another day trip on a bus.  Today we were headed for the Giant's Causeway!  The Giant's Causeway is located at almost the most northern tip of Ireland.  This required us to cross over the border into Northern Ireland and drive through the city of Belfast.  There was almost no visible change in crossing the border but our amazing tour guide pointed out where there was, until a few years ago, guards posted monitoring the border.  My Irish history class in college gave me a great background on the conflict that has been taking place there but our tour guide gave us a more personal account.

One of the parts of this tour I enjoyed the most was the amount of MacDonald's there are in Irish history in this part of the country.  There was at least three occasions where our tour guide would point out a castle or field and give some background on the MacDonald clan that once lived there.  As far as I know none of my ancestors came from the Northern part of the island but my obsession with studying my family history was only egged on by all of the stories.

Our first stop was at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.  This was a bridge built by salmon fisherman who found that if they dropped their gear between the mainland and a small island the fish would essentially jump into their nets.  I wasn't that nervous walking across the bridge but it was only after that I realized my heart was beating much faster than normal and that my legs were surprisingly shaky.

On the bridge!

Beautiful but freezing water
From there we headed to the Giant's Causeway.  There is a legend of an Irish Giant who built the causeway but it was actually formed by a volcano millions of years ago.  It is unique because it is made up of over 40,000 hexagonal shaped rocks, jutting up from the ground and leading down into the ocean.  It was an amazing site to see whether giant or volcano made.
All fit together perfectly

Sea of rocks

On our way back to Dublin we made a quick stop in Belfast.  I would have loved to do a lot more but we ended up just getting some coffee. There really wasn't enough time to see or do anything but it does make me want to get back there soon.

We arrived back in Dublin to see that the city had been transformed in the hours we were gone.  Everything was suddenly green and decked out for Saint Patrick's Day.   We headed to Oliver St. John Gogarty's for some dinner and trad music and I was surprised to see the waitresses dressed up like leprechauns.  I guess it shouldn't have really surprised me, knowing the holiday that was quickly arriving, but I still could help feeling a little out of place with the amount of tourists that began flooding the city over the next week. 

Kilmainham, Jameson, and Penny's

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Because Kat had work to do on Monday and I had a strong desire to sit around in my pjs, we sent Brent and Miranda on a day trip down to Cork.  I heard they had a lovely time so I definitely plan on getting down there some time in the next few months.

Inside Kilmainham
On Tuesday Kat was off to class while Brent, Miranda, and myself continued our tour of Dublin.  We started at Kilmainham Gaol (gaol = jail). This is where many of the political prisoners were kept during the uprisings and civil war and where several of the leaders of the Easter Rebellion were executed.  Many people during the famine would also intentionally commit crimes in hopes that they would get sent to Kilmainham where they would have a greater chance of getting food than if they were not in jail.  As it is with most jails, it was a somber place that gave you a much better understanding of the history of this country.

Our next stop after Kilmainham was the Old Jameson Whiskey Distillery.  While I'm guessing the Guinness tour is the more popular alcohol related tour to do in Dublin,  I have to say I enjoyed Jamesons tour more.  The tour itself was shorter but if you volunteer you can do a whiskey tasting where they give you shots of Jameson, Jack Daniels, and Johnnie Walker and let you compare the three.  Jameson was my favorite of the three with Jack and then Johnnie coming in third.
My certificate for completing the whiskey tasting!

Because it was just around the corner we made a quick pit-stop in The Brazen Head which is over 800 years old and is famous for being the oldest pub in Ireland.
The Brazen Head
Even though we were starving by this point we only had an hour before we were supposed to meet Kat for dinner so instead we headed down to Henry Street where I introduced Miranda to Penny's.  I'm not positive but I think that may have been the highlight of her trip to Ireland.  I pointed her to the store while I went to find a bathroom and later found her wandering aimlessly with clothing piled up to her chin looking simultaneous disoriented and ecstatic.

After a whirlwind hour in Penny's were off to dinner and then back home to get some rest for our early morning trip on Wednesday.

Cliffs of Moher!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday we were up bright and early for our day trip to the Cliffs of Moher.  Inna had found a deal online where the day trip bus tours were 50% off so we figured we would get them and use them when we had some free time.  Luckily I knew that the Cliffs were something Brent and Miranda wanted to do so I told them to quickly buy some of the coupons and everything worked perfectly!

(This was the start of my two week "study" period so I was able to avoid work for almost a majority of the time that my friends were here!)
Irish Coutryside 

We were traveling with or Extreme Ireland.  I'm not sure which they prefer but they seemed to go by both.  The Cliffs are basically located directly across the country from Dublin so the first few hours of our trip was simply getting a look at the countryside which is without a doubt beautiful.  We drove out to Limerick where we took a quick bathroom break and then continued on over the Shannon and then up the coast to the Cliffs.  As I'm sure you can imagine from the pictures the cliffs were amazing.  Walking along the edge was slightly terrifying but it was awesome to do.  We were there for about 10 minutes with great visibility but then out of no where a blanket of fog rolled in.  It got to the point where we had to turn around and walk back because we couldn't see the path in front of us.  Although there seems to always be a high chance of fog at the cliffs I would absolutely recommend them to anyone planning on visiting Ireland.

From there we just drove down the street to the village of Doolin where we had lunch at McGann's.  How they managed to seat and feed 60 people so quickly I will never know.

Our next stop was at the Burren which appeared to just be a massive rocky area but apparently it is extremely fertile and so many different plants grow there that it's like the Cabo for botanists.  I just thought the rocks looked fun.

We continued on up the coast with a stop at Corcomroe which is an abandoned 11th century abbey.  That provided us with some beautiful pictures and a flattering paparazzi moment where a little Spanish girl wanted to take a picture of myself and Miranda crouching in a small doorway.

From there it was some more coast time with a stop in Kinvarra for some ice cream before heading back to Dublin, exhausted but very happy with our day.

Cliffs of Moher

Friends at the cliffs

The Burren

Saturday Markets, Christchurch, and Dublinia

Saturday, March 10, 2012

After a wonderful nights sleep we got up on Saturday to visit the market.  Every saturday in Dublin the Temple Bar area has a food market and a crafts market.  Though everything looked and smelled delicious at the food market we just did a quick walk through.  I then bought a beautiful handmade porcelain bracelet at the craft market.  After that we crossed the river to check out the Grand Social market which also had many wonderful things that I would love to have but didn't buy.

Dublin Food Market
From there we headed down along the river to Christchurch Cathedral.  Dating back to 1028, Christchurch is one of the must see tourist spots in Dublin.  The cathedral itself is beautiful and there is also a crypt that would have been more awesome if the cafe down there wasn't playing Natalie Imbruglia. They also had costumes that were used in the filming of the Tudors which apparently happened frequently at Christchurch.  There is one part of the church that once held the heart of St. Laurence O'Toole (the patron saint of the cathedral) but just the week before we visited someone broke in and stole it.  I'm hoping they do find it some day but it was pretty cool to see the metal cage that protected it broken and twisted away from the wall.  
Costumes from the Tudors
Interesting finds in the crypt
Where O'Toole's heart was kept
From there we crossed the street to Dublinia which is an interactive museum that covers the Viking and Medieval  periods of Dublin's history and also gives a look into the the modern day archeological work that is going on there.  It's definitely more geared towards children but myself and my fellow mid 20 year old friends had no trouble entertaining ourselves. 

From there we made a pit stop at Burdocks to fuel up on fish and chips.  After eating, I pointed them in the (incorrect) direction of the Guinness Storehouse.  It was completely my fault but I sent them down the wrong street which they continued on for an hour before stopping to ask for directions.  Big oops all around.

Later that evening we had dinner with a big group of people at Dada which is a Moroccan restaurant.  I can't remember what my dish was called but it had pears in it and was delicious. 

Friends Come to Ireland!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kat and I, being the wonderful people we are, decided to surprise Brent and Miranda at the airport.  Unfortunately they were arriving around 5:30 in the morning which meant we had to be up by 3:30 to ensure that we caught the aircoach and didn't miss them.  Though the aircoach should take about 40 minutes to get to the airport we went through some kind of time warp and were there in 10 minutes.  We were going to give ourselves a 30 minute buffer in case we were running late and they were early but we ended up instead with and hour and a half wait and their flight was running a half hour behind.  It was too early to even find a way to entertain ourselves though we did make friends with some elderly tourists who apparently accidentally snuck through customs and into the country.

After B & M finally made their way through customs we were back on the aircoach and into the city.  We decided to be nice and let them put their bags down and shower but no napping was allowed.  One friend (who shall remain nameless) seemed to believe that he is immune to jet lag so I was determined to prove him wrong.

We headed to Bewley's for breakfast and coffee and after that we did a walk through Temple Bar.  Our original plans were to give them a grand tour of the city but, since they had been flying all night and Kat and I hadn't really slept the night before, we instead decided to show them Tesco to get some food for the week and then head back for naps.

After lounging and napping we woke up to make fajitas for dinner.  Again, we had big plans to go out and get pints but that quickly turned into getting some cans at Spar and sitting in our apartment playing Draw Something on our respective iphones/ipods/ipads.  We are such great hosts in this fine country.

One of the few pics taken on day 1

Six Months

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Well I forgot to celebrate the six month mark of living in Dublin.  I feel like I've been living here for years already but I can also vividly remember my first few days here like they were yesterday.  I've gotten so comfortable with life and my daily routines.  I know the bus routes, my cycle routes, what neighborhoods to not walk through at night and where to find the cheapest pint or the best dance music.  That doesn't mean that I'm not still learning new things every day though.  Just this weekend my roommate found a grocery store right around the corner from our apartment that we never knew existed.  We've been walking across the City Centre into the most touristy part of town to go grocery shopping there.  This discovery is big news for us.

We also just found a great pub right down the street.  It's an old man bar where we were joking around with the bartender within 20 minutes of walking in.  Nothing is better than banterful bartenders.  Though Ireland is known for its friendliness, I've had a hard time finding a good pub like that in Dublin.  What is even worse is that I walk within 100 feet of this place every day on my way to the bus stop but never noticed it. 

The weather has been so nice here and it's really making me look forward to summer.  It is a little disappointing to know that it will most likely only get marginally warmer than it is right now but it will still be an improvement on the winter.  I'm looking forward to seeing a lot more of Ireland and hopefully a few more trips around Europe.

While I am loving my time here, I do have an unfortunate habit of getting extremely antsy after being in one place or doing one thing for more than six months.  Whether it's a job or a place of residence, I can't help but want to move on to something else after six months.  While I think I've officially decided that I won't be sticking around here much longer than my degree, I also feel like I'm not ready to go home.  Nothing is definite yet but I think I've decided to go somewhere to make up for the lack of sun I've gotten here in Ireland.  Aside from making up for a years worth of sun deprivation, I also hope to finally become fluent in a second language, and take some time to do some writing.  If everything goes according to plan, I'll be teaching English in Spain by October.  And if everything doesn't go according to plan... well, I adapt easily.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A friend of mine is house sitting / dog sitting and, since I've been going through dog withdrawals for a while now, she was nice enough to let me take him for an hour.  His name is Bruno.  Isn't he adorable? We did a lovely stroll through St. Stephen's Green and then up and down Grafton Street a few times. It was another nice afternoon in Dublin minus intense winds and a short 15 minute hail storm.


Smurfit Ball

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thursday was the Smurfit Ball.  It took place at Killashee House in Naas, Co. Kildare which is a small town outside of Dublin.  Most people in my program decided to get hotel rooms for the night so myself and a few friends did the same.  We headed out early to enjoy the beautiful day and so we would be able to take our time getting ready.

The ball, which was "Vegas" themed, started with a drinks reception, complete with girls dressed up as Vegas dancers and a man that had a terribly fake southern accent.  I'm still not sure how he fit into the Vegas theme but he was entertaining.   Following the drinks reception we headed down to the hall where we had a delicious dinner with dessert and wine and about a dozen raffle prizes.  We also got gift bags that included a hangover prevention pill that had something like 3000% of your daily B12 intake.  Given the state of everyone the next day I'd say it was inconclusive whether it worked or not.

After dinner an '80s cover band, Spring Break, entertained us for quite a while.  They also had casino games (blackjack and roulette) that we could play for free.  While I don't like playing at actual casinos for fear of losing my money, it was pretty nice to be able to practice the games and even nicer to find out that I wasn't too bad.  I eventually just had to bet everything on a hand so I could return to the dance floor to enjoy the awesome '80s power ballads.

Although my feet were killing me by the end of the night from hours of dancing in heels, I had a great time! 

Killashee House

All dolled up!