Ireland With The Fam

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My family arrived bright and early on the 14th and they were kind enough to wait until they had settled into their hotel before they called to wake me up.  We didn't have much planned for their first day since I'm well aware of the pains of jet lag.  We spent the afternoon wandering around the Temple Bar area visiting the market and a few stores and having a late lunch / early dinner at Porterhouse.
Exploring Temple Bar
Day two of their visit here involved a road trip to the Cliffs of Moher.  The trip there was much more stressful than my bus tour because I was navigating while my dad was driving.  We had an extremely helpful GPS but even that wasn't enough to fully maneuver the roads of the Irish countryside.  Although my first visit to the cliffs had some great weather, it was even better on this trip.  There were almost no clouds in the sky and we were never overwhelmed by the fog that came on my first trip.
Dad and I at the cliffs
Unfortunately, my family's visit coincided with my last week of classes which is probably the most important week to attend. Because of this, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they did various things around Dublin without me.

My previous post covered the big events of Tuesday but i think this day was, overall, the best day of the trip!

After class on Wednesday I joined my family on a trip to Kilmainham Goal.  I was just there a few weeks beforehand but it was interesting visiting with another tour guide.  This time I heard a lot more about the political history of the museum though my first tour provided a few more interesting and somewhat gory tales of the jail that I think my sisters would have enjoyed more.

On Thursday we traveled down to Cork to visit Blarney Castle.  Many Irish seem to despise this as a tourist destination but my family thoroughly enjoyed it.  Everyone will firmly warn you that the stone is regularly peed on but with the pouring rain and hail we experienced when we reached the top of the castle, that was the least of my worries.  Exploring the castle and kissing the stone were also just a small part of the experience.  The grounds had a poisonous garden, caves, dungeons, and old druidic ruins.
Blarney Castle
Kissing the stone

Being goofy in the caves
Friday was my last day of classes for the semester (yay!) and I was so exhausted after that I stayed in while my family spent most of the day shopping.
Rainbow for finishing classes!
Saturday was our last day together :-(  They had only booked 6 nights in the hotel so they had to pack up and check out by 11 am.  This meant that I was getting four new roomies for the night!  Luckily my real roomie Kat was back in the States for a few days so there wasn't a huge overcrowding issue.  After dropping off their bags, we headed into the city centre to go on the Viking Splash Tour.  I have heard so many good things about this tour but I could never convince my friends to do it with me.  Luckily my family was up for it.  We got a great historical tour of the city and especially the parts which were once old viking settlements.  From there we put on life jackets and rolled into one of the canals.  I was hoping to see a bit more of the city by water but the parts we did get to see were still very interesting.  Our tour guide was amazing and hilarious so even if you weren't interested the the history of the city you could at least appreciate his jokes.

Such an attractive group of girls!
My family left very early this morning.  I'm sad that they are gone and it's made me realize that I miss home more than I thought.  I am, however, looking forward to just relaxing for a few days before I need to start studying for finals.

Mom & Dad's Renewal Ceremony!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My family is still here for a few more days and we've already done quite a bit together here in Ireland but before I talk about any of that I wanted to dedicate a post to my parents' 25th wedding anniversary.  My father and I have been planning for months to surprise my mother with a renewal ceremony while they were over here.  Most people who hear this respond with something along the lines of "well that is very presumptuous of you!" but to be honest there was never a doubt in either of our minds that she wouldn't want to do it.

We had to plan an entire day around this event and we decided that we did not want her to know until the very last second.  We started the day with a drive through the Wicklow Mountains.  Although the weather was highly temperamental (alternating between rain, sunshine, and hail) it was a beautiful drive.  We went through Sally Gap which gave us an amazing view of the valley below and some up-close encounters with sheep.

Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains 
From there we continued on to Glendalough.  The main attraction in Glendalough is an old monastic settlement from the 6th century that was founded by Saint Kevin.  There is an old roundtower, a cathedral, seven churches, and a still functioning cemetery.  There are also woodland trails that go on for miles but we did not have enough time to explore those.  Even with the continuously temperamental weather, Glendalough has been one of my favorite places to visit in Ireland.

Church Ruins
Old Celtic Cross
Glendalough Roundtower
Sisters <3
Mom & Dad
We had dinner reservations at The Wicklow Heather just down the street from the monastic village and we told my mom that it was a nicer place so that we all needed to get dressed up.  (I'm sure the classy points we earned getting dressed up were negated by the fact that we got changed in the museum bathroom but really who's counting?) The restaurant was beautiful and dinner went wonderfully and we even got a rainbow just outside our window.

Rainbow during dinner

Fam at The Wicklow Heather

 Against all MacDonald norms our timing was going perfectly so as we were leaving the restaurant my father "took a wrong turn" which my mom quickly noted.  There were two spots we could have turned around at but one had oncoming traffic and the other was on a "dangerous bend" so we found ourselves turning up a long driveway of an old church.  My Mom, who is incapable of not exploring old churches when the opportunity arises, suggested that we hop out of the car and look around.  In any other scenario pretty much everyone in the car would have objected, but luckily there was a herd of sheep just next door to the church baaing away happily so we all had some reason to get out of the car. Of course mom skipped the sheep and went straight into the church.  Luckily we were still 15 minutes early so we just wandered around looking at things when I discovered that there "just happened" to be a mass in a few minutes.  My mom should have been suspicious when no one in the family outright objected to sticking around, but stick around we did.
Saint Kevin's Church
She should have also been suspicious when a woman came up and introduced herself to me with a conspiratorial grin... and even more so when the priest came up to us and I introduced him to my whole family and said that it was their 25th wedding anniversary but even then she just thought I was being friendly.  It wasn't until the priest opened up his little calendar book and said "Ahh yes, John and Diane MacDonald 25th Anniversary Vow Renewal Ceremony."  My mom just smiled and nodded for a bit and, with the whole family looking on, we saw it slowly dawn on her.  When the smile got bigger and her eyes filled up with tears we realized we were safe and that she wasn't going to object and run out of the church.  (By the way, the parish wasn't aware that were were completely surprising my mom so they can't be held accountable for holding ceremonies for blindsided people!)

The priest and the parish were wonderful.  He brought my parents, my sisters, and myself up to the alter where my parents renewed their vows. It was a beautiful little ceremony and, although there were only about 10 other people at the mass, they all clapped for us and, one by one, came up to us at the end of the mass to congratulate them and thank us for holding such a beautiful ceremony in their church.

Fam after the Ceremony

Mom & Dad leaving the church
I'm still a little shocked about how smoothly everything went.  It was something that I had been working on for months and I'm so glad everything worked out.  Thank you to everyone who knew about it and managed to keep it a secret from my mom!


Saturday, April 14, 2012

The family has arrived in Dublin! I'm just sitting here waiting for their call once they arrive at the hotel.  Looking at the weather they just left and looking at what they arrived to makes me feel slightly guilty....

Looks like its going to be a hot Marathon Monday!

Dublin: One City, One Book

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Every April the Dublin City Public Libraries hold a month long program called "One City, One Book."  The program's goal is to get everyone in the city reading the same book at the same time.  They are generally written by an Irish author and often have something to do with Dublin itself.  Previous year's books have been The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Dracula by Bram Stoker, and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

This year the selection is Dubliners by James Joyce.  I read this back in high school but since that seems like forever ago now (and since I just finished re-reading the Hunger Games series and need something to entertain me) I'm going to read it again.  It's always a different experience reading a book when you know the city it takes place in.  I remember reading Crime and Punishment while living in Saint Petersburg and it gives the book so much more meaning when you can walk the same streets as the characters and visit the same places as them.

In other news, finals are quickly approaching.  Our exam schedule came out Friday and since I finish after the first week I've decided to go home for two weeks in May.  I'm hoping for a lot of sun and nice weather so I can be one of few people in Dublin with a real tan when I return.

My family is also coming to visit me in less than two weeks at this point!