Sunday, November 30, 2014

What took ye so long?

This the question from Thomas, our taxi driver, upon picking us up from the rental car return in Dublin.  I couldn't help but laugh at Thomas' question.  When I was in college studying in London, the IRA was very active so I was asked to not to go to Ireland.  Years later, two friends and I had plans to spend a week in England and a week in Ireland but 3 weeks before the trip, my boss cancelled my vacation.  Well, it took me another 17 years but I finally made it to Ireland!

This was by far my best travel experience and I will be back....very soon!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

As they say in Ireland

While Americans and Irish both speak English, our use of words is so very different.  Here are just a few of the things we've noticed.

my = me
little = wee
you = ye
good = brilliant
delicious = gorgeous
sale = event
nice = lovely
um = em (we're guessing this how to spell it)
how do you like Ireland = how are you finding Ireland
utensils = cutlery
mail man = postie
mail = post
restroom = toilet  (though this is pretty much throughout Europe)
goodbye = off ye go

The joy of traveling is learning about different places, people and cultures.  It is always lovely to see how much of the places ye visit stick with ye after ye leave.  Now, off ye go!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Cold Day in Dublin was a cold, cold day in Dublin but it didn't stop us from seeing the city.  After a tasty breakfast at the hotel (do love when a full Irish is included with your room), we strolled back down Grafton Street to pick up the hop-on/hop-off bus.  Whenever we visit a city, we like to take one of these buses for the full route as it gives a lay of the land.  Here are some pics from along the route.

Christ Church

Saint Patrick's


After our journey around town, it was time for a small bite and an Irish was a cold day after all so we needed to warm up a bit.  We popped back in to Porter House and split a pulled pork sandwich which was quite tasty (high praise for two southern girls).

Next stop was Trinity College so we could see the Book of Kells. I highly recommend purchasing the optional audio tour as it provides great commentary on all you see as well as providing additional information than the storyboards.  After learning about the process of copying the manuscripts, you arrive in a dimly lit room with four pages on display.  It is quite remarkable to see the books after learning the challenges faced and while I respect and appreciate all the work, I was left wanting to see more.

The tour concludes in the Long Room.  As you ascend the stairs, the smell of old books fills the air...I do love the smell of old books and libraries. 

Brian Boru Harp

1916 Irish Independence Proclamation
We made our way back to the hotel to freshen up for afternoon tea at the Shelbourne Hotel.  During tea, we were treated to an impromptu concert from a hotel guest who was quite good. 

After tea, we headed over to the Raithmines area of Dublin to the Old Fire Station.  As you may remember, we were the courier for the transmitter from the Kells to Dublin on Monday.  Well tonight we got to see the transmitter in action in the play "The Last Post" a Just The Lads production...a great show about the Raithmines Return Letter Branch (dead letter office in the US).  It is a show that should be seen and one where you have to be ready to be a participant in the action. 

All in all, yet another great day in Ireland!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Diplomatic Meeting

One of our favorite things to do when we travel is to meet locals and really get a feel for the places we visit from their perspective.  Dublin has a greet program called City of a Thousand Welcomes where you meet up with a local.  The service is completely free and unlike the similar program we did in Paris, they do not accept donations as three pubs and the city tourism board sponsor the program.


Before our meeting, we had a leisurely breakfast and then a stroll through St. Stephen's Green as the hotel is located on the park.  St. Stephen's Green is Dublin's version of Central Park just on a much smaller scale.  Dublin's Phoenix Park can actually fit two Central Parks inside its gates.


We met up with our Ambassador, Joe, at the Little Museum on St. Stephen's Green.  As we are the Ambassadors of Happiness, we thought it quite fitting they call their volunteers ambassadors.  Joe was fabulous!  He is a retired dairy farmer and lives about 15 miles outside of Dublin.  We headed over to Porter House pub for a sampling of their craft beers and a chat.  Well an hour and a half later, Joe said he was going to take us for some whiskey to another pub. 


He took us to The Duke where we had a Jameson and more chatting.  It was great fun just talking with him about life in Ireland.  While I typically don't talk politics while traveling outside the US, it was quite nice to be able to ask Joe questions about politics in Ireland and compare them to situations in the US.  One of the things we discover as we travel is that the world really is the same no matter where you go.  In Ireland they have their issues with immigrations and folks living on the dole just like we do in the US.


After another hour and a half, we said our goodbyes to Joe and headed to the Temple Bar section of Dublin for a late lunch/early dinner.  We popped into Gallagher's Boxty House to give a boxty a try.  A boxty is basically a potato crepe with a filling...surely you didn't think it would be anything but potato in Ireland did ye?   We both had the Gaelic Boxty which came with steak filling and a small side nice to see something green on the plate.  Our server was quite entertaining and had very definite opinions on just about everything and all the places he had visited around the world...and freely shared them!  We did learn that in Ireland you're considered middle class if you eat dinner after 7:00pm because the working class folks always eat at 6:00pm...they have very definite eating times according to our server (most of the things he said we took with a grain of salt I must admit).

A quick stroll around Temple Bar and back down Grafton Street and then a stop by the Christmas Market.  Having been to the Christmas Markets of Germany, I was very excited to visit the one in Dublin.  This is the first year of Dublin's Christmas Market and it really was just food and drink stalls...maybe as it continues to grow they will have more local crafts and arts.

Julie was feeling a little cold coming on so we just headed back to the hotel for the evening.  No sense trying to rush to get everything in and get sick...there is always tomorrow or the next trip.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kells to Newgrange to Dublin

Sadly it was time to leave the cottage and Kells.  Staying at the Mill Cottage was the quintessential Irish experience for us.  We said our good-byes to Jadzia and Dave and collected a transmitter to deliver to Jadzia's daughter, Liadain, that lives in Dublin.  Liadian (a tradition Irish name) is in a play in Dublin and we're going to see it on Wednesday night...should be loads of fun.
One of the items on our list of things to do while in Dublin was to visit Newgrange (about an hour outside of Dublin).  Since we were driving in to town, we thought we'd swing out to Brú na Bóinne (Palace of the Boyne River) and avoid having to take a bus from Dublin.  Once again, Penny managed to find the smallest possible roads to get us there once we got off the motorway.  The advantage to Penny's little excursions is we have been able to see parts of Ireland most tourists don't get to see.
Newgrange is one of three passage tombs in Brú na Bóinne and dates back to 3000 BC. There is still a lot of mystery around Newgrange and the other passage tombs of the valley so the guides offer interpretations and provoke thought for visitors.  To enter the tomb, you walk through a narrow passageway to the center of the ritual chamber.  Here you can see carvings in the stone and this is where on the 21st of December each year, a ray of sun makes its way up over the river, through the roof box to the center of the chamber where is lasts for 17 minutes.  It is thought that it was on this day that those buried here would move on to the next world via the ray of light.

Knowth passage tomb

We managed to get a few pics of the local sheep through the favorite is the last picture of the fella looking directly at me.

After spending a few hours at Brú na Bóinne, we made our way to the Conrad in Dublin.  Once we gave our luggage to the bellman, we headed over to Hertz to return the car and breathe a sigh of relief as we drove close to 1,500 miles in 10 days and managed to not cause any damage to the car or any human!
A short walk over through Grafton Street and we were at O'Neil's pub for dinner and drinks.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Kells and Neighboring Villages

Since we drove so much yesterday and have a little over two hours ahead of us tomorrow, we thought today would be a great day to explore the cottage and neighboring villages.
There is a Catholic church in the village about a 5 minute walk from the cottage so we headed over for mass.  It is a small church and the priest is the speediest I've seen...we were in and out within 35 minutes!
In Kells, there are two longer working mills.  This one is now rented out for special events.  It is on the way into the village and where the ladies of Kells had their cooking demonstration on Friday night.

This is the other mill...all the talk of the village as it was purchased by a white Irishman and his partner a black Englishman.  They started restoring the top floor but the scaffolding was taken down so no one is sure if they ran out of money or what is going on.
Attached to the cottage is Jadzia and Dave's used to be the barn for the cottage until they converted it to their home.  They have a great garden with chickens to boot!  Here's some pics of the cottage and the gardens.



Jadzia told us about Jeripoint Glass in Stoneyford...the next village over.  We had also heard about Nicholas Mosse Pottery which is in the foot of the hill to the cottage in the next village over in the opposite direction.  So off to Jeripoint we headed...they had so many beautiful pieces and of course we had to pick up a few things!  Then we were off to Nicky Mosse to have lunch and take a look around his Irish Country Shop.  Turns out we were having an event (aka sale) so the place was packed!  While the pottery is lovely, it really isn't either of our style so we picked up a small heart shaped plate with shamrocks just to have a little reminder of our visit.
Sadly we'll leave Kells tomorrow so we packed up our stuff and then headed up to the two pubs in the village for a drink...or two or three.  First stop was Mad Jack's where we met Sean.  Mad Jack's was a little quiet...though we did have a 20 minute discussion on cows and hay.  Next stop was Shirley's and it was definitely the more happening spot! 
We were sitting by the fire and Pat (aka Flower Power) came over and asked if we were the girls staying with Dave and Jadzia.  Pat was a character...he told us he used to be a leprechaun in a previous life.  We thought he was pulling our leg but turns out, he was...he used to dress up as a leprechaun out in Kerry (western Ireland) and have his picture taken with the tourists!  Then Malachi (aka The King) came over and started chatting with us.  Next thing we know Pat has bought us a round and then Malachi.  We found out why they have their nicknames...Pat because he has a flower shop and Malachi because he is the king of raising money (he raised the money for the Handball Association building in the village).  There was a lot of talk about hurling and the next thing you know they are pulling up the finals match from September.  Kilkenny county has the best team in the country so they take their hurling seriously in the county.
What a great time we had at Shirley's!  We did find out the pub scene in Ireland has changed a lot in the last 10 years.  With smoking outlawed in pubs and the crack down on drinking and driving, a lot folks stay home and drink now.  To offset the loss in revenue, pubs have had to start offering food and many have added carveries. 
We had a nice brisk walk back to the cottage and to warm up had a little Bailey's!  All and all another terrific day!