Tuesday morning I woke up bright and early to make my way to the airport. The perk of early Ryan Air flights is that they aren’t always full, so I was lucky enough to have an entire row to myself. I spent the flight writing a post for UVic’s sustainable exchange blog, which I will post a link to once it is published. The flight landed at the Dublin airport around 11am, and arrived downtown at about noon. I was pretty hungry since I didn’t have time for much of a breakfast, so I stopped at the tourist info centre to get a map of the city and then made a b-line for Starbucks. After my salted caramel hot chocolate, which lasted an all of 5 minutes, I decided it was time for some real lunch, so I stopped at a thai take-away restaurant for some green curry with prawns. After refueling I began my sightseeing adventure. On my walk to the Guinness Storehouse I passed the Christ Church Cathedral, as well as…a Tim Hortons! (There is this 7-11 type chain store in Dublin called SPAR and some locations have mini Tim Hortons stores inside!) Since I’m not much of a beer drinker I didn’t know very much about the process of making beer beforehand so I spent quite a few hours touring the building and learning how Guinness is made. I also now know how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness! Included in the admission is one free pint of Guinness which you have the option to pour yourself and to be taught how to do so properly. Obviously I had to do this. I lined up and was placed with a group of random strangers to learn how to pour my pint. I was extremely surprised that only myself and one other person in the group were able to pour the pint correctly (although the instructor did give everyone a graduation certificate…)! I really wanted to learn how to make the little shamrock in the foam, but to my disappointment they didn’t teach us how. I noticed that another girl in the group had a Canada flag patch sewn on to her bag so we got to chatting and enjoyed our pint together. We decided to head up to the Gravity Bar which is on the top level of the building and has an amazing view of the city. After drinking most of my ‘bread in a cup’ as Jamie calls it, I realized that it was probably time to get going. The Canadian girl, Sam (from Kitchener), joined me on my walk back to the city center. Unfortunately I had a little incident with my VISA… so I wasn’t able to buy any souvenirs from the Storehouse, but luckily almost every gift shop in Dublin sells Guinness stuff so I was able to pick some goodies up later. After saying good-bye to Sam I did a bit of shopping and then made my way to the train station. I arrived with lots of time to spare and successfully hopped on my train to Wicklow. Unfortunately the sun set quickly so I didn’t get to see much scenery while on the train. When I arrived in Wicklow, I was picked up by one of the very few cab drivers in the town and dropped off at The Bridge Tavern where I met my Dad and his co-workers for dinner. I had some fish and chips with mushy peas, a pint of cider, and an amazing Ferrero Rocher cheese cake for dessert. After dinner his co-workers decided that we should go to a pub next door. They were all very friendly and reminded me of my old roommate Laura with all of their Irish expressions. We were both pretty exhausted so after a pint we decided to head back to the hotel. Wicklow is a really small county, with a population of about 10,000, so there are very few hotels. Our hotel was called the ‘Tinakilly Country House’ and is an old Victorian Italianate mansion that was turned into a hotel. I was quite exhausted from the long day of travelling and sightseeing so I was out like a light!
Wednesday morning we had a quick breakfast at the hotel before heading down to the office. My Dad had meetings all morning so I took the opportunity to explore Wicklow. I went for a walk up and down the river next to the office (River Vartry) and walked along the banks of the Irish Sea. Next I decided to go for a stroll through the ‘downtown’ area to have a look at all of the little shops. I walked past a tourist info centre so I grabbed a map and made my way towards the ruins of the Black Castle. It was quite windy by the water so I after seeing the castle I decided to make my way back to the office. On the way back I passed by the Wicklow Gaol (jail) and browsed in a ‘Fancy Dress’ (aka Halloween Costume) shop. Being in Wicklow reminded me of home because everyone I passed smiled and said hello or good morning. When I got back to the office I went next door with one of the girls to pick up some sandwiches for lunch. After lunch my Dad was ready to go, so we borrowed a car and headed out to Glendalough. It was only about thirty minutes away from the office, but my gosh…it was the scariest ride of my life. It is tricky enough just to drive on the opposite side of the road, but when the road is windy, hilly, and barely wide enough for the car, with thick hedges on both sides…it makes for an interesting ride. We made it to Glendalough in one piece, although I nearly had a heart attack multiple times (when we encountered a one way bridge and a large tractor). Glendalough is famous for its Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by Saint Kevin. We walked around the grave yard and saw the round tower and ruins of the settlement. It was really interesting to see tomb stones from centuries ago right next to tomb stones that are only a couple of years old. After visiting in settlement, we decided to go for a walk along the lake. After our walk it was getting to be quite late in the afternoon so we decided to make our way back to the hotel before it got dark (because that road would have been 10x more…fun…in the dark). When we arrived back at the hotel we decided to rest our feet for a while before heading downstairs for dinner. Dinner was…amazing! I had a sea trout with mashed potatoes and vegetables. On a side note, I think I probably ate more meat on my trip to Ireland than I have since I moved to Oslo.
Thursday morning we checked out of Tinakilly and headed to the office to return the car. From the office one of the other taxi drivers of Wicklow picked us up and drove us to Dublin. At this point we were considering booking a day trip for Friday to Cork, the Cliffs of Moher, or the Giant’s Causeway. Our taxi driver talked us out of it and said that we would be spending almost the entire day on the bus and be exhausted when we got back. We took his advice and spent the next day and a half exploring Dublin at a more relaxed pace. When we got to our hotel (The Temple Bar Hotel) it wasn’t quite time to check in yet, so we dropped off our bags and headed out to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. If you are unfamiliar with the Book of Kells, Wikipedia does a pretty good job of explain what it is, and its history. It is simply amazing how much work went into the creation of the books and how well they have been preserved. After our lesson in history and book preservation it was time for lunch so we headed to a pub in the Temple Bar district for some food. We decided to stop back at the hotel next to check in before heading to the National Gallery of Ireland. After the national gallery we walked around Merrion Square Park and saw the Doors of Dublin. My Dad had a conference call in the afternoon so I decided to go shopping while he made his call. Strangely enough I bumped into three girls from UVic on O’Connell Street. I knew they would be in Dublin but I had no clue what their plans were so it was such a coincidence that we happened to run into each other. After my shopping spree at Penney’s (the Irish version of Primark) we relaxed in the hotel for a while before heading to a great little Italian restaurant (called the Italian Corner) along the River Liffey near the Ha’penny Bridge. After dinner we decided to go to an Irish pub to hear some live music. It was super loud and cheery in the pub even though it was only 8:30 on a Thursday night. We had fun listening to the performers and people watching. I witnessed a man who was about 6ft7in pick up a glass of Guinness with his mouth and proceed to drink the whole pint in one go. I think I saw him do that about three times. Bachelor parties seem to be pretty crazy in Dublin!
Friday morning we stopped for breakfast at a cute little cafe we had passed by the day before. After a quick bite to eat we headed off to the Irish Natural History Museum, or as one of my Dad’s co-workers calls it ‘The Dead Museum’. And that is exactly what it is: A taxidermy museum of the animals of Ireland as well as animals from around the world. Next we went to the Archaeology Museum. It was interesting to see all of the tools, weapons, and jewelry that were made thousands of years ago, but my favourite part was seeing the ‘Bog Bodies’. In 2003 two bodies from the Iron Age were discovered buried in bogs in Ireland. The peat in the bogs naturally mummified the bodies, and they are so well preserved that they still have hair on them! (Wikipedia does a good job of explaining bog bodies if you are interested in learning more.) Ok, so these museums might be a tad disturbing for the squeamish… so on to some more happy topics! After our morning of museum-ing we checked out of the hotel and decided to go walking in a shopping district before heading to The Elephant Castle for lunch. After lunch we went to the Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library. Next we sat down for some afternoon tea and baklava before walking around Saint Stephen’s Green. By this point we were pretty tired, and dreading our early flights the next morning, so we made our way back to the hotel to pick up our bags and hopped in a taxi to the airport hotel. We had a minor scare where I thought I had lost my purse…but after ripping the room apart, asking reception, and having them call the cab company…we found it slid between the night stand and the bed…and hid from the front desk employee for the rest of the night to avoid embarrassment. We decided to have a light dinner at the hotel, and we bumped into someone my Dad used to work with! We had a drink with him and then called it a night so that we could get some rest before our 4am wake up call.
The flight home, although early, was great because once again I had an entire row to myself so I slept the entire flight. I arrived back at my residence around 11am and had some lunch before heading out to get some groceries with Hannah. I spent the afternoon doing laundry and went to my friend Ira’s place for a party in the evening. Today I went for a run, studied, and am now writing to tell you about my adventures. Now it’s time to go bake a pumpkin pie for my first Thanksgiving away from home. I am so thankful that I am on this adventure, and that I have a loving family who cares for me.
Above: My first pint of Guinness, ever!
Below: The Black Castle ruins in Wicklow.
Below: The Tinakilly Country House.
Above: What would a post be without strange food! This is probably the cutest little glass jar of yogurt I’ve ever seen.
Below: Some of the Doors of Dublin.