this bird can sing.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ireland, Part Eight

November 29, 2012

We woke up on our last full day in Ireland with many things to see. The first on our list was the Guinness Storehouse. Because you can't come to Dublin and not go to Guinness, right? We had considered taking the bus, but ended up deciding to walk. While it was close to 3 km from our hotel, we thought it would be a good opportunity to see a good bit of Dublin.

The Ha'Penny Bridge.
So we enjoyed many views of the River Liffey on our walk. It was a chilly, grey morning, but the rain held off luckily. We arrived at Guinness.

We went to Guinness early to try to avoid some of the crowds. It was pretty quiet, so we went through the self-guided tour at our own pace. There are seven floors to navigate, and the shape of the interior is a pint glass.

When you come in at the bottom, you can view the 9,000 year contract signed by Arthur Guinness for the land in 1759. 

The 9,000 year contract.
The tour takes you through the process of brewing beer, as well as the history specific to Guinness.

Waterfall near the bottom of the tour.

A 12 foot tall, carved wooden pint of Guinness. They showed a video of it being hand carved.

With your purchased tour, you are entitled to one pint of Guinness. You can choose to redeem your pint in one of two places. There is a station where they will teach you how to pour the perfect pint, and you are allowed to pour it before drinking.

However, I can't imagine not continuing up to the Gravity Bar to enjoy your pint up there. The view alone is worth the price of your ticket. Dublin doesn't have a lot of especially tall buildings, so the bar on the 7th floor offers amazing 360 views of the city. There are floor to ceiling windows that you can sit in front of while enjoying your pint. There are even brief notes on the windows to let you know what you're looking out at in that direction.

The Gravity Bar at Guinness.
Our view of Dublin from the Gravity Bar.
These were delicious at 10:30am before we had any food. :)
You can see a gorgeous view of the Wicklow mountains beyond the city.
We couldn't leave the Storehouse without a couple of souvenirs, so we picked up a bottle of Foreign Extra Stout, as well as a set of two pint glasses that say Guinness Dublin.

From Guinness, we walked back across the River Liffey to The Old Jameson Distillery. 

We grabbed tickets for the next tour. It is much more structured than the Guinness tour, and you stay with a guide the whole time.

They do ask for whiskey tasting volunteers, who get to sample an American whiskey (Jack Daniels) and a scotch (if I remember correctly, I think they had Johnnie Walker) along with the Jameson. I'm not really a whiskey drinker, so I did not volunteer. But those who are should definitely volunteer at the beginning of the tour.

For those of us who were not tasters, we enjoyed some Jameson while watching the tasting. We could choose either straight Jameson or Jameson mixed with gingerale and lime. I went with the mixed drink, which was actually really tasty. I would drink it again.

By the time we finished up at Jameson, it was going on 2pm and we still hadn't eaten anything (though we'd now had pints of Guinness and shots of Jameson). We stopped into a coffee shop for sandwiches. The server kept coming back to me and telling me they were out of ingredients for my sandwich, and was I okay with substituting something else? By about the third time, I just wanted to tell them to make me anything, but bring it before I pass out from hunger.

Feeling happier after eating, we walked down to Christ Church Cathedral, founded in 1028. We had several more places on the list to see before dark, but next time we're in Dublin, it might be interesting to tour the inside, particularly the medieval crypt.

We decided to take a detour to St. Patrick's Cathedral on the walk over to Trinity College. This is another beautiful church, founded in 1191.

"Near here is the reputed site of the well where St. Patrick baptised many  of the local inhabitants in the fifth century A.D."

We walked through Temple Bar over to Trinity College. By this time, it was starting to get dark, but we were able to walk around the courtyard. 

Campanile at Trinity College.

I would love to see the Book of Kells the next time. There are so many things to see in Dublin. We tried to pack in as much as we could, but there are definitely many wonderful things that I want to go back and see. I feel the same way about Ireland in general.

By the time we finished up walking around Trinity, we walked back toward the hotel to drop off our purchases and decide where to have dinner.

We ended up walking less than a block from our hotel to The Parnell Heritage Pub and Grill. From what I understand, there has been a license on this site since the 1780's, though it appears to have changed hands a number of times, and has obviously been renovated significantly. Apparently Charles Stewart Parnell frequented the establishment here.

After dinner, we did a little shopping. We stopped into another pub, Madigans, to enjoy a few more pints with traditional music on our last night in Dublin. I had actually discovered half pints by this point, which worked well, as I drink about 1/2 a pint for every pint the hubs downs. 

This just about winds up our Ireland trip. I have a couple of more photos of the next morning, but this post is long enough, so I will create one more.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ireland, Part Seven

November 28, 2012

We woke up in Killarney and prepared to make the drive back across the country to Dublin. This drive is about 300km, or 191 miles (thank you, Google Maps). The weather was sunny and in the 40's again. Speaking of which, I'd say we lucked out with weather on this trip. It was chilly, but it didn't rain much, and we got quite a bit of sun.

On the way back to Dublin, we stopped in Limerick for lunch. We also wanted to pick up a couple more woolen scarves for gifts. While at Arthurs Quay, we decided to go ahead and have lunch. In the little food court area, there was a Chinese place. Maybe it's not what you go to Ireland to eat, but it sounded good, so we went with it.

After paying to use the bathrooms, which is apparently a thing in Europe, we headed back out onto the road. In search of gas, we found a town called Moneygall where there were American flags flying from every building and an "Obama Cafe." Not sure what that was about, but we did eventually find gas in a town called Roscrea before arriving back in Dublin.

It took a couple passes down O'Connell Street to find our hotel, but we got checked in and rested up for a bit before heading out.

Our hotel was in a convenient location right off O'Connell and Parnell. While we were in town, we wanted to check out Ireland's first brew pub. So we walked down to Temple Bar and had dinner at the Porterhouse. I was sure to bring my camera and snap a few photos on our walk.

Baile Atha Cliath is "town of the hurdled ford," which is the Irish name for Dublin.
O'Connell Street at night. This is where the spire of Dublin (the world's tallest sculpture) can be found, and it is one of the main drags in Dublin. I read somewhere that it's one of the widest streets in Europe.

So we got to the Porterhouse, where they claim to have the best stout in the world. And while I've certainly had better, it was a nice creamy porter. They also had a beer called "Hop Head" on cask. It wasn't at all hoppy to our American tastebuds, but we still enjoyed the beers. There's nothing like drinking Guinness in Ireland, but we also missed the American craft beer scene. I think we ended up trying all of their ales and stouts, including an oyster stout. The hubs also had a couple of Irish whiskeys this night, including 12 year Redbreast and Green Spot.

After dinner, we walked a block or two over to Temple Bar. Temple Bar is a touristy neighborhood of pubs. In Temple Bar, there is an actual bar called The Temple Bar.

The Temple Bar
This is a large bar with a number of separate areas. They had live music going on, which included a harp player and violinist. They even sang some songs in Irish. So we enjoyed more beverages with the music.

I sure could go for one of these right now.
Inside The Temple Bar. It was all decorated for Christmas.
After finishing a couple rounds of drinks here, we crossed back to the north side of the river. We definitely walked all over Dublin during this trip.

You can't tell, but the lights were moving like snow falling. It was pretty.
The hubs passed right out after imbibing a bit much for his birthday (one day late) and I did a bit of research for our last full day in Dublin.

The next post will include our trip to the Guinness Storehouse, The Old Jameson Distillery, and general Dublin sightseeing.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ireland, Part Six

November 27, 2012

I woke up feeling a little questionable due to the celebrations from the night before. Nevertheless, I push through and arrange to meet my great aunt in Kenmare later in the day.

My grandma, who is also my namesake, was from Kenmare and immigrated to the US at age 19. She was one of 14 children. Some of them immigrated to the US, a couple of them to England, and a few stayed in Ireland. My grandma was the second oldest of the children. Her youngest sister is still living, and so we arranged a visit.

The road from Killarney to Kenmare goes right through Killarney National Park and is beautiful. The roads are narrow and winding, and I'm sure a little scary during the summer when shared with tour buses. But being the offseason, we had it mostly to ourselves.

There are quite a few places to pull over and enjoy the views, through the national park and then through the Ring of Kerry. One of these places is Ladies View:

Kenmare is only about 30km  from Killarney, but it takes close to an hour to drive there due to the small roads and the desire to go slow and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

We arrived in Kenmare, a place that I have wanted to see my entire life. I felt like I was seeing it for my dad and my uncle, who wanted to go so badly but never ended up making the trip.

Kenmare is a small town, a population around 1,700 or so. It was particularly slow due to the season. We walked around the town square. It was so interesting to see places that would have been there when my grandma was growing up. We stopped into The Breadcrumb, a little bakery with yummy looking foods. I still wasn't feeling great, but Joe had some coffee and I had a bite of his chocolate pastry.

O'Donnabhain's, which I saw on some of the pubs of Ireland.

We met my Aunt Betty at her house. Although she's in her nineties, she insisted on serving us sandwiches and tea. I'm so thrilled that I've gotten to connect with some of my grandma's family. 

After our visit, we took the long way back to Killarney so that we could drive around the Ring of Kerry. I'm convinced that this area of southwestern Ireland is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I'd love to have more time and drive around the Dingle Peninsula and Beara Peninsula next time.

Sneem, one of the little towns along the Ring of Kerry.

It became dark when we were nearly back to Killarney. We had dinner at The Caragh Restaurant not long before they closed. It seems that restaurants close up fairly early at this time of year. They changed their sign to closed while we were eating, and we saw a number of people walk by looking for a place to eat.

I had the traditional bacon and cabbage, which was more of a ham to this American. It was served with potatoes. We finished off with the sticky toffee pudding. All of the food was delicious. 

After dinner, we called it an early night in preparation for our drive back to Dublin the next day.