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St. Stephen’s Green



St. Stephen’s Green, originally uploaded by fincher69.

A panorama of St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, Ireland. The sky was definitely over-exposed, but that is an issue I have been dealing with on this camera lately. It was a pretty overcast day, so there wasn’t much to see in the sky anyway 🙂

Stitched together with DoubleTake

Ireland!

Recently I went on a semi-family vacation to a place I had been wanting to travel for quite some time, Ireland! I say “semi-family” because things worked out so that my mom and sister couldn’t make it so Maricruz had to “suffer” a semi-guys trip with me and Dad. 😉 I think she still managed to have a good time. I know we sure did! Now this will probably be one of my intense/long-winded/semi-detail-oriented posts, so be ready for quite the breakdown.

Day 1

Maricruz and I hit the road to head to Atlanta and we had misjudged the length of the trip (and were planning on leaving early anyway) so it turned out that the GPS predicted we would be arriving at the airport 3 hours before our flight left.  We figured we would find somewhere to eat and just take it easy, but it turned out to be pretty lucky that we had misjudged things.  We had a few long stretches of driving where we were going less than 40 mph on the interstate because it was raining so hard.  THEN we got stuck in traffic only to inch forward until we were directed off the interstate by a couple of police cars. Of course the exit was completely jammed and we had no clue where we were so we started just following the flow of traffic, still moving painfully slow.  I noticed a few semi-trucks turning around so I decided that it would probably be best to follow them.  Worked out well because the interstate behind us had been reopened.  That got us pretty much back on track, but ate up the entirety of our mistaken extra hour! We checked-in, got through security, then met up with Dad at the bar for a couple pre-flight/post-long-drive drinks. Couldn’t really stay asleep on the plane, but I’m sure the 20 micronaps that I got counted for something 🙂 Arrived in Ireland, checked in at the hotel, then hopped on the bus to head downtown near the Bank of Ireland.  We needed a bit of a refresher so we stopped for a snack and a few Red Bulls then started moseying down the main thoroughfare.

Re-energizing

Walked down to the Dublin Castle where Maricruz was quite entertained by the fact that Dad and I were practically paying more attention to the snazzy cars in the parking lot that we don’t have in the states than we were to the frickin’ castle!

Cool cars... I mean Dublin Castle!

After the castle we headed through the Temple Bar area, across the river, and then decided to stop in a mall to see if we could find Dad a good rain jacket.  We got what we needed, though the sections in Tesco weren’t always well labeled.

Is this typical Irish menswear?

They even had Red Bull in a bottle, which I had never seen before. 🙂 After we finished in the mall, it turned out that we bought Dad the jacket just in time because it was starting to pour. We didn’t feel like walking around in that, even with our rain protection, so we decided to check out the Leprechaun Museum that was across the street.  It was supposed to be an hour of legends, exhibits, and storytelling and it started off pretty entertaining.  After the intro, though, we walked through a couple of corridors to an extremely poorly lit room full of large furniture (so simulate us being the size of a leprechaun).  Our tour guide left us to explore this on our own.  Unfortunately, a dark room with large furniture is exciting for about 30 seconds.  After about 5 minutes of standing around doing nothing, we (especially Dad) quickly lost patience and just walked through the rest of the exhibit ourselves.  Ended up passing our tour guide at the exit so we would have still been waiting!  It could have been an interesting tour, but we like things to keep a bit of a better pace. 🙂 From there we walked back to the Temple Bar area because it was high time for our first beer in Ireland!

The place for which the area is named

We saw a simple little place called O’Reillys that looked like it would do the trick.  Unfortunately, it should have been called “Le O’Reillys” because it was a French restaurant! So, surprisingly, they had no Guinness, but we still had our first beer and the Murphy’s was plenty good 🙂 We continued our walk through the Temple Bar area until we found a nice little place near the river called Merchant’s Arch.  There was live music and, while it wasn’t necessarily all Irish music, the guy singing was Irish so we had some nice little ballads from our “Irish James Taylor.” 🙂 Finally had our first Guinness of the trip!

Guinness makes everything better

Enjoyed our beers enough that was decided to just stay there for dinner and had some yummy Irish food to pair with our pints. After dinner, we caught a cab back to the hotel, stopped by the hotel bar, let MC unwind in the room while Dad and I had a few more pints in the hotel bar, then packed it in after a very long day.

Day 2

Day 2 was Guinness Stockhouse tour day and you can bet I was excited!  We enjoyed a full Irish breakfast at the hotel then caught the same bus downtown that we had the day before. Had about a 2 mile walk then it was tour time! They give you a brief intro at the bottom of the “pint glass” then you proceed on yourself through the tour. The center of the Storehouse has been constructed so that it is open in the center and throughout the floors it forms a huge pint glass shape.  How cool is that!?

I want it full of Guinness!

Anyhoo, the way they have everything set up is really interesting where they walk you through the entire process of brewing beer, then add in the specifics about brewing Guinness.  They have lots of the old equipment and just the sizes of some of the containers that they used was pretty impressive.  It was especially cool to have a walk through of how they do things since I fairly recently started getting in to brewing beer myself. After the main walking tour, we still had a few more floors to check out!  One of the next things we saw was a little exhibit about the wooden barrels that the Guinness is put in.  They had a video of a craftsman making one and it was ridiculous how he just hacked away, only used a tool for measurement at one point in the process, and put together a perfect little wooden barrel!  From there we took a little “alcohol IQ quiz” then walked through some cases detailing all the areas of advertising that have been used in Guinness’s history.  I had seen some of the classic posters, but it was still cool to see how much else they had created through the years.  Now, with your ticket, you have the choice of going to the Gravity Bar at the very top for a pint of Guinness, or you can do the “Pour a Perfect Pint” where they teach you the proper technique then let you give it a try.  They didn’t seem too awfully strict, but I think I poured mine pretty well and I got a certificate saying I poured a perfect pint.  Hopefully, that will give me the credentials so that Maricruz will let me put a kegerator with Guinness in the new place 😉

I'm officially qualified!

After MC and I split the pint I had poured, we headed up to lunch and Dad and I had some awesome shepherd’s pie (paired with a pint for me of course).  Then we headed up to the Gravity Lounge so Dad and Maricruz could enjoy their free pints as well.  While the weather was still pretty dreary, there were still some pretty cool views from up there.

Quite the travelin' drinkin' trio

After we finished, we raided the gift store then walked to Dublinia.  It was a cool little museum about Vikings that Dad thought looked interesting, and it was definitely cool to get a whole lot of interesting history that we definitely don’t have in our America history books.  We walked from there through Temple Bar (yes, we managed to wander through there a lot) and found some lively live music at a little pub and just took it easy and enjoyed a few pints.  MC even pulled out her new Guinness playing cards for a few rounds of hearts while we were hanging out. Nearby was a restaurant called The Shack that MC had seen recommendations to check out so we decided to head there for dinner.  Had a wonderful dinner then caught a cab back to the hotel and tried to enjoy a few more pints at the hotel bar.  I say “tried” because they were busy and were really not on top of things.  Finally wrapped up there and headed to bed to rest up for the mental challenge that lay ahead – renting a car!

Day 3

Caught a cab to Hertz first thing in the morning and got our snazzy Kia Sportage.  Yes, we flew half-way around the world to the land of many fun cars and they gave us a Kia Sportage.  Regardless of what type of car it was, it was right-hand drive which was the most important thing.  That’s right, if you didn’t know, the Irish drive on the left side of the road, and thus the driver sits on the right side of the car. As Dad had driven on the left before (though a while ago) and he had been mentally preparing more, I took the role of navigator (which tended to be a busy one as well) on our way to Dingle!  For lunch, we stopped in a random small little town for a lunch of sandwiches and MC had a Bailey’s coffee that was more like Bailey’s with a splash of coffee for color. Grabbed a few snacks on the way back to the car then continued on to Dingle. Once we got there and managed to navigate the tiny streets with seemingly lenient parking guidelines, we got checked in and walked around Dingle a bit.

Notice the beautiful Irish weather

Headed down to the harbor and saw the Fungie the Dolphin statue then stopped at a nearby pub for a few pints (you’ll find that this was our recurring mid-afternoon activity).

Yay Fungie!

After the pints we moseyed to a restaurant that had intrigued us with a lobster holding a pint. For the first time, the waiter brought us the entire special board and left it with us as we made our decision.

The specials look wonderful!

Funny thing.  The meal was wonderful and, luckily, it was close to our hotel so it was a short walk to a few more pints and our beds!  Well-needed after a busy day remembering “left turn, good turn. right turn, bad turn.” 🙂

Day 4

Also a recurring step in our day, we started at the hotel breakfast and finally came to the conclusion that the Irish have spent so much time perfecting their beers, that they seemed to have forgotten about their coffee.  I never had any, but after trying a few different places, both Maricruz (who had been adding cream and sugar to her coffee to mask the flavor since she usually drinks it black) and Dad decided to make the switch to tea in the morning.  We hopped in the car and were off to tour the Dingle peninsula!  One thing that made driving around this area especially interesting (read:difficult to navigate) was the fact that all the signs were in Celtic in addition to English, and when they decided to include only one language, they only used Celtic! Very helpful indeed. 🙂 So we decided to explore the Slea Head Drive, which is a popular scenic route around the Dingle peninsula.  There are a few historical sites along the drive and much of it is along the coast so we knew we’d be in for some good views, even if the weather wanted to stay cold, breezy, and rainy. One of the first things we came across was a set of circle forts. This was the beginning of lots and lots of stacked rock that we would find along the rest of the drive.

Fortify the rock pile!

A bit on down the road we got to see some of the beehive forts.  Basically these folks made igloos out of rocks and paid enough attention that the top surfaces of the rocks slanted outward to help divert waterflows down the sides.  And how cool is it that they didn’t have/use any mortar or anything.  Only thing holding this bad boy together is gravity!

Looks cozy, doesn't it?

Turns out this is true of many of the structures around this area.  So we continued our pretty and crazy coastal drive until we reached a pottery place that MC had read about.  There were a lot of cool things there, and we decided to go ahead and have a snack/brunch at their cafe.  Still more exciting driving later we found an old cathedral then started checking the map to try to figure out how to get to the Gallarus Oratory that a guidebook had recommended.  They sure didn’t make it easy either! After a few wrong turns and a tight one-lane-but-not-one-way road, we finally managed to discover it!  Glad we did, because it was a pretty interesting final historical stop.

This left us right near the end of the Slea Head drive, and we decided to go ahead and explore a little east where we heard there was a kind of cool beach (not that we were planning on swimming!).  So we headed to Inch and discovered that there was not only a beach, but there were a few surfers braving the waves!

Click for large stitched panorama!

At this point Dad decided it would be a good experience for me to try out driving on the other side of the road so I took over and got us safely back to Dingle.  You really have to concentrate the whole time when you are driving on the opposite side of the car and road!

A little off-putting to see the driver on the right, no?

So we went back to the hotel and Maricruz wanted to check out some of the shops she had seen while we were walking around Dingle the day before and Dad and I decided that a couple of pints in the hotel bar sounded a bit more appealing ;-). Maricruz had read a few things about the Chart House so we decided to walk there for dinner, but we soon became disinterested when the wait was going to be an hour.  So we moseyed back up the road to the Old Smokehouse, which turned out to be a pretty nice meal as well!

Moseying around Dingle

After our yummy dinner, we headed back to the hotel for some pints and dessert then crashed after a good day touring the Dingle peninsula!

Day 5

Today was another travel day, driving up the coast towards Galway.  Dad decided he wanted to drive the first leg and we drove up to Tarbert to catch the ferry across the bay to Killimer.  It was pretty cool because the final direction that we were given by the GPS was “Go straight to board ferry.”  Can’t say I’ve heard that before! And speaking of the GPS, it had a feature where it showed us the speed limits for the roads we were on.  This may be standard in GPS units nowadays, but I thought that was a ridiculously handy feature!

Our travel wagon on the ferry

Anyhoo, from Killimer we toured up the coast and ended up stopping for lunch in Lehinch. While it was described in a book as “a quiet little surf-and-golf town” I really didn’t expect a whole lot.  The weather had actually cleared up some from what we had been experiencing and there were surfers all over the place!  Definitely not something I would typically associate with Ireland, but it was pretty cool to witness.

Another panorama. Every little dot is a surfer!

Stopped at a little cafe for some sandwiches then got back on the road and went north to the Cliffs of Moher.  Once we got to the coast, we walked up the hill to the right to enjoy steadily more impressive views.

Enjoying the cliffs

Definitely one of the coolest sites that we saw in Ireland. I took over driving and we headed east to explore the Burren because there were supposed to be some pretty cool ruins there.  After a little confusion about which way we were supposed to go, Dad and MC got us back on track and we passed by some cool churches/ruins and headed up to check out Aillwee cave.  The cave turned out to be halfway up a mountain and the view was amazing!

The view is even better if you click for high res!

After enjoying that and taking advantage of the photo opportunity, we lost interest in the cave since it required a tour and hit the road to Galway.  The combination of some vague directions from the GPS and driving through town during 5 o’clock traffic definitely kept me on my toes until I finally got us to the hotel.

View of Galway Bay from our room

Once we checked in, we decided the hotel restaurant, The Lobster Pot, sounded perfect! Turns out the snotty little frenchman running the place informed us that we wouldn’t be able to eat there for another hour, so we walked next door to the hotel eatery and had a funny and pleasant waitress who got us fed. 🙂 After dinner, we walked along the brisk and windy Galway Bay to Killorans Bar (one of the nearest bars) and Dad and I enjoyed a few pints while Maricruz warmed up with some rum and hot chocolate. From there we walked back to the hotel and let MC crash while Dad and I had a few more pints at the hotel bar.

Day 6

Woke up and enjoyed our typical breakfast then caught a bus tour of Galway.  We weren’t planning on staying in Galway long so we figured that it would be a good way to see the town in a short time.  It was a fun, 1-hour tour and was the perfect thing to acquaint us to Galway before we packed up and I drove us back to Dublin.  When the front desk lady told us the “simple” way to get out of Galway, she must have forgotten that that way is now under construction.  So I got to add construction, along with detours, to my right-side driving resume! Once I got us to the Hertz in Dublin, I definitely felt like I earned that International Driving Permit that we had gotten before we left. Once we got settled in the hotel, we (of course) found a pub for a recovery pint, then proceeded to a souvenir shop that we had passed earlier to take care of the bulk of our shopping in one swoop.  We then headed to Gogarty’s for dinner. Walked back to the hotel for a couple of our standard “dessert” pints at the hotel bar, then sacked out.

Day 7

At almost all of our breakfast buffets we had noticed an Irish dish, blood sausage, that none of us were interested in trying.  Well, since it was getting to be near the end of the trip, I decided to buckle down and try it.  Even got Dad and MC to try it too!  It was actually nothing too fancy and wasn’t that different than some other spicy sausages I’ve tasted in the past. After breakfast, we walked to Trinity College so that we could check out the Book of Kells.

Dad and MC walking through Trinity College

It was a cool little tour with information about the book and other texts from the same era.  The amount of time and effort that went in to that thing was definitely amazing and I’m glad Maricruz made sure it was on our To See list. 🙂

On our way out of Trinity College

We walked from Trinity college to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  It actually looked pretty simple inside (from what we peeped through the door) so we decided to admire it from the outside and sit and relax a bit in the neighboring green.

It's two pics stitched, hence the weirdness in the middle

After a little rest, we were ready to walk back to the mall we had visited during our first stint in Dublin for some final souvenirs.  After picking those up, we stopped for lunch at a place in Temple Bar then moseyed to St. Stephen’s Green.  It was an awesome park and since, amazingly, we were having a beautiful and sunny day it was really nice to take a little stroll.  After St. Stephen’s, we walked to the Museum of Natural History (or as a cabby called it, the “dead zoo”) and got to see quite a few specimens.

"The Dead Zoo"

The first floor was all Irish organisms, then the additional floors were from all around the globe.  They definitely packed them in too AND it was free!  Maricruz was interested in checking out the shopping district that was nearby so Dad and I went to the Porterhouse, a local brewpub, while MC checked out the shopping sites.  We sampled many of the beers that they brewed in-house and it was a great way to spend the rest of the afternoon.

A long exposure from the Porterhouse

We regrouped, then had dinner at Gasworks, which was right next to our hotel.  The meal and subsequent pints were a great end to an amazing trip.  I’m so thankful that Dad could arrange it for us and am stoked that I finally made it to Ireland.  Now to start working off the pounds I gained from the many gallons of Guinness that I consumed during our travels 😉

Fresh Irish Guinness, you shall be missed