Sunday 5 May 2013

Ireland: Day Thirteen - National Stud and Dublin

This morning we boarded the bus for the last time before we leave on Tuesday. Our first stop was the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens. I started out in the tour, but the combination of not feeling to well and twisting my ankle on a mis-step had me stop and return to the cafe. (i had twisted the same foot a few days before which made the pain much worse). Instead I spent my time on this beautiful and peaceful patio, where I was able to ice my foot and relax for a bit. I heard from some people I missed something awesome, others told me I missed nothing. I am disappointed I didn't get a chance to go into the gardens - that would have been fun. But it's better I take the time now to make my foot feel better, rather then it ruin my last day tomorrow which is in Dublin.

We spent the morning there before making our way to Dublin. We did a quick drive around the city with Eammon pointing out some key places to visit and explore. When we got to our hotel we had 2-3 hours to kill before we had to meet for our last night out at an Irish Experience. Since the hotel is close to Trinity College I opted to use the time to see Book of Kells and The Long Room Library. Dad was going to come in, but once on the college grounds he was more interested in the campus and buildings so he stayed behind. Book of Kells was okay. The exhibit was really informative, and there is something amazing about looking down and seeing this book that is so old... But it alone wasn't worth the admission charge. Now the Long Room? That was amazing, I was stunned by the architecture, layout, books, art, size, beauty, etc. I was overwhelmed by the space.... I think that is the English Major/Reader in me. I could have spent an hour in there looking at everything, and just appreciating it. Now that is a dream library!

While I was inside Dad took some photos of the campus and watched a bit of cricket. Apparently some men explained the game to him, but he was amazed when the game took a break for tea time. Things are definitely different here!

Our tour wrapped up with a Traditional Irish night about 30 minutes out of town. It included traditional Irish food, music and dancing. It was okay. Some of the food was okay, but some of it was awful. The atmosphere was great - we were in this old fashioned stone room of a tavern, with a stage and long tables but seating was so uncomfortable. The service was amazing, but the singing was a bit off key. The instruments and dancing were amazing. So overall it was just okay. The highlight was when they needed volunteers to come up and dance and 3 people from our tour went. Andy - the 80 year old who has been to 131 countries - and his wife were two of them, along with another awesome guy Dave. Kelly was good but stuck with keeping it simple. Andy however added his own moves and shakes and was hilarious. Later he claimed it was an "Irish version of an African fertility dance,". Dave was also great and added his own little moves to it.

I am headed to bed relatively early tonight (before 12:00 is the goal) as we have a busy last day planned. We are going to do the Guinness tour with 4 others, and then see what else we have time for. I have a list of a few things I would be interested in. Then at 7:00pm we have the literary pub tour booked which I am excited for.

Photo One: Irish Stud Grounds
Photo Two: Grounds
Photo Three: my peaceful hangout
Photo Four. My poor foot (it's a bit better now)
Photo Five. A bird that wouldn't leave me alone
Photo Six. The bird again - he was freaking me out!
Photo Seven. Dublin
Photo Eight: Dublin
Photo Nine: Dublin
Photo Ten: My hotel room
Photo Eleven: Dad at hotel
Photo Twelve: Hotel outside
Photo Thirteen: Long room
Photo Fourteen: Long room
Photo Fifteen: Long room
Photo Sixteen: Long room
Photo Seventeen: Me in Long room
Photo Eighteen: Trinity College
Photo Nineteen: Trinity College
Photo Twenty - Twenty-Two: Trinity Collage

Ireland: Day Twelve - Kilkenny

Today dad and I both skipped the tour. He was sick of being on the bus, and I was fine with staying in Kilkenny which looked really interesting and fun. Its a very medieval town, with cobbled streets and stone walls/buildings. We still went down and had breakfast with everyone, and dad stealthily smuggled Baileys to our table. We shared it with a bunch of people and he was told a few times how he made their day and how he was a genius.

Dad and I started our day with a visit to Kilkenny Castle. This visit alone made me happy we opted to stay behind. What a beautiful castle. Rather the just being ruins, this castle was used until around the 1930's. It was initially a Medieval castle but as time progressed it was used as an estate and underwent restoration throughout the years. The castle is summed up as a:
12th century fortress
19th century chateau
20th century stately home

The castle has an 800 year history and is believed to been built in the 1100's or 1200's.

It belonged to Butler Family who used it as a fortress and over time modified it to a Victorian estate. The family left Ireland and the home in 1935 and auctioned off the contents of the house. In the 1960's it was handed over to an restoration company. The office of public works took over the care and the decaying cattle was restored to its "Victorian splendour". They tracked down a lot of the original furniture, artwork, portraits and items from the home and bought them back. They also used old receipts to track down companies (many of which were still in business) and order the exact - or as close to it as possible - material that was used in curtains and rugs. It was a really great castle - interesting, beautiful and awesome to go into. Dad was incredibly happy for it not to just be stone and/or ruins. One cool thing they did was put a mesh-like/clear floor down in one area so you could see the foundations and stone, to understand how the castle was built and the ways in which it was a point of defense. They did an excellent job of melding the different aspects of the castle as it went through time. Would definitely recommend visiting it if anyone is in Kilkenny.

We wandered around in this little stone artists village area across the street from the cattle. There was a pottery designer, artists and a goldsmith - all with beautiful work. Afterward we went for lunch at a small Italian place nearby. Dad had been craving Italian for a few days, and it was a welcome break from the usual food options we have been presented with lately. The pasta was all homemade and everything tasted delicious.

Afterwards we walked through the incredibly old, stone streets and wandered in to a few shops. We found an outdoor mall tucked away off in a side street which was really unique and cool - in this area I felt more like I was in Florida then Ireland. The shops on the streets were a woe come change because they were mostly real stores, not the typical tourist ones we keep seeing. i think I only came across one Ireland gift shop in the entire day.

Next we did a quick tour of the Rothe House which was the home of a local merchant family from 1500's onward. It was really fascinating to see the difference between their home and that of the castle. They had a beautiful garden tucked away that was very large and quite unexpected as it appeared on the outside to be such a small property. They also had artifacts and costumes from the 1500-1900's which was really neat.

We managed to get tickets for a tour of Smithicks Brewery which was interesting. It's set on the ruins of a monastery from the 1300's and the actual ruins of the chapel remain inside. We were able to see them, as well as the tasting room and chapel that have been built onto them. It was a really odd mix - religious ruins, a modern chapel and a beer tasting room surrounding by a brewery building/parking lot. Afterward we went into the actual brewery and then to the bar for a pint. I really don't care for the beer, so I think I was the only one who left it pretty much untouched. We sat with a group of people - two guys from the US on holiday, one guy whose been traveling non-stop for 6 months and a young couple from London. We chatted for a bit and shared travel stories which was fun. I loved the Londoners accents and words. Why don't we Canadians use "dodgey" "rubbish" etc? They have some awesome words those Brits!

Dad and I split up for a while as I kept looking in the shops and town, while he went back to the hotel. I soon returned and went for a swim before dinner.

Later that night a few of us gathered at the hotel bar to listen to some music. What a huge disappointment. The singer was French and almost all her songs were French. Her voice wasn't really great and you could barely understand the English songs she sang. I have decided that even I could make a career out of singing in hotel bars throughout Ireland.... There is no need to even be able to hold a tune. I think out of the whole trip we have heard good music maybe 3 times max. We left the hotel and went into town to the pub Dad was at the night before. Upstairs there was a country band (due to the blues and bluegrass festival that was going on), and downstairs a traditional Irish one. We were fortunate to get seats where we were able to hear the Irish group. We actually ran into two of the guys from the Brewery tour, but the bar was packed so we just waved.

As much as I am enjoying Ireland an all the sights we are seeing and places we are visiting I am glad to be heading home on Tuesday. It's been a long trip of unpacking and repacking and living out of a suitcase. I don't think I would ever do a 15 day bus trip again. 10 days would be just enough time I think for this type of travel.

Funny story of the day occurred at the expense of some of the stupidest women I have ever encountered. There was a large group of them in town for a hen party all decked out in pink tutus, leg warmers and an odd mish mash of accessories and personalized shirts - it was if each one was wearing the complete aisle of a party store. They looked ridiculously silly, but I think that was the point. So I am heading to my room after dinner and two of them get on with their luggage. The following occurs.

Girl One: Room 1-3-2
Girl Two: what floor?
G1: 1-3-2
Carol (from our tour)- presses floor one and tells them she did

We get to floor one.

G1: This isn't our floor. We are 1-3-2
Dad: one thirty-two is here
G2 : okay
They get out of the elevator, and then run back on as the door is closing.
G1: Not our floor we are 1-3-2
Dad: that was your floor
Carol: you need to get out and go left
Girls: okay

Elevator gets to floor two - they start to get off.

Carol: this isn't your floor. You need to go back down to one

Elevator goes to floor three - they get off

Me: this isn't your floor, you need to go to one.
G2: isn't 1-3-2 here?
Me: no, down to floor one.

Meanwhile the elevator says the floor at each stop.

So ask walk to my room I am laughing - thinking they must be really drunk. I run into a frazzled hotel employee who tells me they have been escorting pretty much the whole group to their rooms because they have been getting lost.

Later on, Alvin gets into an elevator to go down with two other girls from the group. They elevator doesn't do anything.

Girls: it's not moving! How does this work?
Alvin: press the button....
Girls: really?
Alvin: yes....

Magically the elevator worked.

I truly hope it was a case of being really drunk and these girls aren't actually this ridiculous while sober!

Photo One: Kilkenny Castle Outside (Dad)
Photo Two:Kilkenny Castle Outside
Photo Three:Kilkenny Castle Outside
Photo Four:Kilkenny Castle Outside
Photo Five:Kilkenny Castle Outside
Photo Six: Kilkenny Castle Inside (Photos weren't allowed so I found these online) Portrait Hall
Photo Seven: Kilkenny Castle Inside (Photos weren't allowed so I found these online) Stairway
Photo Eight: Kilkenny Castle Inside (Photos weren't allowed so I found these online) Library
Photo Nine: Dad and Me
Photo Ten: Dad
Photo Eleven: Me
Photo Twelve: Artist Village
Photo Thirteen: Brian - Dads new plans for shrubs... LOL
Photo Fourteen: Kilkenny
Photo Fifteen: Kilkenny
Photo Sixteen: Kilkenny
Photo Seventeen: Rothe House
Photo Eighteen: Rothe House
Photo Nineteen: Rothe House
Photo Twenty: Rothe House Garden
Photo Twenty One - Twenty Five: Smithicks Brewery
Photo Twenty-Six-Thirty: Kilkenny