Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Leaving On a Jet Plane...

I am officially departing tomorrow morning, bright and early, from my dorm.  I have managed to finish all of my final papers and Ulysses.  I've also had one last order of fish and chips, a Bulmers, banoffi pie, and one last Guinness.

I am so excited to be going home, but I've decided that my adventure isn't going to end when I leave the Emerald Isle.  I figure that with a final semester of law school, moving into a house, the great job hunt, and planning a wedding, I'll have quite a few more adventures to write about.  So, stay tuned...


Thursday, December 9, 2010

One Week to Go

I cannot believe that my time abroad has dwindled down to one remaining week.  I've been holed up in my dorm room the past several days working on my last paper before my school work is complete, so I haven't been able to get out and do much more in the way of adventures.

I figured this would be a good time to reflect on all the things I've gotten to do, a sort of highlights reel.  It's easy to lose sight of the great things here when I'm so excited to be home for the holidays, so I also wanted to make a list of the things in Ireland that I will miss when I'm gone.

The places I've been: Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Blackrock, Glendalough, Clonmacnoise, Galway, Gort, Cliffs of Moher, London, Paris, Rome, Basel, the Black Forest, and Freiburg.

The things I've done:
Toured: Guinness storehouse, Jameson distillery, Georgian House Museum, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Malahide Castle, Dublin Writer's Museum, National Gallery of Ireland, National Library of Ireland, London Aquarium, Louvre, National Museum of Italy, the Vatican (Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Vatican Museum)

Hiked/Wandered Through: Wicklow Mountains National Park,  St. Stephen's Green, Carysfort Park, Trinity College, Harrod's, Freiburg Christmas market, Castle Mountain

Eaten/Drank: Tea at the Queen of Tarts and Shelbourne Hotel, lots of Guinness, Bulmers, banoffi pie, fish and chips, black pudding, the best pasta of my life, mulled wine, German beer, gelatto

Landmarks (excluding the ones above): Houses of Parliament, River Thames, River Liffey, the Seine, Tiber River, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Marble Arch, Picadilly Cirucs, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's Cathedral, London Tower, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, Paris' military school, Hotel des Invalides, Champ du Mars, Champ Elysees, Notre Dame, Paris Opera, St. Peter's Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Colosseum, Constantine Arch, Plaza Navona, Roman Forum, Bocca della Verita, the Spanish Steps, Campio Fiori, Freiburg Cathedral, Titi Lake, and many more with names I've forgotten or missed.

Looking back, I may not have gotten around to flipping at trampoline club, but I have a pretty good list of things I've gotten to do and see.  And so I don't forget in my haste to see family, friends, and fiance again, that there are things I will miss in Ireland, they are: Bulmers, Guinness (properly poured), snails on the sidewalk, frequent rainbows, bright pink and deep red hydrangeas, fuschia, black currant flavored foods, banoffi pie, being sea side, mars bars (and mars bar rice krispie treats), free time/alone time/leisure time (though sometimes I think I've had too much here), the fact that school closes with 3 inches of snow, black pudding, the chocolate!, electric tea kettles, and listening (some might call it eavesdropping) to people talking just to hear their accent.

As much as I will miss these things and others, I am very much looking forward to the trip home and some big, long hugs (and Caribou's hot chocolate...).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Germany/Switzerland: Day 4

Well, it was a long day getting back to Dublin.  First, I had to somehow manage to cram all of my gifts into my bag.  They would have fit easily were it not for the big cumbersome box that the music box was packed in.  Eventually, I managed to get everything packed away.  I took the bus from Freiburg to Basel, where I did some duty free shopping.  I bought two humongous bars of Swiss chocolate: one dark chocolate and one light chocolate with honey almond nougat.  I also picked up a cute little tin that says "Basel" and has leckerly cookies in them.  They're apparently famous for originating in Basel and have honey and candied peels in them.

My satisfaction with my purchases had a damper put on it when my flight was delayed about an hour.  This caused me to (again) miss my connecting flight in Frankfurt.  Unlike the first time, however, there was not another departing flight anytime soon.  Instead, I had to occupy my time until 10:00 pm, a full 6 hours after I had planned on arriving in Dublin.  Thanks to this down time, I now have less than 100 pages left to read in Ulysses, though.

The flight from Frankfurt to Dublin was pleasant, though.  I highly recommend Lufthansa for anyone who is flying in and around Europe.  Free drinks like most of the airlines I've flown over here.  However, they gave us a full blown picnic from Frankfurt to Dublin.  A small cheese sandwich, clementine, package of ginger cookies, and a chocolate Santa, all served in a cloth drawstring pouch with Santa Clause embroidered on the front!

I finally arrived in Dublin around 11:00, local time (midnight in Germany).  The air coach shuttle left at 11:30 and I was back to my dorm, after a very snowy walk from the bus stop, past midnight.  Now, I have one paper left to write, three rounds of revisions, and a whole lot of packing left before the big flight home.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Germany: Day 3

Today Sören, his girlfriend Bai, and I went to the Black Forest.  It was fantastic!  We took a train there and the views were spectacular.  We actually went through a large part of the Black Forest as we made our way to Titi Lake (Titisee).  It's called the Black Forest because it's almost entirely pine trees, so even in winter the whole forest looks dark.  The train went through a part of the forest called Hell Valley, which was immediately after a town whose name translates to Heavenly Kingdom. So, we went through heaven to get to hell and the other way around on the return.

When we got to the Black Forest, it had started to snow.  We made our way to the lake and walked along the shore.  There were tons of mallard ducks and one big goose to keep us company.  The snow and wind off the lake had us a little chilled, so we stepped into a cafe for some hot drinks and Black Forest cake.  From there, we walked by a building that had an enormous clock painted on its side with working hands.  It was about as tall as I was.  Above the clock hands were two figurines, and above them was a bird.  I assume they dance and cuckoo, respectively, but we weren't willing to stand outside long enough to find out.

We went into lots of little shops and there were cuckoo clocks galore.  Every shop sounded like my Grandma's house (she has 6 in one room).  I wish I could have bought one, but I had to settle for a few small gift items instead.  Toward the end of our trip, the snow had started to come down pretty heavily, but it was so pretty that it was hard to be bothered by it.  The whole place looked like a Christmas card!

Back in Freiburg, we emerged from the train to rain.  Not quite as pretty as the snow had been.  But the Christmas market at night made up for the rain completely.  Christmas lights were everywhere.  Up and down the streets, on the booths at the market, above the paths, and in the trees.  The three of us shared some potato pancakes, a pretzel, and more mulled wine.

I couldn't resist buying myself a few more ornaments, but the best purchase was the gift I got for my Grandma.  I had been disappointed that I didn't find anything for her in the Black Forest, since she's cuckoo for cuckoo clocks.  Unfortunately, besides 100 euro clocks (and those are the cheap ones!), the only other thing they seemed to sell that was in the shape of a cuckoo clock was thermometers.  But in Freiburg, I found her a wonderful hand carved wooden nativity scene that is also a music box.  But don't tell her, it's for Christmas. :)

Tomorrow, I leave this Christmas paradise and head back to Ireland, where it will be back to the grindstone for me.  One more paper to write, followed by some serious revisions.  But for now, I will sleep in heavenly peace.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Germany: Day 2

So... Switzerland didn't happen today.  We got too late of a start to make the cost of the train ticket and the hour each way worth the investment.  So, instead we hit the Freiburg Christmas market.  Sören and I had mulled wine, served in little glass mugs with a Christmas market scene on them.  You get the mugs for take away, and you can either keep the mug or return it when you're done and get 1 euro 50 back.  I, of course, kept my mug. :)

The Christmas market is fabulous.  There are lights everywhere, all kinds of food, and lots of people.  When we went, there were a few rowdy groups getting ready to go to the local football game.  Lots of fun!  The booths sold all sorts of great Christmas items too: ornaments carved out of wood, hand blown glass ornaments, nativity scenes, and those great Christmas carousels that spin around using the heat from candles.  So much to look at!!

After the market, we warmed up with some cappuccino and then took off to hike up a very slippery mountain.  We only went a little ways up, but it still gave a great view of Freiburg down below and faced out into the Black Forest, where I hope to go tomorrow.  Only wiped out once on the way back down, and then it was back to the apartment for some much needed R&R.  Feeling a little under the weather, but I hope it won't drag me down tomorrow!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Germany/Switzerland: Day 1

After maybe 5 inches of snow over the last few days had all but shut down the entire city of Dublin, I was skeptical of my ability to get to Freiburg today.  Fortunately, the airport was reopened and my flight was only delayed by one hour.  But of course, the wait for check in began with a mother traveling alone with three screaming toddlers, prompting the ''please dont be on my flight, please don't be on my flight'' internal chant.  Then, of course, they were on my flight, which prompted the ''please don't have them sitting near me, please don't have them sitting near me'' internal chant.  Thankfully for my sanity, they were not seated near me and they were relatively quiet on the flight.  The flight delay, however, meant that I missed my connecting flight out of Frankfurt, but there was ample room on the next flight out to Basel.  From there, it was a brief bus ride back into Germany to Freiburg where I was met by Sören, my old friend, at the bus stop.

We walked the few blocks to the apartment he shares with his girlfriend and spent the rest of the evening getting me settled in and getting us all caught up on each other.  It was so nice to sit around and hang out.  We all had a drink (Sören and I had a Paulaner and Bai had a cola-beer, which I'll definitely have to try soon) and played a card game well into the evening.

Tomorrow, Soren and I head off to Switzerland while Bai is at work, and then possibly to a Christmas market.  I'm so excited for the Christmas markets!  The more the merrier my Christmas will be.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eating in Italy

So, I held off on the details of eating out just because I knew it would be plenty of material for a post in and of itself.  Let me say this: eating out in Rome was absolutely amazing.  Nearly every time I ate something there, it was like eating the best whatever it was that I had ever had.  Just incredible.  The other big pro to eating in Italy: it's cheap!!  John and I consistently had an appetizer between us, two mains, and a half liter of wine for around 25 euro.  Just insanely cheap.

A few places for those who may find themselves in Rome: Vecchia Roma, Petrucci, Tre Pupazzi, Le Tavernelle, and Perdingianu & Croccorgia.  These were my absolute favorites of the places we hit- and all but one were recommended by the concierge.

Le Tavernelle:  The very first place we ate in Rome and it did not disappoint.  Complimentary Prosecco with our meal wasn't a bad way to start.  I had a delicious, but simple, ravioli stuffed with cheese topped with parmesan (remember, this is the place where they thought I wanted more cheese).  The fantastic thing about this dish was the light coat of olive oil that the ravioli was served in.  There was a basil leaf sitting on top of the dish, and you could taste it in the oil.  It was amazing.  Delicious.

Vecchia Roma: Old Rome, run by Fabio, and we were always waited on by what appeared to be his son.  We were also always brought bruschetta before our meal, in addition to the delicious bread basket.  The tomatoes were so ripe!  It was absolutely perfect.  The best bruschetta I've ever eaten.  I got (yes, both times we went) the spaghetti carbonara- and it was divine.  An egg sauce and bacon with spaghetti, topped with parmesan cheese.  How can you go wrong?

Tre Pupazzi: Recommended by Rick Steves, this was a yummy place to eat.  John and I both had the special: fettuccine with porcini mushrooms and truffle.  Let me just say, if you ever get to order something with "truffle" in the title, do not miss the chance.  It was really delicious.  No sauce to speak of, but again, served in an incredible olive oil.  This time, instead of basil, it tasted truffle infused.  Yum!

Petrucci: This was another dinner spot near the hotel.  We ordered antipastos della casa (house appetizers) and were served a HUGE platter with fresh slices of mozzarella and tomatoes, fried eggplant, fried zucchini, bruschetta, meats, cheeses, and olives. This was incredible.  The bruschetta had amazing flavors.  The tomatoes were ripe, it was absolutely perfect.  Best bruschetta I've ever eaten (this sounds familiar...).  We were both so full after the appetizers, but we had each ordered a main as well.  I had pesto potato gnocci, John ordered ravioli with smoked (which was translated as "smooched") salmon.  While I wasn't nuts about the gnocci (I'd never had it before), the pesto sauce was incredible.  John's was delicious as well- the smokiness was lovely with the cheese stuffing.  This was also where we had the best tasting house wine.  At most of the places we ate, a half liter was about 4 euro.

Perdingianu & Croccorgia: Our last dinner out in Rome.  This was a Sicilian inspired restaurant and was an interesting foil to the other food we had eaten.  They had similar menu items, but with slight differences.  Here, we also got the antipastos della casa.  Again, meats and cheeses, but this time the meat was spicy (thank goodness John tried it first) and the cheese was a soft, maybe goat's milk, cheese and a pecorino (one of my favorites).  The eggplant slices were grilled, not fried, and there was also olives and a slice of grilled red pepper.  My dinner was amazing.  I had tortellini with a creamy sauce with ham and mushrooms.  I can't post my exact words when I ate my first bite, but suffice to say, it was tasty.  Beyond amazing.  I have no idea what John ordered, but I definitely won the main course contest (though his was pretty good too).  Dessert, on the other hand, was a bit of a let down.  I ordered tiramisu and I was so excited.  What I got was some soggy cake at the bottom of a bowl with vanilla pudding on top, sprinkled with cocoa powder.  John won the dessert battle, ordering Catalina Crema, a similar pudding cup but with a topping that tasted like caramelized sugar.  Yummmm

I will say this about eating in Rome: it was hands down the most consistently amazing food I have ever encountered.  *However* our success was entirely thanks to the guidance of Rick Steves and our hotel's recommendations.  We did try to eat out on our own once and we were not met with success (may I refer you to the blog entry previous to this).  So, eater beware: avoid the tourist spots and try to eat where the locals are.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rome Day 5: Arrivederci Roma

Our final day in Rome and we had to check out of the hotel by 10 am.  Our flight wasn't until that evening, but fortunately, the hotel let us leave our bags there while we wandered around for one last round of tourism.  We went past the Jewish Ghetto again and found our way to Campo del Fiori.

At Campo del Fiori, they were having a market with lots of goodies.  There were vendors with the typical I Heart Roma shirts and bags, some other clothing sellers, and food.  Lots and lots of food.  There was this great vegetable stand with the most gigantic red bell peppers I have ever seen, humongous eggplants, and everything looks bright and ripe.  It was fantastic.  Another few stalls were selling pasta and herbs.  The pasta guy would start to sing a song and the vegetable stand man would join in.  One vendor had all sorts of different truffle items: straight up truffles, truffle oil, truffle with parmesan, and truffle butter.  Another vendor had jars upon jars of honey.  There were all different kinds: thyme, "woods," chestnut, orange, eucalyptus, acacia, "sweet," and mixed flower.  I wish I could have had samples!
Victor Emmanuel Monument
After the market, we stopped at a sidewalk cafe to have cappuccinos with a lovely view of the Victor Emmanuel Monument, which we couldn't seem to get away from the entire time were there.  Every time we got a little turned around, we ended up at the Victor Emmanuel Monument.  The sun was shining, and John and I actually got uncomfortably warm, which I loved.  We then went off for lunch without the help of a concierge recommendation.  Big mistake.  We ended up at this horrid restaurant because we got so hungry looking that we just gave up.  It was a nightmare- almost literally.  There were Halloween masks hanging on the walls, Santa Clause costumes in opened packages, dried meat hanging unused above the bar.  We put in our order and John took a piece of bread from the basket.  It literally snapped in half and crumbed into little pieces.  I feigned illness, put 4 euro on the table, and we canceled our orders and left.

The lunch we ended up with wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.  Then we picked up our bags from the hotel and headed off to the airport.  I checked a bag and we made it through security.  I went to use the ladies, which was actually co-gendered and had everyone confused.  When I came back up, John informed me that I had been called back to security.  We went back and they said they needed to search my bag.  Strange, but okay, and I started to give them my laptop bag.  No, they needed to search my checked bag.  Fine, go ahead, I checked it!  Nope, I had to leave my bag with John and go with a non-English speaking male security guard back through the airport, outside onto the tarmac, and into a little corner where some trucks were parked.  With no one else around, he had me open the bag and he sifted through it, occasionally holding something up for me to clarify what it was, even though I'm pretty sure he didn't understand me.  It was unnerving, but uneventful and I was brought back through security and John and I managed to have a peaceful flight back to Dublin.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rome Day 4: Finally Taking It Easy

This post is going to be remarkably short because we finally did remarkably little the entire day.  Our third full day in Rome found us both exhausted from all the walking and sight seeing the days before.  So we took the day easy, wandering around, doing some light shopping (gifts for family), and eating.  Lots of eating.  But we did hit up the National Museum, which had some really great Roman sculptures.  Favorites included Pugile, an ancient Roman reproduction of the ancient Greek discus sculpture, and an incredibly ornate sarcophagus.

After the museum, we went to a familiar place for lunch and had yet another delicious meal.  The bruschetta that always comes out before our food seems to be a treat only for certain guests, so I think we had our hotel to thank for that.  An old man with white hair and thick glasses sat down at the table next to us for lunch.  He seemed to be friends with Fabio, the owner, and also got bruschetta.  After we finished eating, we stopped at a Gelatto shop on the way back to the hotel.  The old man was there, eating out of a cone and giving himself a white gelatto mustache.  John got pistachio and I got Gellatine, which is a mix of chocolate and vanilla with little cookie crumbles in it.  It was delicious and they were both served with a little cookie on top.

As we wandered around more, we saw a neat street artist who worked entirely with spray paint to make these really cool pictures.  They looked like sci-fi posters, but they had famous monuments like the Colosseum or the Egyptian pyramids in the foreground.  It was fun to just sit and watch him work and to see the picture transform.

And that was about it for our fourth day in Rome.  Most of the day revolved around eating, which I'll talk lots about in another post.  It was a lovely, relaxing day to just take in the streets of Rome.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rome Day 3: Adventures in Ruins

Day three started with another great breakfast at the roof top garden.  Then we were off to the Colosseum!  Somehow, we never noticed on our first days in Rome that the Colosseum was visible down the street from our hotel.  It was pretty spectacular to see.  Once we go to the Colosseum it was just amazing.  (Side note for the Minnesotans, the Romans had a retractable tarp to cover the Colosseum in case of bad weather.  And the Twins have...?)  There really isn't a way for my to describe the Colosseum- it was just beautiful.  And through some of the arches, we had great views of the Arch of Constantine.  It really was just spectacular.

After the Colosseum, we moved on to the Roman Forum.  This was really pretty and I got a lot of great pictures, but it wasn't as interesting to me.  I'm not sure if it was residual exhaustion from the trek the day before, but it wasn't my favorite stop along the trip.  We walked all over the Forum and then up to Palatine Hill, which gave more spectacular views of the Forum and of Rome in general.  I think amazing views was a theme for the trip.

After the Forum, we were on our way to Bocca della Veritas, of A Roman Holiday fame.  Along the way, we walked along the Tiber River, which has had its banks built up extremely high after a flood several hundred years ago.  We also walked through Circus Maximus, where the chariot races used to be held.  Much more dangerous than NASCAR, though John wondered which way they turned.  We got our little touristy photo op with the Mouth of Truth and then we went through the Jewish Ghetto, where we stopped for some delicious kosher food.  From there, we were off to the Pantheon, which we had seen before on our night walk.  The outside was having some reconstruction done, so it was half covered with scaffolding, but the inside was really pretty.  The Pantheon was originally a monument for all religions, hence the name.

On the way to our next destination, we did a little window shopping, which turned into actual shopping when I found a great pair of shoes (much MUCH cheaper than the ones from Dublin that I ended up returning).  Then it was back to window shopping as we passed by Chanel, Dior, Dolce and Gabanna, Missoni, Escada, Prada, etc.  I might have drooled, just a little bit.  Then we were at the Spanish Steps.  It was absolutely milling with people.  Particularly with guys carrying bushels of roses and trying to force three on you as you walked by "I give, I give."  No thanks.  We climbed (yes, more steps) to the top of the Spanish Steps just in time for a beautiful sun set.

The day ended like all of our days in Rome: with a fantastic dinner and an exhausted crash into bed.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rome Day 2: Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica

John and I started the day with breakfast on the roof top garden and it did not disappoint!  A selection of rolls, cheeses, meats, and fruits along with juice, cappuccino, coffee, and about 20 kinds of tea.  The only bad thing about the morning was it was raining.  But, we figured we had weathered Ireland well enough, and so we took off on the metro to go to Vatican City.
Map Gallery
The Vatican Museum was stunning and overwhelming.  There was art literally everywhere.  The ceilings were painted, the walls had art, there were sculptures all around, and even the marble flooring was beautiful.  My personal favorites were the Map Gallery (just for the sheer abundance of color and art) and the rooms with paintings by Raphael.  He wasn't one of my favorite ninja turtles, but the rooms (particularly the Constantine room and the Liberation of St. Peter) were spectacular.
Raphael's Liberation of St. Peter
One of the most inspired parts of the Vatican Museum is, of course, the Sistine Chapel.  If I thought the rest of the museum was overwhelming, this was beyond.  Of course, the creation of man was spectacular, but I also really liked the Temptation of Eve, which has the serpent looking like part man, part tree, part snake.

After we went to the Vatican Museum, we had lunch at another amazing restaurant (this time recommended by Rick Steves).  Then, we moved on to St. Peter's Basilica.  Again, absolutely stunning.  The inside of the church is amazing.  It is absolutely gigantic!  Here is also the original Pieta sculpture by Michelangelo, which was another highlight for me.  Then, John somehow convinced me to climb 551 steps with him up to the top of the cupola.  In addition to the gorgeous views from the top, at about the half way point, we got to go inside the church again where we were up close and personal with the art at the tops of the interior arches.  What had looked like paintings from below were actually massive mosaics.  It was pretty amazing.  We reached the top (finally) and the views were breathtaking.  The rain had stopped and the sun was out and it was just incredible to see all of Rome all around.

After our adventures there, we wandered back to the hotel for a small (and much needed) rest.  Dinner that night at Petrucci provided another superb meal.  Unfortunately, we had to wait a while to go to eat, as we were informed that restaurants wouldn't be open for dinner until at least 7:00 pm.  Fortunately, on the other hand, we didn't have to wait quite as long as we thought as we also found out that we had been operating an hour behind all day due to the time change.

After dinner, we were off for a night walk where we saw Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon.  There were lots of people out and about and a bunch of street vendors selling art, jewelry, and the usual knock off handbags.  We were so exhausted at the end of the walk, that we grabbed a cab to drive us the short trip back to the hotel.  Slept like a rock.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rome Day 1: Dublin to Rome

Armed with a large supply of digestive aids, John and I took off from Dublin to Rome for what would be 4 blissful, though exhausting, days.  The flight itself was fine.  Ryan Air, as would be expected, doesn't give anything complimentary.  However, we did spring for the priority Q tickets and got to pick seats in the emergency row so John would have some extra leg room.  Unfortunately, we ended up seated across the aisle from a family with a young boy.  I just knew it would be rough.  Surprisingly, though, it was the father who caused most of the problems.  From drumming loudly on his meal tray with pens to arguing with the flight attendant about returning to his seat for landing, he was not a very pleasant man.  On the bright side, there was an off duty flight attendant seated by the window in our row who switched seats with me so John and I could see Rome lit up at night as we landed.  We saw the Colosseum and St. Peter's Basilica from the window.  It was beautiful!

We checked into our hotel after getting overcharged for a taxi ride (note for future travels: don't tip the cabbie when they charge 4 euro extra for transporting 3 carry on sized bags), and the hotel room was stunning.  Lush fabrics covered the walls and it was just gorgeous.  The front desk concierge recommended Le Tavernelle for dinner and it did not disappoint.  Delicious pasta and free prosecco served with the meal.  Not too shabby!  Despite some tummy troubles from traveling, I could tell I would like my time in Rome when I stopped the server to ask for more water.  Before I could ask for water though, his first guess was that I needed more parmesan cheese.  Any place that always assumes you need more cheese is alright by me.

Since we'd gotten in relatively late (though we later found out that we had gotten in even later as Rome was an hour ahead of Dublin), we decided to hit the hay, looking forward to breakfast on the rooftop patio.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

28 Days Until Home

It's been a while since my last blog post.  I was happily jotting about Italy and Dublin with John.  Sadly, he had to leave a few days ago, so now it's just me, my troubled internet connection, and my massive amount of essays left here on the Emerald Isle.

Since I'm flying home before the exam period concludes (I tried to change to a later flight once I learned my finals schedule, but there was literally nothing available before Christmas), I've been assigned essays in lieu.  It sounds like it should be a big lucky break for me, but in reality it will be a ton of work.  I have approximately four weeks to write four essays, each with around a 5,000 word limit.  So, 20,000 words from now I will be getting on an airplane home.  It sounds so much closer in days.

In the meantime, I plan to work a lot and blog a little.  I will be blogging over the next several days about the trip to Italy with my notes taken when we were there.  I can safely say that Rome was the most amazing place I've been to yet.  It was absolutely beautiful, the food was incredible, and there were so many sights to see.  The food was so good as a matter of fact that I'm going to devote an entire post simply to eating in Italy.

Less than a month left on my adventure abroad.  I can't believe it's gone by so quickly!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dublin Today, Rome Tomorrow

John is here and has been for several days now.  We've had a terrific time!  Some highlights of the trip so far:

A real Irish breakfast at the Quays.  Included black sausage (aka black pudding, blood sausage, blood pudding) which was delicious and much better than the white sausage in my opinion.

The Guinness Storehouse.  Still worth the money- this time I (we) learned to pour the perfect pint.  We also met a couple from St. Paul- small world!

Jameson Distillery.  NOT worth the money.  Save the eleven euro (student price), go to a bar, and get three shots: Jameson, Jack Daniels, and Johnny Walker Black Label.  Then you'll have the taste test all set up without the horrible tourist trap feeling tour full of mannequins and stuffed cats.  It was definitely not my favorite part of the trip thus far.  But now, I am officially a whiskey taste tester and I have the certificate to prove it (along with one proving I can pour the perfect pint.  I might frame them both and hang them alongside my J.D.).

National Library.  Bought Kim her requested book on Yeats, got one for myself as well, and a free t-shirt!  Walked through the Yeats exhibit which was neat.  I would have loved to have had a few more spots with readings from his works.

National Gallery.  Very cool works here.  While there was a lot of strangely shaped children (from the era in which painters gave children the same facial proportions as adults), the Jack Yeats exhibit was terrific and there was one room with highlights from a closed wing that included a Picasso and a Monet.  Very pretty.

Queen of Tarts.  Lovely place for tea and some blackberry apple crumble.  I had an Alice in Wonderland moment.

The Winding Stair.  Despite not having reservations (note to self for next time), they were able to seat us and we had a fantastic meal.  Absolutely delicious food and I would go back over and over again.  Even though we only had the table until 7:00, we never felt rushed by the servers and were waited on attentively.  My spinach, mushroom, and feta parcel was amazing.  Highly, highly recommend.

We also stayed right next door to Oscar Wilde's house.  Speaking of Oscar Wilde, we saw some workers fixing his statue.  Apparently he lost his head, literally.

Tomorrow we are off to Rome and I could not be more excited!  I will try to post an update or two while we're there.  But I'll be taking notes so I can blog when I get back too.  Cheers!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Back to Dublin, Back to Reality

...okay, not really the second part.  We landed in Dublin and made our way to the hotel, where I discovered we have a supreme view from our balcony of a great building that has a changing color light display.  Really cool- we're in an industrial area near the Samuel Beckett Bridge.

Today, we went to Malahide to explore Malahide Castle, where I have wanted to go ever since Dublin's Culture Night.  The castle did not disappoint.  First, Malahide is a beautiful place with lots of greenery (changing to autumnal colors) and cute little houses.  The castle was located at the back part of a winding path through various fields and wooded areas.  And the castle was exactly what you picture when you hear the word "castle."  Turrets and stone and just lovely.  We went inside and took the tour, which was also really great and informative.  The furniture was spectacular- most of it dating back to the mid-18th century.  There were great portraits throughout and it was surprising to learn that the castle was actually lived in until the 1970s when it was finally bequeathed to the town.  Another interesting point for me was that the Boswell papers on Samuel Johnson were discovered at Malahide Castle.  Such an interesting place!

Tomorrow, sadly, my parents leave to return to the states.  Fortunately, my fiance will be here in Friday!  Then it's more Dublin tourism followed by a trip to Rome.  Can't wait!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Paris: Day Three

Today we started off with a delicious breakfast at the hotel and a slow meander to the Eiffel Tower.  From there, we hopped back on the bus tour and hopped off at the Louvre!!!!  The lines weren't too bad and we got inside pretty quickly.  I made a bee line to the Mona Lisa, since I figured it would only get more crowded as the day wore on.

From what I had heard, I was expecting to be underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa.  But, I was pleasantly surprised to still be in awe of the work even after seeing it in person, albeit from a roped off distance and through tinted glass.  After taking a few pictures (no flash, though I felt like the only person obeying the rules), I wandered at a more leisurely stroll through some other points of interest in the museum.  Highlights for me include: Winged Victory, Cupid and Psyche (my personal favorite), and Venus de Milo.  Some of the ceilings were just phenomenal too.  A really amazing museum and well worth the visit.  From there, we hopped on the bus again and took a few short stops at Notre Dame, Arc de Triumph, and Palais de Chaillot.
Cupid and Psyche
It was a pretty relaxed day topped with a delicious dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Paris Home.  Mom and I shared a pizza and Dad had some salmon.  The best part though was the service and the company.  There was an older couple who came in after us from Rochester, NY.  They were trying to figure out the menu and the waitresses with our efforts managed to explain what "chevreuil" was in English.  The waitresses tried to explain that it was Bambi, with a very thick French accent, which I decoded into venison.  It was a pleasant evening.  Now: time to pack for our return to Dublin!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Paris: Day Two

Day two began with sleeping in after a long day and a hard time sleeping.  Then, a pleasant surprise: we had gained an hour of sleep thanks to day light savings.  We wandered outside to find a place to eat breakfast and on the way, passed by the Ecole de Militaire and the Eiffel Tower.  Spectacular!  I have about 250 pictures just from today (and a few from yesterday), and I'm pretty sure half of them are of the Eiffel Tower from slightly different angles.

After breakfast, we were off to the Eiffel Tower.  We bought a ticket for a hop on, hop off tour and we were off on a whirl wind tour de Paris.  We didn't hop off the bus this time, and it was a fast paced tour.  Unlike London, Paris streets weren't packed with traffic, so we barely stopped in front of any of the sights.  I took dozens of photos, hoping a few might turn out.  Fortunately, for just 24 euro, we got a pass that is good for two days instead of just one.  So, we'll be hitting the tour again tomorrow and getting off at a few choice locations.  We're hoping too that the lines for the museums might be a little shorter on a Monday morning as opposed to a Sunday afternoon.  Fingers crossed.

Along the tour, we saw, among others: Champ de Mars (we actually walked up this to get to the Eiffel Tower and buy our tour tickets), Ecole Militaire, Musee de L'Armee, Hotel des Invalides, Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Opera, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triumph, and the Grand Palais.  Tomorrow, we're hoping to hit the Louvre, maybe stop at Notre Dame, and see what we can see!

We picked up souvenirs today too; just one less thing to try and squeeze in tomorrow.  Soon, we'll be off to find some wine and dessert to substitute for a real dinner.  Then, the Eiffel Tower at night!  Loving it here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Paris: Day One

We landed in Paris today.  We could see the Eiffel Tower from the runway!  The flight wasn't as nice as the one into London, but there was still complimentary alcohol (or other beverages) and snacks.  We got our bags and directions to our hotel from the information desk.  Looking back, the second stage was maybe not the best idea.

We took the Air France bus to the Arc de Triumph and then took the metro to the Eiffel Tower, which we were told by information was a short walk from our hotel.  Yeah... right.  After walking (with a small rolling bag each) for many blocks and asking for directions many times, we were finally on the right track to get to our hotel.  Several more blocks later, we finally found our place.  To give you an idea, our plane landed at 12:30 and we didn't get to the hotel until 4:00.

The hotel, like the flight, is not as nice as London, but it's a really charming French hotel with plenty of room, considering the era in which it was probably built.  The hotel is named Hotel Muguet, and in case you forget, it's on the soaps and the towels too.  After dropping off our bags, we took off in search of food for dinner.  What we found completely made up for the long journey to the hotel.  A little restaurant called Comptoir du Sept served my mom and I a small pizza Margarita along with tomato and mozzarella slices with olive oil and basil, sliced chicken, and salad.  Dad got caviar on bread, salmon on bread, and a salad with sardines and shrimp.  For dessert, I had cafe americano and shared creme brulee with Mom.  Dad had a cafe as well along with a miniature version of chocolate lava cake, tiramisu, and a strawberry and mango cup.  Absolutely amazing.  We all also had wine with our meal and it was less than a typical lunch in England.  Tres bien!
Our charming hotel room

On the way home, I picked up some fabulous postcards of old Vogue covers that I plan to frame as well as a Parisian Vogue magazine that I plan to read and reread (or rather, look at the pictures a bunch since it's in French).  Tomorrow, possibly another bus tour so we can get the most of the city.

Friday, October 29, 2010

London: Day Three

Day three in London we woke up a little earlier and headed out to our new breakfast spot.  When the waitress came over, she said she had already started our drinks and then proceeded to say what we had the day before, asking if we wanted the same.  Great start to the day.  Then we were off to take our boat trip.  Unfortunately, the boat was packed and we didn't feel much like standing for the three hours it would take for the boat to go up and down the river.  So, we went off the the London Eye, conveniently located about 50 steps from the boat dock.  Unfortunately (again), it was a boat load of money to go on the London Eye.  So, we had ticked two things off our to do list without doing anything.

Onward to the London Aquarium, success this time.  We wandered through, and it was pretty amazing.  I got some great photos of some of the aquatic life.  There were a few moments when I wanted to throttle a stranger's child (screaming children, shrieking at the tops of their lungs), but I made it through with my sanity, without a headache, and without harming anyone.  After the aquarium, we shared a crepe, which was hot and delicious.  Then we were off to wander around Westminster Abbey.  Took a bunch of pictures there and made our way back.

We've also done a little shopping today (and I picked up a few more gifts for folks back home) and found a quiet little garden with an unusual history too.  St. Johns' Garden is a short walk from the hotel and is a quiet respite from the busy streets.  Sitting on the benches though is a little eerie with the knowledge that thousands of bodies are buried under the garden.  It used to be a graveyard and was so popular that they would bury people on top of other graves because of the high demand.  During the 1700s, the graveyard was guarded at night to protect against body snatchers who wanted something (someone) to dissect.  Spooky!

After relaxing in the garden for a minute, we headed back to the hotel for the evening.  Dinner in the lounge and a relaxing night of packing and getting ready for our departure.  Tomorrow we leave for Paris!!  I cannot wait!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

London: Day Two

Day two was a whirlwind in London!  We began by sleeping in.  But then, the laziness was set aside and we were off to find breakfast foods.  We found a great little neighborhood cafe near the hotel with excellent prices and food.  Planning to return tomorrow.  Then, it was back to the hotel to write and send postcards (John, Dan, Kathy, check your mailboxes!).  While I think we picked postcards with pretty good pictures, the stamps were the best part.  Unlike the stamps I got at the Dublin post office, these had great pictures of London attractions like Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the London Tower.

After sending off our postcards, we hopped on a hop on, hop off tour bus to begin our big adventure.  Along the tour, we saw countless attractions including: Buckingham Palace (where we arrived just in time to see the changing of the guards), the Marble Arch, Baker Street, Regents Street, Picadilly Circus, Harrod's, Kensington Park, Hyde Park, St. James Park, Speaker's Corner, Langham Hotel, Her Majesty's Theatre, Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, St. Clemens Church, the Royal Courts of Justice, St. Pauls Cathedral, the Tower Bridge, London Bridge, and London Tower.  Phew! 
Picadilly Circus

At Harrod's, my folks purchased some teas and coffees (and a tea trivet that says Harrod's) and I bought Burberry's Brit eau de parfume.  My one and only London souvenir. :)  I also picked up a few gifts at a more touristy shop.

The tour was great, but towards the end we had hopped on and off so much that we were riding around at night.  It made for beautiful sights, but very cold sight seers.  Once we got back to the hotel, a hot meal at the lounge and a cocktail (or two!) sounded (and tasted) fantastic.  All in all, it was a very busy but fantastic day filled with more than I think I could soak in.
St. Paul's Cathedral by moonlight ;)
 Tomorrow, we are going to wander around Westminster Abbey, check out the aquarium, take a spin in the London Eye, and possibly catch a boat ride.  A little less on our plates, but great fun nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

London: Day One

Tuesday night, we were in Dun Laoghaire, packing and getting ready for our Wednesday flight to London when disaster struck: my parents realized they reserved the London hotel for the wrong dates.  We had no hotel.

Our London hotel informed us that no changes in reservations could be made until 9 am the next day when the registration desk reopened.  Mild panic.  Wednesday, we awoke, packed our things and headed down to the front desk to see what we could arrange with our London hotel.  We were able to cancel our wrong dates, but unfortunately, there were no rooms available for the days we needed.  Increased panic.  Dad and I stood at the registration desk with him on the courtesy phone to London and me frantically searching the internet.  Call to hotel #2: sure, they had rooms available!  But, tonight's room would be 700 pounds.  Big time panic.  9:50 am we were trying to book at hotel #3.  The bus to the airport was scheduled to arrive at 10:00.  Massive panic.  Finally, we reached hotel #3 and booked a room for just one night, figuring we could book somewhere else later since they didn't have availability the last night of our stay.  Panic slightly subsided.

The bus to the airport went well, check in went grand, and we were soon in the air for the one hour flight to London.  Then, things took a turn for the fantastically better.  We were given more food and drink for our one hour flight than is typically given on a flight from Arizona to Minnesota.  Free drinks (pop, juice, wine, beer, hard alcohol), and a choice between a snack (cracker and pretzel mix and two cookies) or a sandwich (chicken or cranberry brie).  It was delicious and a drink was much needed after the morning's chaos.
Navigating the tube
We landed and successfully navigated the London tube to our hotel.  It is glorious.  The lobby is stunning.  Our room is massive.  They gave us each a free drink in the hotel lounge.  After seeing how great it all was, we decided to try and book at least the next night and cross our fingers that something was available.  Amazingly, they had our room available for all three nights!  So, we are able to stay at this hotel without moving rooms at all.  Panic completely subsided.

Our satisfaction with the hotel didn't end there.  We decided to go for a stroll to see what was around.  Twenty paces of walking and there we were at Burberry.  Not the store, the brains of Burberry.  I had a moment.  Forty paces further and we were at the Thames.  Turning to the right, we strolled past the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and could see the London Eye.  We are in the middle of everything.  Did I mention we're (practically) next door to Burberry??
Tomorrow we're going to do a hop on, hop off tour of the city since we're here such a short time.  Everything is coming up roses!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Family's in Town!

It's been a bit since my last post, but with good reason- my family is in town!  Actually, the more accurate reason is that I have had absolutely no luck connecting to the internet at our hotel.  Apparently, the wired internet is not functioning on my laptop.  But now, since I'm in class I figure it's a perfect time to post an update of some of the highlights of the visit so far.
Mom and me outside of our Dun Laoghaire hotel

Mom and Dad arrived safely, though two hours late from New York.  We made it into the hotel in Dun Laoghaire, had some lunch, and spent the day getting settled.  Saturday, we were off to Malahide Castle.  Unfortunately, we didn't get very far.  The train that typically runs to Malahide wasn't running past the city center due to construction.  So, we altered plans and headed off to the city center instead.  There, we wandered through St. Stephen's Green, saw Dublin Castle and the surrounding grounds, and shopped on Cows Lane.
In the inner yard of Dublin Castle

The next day, we rented a car and drove to Gort, a town in County Galway.  On the way there, we stopped at Clonmacnoise, the beautiful ruins of an old monastery.  It is located almost exactly in the middle of the country and has a large cemetery with beautiful old head stones.  It's also on a river (the River Shannon, I think) and provided spectacular views.  From there, we headed to Gort to meet up with a work acquaintance of my dad's.  It was a winding, bumpy road, but we got there eventually.  We met up with Michael, his wife Angela, and children Isabell and Orrin (4 and 2), and then got right back in the car to follow them to the Cliffs of Moher.  Another winding, bumpy road, but (again), we got there eventually.  I cannot even describe how spectacular the views were.  I took a million pictures, but I'm sure they don't even do it justice- not even close.  What was even more amazing was the drive out of the cliffs.  We took the coastal road back to Gort which gave us astounding views of the sunset over Galway Bay.  Once the sun had set, the moon came out: low, full, yellow, and huge, it was absolutely beautiful reflected over the waters.
Cliffs of Moher

Sunset over the burren

Michael and Angela's home was stunning and their hospitality was just great.  We stayed the night and had a huge breakfast in the morning.  The most exciting part was the black sausage.  Black sausage is also known as blood sausage (eek!).  But I was very brave and gave it a try anyway- and it was delicious!  I even had a second slice.

It was so nice there that we didn't want to leave, but not wanting to overstay our welcome we headed off to Galway City for some shopping.  Again, an amazing time.  The highlight of the trip was a store called O'Maille's.  They sell woolen goods, many of them hand knitted by the shop's owner, a lovely woman who teaches knitting classes all over the world.  Dad and I both bought scarves there- I got two and actually got a discount somehow!  100% lambswool and 100% beautiful.  (Mom also made a purchase there, but it's a gift for someone who might happen to read this, so it'll stay a secret)  We chatted with the woman and found out that the shop had actually made all of the costumes for The Quiet Man, a John Wayne film that was filmed in Galway.  They even had the Singer sewing machine that had made Maureen O'Hara's costumes still in the store.

All in all, it's been a fantastic time- despite the bumpy, car sickness inducing, roads.  Today, Mom and Dad are adventuring on their own in the city center while I'm stuck in class (blogging).  Tomorrow, we're off to London and then Paris!  I'll be bringing the laptop with me, so hopefully I'll be able to post a few updates of our new adventures. (pictures to come)

Monday, October 18, 2010


On Sunday, I went to McDonald's for lunch.  I know, I know!  But when I went to fill my head injury prescriptions, the pharmacy wasn't yet open, so I thought I would grab lunch and McDonald's was right next door.  As you no doubt would suspect, there is a lot that is different about Irish McDonald's from U.S. McDonald's.  First, the prices.  It's not outrageous, but it's still a good deal more expensive.  While you can get a hamburger for a euro, if you want a Big and Tasty meal, it's going to cost you over 8 euro.  They also have bendy straws, fish sticks as a kid's meal option, and Rolo McFlurries (maybe this is in the states too by now, but it looked delicious).

I ordered a hamburger and some cheesy bites (little rounds of deep fried cheese- I couldn't say no!) along with a small sprite.  The small sized drink is actually a small- think McDonald's kid's size in the U.S.  The hamburger was fine, but it didn't have that same taste to it- probably a lack of grease all over the bun.  Unfortunately, I had to wait for my cheesy bites to be made.  After standing for a few seconds by the counter, the cashier told me to go and sit- they'd bring them out to me!  Table side service?  At McDonald's?  I was beginning to forget where I was until a pair of grandparents came in with their grandson, who proceeded to run around the restaurant screaming, barking, yelling, and acting downright  . . . American.  Ah, yes, some things are the same no matter where you go.

As for me, I finished my cheese bites (delicious, but there were only four), got my prescription filled, went home, and went to bed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Tumble on the Tumble Track

So I went to trampoline club on Friday, which is the gymnastics day.  On this day, there are no massive Olympic trampolines, only a small tumble track.  For those non-gymnasts out there, a tumble track is like a bouncy padded floor on which you can practice cartwheels, round offs, hand springs, flips, etc.  Ours is assembled for each practice and consists of a bottom layer of large metal springs on top of which are boards that link together to form the track.  Then, on top of all the boards is a long, red carpet-like, thin, but dense, foam pad.  And so gymnastics practice began.

It was meant to last two hours, but I left after one- I had whacked my head pretty hard on the tumble track and felt a little dizzy/nauseated.  Sadly, I was not performing a death defying act of gymnastics brilliance.  I was simply attempting a backwards somersault.  Yes, like the ones most kindergartners can do.  (In my defense, it was a slightly higher difficulty as we were starting from a standing position and not using our hands.)  At any rate, the thought of spinning and rolling around any more was less than appealing and I walked (slowly) home and spent the rest of the day in bed.  This morning, I awoke feeling basically the same and decided that a trip to the E.R. might be in order, and so I made my way to a local hospital.  Sadly, their E.R. (called the A & E here, no idea why) is closed on the weekend and I had to taxi to another nearby clinic.  And thus, I got my introduction to the Irish medical system.

At the clinic, I was informed that they didn't know what my insurance was and that I would have to pay them directly (120 euro for the consultation, plus any lab work) for all services and then make a claim to my insurance.  This prompted an emotional breakdown from the tired, head achy, dizzy American.  But I pulled myself together and filled out my forms the best I could (what address do I use?  what's my phone number again?).  After only a few minutes of waiting, I was called back by the nurse, given an brief exam, and was shortly thereafter visited by the doctor.  He recommended not only a brain CT scan, but some neck x-rays as well since I had hit the back of my head.  My only thought: Do I have to pay for all this??  Another near emotional meltdown.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a 480 euro cap to any hospital visit!  On an even brighter note, the receptionist seemed skeptical that I would even hit the limit.

So, off I went to get my brain scanned and my neck x-rayed.  Then, I hit a wall in the so far speedy Irish treatment.  A few patients came in while I was being x-rayed who were in much more serious conditions, so I was put on the back burner.  It appeared that there was only one doctor (though several nurses) on duty at the clinic.  Finally, the verdict came in: brain and neck were fine, no bleeding or fractures going on.  However, the doctor thought I had a bit of a concussion and prescribed me some pain killers and muscle relaxers to help my head and my neck.  And, since there were no late night chemists (pharmacies) open in Blackrock, he sent me home with a few to tide me over.

Total time at the A & E: 5 hours.  As far as the total bill, well, I hit the limit.  But considering the same procedures in the U.S. would have racked up at least a thousand dollars for the uninsured, I think I did okay.  Here's hoping my insurance (which purportedly covers $500,000 of medical expenses) reimburses me with relative ease.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Glory and Freedom for Birthday Cake

There is a fantastic Chinese restaurant in Blackrock that does take away called Glory.  It is the perfect food for when I'm feeling a little homesick or nostalgic because, unlike the "American" fare served some places, the Chinese food at Glory tastes just like Chinese food in America.  I have always walked to the restaurant and ordered my take away there, but it's good to know in case the weather is bad that they deliver.  Not only that, but they do catering as well.  Their take away menu advertises proudly at the bottom: "We also cater for parties and free a birthday cake!"  This, I think, is great because birthday cakes are too often treated like caged animals.  It's about time someone took a stand and freed a birthday cake.

I went to Glory today because I was feeling a little lonesome after Kim and Brent left for home this morning after their wonderful visit.  That, and I've eaten out so much with Kim and Brent that I feel like I need to ween myself off of it slowly.  Glory seemed like the perfect solution.  All in all, their stay was a fantastic one.  It was so nice to have people here I've known for years and to get to just hang out.  The tours and sight seeing we did was great too, and gave me a lot of good ideas for when I have other visitors.  So while I'm sad to see them go, it's just a little over a week before my next round of visitors begin.  And in the meantime, I'll have Glory to tide me over.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Literary Pub Crawl

Last night Kim, Brent, and I embarked on Dublin's literary pub crawl.  It was a great time, despite it's after effects this morning.  We started the evening off with dinner and then ventured over to The Duke, where the crawl was slated to start.  We bought our tickets and a pint and waited for the event to begin.  We were in a small room on the top level of The Duke that was packed mostly with what looked like retirees.  One pub crawler, however, was a woman out celebrating her 90th birthday.  We'll see what I do for my 90th.  The tour guides, Frank and Derek, introduced themselves as actors and proceeded to perform a selection of Waiting for Godot.  It wasn't amazing, but it was certainly entertaining.  They also filled us in on some history pertaining mostly to Joyce's Ulysses.  Then, they posed some quiz questions, which we were to keep in mind for the end of the tour.

After The Duke, there was a stop at Trinity College for some more information about the literary culture in Dublin.  Frank put on a performance adapted from a letter written by Oscar Wilde about his trip to Colorado.  Apparently, he was asked to lecture there on arts and aesthetics.  The locals of the silver mining town were none too impressed and decided that they would get revenge for their wasted evening by inviting Wilde to dinner, but take him down a mining shaft instead, get him drunk, and leave him there until morning.  Well, they got him down the shaft and proceeded to serve up three bottles of whiskey among the group, amounting to what Wilde called a three course dinner.  Wilde drank them all under the table.  Legend has it that the miners were so drunk that it was up to Wilde to figure out how to operate the machinery to get them all out of the shaft.  After getting the group out, Wilde reportedly told the men that if they were going to invite an Irishman to dinner, they had best make it at least a five course meal.

After Trinity College, we went to O'Neill's for another pint (or a half pint for myself and Kim).  Then a brief stop outside of Dublin's Tourist Center for a lesson about James Plunkett.  From there, we made our way to the Old Stand which was once known as The Monico and was a favorite pub of Michael Collins, Irish revolutionary leader.

Our final stop was Davy Byrnes, the most famous literary pub in Dublin.  Before entering the pub, however, was the quiz for which they had been giving questions at every stop.  The quiz was essentially the guides asking the questions again, but this time you shouted out the answer if you knew it.  I was gunning for the first place prize of a free Dublin Literary Pub Crawl t-shirt.  Unfortunately, I did not know that Oscar Wilde was once a boxer.  So instead, I took second place and won a small, airplane sized bottle of Bushmills whiskey.  Or, as our guides called it, Bushmills mouthwash.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Guinness Brewery

So, today I met Kim and Brent at the H'Penny Bridge.  We walked down the River Liffey to the James Joyce Bridge, then went up to the Guinness Storehouse for a tour.  At first, I was disappointed to find out that it was not a guided tour.  However, the signs, videos, and audio along the way made it really informative without you feeling stuck in one spot longer than you wanted to be.  It was an amazing experience with lots and lots of pictures taken.

First, we learned what Guinness is made of (barley, hops, yeast, and water), with lots of information and even tactile exhibits of some of the ingredients.  Then, we learned how Guinness is made.  The barley gets it the worst, being roasted, milled, and mashed.  After the tutorial, we got little samples of Guinness and then it was up up up to look through various Guinness displays of paraphernalia- old bottles, advertisements, labels, and even an old harp that has been adopted as an official Guinness symbol.  From there, it was up up up again to the Gravity Bar at the very top of the storehouse.  Here, we got to cash in our tickets for a complementary Guinness and there were spectacular views.  We all agreed that it would have been worth the ticket just to go to the Gravity Bar.
Gravity Bar

After the brewery, we made our way back toward the river, finding a great restaurant in the Temple Bar area called the Porterhouse.  They had delicious food and brewed their own beer.  I really enjoyed my shepard's pie and chips, and they very obligingly brought Brent nearly a trough's worth of ketchup on request.  We picked a good time to get dinner because soon the restaurant filled with people there to watch the Ireland-Russia soccer (er, football) game.  Sadly, we only stayed long enough to see Russia score two goals.  Not quite the experience we had hoped for.

Post-dinner it was time for me to make my way back to the train.  We made plans for a literary pub crawl tomorrow- can't get too much better than books and brew in my opinion.  On the train ride home, I had a lovely ego boost.  After an Irish man, who obviously didn't speak a lick of Spanish, pointed out Aviva stadium to a large family of very loud women from Spain, they rattled off copious questions to him in very fast Spanish.  He got off the train and I explained to them that it was the Irish-Russian futbol game.  Sadly, I couldn't tell them if it was a World Cup game or not, not for lack of vocabulary, but I just didn't know.  They asked about my Spanish and I said it had been MANY years since I studied it, but they said it was very good and even offered for me to sit with them and practice.  I would have loved to, but my stop was next, so I said gracias and adios.  A good end to a great day!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My First Visitors!

Well, it's been a week since my last post, and frankly nothing much has happened.  BUT, now Kim and Brent are in town!!  It was so nice to see friendly and familiar faces when they arrived at the airport, but Kim's hair has gotten so long that I almost didn't recognize her!

First things first, I asked Kim to be one of my bridesmaids (I had to wait until we were together in person- it was so hard not to ask her over g-chat!).  Once that was settled, we took the airport coach to their hotel, the Burlington Hotel on Upper Leeson.  The hotel is gorgeous (they got it in a package deal with their airfare on travelzoo) and fortunately, their room was ready.  They checked in and I hung out in the room while they took turns freshening up from their long day of travel.  Then we left the hotel in search of food.  We cut through St. Stephen's Green and got a bite to eat at Sheehan's.  Pretty good fare- I had a toasted sandwich with cheese, pickles, and tomato which was surprisingly yummy.  Brent had (of course!) a Guinness, and Kim got some traditional Irish Stew.  We then took a more serious stroll through St. Stephen's Green, taking pictures by the Joyce and Yeats statues, until Kim and Brent decided they needed a nap.  So, they went back to the hotel and they napped while I got some serious reading in Ulysses done (I'm now proudly 100 pages in).

After nap time was over, we wandered through the city center and just caught up on life.  We looked around Grafton Street and went into a couple of shops.  We walked up the River Liffey, over the Ha'Penny Bridge, which I was informed Yeats hated, and finally ended up in Fitzgerald's on O'Connell for dinner.  Kim and I split the fish and chips special and Brent had what looked like a really delicious steak.  By the time we left, it was time to call it a night so the weary travelers could get a good night's sleep.  So absolutely wonderful to have friends in town!
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