Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9,000 Year Lease, Locked in a Dungeon, and The Gift of Gab

On the morning of our 4th day in Ireland, we woke up in the Tipperary House hostel after a not awesome night of sleep.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast, stowed our luggage, and were on our way to see the sites of the city before our tour with CIE started that afternoon.  Our first stop, since it was so close, was Guinness.  We entered the giant pint glass-shaped building excitedly awaiting the story of Guinness.  We discovered that Arthur Guinness was granted a 9,000 year lease for the property there in Dublin where Guinness was made, which Sarah promptly informed us would not hold up, at least not in the US.  As we meandered through the halls and learned about the components and history of Guinness we learned about the introduction of the Toucan into the Guinness advertising campaign and each had the chance to pour the perfect pint, which we did.  Upstairs on the observation deck, we were able to see the whole of the city.  After a few hours there, we hopped on the Dublin bus tour that picked up just outside.

We rode the bus around for a bit, listening to the history of the city, including Phoenix Park and Kilmainham Gaol.  Our first (and last) stop for the day was at the National Museum of Art and History where we enlightened ourselves about the 1916 Uprising.  It was only a short walk from there back to the hostel to get our bags before we were off to our new hotel via taxi.  We spent a while walking around our new temporary neighborhood, looking for the best place to eat before we decided on a little cafe with more modern, fresh cuisine (a nice break from pub food!).  That night, we slept as well as we could with a hot room and trash and recycling getting picked up outside our window at 5:30am.

Despite our lack of sleep we arose nice and early to grab breakfast before heading off to the passport office to find out what we needed to get Irish Passports and citizenship.  Sarah and I are entitled to citizenship through our grandfather, who was born in Ireland.  Our mother was born an Irish citizen if she claims it as she is the daughter of and Irish resident.  We discovered we'd need a lot more paperwork and official documents to make it happen, but at least we know what we need and have the applications!  After the passport office, we got back on our Dublin City bus tour and began our day of meticulously planned stops and explorations.  We saw the cathedrals, St. Stevens Green, the General Post Office, the National Museum of Archeology, Cafe en Seine, and the Whiskey Shop all before heading back to our hotel to meet our tour guide and begin our official CIE tour at Dublin Castle.  We were given a tour and history lesson on the castle including admission to the Powder Tower excavation site where we got to go beneath the existing castle to the oldest remains of the old city and castle, which is kept behind lock and key.  Mom was very excited to get pictures of us in it, so much so that we missed the group and ended up locked inside the excavation site.  We pounded on the door on the brink of panic and thankfully our tour guide heard and came back for us.  We were careful not to fall behind again throughout the trip.  That night, we were bussed out to the suburbs of Dublin to enjoy dinner and a show at  The Merry Ploughboy.  It was a lovely evening of food and entertainment by and Irish band and Irish step dancers. At the point in the show where the dancers went into the crowd to find volunteers to dance with them, my mom pointed at me vigorously and surprise surprise, I was selected to dance on stage with them (for brief moments only, but nerve-racking enough!).  The night was great, but a bit long for having to be up at 6:30am the next morning... the Irish Coffees didn't help with the getting enough sleep thing...

The next day we were up and out by 8am, on our way South and West stopping at the Rock of Cashel and Blarney Castle on our way to Killarney.  The Rock of Cashel was basically a photoshoot and coffee stop.  We snapped some shots of the castle, were told it cost 6 euro to go inside the courtyard and take pictures, and grabbed tea and pie at the coffee shop before getting back on the bus to Blarney. We had two hours at Blarney, which we spent roaming the grounds, taking copious amounts of photos, and climbing the castle.  The castle was lovely and we couldn't have asked for a better day.  I was sweating in a t-shirt, which I didn't realize happened in Ireland.  We enjoyed the sun and the photo opps, and ended up kissing the Blarney Stone in hopes of the Gift of Gab (or maybe just because that's what you do at Blarney Castle when you're a tourist) in spite of our hygienic concerns.  After pressing our lips to that cold lover, we meandered through the Blarney Woolen Mills, trying in vein to find sweaters for a Christmas photo and, in my case, buying yarn.  When we finally finished there, it was clear we needed food, so food we got just in time to jump back on the bus (Sarah and mom even had to put their beers in to-go cups so they could finish them!).  After that, it was only a couple hours to Killarney, where we were to stay for the next couple nights.  Once we settled in, we went exploring some shops before dinner, where I found more yarn! and we learned that different families had different patterned sweaters to wear, which were far to expensive to buy.  After dinner, I met up with Athena who'd been in Killarney for a couple weeks in the midst of her European adventure.  We enjoyed a drink together and made plans to meet again the next night for a real night out.  That night we slept better, but getting up at 7am caused it to not be as restful as hoped.

In the morning, we ate rather quickly and hopped on the bus to head out for the Ring of Kerry.  Our first stop, before the rest of the "herd" (to quote our tour guide) of busses was at a golf course to take photos.  Unfortunately our group cannot tell time, and took to long, and so we were no longer ahead of the herd despite our early morning efforts.  Our next stop was at a very shnazzy gift shop where I purchased a lovely green scarf and they served us free Irish Coffees... hooray!  After that we wound through the mountains around the coast and ended up at a shepherd's place where he showed us his amazing sheep dogs and his different varieties of sheep.  After an underwhelming lunch, we got to see where the first transatlantic telegraph wire was laid and some beautiful cliff views.  After that, we were off to learn about the Skelligs before wending our way back around the bay and through the moutains, through the National Park, back to Killarney... I got a bit car sick at the end on the windy mountain roads, but fresh air fixed that rather quickly when we got back into town.  We got off the bus, used the restroom, and were back out for a carriage ride through the flat part of National Park, which was lovely!  We finally got back just after our reservation for dinner and boy did I need it!  We ate and I went upstairs, hoping for a quiet night, but ended up trying for a while to coordinate a meet up with Athena.  We finally worked it out after missing each other in the hotel and at an ice cream shop and we grabbed a drink at a local bar and commiserated about Cloyne.  Another long day, with only a couple more to go.

I'll stop here for now and let you and I both catch up before finishing the tale of our trip to Ireland.

Still to come: Bunratty, Connemara, Galway, Dublin, and a visit with our cousin Thecla who showed us some family history.

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