Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ireland - Land of folk lore and music

And the vacation continues with our Ireland leg of the journey.  Let's get it on!

Day 6 - Our Irvine, Scotland hotel was ten minutes from the ferry so after eating some de-lish Scottish potato pancakes (forgot camera in room - sorry Dana) and other breakfasty stuff we headed to the nearby Troon port for our first ferry trip of the vacation.  It started well enough with sunny skies and calm looking weather but once we boarded and settled into some seats the captain announced there was twenty knot winds and waves across the North Channel.  With this being my first bigger ferry ride I wasn't sure what to expect but figured it wasn't typical if they are announcing it over the PA system.  It wasn't bad at first but about halfway through the two hour trip the ferry started riding the waves up and down, up and down, up and down... you get the picture.  At one point I looked to the other side of the ferry and saw high water, then all sky, then high water, then all sky... you get the picture again.  It was so rough I was starting to wonder about the car parked below since we were parked on a slight decline.  Even worse was at one point (I was wandering the ferry at the time) Kalle sprinted to the bathroom and just barely arrived before losing her breakfast.  Poor Lori had to clean up the sink so she was a little nauseous for the rest of the ferry ride and into Northern Ireland a bit.  (Kalle felt great afterwards though.)  So once we arrived at Larne I was back at the helm as we drove up the Antrim Coast.  We did stick to the itinerary a little bit this day since we weren't coming back after reaching Belfast but it still was a moseying pace. 

About to board the big ferry, bumpy ferry ride plus Kalle equals empty stomach.

Driving the coast was one of my "activities" because of the scenic views.  It was worthwhile driving it most of the time but the weather wasn't always cooperating so the picture opportunities was pretty sparse.  We had alternating light rain, downpour, overcast, and sun throughout the day.  The temperature stayed in the mid 60's but overall we had lots of rain this day.  Our luck wasn't all bad though as the really heavy rain periods were all during driving times.

Driving the coastal route.  Clouds are about to open up and punish us.

More of the coast, rain is on and off by now.  Kind of a spooky fishing story feel as the fog shrouds the coast.

A sunny spot, here is the typical hillside farming and sheep pic. 

It's about lunchtime, we are hungry, the weather turns nice - sounds like a great time for lunch so we stopped at Harry's Restaurant in Cushendall.  The food was very good, I had fish and chips and the cod was maybe the best fish I have had over here.  Huge fillet that tenderly flaked onto my fork,  sooooo good.  Usually I avoid fish and chips because of the overwhelming greasy taste but this place looked nice so I chanced it.

View down a colourful street in Cushendall.  Stupid sun is just toying with us now.

Interesting mural.  This is an Irish game called hurling (harling).  You can read about it here on Wiki.  Think lacrosse played on a football pitch with a slightly different stick.

After lunch we resumed our journey to Giant's Causeway (link).  I first heard about this about ten years ago and it stayed in the back of my mind until we moved over here.  Not only did it look fun it is also a World Heritage sight and I have to admit all of the WH sites we have visited so far have been worthwhile.  Depending on who you ask the causeway was either formed 60 million years ago as a result of volcanic activity or it was formed by the giant Finn McCool to reach Scotland and his foe.  After seeing it in person I am in the McCool camp.  As far as I know this type of stone is unique to this little area so it had to be a giant.  Right?

Slight delay while the loose cattle mooed and meandered across the road a few times.  They were really sounding their displeasure once they were moo-ved back into their field.

Finally onto the causeway.  This was better than I expected and I did have high expectations for it.  The only bad part was the on and off again rain made walking on the stones a little tricky at times.  We just missed the thunderous downpour by five minutes so our rainy weather luck is still holding.  The poor people who were exiting the site as we were entering were soaked head to toe and not looking very happy about it. 

Like a volcano could make thousands of hexagonal stones and only in this place on earth.  Obviously the work of a giant.

The jacketed group finally makes it out for a picture.  Slow going on the slick rocks.

Okay, it is an excessive amount of pictures here but I really like this place.  Going to unique places like this has almost a magical feeling for me, plus it was a hit all around.  The only thing I would do differently was plan more time here and grab an audio guide as we missed a few of the formations like Giant's Boot on the walking tours.  The walking tours would have been great but we are pushing evening now and the itinerary is kicking in. 

Final close up of Finn's handywork.

Coast line pic as we travel to the death bridge.  Yeah sun!

Dunseverick Castle (link) ruin.

Overlooking Whitepark Bay.  Sun and rain clouds are still fighting for control of the sky.

Next stop was Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (link). Our camp was split, half were looking forward to it while the other half were "shakin' like a leaf on a tree" to quote Ronnie Van Zant.  To bad for them it would take more than three steps to cross the bridge.  The chasm it bridged is 30 metres (100 feet) deep and 20 metres (66 feet) wide and the bridge was pretty sturdy.  The bridge was traditionally used by fishermen to check their salmon nets while it is just a tour attraction now. The bridge itself was a little less dangerous than I expected while the views were as good as I expected. This Antrim Coast trip is looking good.

Bridge from a distance.  They just closed it due to the heavy rain as we approached the ticket stand but the sun came out by the time we walked to the bridge so the crossing guard let us through.  Side note on the bridge and causeway - both attractions are National Trust sites and since we are members both sites were free.  Double bonus baby!

Limestone cliff face.  See the white house on the left?  That's the car park and we aren't quite there yet.  They are making us work for this one.

The troop crossing the bridge.  We were so thankful the crossing guard re-opened the bridge.  The bridge itself was constantly moving and had an unsteadying roll and pitch to it (for the airplane folks in the audience) that did make it a bit exciting. 

Scenic death bridge shot from viewing area.

After the death bridge was our final stop, the Belfast Castle, which had a scenic view over the city.  My ass it did.  The castles are really starting to "p" me off now.  We started with two good ones in Scotland and have been snowballing downhill ever since.  I would call this one lame but that would be insulting the word.  The outside garden view was blocked by a bunch of trees and the second floor castle view was closed because of private parties in those rooms.  The castle and ferry ride are now battling for the Lame-o of the Day Award. 

Best part of the castle was this time line.

Great view of city my ass.  And it started raining again.  Brilliant! 

Whilst driving to the castle I found out that our BMW starts counting down the amount of petrol left in the tank from 30 miles.  And really quickly I might add while driving 80 mph with the A/C on.  We even whittled it down to 17 miles of petrol left in the tank at the castle.  Surprisingly Lori did not find this as interesting as me, maybe a lack of adventuring spirit?  Not to worry, we made it to the gas station with 15 miles to spare.  Not sure what she was worrying about.  I wasn't worried because if I had run out of fuel on the motorway I would have been dead so what's to worry about after that?

We stayed at the Radisson Blu hotel in Belfast which was a new chain for us.  Nice rooms and good experience overall.  We also opted to eat supper at the hotel since it was another late arrival and the rain was just picking on us at this point.  We don't often eat supper where we are staying but this trip's combination of late arrivals in unfamiliar towns with wet weather forced us to eat a few hotel/inn meals.  Fortunately they were all good so I guess I planned well (lucked out?) there.  And they had Guinness on tap - thus starts my Guinness diet.

Back to the sleeper sofa kids.

Dana Johnson pic - hotel dinner.  Bottom left eggplant/cheese/tomato sauce is mine, bottom right pizza is Kal's, Lori and Karl opted for pasta dishes.  Middle is an eggplant and cheese appetiser.  Good meals all around except the appetiser was overly cheesy.

Dana Johnson pic - Kalle's eggplant, onion and zucchini pizza.  She liked it. 

Day 7 - We started the day at Ben Foster's dream vacation day - the Titanic Quarter in Belfast.  I am sure he could have spent all day here. 
Clouds eating the mountain as we enter the Titanic Experience.  I am guessing Stephen King did this same tour just before he wrote The Mist.

In front of the giant Harland & Wolff cranes nicknamed Samson & Goliath (Wiki link).

Slipway where the Titanic keel was built.  All that is left of the gantry cranes are these beams.

Titanic trivia for Ben.

Our first inside stop was the Titanic Experience (link).  The exhibit was broken into nine galleries and they were all full.  I mean constantly bumping into people full in some of them.  The exhibit was well done and very informative; some interactive parts, TONNES of reading material, movies of the ship, just a lot to check out.  But I did have low expectations coming into it so back to that initial expectations curve.  We all enjoyed it so that's what counts I guess.

The fam "Where's Waldo-ing" in front of the building.  See the four silver corners of the building?  Those are built to the exact size of the ship's bow.

Shakes the Clown must have grabbed my camera at some point.  Holy cow are some of these blurry pictures embarrassing.  I think the blurry ones were in the busier galleries where I was hurrying to snap pics before someone stepped in front of me.  Sorry about the quality.  This pic is about aerated water drinks from the mid 1800's.

Ship building info board.

Part of the exhibit was sitting in a little cable car and moving through the construction of the ship.  Great idea but the different sections were close to each other and each section had a loudspeaker overhead telling you about the exhibit which caused duelling loudspeakers at the beginning and end of each section.  This pic shows the riveting process - two means hammering the head while one man backed the rivet.

Picture of the slipway from earlier.

Just in case Ben isn't sure what a keel is.

The launching of the Titanic was a big deal.  H&W planned on building three Olympic class liners and this was one of them.  Workers were given the day off, the town came down to the docks to see it, J.P. Morgan even came over from America to see it since he financed some of the Olympic class liners project.  They took a movie of it, this is the actual video of the ship launching off of the dock (we'll see the dock and pump house later).

I bet Ben didn't know this.

Still photo of the Titanic clearing the dock.

I found this interesting.  The Olympic and Titanic are two of the three Olympic class liners.

First Class Cabin - this was more luxurious than most hotels at the time per the literature.

The Second Class Cabin - as good as other ships first class cabins per the literature.

The Third Class Cabin - better than the dormitories on other ships per the literature.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown - I first learned about her when Kathy Tossava took me to tour her house in Colorado a few years ago (more like 15 years but whose counting).  After the disaster she advocated better life boat procedures and boarding families together instead of women and children first.

More Ben Foster trivia.

The family in front of the last photograph taken of the Titanic on April 11th.  From the tour - A man named Frank Browne was a passenger and camera nut so he took a lot of photos of the ship.  He was studying for the clergy and was going to America.  Before leaving one of the ports he befriended a gentleman who offered to pay for his fare.  When Browne's superior found out about the offer he order Browne off the ship which ended up saving Browne's life and the photographs.  

The third Olympic class liner.

Olympic info board.

Bruce Ismay was a H&W executive on the ship.  At the inquiry the captain was found to be speeding when they hit the iceberg, one of the reasons for speeding was thought to be to impress Ismay.  The captain went down his ship while Ismay took a life boat and was persecuted for it for the rest of his life. On a side note from another info board - later in 1943 Nazi censors pulled the firm from circulation when German people sympathised too much with the British passengers.

One of the galleries showed the underwater wreckage footage of the ship.

Picture of the captains personal bathtub.  His was one of the few with running hot and cold water.

They also had interactive screens which allowed you to search the debris field to see where items were discovered.

Slipway where the Titanic keel was layed with the building in the background.

After the Titanic Experience was the Titanic Dock & Pump House (link).  This was a little run down but it was the actual dock and pump house so it had the authentic feel to it.  Reminded me of touring The Rock in SF with Tammy and Jim.

The pump house.  There are some people cut outs down there to give you a perspective on size.

The Dock from where it was launched in the photos from inside the Titanic Experience.  Impossible to imagine what a ship the size of Titanic would look like in here but a few pictures later will capture it.  Note Lori wrapped in the rain jacket - yup its raining again.

Final steel hull process before launching.

An interesting visual perspective.

Dock & Pump House Info, part 1.

Dock & Pump House Info, part 2.  I'm sure the engineers in my audience will find it as interesting as I did.

The Olympic in the dock.  Check out the Pump House on the left.

A tanker launched from the dock.
We skipped the Titanic Walking Tour (link) because it is at set times and we weren't close to one of those times when we exited the Experience.  So we just went to the Dock and Pump House ourselves (see above pictures) then motored to our next stop, The Crown Bar Saloon (link).  It is a Victorian era (mid to late 1800's which is when Queen Victoria ruled) saloon that was restored and is now a National Trust site.  Unlike other NT sites this doesn't require membership to enter, surprisingly they do well enough on their own.  Selling beer probably helps a little I imagine. 

                                                                  The front door and facade.

One of the side doors - check out the window.

Sweet wood panelling and glass on one of the booths.
Ceiling and bar with camera flash.

Ceiling, windows and booths.  The lighting was pretty poor in here to preserve the wood, glass, etc. I imagine which made for some pretty poor pictures.  Using the flash helped some but it also created a lot of shadows on the carvings.  The SRO seating didn't help either but I can see why it was packed.

Kevin Coleman pic - During my trip research it said to stop and have a Guinness here and look at the Opera House across the street.   Check. 
Thus ends my itinerary for Belfast so it is free time from here on out - am I grand or what?  They can't complain about my itinerary today... I hope.  By now it's lunch time.  Lori works with a lady from Northern Ireland so she gave us a few suggestions - thanks for the help Rachel, it was much appreciated and useful.  One was the rope bridge which I was on the fence about, another was food places in Belfast.  And did she do good here.  My readers know that I am a little better than 50/50 on eating places so I appreciate all the help I can get from the locals.  For this portion of our self guided we took our SatNav, set it to walking mode and started looking for the restaurant suggestions Rachel gave us.  Actually Lori and the kids did it while I was savouring my Guinness and soaking in the Crown Bar.  Might as well I figured since it probably will be some time before I go to another Victorian saloon.  They found a close place called Ten Square (restaurant link) so we set off to find it.  It is a nicer style hotel that also has a nicer bar area that serves meals.    

Dana Johnson pic - Kalle's sliders on top left, Lori's mint and pea soup on upper right, Karl's burger on bottom right, my fish and chips on bottom left.  How can you not order something that reads "comes wrapped in a newspaper" on the menu?  We all liked our food which is rare.  Thanks again Rachel.

Fish and chips unwrapped - the tartare sauce was excellent and the rest was very good.   

The skyline dominating City Hall.  I liked the Olympic Rings which reminded my of the football match road trip with Steve.
Since we were in free wheeling mode the rest of the day we set out in search of the plastic fiver bank note Northern Ireland used to circulate.  We quickly found out it is not in circulation any more but also found out that Northern Ireland had multiple bank that produce banknotes that are also legal tender.  I'm such a money newb.  (We started collected coins from different countries as keepsakes and have expanded it to banknotes as well.)  Here is a Wiki link on the differences.  To make it better we also found out that Scotland makes their own banknotes also.  Check out the pound sterling Wiki link here.  Wish I had known that when we were in Scotland.  So we acted like newb tourists and stood in line at a bank to see the next available teller.  I very briefly explained our situation and asked the teller if we could exchange any English banknotes for N. Irish or Scottish that he had in his till.  After eyeing us up for a few seconds and contemplating pushing the red panic button he obliged us with a "can't wait to tell this story to my co-workers" look on his face.  So we finally left with some Scottish and N. Irish banknotes.  Success! 
Next up on our day was a ride on the HO-HO (Hop On - Hop Off) city sightseeing bus (link).  Rachel suggested this also so we figured we'd just roll with her recommendations as they were working so far.  I did a HO-HO in London with Brandon and it worked out there so why not try it again?  Plus I wanted to see the Belfast Peace Walls Murals (double secret stretch goal - don't tell) so this seemed like a good way to do it.  And it turned out great - thanks again Rachel.

Albert Memorial Clock (link), the tour guide said all four faces show a different time. 

Abandoned hospital whose name I forget.  I forget the exact details but during the decades long fighting between the loyalists and republicans they figured out that hospitals weren't a safe place to hide when assassins dressed up as doctors went into a wounded persons room here and killed him.
The start of the Shankill Road murals.  These were amazing to see.  Shankill is the loyalists area.

Artists at work.

More murals.

Lots of military tributes.

Diamond Jubilee mural.

Personal tributes were very popular.

I forget his name and party but he was an early and important leader for his party.

Hunger strikers mural.

Mural on the Falls Road - The tour guide said he was the last person to be elected to parliament while in prison.  Shankill Road had a lot more murals than the Falls Road.  The Falls area is republican.

Police station - check out the fencing protecting it from attacks.  Not sure I'd want to be a police officer over here.

The smallest park in Belfast.

The Europa Hotel - the most bombed hotel in Europe per the guide.  Thirty bombs have gone off here and seventy bombs were found here during the fighting.
Lots of great sights to see even if a lot of them weren't photo ops plus it didn't rain in the afternoon so the HO-HO experience was fun for everyone.  After the tour was a walk through the Victoria Mall that had this funky looking stairwell/viewing platform.  Of course we climbed it but the view wasn't as good from the top as from the bottom.

I think every mall should have something like this in the middle of it.
Day 8 - Today was split between Northern Ireland and Ireland.  We lazily woke up and headed down to the Down Cathedral (link), commonly thought to be the burial spot to St. Patrick.  We are neither Catholic or Irish but I figured it he has a worldwide holiday he might as well stop by and say hi.  Funny story of the trip was when two older US tourists stopped us and asked where St. Patrick's grave was.  After telling them we weren't sure and had just arrived ourselves the third member of their party walks up, looks at my Chicago shirt, and says to the guy who asked us where the grave was "way to ask the locals where the grave is".  May have been one of those had to be there moments but I thought it was pretty funny.

Driving up to Down Cathedral.

St. Patrick's burial marker.  He is thought to be buried somewhere under the cathedral but they aren't exactly sure where.  The "experts" do agree that he was buried on this little hill though.
The far off mountains are the Mourne Mountains, the inspiration for C.S. Lewis's world of Narnia.  We drove the coastal route to Dublin to get better views of them but it just wasn't meant to be.  Put this on my list of "wish we had another day to explore" places.

An old high cross base now used as a baptismal font.  Since I am becoming a church/cathedral snob I have started paying attention to the baptismal fonts.

The life of St. Patrick.

The Altar.

The required stained glass pic.

Random coastal town by Mourne Mountains.

Coast line meets Mourne Mountains.

Welcome to Ireland!  For once Lori isn't speeding.  Oh wait, that's km/hr so she is speeding.  Not that she drives fast, its just that the bugs don't splat on her windshield, they pulverise.  JK Lor, you done good.

Our lone Ireland scenery pic.  Due to our short stay we didn't get to see much of Ireland.  Maybe we will make it to Cork so Lori can kiss the Blarney Stone.
So after arriving in Dublin in the early afternoon we checked into our Jurys Inn hotel and started walking.  Public transportation didn't work for our hotel location so we ended up hoofing it all over Dublin which was fine.  We chose Dublin as part of this trip mainly because of the ferry location.  We did enjoy our time here but the city had the big touristy city feel which we have come to not like.  Everyone was walking with tourist maps in hand (including us), lots of areas smelled bad and it was very expensive (my wallet would whimper softly every time I opened it).  It reminded us of Amsterdam, London and Copenhagen - nice places but not trip highlights.  We did figure out that Jurys Inn hotels are not for us.  Poor breakfasts plus small pull out sleeper sofas plus small, bare rooms are not worth staying at even if we aren't in the hotels for long.  On the plus side we had upper 60's and sun the whole day so we just soaked that right up.    

The O'Connell Monument (link).  He is an Irish nationalist and politician who had an often repeated (by Irishmen) exchange with the Duke of Wellington during Parliament.  The Duke was born in Dublin and went onto politics in England as well but wasn't the nationalist O'Connell was (Ireland was trying to break free of Great Britain at the time).  I forget the verbatim wording but one time the Duke was asked if he was from Dublin so he replied - just because one is born in a stable does not make one a horse.  Supposedly O'Connell stood right up and replied - sir, it may not make one a horse but it may make one an ass.  I guess politics have always been interesting.  The Duke is the English national hero whose funeral drew a million plus people to St. Paul's Cathedral for those who missed my London blog post.

The Ha' Penny Bridge, so called because it cost half a penny to cross it at one point.

View down Liffey River.
Our fist stop was Christ Church Cathedral (see Tammy we aren't totally done with cathedrals).  You can read about it here.  It was founded in 1030 AD but the existing structure is from the 1800's. 

Floor pattern.

Strongbow (Wiki link) Tomb.  Not original but dates to medieval times.  He was a warlord in the 1100's.  Now he just brews cider.

The little tomb is thought to be a child's even though it is wearing chain mail.

Monument in the crypt.  They had a treasury as well down here containing 1500-1800's dining silvery and coins but no pictures allowed.  Sorry.

The Cat and the Rat, read below.

We'll meet James Joyce later.

The creepy heart box, read below.

The actual heart has been moved but the box remains.  Not sure if it is just me but keeping a human heart on display in a church classifies as creepy in my book.

A side altar.

The main altar.
Read below.

See above.

Obligatory stained glass pic.

The outside of Christ Church Cathedral.
Back to back cathedrals!  The kids are feeling pretty special right about now.  St. Patrick's Cathedral and College (link) was basically next door so we all happily trudged down the road.  From the website, the present church dates to 1220 AD but there were previous buildings on the site.  I love the history on our trips.    

The well site where Patrick baptised converts on his trip to Dublin.  Inside the cathedral were some old stone markers they found underground here which leads them to think this is the spot.  The original church was built next to the well spot on purpose.

The group in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral.  We are in the garden now, would have been nice have brought a little picnic type lunch and enjoyed the weather but it is a little tough planning for the weather a couple months out let alone a couple days. 

Inside the cathedral looking at the altar.

Jonathan Swift was the Dean of the college.  His name sounded annoyingly familiar but I couldn't place until our HO-HO ride the next day.  He wrote Gulliver's Travels among other books.

Stained glass telling part of St. Patrick's life.

Main altar close up with a random tourist.

As in most cathedrals here there are all of these self important monuments to "deserving" individuals.  Here are a couple of war memorials to people who sacrificed and really deserve to be remembered.

1271 AD if I am reading the numerals correctly.

Close up of a deserving memorial.

"Deserving" i.e. rich, family memorial.

Not sure who the guy on the left is but he is holding a sword.  Typically stained glass pictures do not include swords and the ones I have seen with swords always show a fighting knight brandishing it.  Not sure why a robed figure would be holding a sword.

Baptismal font area.

On our walk to the final stop we intentionally walked past this original town wall dating to 1240 AD.  Yes I did walk up and touch it like a little kid.
Our final stop was The Brazen Head Pub (link), Ireland's oldest pub dating to 1198 AD.  (On this trip Lori asked why we are always going to the oldest pub in each place.  I actually look for the oldest building in each place regardless of what it is but the oldest buildings always turn out being castles, cathedrals or pubs so that's what we see.)  Obviously a stopping point on the Guinness sampling tour, much to Lori and the kids delight.  I even learned a little local history from a friendly chap.  This is not the original building.  They know there was a pub along this road dating to 1198 from the city liquor license records and they know the pub was on this street somewhere because of the address.  But because of the river path over the years and river wall erection which modified the street layout they can not pinpoint the exact building location.  Makes Ye Olde Trip in Nottingham that much more impressive in my book.

Stupid flowers blocking the sign.  Is this a pub or a garden centre?

Can't think of the last time I saw a picture of an animal enjoying its second pint of beer.

Kevin Coleman pic - even better in Ireland.

See Lori - Guinness is good for you.

A little local Purdue flavour on the wall.

Handel's house.  I am the token cultured member of the family I think.  I saw this on the map so we walked by it on the way to the hotel and I said this is Handel's house.  Everyone said who?  I said Handel who composed Messiah, Handel's Messiah, a famous classical piece.  And everyone said who?  <Sigh>  So difficult being cultured.  Thanks for making your unappreciative mouthy teenage sons listen to your music dad, I didn't appreciate it at the time but I really enjoy classical music and also news programs now.  Hopefully I will be able to pass onto my kids a fraction of the lessons you and mom passed on to me.  
Day 9 - Sunday was our last vacation full day before heading home on Monday.  Our only itinerary items today were Trinity College and Dublin Castle.  No complaints about the rigid itinerary today.

The General Post Office.  It was on a few tourist sites and on the city tourist map but I was thinking, a post office - who wants to go there.  Then we stopped by.  Oh my this is impressive.  I even recognised the palladian architecture style influence from our Bath walking tour.  I is learning Ma!
In the Post Office window, see below.
My Irish folk lore education continues.

Famous Dublin literary son James Joyce.  I read somewhere that once he left Ireland to start writing he never returned.  Not sure if it is true or not but I find it ironic funny that the city loves someone so much even though he seemingly never wanted to return.   

Next stop - Trinity College (link).  The college was founded in 1592 which is simply amazing to me.  We stopped by to look at the Book of Kells and Old Library (link).  The Book of Kells is the four gospels written in Latin and dates to 800 AD.  The Old Library contains the Long Room, a 65 meter (213 foot) room containing over 200,000 books.  Both were oh so impressive but once again no pictures.  I really love these old historical stops but would kill to take a few pictures now and then.  Reading about the book was fascinating, seeing the writing styles especially.  Back then there was a writer and an artist.  The writer would put down the text then the artist would fill the white space of the page with colourful symbols or even decorate around a word (here are some examples).  Fascinating work that reminded me of Israel when our guide told us that Hebrew writing does not change over time and the scribes' work is always checked to make they are following the writing standard.  Work found to contain errors must be redone.  But back to Dublin - I would love to go on about both sights but without pictures it is hard to describe.  If you ever go to Dublin check out the Book of Kells and Old Library is about all I can say. 

Entrance to the college.

Courtyard inside college.
Molly Malone.  She was a fishmonger by day and prostitute by night.  No idea why she would have a statue.  We tried the HO-HO later and the guide said some claimed her to be celibate.  Sell a bit here, sell a bit there...
It's lunchtime so we went to the Temple Bar area to try a place called Gallagher's Boxty House (link).  It advertised traditional Irish food on its website so we tried it out.

Kevin Coleman pic - another of the fine stouts I found on this trip.  Why can't England make a good stout?  Frustrating.

Dana Johnson pic - home run!  Everyone else tried Irish potato dumpling dishes while I had an Irish potato pancake filled with corned beef and cabbage.  It tasted SO good.  I wonder if they deliver to Littleover?
After stuffing our selves on the great food we set off to check out a HO - HO bus since we liked the Belfast ride so much.  Okay experience but not as good for some reason.  Kalle even fell asleep.  Spellbinding would not be an appropriate word to describe it.  It is a great way to see the city in a short period of time though.

Check it out Brogans!  Denny and Pam could have had a drink with their Irish cousins if they were with us.

Guinness storehouse.  The bus emptied here then filled to capacity with the driver have to stop people from getting on.  I democratically asked if anyone wanted to tour it but no takers.

Second tallest obelisk in the world per the driver.  Washington Monument in DC is the tallest.

Gate leading to Dan Rooney's residence.  Rooney is the American ambassador to Ireland and patriarch of the Pittsburgh Steelers owning Rooney family.

President of Ireland's residence.  Flag is up, he must be in.

Ryan's bar where Presidents Bush Sr., Bush Jr., and Reagen had a pint of Guinness.  Apparently they didn't go past wherever President Obama had his pint since it wasn't mentioned.

Wonder what the job is.
Next up on our grab bag day was the National Wax Museum (link).  Smaller museum which was a little disappointing for Lori but okay for me.  Difference in expectations I guess.

James Joyce.

Oscar Wilde (Wiki link).


Dublin trivia.

Olaf the White.

Oliver Cromwell (Wiki link) who is know by some for leaving a trail of Irish blood in his wake when he came over to conquer the Catholics in Ireland.  Other saw him as trying to unite England, Scotland and Ireland.  

Michael Collins (Wiki link), another Hollywood movie by Liam Neeson. 
The infamously bloodthirsty Black & Tans.
Black & Tan info.

The Irishman Bram Stoker's (Wiki link) Dracula.

Also in the museum was this Irishmen's scientific discoveries room which I found more interesting than the wax figures.  Here's Lord Kelvin.

Lord Kelvin part 2.

Okay okay, this is the last science pic.

The Scottish born Harry Potter (no Wiki link needed).

The English Bob the Builder (Wiki link).  It annoyed some of Lori's co-workers when she told them Bob has an American accent in America.  I didn't even know Bob was a Brit.

The Northern Irish footballer George Best (Wiki link).

I've never heard of him but my fut-bol knowledge is terrible at best.  We did see his mural in Belfast though. 

Vegas Elvis baby!  No Wiki link needed here either.

U2 formed in Dublin.

And what's a museum in Ireland without a leprechaun?
Dublin Castle (link) sounded neat.  Dates back to 1204 AD so we checked it out.

And our terrible castle tour continues.  This round tower was the only surviving structure.  Plus you had to book a guided tour to get inside. 

But it did have some awesome sand sculptures inside the courtyard.  Here's the front of one.
Here's the back of the same sculpture.
And its meaning. 

In the Temple Bar district was the Temple Bar but we didn't eat there.  It was PACKED.  We did buy a tee shirt though.

Hurling was on TV in the restaurant.  Never heard of it before and now I see it twice in a weekend.

Dana Johnson pic - Bangers and Mash for my last Irish meal seemed appropriate.  Irish bangers are not any better than English bangers.
After dinner and more strolling in the Temple Bar district we headed to the hotel for an early night since it was Sunday, places are closing, and my itinerary was done.  It's pretty rare that we are in the hotel by 6:30 PM on our trips but we were all getting a little tired by now.  When we finally bunked down for the night I noticed a harp on the back of one of the Euro coins.  I know that I am coin collecting newb and also know that the harp is the symbol of Ireland so I was wondering if all of the Euro countries have different backs.  Karl confirmed it with a quick internet search.  I am such a newb!  Wish I had known that in Finland and Netherlands.  So Lori went down and traded for more Irish Euro coins.  At least we know that going into France this weekend.  
Day 10 - Take an uneventful ferry ride, drive home, rest, start laundry - what an end to the vacation.  We ended up driving 159 miles in Ireland/North Wales/to home, 270 miles in Northern Ireland, and 898 miles to/in Scotland for a grand total of 1,327 miles.  The car said we averaged 34 mpg on our trip on its little info board.  A lot of car time but it was worth it for everything we saw and did. 

A token North Wales pic from our ride home.  Just as beautiful as the first time.
Teenager KJ - liked William Wallace Monument and Camera Obscura; disliked how long the vacation was and that everything was similar to England.
KK - liked Camera Obscura, Fringe Festival, Giant's Causeway, Rope Bridge, Menzies hotel room & food, Trinity College, Belfast HO - HO, Elephant House, Loch Ness, 27 Restaurant (steak place at base of Inverness Castle), Cable Car Ride, and Sea Life Sanctuary.
Lori - liked Giant's Causeway, Rope Bridge, Titanic Experience, Crown Bar Saloon, Belfast HO - HO, Trinity College, Dublin HO - HO, the scenery from all of the driving, Camera Obscura, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, Restaurant 27 steak, Cable Car Ride; disliked bumpy ferry ride, Belfast Castle.
Jay - liked Fringe Festival, Camera Obscura, the scenery from all of the driving, Highlands lochs/mountains/clouds, Restaurant 27 steak, all of Northern Ireland except for Belfast Castle, Dublin cathedrals, Trinity College, Dublin food & Guinness; disliked all castles except Edinburgh & Stirling, not having a structured itinerary which led to a few poor attractions.  
And I'm done in time to get ready for Paris tomorrow.  Can't wait.  See y'all in a week!

Thanks for listening,


  1. Nice job, Jay. I was wondering what was taking so long . . .

    Looks like the N. Ireland bits in particular the Giants Causeway were really nice. Dublin doesn't hold much interest to me though. Southwest Ireland is really nice if you get the chance (I know, probably not . . .)

    Have fun (and a good plan!) in Paris.

  2. We loved the Scottish Highlands and Northern Ireland. Dublin was basically just in the way although it did have some good parts. I think I'll have to settle for your picks of SW Ireland unfortunately.

  3. Ben thoroughly enjoyed seeing Titanic through you guys! I have no doubt he will expect a full, in person account from you someday. And you are absolutely right, he would have wanted to spend the entire day there. Your godson is following in big brothers footsteps with the ship obsession - his is more broad to encompass all the Great Lakes freighters rather than being ship specific like Ben's! In very typical kid fashion Ben asked, "Did they send my Titanic gift to me yet?" Kids - I said no, he might expect to get it once you're back and can deliver it in person - that shut him down on the subject.

    Glad that you're not done with cathedrals either! There are just so many more out there, right.

    Stick to the itinerary, I say! A well thought out plan can only yield better than average results! I think your stretch goals are always a good thing! Tell Lori that I'm sorry for saying that. Enjoy Paris!