Monday, March 9, 2009

Vacation, Part 2: The General Area of Dublin

The second section of our trip began with our waking up at 3:45 in the morning so that we could take a cab to a bus station, so we could take the bus to the airport, so we could take our airplane to Ireland and then another bus into Dublin. Needless to say we were a little sleepy upon arrival. Oh and by the way, again my SA knife wasn't caught at security check, I was slightly relieved, but at the same time a little worried about airport security. But moving on, on the way to the airport, we ate some rolls with the rest of the colis poured in the middle of them for breakfast, since I couldn’t take that much liquid through the airport. It was a bit like the healthy version of jelly donut, and surprisingly decent as far as breakfast food goes. Once in the actual city we got our euros back out, which was nice since the pound is a bit high right now and then we found tourist information. After grabbing a few maps and free guide pamphlets we went looking for one of the hostels on our list and found one pretty quick. It was actually really nice and I think my view of hostels is a bit skewed now. It was clean, not too loud, had wireless I could use, and they fed us real breakfasts with lots of food. It was fun. After all our things were situated we went out into the city wandering to find whatever we could find. It was around lunch time so our main goal was to find something worth eating. That however, didn’t go well and we ended up just wandering in a couple circles before deciding to just catch the bus that would take us to the Botanical Gardens. We hoped that we’d see something worth eating on the way there. I’d also like to mention that the Dublin and England buses are a little hard to navigate if you don’t already know where you’re going. There’s no list of stops on their route for you to take and no display or announcements on the bus itself to tell you where you are. Thus you kind of have to use a little bit of common sense, observation skills and luck to get wherever you need to go. After a little bit on the bus we saw the entry sign for the gardens and had to press the stop button quick and hop off. Then, because I made the guess as to which way to go, we went the wrong direction. By the time we figured out that we weren’t going to get into the park by walking the direction we were going, we thought maybe we had gone far enough that it would be wrapping around into a circle so we kept going that way. This was the wrong choice seeing as roads in Europe rarely make since and this one must have been spiraling out, so no circle was going to be made, regardless of how far we kept going. Thus we turned around and walked the whole way back to find out that the entry was only a few yards in the other direction. We were quite tired and hungry by the time we made it inside, and here we ran into some luck with a cafeteria type place inside the gardens where we could eat. So eat we did, then we went to see the actual gardens we’d worked so hard to find. And, while the gardens were probably very similar to one that could be found in the States they were still really fun to see. Lindsey and I both took lots and lots of photos of all the flowers, they had an orchid house, a tropical house, a house with lots of different aloe plants, which I thought were cool, and loads of other things. By the time we were done looking through the green houses the park was about to close, so we decided there wasn’t time to explore the grounds and see the outside part of the park. This was a little sad, but really we wanted to get back into the city and see more of things that we can’t find normally in the states. So we wandered around the city a little bit more and found a tea house we decided to try and see if it held a candle to Lee Rosy’s. In fact it did not. It was a bit strange of a place. Someplace that could have been cool, but was kind of trying to hard. Plus some of the decorating was done very badly with cheep materials and all I could think of was that I could have done a better job of nailing the fake plyboard like bamboo imitation stuff to the walls and sanding down the self which was all rough. Plus, in the room we were in, the furniture was very off, one couch was all one color with matching pillows and a matching armchair, but the other couch very well could have just been bare cushions that had those African influenced died fabric things put over them as covers. Didn’t work well at all. But it did have potential. Lindsey and I decided that given a little bit of funds and a few weeks, we could have made it look much, much better. Plus the tea wasn’t as good, it was more expensive, and there was less of it. So basically I’m ruined for other tea shops for the rest of my life. Since we were so beat, we found some Chinese ‘Take Away’ as they call it there and went back to the hostel to chill and eat and then sleep a little. Hey, before you judge, remember we woke up at 3:45 that morning, we did pretty good under the circumstances I think, so back off!

Any who, on Wednesday we slept in later and ate our first full free breakfast, which we found out later was traditional English style, meaning it was an egg over hard, sausages, English bacon, which is like really fatty warmed up ham slices, baked beans and some hash browns. We also got to help ourselves to toast, cereal, milk, tea and coffee as we saw fit. Needless to say we ate our fill so as to provide a little leniency with the necessity for lunch at a certain time. This day we had decided to go see a little bit of the Irish coast line north of the city and work our way south in the same manner as recommended by a site that we’d found on the internet for hikers. So we had a bit of difficulty finding the bus we needed since it must be only one of about five out of fifty that doesn’t stop on the main road of the city, and the direction we needed was even further away than the stop for the opposite direction. Grrr. But we found it and made it to Howth, a peninsula just north of Dublin that we planned to walk around. And we did. Along the way we found a few pebble filled beaches, a long stretch of stone wall, several cliffs, and a couple light houses. It was quite fun to get out of a city for a while and see the Irish countryside. Plus it was fun to do some hiking. I just added a couple ‘pictures’ to the Dublin album which show a google map of where we were and the path we hiked. It was a good 4 miles at least. The guide we’d found recommended some other hiking south of the city as well, but by the time we made it back to the city we still needed to find our late lunch so we did, then went back to the hostel to drop off the extra stuff we’d gotten for snacks later during traveling and then decided to just rest so that we could go out later, since we thought it was a bit late and getting a little too dark to make another hike worth it. So we rested a little until later in the afternoon and then went to go find some dinner and a small pub to relax in a while. When we got back to the hostel later that evening, we got a bit of a surprise when some of the other IES students we knew showed up. It was quite the coincidence that of all the hostels in Dublin we happened to end up in the same one at the same time, and in the same room to boot. So we swapped travel stories up to that point and chatted for a while and compared plans for the next day before heading off to sleep.

For our third day in Dublin we decided to actually stay in the city and see some of the more touristy, normal things that you’re supposed to see when you go there. One of our fellow IES friends from the other group wanted to go see the old Jameson Whiskey Distillery, so we decided to join her. Thus we were up relatively early to grab breakfast and get there in time for the first tour of the day. After seeing the old distillery, which no longer makes the Jameson Whiskey (that distillery is in Middleton near Cork, Ireland) and learning a bit about how the three different main types of whiskey are made (American, Scotch, and Irish) we all got to participate in a taste test. Normally they ask for eight volunteers, but seeing as we were the first group of the day and there were only nine of us, they let us all participate. They gave us all samples of the three different main types, and let us see for ourselves the differences. Then they gave us a complementary glass of Jameson. So, we started off our day properly and now know a bit more about whiskey than any of us had before. After this we took to the streets to find some of the more historic buildings in Dublin, such as the castle and Trinity College. The castle was a bit of a let down seeing as it’s surrounded by parking lot, but Trinity was really pretty, I just feel bad for the students who have to deal with dumb tourists wandering around their school all the time. Eventually we made it back to the hostel to rest a bit before dinner. For which we found a cool little restaurant which offered quote, “Traditional Irish Cuisine” which didn’t really seem that different from normal cuisine, but was very good, I especially liked the brown bread they served, it was awesome! Which brings me to a small side note, I think if it were possible to be addicted to bread, I would be. In fact when taking my case into consideration I think addiction to bread is not only possible but a serious affliction for which some sort of support group might be required. Living in France has not helped this addiction, rather it’s equivalent to placing a coke addict in a home stay with a drug family in Columbia. But this is really neither here nor there; I’m just making an observation. After dinner we went out to find a pint of Guinness, because after all we were in Dublin and I think it would have been sacrilegious to go there and not order Guinness in an authentic Irish pub. Of which we found one which was playing live music and was quite fun. And thus our day started with authentic Irish alcohol and ended with it as we went back relatively early so that we could manage to wake up in time to make it to the airport to catch our 7:30 plane to London.

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