Wednesday, March 31, 2010

adventures in ireland.

Finally! The internet is cooperating and I have enough time to upload the millions of photos from the first part of my spring break trip in Ireland.

Everything started entirely too early, at 4 AM on Friday, March 19 when my roommate, Marissa, and I went to catch the earliest train possible, because it was 16 euro cheaper than the later train. It all went swimmingly and we ended up at the airport with a couple of hours to spare (as the plan went) so I slept on my luggage until my gate opened. Flight was caught without incident, and we landed, again, without incident. Slight problems finding our hostel, but we found it eventually.

At this point of course, we were starving, so we hit the streets, looking for the greasiest pub food we could find. Along the way...

The Spire.

We thought this was a winner...until the pub was FULL of men who stared at us when we walked in. Next, please.


It's James Joyce! He was from Dublin, obviously.


Yep, we are definitely in Ireland.


Street band.


The River Liffey.


Being in the UK means...driving on the wrong side of the road, and almost getting hit multiple times by cars and buses and taxis...

After grubbing and going back to the hostel to get ready, we went out on the town and found...Temple Bar! It's the most touristy area of town, probably, but totally full of fun pubs and bars and restaurants. Our first night out was a bit of a failure, in that we couldn't find the young people. Literally every pub was full of old men watching rugby games. And some cashier at one of the bars told us that people our age in Ireland "don't drink or go out".....lies.

The next day we walked around a bit...




Before heading to the Guiness Storehouse, where we spent the rest of our afternoon.




We learned about how Guinness is made.



Played around in the advertising exhibit...





Then we got to pour our own pints! The secret is pouring the beer most of the way full, allowing it to settle, and then topping it off to give it the famous "head" of fluffy foam.


Art.

After pouring our pints, we made our way to the top of the Storehouse, where the Gravity Bar is located. Its walls are completely made of glass, giving a panoramic view of the city.


We made some friends in the bar, hung out for awhile, drank some Guiness, then headed back to Temple Bar for some food and to watch the end of the epic Ireland-Scotland rugby game (which Ireland lost...sad day). After that, we headed home and went to bed early.
We woke up the next morning and headed out for a traditional Irish breakfast...sausage, potatoes, beans, toast, bacon, coffee, the works. It was delicousss and carried us straight through lunch. After breakfast, we decided to see all of the sights of the city.


The Joyce School of Language! Not a typical tourist attraction, but interesting to the nerdy English major in me.

Some pretty bridge.

We ended up walking all the way from one side of the city to the other in order to find Phoenix Park, which I'm pretty sure is Europe's largest park. It is (I think) something like 3 times the size of Central Park in NYC, measuring more than 6 kilometers across. So we rented some bikes and hit the trails!



Such a gorgeous day.

This monument was erected in 1979 in honor of a visit from Pope John Paul II.

And...what are those?!


Wild deer, of course! The park is famous for its herd, numbering over 500.



The Wellington Monument.

After that we walked across the River Liffey towards...

Christchurch.

And St. Patrick's Cathedral.



Dublin Castle...which was actually kind of lame.



Obviously.

Flower stand on Grant Street.


The trip to Dublin was a blast. Guinesses and Irish Car Bombs for all!
The next morning, on Monday the 22nd, I got up, checked out of the hostel, and caught a bus to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, famous for its conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants. This clash began way back in the 1500 or 1600's (if I remember correctly) but still wages on today, though on a lesser scale. Unfortunately, my camera battery died while I was there and I was unable to charge it until I got to London on Tuesday night so my Belfast photos are limited in scope.
I started with a visit to Queen's University, largely recognized as the most beautiful in the UK.


After that I got some lunch and walked toward the city center, where I encountered...

City Hall and the "Belfast Aye,"' a spinoff of London's famous Eye. I didn't ride this one, though, on recommendation from my hostel owner who said it was a waste of money.


More City Hall...

St. Anne's Church and its Spire of Hope. I actually don't know the story behind this, so you'll have to do some research, I guess...

Front of the church.

Then, purely by coincidence, I ran into the John Hewitt Pub which is apparently famous in Belfast, so of course I stopped for a pint of cider. Only in the UK is it completely normal to start drinking at 3 PM.


Then...my camera died. I also took a walk around the Botanic Gardens (where I saw a border collie so reminiscent of Tech that I just had to say hi), visited the Ulster Museum, where I learned a bit about Belfast history, and went to a cupcake store near the city center recommended by a certain Irish friend of mine. The cupcake was DELICIOUS...banana cake with nutella frosting. Mmmm.


The next day I had time to do a little souveneir shopping in the morning, after my hostel owner cooked me an authentic Irish breakfast. I picked up a few things, wandered around the city a bit before realizing I was totally lost. I had to get back to my hostel ASAP to catch my train back to Dublin at 2 PM. I did end up making the train, but a ride that was supposed to last 1.5 hours turned into a 3.5 hour ordeal. Because of some sort of threat on one of the lines, we had to disembark at a stop in Newry, get on a bus for 45 minutes and trek to ANOTHER train station where we were then allowed to go to Dublin.


Of course, at this point I'm panicking. It is 5:15 PM when I arrive in Dublin and my flight to London leaves at 6:55 PM from the Dublin airport. I catch the shuttle, but of course at rush hour in Ireland's biggest city, it's less of a "shuttle" than a "crawl through the streets." I arrive at the airport at 6:00 PM, frantically check my bag, and run to...the wrong gate. Apparently there are two flights departing for London at 6:55 PM, and I managed to go to the one on the completely wrong side of the airport. Doh. Fortunately, I obviously made it to my gate in time to board. From there, I traveled on to London....


But we'll save that for another entry.


Today, it's a beautiful day in Florence, and I do not have any classes this afternoon! So I think I will take advantage of that. Gillian and I have plans to hit up a recommended lunch spot, after which I'm going to take a book and sit in a park for a bit, reading. After I finish my laundry (stil piled up from spring break) of course....

4 comments:

  1. i visited your site n was good enough then othere site that i visited last month



    study abroad

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  2. we must become Mario's regulars...and we will always use Sam's name.

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  3. So glad your trip to Ireland was so great! I've always wanted to go there. However, did you not go to the famous castle that has the Blarney (sp?) stone that you kiss for good luck? Or am I thinking of the wrong place? I think Laura went there on her visit to Ireland. Otherwise, it looks like quite an awesome place to visit. Can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip! :)

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  4. The weather appeared to cooperate nicely. Unusually clear days. Did you ever find the Irish "youth" hang outs???The park looked nice and seems like alot of space for your biking.....lots of deer huh? <3 mom

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