Tag: ireland

Ireland! Wednesday!

Published / by Rachel Ayers

Well, our first order of the day on Wednesday was to sleep in and we were highly successful, waking around noon (7am my normal local time — we’re at the DST crossover where America is on it before Ireland switches over to it).  We perhaps should have been more ambitious but I’m too old to kill myself with tourism and the sleep was much needed.

When we finally got ourselves roused we went and found (more) pizza at a little Italian restaurant on the Smithfield Square.  Of course we ordered fries (truffle and parmesan) with the pizza and shared it all. It was pouring and miserably windy, which Laura said she’d never seen before in all her months here — usually it’s one or the other.  I refused to take responsibility for bringing it with me from Kansas! In any case, it was perfect to get out of the weather and snarf down some good hot food.

After that, the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street was basically a block over and around the corner.  Again, it was pouring the whole way over but at least that time it wasn’t far away. We went in and signed up for the basic tour, a little less than half an hour from the time we got there, which gave us some time to look around the front room, take pictures, and for Laura to get a special edition bottle with the name of her sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law for their wedding gift.  At the shop they were nice enough to hold it so that she wouldn’t have to manage it for the tour — plus we were definitely coming back to the gift shop afterwards!

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The tour was fantastic.  Our guide, Eoin, was from Kilkenny, and wanted to be sure we could understand him, but he was quite practiced and it was no trouble at all and completely delightful to listen to him.  Also he was gorgeous so that didn’t hurt our feelings at all.

The tour was about half an hour.  The first ten minutes were a history of the distillery and the Jameson family, with reference to some of the trials and successes throughout the past hundred plus years.  We all sat or stood in a little round room with a big table in the center, and above the table was a hanging display of books, kettle, and other artifacts from the history of the distillery.  The talk was like magic, because everything was done with projected lights right onto the table, and however Eoin was controlling what came up when, I couldn’t spot it. (Wizardry, I assume.)

After that we moved to a room where we learned all about the distilling process.  We clustered around little tables that were workstations with items that went from the very barley to the aging process.  Eoin invited us to taste the malted barley, and the woman across from us muttered something about how surely they changed it out between tour groups — Laura and I were not convinced and declined.  We were invited to sniff the spirits at different concentrations. The first was rather like something I would clean my bathroom with and the second smelled deliciously drinkable — though Eoin recommended against it as the concoction in front of us was about 89% alcohol.

There were also clear glass bottles that showed how the color changed over the aging process.  And Eoin explained about the Angel’s Share (that which evaporates over time) and the Devil’s Cut (that which soaks into the casks.

Finally we got to the actual taste testing part of the trip, where we tried Jameson’s, a blended Scotch that I can’t specifically remember, and Kentucky Johnny Walker black.  Each was distilled a different number of times and Eoin explained how that changed the flavor. Something about where the heat hits you: belly, chest, throat. I don’t know, they were all enjoyable although out of the three the Jameson’s was my favorite.

Then we got our free cocktail at the Daily Grog stop, where Laura and I both opted for the ginger lime whiskey since we’d just tried it straight a moment before.  We sat at the bar and made fun of the two year old who was sitting on the other side of the bar. (I’m not kidding.)

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No, I didn’t take a picture of the kid.

We had vague plans to go to Penney’s (local TJ Maxx, kind of, except the local TJ Maxx is called TK Maxx and… anyway it has clothes and other stuff but it’s not JC Penney’s, look, just try to keep up, it’s different okay?)  But when we left Jameson’s it was still raining, and the wind was blowing in all the directions, and it was generally pretty miserable. And the Cat Lounge that we passed was by appointment only, so we couldn’t even take a break to pet some cats.

We ended up going back to Laura’s room and beginning a truly epic RuPaul’s Drag Race binge, ordering Pizza Hut (don’t worry there were chips (Americans read: fries) on the side so, Irish potatoes), and staying warm and dry for the rest of the night.

More Ireland! Tuesday!

Published / by Rachel Ayers

We decided to jump right into a day trip and headed on the Darby O’Gill tour to see the Cliffs of Moher, which was my number one desire for the whole trip.  We had to head out very early to make it to the bus stop where we’d be picked up. We made it in good time with pastries and (for me) coffee in hand. We ended up the last picked up, so sat across the aisle from each other, instead of next to each other, but we were in easy conversational distance so that was fine.

Our first break was at the Barack Obama Plaza.  Laura nearly lost her shit in excitement. Apparently Obama had visited a few years back and they’d dedicated the rest stop (or services as they say here) to his name.  Of course I think it’s strange that people find it so mind boggling that he could have Irish ancestry when his mother was a white girl from Kansas! Anyway it was just a basic service stop except all the touristy information had to do with Obama (O’Bama) and his visit here.

The tour guide, Murphy (Ahh I miss Murphy!  He was good people) also mentioned that Trump owns a golf course some 20 kilometers to the west of the Obama rest stop, and that the first thing he tried to do was build a wall around it.  Either he doesn’t like the Irish, or he’s overestimating the Mexican swimmers. Murphy told us a lot of history about the island, and all kinds of history and culture, not just the wars. He talked about everything from sports to knitting throughout the day!  My favorite, of course, was the knitting.

Our next stop was the Cliffs of Moher.  I was expecting some wind, but it was wind like Kansas on a fairly serious wind day.  Not the worst of all possible wind but you could feel it knock you around. We headed up to the tops of the cliffs — the back way, not Fezik’s way.  There is a tower at the top of the hill but it’s not included in the admission price and was locked up in any case. There is a stone barrier all along the edge of the cliffs, though it’s built back far enough from the edge that there is considerable cliff to stand on beyond the barrier.  Within the realm of the national park this is not allowed, but beyond that point it is only discouraged. We went both ways from the entry point, and I chatted with a crow a bit who seemed disappointed that I didn’t have any food to throw him. The crows are huge and I love it.

We took a great many pictures, not a few on the selfie stick until that stopped working for some reason, we thought the battery had died (it runs on bluetooth) but it apparently just failed because we charged it and tried again later and it still did not work.  Fortunately Laura has mad selfie skills anyway, and we got a lot of good pictures. Also she’s borrowing her father’s nice camera, which is no good for selfies, but I can’t wait to get all the pictures we took on it because it’s a much nicer camera than anything you get with a cell phone.

We eventually made our way past the barrier to walk along the very edge of the cliffs.  Well, not quite so much as some of the other tourists. The vertigo is quite thrilling and terrifying — I love it even as it puts me at the very *edge* of my comfort zone (har har).  We took more lovely pictures though my favorite from the day was after that, with me resting an elbow on the barrier and grinning like a madwoman. Probably a new profile picture once I get home but we’ll see what else comes up.

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The CLIFFS.  Of INSANITY.

There were some gift shops near the bottom, and although I didn’t buy anything there (I didn’t have enough cash for the sweater I really liked) I rather enjoyed the name of the one shop: Gifts of Moher.  I do love the puns.

We had lunch nearby in Doolin in a pub called Fitzpatrick’s.  They had a lovely Irish Red on tap and it was the best Irish Red I’ve ever had in my life.  Go figure.  (Completely ruined American Irish reds for me, I’m pretty sure….)

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Pub life.

We headed back toward Dublin with another stop by a castle where they do big medieval dinners, and browsed through the Woollen Mills there.  (Which is apparently just what they call Irish souvenir shops from what I’ve seen!) They also had some lovely sweaters, and an ATM, but I didn’t see any sweaters I liked as much even though I did get some cash.  I also found a little sample of the Writer’s Tears whiskey that I’ve been wanting to try for so long, in a lovely gift box that is a hollow book (so once the whiskey is gone I’ll still have a hollow book). I am debating hard whether to give that to Dad and hope that he’ll share it with me, or simply share the whiskey with him!  We have both shed a few tears over our keyboards in the last few years, I think.

(PS I gave it to him, and he generously shared with me.)

Also we got some shortbread which was painfully delicious.  So buttery! I needs must get more. High priority for the rest of my trip.

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The only lamb I eat.

When we finally got back to Dublin we had another bus ride back to Laura’s room, and once we were there we binged some Drag Race and ordered pizza hut — which came with chips (french fries) and I can see what Laura means about being offended to not have them with pizza going forward.  Lovely combination.

Ireland! Monday

Published / by Rachel Ayers

Monday — arrived at 5:30 am.  Spent time in Non-EU immigration wondering why all the signs in Non-Eu Immigration were in English and Gaelic.  (ALL the signs are in English and Gaelic.)

Laura and I went straight back to her room and she gave me the mini tour and then we slept for about 4 hours.  There was some concern that they’d get inspected but it got delayed due to break, which was good because we slept right through the time that we thought they’d be inspected.  God I was so conked out. That was about 2 am to noon my normal local time.

After that we got up and went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Laura Taking a Picture
At St. Patrick’s Cathedral park, looking for dogs.

Our tour guide was giving her first ever tour. She was very interesting.  Super short lady, maybe in her 40s, a couple of moles on her face, no makeup, an open expression.  She told us within moments that she was giving her very first tour, and checked a number of times to make sure we could understand her.  She asked us to ask her if we needed her to slow down. She had a lovely Irish accent, the first one that I’d heard uninterrupted, so that was very nice.

During the tour we got to a statue of … someone…, who was dressed in the regalia of the Order of St. Patrick.  On his chest he wore a necklace which was the perfect sigil of an X within a circle. I leaned over to Laura, uncertain of whether she would be impressed with these antics, and murmured, “He’s an X-Man.”  She looked at me with wide eyed amusement. Suddenly she took much more detailed pictures as the guide went on to explain that this is one of the most detailed statues in all of Ireland. Yeah, right, lady, this is clearly a guy whose ability is to turn to stone during the day and go out and fight against the evil Brotherhood of Mutants at night.

We went through the choir area which was simply stunning.  Every seat was decked with a helm and sword (non-functional, not for sudden attacks) and the mosaics on the floor were breathtakingly complex and beautiful.  The ironwork on the wooden windows at the back was elaborate and delicate. The stitch-work on the altar cloth at the front was the best I have ever seen: old but perfectly maintained, intricate and rich.

St. Patrick's Cathedral Lenten Altar Cloth
I could never sew that much.

Laura ran across the history of some names she was familiar with, I believe it was Fitzgerald, whom she had been working with in her internship at the Royal Society of Ireland.  She had been within weeks past trying to decipher the very man’s handwritten letters.

We learned about Jonathan Swift and his time as a priest.  The tour guide showed us the pulpit he used, explaining that it was on wheels, and if congregants fell asleep during the sermons, he would have the deacons wheel him to stand above them while he preached, raining fire and brimstone to awaken them.

After that we had to hurry over to Marsh Library, which was just next door, and a complete fairy tale of a library.  We entered through a mossy green stone archway to discover the first public library of Ireland.

Marsh Library gate entrance.
I’m pretty sure it’s magical.

The interns there (gentlemen in their 30s or 40s, not what you normally think of) were very helpful with the questions we had.  (As librarians we had better questions than most.) They ran through their normal spiel about Narcissus Marsh (straight outta Hogwarts, I say) and how he decided to start the public library for people who weren’t rich enough to have their own books.  Apparently Jonathan Swift hated the man and, as our librarian put it, “Basically called him fat and ugly until he went away.” Charming. He also showed us some of Swift’s marginalia about the Scots, which was unflattering to say the least.

We browsed back through the shelves.   I did ask how it was organized and was told, “Hierarchically, basically.  And the librarian doesn’t really explain further than that, to prevent theft.  But the big books are on the bottom, and the small books are on the top. And the controversial books.”  He mentioned a French book, which the title translated to something like The Illustrated Woman. Racy!

They had a photobooth set up at the back near the reading cages, which went along with their current exhibit about Hunting Stolen Books — they’d discovered, when they’d finally done inventory, that about 900 books had been stolen over the years.  

I'm a wanted poster now!
And I’d do it again.

After that the strict security measures were put into place — bars on all the shelves, and the reading nooks were essentially cages (!) where you could read as long as you want, with a little bell inside to let the librarian know when you were done and wanted to come out.  All the previous reading nooks between all the shelves were barred off so that nobody could sit in there and read and slip the book into their bag or pocket. We weren’t supposed to take pictures anywhere except for the photo booth but Laura is a rebel so we managed a few around the corner.  We had a couple of the volunteers point out the bullet holes from some violent engagement that took place in the churchyard during the 1916 Rising. They just left the damage because at this point it is history, too.

I bought Mom the book of the current exhibit — they are much nicer exhibit books than some that I’ve gotten from the DUC grant in the past.  They have a lot of the history and stories about the exhibit written as well as photographs of the content. This one is the Hunting Stolen Books exhibit, which I decided on as opposed to the one about the marginalia, which I also think she would have liked.  I got Ron a postcard with an old book that definitely needed some preservation, so I think he’ll like that due to his interest in archives.

After that we went back to Laura’s room.  I was still fairly exhausted. We grabbed some food at the local KC Peaches (cafeteria style eatery, yummy food, beer in the cooler) and ate it in her kitchen, chatting and catching up a bit (though we generally stay pretty well caught up).  The mac and cheese was delicious. We watched some youtube videos and read some buzzfeed lists and stayed generally entertained until we passed out in exhaustion.