Big Sis

December 14, 2009

Big Sis (M) and her Hubby (Eric) spent the last week with us!  We had a fantastic time, and saw a ton.

Saturday we picked them up at Heuston Station.  Here’s a pic of sis and I on the bridge over the Liffey.

They were pretty beat from a long day of travelling.  We spent a little time at the Museum at Collin’s Barracks, and then came home.  I made Pasta for dinner and we all went to bed early.

Sunday the boys went and picked up the rental car and we were off to the country-side.  First stop,

You may remember that D and I went to Trim with his parents about a month ago.  But, we couldn’t go inside because it wasn’t a weekend.  Well, Sunday is a weekend day, so we spent all our time at Trim inside the castle.

So, there is a large curtain wall around a “keep:.  Everything inside the curtain wall is part of the castle.  We had about thirty minutes between when we arrived and when the tour of the keep was, so we poked around the grounds a bit.  It was beautiful, but very cold.

Eventually our tour guide let us in.  We learned that Trim is the largest castle built in Ireland.  It was built in the late 12th century.  The keep was abandoned after only thirty years, but the grounds were used for centuries.  The castle itself was abandoned to Cromwell in the 17th century.  The keep was mostly untouched, as it was a ruin at the time.  As a result, you can learn a lot about 13th century anglo-norman castles from it.  While it was abandoned, the roof and floors of the main halls collapsed (they were wood), but the rest of the castel stood strong.

Turns out, only about 20 people lived in the castle.  It really wasn’t that big.  And there were two fireplaces.  And four spiral staircases.

We ate lunch and then headed to Tara.  Prior to the 12th century invasion of the anglo-normans, Tara was the political and spiritual center of Ireland.  It’s amazing there isn’t anything built there.

There is a church, and a statue of St. Patrick.

There are the remains of two ring forts.  At the center of one is the “stone of destiny” that is supposed to scream when the rightful king of Ireland touches it.

There is also a tomb, called the Mound of Hostages.

From the hill you are supposed to be able to see 13 counties of Ireland.

It was quite windy.  M kept loosing her hat.  So, we didn’t stay long.  We were off to…. Newgrange!

Yes, we’d been here before also.  But D hadn’t been inside, and it is worth a visit.  We arrived at 3:05, just in time for the last tour of the day at 3:15.  Our guide was very eloquent, and because we were the last tour of the day we weren’t rushed out afterwards, so we got to look around inside, which was way cool.

And this was only the beginning…



December 5, 2009

The weekend before Thanksgiving a friend from ND was here. On Saturday we saw a few sites around town, including Trinity College. On Sunday they rented a car and took us with them to Belfast. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland remained under British rule when the rest of the island of Ireland gained independence in the 1920s. There was a period of significant unrest after that, though it is generally safe now (since the signing of the Good Friday agreement in 1998). Aside from the use of British pounds rather than Euros for currency, there is little to mark the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Evidently, Ireland (the island) used to be divided up in to five regions controlled by different kings, the northernmost being Ulster.  Northern Ireland is still sometimes referred to as Ulster, even though the land that comprised Ulster is divided between the two regions . The flag of Ulster is no longer allowed to be flown outside government buildings.

Belfast, as I said above, is the capital of Northern Ireland. It is the second largest city on the island of Ireland. Historically it was a very industrial city, and was most well known for linen production, and as one of the leading shipyards in the world. In fact, it was in Belfast that the Titanic was built.

It took us most of the morning to get there. We ate our packed lunch in a little sitting area outside the library at Queen’s College. Martiqua (our friend) and I took our picture with this fun statue.

Then we headed in to the Botanical Gardens. While the grounds were a bit sparse, as it was the end of November and very cold, the indoor greenhouse was full of beautiful plants. The gardens opened in 1828 and the greenhouse construction was started in 1830, which I think is rather impressive.

Lord Kelvin is there.

We then spent some time in the Ulster Museum, which had a good exhibit on the history of the island of Ireland. While we were only in there a short time, we definitely enjoyed it and would recommend it. Also, the building looks like a ship. It was here we learned about the crashing of the Spanish Armada off Irish shores in the late 1580s.

We returned to the front of Queen’s University and walked around it a bit. It’s really a very beautiful place. On this picture of the crest, you see on the bottom the harp representing Ireland and on the left the Red Hand of Ulster. This comes from a Celtic myth in which two men were racing to see who would reach Ulster first. One cut off his hand and threw it so he could win. Rather gory. Somehow, it became a territorial symbol. I have no idea what the seahorse is about, but they were all over. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of chrystal sea horse christmas ornaments from Waterford. Maybe I should find out…

We then drove up to Cavehill, which is a hill with a profile said to resemble Napoleon’s Nose that has caves in it that were used during neolithic times. There is a ring fort, like the one we went to on the Aran Islands, there, as well as a castle. As the weather was nasty, and it was getting dark, we only saw the castle. The parks at Cavehill look lovely though, and it’s easy to picture enjoying them on long summer days. The castle was built in the 12th century and donated to the city in the 1930s. It’s been used as a conference venue today, and is aslo popular for wedding parties. We had tea at the restaurant in the basement and it was lovely.

On our way up there we also saw the Albert Memorial Clock Tower.

We returned to town where we went to an international Christmas market outside the City Hall. I don’t know how we missed the memorial to those who died with the Titanic, but we did.

Then we had dinner at the Crown Liquor Saloon and headed home. What a day! Thanks to Peter and Martiqua for making it possible!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2009

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the U.S. We celebrated as best we could. D went to work early and came home early. We bought some rolls and some desserts, and tried our hands at a simple Thanksgiving dinner. We had ham, quail, green beans (with rasher bacon!), cranberry chestnut stuffing, garlic and sage dressing, sweet potatoes with walnuts, and twice-baked potatoes. You should see how tiny our oven is! This was quite a trick! We enjoyed it immensely and have left overs for at least a couple meals.

Also, I’ve been waiting to post this for a bit. As there is no Thanksgiving here, Christmas decorations started going up right after Halloween. They’re beautiful!If you want to know what it says, or some other seasonal gaelic phrases, go here.

And this is Kelli, my TX friend who lives here that I have lunch with weekly. She keeps me sane. And takes me shopping.

Miss you all! Happy Thanksgiving. Only three weeks left on the Emeral Isle!


November 26, 2009

We also made a trip to Glendalough while David’s family was here.  Glendalough, meaning “Valley of Two Lakes” is a beautiful region in the Wicklow Mountains, south of Dublin, near Powerscourt which we visited a few weeks ago with D’s office-mate, Petr. In the valley there is an old Monastery, founded after St. Kevin, who is said to have lived in the area in the 600s. The monastery was in use in to the 19th century.  The tall round tower was a place of refuge to escape from Viking raids in the 11 and 1200s. I’m not just going to repeat information, but the wikipedia article is worth a read if you’re looking for information.

The area is great for hiking and there are lots of trails through the mountains.  As it wasn’t raining, there were plenty of people there seeing the area.  It’s too bad we didn’t have more time to explore, because it was beautiful.  Also, all but one of these pictures was taken by either Julie or Elizabeth, so props to them.

Newgrange and Trim

November 23, 2009

While D’s family was here we decided to hit a couple of day trips from our apartment.  Thursday morning we got up and rented a car and drove North to Newgrange.  It was pouring rain and at the visitor’s center we were told to forgo the tour if we were feeling “delicate”.  It was cold and we got DRENCHED.  But we had a good time.

Newgrange is a megalithic (meaning, built using big rocks) tomb, built during the neolithic period.  In fact, it’s thought to predate the pyramids.  It was built at a time when people lived in wood huts and had a lifespan of about 30 years, but probably took over 100 years to construct.  The people used the river to bring in rocks from surrounding regions, including the mountains south of Dublin.  They were able to construct it without cement in such a manner that water has never been inside.  That’s REALLY impressive here.  Also, the stone at the entrance lines up so that the cave is illuminated at sunrise of the winter solstace.  Pretty cool.  They had to do a little repair work to the outside because the quartz rock that makes it white had fallen, but they could tell by the pattern how it had fallen.  It is incredibly narrow inside, so only the brave should try it!  Outside there are beautiful, intricately carved rocks.  No one knows what the symbols mean.

We had tea and lunch at the visitor’s center and then, what do you know?  The sun came out!  We had a beautiful day taking pictures around Trim Castle.  It was closed for tours, so I’ll write more about it after D and I have a chance to go back and learn more about it.  In the mean time, here are some pics!

The Aran Islands

November 19, 2009

Again thanks to Julie and Elizabeth for some of these pics!  You can tell when they’re mine by the wide-screen setting.

Monday morning, Nov 9, we got up early and walked with the family across town to Burgh Quay.  Here we caught a bus to Galway, operated by Citilink.  This was the non-stop variety.  They also have one that makes several stops along the way if you want to see the countryside.  We were in Galway at 12:45 and the plan was to see the sites.  Unfortunately, it was cold and wet, so our site-seeing was curtailed.

We stopped in the Eye Square Center, which is an indoor mall with portions of the original city walls incorporated in it.  Here we are having tea and lunch at a cafe inside, you can kind of see the wall behind us.

After lunch we wanted to see the Spanish Arch and Claddagh.  Claddagh was a small community outside the Galway walls.  If you see the Irish engagement rings (like the one Angel gave to Buffy for you slayer fans) this is where they came from. These are the rings with two hands holding a heart with a crown.  They’re called Claddagh rings.  Unfortunately, the rain stopped us and we ended up in an internet cafe.

We caught another bus at 5:00 that took us to Rosaveal where we hopped on a ferry for the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore.  It was raining when we left, but when we arrived in the town of Kilronan the sky had cleared and there were some brilliant stars.  We found our way to our bed and breakfast, Clai Ban, with the help of some kind locals.  We checked in, put our stuff down, and went next door to a pub called  Joe Watty’s for dinner.  D and his sister had fish and chips and his parents and I had grilled salmon.  It was fantastic.  A great meal with great company in a pub warmed with a peat fire.  Great way to end the day.

In the morning we had breakfast at the bed and breakfast and then headed in to town to find bikes.  We biked ALL Over the island.  We first saw the light house and old building.  It was a bit of a climb up here, but a nice break from biking and a pretty view.  We couldn’t go in because we were off season.

We spent a great deal of time at Dun Aonghasa.  This is a very old fort with four concentric stone walls and a Chevaux de frise (sharp rock ring to keep horses out).  The cliffs around it were amazing, and we went over to them to see the surf hitting them.  Spectacular.  It could be as old as 200 BC.

We ate lunch at a picnic table here and then continued on our bike ride around the Islad to  the Seven Churches (Na Seacht dTeampaill).  This is an old monastic settlement.   I believe some of the locals referred to it as a “school”.

We biked back along the coast and stopped for a bit to see some sea lions playing just off the beach.  It’s evidently a popular place for them.

We ended the day back in Kilronan, grabbed our bags from Clai Ban and played with Guinness, the proprietor’s Corgi, grabbed sandwiches at Spar,  and took the ferry back as the sun set.  The coach back to Galway was a bit late, but got us back with a few minutes to spare before our Citilink bus left to come back to Dublin.  We got to spend the night back in our own apartment.

As you can tell from the pictures, the weather was brilliant.  For this we were both incredibly lucky and incredibly thankful.  The weather the day before and after we came was awful on the islands.

First Visitors

November 17, 2009

We had our first set of visitors this last week and a bit.  D’s family arrived very early on Sunday, November 8.  As most flights from the states to Dublin, they arrived very early in the morning and we kept them busy to help adjust to jet lag.  It was a terrifically beautiful day.  So we took them down the street to the War Memorial, which i mentioned previously as a favorite spot of ours for jogging.  As I hadn’t taken any pictures before, I thought I’d show you some of those taken with the family on the day of their arrival.

I have to give a grateful shoutout to D’s mom and sister for the great photos.  Our camera is not as good as theirs, and neither is our skill.  You’ll see a lot of their talent in the next few posts.

Don’t you want to join them?  They were just learning and their oars were all over the place and a coach was biking along beside them shouting instructions through a megaphone.  Ahhh…  memories.

Amazingly, there were still quite a few roses in the gardens.


On our way back, we walked through the grounds of the modern art museum, in the Kilmainham Royal Hospital.  It truly is a beautiful building.

You should definately go here to read a brochure about the building.  It’s beautiful and based on Les Invalids in France.  It was built to be a retirement homefor soldiers.  It is also built on the ruins of a medieval hospital which had served the Knights Hospitallers.  This is interesting because we had recently read about the knights hospitallers becasue Mr Dolphin, for whom Dolphin’s Barn is named, was such a knight.  You should read about them too, it’s interesting.  It got us to reading about and thinking about the wonders of the ancient world.  Additionally, that hospital, which had been in place since 12th century was built over a 7th century settlement of Cill Maighneann, which is why the entire area is called Kilmainham.  I learn new things every day here.  Read up kids!

And this one is going in my folder of favorite Irish signs.

Caption Contest!

November 17, 2009

There are pics like this around the city.  Some in English, some in Gaelic.  We like it much.  For those of you who don’t speak Gaelic, let us know what you think the sign should say!

Bray and Powerscourt

November 14, 2009

Well now…  I’m very behind in my blogging aren’t I?  Let’s go back several weeks, to October 25.  This is the Sunday after our previously posted walk on O’Connell Street.  David’s office-mate, Petr, who has a “proper” car, meaning the steering wheel is on the left, took us on an excursion to the southern coast of Dublin.

He called us Saturday night and informed us that the time change was that night, which was great because we didn’t otherwise know.  Also, we were staying up late to watch ND play football.  He picked us up promptly at 9:30.

He drove us through town and down to Bray, which is a coastal town just outside of Dublin (it would be the southernmost stop on the commuter train).  It was cloudy and cool, but very pleasant.  We walked up the hill to Bray Head, where there is a cross on the hill top.  The view was spectacular, but it was very cloudy and as a result all our pictures came out dark.  You’ll just have to trust me.






After our walk we returned to the car and he drove us to the Powerscourt waterfall.  This is a beautiful falls.  This is Ireland’s highest waterfall and it was very pretty.  We ate lunch here at some covered picnic tables and walked around a little more.




After lunch we headed around the corner to see the Powerscourt Gardens.  The Powerscourt Estate was owned by the Viscount Powerscourt.  It was originally built in the 1200s, but was extensively remodeled in the 18th century to include some rather elaborate gardens.  We had a great afternoon enjoying them.  It’s still amazing how green everything is.

The Gardens were evidently fashioned after the Palace of Versailles, as well as a palace near Vienna and another near Heidelberg.





We especially like the “pepperpot tower,” modeled after the Viscount’s table pepper pot.  There was a rainbow.



At the end of a long day, we returned home.  It started to rain as Petr drove.

Monday was a “bank holiday” so we stayed in and had scones and bacon.  Yum.



November 2, 2009

Well, we’re going  a little out of order here in honor of Halloween.  I’ll have to tell you about last weekend’s outting later.  Today I’m going to tell you what we did on Saturday.

The weather was amazing.  Sunny and upper fifties or lower sixties, I’m not really sure.  We looked in our book of walks again and found one for the Hell Fire Club of Dublin, which sounded a) like a nice out of town walk and b) a bit spookish.  As it was Halloween, we thought we’d try it.  The downside was it required us to take a bus from city center.  So, two busses followed by an 8 mile walk?  No thanks. D googled it and found a site that took the Tram.  The tram (Luas) is right outside our door and it mentioned the Tallaght stop, which is the last stop on the Luas. So we wrote down the directions it gave and went for it.

The Luas ride was uneventful.  It dropped us off in a shopping center/living area that looks like it was just finished or will be shortly.  We set out trying to find the streets it recommended.  We kind of did, but none of the landmarks were right.

As it was Halloween, people were setting up bonfires.  I guess that’s what you do on Halloween here.  Some of them were HUGE.  Like, we could see flames above 3 story buildings several miles away.  Oh, and there were lots and lots of fireworks.  Like the fourth of July.


We also saw some pretty flowers.  And some people enjoying the beautiful weather with a game of soccor, or maybe hurling.


In any case, the website had told us to take a disused lane off the main roads, so we did.  Here it is.  Can you see the speed limit sign?  It says 80 km/h.  ha ha ha


And here’s D basking in the sunshine a bit further up.

We knew we were on the right track when we got to this decrepit house, although it was in much greater disrepair than the website led us to believe.  The view down to the city was spectacular.



A bit more climbing and we found our destination.




A bit of history.  There once stood a stone slab and stone circle on the top of this hill.  In the late 1700s someone decided to build a hunting lodge here.  You can’t blame him, spectacular view.  However, he evidently chose to USE the stones from the stone circle in his construction.  When the roof blew off in a storm people said it was the work of the devil because of his sacrilege.

The Hell Fire Club was, from what I gather, a group of well-to-dos with a lot of time on their hands who were famous for drinking and gambling and causing being a nuisance.  They’re also said to have been involved in the black arts.  They mostly met elsewhere, but may have met at this lodge a few times.  Their reputation, coupled with the above story and the fact that the place looks rather dark and gloomy leads people to say the worst.

In any case, we were there.  It was particularly cool because you could go inside.  Hard to picture it lavishly furnished as a hunting lodge, but cool none-the-less.  You can’t tell from our pictures, but we were definitely not the only people there.  There were several families with children as young as a few months.  Some were dressed up for the holiday.  We think there was an event happening there a bit later.  In any case, we headed down the hill in the direction they were coming.  It was quite steep and a bit forrested and the direction the book wanted us to go.  We were very quickly in the parking lot for the famous landmark.  We meandered down streets in this nice Dublin suburb back to the Luas.

As we reached the station it started to rain, and while we were headed back there was heavy rain (flooding, I read later) and thunder and lighting.  This resulted in a spectacular Irish rainbow by the end of our ride.  There was a little respite from the rain as we entered our apartment, and then heavy rain off and on until we went to bed.  It didn’t have any effect on the fireworks or bonfires.

When we got home we went back to the site we were trying to follow and were still confused.  It’s titled “Chapter XI” so we went to the main page.  Turns out it’s a book that the third edition of was published in 1920.  The “tram” it referred to was a steam tram (picture here), which hasn’t been in use since 1931, but must have had a stop very close to this one.  It was still an interesting read and I recommend it, but it explains why so many of the landmarks are gone.

Happy Halloween!