Heaps of Sheep

I started this blog intending to recap our European adventures before we moved back to the States. I can’t believe we only have about 50 days remaining here! Looks like I’ll do some reminiscing from the other side of the pond.

And speaking of reminiscing…

Big D and I tagged along on a trip to Killarney, Ireland with Tricia and Lee over MLK weekend in 2011. We arrived early on a Friday morning and headed right to a pub for breakfast. And then we spent the day driving around the Dingle Peninsula:

me & Tricia on Inch Beach
Tricia and me at Inch Beach

Dingle Marina
Dingle Marina

Guinness is good for you!
I looked like this during most meals

Big D and Lee were quite patient and stopped our rental SUV every time Tricia and I wanted to take a million photos, which was every few kilometers. But it was worth all of that pausing!
Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

Slea Head
Slea Head

I was especially excited to visit the Gallarus Observatory, one of my sister Kara’s favorite places:
Gallarus Oratory

The next day was rainy, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the Ring of Kerry:
Ring of Kerry Ladies view
Ladies View

Big D at Staigue Ring Fort
Big D at the Staigue Ring Fort

On Sunday, we trekked to Blarney and Kinsale:

Blarney Castle
I had no idea that the Blarney Stone is located at the top of the tower. And there was another new bit of information: kissing the stone doesn’t give you luck – it grants the gift of conversation. I think everyone would agree that I do not need any help in that area. Good thing, as there was no way in hell I was going to lay down to hang my head backwards so I could kiss a dirty rock. (Did I mention I expected it to be a beautiful emerald? Guess I should have done my homework…)

The town of Kinsale is beautiful and dinner there at a delightful restaurant called Fishy Fishy Cafe was so fantastic we bought their cookbook on our way out.
Kinsale Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club

We spent our final day driving through the Gap of Dunloe and hiking to a waterfall in Killarney National Park:

Gap of Dunloe
Gap of Dunloe

It was fun to see the same view from a few days prior, this time with great weather:
Ladies View
Ladies View

Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park

Lee, me & Big D
Lee, me and Big D at the Torc Waterfall

We spent a lot of time laughing on this trip, and I kept notes on my iPhone. These may not make sense to you, but I’m going to post them for Big D, Tricia & Lee’s benefit:

  • Those are pretty small sheep. They must be for kid sized sweaters.
  • It’s hard to make a living if you’ve only got a dozen sheep. You must just stand there saying “grow” to them all day.
  • In order not to delete any of the heaps of sheeps, there’s a hedge at the edge of the ledge.
  • What if we saw a llama wearing a yarlmuke?
  • You want to sit on my lap and talk about… Wait, did he just say poptarts?
  • At the last pub I had the pope staring at me. Here it’s Jesus…
  • She’s 101 years old. So she’s not on Facebook? Nope, but she tweets like a MF’er…
  • *scrape* *scratch* “It’s a rental!”
  • Nope. That’s Scottish.

More photos from our fun weekend are over on Flickr.

Adventures with Angie: Belfast

After a sleep so sound Angie supposedly considered holding a mirror under my nose to see if I was breathing, we had a final breakfast with Jen & Gary and on the morning of Thursday, August 9th, we took a taxi to the train station and made our way from Dublin to Belfast.

train from Dublin to Belfast

The folks at The Merchant Hotel were kind enough to store our bags and point us in the right direction for shopping. I was thrilled to see an old favorite from the States, where we both bought a few things.

Yep. We shopped.

We wandered downtown for a while noting places we’d like to stop back at, and climbed to the Victoria Square viewing platform.

Albert Memorial Clock, Belfast

Victoria Square, Belfast

Next up was High Tea back at The Merchant, where we took clandestine photographs:
Merchant Hotel High Tea

Since Northern Ireland is part of the UK, and London was hosting the Olympics, we were technically in the host country. So, a giant public viewing area was set up on the City Hall lawn. We wandered in and sat down just in time to see local favorite Katie Taylor fight and win the (first ever) Women’s Light Weight Boxing Gold Medal. The crowd was nervous for her and cheered like mad – I am thrilled we had the opportunity to watch with them.

Belfast City Hall

Katie Taylor winning Gold

We shopped a bit more and Angie coordinated a Black Taxi tour of the city. Oh, Belfast! Your history (“The Troubles”) is fascinating and confusing, and your future is full of promise.

We stopped at too many places to cover here, but standouts included the new Titanic Museum, with sections built in the same dimensions as the ship, which was built there:
Titanic Museum

A stop at the Crumlin Road Courthouse:

old Belfast courthouse

If buildings have memories, Crumlin Road courthouse must harbour more emotions than almost any other in Belfast, having been for decades an epicentre of the Troubles in the city. The courthouse is where more than 10,000 republicans, loyalists and others were tried by the Diplock non-jury courts. At a rough guess, the judges who heard these cases handed down sentences that totalled more than a quarter of a million years.

We were overwhelmed at stops along the Shankhill / Falls Peace Wall, and embarrassed we weren’t more familiar with Irish history. Thankfully, our driver offered fantastic explanations. And, we’ve vowed to read up on it all now that we’re home.

Angie at the Peace Wall

Belfast Peace Wall

A series of separation barriers in Northern Ireland separate Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods. The stated purpose of the barriers is to minimize inter-communal violence between Catholics (who are mainly nationalists that self-identify as Irish) and Protestants (who are mainly unionists that self-identify as British). The barriers range in length from a few hundred yards to over three miles (5 km). They may be made of iron, brick, and/or steel and are up to 25 feet (7.6 m) high. Some have gates in them (sometimes staffed by police) that allow passage during daylight but are closed at night.

We saw a lot of murals depicting the Belfast’s political and religious divisions:

Belfast murals

Belfast murals

And we drove by Queen’s University:

Queen's University, Belfast

After dinner at the Crown Liquor Saloon, we headed back to The Merchant. Here’s a tidbit about the hotel we learned on the tour, though I hesitate to use these names in a post as I wonder what kind of traffic it will bring to my blog… Belfast hosted the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. Though many guests made reservations and were settled in at The Merchant, JBeebs himself, Justin Beiber, and gal-pal Selina Gomez arrived and bought out the hotel, offering guests unaffiliated with their entourage money for vacating their rooms in addition to paying for their new accommodations and offered to pose for photos with those they displaced as they vacated the hotel. Oh, I how wish I had been there so I could have been the holdout, refusing to leave…

Another bit of interest we learned from our driver is that the hotel’s bar appears in the Guinness Book of World Records, since they have the world’s most expensive beverage: a $1,300 Mai Thai made with very rare rum. Our tab wasn’t quite that much, but we did enjoy two different cocktails each, so we could taste four total. And we loved them all so much we bought copies of the menu, which are really nice books.

Champagne cocktails at the Merchant

Of course, after all of those drinks, some hijinks ensued once we were back in our swanky room:
Late night hyjinks

After a hotel breakfast on Friday, August 10th, we crammed as much into our remaining time in Belfast as humanly possible! We shopped for souvenirs and gifts before heading to St. George’s Market, where I wished I wasn’t so full:

St. George's Market, Belfast

We sped through the Ulster Museum, raced through the Botanical Garden and managed to have a final pint at Crown Liquor before it was time to take the train back to Dublin.

DSCN3308

Crown Liquor, Belfast

snoozing on the train

A quick Boxty dinner in Temple Bar, a flight at 8pm, arrival in Germany around 11pm and we were back at home a little after midnight.

I’ll wrap up our time together in the next post!

Adventures with Angie: Dublin

Trying to sort out my thoughts to start this post is overwhelming – I still can not believe show much we crammed into two weeks. I think I’ll have to break it down into sections…

Angie arrived on Monday, August 6th. We drank coffee, she napped to conquer jet lag, we watched The Today Show together (In person! On my couch! Instead of via texts and e-mails as usual!) and eventually we wandered downtown for a stroll and dinner. The night was sign of things to come: Just lovely!

Wiesbaden Marktkirche

We were up early Tuesday, August 7th to meet with Jen & Gary so we could all catch a fight to Dublin. Jen did the itinerary planning and it was great to follow along rather than be the coordinator for a change.

After lunch (during which Gary and I enjoyed our first of many pints of Guinness) we wandered Grafton Street, and toured Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room.

first of many pints

Trinity College

The Long Room, Trinity College, Dublin
Shhh! Photography is prohibited in the Long Room.

Next up was a quick visit to the Bonavox store (inspiration for a certain singer’s moniker), a trip to the Abbey Theater where Angie & I bought tickets for a play, a light dinner at the Oliver St. John Gogarty, and finally, a musical pub crawl. Two fun, engaging musicians performed at three pubs while explaining Irish music, theories, and traditions. We all really enjoyed it.

me at Bonavox

Musical Pub Crawl

Wednesday, August 8th found us up early for shopping, a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and five hours at the Guinness Storehouse. Who knew we’d be there such a long time? Lunch, touring, learning to tap the perfect pint (Gary and I are certified now, so watch out!) and this, where I had “a moment.”

St Patrick's Cathedral

me, Gary & Jen

Gary learns to tap

After more shopping, Angie and I raced to the theater to see a compelling, sometimes confusing (thanks to the subject matter and the accents), and very entertaining production of The Plough and the Stars. We were worried that those seated around us could hear our stomachs growling during the final act… Midnight room service club sandwiches brought our Dublin adventures to a close. Recapping all of this reminds me just how exhausted we were.

A few hours later, after an early breakfast, we were on a train headed to Belfast for two more jam packed days. Stay tuned for more posts about the rest of our time together. For a preview, a giant set of photos from the whole two weeks is on Flickr.

Sláinte!