September 21 - 27, 2009
My bucket list has one more experience checked-off: Ireland. My daughter points out, though, that it's okay to have things listed twice. Ireland is definitely listed twice.
Richard was asked to speak at the annual COSAC conference held in a city near Dublin called Naas (rhymes with base). Not a tough decision; we jumped at the chance to visit one of the countries that is both of Richard's heritage and on my bucket list.
We arrived on September 22, 2009, after quite an adventure. Originally, the plan was for me to meet Richard in Atlanta on the evening of September 21st. He had to be in Miami during the day and planned on a flight to Atlanta from there, meeting me as my flight took me from Detroit to Atlanta, then together we would board a flight that took us directly to Dublin. Our timing was horrible, as it turned out, as this was the day Atlanta was deluged with rain and major flooding.
I had no idea of the weather conditions in Atlanta when I arrived at my gate in Detroit but I immediately noticed that the departure time had been changed from 5:50 to 6:30pm. As I sat at the gate, the time kept changing to a later and later time. People were lined up at the desk trying to amend their arrangements. I realized that I was going to miss the flight from Atlanta to Dublin so I joined the line at the desk.
The gate attendant made an announcement that the weather in Atlanta was such that no flights were landing and no flights were taking off from there so if you had a connecting flight in Atlanta it was going to be delayed, also, so don't worry...you will make your connecting flight. She told everyone to sit down as they were going to call people up based on their connecting flight. I sat there for a very long time not being called up. I decided I would call Northwest on the elite line (Richard has elite status) to try to figure all this out. In the meantime, I had been on the phone with Richard and he said that he was on his plane in Miami but they couldn't leave because no planes could land in Atlanta. We both had no idea if we would make the flight from Atlanta to Dublin.
The information I got from the woman on the elite line with Northwest was that the flight to Dublin from Atlanta was still showing an on-time departure. That would mean that I would miss it because at that point there was just no time to get from Detroit to Atlanta to make the flight. I asked her "Is there any way to get me from Detroit to Dublin by tomorrow morning?" She checked on the flights and, yes, there was a flight leaving Detroit at 9:40pm arriving in Amsterdam in the morning and then a flight from Amsterdam to Dublin. I got the flight numbers and told her that I would have to call her back after I talked to my husband in Miami waiting to fly to Atlanta. I had already told her the whole story of who was where and where we were supposed to go.
Richard called to say that his flight had the go-ahead and he was headed to Atlanta. Luckily, that was a quick flight and when he arrived in Atlanta he was told that the flight to Dublin had been canceled. While he was in flight,though, I went ahead and changed my flight to the Detroit-Amsterdam-Dublin route but now we weren't sure we were even going to go because if Richard couldn't get to Dublin by the next morning, he would miss his speaking time slot and it would become unnecessary to go.
In Atlanta at the gate desk, he had a woman using three devices trying to find him a flight to Dublin. Finally, as I am waiting to board my flight to Amsterdam (mind you, the attendants are holding the door open, waiting to see if Richard is going to get a flight), he tells me he has a flight to London but is standby. STANDBY! I have a plane waiting for me to board and if I do, all I know is Richard is STANDBY for his flight! I might be headed to Dublin without him. I was thinking that I was very happy I was headed to a country that speaks English. As my gate attendants are signaling that they really can't wait any longer to close the gate door, Richard says "She got me a seat! I'm headed to London but I'm not sure what flight I can get from London to Dublin!" So I boarded my flight, nerves shot.
While on board the flight to Dublin I did a no-no and left my phone on until we were no longer over land. Richard did the same thing and so he was able to tell me that he found an flight from London to Dublin and that he would arrive 2 hours later than my flight. Whew!
Richard and I have had our share of travel mishaps that turn into great stories. There was the time in Reading, England, that he was left behind as the train took off without him, me on the train...but that's a whole other blog posting.
Check out the wind turbines in the water off the coast of Amsterdam taken from my seat window. My guess is that they are floating turbines. Very cool! There were a lot of them but this picture doesn't demonstrate that fact.I love the Gaelic with English interpretations on the signs.
Inside the Amsterdam airport waiting to board the plane to Dublin at Gate D55.
And this is my view while sitting waiting for Richard to walk through the sliding doors you see here partially open. It was a lot of fun people watching, little dramas playing out.
We are finally reunited in Dublin and find our driver that is going to take us to the Killashee House Hotel (it is pronounced like kill-a-sheep without the 'p' at the end.) in the city of Naas, about 40 minutes southwest of Dublin.
We were so delighted to see this castle of a hotel! It seemed so romantic and something out of a period novel.I get such a kick out of the way both the Irish and English use words differently than we do here in the States. "Set Down Only" would be replaced with "Drop-off Only" here in the States. I think I would rather be 'set down' than 'dropped off.'The hotel was also a spa and is in the process of adding a golf course.We saw this truck on the hotel grounds piled with hay bales but had no idea where he was going.
Here are a few pictures looking out one of our windows in our hotel suite. We had no idea we were getting a suite; the guy in charge of the COSAC conference set it all up and we were duly impressed!
This picture shows the hotel's little secret. The windows were, obviously, quite old and this one wouldn't stay open unless propped. They put potpourri in the shallow rectangular pot, placed it as you see here propping the window open, and the air would breeze through the window lifting the scent of the potpourri, giving the air a smell of fresh flowers. Very clever!
The picture below was taken out a window on our climb up the many steps to our room. It faced the front of the hotel.
I made a 3-minute video of the walk from the reception desk to our room. We had plenty of steps to maneuver with our luggage as there was no elevator. The Killashee Hotel once was a day and boarding school for kids. While watching this video just imagine the kids roaming the halls and occupying the rooms causing all kinds of mischief!
After getting settled in our room, Richard and I took a walk around the grounds. In this picture, taken from the gardens you see in the above pictures toward the back of the hotel, you can see our room windows. If you look closely, you can see a light on in the 2nd window from the left, top floor. That is the bedroom of the suite and the window to the right of that is the sitting room with the sofa, chairs, and fireplace.
And various pictures from the grounds.
There was a cemetery at the back of the 'walking' area of the grounds. It was a nun's cemetery. The children's preparatory school I mentioned above was run by La Sainte Nuns.
I couldn't resist recording this beautiful, dramatic sky. So fitting over the cemetery.
Richard was mocking this sign because nowhere could we see any buildings at all, let alone dangerous ones.
When we walked back into the hotel we passed the room that was set up for that night's dinner with the COSAC group. This is a room to just relax in. I thought it was very elegant and inviting.Before the COSAC dinner we decided to find the bar in the hotel so Richard could experience his first Guinness in Ireland.
I can never resist shooting some artsy-fartsy shots with the color accent option on my camera.
Here is the happy lass who had to walk to the other bar to get the fresh Guinness as this bar was being retapped. Don't those look lovely to all you beer drinkers? I don't like beer myself but I will say that Guinness is the prettiest beer, with its body a rich chocolate color topped with the creamy beige froth. The moment he's been waiting for...
Hey! Watch that nose! Be careful it doesn't take a dive into the froth. (Notice his eyes are closed in ecstasy! I think he was making some noises, too, like mmmmm....)The bar finished tapping up and poured a few more glasses of Guinness. It's a slow process as they let the beer settle, pour more, settle, pour more... While Richard was at the conference on Wednesday, the 23rd, I walked the mile-and-a-half into the city of Naas. It was a very agreeable walk that took me from the countryside, through a little bit of burbish feel as I walked past neighborhoods, and into the city. I found this sign a bit curious. Again Gaelic first, English second. I was trying to figure out all the symbols. I chuckled when I saw this sign which was just outside the driveway to the hotel.The rolling countryside view seen on my walk dotted with sheep and cows.
As I got closer to the city there were neighborhoods sprouting up.More signs on my walk.Ireland voted 'yay' to the Lisbon Treaty.Here are a few views of the city of Naas. I wish it would have been a sunnier day. I did get rained on a bit; I had to pop in and buy an umbrella. Bummer was, I had one back at the hotel. Again, I liked the sign in the window below. When I travel I always notice how the signs are different from what I see where I live. "love the bubbles." We don't have those in our McDonalds, do we?
I took this shot not only because I thought it pretty but because of how the sign reads: Commissioner For Oaths. I'm not sure what that job entails.The Naas courthouse.I had a great lunch at Kavanagh's.Sweet potato soup with a slice of hearty, freshly-baked bread and chips, of course! They were the best fries I have ever had.This place looked strange in that there were no windows. It looked more like a jail than a bar.Then there was this place, Butt Mullins. Yes, Butt Mullins. I should have gone in.Thursday, the 24th, the conference was over so Richard and I headed into Dublin for the rest of our stay. We took a cab into Naas then caught a bus into Dublin. Here's a picture of the cab driver, on the wrong side of the car!!Hence signs like these painted on the road at the edge of the sidewalk as a reminder to all those who might need it:A few pictures from the cab as we say goodbye to Naas and Killashee. It was on to Dublin, Thursday, September 24th, where we had reservations at Staunton's On The Green, a small, quaint hotel that turned out to have an ideal location. It was close enough to walk to the bustling downtown shopping and to the Temple Bar district with pub after pub but yet it was across the street from a huge park, St. Stephen's Green, and enough blocks away from the noise that you didn't hear the partying at night. Inside the hotel itself were paper-thin walls but fortunately the hotel wasn't booked up solid so there wasn't a lot of bustle. We didn't plan it but September 24th turned out to be the 250th anniversary of Arthur Guinness signing the 9000 year lease on the land on which the first Guinness brewery was constructed. They call it Arthur Day. Do I need to say that it was 'PARTY TIME!' in the city of Dublin?
After getting settled in our room we thought we would walk through St. Stephen's green to check it out. It turned out to be a beautiful, well-used park with quite a collection of statues and busts including this one titled the Three Fates.These two cuties were too adorable to let pass without a picture.Here are more pictures taken on our walk through the park.
Does anyone recognize this arch from a popular movie?As soon as Richard saw it he recognized it as the arch in the movie 'Once.' I took a picture underneath the arch. The arch commemorates the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in the Second Boar War.
After the park, we decided to walk around the city. The River Liffey runs right through the heart of Dublin reminding me a bit of Paris. It adds a dimension to the city that has a calming, reflective influence.
Downtown Dublin has an area, like a number of large cities I've been to, that is pedestrian only shopping.
I tried talking Richard into going in and experiencing this.We saw lots of interesting things, like: A one-man band,
a performance artist (check out the pigeons in both pictures),
an oh, 'snap' sign (for Hannah and Sarah),
lots of Guinness tankers making deliveries, readying the pubs for the night of celebration (apparently, pubs have huge tanks underground from which they pump the fresh Guinness),
and a huggable leprechaun. We also saw this on the side of buses all around town. There is a hefty fine for spitting out your gum in the street. The city of Dublin provides rental bikes for people as a mode of transportation. You see them all over the city. Smart idea, I think.
Richard likes their post boxes. We saw this painted on the side of a phone booth. 'P' is for 'puke,' apparently.This is the bar, The Bachelor Inn Bar, in which we celebrated Arthur's night on Thursday. A lot of pubs were selling Guinness for €2.50 in honor of the 250th anniversary but I don't believe this pub was doing that. I wasn't drinking beer. (I know! Shoot me! I just don't like the taste.) We sat listening to a guitarist/singer who was enjoyable. This is the only picture I have of him; it is quite blurry.During a break, this young guy stepped up and sang an Irish song, singing his heart out. He was quite talented.The headliners, so-to-speak, were these two guys who got the place going, singing Irish tunes that everyone but us knew. They sang very well together with great harmonizing. Of course, the sound quality was limited to capabilities of the venue.If you care to give a listen, here they are singing a song that isn't an old Irish ditty but they wanted to do a 'States' song as there were a few of us from the States. It's called 'City of Chicago.'
There was a tableful of young guys next to us that really appreciated their Guinness! The drinking age in Ireland is 19 years.
It didn't take long for those glasses to look like this:Just to give you an idea of the crowd on Arthur's night, here is a picture of the Temple Bar during the day. (At first we were very confused because the area where there is a concentration of pubs is known as the Temple Bar area. One pub has taken on that name, also.)
Here is the same area at night on our walk back to our hotel. People were walking around with beers in their hands all over the streets. I saw a police officer hold out his hand to a passer-by to which the person, without slowing down, just handed over their beer and kept on walking. I asked the cop if it was legal to drink in the streets and he said no but on this night they were more tolerant. Here are a few pictures taken on our walk back to the hotel. The River Liffey is pretty at night. The second picture is the famous Ha'Penny Bridge (pronounced 'hay penny'), so called because of the old half-penny toll to cross. The third picture is another statue in the city.We took this sign for Sarah. Maybe she'll study here someday.
Friday was a busy day for us. We started the day taking a boat tour down the River Liffey. These two gentlemen were the skipper and the narrator of the tour. Typical of the Irish we came in contact with, they were friendly, happy, and seemed stress-free. I have to say, Irish people don't seem to carry stress around with them like we do here in the States. It's quite refreshing.
If I'm remembering this correctly, and I hope Richard will correct me if I'm wrong, the tour guide pointed out that this ship below was one of the ships that took emmigrants across the Atlantic during the famine when so many Irish people died. I believe the tour guide said that these ships were called 'death ships' because so many people died while trying to emmigrate. There is a new bridge being built across the Liffey called the Samuel Beckett Bridge designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. It is designed in the spirit of the harp, as the harp is a secular icon for Ireland and things Irish. Look hard just under the base of the main span; you will see a circular shape that disappears into the water. That is where the bridge will swing from to open and allow ships to pass. Here is another picture from the other side of the bridge showing the whole bridge. I wish esthetics were more important to our architects here in the States. Isn't it beautiful?From the river tour we walked to the Jameson Distillery for another tour.
This building is the refurbished old distillery. What I'm showing in the picture below is the glass floor allows you to see the old structure beneath. If I remember correctly, the area under my foot was for storing grain.
We're waiting inside the lobby area where there is also......a bar, of course!
Richard decided to do a tasting of Jameson whiskey flights. Keep in mind this was all down the hatch in about 10 minutes. Talk about a rosy glow...a happy camper!
Here are some pictures inside, on the tour.On our walk after the Jameson tour, we saw this sign. Quite funny!Friday night we decided to do something that was a bit different. We saw a flier at our hotel advertising an Irish storyteller named Johnny Daly. It sounded interesting so we checked it out. It was a dinner-theatre type event with the stories told in between the courses. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have of Johnny. He was a GREAT storyteller, animated and enthusiastic.
He first told stories related to the potato and the famine. The second 'act' he told stories about the fairy culture and how they came to be important in the lives of the Irish. After the first course of stories my initial reaction was, "This man has found his calling." Johnny Daly has a wonderful way of pulling you into his enchanting world of early Ireland and fairies. The interspersing of food and storytelling is paced so that you have a chance to mingle with your other table guests, finding out where they're from and what brought them to Dublin. The food was good and I was surprised to see how much Johnny actually put into the production of the whole evening. I would highly recommend this experience as it is a bit 'on the outside of the box' when it comes to touristy things to do. It's unique and gives you that warm-fuzzy feeling that most of us go to Dublin to experience.This was Richard's meal.
These two gentlemen played Irish ditties during the main course. They were a lot of fun. A number of the attendees knew all the words to all the songs. Not us. :(
After the storytelling, we decided to check out a pub that we heard was THE place to hear authentic Irish music. We were told that The Cobblestone was a place where you never knew who was going to show up; it might be someone famous(I was hoping for Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard from 'Once'). We were so delighted by the music we heard and amazed at the young ages of the musicians. There are two 'music areas' in The Cobblestone. The area up front is reserved for walk-in musicians and is where we heard these people play.I asked the girl playing the concertina her age; she's 24. If you care to hear them play, here is an audio. There is no video as the lights were too dim.
After a while of playing, the three guys got up and another girl sat down to accompany the concertina player.On Saturday we just walked around the city trying to shop for gifts for the kids. This is the whiskey store at which we made a few purchases (not for the kids!). If you're looking for a hard-to-find favorite, check out their website here.Saturday night was our last night in Dublin. We still had a hankering for music and found ourselves listening to some jazz. The trumpet player was from the States, Philidelphia, I believe.
Travel all the way to Dublin, Ireland, to find a sticker advertising an Irish Fest in Wisconsin!
We heard a lot from the locals about the west side of the country, so much so that we decided when we make it back to Ireland, we will head to the other coast.