Well it's been a crazy three days doing all the typical touristy stuff! On Thursday, like I said in my last post, we visited the Kilmainham Jail. It is the oldest jail in Dublin, and was very creepy! We found out that it was supposed to be able to hold 100 prisoner, but at one point, there were over 9000 housed in it. It was very cool, though the tour was way to long, especially since we were all exhausted from flying all night! Also, it has been used as the set for many movies, including the recent Charlie Wilson's War (which starred Julia Roberts, my fav!). After that tour and a long walk home, we all had to take a nap! We are going to have to get used to all this walking... I'm going through withdrawl without my car (Leroy) and cell phone! How did people live before these things!?!?! :)
The last two days, we have been on 2 different bus tours, one of which took all over the city, and the other out into the countryside and through the mountains. They were a blast, and the pictures that you see above are from those adventures! Friday we took the bus tour throw the city, and it was called a hop-on-hop-off tour, meaning that there were 23 stops, all of which you had the choice as to get off the bus there or not. Buses would come to each stop every 10 minutes so you could stay at any one place as long as you would like! We started our tour in the Temple Bar area, an area that we found out is very popular for tourists.
We got off on our first stop at a park called St. Peter's Green. It was beautiful! You can see more flowers, greens, ponds, and swans above. It was so perfectly groomed, and there was no trash anywhere! Also, there were really cool scupltures throughout the park, most of which we tried to imitate for pictures. We met 2 crazy couples from Chicago, celebrating one of the ladies 50th birthday, and they volunteering to take pictures of us. Some of the poses are quite funny to say the least! It's really hard to be a sculpture!
Our next stop was at the Dublin Castle. This housed three huge sand sculptures that were incredible! We couldn't understand how they didn't wash away in the rain storms, but who knows! The structure of the castle itself was very beautiful! Not quite like the one that I saw in Scotland a few years ago, but still very detailed and impressive!
Next came the Christ Church Cathedral...AMAZING! This was like the church of all churchs out there! There is no way for me to describe the intricate wood and stone carvings! You can see in some of the pictures above the archways, windows, and sculptures, but these are just a few of the many and the pictures don't do the real things justice at all! It is hard to believe that these sturcture were built so many years ago, as the details, symmetry, curves, etc. are all so perfect! There was an organ at the front of the church that went from floor to ceiling and was probably 12 wide and 8 feet in depth. Huge! The cathedral is still holds between 3 and 5 services everyday, and is apparently full at every one of them! We were able to go down into the basement, where the walls and ceilings were bunches of archways made of crumbling stone. There were many sculptures, important documents, gold plates, and the like housed down there. There was even a mummified cat and mouse that were very famous back in the day. Frankly, they were just really grose and gave me the shivers!
From there we hopped on the bus and headed to the best place all day... the Guinness brewery. Now don't think that it was the best because of the free beer we got the the 11th floor Gravity bar, it was the best because it was the most interesting, well designed, largest, and just plain cool place ever! There were at least 8 floors to this place, each of which were designated to a certain topic (ie. the history, the process, the ingredients) The signage and graphics in the entire building where orange and white and very oversized in all regards! They incoporated a simple arrow design throughout the building to lead you on a self-guided tour of the brewery. There was a huge displays of each of the actual ingredients used in the brewing process, one of which included a large waterfall with a wishing pool at the bottom. Other floors had cafes, bars, resturants, movies, gift shops, and all the tools and machines needed to brew Guinness. We loved this place so much that we stayed there for four hours (but only drank one beer)! I don't know how many times I said that I wished I could have been in on all the planning and design of this place... it was so neat!
From there we hopped back on the bus and headed to the Jameson Distillery. We quickly learned that we say the name of this all wrong... it's not Jame-i-son like we say, it's Jam-son. After a quick tour through the old distillery (it's no longer in use because it's too small!), we ended up with a free drink yet again! A shot of Jameson, a spritz of ginger ale, and a squeeze of the lime was my choice... I could not do it straight up like some of the girls... I'm a whimp!
After a long walk back to the hostel and a quick fix of the make-up, we were off yet again for dinner out at a local pub called Faringtons. This time we were lucky enough to meet up with all the Iowa Staters visiting Dublin right now, so there were 12 of us out together. It was a blast, and some of the best food we have had all trip long! After dinner, we went to a small local pub called the Stag's Head and sat down in the basement just in time for the start of some live, tradtional Irish music. It was very cool... we felt like we were truely in the of Ireland that night!
Saturday was consumed by our second all day bus tour. This time we traveled out into the countryside to an old monestary called Glendalough. The roads were very narrow, very curvy, and very steep! We drove up through the mountains and stopped at a couple little quiant towns along the way. One of them was a morning coffee break stop at the cutest shop ever! There was a big store filled with darling, girly merchandise that I absolutely loved, but it was so expensive! I couldn't bring myself to pay 60 euros for a little purple polka-dotted coffee mug! Also, in the back was a coffee and pastry bar... I have the most incredible fresh fruit tart ever! It was like heaven in my mouth... almost like a berry cheesecake, but even better! After that we were off on the little roads again, where we stopped a few more times for pictures and lunch and then we arrived at Glendough... finally. Oh, and at one of the stops along the way, the bus driver gave us shots of Jameson whiskey. I looked down at my watch, thinking that it was a little early for this, and it said 12:01. I guess it's never to early to drink in Ireland!
When we arrived in Glendalough, it was so pretty! The old churches from 600 were still standing and we were able to walk right into them, not having to worry that they would come crumbling down on us! It is insane to think that these stone that were simply stacked on one another, with no mortar at all, can still be standing some 1400 years later! There was also an extremely old cemetary on the property, with tons of old gravemarkers still standing. Many of them were worn down to flat stones, but some of them were from recent years. The only way that you can be burried in the land is to have been grandfathered in hundreds of years ago, long before you were even born. Today, there are still 5 people that have to be laid to rest there before the cemetary will offically be closed for good. Another fun little fact about the cemetary, given by our bus driver, was that no headstones were put into place before 1720 because nobody was able to read or write before that time!
The surrounding land was beautiful, filled with forests, lakes, waterfalls, streams, and the like. It was an indescribable sight, best to be seen for yourself. Soon, there will be more pictures at the top, so you can see for yourself what I am talking about! You might also see a few picture from our adventure out on the town Saturday night when we returned for the country. It was a fun night out to dinner at a famous pub in Dublin called Oliver St. John's Gogarty. We must be very good at timing our dinners because for the second night in a row, we arrived just in time for some live, traditional Irish music. It was very good food, very good music, and lots of fun for all of us! We decided to hit up the Stag's Head again for just a bit, and once again we arrived just in time for the live music! Bridget, Carolyn and I decided to make it an early night back to the hostel, so that we could upload photos, get things organized, and make it to bed at a decent hour! Everything went as planned, except the whole get to bed early thing! I believe it was almost 4am before the lights went out, as we heard some exciting stories from the other girls that stayed out to have too much fun!
Sunday was a real laid back day, starting by sleeping in until noon! That was very needed by all of us, as we were exhausted from going nonstop for the past 4 days. In the afternoon, we took the DART (Dublin Area Rail Transit) train down to the southern coast area to a popular festival that happens once a year in Ireland. It was a type of cultural festival, that was supposed to be very fun and filled with food stands and music and dancing. Well, there was music and dancing, but the food stands were scarce. Katy and I decided to try some chicken lo mein from the one Chinese stand because it looked and smelled very great and we were starving because it was 3:30 and we hadn't eaten all day! Bad mistake on our part! We tried our best to choke it down but were gagging the whole time! After a short stay there, we headed back to our hostel to meet up with everyone and decided that our last meal in Dublin should be one that we all knew we would love... McDonalds! A quick Big Mac and fries, back to the hostel we went to try to pack up our bags so that we could get everything into the suitcases without being overweight! That was a task that took packing and repacking to say the least!
Well it is now the wee hours of Monday morning, and in about 3 hours we will be off to the airport for our flight to Rome. Wish me luck with everything at the airport, and let's hope that my suitcase doesn't weight more that 44lbs! I'm so happy to be able to share my adventures and pictures with everyone at home... the next time I'll write, I'll be in Rome in my new home for the next 4 months! Love to all at home!