Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Magnificent, Medieval, Modern

Thurs, 12 Feb 2015

Flight #1 leaves Louisiana bound for Ireland (via Houston AND London) scheduled to arrive the next day.

Fri, 13 Feb 2015

Choosing to fly across the Atlantic Ocean on Friday the 13th may not be in the cards for the superstitious. For me, it was no problem!

10 a.m. - Arrive in Dublin
Phone isn't working here. No texting. No emailing. CRAP! Must find a way to let people back home know I made it. Oooh look, an Internet Cafe. One euro for an hour on the Internet. One euro for a phone call. COOL! In case the phone call doesn't work, Facebook it is!

Done. Now, let's walk around a bit and take a few things in shall we?

Inside my backpack are: one Sony videocamera; one Canon 35mm camera and extra rolls of film; one Fuji digital camera with extra batteries; passport; directions to lodging; and probably other stuff that doesn't belong. Oh well. Off we go. Pretty afternoon. Fair skies. Little breezy. Not cold, just a little windy.

Look at ALL these people! OMG! Very comparable to the hustle and bustle of New York City. People, businesses, bicycles, buses, cabs, cars, more people. Wow! I'm not sure what I expected, but I don't think it was THIS. Didn't realize Dublin was such a metropolis, but should have figured. It being the country's capital and all.

Trinity College. Christchurch Cathedral. O'Connell Street. Grafton Street. Pubs. Touristy souvenier shops. Restaurants. A huge vertical memorial jets skyward. Impressive. The General Post Office. (Highly impressive) Dublin Castle. Very colorful doors all around me. Medieval bricks cushion my feet as I walk. Phoenix Park. Guinness. The Clarence Hotel. Ha'penny Bridge. COOL STUFF.

Supper in Madigan's Pub. Lamb stew, a 7-Up, and a piece of apple pie. When the lady asks, "Cream or ice cream?" I don't know what to say, so I say, "both." (What did she mean cream or ice cream? Cream? What the hell?) This lamb stew is awesome. Sure I've had mutton, but lamb? Never dreamed people slaughtered lambs, but's good. 

The apple pie is a little different. Less sweat than ours. The filling is that a word? Custardy? The apples are tart, but sooo good. No American Apple Pie crust either. More like creme brule without the caramelized top. Not a pastry chef, so it's hard to describe. But man oh man, it's good.

Sat, 14 Feb
Valentine's Day

Bus to the Cliffs leaves 7:30 a.m. Huge bus. It's full. I sit in the front next to a man named Michael Martin from Dublin. He's nice. Very chatty.
     "I like the way you talk," he says.
     "I like the way YOU talk," I answer.
Tour guide is JJ. Bus driver is Frank, although JJ keeps calling him Fred which makes everyone laugh - even Frank.

Landscape is gorgeous once we get out of the city heading west to County Clare and Doolin. Black and white Hereford cattle graze in lush green fields. Hearty and fat sheep, herds of sheep, sunbathe and play. Miniature stone walls separate property lines like old fence rows. Chilly morning but the sun is out. JJ says it's going to be a beautiful day. A little fog across the pastures. JJ calls it mist.

Pit stop somewhere along the way. Mike buys a candy bar. It's chocolate. Like a Hershey's, but it's called Galaxy. He offers me a piece. OMG! Waaaay better than Hershey's or even Cadbury. I swear. It's the best chocolate I've ever eaten. Hands down. I'm thinking of ordering me some online. Really!

As we get closer to our first site of the day, an ancient Abbey where Monks used to live, the roads get narrower and bumpier. The bus rounds a bend. A farmer's cow is out and in the middle of the road. Frank stops the bus. The car ahead tries to herd the cow on as three others on foot attempt to direct her into the right gate. The teamwork is successful and after a minute or two, the heifer is off the road. The bus laughs at this rural adventure unfolds in front of them, but I've seen it too many times to laugh at the problem. Still, I smile.

After the Abbey is the "little cliffs." Amazing!

Next stop: Doolin for lunch. Fitzpatrick's. I have salmon. It's pretty good. Never had salmon before.

Next stop: Cliffs of Moher. Good God Almighty. Unbelievalbe. Something straight out of another world. Extreme wind as I climb. Someone is playing the tin whistle and another is playing his accordian. It's so unreal to be standing here looking out on the Atlantic Ocean, hearing soft melodies, and watching the waves crash against the faces of the cliffs. I'm so high up, the waves seem tiny.

Leave around 5:30. Make a final pitstop somewhere along the highway, or Motorway (like our Interstate) for those who have to go to the bathroom. Mike buys ANOTHER Galaxy candy bar and shares with me. I should've gotten off the bus and bought my own.

Around 9 pm we're back in Dublin and I decide to get off the bus on O'Connell St figuring I can find my way back to the lodging. WRONG!! I wander around taking pictures and watching people. I walk up and down streets, main streets, side streets. I go inside touristy gift shops. It's too late to eat supper, and I'm not really hungry. I keep walking and wandering around hopelessly lost. At one point, I'm back at Christchurst Cathedral and I think I'm getting closer to where I need to be. NOPE! Businesses get fewer and far between. People on the sidewalks get less and less. Oooh look...the bar from "Cheers," no really it is. Least the sign looks perfectly similar! Alleyways begin to get darker and longer. I turn around several times. Finally, I give up the ghost, fish the address to where I'm staying out of my backpack, and hail a cab.

Shit, I was only a mile or so from where I needed to be, but there was no way I could've found my way back. The driver has a GPS in the car and we're there in a few minutes. Whew!

Sun, 15 Feb

This time the day tour is a smaller group. A Mercedes van is all that is required. Tour guide is Ronan. He's super funny and friendly. Seven of us in the van: all from the Southern US. No kidding. Three from Florida, two from South Carolina, and would you believe the girl sitting behind me is from Shreveport!

Blarney Castle, Cork, and Cobn (pronounced Cove...weird, I know) are the destinations today. From the east coast to the south we go. Another chance to see the landscape change. More history from Ronan. He seems to enjoy his job! He talks of the pharmaceutical industry and how Viagra was invented in Ireland. (Really? I had no idea. But, he may just be telling a good story.) He DID say the last three letters in Viagra, the "gra," is the Irish word for love. So...who knows?!

He talks of Queen Elizabeth I and Oliver Cromwell and the exile of the Irish Catholics to the barren land of the west. He talks of the dairy industry, of butter and cheese, the beef and wool industries, the technology jobs and how computer giants such as Google, eBay, Yahoo, and Microsoft each have their European HQs in Ireland. Interesting. He talks of cars being brought to the island. Ronan talks about a lot of things. It's so cool to have such interactive history, geography, geology, and socio-economic lessons as we ride across the country. He talks of gypsies, of political and religious issues. He tells of the Uprising. I am enthralled because I love history. He even tells a joke, and it's so funny! (Maybe I got it on video...hope so.)

Sunday was such a magnificent day. To stand and walk around and touch the walls of a castle was CRAZY! Very overwhelming. And yes, here I am bent over backwards (literally) putting my mouth on a rock! Dude did a good job holding me up! He was very handsome, too!

I can write so much about these three days in Ireland, but I better wrap it up. I heard so many dialects there, just like here. Everyone knows if you travel 20 miles in any direction, you'll hear different accents. Same there. Yet I even heard Russian, German, Italian, and a Frenchman actually said, "Bonjour," to me as he boarded the city bus on Friday. My French teacher would've been proud of me because I actually wanted to say a few words back to him, but his English sounded as broken as my I kept quiet. 

Really cannot wait to go back. It was one of the best three days of my life!

Monday morning I was at the airport coming back home. WOW! Did I really go and do all those things? Ha. Who's coming with me next time?