Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ireland Day 6 - The Great Sleep-In

Thursday night I slept so good. It was amazing. The best sleep I'd had all week. Then I woke up and saw that it was 9:40!

The thing is we had been really, really looking forward to going to The Giant's Causeway the whole entire trip! It's this really amazing and beautiful geological formation and we were so excited about it. The plan was to meet our friends at 9am for breakfast, then our tour was leaving at 9:30. And we woke up at 9:40. Seriously! I guess we weren't excited enough to make sure we set an alarm.

I honestly didn't even think there would be a possibility of sleeping in later than 8, so it didn't even really occur to me to set an alarm (though we did every other day of the trip).

I jumped up and started getting ready - I was in a frenzy!

I had Pete call down to see if by chance the tour hadn't left on time. Of course it had. I didn't even know what to do, I couldn't believe we were missing it!

My wonderful, logical husband, was still able to think and figured out a bus route we could take that would get us there. We would have to be on the 10:30 bus or we wouldn't have enough time since we had to be on the train back to Dublin that evening. Ok, there was a possibility we could make that. We hurried and packed up our stuff, ran down, did a quick check-out and stowed our bags at the hotel, then ran to the bus station that was luckily just a few blocks away. We got there with about 5 minutes to spare!

Then we looked at the ticket booth and there was ONE person selling tickets and a HUGE line! There was no way we'd get through that line, buy our tickets, and find our bus in 5 minutes!

So, we just left, feeling so frustrated at having our plans foiled again.

We went across the street to Cafe Nero for breakfast because of the cool name, and I had porridge again. I sat there trying really hard not to be mad, but I still was.

We went back to our hotel and just sat in the lobby for a few minutes, then decided to just get a taxi to the train station and head back to Dublin.

It was nice because we got on the train with plenty of time to find a forward facing seat this time, and I think that helped a lot with me not feeling train sick. I also bought a sandwich at the station and brought it with me. It was really good. It was warm with turkey, cranberry, bacon (ham) spinach and brie. Mmmmm

Once we got settled on the train, we talked about how it does no good to be mad about missing our tour because it doesn't help anything and I was able to finally calm down. This train ride was much nicer than the last one. It was light the whole time so I was able to watch the pretty countryside pass by as we went. It really was very picturesque, just how you would think of Ireland. I wish I would have gotten a picture.

We had no trouble getting back to our lovely Trinity Capitol Hotel once we arrived in Dublin, and it just felt like a relief to be back. I don't know what it was, but I just felt so much more comfortable and at home in Dublin. Maybe because I got lost by myself in the dark in Belfast! Haha

Anyway, we set out to get something to eat since Pete hadn't eaten on the train. We went to a crepe shop we'd walked past before and got chocolate-hazelnut, strawberry, banana crepes that were delicious! We ate them while we walked over to the collage to go see The Book of Kells which is kept there. Have you seen the movie The Secret of Kells? It's a cute movie. It was the only link I had to the Book of Kells before this trip. I didn't really know anything about it, though. I really learned a lot on this trip, which was awesome! The Book of Kells was written and illustrated by monks in around the 9th century and is just beautifully and intricately done. It was really cool to see. The book is kept in the old library at the college which also just has shelves after shelves of old books so that was fun to see too.

After that we went and walked around some more and found our way to The Temple Bar District where we found a bridge with locks on it, kind of like the one in Paris that I've seen in movies.

We also decided on an Indian restaurant for dinner which was really good, but nothing too memorable. After that we explored some more and bought souvenirs for the kids. We found this cool square where a band was playing. When we walked by there later, there was someone else playing and we also ran into the guy from Israel who we met at the conference so that was crazy!

Then we found The (actual) Temple Bar and went inside because we heard live Irish music. They were just taking a break, though, so we hung around until they came back on.

The place was completely packed so it was kind of hard even to just find somewhere to stand. One of the places we stood had these cool tiles on the wall with bunch of different little stories.

When the band started playing again, everyone was immediately into it. It sounded so good. Then, during the first song, the guitarist broke his string. The guys playing the according and violin kept playing, and it was still really cool. Everyone was clapping along and just having a good time. I watched the guitarist put a new string on and wondered how he would be able to jump back in once he got it on. But, oh my gosh, after he tuned his guitar, he totally did just jump in and it sounded amazing! It was seriously one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Everyone in the whole bar cheered and it was so fun! I loved it so much, I can't even explain. It was definitely a highlight of the trip! They even played a song by my favorite band, Mumford and Sons which was awesome. I totally would have bought their CD, but we don't have a CD player.

We made our way back to the hotel and had to sit in this amazing chair.

The, at like 10pm or so, our friends got into town and called to see if we wanted to go out with them while they found something to eat. I had already started getting ready for bed, but I couldn't turn down the chance to see the town one more time. I was just telling everyone how much I loved this city and how it seemed really nice and clean. Then we walked past a pile of puke. Then we saw guy peeing on a statue.

Yeah. It's a little different when you're out after 10, I guess?

We flew home in the morning. I was really sad to leave, and worried about getting on the plane since I was still congested, but it turned out being totally fine! Whew! It was so nice to get home and see the kids...and be back in our own time zone!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ireland Day 5 - Belfast Castle & Cave Hill

Thursday was the main day for the conference. We met everyone for breakfast at a cafe where I had porridge, which is what we call oatmeal. From there everyone left for the conference and I asked around to find out which bus I needed to take to go see Belfast Castle then took off on my own.

The bus I got on was a double-decker so I went up on the top level to get a better view of the city on my way out. I was the only one up there for most of the time.

Here's one cool building I saw on the bus.

After about 15 or 20 minutes, I saw a sign for Belfast Castle so I got off at the next stop. I felt pretty proud of myself for finding my way there without any problems! I had to backtrack a little to get to the castle, but saw a sign that said something like Castle Park right away so I followed that road. It took me through the most beautiful wooded park on a nice paved trail. I was wishing I had brought my running shoes, but I had decided to leave them home because my achillies was feeling pretty sore for a couple days leading up to the trip and I didn't want to be tempted! It was nice just walking though.

It was so beautiful and green!

Here's my first view of Cave Hill in the distance.

My first view of the castle.

Closer view

The gardens were very nice, and there were several cats.

These Italian style stairs were added on later.

 A view from inside the castle.

The only person I saw in the castle was the girl at the front desk and she told me I could go down the "wee spiral stairs."

After exploring the small castle, which has a restaurant and a small museum inside, I went back outside and followed the trail that went up to Cave Hill. It was kind of a strenuous hike, and I could sure feel it in my lungs, but it also felt really good to be out there!

I came around a corner and saw this view. Of course, the picture does not do it justice.

The view from the trail.

Closer to the cliffs. 

One of the caves that the the hill is named for.

It took me about half an hour or so to hik up to where Iturned around. Here's the view back down the trail.

After my hike, I saw a guy run up the trail, and I was very impressed! That would not be an easy run! Again I kind of wished I had my running shoes.

I walked back down to the bus stop through this nice neighborhood. The yeild signs there say "Give Way." Just a little reminder that I'm in a different country.

I took the bus back and watched it fill up as we got closer to town. I thought it was cool to see the men stand up and give their seats to the sweet old ladies that would get on. I don't ever take the bus at home so I don't know if that's how it is here or not, but it was nice to see.

I had lunch at the mall close to where I got off the bus, then walked back to the hotel. It was raining a little when I got off the bus, but cleared up when I got close to the hotel. The light was shining beautifully on the assembly hall across from our hotel.

Then when I got up to my room, I noticed this rainbow over the city. No nice.

That evening I planned to meet Pete and everyone at a restaurant called Made In Belfast right next to St. Ann's Cathedral. Since I still had a bus ticket I could use for the rest of the day, I decided I would be crazy and wear my heels that I brought in place of my running shoes. I am terrible at walking in heels, but I justified that I could take the bus since I went right by there on my way out in the morning. I was feeling so confident about my bus riding skills that I thought this was a great plan!

Well, I ended up getting on the wrong bus, and soon noticed that I was heading the wrong way, out of town! I got off the bus, and had no idea where I was! It was dark, and I saw what looked like a cathedral nearby. I went over to check it out, just in case I was lucky and it was St. Ann's. It was not, but it was beautiful, and I'm glad I got to see it. I saw a sign that said St. Peter's Cathedral so this could have been that. I have no idea, though.

I waited at the bus stop for a while, but had no idea when the next bus would come so I started walking back the way I had come. It took me a while, and I was so anoyed at myself for even bringing heels to Europe, but I finally found the restaurant and everything was fine! I even got there before my food. I was sadly dissapointed with the food at this place because it really seemed like my kind of place with fresh, local ingredients.

After that we went to the after party which was cool to get to talk to some of the other designers that were there for the conference. Along with a few guys from Ireland, we talked to a guy from Israel, and a couple from Belgum who were all really interesting. It was a fun night, and quite an adventurous day!

Ireland Day 4 - Belfast

It took me forever to fall asleep again Tuesday night, and as I lay there in the middle of the night I seriously started to wonder if I would die from lack of sleep there in that strange city, in that strange strange country, with this Old World version of a cold! But then at about 3am, I finally did fall asleep! It was such a relief! Crazy the things we think of in the dark of the night!

Wednesday morning I woke up to this beautiful view out our window that got me very excited for the day.

Again, it was very easy to find a cafe for breakfast. I decided to try a Scotch Egg even though I had no idea what it was. I was pleasantly surprised with this: an egg wrapped in sausage, breaded and deep fried! Wow. I couldn't finish the whole thing.

Next we went looking for where Pete's tour for the conference was supposed to be, but we got confused and went to the wrong place so he missed his bus. We went in search of some of the other workshops which took place near St. Ann's Cathedral. Wow, it was beautiful!

This is the right-hand side arch. "O GRAVE, WHERE IS THY VICTORY?"

This cool Celtic-looking cross is on the right side.

A little alcove inside above a little font.

Here I am with the font.

This was cool, the shines through the stained glass window and reflects off this cross.

Here's the window. It is the story of the good Samaritan. So cool how much detail are in these windows.

We found the conference after this and Pete tried to get into the blacksmith workshop, but it was full. We did finally get to sneak in to a few other workshops, though. I wasn't technically supposed to attend them since I had just purchased the evening activity pass, but they weren't too strict about it.

Just before dinner, we heard from our friends who had just gotten into town. We met up with them and went to a Japanese chain restaurant that they tried and loved in London. It was really good. It was in the mall, and we happened to walk by right at the time they turned on the Christmas lights which was pretty cool. They are way into Christmas there, and I commented to Pete that it seemed early and he reminded me that they don't have Thanksgiving there.

That evening we went to a social thing the conference put on and got to talk to a some of the people involved in the conference which was cool.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ireland Day 3 - Kilmainham Gaol & Train to Belfast

Tuesday morning we had planned on getting up early enough to watch the sun rise at a coffee shop by the water, but that didn't happen. I felt like I didn't sleep at all during the night and finally fell asleep just before it was time to get up so I guess we weren't too excited to get up. We still had a nice walk down to the water but it was too windy to sit outside anyway. I just had a scone and Pete had a pastry, and I was not feeling well. I was burning up sitting in there and couldn't wait to get back outside. We went back to our hotel and I laid down for like half an hour, and felt the most comfortable and relaxed I had the whole trip. I actually kind of felt drugged, it was weird, but Pete said I didn't feel like I had a fever. Anyway, after resting for a little while, we had to check out of our hotel and decided to go see the Kilmainham Gaol. 

We took the tram to the other side of the city, then had to walk for about 15 minutes to get to it, but it was really pretty nice outside and not too bad of a walk. I was not feeling great, and kind of felt bad even being out in public, though I could tell I wasn't the only sick person in our group. They don't really have the whole "cough/sneeze into your elbow" campaign going on over there like here in The States. I just kept thinking, "no wonder I got sick." But anyway, it was a really interesting tour and cool to see such an old, politically important jail.

Here's the only picture we got of the old part of the jail. It was pretty dark and damp and not in the greatest shape.

Here is the newer section of the jail which was much, much nicer and really iconic looking. They filmed In The Name of The Father here, and U2 also filmed their video for "A Celebration" here. I was really hoping to link to the youtube video, but I couldn't find it.

These are bonnets and handkerchiefs that represent all the women and children who were shipped from here to Australia. Pretty crazy.

Pete sitting in one of the cells.

It was a very cool place. Made like this so everyone could have light and everywhere could be seen.

When the tour was over, I was very ready to go "relax" on the train to Belfast. On our walk back to the tram, Pete got hit in the shoulder by an egg. We don't even really know where it came from, maybe the car driving by? It was so weird, and luckily it didn't break until it hit the ground, but we were just like, "what is going on!?"

We got our stuff back at the hotel then took a taxi to the train station because we were done walking. We made it to the station just in time for the next train which took about two and a half hours to get to Belfast. It was fun seeing the countryside during the first half of the ride, but then it got dark and I started feeling more and more sick and tired. I get a little motion sick on trains so that didn't really help.

The lady sitting next to us noticed our accents and that I wasn't feeling well so she offered to show us how to get into town knowing that it is difficult in an unfamiliar place. We asked if our hotel was far and she said it wouldn't be far if I wasn't so "wiped" and we didn't have luggage. We said we'd just get a taxi but then realized we didn't have the right currency since we were now in Northern Ireland, UK and needed Pounds instead of Euros. She found us a taxi and when he said he didn't take credit cards she did not hesitate to get her money out and ask him if he'd take us to our hotel for a "fiver" and he agreed. We weren't in the most dire circumstance, we would have figured something out, but we were uncomfortable and it was just so very, very kind of her! I was impressed and hope to follow her example in the future!

We got into our hotel and they informed us that we had been upgraded to a suit. We were blown away by how nice it was!

Pete's conference was showing some movies that night as the opening night, but we got there too late for the one he really wanted to see so we just decided to stay in. We had a quick dinner of chicken (and lamb for Pete) and potatoes at the hotel's fancy restaurant, then we watched a movie and went to bed. Man, it must have been fun having a sick wife as a traveling companion...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ireland Day 2 - Plan Changing Cold

After sleeping for only a few hours, I woke up at around 2am with a nasty cold! I could not believe how suddenly I went from feeling great to feeling like my head was going to explode! Our plan had been to fly to London Monday morning, but I had such a bad sinus headache I knew I could not get on a plane in a few hours. I've flown with a cold before and it hurt so bad!

Pete called down to the front desk to see if they had anything that could help me and they brought me some chamomile tea which helped a lot, but I was still pretty miserable. I struggled through the rest of the night, but really wasn't able to sleep.

We got up at 6:30 to meet the rest of our party to tell them we were just going to stay in Dublin while they went to London. Of course, our meeting time was a bit of a miscommunication, and they didn't end up coming down until more like 7:30. Pete and I said goodbye to them, had some breakfast in the hotel restaurant (which was another good full Irish breakfast buffet), then went back up to bed.

And this is pretty much where I stayed until around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

Here is the lovely view from our window of the Fire Brigade. I had to take this picture to show George. Also, the lights on the fire engines are blue over there!

Finally, I couldn't take any more sitting around and we really wanted to get out and see more of the city! I was feeling a little better, but still not great so first we went in search of some cold medicine. This was more difficult than we thought because we didn't know what to ask for since they didn't know what DayQuil was. We finally went to a pharmacy and got something that seemed to help. We walked around a bit then decided to stop in one of the many, many cafes that are practically every other building (with the other building being a pub).

We picked this one called The Humble Bean, but they didn't take credit cards and we didn't have any Euro so we went and found an ATM then went back. I'm glad we did too because I got the most beautiful and delicious hot chocolate I've ever had. We also shared a piece of carrot cake that was amazing! That helped me feel better and we set off to do some more exploring!

We crossed The Liffey a couple times. Here's looking one way (East I think).

And the other way. The bridges are all different and beautiful in their own ways. One of them that we crossed (maybe the one behind me here) had a plaque on it saying it was built in the 1700s. It was pretty awesome to be standing on a bridge older than our country.

Here's a cool building we walked by with lots of cool details.

We passed a big wall with some kind of map of the stars that was really cool.

Then finally, we found what we were looking for! The Christchurch Cathedral! Unfortunately, even though it was only about 5:00, it was already pretty dark, and there was a private event going on inside so we weren't able to go in, but we still really enjoyed walking around it.

To one side of the Cathedral, they had this Viking plot that was all blocked out just with stones on the ground which was a pretty cool way to give you an idea of how big their houses were back then. We didn't get a picture of that because it was too dark, but here's the plaque.

Here's the front which was really well lit.

We walked around some more until we found this beautiful place to eat called The Bank on College Green.

It really was so beautiful! From the high Victorian ceiling...

to the mosaic tile on the floor.

From the cute little fireplace we sat by...

...to the grand piano (which someone started playing soon after I took this photo),

 and the stained glass windows.

The food was so amazing too! I had the "Roast Pork Belly €14.50 (slow roasted for 12 hours) Served over Braised Red Cabbage on a Bed of Mash Potato with a Mustard Cream Sauce & Jus." Definitely the best food of the trip.

I, unfortunately, was still not feeling well at all, so we went back to the hotel soon after dinner to try and get some sleep. "Try" being the main word here. I am not a good sleeper normally, but being sick and jet-lagged really did not help.

I did go to bed totally in love with this city, though. It was a great evening!