Monday, September 17, 2012

Discovering Ireland

As our flight landed around 8:30am, we had a full day of sightseeing ahead of us. We dropped our luggage off at The Generator hostel (which was quite impressive and my first impression of a hostel. None of the hostels we stayed at came even close to how nice this one was), and off we went to find Christchurch Cathedral.

This was my favorite sight of the day. I was amazed at how enormous it was, how much space it occupied, and just how magnificent it was. We visited the crypt which was reminiscent of a wine cellar and held the “treasury” items belonging to the church. Costumes worn in the show “The Tudors” were even on display here.

The beautifully tiled floor in Christchurch Cathedral. 

 More mosaic work from Christchurch Cathedral.

 St. Patrick’s Cathedral was almost as impressive. It did seem more tourist-oriented, which made it less appealing to me than Christchurch Cathedral. 

At St. Patricks' Cathedral.

A gorgeous spiral staircase in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

There I am! St. Patrick's Cathedral is in the background.

The park grounds next to St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Dublin Castle was giving out free tours on the day we went! I really enjoyed learning about the history of the castle and how it is still used today.

The square at Dublin Castle.

In a park next to the castle.

Another view of Dublin Castle.

We had dinner at the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin. I had Irish smoked salmon with penne pasta and spinach in a cream sauce. It was just what I needed after a long day of traveling and sightseeing.

I slept just a little that night because I wasn’t entirely comfortable in my surroundings. I had never slept in a room with 5 other people who I didn’t really know before, and the room had a funky odor, which was intensified when someone decided to shut the window and trap the smell.

Rental car – maybe it wasn’t the best idea. It turned out to be more expensive than I previously thought.  It was a cute little thing though, and zipped around like a golf cart. I had much anxiety about driving on the other side of the road in the other side of the car, navigating the little roads of Ireland, but overall, I fared pretty well. I did not get any flat tires (thank goodness), and I only accidentally drove on the wrong side of the road once, and I blame that purely on fatigue. My co-pilot was great, especially during the first day when I didn’t have a good feel for my position in my lane. He may have also been seeing his life flash before his eyes when the car was mere inches from the stone walls to his left, but gentle commands to “move over” and “watch out” were very helpful. And what they say is true, not all of the roads in Ireland have street signs. The motorways are fairly easy to navigate, but the R’s (regionals) and N’s (nationals) are not as easy.

Off to Galway!

We stayed at Sleepzone here, which was a pretty miserable experience for me. The plus was that they had free internet, which is where I did a lot of my initial posting. Our room accommodated 6, 2 of whom had a ferocious stink (c’mon – make use of the ensuite bathroom!), and the window opened out right onto the street, or really, right onto the sidewalk. At about 4am it sounded like a few people were getting plates for a banquet of 300 ready in the kitchen. They must have had the drunken munchies.

Anyhow, Galway was great. It is a quaint, medieval town, in close proximity to the Cliffs of Moher. First stop was St. Nicholas’ Church, where the Irish woman in reception told us about her experience living in Boone, NC. It is a small world. Parts of the church date back to the 1200’s. I really liked the way they had it set up for tourists. Items were numbered, and we had a corresponding list with descriptions of the items, like a treasure hunt.

The interior of St. Nicholas' Church.

More of the interior.

The Spanish Arch which was part of the original wall around the city.

A street in Galway.
The Galway Museum was great because it provided good insight into the city’s history. A couple of the sights that we tried to find in Galway were either impossible to find, or were operating as shops, but were formerly sights. (A “castle” that is now a bank.) Or, in the case of the Nora Barnacle house, after trying twice to find it, is closed for the year.

Busker Brown’s was a great place for dinner, though the waitress cruelly upsold us a plate of bread. I say cruelly because she made it sound like it was free. Lesson learned.

The next day in Galway, I paid a dizzying 10 euro to have my one load of laundry done. (I’m estimating that is about $13 USD. It had to be done; I will not wear stinky, dirty clothes. Altogether, I spent about 25 euro on 3 loads of laundry throughout the trip. 

While awaiting a 2:30 ride on the Carrib Princess along the Carrib River, (pronounced Car-uhb) we had lunch at The Front Door. I liked the ambience at this restaurant and my lunch was fantastic. I had a bacon and brie sandwich, which came with a side salad and coleslaw. I like that sandwiches here are served with salads, though some salads were a bit wimpier than others. The bacon was more like a thick slice of smoked ham, but in my ravenous state, I quite enjoyed it.

Being in the spirit of Ireland, I purchased a copy of James Joyce’s “The Dubliners,” which is a book of short stories. I’m enjoying it so far.

At last, it was time for the boat ride. We cruised down the river while the captain told us about the sights: a bridge, the university, two castle ruins, and a very large lake where there are a lot of pike which were introduced by the Normans, along with swans.

Headed back up the river!

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