Monday, January 22, 2007

Loads to tell

Well, well, what have I been up to? I shall give the whirlwind version up to a point and I will update again with pictures when I get them off my camera - I will probably go back over old posts and add them in.

I spent 3 nights in Dublin. Last Tuesday I went to see the Book of Kells as I mentioned and then I went to the Guiness Storehouse and learned about the making of the beer and its history. There were many interesting things in the exhibit, in particular I found tasting roasted barley on its own neat as you see taste how it influenced the beer. I also enjoyed an exhibit on cask making - coopers were impressive tradesmen. There was also an exhibit on old Guiness advertising with videos of TV ads through the years, many of which I found quite funny. The ads from the 1950's were the best - back when the motto was "Guiness is good for you" because doctors at the time were actually prescribing it to people. One ad consisted of two cartoon ostriches tangoing to a tune that had a repetition of that motto, and then some man came in at the to dance with the female ostrich while the male ostrich swiped his Guiness I believe.

Wednesday I walked around the city and then met up with Kelly, a girl I met in Edinburgh who is from Nova Scotia but living in Dublin. We had lunch in the Temple Bar area and walked around the shops. Later in the afternoon I did some more exploring of my own, checking out the architecture in some interesting areas - a lot of it is Georgian, which is the straight rectangular style I mentioned in my post about Trinity College. The buildings in Dublin I would describe as discontinuous - there is no one consistent style along most streets and it can actually vary from one part of a building to another. Many cities will have a certain "look" to them, but Dublin doesn't have one, other than not having one.

Thursday morning I took the bus to Kilkenny, the capital town of county Kilkenny. I checked out the town which still has a lot of its medieval layout as it was spared by Cromwell's army due to some switching of allegiances of the local Duke of Ormond, the Butler family whose castle is located in the town above the river Nore. I got a good crash course in Irish history by taking the castle tour as the Duke was a pretty important guy in Anglo-Irish history as they like to call it here.

Two castle pictures

View from down the river, where you can see the vantage point the castle had...

The sign on the lawn, which is a normal European thing. I can never understand having grass you can't sit or walk on, especially in a park.
That evening I went out to a local pub with some people from my hostel to hear some traditional Irish music from a local band who were quite energetic. That evening also resulted in me having to fish my passport out of a toilet (fortunately recently cleaned as I could see the cleaner in the water) and I may leave the story at just that for the moment to keep you wondering. I will say that I fished it out quick enough that only the corners really managed to get wet so it is alright.

So then where am I? Friday. I did some laundry (exciting! Clean clothes) and then took a bus back to Dublin so that I could go to a birthday party at Kelly's. The bus ride ended up being very long because of traffic backed up all along the highway. When I got to Dublin I checked my e-mail to learn that the party had been cancelled, and so I did a quick check of bus times and saw that I could catch a bus to Cashel at 6pm. I saw this at 5:40pm. So I ran from Parnell Street to the Busaras (Main Bus Station) and got there in time for 6pm to find that the bus was late anyway. Losing faith in Bus Eireann, I took the bus which also was slowed some due to traffic - roadwork being done at night, apparently. I got into Cashel (in county Tipperary, by the way) at 9:30pm, not having booked a room at all and counting on the hostel there still being open and having vacancies. Both were the case, although the woman seemed a bit put off at my arrival at first but then seemed to warm to me. She did have a lot of instructions about my room, and kept emphasizing to me that it was ensuite (i.e. has its own bathroom) as if that was a really big deal. A lot of hostels are ensuite now so I wasn't too impressed, especially when I found out that the ensuite shower did not have hot water. I got a really good night's sleep, which I neede after all my bus travelling, so I was content when I woke up in the morning anyway.

In the morning I headed up the hill to the Rock of Cashel - a one-time Norman fortress given over to the church in the 1100's. When I first saw pictures of the fortress (also known as St. Patrtick's Fortress) there was something that really drew me to it and I was keen to see it. I wasn't disappointed, even though the cathedral and the chapel there are in ruins. Somehow the fact that it was ruins made me enjoy it more - the cathedral is mostly just missing it's roof, but that meant that it was open to the sky and the sunlight poured in, highlighting the architectural features like the arched ceiling. There also wasn't the usual assortment of interior decorations to distract from the building's shape itself. When I was first in the ruins it was quite sunny - cool, but clear - but then a storm blew up quickly and there was a really fierce wind and rain and perhaps hail - I had to run inside. But all-in-all I really enjoyed my visit to the fortress, and then it was added to by a short walk down the hill out of town to vist the ruins of an old monastery - the Hore Monastery, in much worse shape (and a favourite drinking spot for local teens judging by the empties there).

Like a rock...

"Inside" the cathedral - call these my artful photos it you'll be so generous.

Surprisingly (to me) there was a cemetery at the top of the Rock around the cathedral, and people are still being buried there. One rough ol' walk for the family members who were leaving flowers on the graves.

Just a photo of the path I walked on to get to the ruined abbey (in the middle in the distance)

That ended my stay in Cashel, and I got on a Bus Eireann bus (that came late once again) that took me to Cahir, where I could connect to Limerick, where I could then connect to Tralee (in county Kerry) where I wanted to stay the night in order to get down to the Dingle peninsula. On my stopover in Cahir waiting for the bus I dashed up to the castle there and spent the forty minutes learning more about Irish history (I'm filling in the blanks) and checking out the castle. It was really cool because it's still in very good shape. I could climb up the narrow stairs in the towers and look out over the walls where the soldiers would have once kept guard. It would be a great castle to take a kid to.
This is Cahir's main street as viewed from the castle - I include it just because it's a very typical looking small town in Ireland.
The gate at the castle, and I think that's a drop of water on my lens. No, two. Well, it had just started pouring and I had to catch a bus.

I left the castle just in time to see my bus for Limerick pulling up early, of all things! My faith in Bus Eireann was restored as I took it to Limerick and then caught another on-time bus to Tralee. These two trips were not over highways but over narrow, winding roads through the country-side. So bumpy that I couldn't write, but great scenery anyway. Rolling hills, not many trees but some thickly wrapped in vines. Thick, low hedgerows and stone fences. Old ruined towers sticking up in the middle of fields. All the grass is still green. The trees have no leaves, but the vines on them do.

"Furry" trees as I call them...
Try climbing over that sucker without a scratch - all the plants wound in Ireland...

And from there I got into Tralee on Saturday night, with the intention of going to Dingle. None of that happened, but I'm having a good time and will fill in the rest later.

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