stevenpiziks: (Default)
When I got to Ireland, I knew I would need an umbrella.  It rains in Ireland a lot, you see.  I didn't bring one with me because I figured it would be easier to buy one when I arrived than try to stash one in my luggage.

Yeah.

When I got to Dublin, Darwin and I poked about a shopping district in Dublin on our first day. 

Perfect! I reasoned. I could get an umbrella.  Right?

No.  Not one store carried umbrellas.  We found stores for shoes, electronics, women's clothes, hiking equipment, even kitchenware, but not one store carried umbrellas.  And of course, it was starting to rain.

At long last, we checked a rather upscale men's store and found a rack of umbrellas.  Yay!  But they were expensive, like 60 Euros.  I just wanted an umbrella, not shares in an entire oilsilk factory. 

Well, I reasoned, this umbrella would last a long time, and I could take it home as my Irish umbrella.  So I bought it.

It worked just fine.  At first.

This umbrella, it turned, closed up with a frog--a button and clasp--instead of a snap.  In less than a day, the button that held the frog shut popped off and disappeared, meaning the umbrella couldn't be tightly furled and closed.  It therefore fell open or caught the breeze at the slightest provocation.  It liked to burst open at startling times, like when I was climbing onto a bus or going through a revolving door or about to enter a bathroom stall.  I hadn't kept the receipt and I couldn't remember where the store was anyway, so I had no way to return it.  I wrestled with the damned thing the whole time we were there.

But, I reasoned, when I got it home, I could put a new button on the umbrella and keep it anyway.  Sixty euros was sixty euros!

When it came time to pack, however, I discovered the stupid umbrella was about an inch too long to fit into my suitcase.

But, I reasoned, I could just tie it shut with some string and take it on the airplane with me.

When I got to the airport, however, an airline lady informed me that I couldn't take an umbrella into the main cabin because I might try to take over the airplane with it.

But, she reasoned, they would check it for me in a special section of the luggage hold for fragile items.

She strapped a routing sticker to the umbrella, put it in a plastic open-topped crate, and sent the whole thing on its merry way down the conveyor belt.

When we landed in Detroit, our suitcases arrived on the luggage carousel without incident.  So did the open-topped crate.  The umbrella itself was gone.

Well, I reasoned, that was that.  Sometimes when you travel a long ways, you pay for stuff that turns out to be a bad idea.  Such is life.  We went home.

About three hours later, I got a call from American Airlines.

"We have an umbrella here," the lady said.

Well, I reasoned, the umbrella is fucking cursed, and I don't want it in my house.

"Just throw it away," I said.  "Or maybe you'd like to keep it."

And I hung up.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
The last part of the Ireland trip:

FRIDAY
    Friday we had to get up early to pack up and leave for Dublin again.  We swiftly packed our things and bade Sinead a fond good-bye.  We had to return the rental car by noon, and it was an hour's drive to Dublin, so we had to get moving. 
    We gave ourselves an extra hour in case we got turned around again, but things went much more smoothly, and we arrived at the car rental place at the airport with no trouble at all.  I have to say I was relieved to give the car up.  It's stressful and nerve-wracking to drive in Ireland, and I felt like a great burden had lifted when I handed over the keys.
    It was a long, long, loooooooooooooong wait for the shuttle bus into town, for some reason.  The line for the bus grew longer and longer and longer and more and more pissed off.  After more than 45 minutes' wait for a bus that was supposed to run every 10 minutes, one finally arrived, and we made the slow drive into town.
    Our next accommodations were at Trinity College, which rents out its student dorms and apartments in the summer very reasonably.  Because the wait for the bus was so damned long, we arrived at Trinity at 1:30, only a little before the 2 PM check-in, and the college was already checking guests in.  I had booked us a double room/apartment, and the check-in went fine, but the apartment itself was so far across campus, it was almost off the map.  I suggested waiting for a ride--the clerk had said we could get if we waited a moment--but Darwin had been put off by the bus wait and said he wanted to walk.  So we set out.
    It took us more than half an hour.
    This was partly because we got lost several times.  The paper map they gave us was completely unhelpful--we couldn't tell where anything was on it.  My phone gave us directions, but it kept switching from walking directions to driving directions, for some reason.  We finally FINALLY found the place.  It's a modern building on the outside corner of the campus.  It's quite small and Spartan, as we knew it would be, though I didn't know it was a shared bathroom situation.  (We share with four other rooms.)  But it worked out--there was only one other couple staying there.  The main trouble was the noise.  Our window (second story) opened right onto the street, and it was NOISY.  Heavy traffic roared by 24/7, tour buses trundle past and you heard the guides barking through their loudspeakers, people talked and laughed and shouted as they passed, and you smelled their cigarette smoke.  The rooms on the other side of the hall faced the courtyard and were silent.  This was a bad luck room!
    We had supper at Kennedy's, a pub frequented by Oscar Wilde (well, he worked there when he was young), Yeats, and Joyce, which was pretty neat.  I had steak-and-Guinness pie, and Darwin had a tasty lamb shank.

SATURDAY
    Saturday morning, we'd booked a bus tour to visit Newgrange and the Hill of Tara.  You can't visit these places on your own--you have to go through their visitor's center--and I definitely didn't want to drive to them.  Newgrange also only allows 400 visitors per day, and if you get there too late, your loss!  The tour was the perfect way to go.
    We arrived at the tourism center in plenty of time to catch the tour and got seats at the front of the bus so we could see nicely.  Our tour guide (totally gay!) was named Trevor, and once everyone had boarded, he got on the microphone and gave us a little tour of Dublin sites that we passed, which was nice.  We stopped at the fishing harbor north of Dublin, which was extremely interesting to me.  The trawlers with their great nets were docked there, the smell of fish lay on the wind, and all the shops lining the quay sold every kind of fresh fish you can imagine.  My inner chef was jumping up and down and wanting to shop here every week.
    Unfortunately, this is where things went badly for me.  I started getting stomach cramps, a knot right under my diaphragm that started, increased, cramped HARD, then eased off.  Then the cycle started over again.  As the day passed, the feeling got worse and worse.  I tried to ignore it, but it didn't stop.  It set off a migraine headache.  The migraine started from the tension of the stomach pain and from (I'm sure) the abrupt release of tension from returning the car.  And I hadn't brought any of my meds with me.
    By the time we arrived at Newgrange, I was in considerable distress.  Darwin and I got some lunch at the visitor's centers--and here I have to pause to point out that the Irish know how to run a visitor's center cafeteria.  The food is REAL food.  Thick sandwiches, home made soup, sausage rolls, fresh fruit desserts.  In America it would be hot dogs, hamburgers, and waffle fries. Not in Ireland, thank you!
    I had some lunch, hoping it would ease the pain, but it didn't.  Our tour group got on a (different) shuttle bus to head for Newgrange itself, and I was trying not to let my head fall off my shoulders.
    Newgrange is a splendid site, though.  It's the biggest mound tomb you've ever seen, and it's older than anything in Egypt.  White stone rings the mound, and famously, sunlight enters the tomb only on the winter solstice.  Unfortunately, I was in no condition to enjoy it.  Even when we slipped inside and beneath the tons of rock, the pain was horrendous.  I was sweating and panting and wondering if I should ask to go to the hospital, but I didn't know how such a thing would work.  Newgrange barely registered for me.  I'm glad it was my second visit and I already knew what was what.
    Darwin knew by now I was in trouble.  The stomach and head pain were both so bad, it was all I could do to stand upright.  The visitors center didn't sell pain relievers, either.  When we boarded the bus, I told Darwin to ask Trevor if he had anything.  Trevor didn't, but should he ask the tour at large if they had anything?  I said he should.  A woman from Sweden had something--I don't know what, and I didn't care.  I swallowed it, and lay back to doze off.
    The drive to the Hill of Tara took about an hour, and I slept through it.  The painkillers, whatever they were, started to work, though, and by the time we arrived, I was functional again.  Go Sweden!
    The Hill of Tara was new to me. It's where ancient Irish kings were crowned.  A phallic stone about five feet high sticks out the top, and legend says if it roars when you touch it, you're the next king of Ireland.  (There's a lot of phallic imagery in Irish folklore, which is not for the timid.  In order to be crowned king, for example, a new Irish king copulated with a mare in front of the assembled tribes. The mare was then chopped into pieces and cooked in a broth, in which the king sat naked while everyone had a sip.  As I said, not for the timid.)  Darwin and I climbed up to the hill and wobbled through the circular ditches cut into the hillside.  No one knows what they're for, but I suspect they were put there to provide shelter so the tribes could watch the new king and his horse friend without getting flung off the hillside by the wind!  Both Darwin and I embraced the stone.  When Darwin touched it, a group of nearby ladies obligingly roared, which made him laugh.
    You have to walk through a 1700s and modern graveyard to get to the hill.  The latest burial we saw was from 2015.  Yes, you can be buried on the Hill of Tara.  I would like that.
    And then it was the bus ride home.  We had supper at O'Neill's, a pub continually in business since 1885!

SUNDAY
    This was a slow day, our last day in Ireland.  We visited the Museum of Archaeology and looked at the bog people who have been discovered in the bogs, and the gold treasures from the Bronze Age.  This was extremely fascinating.  We tried to get into the Dublin Library, but the reading room was closed.  The only thing open was an exhibition of William Yeats's papers and other materials.  The exhibit was quite extensive--room after room after room--but all of it so dimly lit, you couldn't see much of anything.  Also, I'm not a Yeats person, so most of it was lost on me.
    We spent the rest of the day in the room, just resting and catching up on things.  Tomorrow, we go home!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Still more about our trip to Ireland:

THURSDAY
    We slept in again, and took considerable time to get going in the morning.  Finally we headed off for more sight-seeing--Navan and the Hill of Slane.  Navan was a dumpy, nasty town when I was there eight years ago, but it's improved now.  Darwin liked it, but I still didn't.  Crowded, difficult to navigate, boring shops.  We did some window shopping and got stuck around a truly stupid shopping mall, and had lunch at a burger place before finally heading to Slane.
    The Hill of Slane is an anti-pilgrimage for me, since it's the place where Saint Patrick lit a forbidden bonfire on Beltaine and got away with it, introducing Christianity to Ireland.  This was the beginning of the end of paganism there.
    There's also a ruined monastery, a small ruined castle, a graveyard (still working), and a bell tower up there.  We went to have a look.
    The monastery and castle were great fun to explore.  Darwin and I always enjoy trying to figure out what used to be what.  The monastery's living quarters--there were two sets--had many, many fireplaces in them on three floors, so the place must have been cozy even in winter.  (Since the place has a relationship with fire, this makes sense.)  We were puzzled by one area that seemed to be a great hall, but also clearly couldn't have been.  And Darwin found a dragon carved into the wall in one place, which was really cool.  We climbed around spiral stairs and under vaulted roofs and had a splendid time.
    The graveyard wasn't a graveyard originally.  It was the monastery grounds, and it got turned into a cemetery after the building became a ruin.  People are still buried there today, and gravestones now sit where people used to eat, sleep, and work.  People with higher status are buried in places like the original hall or near the statue of St. Patrick that greets you at the entrance.  People with lower status are buried around the edges.  This is still true today.
    At last we left, and I spat on the Patrick statue when Darwin wasn't looking.
    On the way home, we passed an unexpected ruin and impulsively turned down a side lane to see if we could explore it better.  It was a tall house-like castle surrounded by an expansive cow pasture and a high stone wall.  We explored a bit, and I found another stile for climbing over.  Darwin, who is a nervous trespasser, reluctantly followed.
    When we got closer, we discovered a second wall around a semi-abandoned graveyard.  I climbed over that wall for a better look.  Here, Darwin refused to follow.  Some of the graves were from the late 1700s, many were from the 1800s, and a few were less than 10 years old.  But the whole place had gone to ruin.  No one had mowed it, or kept up the stones.  In the corner, I found a pile of wrecked, ivy-covered stone, and after a moment I realized it must have been a small church or chapel.  (Later, when I looked the place up, I found out I was right.)
    The main building, a total wreck, was huge three stories tall and one story down and falling down.  No roof.  Ireland went through a period of taxing the roof, meaning if your building had a roof on it, you paid a tax on it, even if it was a church.  (This was one way to get rid of a church the government didn't like.)  To avoid the tax, people took the roof off a building and let it go to ruin.  We wondered if this had happened here.  The building showed remains of old fireplaces, staircases, rooms, and windows.  Darwin found a huge, HUGE tree that had come down during a storm and been sawed in half by someone.  The tree was several hundred years old, and the roots brought up an enormous ball of earth.
    Later, we did some research and discovered the place is called Fennor Castle.  It was built just before the reign of Elizabeth I and modified during her reign.  There wasn't anything much else about it.  It has a wrecked chapel and a graveyard.  We couldn't find anything about who used to live there, or who owns it now, or why it was abandoned.  But it was great fun to explore!

FRIDAY
    Friday we had to get up early to pack up and leave for Dublin again.  We swiftly packed our things and bade Sinead a fond good-bye.  We had to return the rental car by noon, and it was an hour's drive to Dublin, so we had to get moving. 
    We gave ourselves an extra hour in case we got turned around again, but things went much more smoothly, and we arrived at the car rental place at the airport with no trouble at all.  I have to say I was relieved to give the car up.  It's stressful and nerve-wracking to drive in Ireland, and I felt like a great burden had lifted when I handed over the keys.
    It was a long, long, loooooooooooooong wait for the shuttle bus into town, for some reason.  The line for the bus grew longer and longer and longer and more and more pissed off.  After more than 45 minutes' wait for a bus that was supposed to run every 10 minutes, one finally arrived, and we made the slow drive into town.
    Our next accommodations were at Trinity College, which rents out its student dorms and apartments in the summer very reasonably.  Because the wait for the bus was so damned long, we arrived at Trinity at 1:30, only a little before the 2 PM check-in, and the college was already checking guests in.  I had booked us a double room/apartment, and the check-in went fine, but the apartment itself was so far across campus, it was almost off the map.  I suggested waiting for a ride--the clerk had said we could get if we waited a moment--but Darwin had been put off by the bus wait and said he wanted to walk.  So we set out.
    It took us more than half an hour.
    This was partly because we got lost several times.  The paper map they gave us was completely unhelpful--we couldn't tell where anything was on it.  My phone gave us directions, but it kept switching from walking directions to driving directions, for some reason.  We finally FINALLY found the place.  It's a modern building on the outside corner of the campus.  It's quite Spartan, as we knew it would be, though I didn't know it was a shared bathroom situation.  (We share with four other rooms.)  But it worked out--there was only one other couple staying there.  The main trouble was the noise.  Our window (second story) opened right onto the street, and it was NOISY.  Heavy traffic roared by 24/7, tour buses trundle past and you heard the guides barking through their loudspeakers, people talked and laughed and shouted as they passed, and you smelled their cigarette smoke.  The rooms on the other side of the hall faced the courtyard and were silent.  This was a bad luck room!
    We had supper at Kennedy's, a pub frequented by Oscar Wilde (well, he worked there when he was young), Yeats, and Joyce, which was pretty neat.  I had steak-and-Guinness pie, and Darwin had a tasty lamb shank.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
More Ireland here:

MONDAY
    On Monday, we headed back to the airport to pick up THE RENTAL CAR.  This was a scary prospect because of the stupid Irish custom of driving on the wrong damn side of the road.  The entire world uses the right, but the Irish use the left, and it's truly awful.  Darwin flatly refused to consider driving, so it was all me behind the wheel.
    One bonus was the GPS.  I downloaded UK maps to my portable GPS and installed it in the car for us.  This made navigation a thousand times easier!  Last time, I spent a great deal of time pulling over and using a map to figure out where I was and still making wrong turns and getting lost.  The GPS solved all that in a heartbeat, allowing me to concentrate on driving the stupid way.  It was nerve-wracking.  When you switch to the wrong side of the road, your instincts shout at you YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! YOU'RE GOING TO CRASH! And when cars come around a curve at you, it looks like they're coming at you in your lane because YOU'RE ON THE WRONG SIDE and you want to swerve over to the correct side, something you mustn't ever do. You spend the entire time fighting deeply-bred instincts, and it's intensely stressful and awful.
    There were some bobbles along the line to our cottage in the Irish countryside.  Despite the GPS, the confusing highways around the airport got us a little lost, and Darwin kept yelping at me.  He had a hard time with the idea that there's a learning curve to Irish driving, but neither would he take the wheel himself, which gave me a more tense and difficult time as a driver.  It doesn't help that Irish country roads have no shoulders and are closely bordered by high hedges, so you can't see and you have no escape route if something goes wrong.  We had no incidents or accidents, though, and I told Darwin it was his job to ensure I stayed in the correct lane, since American drivers want to drift over to the right instead of staying on the left.  Eventually Darwin calmed down and learned not to yip or howl, and he instead concentrated more on navigation assist and saying things like, "You'll need to be in that lane so we can turn," which made things better.
    Finally we made it to Clonleason Cottage.
    Clonleason is the cottage where I stayed at last time.  It sits at the front of the driveway and just behind the retaining wall of a Georgian estate house that was built in 1773, though the gatehouse (now a guest house and cottage) was expanded in the 30s to include a living room. The acres and acres of Irish garden grounds are immaculately kept, complete with herb and vegetable gardens, centuries-old trees, shaded walks, rose arbors, and a 500-year-old stone bridge that arcs across the river that borders the estate.  The cottage itself is beautiful inside.  The door opens into the cozy, slate-floored kitchen, which has a little table and two chairs, a china shelf, and a sink-and-cupboard area.  To the left is a living room filled with bookshelves and comfortable furniture gathered around a little fireplace.  French doors open into a gorgeous flower garden.  To the right is a generous bedroom and bathroom.  Everything is done in green and yellow, and it's all light and air.  Darwin fell instantly in love.  Sinead, our landlady, and her dog met us with a friendly greeting, along with carrot cake and some vegetable soup--much appreciated!
    We unpacked and explored.  The grove with the 1000-year-old beech tree in the center that I remembered from last time absolutely enchanted Darwin.  He decided we would never leave!
    We had to go into Athboy, the nearby small town, for groceries and things.  The drive was still nerve-wracking but uneventful, and Darwin discovered the Irish rule that you can park facing any direction you like also unnerving.  Like Dublin, Athboy was a LOT busier than I remembered.  The main street was a constant drone of traffic.  How things change!
    We grocery shopped and explored the town.  Here, I was able to take Darwin to his first stone church and graveyard in Ireland.  As a cemetery and old church afficionado, he loved them both.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Darwin and I are back from Ireland!  Darwin enjoyed himself hugely and had to be physically dragged to the airport to leave.  I'm posting my journal in segments here.  It's really hard to post photos and videos on this site, but I'll have them on Facebook, so come see over there!


SATURDAY, AUGUST 12, 2017
    Darwin and I landed at Dublin airport Saturday morning after a boring flight, went through a loooooonnngg line at customs, gathered our luggage without incident, and boarded a shuttle bus that took us to downtown Dublin.  Yay!
    First, we shall point out that the weather was stunningly cooperative all week.  As you know, Bob, Ireland is notoriously rainy, and the weather forecasts on my phone kept calling for rain, rain, and more rain.  But all week, the worst we got was a passing shower that didn't last more than a few minutes.  The temperature stayed in the 50s at night and the 60s during the day with a surprising amount of sunshine.  Double yay!
    We ended up at one of the tourist centers across the street from Trinity College, where Oscar Wilde attended university.  They have a luggage check, which was important because we couldn't get into our flat until 2:00, and it wasn't even noon.  We dropped off our luggage and got some breakfast at a pub.  I had a full Irish breakfast, and Darwin had some lighter fare.  When I ordered tea to drink, I got an actual teapot filled with properly brewed tea, not a cup of lukewarm water and a tea bag like you do in America. The Irish know proper tea.
    Dublin was way, WAY more crowded than it was when I visited eight years ago.  The streets outside the tourist center were so packed, you could scarcely move.  Later, when Darwin and I popped into Trinity for a look, the crowds were equally immense.  I couldn't understand it until Darwin pointed out that eight years ago, we were deep in a recession, which hits tourism badly.  This would explain it.
    Anyway, we hopped on board a bus to tour Dublin while we waited for our flat.  Darwin didn't seem very happy or impressed, for all that he'd been looking forward to this trip so much, but I put it down to jet lag and fatigue--we'd been up all night and were now moving into morning, and we had leaped ahead five hours.  I pointed out some areas we might want to come back later to visit, and Darwin nodded.
    We stopped by the Molly Malone statue, which was near the tourist center, and got several pictures, then reclaimed our luggage and grabbed a taxi to the flat.
    The flat was . . . well, awful.  It was clean, I'll say that.  But it was so very tiny.  The bathroom was so minuscule, you couldn't function in it.  The lighting was poor.  The mattress was lumpy.  And even though the listing said it was "convenient" for city center, you had to take a taxi or be prepared to walk for half an hour or longer.  At least it was relatively inexpensive.  Never, ever will we stay there again, though, and we were glad that we were getting out quickly.  It certainly wasn't worth 100 Euros per night.
    For two days, we wandered about Dublin.  Christchurch Cathedral--always impressive.  Darwin found it awe-inspiring.  That took most of an afternoon, and we picnicked on the grounds outside for lunch.  We visited Trinity College and discovered stampedes of crowds everywhere.  We wanted to see the Book of Kells and the long room, but the line to get in was two or three blocks long.  I couldn't get over it!  When I was here last, I breezed right in.  Later, we bought tickets on-line for it, with a reserved time in the morning, and showed up at 9 AM.  A separate line for e-tickets rushed us right in past the already-forming regular line, but when we left an hour later, the e-ticket line was also a block long.
    Book of Kells was, as always, stunning, even if you only get to see the two pages the curators have set up for the day.  Really, the BoK stands up to world-class works of art like the Mona Lisa or the Pieta.  The Long Room library, 2/3ds the length of a soccer pitch, was also wonderful, with Brian Boru's harp on display and books that are older than any other in Ireland.  We spent considerable time there.
    That evening we went on a ghost tour, which was pushed as a tour of haunted places in Dublin.  We climbed aboard a black bus with curtained-over windows, and an actor in ghostly makeup told stories about the Black Plague and other awful ways to die in 19th century Dublin while we drove around town for a look-see at various sites. It was long on the plague and short on ghosts, but it was kind of fun overall.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Darwin and I are going to Ireland.  Yay!

We've been talking about it for a long time.  I love Ireland and have visited before.  Darwin has always wanted to go.  He was uncertain about going this summer, and I pointed out that for the first time in years, I'm not under contract this summer, meaning I can go without worrying about a writing deadline.  So he decided it would be a good idea.

The first part was settling on a date.  After some finagling, we choose the second and third weeks of August.  And then when we had the dates all set, I played with the ticket buying program and discovered if we stayed one more day, the plane ticket prices dropped by over $200 each.  That would more than pay for an extra night in Dublin, so we happily extended the trip.

Then we had to figure out where to stay.  After more finagling and discussion, we decided to do what I did last time--spend a few days in Dublin, move to a rural cottage for several days, and then come back to Dublin for the end.  In fact, I discovered the same cottage I stayed before at was available!  Clonleason Gate Lodge  is an easily driveable distance from several archaeological sites we want to see, and there's a bog and a ruined castle nearby, so it's a perfect place for us.  We booked it.

And we ran into problems with finding places to stay in Dublin.  Man!

Darwin and I don't like hotels much.  (Who does, right?)  They're sterile, the amenities are limited, they're small, and if you're tired and just want to hang out for part of a day, you feel foolish sitting in a hotel room to do it.  That's why we like renting cottages or flats.  You have all the amenities of home, you have more space, and if you want to zone out for a day, you feel like you're doing it in your own living room. 

Like a lot of people, we use Airbnb to book places and have had wonderful results in the past.  This time, though, the places that turned up were too expensive or badly located.  When we were looking for a place to stay at our arrival, two times we tried to book places and the host turned the booking down, once because the host said she was looking for people to stay for at least a week, and another who just didn't answer.  At last we managed to find a nice flat.

But the REAL challenge was for the few days before we left.  We needed a place Friday through Monday, and the number of places dwindled sharply, or were REALLY expensive.  In the end, we gritted our teeth and booked a place that was quite a distance from the center of the city and still more than we wanted to pay.

And then . . .

I was surfing around the web site for Trinity College.  TC houses the Book of Kells, which we'll want to see, and I wanted to find out what the College's museum hours were.  Quite by accident, I discovered Trinity College rents out its student rooms and apartments during the summer. (!)  The location would be perfect, of course, and the prices were startlingly low.  In fact, booking a two-person apartment for three nights would cost about $200 less than the flat we'd found, and several hundred less than any hotel.

I canceled the flat and booked the flat at Trinity.  My only regret is that there wasn't an apartment available for when we arrived--they only had rooms with a single bed.

So now we just need to rent a car!



stevenpiziks: (Light)
I've been pointed toward a wonderful photo of the tomb at Newgrange, taken at sunrise today:

Photo behind the cut )
It even looks like there's a spirit there, though it's a ghost image caused when a researcher got in the way of the time-lapse camera.


stevenpiziks: (Default)
Temple Bar is a district in Dublin ("bar" as in "sand bar," not "pub").  It's near the spot where the Vikings first landed in Dublin around 800 CE, and it's one of the oldest sections of Dublin.  As a city, Dublin dates back to the Bronze Age, possibly to the Stone Age, so that's saying a lot.  In recent history, Temple Bar fell into disrepute.  It turned poor, then it turned crappy, then it turned dangerous.  Then artists and craftspeople started moving in because the rent was cheap.  A bit of gentrification started up.  Craft shops and art galleries opened like shy flowers.  Tourists started to wander in.  In the 70s, the government, in the wisdom of governments everywhere, decided to demolish the recovering Temple Bar district and replace it with a central bus station and other government buildings.

A hue and cry went up.  People protested mightily, the government looked a little closer, and saw that actual big money was to be had. 
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Shauna tried to post this here, but LiveJournal wouldn't allow it.  I'll try:

http://www.irishabroad.com/news/irish-voice/news/Articles/king-ireland100708.aspx
Hi Steven- this is a story from Irish Abroad and is right up your  alley. Enjoy! Shauna

Me, I wonder if the stone at Tara roared for him.
stevenpiziks: (Fountain)
We have photos of Ireland!  I set a bunch up at Flickr.  If you want to see them, click here.
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)

Monday

Got up at 5:00 for a 9:30 flight.  Gah!  Showered quickly, finished packing, and ate a breakfast of tea and rolls I’d bought yesterday.  Brought everything downstairs and found Alan still working.  He was on a twelve-hour shift.  Checked out, bid Alan good-bye (“Cheers!” he said), and headed out.

stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
Sunday

Slept in and took a long shower when I got up.  This wasn’t a luxury available to me in the cottage.  The hot water there was supposed to be on-demand, but what that meant was you switched on the little hot water heater a few minutes before you wanted hot water.  It always ran out during a shower, so I couldn’t take long.  In the hotel, though, I could take as long as I liked.  V. nice.

Had the carrot cake, a banana, and tea for breakfast in my room, then went out.  First thing I did was make sure I knew where the shuttle bus for the airport left from.  Discovered it’s about a ten-minute walk from the hotel, and the spot is near the Spire, so it’s easy to find.  So I’m all set for tomorrow.

Also stopped in at a shop and bought myself a keychain with a tri-fold Celtic design on it and a tea mug with a spiral painted on it.  My only souvenirs besides pictures.

Then I headed down to the Dublinia Museum and Christchurch Cathedral.

stevenpiziks: (Ireland)

Saturday

Woke early, ate a simple breakfast, and finished packing.  I was nervous about the drive into Dublin.  Didn’t help that it was raining hard.

Finished cleaning the cottage.  Not that I was dusting and vacuuming.  I threw away my leftover food, bundled up the towels in the bathroom, that sort of thing.  Got everything into the car by 8:30 as planned.  Dropped the cottage keys into the mail slot at the main house, and drove off.

The drive to Dublin was fine.  The drive within Dublin was terror.

stevenpiziks: (Ireland)

Friday


I wrote today.  It was neat!  I wrote a long section of a short story and made some notes for a novel in my Irish cottage.  How cool was that?  I also watched a couple videos.  I’m on vacation, after all.

I went on a long, long bike ride.  There’s a bike path--actually, it’s a section of road with arrows pointing the way--called the Tain Trail.  I discovered it a couple days ago on a drive elsewhere, and followed up on it today.  It was a very nice ride through fantastic Irish countryside.  I found a couple historical markers that made no sense to me whatsoever, but I read them anyway.

I also took a set of pictures of the NO PYLONS signs. 
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
Thursday

Hmmm . . . it rained all day today.  I’d thought about trying to go horseback riding, but it’s been miserable out.  I ate a leisurely breakfast, then puttered around some more and wrote a bit.  (I was writing in my cottage in Ireland!)  The rain continued to fall, a nasty, driving rain that I just didn’t want to brave.  Besides, I’d really seen just about everything I wanted to see around here.  The only exception is Four Knocks, another set of passage tombs.  But Four Knocks is on private land.  It isn’t hard to get permission--you just knock on the landowner’s door and they’re happy to let you have the key--but the directions to get there are complicated, and I just didn’t feel up to searching for the place, especially since it’s way out in the middle of nowhere.

stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
Slowly sorting everything out fromthe trip.  The new picture for the Ireland entries, incidentally, is from Loughcrew.  It's what a collapsed tomb looks like from above.  I was standing on top of Cairn T when I took it.

Wednesday

I declared Wednesday a day off from siteseeing.  This turned out to be a good idea.  It was raining terribly when I woke up, a nasty, driving rain.

Took a hot shower, made breakfast (cereal and eggs), then ran a couple errands.  First, I needed to do some laundry.  There’s a laundry in Athboy, one of the many low, stone buildings downtown.  It’s called the Washboard, and I remembered seeing it many times on my way through town.  I put my laundry in the shoulder bag I’d bought in Dublin and headed off.
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
I heaved a fast right and followed the usual narrow, hedge-lined road.  This one was also steep, steep, steep.  I found myself in an empty car park at the top of the hill.  A low stone wall with an iron gate in it stood guard.  Past the gate was a wide, green field of grass.  In the middle of the field sat a pairs of ruined stone buildings.  One of the buildings was surrounded by a graveyard.
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
I'm splitting this one in half because it's so long.

Tuesday

This is weird, but I’m actually feeling ready to go home.  It’s because everything is so unfamiliar and I’m alone.  I don’t even have Internet access, so I can’t check e-mail or my blog.  I like being here; I just wish everything weren’t a challenge.  Though compared to being in Ukraine, everything here is a breeze.  I speak and read the local language, understand the money, and know how to shop perfectly well.  Getting around is the difficult part.

Ireland has public transportation, but it’s pretty much confined to large cities.  I asked Siobhan about trains to Quin, where there’s a bunch of prehistoric stuff I wanted to visit, and she said they aren’t any that she knew of, though there are some buses.  On the radio, I head a talk show about cars and the environment, and one of the speakers pointed out that Ireland is second only to America in dependence on the automobile.  So outside of Dublin, it’s drive or stay home.  That’s what’s a bit difficult.  Driving is a challenge, a scary challenge.  Every time I go around a curve and find a car coming toward me, it looks to me like I’m in the wrong lane and I’m about to get into an accident.  An automatic jolt of panic hits me, and I have to forcibly remind myself of two things: 1) that I’m not going to get hit, and 2) to stay in my current lane and not swerve into the other one.  In cities, it’s worse.  Trying to negotiate turns is really hard because everything is screwed up for me.  If I want to turn right, I have to cross the intersection and pull into what twenty-five years of driving instinct tells me is patently the wrong lane going the wrong way.  When it’s a busy intersection, there’s no time to think or figure things out, so I often make a wrong turn.  It’s a difficult, nervous business, and the stress tires me out.

Today, I decided to go back to Knowth.  I didn’t feel the need to see Newgrange again, but I did want to look at Knowth a second time.  Later, I was glad I did.
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
My mother won't like this entry very much . . .

Monday


I was up too late organizing my notes, dowloading photos, and writing in my journal, so I slept way, way in.  Finally got up at 9:30, made a big breakfast, and puttered around the cottage.  I finally realized I was stalling going anywhere because I just don’t like driving around Ireland.  The whole driving on the left side thing makes me unhappy, and it’s so very easy to get lost.  Sternly told myself to quit being a baby and get moving.

Up today was Trim, or “Troim,” if you speak Gaelic, and the Bective Abbey.
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
This entry runs a little long, but stay with it--it's worth it.  This one details a very strange event, and you really have to read it.

Sunday

Today I slept way in, the first time I’d done so, really.  Every other day was so filled with Things To Do, sleep was a low priority, and the lack was catching up with me.  In any case, Loughcrew was on my itinerary for today, and the site doesn’t open until noon on Sundays, so there was no hurry.

And, just to let you know, something very strange happened when I got there.

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