The Waiting is the Hardest Part…

Today, I booked the last outstanding tour for my UK trip – the Three Isles Excursion that will let me see Fingal’s Cave on Staffa. I’d been checking their site regularly, but it was only today that they updated things to allow booking for the coming season. So, I booked my tour.

And that’s where it stands. I’ve got all my planned tours booked, all my hotels booked, and my flights booked. I even managed to get an upgrade on the transatlantic flight with reward points, so I’m going business class.

My countdown clock says that I have one month and nine days left before I leave. I’ve got a little bit of organizing to do before the trip1, but all the heavy lifting2 is done, so I’m thinking that month and a bit is just gonna crawl by.

If you want to see my final itinerary, it’s over here.

  1. Mainly, I want to transfer my itinerary into a pocket notebook that I can access without batteries or connectivity, look up the train and bus routes to get me where I want to go, and start sorting out my packing. []
  2. And most of the paying. []
Posted in England/Scotland 2015, Planning | 1 Comment

Less Than Four Months

So, it occurred to me earlier this week that there were less than four months left before my trip, and that I had better start finalizing stuff. Over the past several days, I’ve booked a number of tours, made a number of plans, and ordered a rail pass that will let me travel eight days1?

I’ve updated¬†my itinerary page with the details, so check that out if you have any interest. The biggest empty bit is York – I need to do a little more research to see what there is in the area besides the city2 to see. I also need to sort out which of the several ghost tours of London, York, and Edinburgh I want to take. More research.

For those few3 who care about such things, I tried out a new bag for traveling this year – the Tom Bihn Tri-Star, which is a wonderful bag. It’s got great organization, and can hold an immense amount of stuff. But not quite enough for a three-week4 trip. So, I’m sticking with my Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45, which saw me so successfully through Ireland twice. I was impressed enough with the Tri-Star, though, that I will continue to use it for shorter trips, like my summer convention trip, or weekends out at the parents’ farm.

For a day bag, I’m going with another Tom Bihn bag – the Pilot. I’ve paired it with the Tri-Star on other trips, and it’s pretty much perfect for what I want. So, yeah, I am becoming an even bigger devotee of Tom Bihn bags than I have been. Make of that what you will.

  1. Looking at my schedule, I will be traveling exactly eight days, from city to city, with a couple of day trips here and there. Perfect. over the three weeks that I’m there, all across Great Britain, including Scotland. First Class, because why not ((It is a little bit more expensive, but not nearly as much as I expected, and I’ve read from UK folks that first class on the long-ish journeys is really worth it. []
  2. Which is pretty awesome, from all accounts. []
  3. Very few, I’m betting. []
  4. Actually, 24 days. []
Posted in England/Scotland 2015, Planning | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It’s Really Happening

Things have been kind of quiet here as I’ve slowly been booking stuff for my trip. Now that I’ve got a significant portion of it fleshed out, I’ve updated the itinerary page, and am writing this post so the few people who follow the blog1 can see where things stand.

Now, on the trip, London and Edinburgh were pretty much no-brainers. I wanted to start with London2, and finish up with Edinburgh, winding my way north over the three weeks of my trip. I had originally intended to take in some stuff in Cornwall, but the research I did showed me that it would be pretty time-consuming and expensive, taking me well out of the way, and leaving me less time for a lot of other things.

Side note: the UK is significantly more expensive than Ireland. Like, 50-100% more expensive, at least for accommodations. I thought things would get cheaper outside of London, but that did not turn out to be the case. I’m paying for as much of the accommodations and tours as I can before the trip, so that I don’t need to worry about that part of the trip ON the trip. It’ll give me time to pay off the expense before the actual trip.

Anyway, the days between London and Edinburgh. I kind of wanted to see Oxford – it’s full of neat history3, amazing architecture, and is centrally located so that I can take a couple of day trips to interesting places like Bletchley Park and Stratford-upon-Avon. Maybe even Blenheim Palace.

A little more research convinced me that the next stage of the journey should be York. Again, a lot of very cool history and architecture4. I don’t have a lot of solid ideas of what I want to see there, yet – I need to do some more research. But I’m convinced that a few days there will be well-spent.

Now, the next stop is a little more problematic. I really want to see Fingal’s Cave, which is off the west coast of Scotland. It’s off the beaten path, and it’ll take me pretty much a whole day to get from York to Oban5. Then, the actual boat tour may not land on Staffa6 if the weather is not co-operative. So, I may be taking two days to go out of my way to see something that I may not, in fact, get to see. Sounds a little like my abortive attempt to see the Skelligs, doesn’t it?

But I really want to try and see Fingal’s Cave, and I’ve got a couple of days to spend. I figure it’s worth a try.

And from Oban, it looks like another full day of travel to bring me to Edinburgh. And from Edinburgh7, I take the train down to spend my last night in a hotel near Heathrow before flying home the next day.

I’ve booked a few tours, etc. already. Here’s what’s officially on the books:

  • The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. This is free, but you need to register in advance to be allowed to see it. I’ve got my certificate of entry, so I’m good!
  • I’m staying in Whitechapel while in London, so of course I need to take a Jack the Ripper tour. I’ve found one that looks pretty good and booked it.
  • I also booked a tour that takes me to Stonehenge, Bath, and Lacock. It’s a bit of a pricey tour, because it gets me8 a private viewing of Stonehenge at sunrise. Inside the inner ring of stones. I’m sure Bath and Lacock are cool and all, but INSIDE STONEHENGE!
  • I found that one of my favourite performers, Derren Brown, has a new show that will be playing in Edinburgh while I’m there. The morning the tickets went on sale, I went online and snagged on in the front centre of the stalls. I’m very excited about this!

There are a number of other things I want to see and do, but haven’t finalized yet9:

  • Avebury. There’s a massive stone circle and a long tomb there. It looks easy enough to get there from London on the train and bus. I should be able to pair it with the next item for a full day trip.
  • Salisbury. Lots of cool history here, including Salisbury Cathedral with it’s Magna Carta.
  • Shakespeare’s Globe. If they’ve got a Shakespearean production on, I pretty much need to get a ticket.
  • Bletchley Park. WWII codebreaking museum! Looks to be an easy day trip out from Oxford. And very, very cool to see.
  • Stratford-upon-Avon. This is all about the Shakespeare, of course. Another easy day trip from Oxford. Maybe I can even combine it with Bletchley Park into one full day.
  • Rosslyn Chapel. Okay. I’m gonna go all conspiracy hipster. I thought Rosslyn Chapel was weird and interesting long before Dan Brown got his mucky fingerprints all over it and Da Vinci Coded it up. So, I’m gonna take the bus out from Edinburgh to see it. Maybe I can even find a tour that will take in the chapel and some other interesting sites in Scotland.
  • The Highlands. I think it’ll be fun to take a bus tour for the day through the Scottish Highlands. Why wouldn’t I? If it stops at Loch Ness, bonus!
  • So. Many. CASTLES! They’re everywhere! And I wanna see them all.
  • Ghost tours. No, I’m not credulous enough to think I’m going to see a ghost10, but you get such cool stories and hidden history on the tours!

There’s probably other stuff. I’ve got more than six months to keep planning and researching. It’ll flesh out.

But this is a decent start.

  1. Hi, Dad! []
  2. After all, I’m landing at Heathrow. []
  3. Not to mention it’s the site of the Inspector Morse mysteries. []
  4. Detecting a theme? []
  5. Via Glasgow []
  6. The island where the cave is. []
  7. After several days in the city, of course. []
  8. And the small group of other people on the tour. []
  9. To be fair, some of the things don’t need to be finalized in advance. But still. []
  10. I do not believe in ghosts. Want to change my mind? Show me proof. []
Posted in England/Scotland 2015, Planning | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Begins Again…

Trip Advisor has been sending me a lot of e-mail lately, telling me how cheap it is to go to Ireland again. Or to lots of other places. These e-mail temptations always seem to show up while I’m trying to concentrate on work, and not on how much I’d like to be traveling. So, to take some of the sting out of them, I decided it was time to start planning the next trip.

I’m thinking spring/summer of 2015 for this one. That gives me about a year and a half to figure out what I want to do. After some thinking, agonizing, and discussing, I’ve decided that I’m not returning to Ireland this trip1, but to move slightly east and see England and Scotland2.

So, with that decision made, I did what I always do when starting a new project: I hit the bookstore for research material. I was sad to see that For Dummies books seems to have stopped making travel books – those were always a good starting point for research. I’ve tracked down and ordered the latest editions of their books for London, England, and Scotland, and grabbed a few Lonely Planet guides to get me going.

It's a good start, I think.

It’s a good start, I think.

So, that’s the plan. I know that there are a few places that I really want to see:

  • London
  • Oxford
  • Edinburgh
  • Tintagel
  • Stonehenge

I’ll have to figure out what’s practical, and how best to do it.

Here we go again!

  1. Though, as I type this, there’s a slideshow of my Ireland pictures showing on my TV, and I begin to second-guess that decision. I love Ireland so much! []
  2. And maybe Wales. I dunno. We’ll see as the planning progresses. []
Posted in England/Scotland 2015, Planning | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Music at McGann’s

I just got e-mail that the video I made of part of a session at McGann’s Pub is ready on YouTube. So, here it is.

Posted in Doolin, Ireland 2013 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Mostly Churches, and the Long Journey Home

I had planned to write this yesterday, but circumstances conspired to prevent that. So, that’s the first thing to get done this morning1.

On my last day in Dublin, I was dragging my feet a little in the morning, and didn’t make it down to breakfast before 9:30, when they stopped serving. I’ve only had breakfast at Kilronan House twice in my week’s stay here, and once was very rushed so I just had cereal. The day I took my time, it was very nice, but the scheduling has just not worked out very well.

But I headed down to St. Stephen’s Green, planning to start the day with a ride on the Hop On Hop Off bus, seeing as my ticket from the day before was still good. I stopped at the Marks & Spencer’s on Grafton street to have a bacon roll and some juice, and then went and rode the bus tour right around the circuit.

The ride went through Phoenix Park. This is the phoenix monument in the middle of the park. The name of the park, though, comes from the Irish words for Clear Water - they just sound like Phoenix.

The ride went through Phoenix Park. This is the phoenix monument in the middle of the park. The name of the park, though, comes from the Irish words for Clear Water – they just sound like Phoenix.

The band dark plaques set in the base of the obelisk are made of Napoleon's captured canons, melted down to celebrate Wellington's victories. I thought I would spend some time in Phoenix Park, but it would take me the entire day to do the park justice. I decided I had other things I preferred to do.

The band dark plaques set in the base of the obelisk are made of Napoleon’s captured canons, melted down to celebrate Wellington’s victories. I thought I would spend some time in Phoenix Park, but it would take me the entire day to do the park justice. I decided I had other things I preferred to do.

Again, Dublin Castle had no tours running, due to the official suites being occupied. I could have gone on to the grounds, but I had done that last trip, and it was the interior I really wanted to see. So I waited until Christchurch Cathedral before getting off.

There was some sort of fair going on at Christchurch. I got a really tasty bratwurst and an ice cream cone for lunch and some very nice fudge to take home.

There was some sort of fair going on at Christchurch. I got a really tasty bratwurst and an ice cream cone for lunch and some very nice fudge to take home.

I didn't get inside Christchurch last visit. It's beautiful and impressive.

I didn’t get inside Christchurch last visit. It’s beautiful and impressive.

This is the resting place of Strongbow, who is an interesting figure in Irish history. He was an Anglo-Norman knight who came to help the king of Leinster regain his kingdom. Some see him as the beginning of English rule, while others see him as a liberator. He was a popular figure in Kilkenny; less so in other parts of the country.

This is the resting place of Strongbow, who is an interesting figure in Irish history. He was an Anglo-Norman knight who came to help the king of Leinster regain his kingdom. Some see him as the beginning of English rule, while others see him as a liberator. He was a popular figure in Kilkenny; less so in other parts of the country.

The altar of the Christchurch.

The altar of the Christchurch.

The engraved stone pulpits and the eagle lecterns are traditional.

The engraved stone pulpits and the eagle lecterns are traditional.

So, for an extra four euros, in addition to admission to Christchurch, you could get a tour of the bell tower and a chance to ring the bells. It meant more stairs2, but I really couldn’t pass up the chance. The stairs were narrow, low, irregular spirals, as usual.

Climbing up the stairs in the transept, you then have to cross the roof of Christchurch to the bell tower. The view is stunning.

Climbing up the stairs in the transept, you then have to cross the roof of Christchurch to the bell tower. The view is stunning.

The Ringer's Room. No bells here; they're in another room up above. The man on the left is the Ringing Master. He was wonderfully mad about bells and the ringing, and gave us a great lesson on the history and technique of bell ringing.

The Ringer’s Room. No bells here; they’re in another room up above. The man on the left is the Ringing Master. He was wonderfully mad about bells and the ringing, and gave us a great lesson on the history and technique of bell ringing.

We didn't get to ring the main bells - they're set upside down and have a good chance to drag a novice ringer up to the ceiling if you over-pull. We rang bells that were hanging mouth-down, using a technique called chiming, which is a sort of weird counterintuitive method. I wasn't able to get a picture of me ringing the bells, but here are some others in the group.

We didn’t get to ring the main bells – they’re set upside down and have a good chance to drag a novice ringer up to the ceiling if you over-pull. We rang bells that were hanging mouth-down, using a technique called chiming, which is a sort of weird counterintuitive method.
I wasn’t able to get a picture of me ringing the bells, but here are some others in the group.

The crypts below Christchurch are extensive. A lot of the treasures of the cathedral are on display down there.

The crypts below Christchurch are extensive. A lot of the treasures of the cathedral are on display down there.

One of the things on display is a case with a cat and a rat. One chased the other into the pipe organ, and they were mummified there.

One of the things on display is a case with a cat and a rat. One chased the other into the pipe organ, and they were mummified there.

Now, a little more than a year ago, the heart of the patron saint of Dublin, St. Laurence O’Toole, was stolen from the cathedral. I wanted to find out what had happened with that, so I asked at the information desk. The heart has not been recovered at this time, and the police haven’t made any progress on locating the thieves. Very unfortunate.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is just a few blocks down the hill from Christchurch, so I walked down there next.

One of the main sections of St. Patrick's Cathedral is the hall where the colours of the Irish regiments hang. By tradition, when an Irish regiment is disbanded or retired, its colours are hung in this hall until they rot away.

One of the main sections of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the hall where the colours of the Irish regiments hang. By tradition, when an Irish regiment is disbanded or retired, its colours are hung in this hall until they rot away.

All the cathedrals and churches have monuments, paid for by wealthy parish members for their loved ones. St. Patrick's has more than any other church I've seen.

All the cathedrals and churches have monuments, paid for by wealthy parish members for their loved ones. St. Patrick’s has more than any other church I’ve seen.

I don’t have a good picture of the whole interior; the place was just too full of people for that.

This statue was said to be St. Patrick, but really it was cobbled together from older statues of other people that were found lying around the city. They couldn't find any good feet, so a labourer just hacked them out of stone - they look terribly out of place compared to the detailed carving on the rest of the pieces.

This statue was said to be St. Patrick, but really it was cobbled together from older statues of other people that were found lying around the city. They couldn’t find any good feet, so a labourer just hacked them out of stone – they look terribly out of place compared to the detailed carving on the rest of the pieces.

Jonathan Swift is a big deal at St. Patrick's. He was Dean for a fair long while, very active in the city politics, and was buried here. Beside him is buried his companion, Esther Johnson. No one is certain what the relationship between the two was - some say friends, some say lovers, some say they were secretly married, some say they were half-brother and half-sister (Swift's childhood is kind of strange, so the records are not clear).

Jonathan Swift is a big deal at St. Patrick’s. He was Dean for a fair long while, very active in the city politics, and was buried here. Beside him is buried his companion, Esther Johnson. No one is certain what the relationship between the two was – some say friends, some say lovers, some say they were secretly married, some say they were half-brother and half-sister (Swift’s childhood is kind of strange, so the records are not clear).

In among the monuments for wealthy, important folks, there's a plaque on the wall to one Alexander McGee. This was a long-time servant of Swift's, and Swift had him interred in the walls of the cathedral both as thanks for his loyal service and to point out the equal value the church should place on the souls of the rich and the poor.

In among the monuments for wealthy, important folks, there’s a plaque on the wall to one Alexander McGee. This was a long-time servant of Swift’s, and Swift had him interred in the walls of the cathedral both as thanks for his loyal service and to point out the equal value the church should place on the souls of the rich and the poor.

"Here is laid the Body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology, Dean of this Cathedral Church, where fierce Indignation can no longer injure the Heart. Go forth, Voyager, and copy, if you can, this vigorous (to the best of his ability) Champion of Liberty. He died on the 19th Day of the Month of October, A.D. 1745, in the 78th Year of his Age." Yeah, Swift wrote his own epitaph. He was like that.

“Here is laid the Body
of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology,
Dean of this Cathedral Church,
where fierce Indignation
can no longer
injure the Heart.
Go forth, Voyager,
and copy, if you can,
this vigorous (to the best of his ability)
Champion of Liberty.
He died on the 19th Day of the Month of October,
A.D. 1745, in the 78th Year of his Age.”
Yeah, Swift wrote his own epitaph. He was like that.

Okay, remember last trip, I got a picture of these strange sculptures in front of St. Patrick's. They are apparently representative of needles and pins, to honour the Royal School of Needlecraft, who produced eight beautiful altar cloths for the cathedral that are still in use today. Look carefully at the hole at the top of the tall one.

Okay, remember last trip, I got a picture of these strange sculptures in front of St. Patrick’s. They are apparently representative of needles and pins, to honour the Royal School of Needlecraft, who produced eight beautiful altar cloths for the cathedral that are still in use today.
Look carefully at the hole at the top of the tall one.

Yes, some clever person has put a small stuffed camel in the eye of the needle. It's tied in there with a fine golden chain. Street commentary.

Yes, some clever person has put a small stuffed camel in the eye of the needle. It’s tied in there with a fine golden chain. Street commentary.

After St. Patrick’s, I walked back up to Christchurch, took a left, and came to St. Audoen’s in a couple of blocks. I’d seen St. Audoen’s before, at night, on the Ghost Bus tour last trip. It’s the oldest continuously operating parish church in Dublin.

It doesn't look nearly as sinister in the day time.

It doesn’t look nearly as sinister in the day time.

The roof was removed from about two-thirds of the church as the parish shrank and grew poorer. Part of the roofless church is left open to the elements.

The roof was removed from about two-thirds of the church as the parish shrank and grew poorer. Part of the roofless church is left open to the elements.

Another part of the roofless church has been roofed over and turned into a bit of a museum. It's a small museum, but really quite beautiful, and with some great folks working there. John took this picture, and we talked for quite some time about the history of the church, of Ireland, of Canada, and lots of other stuff. Very friendly, very knowledgable. What's that on the wall behind me? The seal of St. Anne, which was used to seal legal documents and contracts. Not this big one, of course. This one was symbolic, and used to swear oaths and such.

Another part of the roofless church has been roofed over and turned into a bit of a museum. It’s a small museum, but really quite beautiful, and with some great folks working there. John took this picture, and we talked for quite some time about the history of the church, of Ireland, of Canada, and lots of other stuff. Very friendly, very knowledgable.
What’s that on the wall behind me? The seal of St. Anne, which was used to seal legal documents and contracts. Not this big one, of course. This one was symbolic, and used to swear oaths and such.

Quite a contrast to the cathedrals. St. Audoen's is tiny, beautiful, and perfect.

Quite a contrast to the cathedrals. St. Audoen’s is tiny, beautiful, and perfect.

The lucky stone of St. Audoen's. There's a long write-up on the history of the stone, and all the strange things and miracles attributed to it. John told me to be sure and touch it, as it would grant me luck for a year.

The lucky stone of St. Audoen’s. There’s a long write-up on the history of the stone, and all the strange things and miracles attributed to it. John told me to be sure and touch it, as it would grant me luck for a year.

It was getting late in the afternoon by that point, so I made my way along the Liffey to the Brazen Head, where I was going to be attending a dinner with some storytelling and music. I got there early, so I had a drink in the oldest part of the oldest tavern in Dublin, drinking where Vikings drank in the 12th century. And, of course, my picture of that part didn’t turn out at all.

The Brazen Head exterior. The interior has an open courtyard, surround by little rooms, each with a little bar. Upstairs are some nice private dining rooms.

The Brazen Head exterior. The interior has an open courtyard, surround by little rooms, each with a little bar. Upstairs are some nice private dining rooms.

The dinner was great. Johnny was the host, and gave us a lot of good and entertaining information about the lives and beliefs of common folk in Ireland. One of my favourite bits was his talk about the fairy world - Johnny did an excellent job of explaining the magical thinking that led to the development of the fairy faiths.

The dinner was great. Johnny was the host, and gave us a lot of good and entertaining information about the lives and beliefs of common folk in Ireland. One of my favourite bits was his talk about the fairy world – Johnny did an excellent job of explaining the magical thinking that led to the development of the fairy faiths.

And then it was ten o’clock, and I made my way back to the B&B. Next morning, I wanted to get to the airport in good time, and spend an hour or so in the Aer Lingus business class lounge, doing up this post.

Well, it didn’t work out. After security, which was very busy and rather slow, I had to go through US Customs preclearance, which was even slower and busier. I made it through that, eventually, and then had to go through a second security screening – again, very busy and slow. At that point, I was nowhere near the business lounge, and there was only about forty minutes before my plane; this out of the three hours I had budgeted.

On the flight back, I sat beside a lovely woman named Joanne, who just happened to have written a paper on an important 16th century play¬†back in 1975 or so. It was being staged for the first time in 450 years, and she had been invited by the university to attend, as her paper has for years been the definitive work on the subject. We had a great conversation covering history and politics and the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s and lots of other things. It was absolutely delightful.

And then I was in Chicago, and got sent to the wrong gate, and almost missed my plane back to Winnipeg. I was tired and frustrated and grumpy, having been up for about 22 hours straight, and I was very glad to make it home.

And that’s it for this trip. I’m already starting to think about the next one.

  1. It’s not really first. I’ve already put laundry on, dealt with some e-mail, and gone out to busy some bread. But still. []
  2. 86, they told me this time. I really don’t know what this obsession is with counting them. It only makes things worse. []
Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Another Delay

It’s been a long day, and I’m exhausted. I’ve got to get up moderately early to get to the airport for my flight home, so I’m going to finish up today’s blog post tomorrow morning at the airport. Sorry about the delay, but I am wiped.

Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | 4 Comments

Family Day

Today, I met up with my brother, Al; my sister-in-law, Daph; my nephew, Ryan; and my niece, Keira. We got together at the spot on the north side of St. Stephen’s Green where the tour buses stop, and tried to get on a Viking Splash tour, but it’s a Friday, halfway through June, and a lot of school groups had booked the tours right up until 5:30. We decided to see how we were doing towards the end of the day, and maybe try and get on it then1 if we were up to it.

So, instead we got on the City Sightseeing Hop On, Hop Off tour. I had been predisposed towards them – there are two companies running these tours in Dublin – and the gentleman running the tour offered me a deal because I had gone on the City Sightseeing tours in Belfast. That made it an easy choice.

We were looking at three stops: Dublin Castle, Dublinia, and the Guinness Storehouse. But Dublin Castle was off limits today, due to some important heads of state staying there – I don’t know who, but it was probably connected to the G8 session starting up in Fermanagh next week.

Dublinia, though, was open for business. Again, there were lots of school groups in there, but we were able to work our way around them.

Dublinia, though, was open for business. Again, there were lots of school groups in there, but we were able to work our way around them.

Dublinia is a wonderful little museum aimed at kids that shows Viking Dublin, medieval Dublin, and the way the information was discovered. Among the things they have is a chain coif and a full helmet that kids can try on.

Dublinia is a wonderful little museum aimed at kids that shows Viking Dublin, medieval Dublin, and the way the information was discovered. Among the things they have is a chain coif and a full helmet that kids can try on.

They also had some slave collars that the kids just had to try on.

They also had some slave collars that the kids just had to try on.

Keira made a new friend who led her astray. They both wound up in the stocks.

Keira made a new friend who led her astray. They both wound up in the stocks.

And, of course, there were helmets, shields, and swords in the gift shop, so the kids had to attack each other.

And, of course, there were helmets, shields, and swords in the gift shop, so the kids had to attack each other.

The next place we went was the Guinness Storehouse. Al and Daph had gone on the tour about nine years ago, with a newborn Ryan on their backs. They had had a wonderful time, and were excited to go on it again.

Have to say, we were all pretty disappointed.

From what I understand, Guinness is no longer Irish-owned, but has been sold to the Italian corporation, Diageo. Al and Daph had described a tour rich in history and story, with lots of interesting facts and cool things to see and do. We all found that the tour was bland, uninteresting, and mainly focused on extracting more money from people. It was also incredibly crowded – we made it all the way up to the Gravity Bar, which was a pretty cool room, but Al and Daph didn’t even want to stay to have their “free”2 Guinness.

Still, there were a couple of cool things.

Here are the kids by the waterfall. They were fascinated by the fact that, in the water overhead, there were coins that were not being washed over the falls.

Here are the kids by the waterfall. They were fascinated by the fact that, in the water overhead, there were coins that were not being washed over the falls.

This was kinda neat. It's a forced perspective room that lets you recreate one of the iconic Guinness advertisements.

This was kinda neat. It’s a forced perspective room that lets you recreate one of the iconic Guinness advertisements.

There's a great view from the Gravity Bar at the top of the tour, but really, not worth it.

There’s a great view from the Gravity Bar at the top of the tour, but really, not worth it.

And then we caught the bus back to Temple Bar, wandered a bit until we found someplace to eat, had dinner, and then I walked everyone back to Merrion Square for them to catch the bus back to where they’re staying.

Have to say, it was a wonderful day. It was great to spend some time with the family, and lots of fun with the kids.

So, thanks to Al, Daph, Ryan, and Keira for meeting me in Dublin, and hanging out with me for the day. I had an awesome time.

Tomorrow is my last day. I’m getting back on the Hop On Hop Off bus, and I’ll try to squeeze in one or two other places I want to see.

Then I’m back on the plane on Sunday.

  1. Spoiler: We didn’t get back for the Viking Splash. We were having dinner around that time, and then it was time for folks to get back to Leixhill. []
  2. Adult admission is 16.50. So, that’s a pretty pricey free pint. []
Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Rocks Everywhere

It was raining when I got up yesterday morning. And it rained as I hurried down to the tourist office where the tour bus was leaving at ten to seven. And it rained all the way to Cashel. Joseph, our driver, was awesome, keeping up a fun running commentary, peppered with singing songs1 and telling jokes and stories.

By the time we got off the bus near Cashel, the rain had stopped.

Our first view of the Rock of Cashel from the road. I had an almost overwhelming urge to say, "It's only a model."

Our first view of the Rock of Cashel from the road. I had an almost overwhelming urge to say, “It’s only a model.”

You can see that there’s some restoration work being done on one section of the chapel, but the majority of the site was open. We didn’t have time for a guided tour, but it was enough time to see pretty much everything there.

It's not a huge site, but it is imposing. With the number of folks on our tour, it was a bit of a challenge getting a wide shot with only a couple of people in it.

It’s not a huge site, but it is imposing. With the number of folks on our tour, it was a bit of a challenge getting a wide shot with only a couple of people in it.

Like a lot of old churches, abbeys, etc., the site was in use as a graveyard long after the buildings fell into ruin.

Like a lot of old churches, abbeys, etc., the site was in use as a graveyard long after the buildings fell into ruin.

Looking through the doors in the main chapel.

Looking through the doors in the main chapel.

In the main chapel.

In the main chapel.

Some of the tombs and markers date back to the 10th century.

Some of the tombs and markers date back to the 10th century.

The round tower is in pretty good repair - at least on the outside - but we're still not allowed to climb it.

The round tower is in pretty good repair – at least on the outside – but we’re still not allowed to climb it. See that little bit of blue in the sky? It’s turning out to be a nice day.

This is a big piece of wall - part of one corner - that has fallen off the front tower. Not recently, though. It's been there a long time.

This is a big piece of wall – part of one corner – that has fallen off the front tower. Not recently, though. It’s been there a long time.

A little ruined church down the hill from the Rock. No time to go see it closer, though.

A little ruined church down the hill from the Rock. No time to go see it closer, though.

The tower above me does not look as if it's pleased that I'm there.

The tower above me does not look as if it’s pleased that I’m there.

In the gatehouse that makes up the official entryway to the site, they've restored a couple of rooms to give you an idea of what the inside of the various buildings would have looked like. This is the kitchen.

In the gatehouse that makes up the official entryway to the site, they’ve restored a couple of rooms to give you an idea of what the inside of the various buildings would have looked like. This is the kitchen.

The high table, with a nice tapestry hanging behind it.

The high table, with a nice tapestry hanging behind it.

The loft facing the high table, and the decorative roof.

The loft facing the high table, and the decorative roof.

Then it was back on the bus and down to Blarney Castle. It was far more busy there than at Cashel, and much busier than the last time I visited. I had been trying to decide if I was going to climb to the top and kiss the stone again, but by the time I got to the castle, there was a line-up of about twenty people waiting just to get in to the castle, never mind waiting at the top to kiss the stone. I decided I didn’t need to wait in that line, so I went to see other stuff on the grounds.

But I did need to take a picture or two of the castle.

But I did need to take a picture or two of the castle.

You can see that the weather has really lightened up.

You can see that the weather has really lightened up.

But yeah, very crowded.

But yeah, very crowded.

It being summer, rather than fall like last visit, things are far more colourful. Except the poison garden, which was not at all colourful so I didn't take a new picture of it.

It being summer, rather than fall like last visit, things are far more colourful. Except the poison garden, which was not at all colourful so I didn’t take a new picture of it.

The Rock Close in summer has a lot of little waterfalls coming out of cracks in the rocks.

The Rock Close in summer has a lot of little waterfalls coming out of cracks in the rocks.

The woven tunnel of willows is also far more impressive when its green, rather than just bare branches.

The woven tunnel of willows is also far more impressive when its green, rather than just bare branches.

People have started leaving coins on the Witch's Stone. Last time I was here, there was just a red berry in her mouth.

People have started leaving coins on the Witch’s Stone. Last time I was here, there was just a red berry in her mouth.

After Blarney2, we headed back towards Cork City.

I have a number of pictures of Cork from my last visit, but I never did get a good picture of this monument. So I did this time.

I have a number of pictures of Cork from my last visit, but I never did get a good picture of this monument. So I did this time.

I never made it to the English Market on my last trip. It's a huge enclosed market that runs every day. Lots of fresh meat, fresh fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh bread, fresh (and aged) cheese, and so on. Had lunch in a little cafe upstairs - a couple of slices of roast pork loin with applesauce and lettuce on a fresh roll.

I never made it to the English Market on my last trip. It’s a huge enclosed market that runs every day. Lots of fresh meat, fresh fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh bread, fresh (and aged) cheese, and so on. Had lunch in a little cafe upstairs – a couple of slices of roast pork loin with applesauce and lettuce on a fresh roll.

The market was pretty bustling. Lots of locals, lots of tourists.

The market was pretty bustling. Lots of locals, lots of tourists.

This was the point where I got a call from my brother and we arranged a meeting place in Dublin to go do some sightseeing together. That’s what today’s agenda is.

And then we were on the road back to Dublin. We had a brief rest stop in Cahir, where there was another castle. Because there are close to 3000 castles in Ireland, so you’re never far from one.

Not much time here. Just enough to get a picture or two of the castle...

Not much time here. Just enough to get a picture or two of the castle…

...the Abounding Fish statue...

…the Abounding Fish statue…

...and the very cool cenotaph in the garden of remembrance. The cenotaph is made of locally found stone - you can even see carvings on some of the pieces.

…and the very cool cenotaph in the garden of remembrance. The cenotaph is made of locally found stone – you can even see carvings on some of the pieces.

And then straight back to Dublin.

Now, time for breakfast, and then go meet Al, Daph, and the kids.

  1. As he was carefully maneuvering the little tour bus through the narrow, windy streets around the tourist office, he started humming the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. []
  2. And a bit of an adventure trying to track down the seven people who didn’t make it back to the bus at the appointed time. []
Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013 | 2 Comments

Postponement

Okay, folks, I’m back from my 12-hour tour today, and I’ve processed all the pictures. But I am very tired. I was out of the B&B by 6:10 this morning, and didn’t get back until after 8:00 this evening. I am wiped.

Thus, I am going to bed. I’ll get up early to do a real post tomorrow. Sorry about that.

Why am I bothering to post? Mainly to reassure my parents that I’m not dead in a ditch over here. I’m alive and well, Mom and Dad, just tired.

Here’s a little something to tide you over.

I was lamenting the other day that, instead of swans, the ponds in St. Stephen's Green were full of gulls. Walking home this evening, I passed the pool and saw not only swans, but cygnets, as well. I am relieved.

I was lamenting the other day that, instead of swans, the ponds in St. Stephen’s Green were full of gulls. Walking home this evening, I passed the pool and saw not only swans, but cygnets, as well. I am relieved.

Tomorrow, after I get the post up and have breakfast, I’m meeting Al, Daphne, Ryan, and Keira at St. Stephen’s Green, and we’re going to do some sightseeing together. That’ll be fun.

But bed now.

Posted in Dublin, Ireland 2013, Planning | Tagged , | 1 Comment