Ireland

St. Patrick's Day!!!

Now I don’t even know if I can begin to explain the madness that was Dublin on St. Patty’s Day, but here goes. In typical Irish fashion, the drinking began around 8:30am in our room after we got dressed in our Irish attire.

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Then after we went down and had breakfast, we headed out to a pub overlooking the parade on O’Connell Street.

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We arrived at the pub around 10:30 only to find a line. I guess it was good that we got there early because we were the 2nd group in line. The pub was 4 stories and we wanted to get as high as possible to have the best view of the parade. We thought the pub opened at 11:30, but it didn’t open until a little after 12. Our friend Graham looked like the Jolly Green Giant that day. The line was definitely the party.

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We dubbed this Team America because these girls were from Chicago and I hadn’t met too many Americans thus far.

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Our group ended up being a lot bigger than we started with, but that made it more fun. We took up a whole floor in the pub.

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Once we finally got into the pub, we all started with a ceremonial first Guinness, with many more to follow.

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Once the parade started the streets were lined with people. It was pretty crazy!!

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At the end of the parade, they turned the whole Liffey River green, and the strange thing is thing is that it was almost instantaneous! It went from nasty blue color to green in about 3 seconds. It was pretty amazing.

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After we left the pub around 3 in the afternoon, we decided that the Chinese buffet would be a great idea. We went there and knocked out that buffet, about 3 or 4 plates a piece.  Then I went back to the hostel and took a nap for about an hour and a half. After that, we went out and did it all again. It was such a long day, but totally worth it!! Everyone should experience Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day at some point in their life. It’s CRAZY!!!

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Guinness Brewery & Storehouse

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We toured the Guinness Brewery and here’s some pics from that. This is the famous waterfall that everyone talks about.

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After you  go through the whole process of how they make Guinness, which is only 4 ingredients by the way, they have a tasting lab where they give you a glass about a quarter of the way full to try the different varieties of Guinness. I guess each person is only supposed to have one, but we made friends with the bartender and ended up going back 8 or 9 times. Guinness is so much better over here than it is back in the states. I guess it’s just fresher. A couple floors up from that (there were 7 floors total) they had kind of a museum with some amusing signs posted.

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There was one sign that said Guinness gives you strength and I think it’s true.

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Then on the top floor they have the galaxy bar where they give you a complimentary pint of Guinness at the end of the tour.

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From the Galaxy Bar, you have the best view in the whole city. The bar is glass all around so I got some pretty cool pics from up there.

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Dublin, continued

Since I have a little time to kill before I can check into my room today I’ll try and catch up a little bit for the past week. My 2nd day in Dublin I went on a free 3-hour walking tour, so here’s some pics from around Dublin.

First, this is the Temple Bar. It’s the most famous bar in Ireland and we went there the first 2 nights I was in Dublin. They have pretty good live music every night, but the pints are pretty expensive compared to some of the other pubs around.

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Then this is the Liffey River that runs through the center of Dublin and divides it into North and South. The North end is a lot older and kind of run-down in parts, while the south is newer and better looking.

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Our next stop was Trinity College, which I guess is the most prestigious university in Ireland. It’s similar to an Ivy League school in the U.S.

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This next pic is a small street right off of Grafton St, which is the shopping district of Dublin.

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Here’s a picture of the Liffey all lit up at night.

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One night we walked by St. Patrick’s Cathedral when it was lit up. Our tour guide told us that the whole legend about the snakes was false because Ireland never had any to begin with. So I’m not quite sure about that.

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Then this is when I was getting into the St. Patty’s Day spirit over the weekend.

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Dublin

I’ve been busy the last couple days so I guess I have a little catching up to do. I guess I’ll start with today first. This morning I went to see the Book of Kells in the library of Trinity College. It’s an ancient manuscript of the 4 gospels of the bible, written in ancient Latin. There was about a half-hour wait to get in and they charge 8 euros to see it. After all that they won’t even let you take pictures of it. I tried and a short old man ran up out of nowhere to stop me before I could get a shot off. I think he might of been a ninja because I looked all around before I tried to do it. After that excursion I headed over to the National Gallery a few blocks away. It’s the largest gallery in Ireland, but still relatively small compared to the National Gallery in London. One thing that was really cool was that they have a whole exhibit devoted to Jack B. Yeats, probably one of the most famous artists to come out of Ireland. His works are similar to a lot of Monets I’ve seen where you can only faintly make out a picture and you have to use your imagination for the rest. I really liked his works.

After wandering around the museum for a couple hours, I went to the National Library next door. They have a Genealogical Department to help people trace their families from Ireland. When I inquired about the Welch family from the mid-1600’s, the man told me they only really have data from about 1800 on. So I decided to look through the books anyway, and found a Welsh family, which is a variation on the Walsh family. Now Walsh was a name given to many unconnected families and there are Walshs from basically every county in Ireland, not to mention that it’s the 4th  most common surname in Ireland. This really didn’t solve anything for me, but the book said that the Welsh variation is used in Munster and Connacht near Wexford and it is also particularly strong in Galway, Cork, Wexford, Waterford, and Kilkenny (which names most of the biggerr cities in Ireland).

I still have a lot of pics from the walking tour I did last Friday and also from the Guinness Brewery tour, but I’ll put those in a separate post.


Aran Islands

The Aran Islands are about 40 minutes by ferry off the coast of Galway. I visited the biggest of the 3 islands, Inis Mor.

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I rented a bike and rode around the entire island. It was probably around 15-20 miles around, so I definitely had a workout yesterday. Actually, I’m still kind of sore from it.

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The best view of the island was from Dun Aonghasa. It was on the very far side of the island from the pier and it was  pretty much like walking up a mountain, but the views from atop were pretty amazing.

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Here’s a view looking straight down off the edge. It was kind  of hard to take this because it was wet and slippery from the sea breeze, but I managed not to fall off. Apparently 5 people fell off from this same spot last year so I guess I made history by not falling off.

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Cliffs of Moher & The Burren

Here’s some pictures from the day tour I took the other day. First we went to a castle that I think was called the castle of Dunguaire.

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Next stop was Aillwee Cave. Here I met  4 people from the University of Florida. As soon as I said I went to Michigan, we immediately started talking crap about football. Then I reminded them how we kicked the crap out of them in the bowl game 2 years ago. They were all pretty cool and we hung out throughout the day.

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We stopped by the bay for a minute to take some pictures.

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We  stopped for lunch in Doolin, which is known for its traditional Irish music. Too bad the only restaurant within walking distance was ridiculously expensive, but that was all we had. Next up were the Cliffs of Moher. These were pretty amazing how they just drop off like they do.

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At one point I almost fell over the edge. Good thing my friends were there to catch me.

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Galway (pronouced Gulway)

Since I’m on a bus to Dublin I guess this is a good time to catch on my posts since I haven’t written in a couple days. I’ve been pretty busy between day tours and hanging out with people at my hostel. I got to Galway last Sunday night. The hostel I stayed at the first night I didn’t like at all. It was an older crowd and they weren’t the friendliest bunch. I woke up on Monday and switched hostels, even though I lost €12 doing it. It was a great decision though because I met a lot of cool people at the new hostel I went to. Monday I just walked around Galway and explored. It’s a very small city and basically consists of a university, a bunch of pubs, and these 2 guys.

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Looking out over Galway Bay was nice though. One strange thing about Galway is that all the stores and shops close at 6pm. I finally managed to find a grocery store open until 7pm so that I could buy some stuff to make dinner. Tuesday I took a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher, which I’ll write a separate post for. That night I went to a pub with a bunch of girls from my hostel to watch the Liverpool-Real Madrid match. The best part about this, besides walking into a pub with 8 girls, most of which spoke French, was the Guinness. I don’t like Guinness back home, but here it is awesome! We met a couple Irish blokes at the pub. After I told him I was American he continued to talk crap about how Americans can’t drink. So in order to defend my country I challenged to a chugging contest with a pint of Guinness. I beat him the first time and he was pissed so he bought me another pint and wanted a rematch. The 2nd time I beat him by even more time than the first time. He congratulated me and for the rest of the night kept telling me that there was no way I could be American. Now I can officially say I outdrank and Irishman! It was a good time and Liverpool spanked Real Madrid 4-0. One other thing I’ve learned is that you don’t ever call football soccer here because people will laugh at you. If you call it football then at least you have a shot at sounding like you know what you’re talking about. Yesterday, I took a ferry to the Aran Islands. After I got back I was dead tired from riding a bike around the island all day. Later that night, my French friends talked me into watching the movie P.S. I Love You with them, which I have to say is the gayest chick flick I’ve ever seen. The only thing that saved it a little bit was that half of it was set in Ireland and we could pick out a couple of the places. Now I’m on my way to Dublin for the 5-day St. Patrick’s Day Festival. I still don’t have a place to stay for the night of St. Patrick’s Day, so I guess I’ll just stay up all night (which I doubt will be that hard in Dublin) then catch my plane to London the next morning.


Partying Cork Style

So I wanted to put up some pictures from last Saturday night that my friend posted because we had a good size entourage and it was a lot of fun. We had an American (me), 2 from London, 3 from Germany, a Frenchman, and an Aussie.

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First, I taught them some American drinking games back at the hostel because it’s a lot cheaper than at the bar. First I taught them mushroom.

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My friend was a little angry when she lost and had to  drink the mixture in the middle. It was a combination of a little bit of everyone’s beers.

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After we got tired of being at the hostel, we went to the infamous Brog. It’s a pretty cool pub in Cork, and it was packed that night like all the other pubs.

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Then we all woke up the next morning not feeling so good. It was worth it though because we had a lot of fun the night before.


On the Road to Galway

Currently I’m on a little over 4-hour bus ride from Cork up to Galway. The Irish countryside is beautiful to see driving by. I was kind of sad to leave to leave Cork after spending 4 days there. Originally, I had planned to stay only 3 days, but ended up staying an extra day and a half to hang out with some of the friends I had met. Seeing the sites in a city is cool and all, but what really makes the experience is the people you meet in the hostels. I’ve only been in Europe for about a week now but already I’ve met so many amazing people, some who are looking for work in different cities and most who had just said screw it to the typical 8-5 work week and are now traveling the world. I’ve also realized that life is too short to spend your time doing something you hate, whether it be work or whatever else. It really is kind of tough to leave a place you’ve only spent a few days at because you meet certain people who you would like to stay and get to know better and hear their interesting stories. This is what backpacking is all about and I’m really glad that I decided to travel by myself for this reason. Some of these people I will see again traveling around, like my 3 German friends, my 2 English friends from London, or my 2 globetrotting Aussie friends, but others I’ll only speak to by email or facebook. Anyways, onto another topic.

I thought I’d write some more about Cork after exploring it for a couple more days. After walking around the city, it is actually a lot bigger than I had originally thought. There are some beautiful sites around the city as well. Cork is a city that was built on a lot of large hills, so some of the city looks like parts of San Francisco. A friend and I went running up these hills yesterday morning and it was a hell of a workout, more than anything you’d get running in a gym back home.

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Another thing I really enjoyed was walking around the campus of UCC, which is the University College of Cork. It’s one of the top schools in Ireland and apparently very prestigious. I also walked to a lake a little bit outside the city with my German friends and it was nice to see an area that was more like typical Ireland, not crowded with people everywhere like the city centre where I was staying.

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There are definitely a lot of large breweries in Ireland as well. I walked by the Beamish factory, which apparently is being shut down soon since Beamish was recently purchased by Heineken.

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Then I’ll also be visiting the Guinness factory when I get to Dublin later this week. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s never too early to have a beer in Ireland. I went past the bar out of my hostel yesterday morning and there were 2 lads having a beer around 10am! The pubs in Cork were awesome too! We went to a pub called the Broge last night. It’s on a street where there must be about 15 pubs in a row and they were all packed out the door last night. I hope my friend posts pictures on facebook from last night so that I can put them on here. We’ll see.

Now onto Galway and also the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. Wow, I guess this was a long post, but I have a lot of time to kill right now. I also just saved about an hour of time on my bus trip by hopping on a direct bus to Galway in Limerick rather than staying on the one I was on and going through the airport, which is completely out of the way.


"Gift of the Gab"

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Yesterday I visited Blarney Castle. It reminded me of some of the other castles that I had visited in other places. There wasn’t anything really special about it except that they have the Blarney Stone. It took a while to go up the long circular staircase to the top of the castle, but once we made it up there was a great view. In order to kiss the stone, you have to lie on your back off the edge of the roof while a guy holdss your legs. He keeps telling you to slide farther and farther off the castle in order to kiss the stone from the bottom. It’s pretty scary if you look down, but they do have a couple of metal bars that you would bang your head on if you fell. A lot of people wouldn’t do it for fear they would fall. I did it though, especially after all those steps to the top.

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Once you kiss the stone you are supposed the “gift of the gab,” which is the gift of eloquence of speech. I talked a lot before, so I’m not sure if this made any difference or not. After kissing the stone, we made our way back down the castle and I found a couple of amusing things. First, this sign that was hanging was pretty funny. I have to keep this in mind next time I go to the bar!

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Somehow I also managed to get trapped in the dungeon of the castle. After that we hopped on the bus back to Cork for a night at the hostel bar.

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