Ireland Travelogue – Day Three

September 14, 2009

“They build walls everywhere to keep the vikings out.”
-Andy

We slept in until about 10:15, then skipped breakfast and went straight to the Old Jameson Distillery. Andy thought he had lost his credit card that morning and was stressing out quite a bit, I wasn’t stressing… there was no money on it anyways, but it was in my wallet.

We left for the distillery and walked along the tram tracks. We just missed the first tour, so we browsed the shop, looked over the touch screen exhibits, and sat in the cafe-like area. Greg wouldn’t let me go to the all Jameson bar while we waited… party pooper. We waited about 30 minutes for the tour to start. The tour guide had a very cool German-Irish accent. We watched a video and then they asked for volunteers to be official whiskey-tasters. Diana had warned us about this the night before, so Andy was in the front and volunteered very quickly. The tour was very nice even though the distillery was no longer located here and had been moved to southern Ireland. We learned all about casks and malt and triple-distilling. They enjoyed talking up their product. At the end, Andy got to try an American, Scotch, and Irish whiskey to say which one was the best.  Shots of whiskey for breakfast aren’t as delicious as they sound. We also got a complimentary whiskey. I chose to drink mine with cranberry and Andy elected for Ginger Ale (after his three shots). Apparently, in Spain they drink theirs with Coca-Cola but in New York they drink it with Coke. Make of that what you will.

Breakfast of Champions!

Breakfast of Champions!

After our whiskey for breakfast (Andy said mine was more acceptable for breakfast because it “had fruit”) we decided it would probably be a good idea to eat something. We went to a place called the Voodoo Club Cafe. I had a “deuces” which apparently means “tuna melt” and Andy had the Voodoo chicken sandwich. It was an Internet cafe, so we checked our Internets.

Then we walked what seemed like (to me, at least) forever along the river until we got to Phoenix Park. It was a pretty extensive place and there were a lot of young people on their way to the Coldplay concert (that Danny said he was going to.) We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to meet our plans for the day and make it to both the gaol and the Zoo, but we went into the Zoo anyway. I have been to a lot of nice Zoos and going to them always reminds me of my ex-wife, so this one didn’t impress me too much. Andy has only really been to the National Zoo in DC, so it was good for him. He used it to practice his photography skills. He got some nice shots. The last part was under construction, so we headed out.  The elephants were freakin’ sweet!  Two of them kept ganging up on a smaller one until they finally pushed him into the wading pond.  It was beautiful weather for Ireland but still not quite swimming weather which I assume is why the elephant bolted out as fast as he could.  Also I found out it is very difficult to take pictures of playful seals while they swim… so many deleted photos of blurry water that day!

Some of Andy's best shots from the Zoo.

Some of Andy's best shots from the Zoo.

Even though we weren’t sure we could make the gaol in time, we stopped at the Wellington Memorial. There was a cute dog there with a soccer ball and lots of people playing. The monument was large and impressive, but not as big an obelisk as the Washington Monument if I can judge these things correctly.  Always talkin’ smack about the monuments.  It was an awesome obelisk because it had big slanty stairs you could climb and sit on around it.

Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park

Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park

After a nice ten minute break, we started another looong walk wussy to the Kilmainham Gaol. We actually walked about three blocks past it and had to backtrack. We made it there 5 minutes before the last (6 o’clock) tour.  Just as I has planned.

The tour guide at the gaol I quite fancied. She liked to tell incredibly sad stories about the gaol’s history tinged with nationalist fervor. Things like: people being executed after only being able to spend 10 minutes with their new wives and such. I like women who are sad and political. Anyway, the gaol was very exciting and impressive and played an important role in the Irish Independence movements of the early 20th century.

I couldn’t stand any more walking so we took the double-decker Dublin Bus back down Thomas Street to the Temple Bar. We hadn’t explored that area too much, so we decided to eat there and looked for a restaurant. We decided to try something foreign since we had been partaking of mostly Irish fare. We stopped into a Tandoori restaurant where we got the “early bird” special at 6:30PM (again, when do these people eat?) We were the first ones there.

We turned in early as we knew the next day would be a driving day. We stayed up until 9:15 watching TV shows about Irish history on what seemed like their version of PBS.

Here is a map of where we went on this our third day:

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Ireland Travelogue – Day Two

September 13, 2009

“This entire country was designed for people 20 centimeters shorter than me.”
-Greg

This day was a lot of walking. We woke up at 9ish and we bought the full breakfast in the hotel for €10. Andy had pudding that tasted like meat.  I highly recommend the full Irish breakfast.  Nothing like bacon, blood pudding, eggs, toast, fruit, yogurt, sausage, juice, and coffee to get your day of marathon walking going. I ate mostly yogurt and eggs, not sure what state my stomach would be in.

We went to Trinity College first, and walked around it several city blocks looking for the entrance. Andy wanted to go in the entrance to the Dental School but I thought better of it, so we continued going around. You wouldn’t even let us go in the second entrance that would have taken us to the Book…eventually. The whole place had very high walls around it preventing you from seeing anything at all, really. It also had a train track running through it which reminded me of my alma mater, Grinnell College.

When we finally found the entrance and went in, we saw the Book of Kells and its respective museum (the only place in Dublin that didn’t accept the Dublin Pass). The exhibit was very nice and informative, and the book itself was beautiful, but we couldn’t read it since it was in Latin (duh!) We walked out to the college grounds and listened in to a tour guide who was explaining about “Gielguds,” fluent speakers of the Irish language. According to him, they were an “insufferable people.” They are insufferable people… bah. All the buildings around us were hundreds of years old. They were the notably oldest parts of the college, and the guide said they were mainly used for dormitories and administrative offices.

Class was indeed in session.

Class was indeed in session.

After leaving the college, we took a walk down Grafton Street, a walking avenue with shops where they have some street performances. There were some very excellent human statues, including one really amazing one who I believe was supposed to look like Winston Churchill.

At the end of Grafton Street is St. Stephen’s Green, a very nice park near the city center. It was a beautiful day: 75 degrees, no clouds in the sky, a nice breeze. We relaxed on the green a bit and did some people watching. I had worn shorts that day and I was very comfortable, which was lucky since apparently shorts are not something one often wears in this country.  This was the best part of Dublin.  The rest was a city… and cities suck.

Two views of Andy relaxing on St. Stephen's Green

Two views of Andy relaxing on St. Stephen's Green

Next we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral which was a lot like Christ Church but less old and with a lot of information about Jonathan Swift, who was a dean of the church and who was buried there. It also had a very nice green outside of it with posted rules that there was no ball-playing allowed, but of course tons of kids were kicking a soccer ball around, and who would be able to resist it on such a nice day?

We walked a block north to Dublin Castle, (it wasnt a castle) which was also a palace and an administration center for the Irish government. We waited in the waiting area for the guided tour. A saucy gentleman gave us the tour through palace rooms, courtyards, and an archaeological site with excavations of the base of one of the now-defunct towers.  It was very disappointing, no guards, cannons, or parapets.  It could barely be defined as a castle.  I felt like I couldve laid siege to it.

I don't know if these guards for Dublin Castle were quite up to the task.

I don't know if these guards for Dublin Castle were quite up to the task.

We returned to Grafton St. via our favorite Thomas St. and ate at Captain America’s Restaurant and Bar. Andy had a gravy burger and I had a veggie enchilada with chips. I left a tip even though we didn’t think we were supposed to.  Look at that sign.  How could we not eat there.  It was like Shennanigans with all the goofy crap it had on the walls.  Plus with Captain Americas as the theme it felt like we were eating in the U.S. embassy.

We wanted to see what they think American food is like.  They got close, but not exactly right.

We wanted to see what they think American food is like. They got close, but not exactly right.

After Captain America’s, we went back to St. Stephen’s and checked out the South side (this is how beautiful the day was, relaxing on the green was the perfect pastime.) There was some kind of Hare Krishna festival going on with a guy playing the ukulele and a dancing puppet. We stayed a while and watched people play “football.” A group of kids with balloon swords came out of nowhere and milled around a bit before seeing another similar group of kids across the green. They started running towards each other and one enterprising child yelled “Dirty Celts!” at the other group. It was an epic battle, like something out of Braveheart. After the battle subsided, we sunbathed a bit more.

We thought about going to a hotel for Irish dancing far to the south where our Dublin Passes would get us a CD and a glass of champagne for free, but instead we decided to head back to our hotel where there was also Irish dancing.  I still miss the CD that got away…

On the way back to the hotel, we saw a very cool street band playing. Andy wanted to buy their CD but he had absolutely no money.  Rub it in why dont you…

I like the hat the drummer is wearing.

I like the hat the drummer is wearing.

We went to listen to the Irish music and watch the Irish dancing in the basement of our hotel. We met some people there: Danny, a Quebecois, and Diana, an Aussie. They were staying in a hostel in Dublin and had come to see the dancing too. Diana was doing a round-the-world trip and Danny had been in Ireland for a month and a half traveling around. Apparently he had no money and all he had left was a plane ticket home and a Coldplay concert ticket the next day, which I thought was hardcore. Andy got Diana to take our picture and then asked her to e-mail it to me (he knows all the tricks, although it didn’t seem to’ve worked.) We also met Anne and Katy, Americans going for study abroad in Cork for a semester. We went upstairs to the pub after the dancing ended and ended up hanging out with Danny and Diana ’til about 2 in the morning. Andy was very sloshed. Well, you know, when in Rome… We got fried food at a restaurant called Eddie Rocket’s and then went to sleep.

Here is a map of where we went on this our second day:

Ireland Travelogue – Day One

September 11/12, 2009

“The key is not to sleep.”
-Greg

Jetlagged.

I did not sleep on the overnight flight due to my theory that staying up is the best way to beat this. It’s pretty rough. It’s about 3PM here on the first day when I’m writing this which is the same as skipping a night of sleep until 10am the next morning. I can tell Andy is feeling it too. We are chilling in the room right now hopefully not falling asleep…

Haven’t yet.

Today we arrived in Dublin.

The flight was somewhat unremarkable. Whatever, I watched Wall-E… it was awesome. I guess the main thing to be remarked on was that we were flying on September 11, which made a few people we told about it nervous. It was fine, though. We flew on Aer Lingus, the Irish airline. The plane was mostly empty and there was no one seated in the exit rows so we were asked if we wanted to move there. We did. We were seated directly across from one of the flight attendants and facing each other, which was a little bit awkward, but she was friendly. The in-flight entertainment was quite good and I ended up watching the first 5 episodes of Mad Men, along with a couple movies. It was a redeye flight and the “night” only lasted about 4 and a half hours.

After landing early in the morning, we stopped in the airport at the tourist information station, where there was something of a line. Andy smoked, of course, while I waited in it, and when we got up to the counter we decided to purchase what are called the “Dublin Pass.” These were cards that you paid up front for and allowed you to get into most Dublin attractions for free. We also got a city map with all the tourist attractions listed on it.

We walked from the airport bus stop to the hotel and checked in, then set out pretty much immediately across the river and east about ten blocks.

Arriving at our Hotel in Dublin

Arriving at our Hotel in Dublin

We stopped along the way a couple times to take pictures of Dublin in general. One of the first places we stopped was a restaurant called “gruel.” Andy had to have his picture taken in front of it:

Who could pass up a picture with the such well advertised gruel?

Andy thought this restaurant was cool, but I didn't notice him volunteering to eat there.

Andy thought this restaurant was cool, but I didn't notice him volunteering to eat there.

We also stopped at Christ Church Cathedral and the Guinness Storehouse, both very impressive. The Cathedral was almost 1000 years old and filled with all sort of ornate decoration.

We have about 15 pictures of Cathedrals, here's the best picture, at Christ Church.

We have about 15 pictures of Cathedrals, here's the best picture, at Christ Church.

It also had crypts underneath it that you could walk through. I had never been in a crypt before. There were cool exhibits of all sorts including “The Cat and the Rat,” two mummified animals that had gotten stuck in the organ pipes and were mentioned in “Finnegan’s Wake” by James Joyce, and jewels donated to Ireland by William of Orange.

Mummified Animals!

Mummified Animals!

The Brewery and Storehouse had a very entertaining, thorough, and modern explanation of how Guinness is made, and they were in the process of celebrating their 250th anniversary. I tasted the featured beverage in the tasting center, but passed on the free pint at the Gravity Bar, which is the highest point you can go to in Dublin. I did not insult the locals by refusing their delicious gifts. The views from there were spectacular.

The View from the Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar

The View from the Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar

Both places accepted our Dublin Pass, which seemed fortuitous.  Well, they were in the Dublin Pass brochure… so I think they had to.

The city kind of reminded me of Baltimore. I think that’s a compliment.  …really?

We stopped at a pub called “The Cink” on the way back for food. It was deserted at noontime. When do people here eat lunch? We stayed a while and watched soccer and talked and tried not to fall asleep. When we wandered back to the hotel, I tried to get my phone to work, but it didn’t. I did get the adapter to work so I knew I could charge it if I ever did get it to work.

We went to sleep at 3:15 (Andy) and 4:15 (Greg) and got up at 9:30 and 10:30 PM respectively to go have drinks at the hotel pub. They played 80’s music and it was pretty busy as it was Saturday night.  It was awesome!  I’ve never seen so many people jam out to the song “shout” since Animal House. We stayed up ’til 1:30 planning and chatting and then went back up to our room on the third floor for bed.

Here is a map of where we went on this our first day:

Two Brothers in a Foreign Country

My brother and I went to Ireland a few weeks ago, and as you can see I kept extensive notes on the trip so I could share our experiences with you:

Notebook and maps made use of during our travels

Notebook and maps made use of during our travels

Andy is also adding his color commentary. Literally, his commentary will be in blue. I’ll put up a post every few days about one day on the trip, hopefully in order. Enjoy!

Why do you haunt me, MTV?

mtothetvWhen I lived in Temperance House (1205 Park St went by many names, even while I was at Grinnell, but that’s what it will always be to me) I had exactly two (2) transcendent experiences involving the television network Music TeleVision. Well, transcendent may not be the word, but these are vivid memories that I haven’t ever found any reference to anywhere on the great internet collaboration. And yet, millions of people (or at the very least, thousands) must have had these very same experiences. Am I crazy? Did they really happen? Does it even matter to me given the experience I lived?

The first (by memory and importance, but not chronology; the internet tells me that this was the early hours of April 26, 2002) seems the most hallucinatory. I was up at 2AM watching music videos. Please don’t judge me; anyone but the most novice knows that MTV only plays blocks of actual music videos from 2AM to 3:30AM. So, I was watching a video in a nonchalant way as usual, and text started scrolling across the screen. It said LISA LOPES IS STILL DEAD. I thought I might be in a zombie movie. I was confused and not but a little terrified. I hope it is 2AM when you are reading this, so that you might have the same inkling of fear. Is my television trying to send me a message? Has it finally achieved the sentience I always held out expectations for? I had no idea. I didn’t move an inch, but inside I was freaking out. Confused and alone, I tried to collect myself. When I finally did, text scrolled again. An announcement that Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes of TLC had died in a car accident in Mexico. I didn’t know who this was, but I was strangely relieved. The TV had not failed me or fooled me. It had been right all along. And yet.

The second was week-long. One specific week; it’s probably the only memory I have of Grinnell that I can place to a specific week on our Gregorian calendar without needing to look something up. September 12-16, 2001. MTV played only music videos 24 hours a day. And not just any videos were these, no. They were violence free. Loving, even. If this had gone on for an infinite period of time, it would have been the greatest television network ever produced by anyone in the past, present, or future. There were no commercials, only a news update at 50 past the hour. There must be other people in the world who agree with me that this happened, right? It feels so ephemeral and yet so real. Sometimes I dream about watching it, and when I wake up I am reminded that all there is is drek on MTV when there could be sublime hopeful bliss. And I am sad.

If anyone has memory of either of these occurrences, please let me know. Also, if you lived with me in Temperance House that year, I miss you. I miss you more than I miss that soothing collection of art and sound.

The internet sums everything up.

This is true but I wish it weren’t.

What to Do in Ocean City, Maryland

Two weeks ago a bunch of friends and I stayed the long weekend at a family condo on the beach in Ocean City. It was a great time and I hope to do it again soon!

You can see pictures here. For example:

Kite Flying on the Beach

Kite Flying on the Beach

I’ve been going to Ocean City every year since I was a very young one and so I have some “traditional” activities that I enjoy. We did some of them but it wasn’t as long a weekend as it could have been, so I didn’t get the opportunity to introduce the group to some of the others.

So first I’m going to list a few we did partake of:

Milkshakes at Dumser’s Dairyland. The best milkshakes I have ever tasted, and you can get them right down on the boardwalk. The to-go shakes are not very big and I think that’s part of the secret: keep you wanting more. The chocolate banana is highly recommended.

Flying Kites on the Beach. I am a huge fan of kite flying but there are very few places around that you can do it in Maryland! The beach is a safe space for kite flying. It’s always windy and open and there are plenty of other people around who will enjoy the view.

Renting Jetskis. This is the first time I went ahead and did this with my brother and a friend. It is quite exhilarating and freeing. The price is a little high (we paid $80) but if you go in with a friend you can ride together!

The Outlets I didn’t go to the outlets this year, but I will probably go later this summer. I usually get a new pair of shoes and whatever else I need all at once. It’s very nice when you only have to shop once a year.

We didn’t do some of my other traditional activities:

Gummi Octopi From Candy Kitchen, the perfect compromise between gummi worms and gummi bears. You can pull the legs off one at a time or go whole hog and feel them swishing around in your mouth.

PLAYLAND on the boardwalk. Every year we used to get 10 dollars to spend in the arcade there. My favorite is Silent Scope, the sniper game. I used to spend $5 on it every year but now I’ve gotten so good that I only need $2 to beat the thing.

Parasailing Though it seems daunting, this is the most relaxing and carefree activity you can partake of. Essentially you’re floating along in a slight breeze, everything is quiet and calm and there is no one to bug you (unless you go tandem) and the view is spectacular. Everyone, even the most skittish, should try it once.

Harrison’s Harbor Watch Restaurant It’s a little expensive and there can be a wait but it’s generally worth it: great seafood and almost every table has a wonderful view of the harbor. Some nights you can watch the seagulls drift along the channel; when they get to one end, they just fly to the beginning and drift again!

Assateague Island This one is for the nature-lovers. We all know Ocean City is anything but natural, but if you just head south a little bit and cross a few bridges you’ll get to a beach that is. And of course, if you are lucky, you might get to see the famous ponies!

These are the things I like to do, but I’m sure there are plenty of things I haven’t discovered. What do you like to do in OC?