Irish Tales!

Trip Start Jan 22, 2013
Trip End Jun 03, 2013

Flag of Ireland  , County Dublin,
Thursday, February 7, 2013

Well what a week we have had in Ireland! I won't lie to you - it hasn't all been great - SOMEONE got herself a cold in Dublin. Yes, my generally crap immune system which had been going great guns for 7 months without a sick day (some sort of record, for me) took one whiff of the Guinness air and decided to catch a cold. Quite annoying but a pretty good run for me, so can't complain. It took me out for about two days but I am feeling much more alive now, which is good!

Not to let a pesky cold completely stop us though, here's what we got up to in Ireland...

First stop was Dublin where we stayed in the fancy George Frederic Handel hotel. Not bad for budget backpackers like us! We were lucky to get a last minute deal for a good price so we enjoyed lapping up the luxury for two nights. Apparently the hotel is built next to the hall or something where Handel's Messiah was first performed. I don't know if that's true or not, but it was a good story.

In Dublin we succumbed to the touristy tour bus and got a hop on/hop off bus tour. The Irish drivers were very informative, telling us interesting facts about Dublin, including that Heuston station was named after Whitney Houston and that the city was founded on alcohol (that one I think is fairly accurate, seeing as Arthur Guinness built a lot of the buildings and employed a lot of workers in Dublin). We did a tour of the Kilmainham Gaol, which was built with good intentions to reeducate the evildoers of Ireland to the right way of behaving (many with heinous crimes such as stealing loaves of bread to eat and coats to stay warm during the potato famine, or were political prisoners) by essentially denying them of basic human rights such as human contact, proper food to eat, sunlight etc etc). (I guess you can kind of tell my political persuasion through my retelling of this so I will move on before we get into an argument!) We also learnt a lot about the uprisings in Ireland (the fight to become a Republic) and the history behind it. It was an interesting place and kind of hard to imagine that real people were once in there (and hung there) but it was worth a visit to see a lot of the history of the city.

Next stop was a much lighter note, the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery! This was lots of fun. We learnt how Guinness was made (yes, they told us ALL of the secrets, so when we get home we can start our own backyard Guinness Brewery). Having said that, I think Guinness is an acquired taste, one that I haven't quite gotten used to. I think it's the head of it that freaks me out, it seems like a cappucino or a flat white, and the thought of milk and beer together is a little gross in my opinion...A funny Irishman we talked to on the train later in the week told me you have to drink it through the head, he nearly died of a heart attack when I suggested that maybe you could spoon the head off it like a cappucino...Something about don't tell customs otherwise I will be deported from Ireland for suggesting such a thing...Anyhoo, I digress. The brewery was fun, we learnt how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and we have certificates to prove it!

The Irish LOVE a drink or five (there's a pub on every street corner) and we spent some fun times in Irish pubs, listening to their traditional Irish music and drinking beers. Unfortunately we didn't get to do this as much as I would have liked to, thanks to getting a cold, but it was fun all the same.

After Dublin, we headed to Galway which is sort of a coastal town in Ireland where a lot of the Irish head to have a holiday and soak up the sun (ha ha). That reminds me of something I saw in an Irish shop - "we have had good weather this week. It only rained twice, first for three days, the second time for four." I guess that's why Ireland is so green and beautiful. Galway was gorgeous, and we even got a bit of sunshine for the first day we were there. We stayed out near Salt Hill which is right on the coast in a cute little B&B where we met a fun Czech girl and her Indian boyfriend, who had been living in Dublin. Unfortunately I spent a lot of time in bed sick in Galway, otherwise we would have liked to have headed out to the cliffs of Burren and the Aran islands.

After Galway we took the train to Cork, where we also went through Limerick. (I love the names of the places here!) We've seen a lot of the beautiful countryside travelling on trains. It might have been better to hire a car, because we would have gotten out to more remote places, but the trains were good (and I don't know if petrol and parking would have made it a lot more expensive). Something to look into if anyone is planning a trip to Ireland! Cork was fun, we stayed in a dodgy (but great value) backpacker's and we had a great afternoon explored Blarney and Blarney Castle, which were both beautiful places.

Following our speedy expedition to Cork, we headed off to Killarney, or rather that Gap of Dunloe which is near Killarney. This was by far our most favourite place in Ireland. It was absolutely stunning - the Gap of Dunloe is literally the gap between the mountains and the area is gorgeous. The photos we took don't really do it justice, but check them out anyway. We had a fun afternoon adventuring around the Gap where we were pelted with rain and wind at one point, but when it was clear it was spectacular! Didn't get any photos of the wild weather beacuse we we fighting for survival so you will just have to imagine how ridiculous we looked. Did, however, get pictures of it when it was calm - just beautiful. We stayed in the most lovely B & B right near the Gap (Wayside Guesthouse) and the locals were so friendly and hospitable. Were sad we didn't get to stay to do the Ring of Kerry and have a look a the islands, but you never get to see everything! We did get to see a bit of Killarney National Park and Ross Castle on the way out, so that was good.

We left Ireland yesterday and are currently en route to Norway. Ireland has been absolutely beautiful and I would recommend it to anyone. Of course, everyone told us it is more beautiful in the Spring rather than the Winter, so I can only imagine how lovely it will get. It has been sad though, seeing the effects of the recession on the people here - one local told us there is 40%252525 unemployment currently, and there has been a mass exodus of people leaving Ireland (a lot heading to Australia). The economy is really bad and people have to hang on to whatever job they have (if they are lucky enough to have one). There have been protests because the government wants to pay graduate nurses 20%2525 less than before, meaning that nurses could finish their degrees and be paid less than working in a supermarket. A lot of the Irish are heading for overseas and people are talking about the problems wherever you go. We didn't go to Northern Ireland because there has been violent protests in Belfast since December. There is a lot of unhappiness (and I suspect a lot of alcoholism) and many are sad that the days of the Celtic Tiger are over. However, the locals are absolutely lovely, lots of fun, there are heaps of great things to see and do, and the scenery is gorgeous - and we only went to a few places - I am sure there are heaps of more spectacular places that we missed. So definitely if you are thinking of going to Ireland - go - they need the tourists and you will have a great time!

I'll leave you with an Irish blessing I saw on a teatowel here (picture a leprechaun about to slide down on a staircase bannister):

When sliding down the Bannister of Life
May the Splinters all be pointing the right way.

Love to you all, hope you are all well.
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