What rain?

Trip Start Apr 28, 2009
Trip End Aug 20, 2009

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Flag of Ireland  , County Dublin,
Sunday, June 28, 2009

After a month in Ireland we sadly must say good-bye! We’ve really enjoyed our time here and just love this country. We’re already looking forward to coming back someday. It is such a beautiful place with such a variety of things to see and explore. The people are so friendly and have a language (and vocabulary) of their own. They were great to help a family of clueless Canadians. In Dublin we had a interesting view out of our bedroom window. We're not sure who this monument was meant to honour, but he must have been quite a guy!

We originally thought that Dublin was just another big city but were pleasantly surprised . We decided to take the on and off double decker bus yet again. It’s such a fun and easy way to get an overview of the whole city! We toured the Guinness beer factory where Bruce learned how to pour the perfect pint of beer and then enjoyed the fruit of his labor (Aimee enjoyed one too)! From there we went to the Kilmainham Gaol, we must be missing all the jails in Kingston! The tour guide was really great and we were able to see where many of the people who took part in the uprising for Ireland’s independence ended up. Aimee toured Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells while Bruce and the boys played in St. Stephens Green, a beautiful park in the heart of the city. Aimee certainly enjoyed some time on her own to do some shopping on Grafton St. as well and the boys were glad to be spared another history lesson! We visited Croke Park home to the GAA where Gaelic Football and Hurling are played. The field would fit two American fields on it and the stadium holds 80 000 fans plus standing room. The Gaelic Football played there is a bit of rugby, soccer and brawling all mixed into one. It’s great! We enjoyed going to a couple of local Gaelic football games played near our house.

Bruce was able to get in another round of golf and Caleb was able to play as well at Coraballis Golf Links. It is the only public links golf course in Ireland and it didn’t disappoint. Most fairways were fairly narrow and if you didn’t hit it then there wasn’t much of a chance of finding your ball. They had another beautiful day (we don’t believe all the talk about it raining in Ireland!) and the course was fantastic.

We spent two Sunday mornings at a quaint and unique village called Howth, just outside of Dublin. They have a fantastic market where we enjoyed stocking up on fresh bread, homemade hummus, pie, and lots of other yummy treats . The boys were so excited to see sea lions swimming in the harbor. We went to one of the fish shops and got some fish to feed them.  They were very friendly and obviously use to the tourists keeping them well fed. We also enjoyed walking along the cliffs. You certainly wouldn’t want to have had a few drinks before doing the cliff walk as the path was very narrow and there weren’t any guard rails. We’ve noticed this is the case with all of the cliff walks in Ireland. The Irish must have great balance and must not be clumsy like us Patrys! We always feel grateful to arrive back at the car with everyone accounted for!

We had a really fun day at the National Aquatic Center where they have an Olympic size pool and diving boards. Bruce of course went off the high diving board impressing his sons with his braveness. They also have an indoor water park with a wave pool, a lazy river, surf pool, and slides for all ages. The Irish, like the Portuguese, insist upon swim caps so the Patrys made yet another bold fashion statement pool side!

Dublin has castles as well that were not to be missed. Leonie’s (who house we were staying at) Aunt Mary showed us Ardgillian castle where she use to work as a tour guide. It is beautifully furnished and has lovely gardens and property. It also has the most amazing playground we have ever seen right on the Irish Sea. We also spent time visiting Malahide Castle and playground and Newbridge House and its playground. The boys did a great job listening to the tour guides knowing there was a playground waiting for them afterwards!

We spent some great days at the beach walking out after the tide went out and exploring the caves. As Canadians and only being exposed to Dickie Dee growing up we were unaware where the loud children’s music was coming from outside in the distance getting closer. To our great surprise it was the ice cream truck driving down our street! The boys (Bruce included) went running outside with their money and we all enjoyed an ice cream cone. After that the boys were always saying "listen, what’s that noise? I think it’s the ice cream truck!".

Many of our best days in Ireland happened when we just got in the car and drove. Certainly our marathon day to Northern Ireland was a good example of this. The country is so beautiful and there always seems to be something amazing to see out the window. Not so great when you need to be careful about which side of the road you are driving on! We got in the car with the goal of seeing the Giants Causeway, the most visited World Heritage site in Ireland. It is cylindrical rock formations along Northern Ireland’s coast. We took a windy walk along the cliffs which led us to a truly unique waterfront.  We then drove along the coast road (usually one lane roads where you hope for the best when you meet a car coming the other way) back towards Belfast through many quaint Irish towns. Many of the villages have everything you need - butcher, pharmacist, local grocer, 12 pubs, and don’t have the chain stores that we are use to in most Canadian cities. It was great not to run across a Walmart, Home Depot etc. but ironically that was what the Irish family that was staying in our house loved while in Canada. Along the way we came across Carrick-A-Rede where there is a rope suspension bridge. Only 8 people are allowed on at a time and it was about 200 feet up. We all bravely went across, some of us not realizing how windy it would be in the middle and not thinking about the fact we would have to cross again to get back! We all made it back across safely with great memories!

We’ve had many great "get lost tours" especially one on the second last day of our Irish stay. We really follow only 2 rules for these drives. If we see a playground we stop (that way the kids are happy) and if we see something we think might be interesting we stop (that way we are happy).  Plus, we always bring snacks! It doesn’t really matter where the road takes us, we just enjoy the not knowing of what we are going to discover or find. At the end of the day we just put in "home" on the GPS and it’s always fun to see the trip it plans to get us back. We drove south of the city into the Wicklow Mountains and stopped at the Powercourt Waterfall, the highest waterfall (400 ft) in Ireland and the U.K.. The kids had a great time climbing on the rocks and playing in the water down below. These adventures also seem to help the kids crash at the end of the day. After some time at the playground we hopped back in the car and continued on. When we saw the sign for the Wicklow Gap we had no idea what it was but we decided to follow rule #2. When we arrived we were happy to find a stream running through huge rocks down into the valley through the mountains. It was absolutely beautiful and not a soul or house in sight. We climbed on the rocks in the stream and decided it was such a nice day we wanted to go swimming. Unfortunately we didn’t have bathing suits but being the crazy Canadians we are, we threw caution to the wind (and our clothes as well). The boys thought it was hilarious but Aimee didn’t when we got back to our car and there was 3 other cars parked there. Thank God they didn’t venture down the stream or they would have got an eye full! (Sorry no picture here)

We left Dublin courtesy of a 7:45 a.m. flight aboard Ryan Air. Not fun having to wake a 3 and 6 year old up at 5 in the morning! What were we thinking? Not surprisingly, they seemed to get up and going easier than we did. What do you mean we don’t get a free coffee with our Ryan Air flight? We flew into Brussels where Nik and Marijkes’ friend Els picked us up at the airport and drove us to their apartment in Mechelen, just north of Brussels.

Someone slipped that there might be a chocolate factory near by so it seems as though that has moved up the priority list of things to do. Better not disappoint the kids!
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