Trip Post #2: Galway

…The adventure continues! Still in Dublin, we got breakfast at a place called Roly’s Bistro before catching the train to Galway.

Once there, we checked out the main street with pubs, touristy shops, and buskers.Galway

Thought this guy was nifty:

Galway BuskerHis little marionette was HIM. Exact same clothing, even had the same tattoos. He was “playing” to prerecorded music (see the speaker behind him). The motions were very lifelike (nodding his head, the hand on the neck of the cello, etc.). And the change hat is a tiny handmade cello case!!! Very cute. If you’re interested, he has a facebook page (the little sign in the cello case tells us): “Galway Puppet“. He apparently also makes alter-ego puppets for people.

Since the weather was yucky, we ducked into a cafe called Mocha Bean, and got a yummy treat:

Treat GalwayYUSSS

After walking around a bit more, we had dinner (vegetable soup and a cheese toasty) at Finnegan’s restaurant, the oldest building in Galway.

Finnegans

We were beat (and rain-soaked), so we headed back to the hotel (The Victoria, we wouldn’t recommend it) for bed shortly after dinner.

The next day, we had breakfast at our hotel, and took the windiest, coldest, longest walk along the sea to the Promenade (a little west of the Galway city center).

Inlet Galway

River Galway

Ocean Galway 2

Ocean GalwayIt was pretty and all, but damn was it cold and windy. Did I mention that it was windy? It was windy. And cold. And it rained on us sometimes.

I did get to meet a little dog that was bouncing around near his human’s campsite. He was really sweet, though I couldn’t get a great picture because he wouldn’t hold still!

Dog GalwayAnyway, continuing with our walk, we discovered that some COMPLETELY INSANE PEOPLE were swimming in the sea. THE COLD WINDY SEA. In the photo below, you can see tiny dots in the water, and those are people. Crazy people.

Swimmers GalwayAfter our windy (WINDY! And COLD! And WINDY!) walk, we treated ourselves to the cutest afternoon tea at a place called Cupan Tae.

Cupan Tae Galway(See the bush? It was windy.)

Look how cute!

Cupan Tae 4Everything was cute!

Cupan Tae 2

Cupan Tae 3I don’t think you understand; those are cucumber sandwiches on a tiered china cake stand. And scones with jam and clotted cream! And mini cupcakes! And I guess there was tea or whatever too. Basically, we were in a Jane Austen novel.

We took a little rest in our hotel since we had walked about 10 friggin miles already. I don’t know how many it was, but it was like double because we were walking into the wind.

Then we did some site-seeing around Galway, including visiting seemingly the youngest cathedral in all of Europe (it was built in the 1960s). Holy crap! I was kidding, but I just googled it to verify the date, and the website literally says that it is “the youngest of Europe’s great stone cathedrals.

And we were all “Umm..if we wanted to see a church from the 60s, we would have visited ANY CHURCH IN AMERICA.” So we had dinner.

Monroe's GalwayI kept trying to find a pub in Ireland where I could listen to traditional music, and I kept failing. See the pub above? This is where we had dinner. See that lovely sign advertising “Ballads and Traditional Music…NIGHTLY!”? It’s a LIE. There was a nice EMPTY little stage taunting us, but no musicians in sight.

But the staff were very nice, and I had the best fettuccine alfredo I have ever had and could ever imagine. (In Ireland? I know!)

I also got a plum tart from a nearby bakery. It was called “The Gourmet Tart Company”, so I obviously couldn’t ignore it.

Plum Tart GalwayIn my ongoing quest to find traditional music, we went to “Tunes in the Church” at like the oldest church ever, St. Nicholas’ Church, which was built sometime around 1320. The performance involved three musicians: a concertina player, a flute player, and a bouzouki player (like a guitar), and a sean nos dancer (Old Style Irish Dancing; older than the style I do).

Musicians GalwayIt wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, because I wanted singing, but they were very skilled musicians (though, I can only say that because other people said it, not because I know anything about performing music), and watching the sean nos dancing was really fun.

By the way, they performed on the top of a tomb-thingy. It looks like a stage in the picture, but that is a very large mausoleum type thing that was half above the ground and half under the floor of the church. But our guide was quick to point out that the actual grave itself was far below the church, so no one was technically “dancing on a grave.” Whatever you say, dude, whatever you say.

Next up, Doolin and Ennis!

Trip Post #1: Dublin

IrelandI just returned from my trip to the British Isles with my Aunt, Lyn. I’m going to recount our adventures in a few posts, and here’s the first one! Dublin!

We arrived in Dublin at about 6am (which was the middle of the night for us), and had no idea how to get to our hotel. After taking a few different buses, we finally reached our hotel, The Intercontinental, in Ballsbridge, a suburb of Dublin.

We forced ourselves not to go to bed, and went into the city. We visited Grafton Street, where there’s usually a lot of hustle and bustle and fun buskers, but it was a bit quiet when we went (too early and not great weather).

“On Grafton Street in November
We tripped lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine where can be seen
the worth of passion’s pledge.”
-Raglan Road

We got some brunch at Le Petit Parisien, a very quaint little cafe/patisserie with French staff.PastriesI was so tired that I literally felt drunk. My head was spinning, the world was spinning, my body felt like it was vibrating.

But we soldiered on, and took a Hop On Hop Off bus tour of the city. (I only fell asleep a couple of times.)

If you visit Dublin, I’d recommend getting the Freedom Pass. It includes unlimited Hop on Hop Off and any city bus. We used the heck out of it.

Freedom Pass 2After the bus tour, we got a treat from Hansel and Gretel, a super cute little pastry shop we saw in the morning (we planned out our treats diligently throughout the trip).

Hansel and Gretel 1

Hansel and Gretel 2

Hansel and Gretel 3Then we allowed ourselves a little nap at the hotel. After dragging our bodies out of the deepest, most delicious sleep, we forced ourselves back into the city.

I wanted to find a pub that would be playing traditional music (one of my main reasons for going on the trip), so we landed at Oliver St. John Gogarty in the Temple Bar area.

Pub Dublin 2I had a delicious dinner of vegetarian lasagna (which ended up being a frequent menu option throughout the trip), which came with salad and fries (almost everything in Ireland came with salad and fries.)

Dinner DublinAunt Lyn wanted to try Guinness, so we asked the server for a little taste of it.

GuinnessI don’t like any alcohol, so I knew I wouldn’t like it.

I think Aunt Lyn had had higher hopes.

Lyn GuinnessAfter listening to the musicians for a while, we went home for some much needed sleep. We hadn’t had a real nights’ sleep in over 36 hours!

On day 2, we had some breakfast at the same Parisien place, and took a long trek out to Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison. It’s a popular place, and we had to wait about an hour for a tour (though by the time we were done, the people in line were waiting for 3 hours!).

Gaol 3Our tour guide, Kevin, was great, and I got a kick out of every time he said “execution” or “executed” (which, considering the history of the jail, he said a lot) because he put an unusual amount of emphasis on the first syllable, “EHX-ecuted”.Every. single. time.

Anyway, some things about the jail.

Above the front door is a design (you can see it in the picture above, where the light fixture hangs above the door) with snakes and chains. Apparently, the snakes symbolize crime, and the chains symbolize justice.

Here’s a clearer depiction of it:

Gaol 5

Gaol 4The jail was built in 1796, and was intended to be a more progressive prison than any other at the time. Rather than large open rooms that housed a bunch of prisoners, each prisoner was meant to have their own cell. The designer had some sort of motto about reform that I can’t quite remember, but he basically believed that prisoners needed three things: silence, solitude, and something else…reflection..? in order to improve, so he designed the jail with those things in mind.

I think that’s a bunch of hogwash, and also, most of the prisoners appeared to be people just stealing food because they were starving (including children as young as seven), and political rebels, who, ya know, kinda had a point. So they didn’t seem to need “reform” so much as a “decent shot at life.”
Gaol 7The spiral staircase above is pretty, but it was built specifically because it’s difficult/impossible to go up and down quickly, so it was easier to control the prisoners. The guards used a regular, efficient staircase across the way.

Gaol 1Above is the door to Eamon de Valera’s cell, who eventually became president of Ireland.

Here’s the interior of a cell:
Gaol 9

Gaol 8^This is the inside of a cell door. They all had the peep hole with the oval carving around it on the inside. It’s meant to remind the prisoner that they are always being watched (by guards, but also by God or some figurative element like their own conscience). Basically, it’s meant to freak them out.

Here is the inside of a cell which one of the prisoners painted:

Gaol 6The painting is by Grace Gifford/Plunkett, who was imprisoned in 1923 for getting involved in political rebellion, and who had just 8 years prior married her husband, Joseph Plunkett, in this jail just a few hours before he was executed for leading the Easter Rising. Whoa.Gaol 2The area above was the “exercise yard”, where apparently prisoners were forced to walk in a circle with their hands behind their backs, looking down at the ground for an hour a day. For exercise.

The guards also made the prisoners turn a crank in their cells for no purpose other than to keep them busy. If the prisoners turned the crank too quickly, the guard would adjust the crank via a screw, which is why the prisoners ended up calling the guards “screws”.

“To begin the mornin’
a screw was ballin’
‘Get up ya bowsie, and clean up your cell!'”
-The Auld Triangle

After the jail, we went to The National Museum of Ireland to see bog bodies, which are ancient human bodies that have been recently discovered in excellent condition, having been preserved by the special conditions of the bog soil. We’re not sure why they were killed (it appears that they were all killed, rather than dying naturally), but it was probably ritual sacrifice.

Get ready for some pictures of some stuff.

This man was killed  between 362 BCE and 175 BCE:

Bog Body 1

Bog Body 2

Bog Body 4^He was wearing that leather armband when he was killed.

This man died between 392 BCE and 201 BCE:Bog Body 6^That is HAIR!

After that delightful exhibit, we got a pastry and took a nap at the hotel.

That night, we enjoyed a dinner and performance called “An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies” at the Brazen Head Pub, apparently Ireland’s oldest pub (from 1198).

Brazenhead Dublin 2We had a lovely storyteller, and two musicians (the storyteller called them “crusty old men”).

Brazenhead DublinBack to the hotel for about 2-4 hours of sleep for the night (yay jetlag), and then onto Galway!