In Ireland! Day Seven, Dublin Edition Part One

It must be Thursday (for two minutes more at the time of this writing). PIC Sara and I know this only because today is the day we met up with the rest of our PIC crew as planned — Lynn, Drew, and Carol. The Seely PICs (Wayne, June, Randy, Judy) of Cliffs of Moher cruise fame (or infamy?) also arrived in Dublin today, so the gang’s all here.

87. First stop, Delaney’s, a late addition to Lynn’s “Grand List of Pubs to Visit in Ireland.”

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Delaney’s does not appear on Lynn’s carefully and impressively labeled map,

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but our airbnb apt host recommended it for its fine Guinness and toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. He did not steer us wrong.

88. In fact, Delaney’s was the site of my first Irish Guinness and my first full pint of Guinness ever. (I know! I’ve never really liked it, but it honestly wasn’t so bad today.)

89. Sufficiently fortified, we moved on to our tour of the Old Jameson Distillery.

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We learned all about how humble barley from the South of Ireland grows up to become Jameson whiskey. If you want more detail, you will have to ask one of my more studious tour-mates. To be honest the fact I remember most clearly is that the Jamesons had dozens of cats to keep the bags of barley free of mice and rats, and they rewarded their hard workers with bowls of milk at the end of each day.

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No, the cat isn’t real — it was part of the tour display. And in case you are wondering, yes, maybe I did sneak away from one part of the tour to go back to take a better picture of the cat. And it was totally worth it.

The other highlight was being selected as an official whiskey taster at the conclusion of the tour. Okay, maybe not so much selected as raised my hand before the guide finished his sentence asking for volunteers. Our group of PICs may or may not have accounted for more than half of the total volunteer tasters as a result. Also totally worth it. We got certificates and everything. (Is it wrong that I am equally as excited about the tube that holds the certificate as about the certificate itself?)

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90. We had a fabulous dinner at Oscar’s cafe bar, chosen mainly for its proximity to our apt when jet lag hit our latest arrivals like a freight train.

91. Once the others turned in for some much needed sleep after powering through the day and time change post-red eye flights, Sara and I made our way to McDaid’s pub in the Temple Bar district, where we met up with the Seely PICs for a pint and some non-Irish live guitar classics played by Judy’s friend.

And just like that I’m in sight of my 100 experience goal. Being in Ireland makes it almost too easy though. Lots more slated for tomorrow and the next couple of days as well.

In Ireland! Day Six, Castle Edition

Have you ever been to Tipperary?

As it turns out, it’s not so far … from Limerick, anyway. We passed through the town of Tipperary on our way to the Rock of Cashel (82), which is in County Tipperary. (Today was castle day as we made our way toward Dublin.)

It was gray and misty again, but as beautiful as ever. Also very very windy…I never realized how windy castle grounds can be. Being so often situated atop hills and all. Game of Thrones definitely leaves that part out (except for scenes that take place in the vicinity of The Wall … but I suspect that might have more to do with needing an excuse to have Jon Snow’s curly locks blow about…ah, but I digress).

Rock of Cashel was very cool. I went a bit picture happy, going so far as to camp out in a doorway for an extended period of time so I could snap a shot at the rare moment when other tourists were out of the frame (mostly…i see that one sneaky tourist snuck in after all).

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I also made an attempt at a selfie with my new camera…unsuccessfully. A nearby castle-goer took pity on me otherwise I might be there still. I don’t want to brag, but I think I kind of rock the peasant look. How could I not document that?

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83. Next stop, Birr Castle. The castle itself is still a private residence (!) but the gardens and grounds are open to the public. For a fee. I suppose they have to pay for their heating bills somehow. The grounds were tremendous. The map of the grounds not so much….after a couple of misfires I managed to see an area called the waterfall spiral….which had nothing to do with waterfalls as far as I know, but something to do with a constellation or solar system. There was also a huge (and therefore much easier to find) telescope (currently being restored).

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There was also a science room. A science wing, actually, PIC Sara informs me. In my last few minutes at the castle I could have either gone to the science wing or to the cafe for hot chocolate and a jammy buttery scone. Any guesses which option won out? Here’s a hint: I can’t tell you how the ginormous telescope works but I can tell you that I’m seriously considering how to incorporate jammy buttery scones into my daily routine.

84. Now, we begin the Dublin phase of our journey. Tonight we’re staying at the outer edge of the city before meeting up with a whole crew of PICs tomorrow and moving to an apt closer to city center for the rest of our time here. We found a lovely gastro pub not far from our hotel…called Searson’s. Warm and friendly service and delicious food! A mix of the traditional Irish pub fare but also a variety of other options, including … cue trumpets … legitimate inspired veggie dishes! One of my favorite meals of the trip for sure.

85. I also tried a new beer called … wait for it …

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It’s a pale ale. And yes, you read that right. Galway Hooker. Enough said.

86. Then on the way back from dinner, this happened:

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I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it.

Where do you go from there?

I don’t know either.

Probably to sleep, since tomorrow will be an early day and shenanigans are sure to ensue.

In Ireland! Day Five, Cliffs of Moher Edition

Today was a full day, and very Cliffs of Moher-centric.

The Cliffs are just over an hour from Limerick, the last bit on tight winding roads. Which I now handle like a pro. A grandma pro. Just ask the line of cars that queued up behind me. Ah well. We made it in one piece and that’s the important thing.

We managed to meet up with some other friends who are traipsing about Ireland and amassed quite a crew of partners-in-crime — Wayne, June, Judy, and Randy (aka the Seely PICs), plus Sara and me.

We started with a Cliffs of Moher ferry ride from Doolin. It hadn’t even occurred to me that there was a way to check things out from the water, but thanks to the crack research skills of the Seely PICs we got in on that action.

As a preview we were able to check out the cliffs from “beach-side.” Although the Cliffs were incredible, the main attraction was the beach itself — at low tide, a collection of virtual puzzle pieces of rock. Like an enormous beautiful natural sculpture with bonus tide water pools.

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77. Then on to the ferry ride. Where we first took small boats out to the ferry (the blue and white one).

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Then took and hour long tour about the base of the Cliffs (the pictures really don’t do it justice).

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Next we stopped for a bite in a nearby pub. Where, I’m happy to report, I made up for last night’s Japanese dinner diversion by enjoying my first legitimate Irish meal — the Guinness beef stew (78).

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I didn’t eat much of the beef but the veggies and broth were delicious!

After lunch Sara and I said goodbye to the Seely PICs (until we reconvene in Dublin in a couple of days) and headed to …

79. the top of the Cliffs of Moher. The sun finally made an appearance and the Cliffs and surrounding landscapes were truly breathtaking, although, again, I’m not sure the pictures do it justice.

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But I did have the opportunity to work on my scenic photo jaunty head tilt:

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I don’t want to brag or anything but I think I’m pretty awesome at it.

80. After a delightful, head-tilting, scenic cliff-topping good time complete with gift shop soft serve ice cream cones, we stopped at the nearby Clare Jam Shop for some tasty (we hope) Irish … you guessed it … Jams.

81. Upon our return to Limerick, we met up with a new PIC, Julie, for a couple of pints and a bite to eat at a lovely gastro pub, The Locke, which is near our hotel. It is charming and warm, and features live (and lively) Irish music and delicious food. I had my first ever pint of Murphy’s Irish red beer. Super exciting, I know.

We haven’t yet mapped out our plan for tomorrow, but we start to make our way back to Dublin, where a whole new crop of PICs will be joining us in adventures and shenanigans.

In Ireland! Day Four, Galway Edition

Another rainy day in Eire, but mostly of the misty variety. Although our base for the next couple of days will be Limerick, we spent the bulk of today in Galway (73) and will do another day trip excursion tomorrow (stay tuned…).

Galway has a lot going on and a lot of variety. To start, there is a quaint bustling marketplace filled with shops, restaurants, and pubs. We kicked off our visit with lunch at The Quays Pub and Restaurant (74), which I recommend if you ever find yourself in Galway.

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Plus, the quay and the Spanish Arch (75), where a street musician played today, safely out of the rain:

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I also found a handy pedestrian and bicycle bridge tucked behind the train and bus station:

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Ever the explorer, I am always on the hunt for a bathroom, or the toilet, as they simply and boldly say in Europe…I was pleased to find several that I thought were especially well marked while out and about, although I did wonder why the signs also pointed out offices…

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Yep, can’t get much past these eagle eyes of mine… (Don’t worry….I figured it out in time. And fortunately easily and quickly thereafter found the best spot for bathrooms in any city: the department store.)

My big purchase of the day was the latest book by an Irish author I really like.

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I’ve been waiting for the latest installment in this series for a while. I scooped it up a whole 3 days before it is released in the states. Impressive, I know. Especially since I likely won’t start reading it until I’m back in the U.S. … a week from now.

Oh, there was one other purchase. Today I finally bought my Irish burner phone (76) (is it bad to call them burner phones? Are burner phones ever not criminal?). I likely spent more on the phone and minutes than I would have on the Verizon global plan…especially because I’m now convinced that no one will actually call or text me on it. But after my ongoing battles with all things Verizon lately I just couldn’t stomach doing their global plan…which seemed to have the potential for a lot of undisclosed costs. So there, Verizon. I will just waste my money elsewhere. Specifically, at Tesco. In Ireland. #winning.

Today wrapped up with dinner in Limerick, where, I have to confess, I caved. I’ve tried to be in Ireland and do as the Irish do…or eat as the Irish eat. But my aversion to most things meat has made it a challenge. After multiple days of cream covered seafood, or cream covered veggies, or cream covered oatmeal (ok that one’s delicious), or fried fish, or French fries….I broke. I admit it. I ate at a Japanese restaurant. I had a gingery veggie pan-fried noodle dish and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. And.I.loved.it. I know I know. I’m a traitor to my 1/4 homeland.

Back to potatoes tomorrow, I promise.

A long time ago . . . we used to be friends. Experience 20.

Oh dear. This is so untimely. I really need to add “write a blog post in a timely manner” to my list of 100 things.  I hope to get more caught up within the week.

Now that it is decidedly out of theatres, I am pleased to share my views on the Veronica Mars movie, Rob Thomas’ Kickstarter success story. LOVED IT. Seriously, go see it, n…oops. Watch it On Demand now! (Is it still On Demand? I hope so.)

A quick aside, because undoubtedly it’s my 100 experience rules that keep bringing you, my loyal two handfuls of followers, back: movies won’t usually qualify as new experiences because my typical movie fare of YA book series turned blockbuster legacies, although awesome, doesn’t quite take me off my beaten path. If I make it to a documentary film festival or something foreign and sub-titled, then maybe. Or, obviously, Veronica Mars. Documentary, foreign sub-titled, Veronica Mars…makes perfect sense. Continue reading

Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden – Experience 16.

I’ve lived in the DC area for 15 years, including 12 in DC-proper, and before last week I’d never gone ice skating at the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art. I know! I can’t believe it either. Especially since I’m finishing up my second winter working across the street from the Sculpture Garden.

Naturally, it didn’t occur to me as a prospective new experience until the last weeks of the season, right around the time another polar vortex brought the latest bout of sub-zero temps and nearly a foot of snow. That’s the tricky thing about outdoor ice rinks – it needs to be cold but not too cold. And dry. As last week drew to a close, with the promise of warmer, but not too warm, days, I kept an eye on the forecast and my fingers crossed.

Friday dawned with the promised warmth, but also with clouds and a forecasted 30% chance of rain. Yet, I was hopeful. One of my co-workers – let’s just call her the Naysayer Continue reading

Thank God for the model trains. Experiences 9 and 10.

Last weekend’s main event new experience was attending a concert with PICs Michelle and Renee. Michelle, the Canadienne, of wine, I mean ski, weekend fame. Renee is also Canadian, so together, they are, naturally, the Canadiennes, eh?

We went to see a group named Buskin & Batteau, who I cannot stop thinking of as Beauxbatons. I blame the undue influence of the Harry Potter franchise. And, while I’m on that subject, what is this nonsense about JK Rowling now claiming that Hermione and Harry should have ended up together? It’s not that I think Hermione and Ron were the best love match, but I am a staunch Ginnie and Harry supporter. If we’re limited to pairing Hermione with a known character, how about Neville? (Have you seen Neville lately? Kid turned out alright.)  Fair enough, based on couple nicknames alone, Harrmione works better than Ginnarry or Hermville, but I’m standing firm on this one. Someone has to stand up for the gingers of the world. Harry and Ginnie forever!

Right. Back to Buskin & Batteau, a folk group comprised by a couple of “folkies” named David Buskin, Robin Batteau, and percussionist Marshal Rosenberg, who performed at Continue reading