Europe 2017

Trinity College installation.

Day 1 – Dublin

Posted on June 27, 2017

And that auld triangle, went jingle-jangle, all along the banks of the Royal Canal.

I was going to do a short Prologue post last night, but had too long of a travel day and couldn’t be bothered. After our 24 hours of travel, we finally got to our hotel in the afternoon and everyone crashed immediately. I was however too hungry for such nonsense, so opted to go pick up some pizza from Il Capo, a great little Italian place in the city. We ate that in the hotel room, and then we all went to sleep (I stayed up a bit longer, as it was only about 6pm).

After we all caught up on sleep and awoke, it was around 6:30am. We had plenty of time to wake up, get ready and head out in our own pace. I did some research on things nearby to see in the city and found a few restaurants and some interesting places which came highly recommended.

So at around 9am, we headed out to find the Kilkenny Cafe (actually a cafe within a retail shop) to get some breakfast. A short walk later, and we’re standing before a large buffet of pastries, cakes, sweets on one side, and eggs, sausages, bread, juices on the other.

We loaded up our trays, paid for our (very reasonably priced) selections and ate vigorously. After consumption had concluded, we paid a visit to Trinity College which was right across from the cafe. The campus is nice to walk around and had some interesting installations.

The main tourist attraction for the college however is the Book of Kells exhibition and Old Library. No photography was allowed in the exhibition, but there were various super old books (including the Book of Kells of course), with information about the history of them etc. Amazing how well preserved they are, and the detail which went into them.

After seeing those books, we went through to the library. It was huge.

So many old books everywhere, as well as busts of some old geezers.

After that, we had a quick trip around Merrion Square Park. There was an Oscar Wilde monument which was cool.

It was at this point that the day took a turn for the worse… The family wanted to go shopping… Wasn’t too bad actually as I just wandered around the busy streets, took some photos/video and listened to the buskers.

Oh and we did have a short detour to stop into the National Gallery of Ireland. There was a Vermeer exhibition I wanted to see, but the next session wasn’t for a little while, so we just looked around for a bit before moving on.

When the shopping was done, we started walking over to Dublin Castle, but stopped to get some lunch at another highly recommended place, Umi Falafel.

A delicious meal later, and we stopped into the Olympia Theatre to book tickets for the musical Once, for Friday night. Will be great to see it in Dublin for that authentic experience. But that’ll come later on. For now, we were heading to Dublin Castle.

There were some interesting things to see inside, with some quite ornate furniture and room displays.

By the end of all that, everyone was tired and sore, so we limped back to the hotel. Upon return, everyone else basically fell asleep, although it was only about 5pm (sunset is 10pm). We might head out later for dinner if they wake up, but it seems unlikely at this point.

Tomorrow we might take the car and drive out somewhere out of the city. Not sure where exactly yet, time will tell. Find out next time, on Dragon Ball Z!

Everything seems to be in order.

Day 2 – Ireland Road Trip

Posted on June 28, 2017

For sunlight is like gold.

Today we decided to take a road trip to see more of Ireland, as we had hired a car. Our sleep schedule is still a bit off, so we were up early and had plenty of time to get ready and plan our trip for the day.

We decided our main goal would be to go to the Cliffs of Moher, as it comes highly recommended and looked like a great scenic location in photos. It is unfortunately on the other side of Ireland. Luckily Ireland isn’t all that big, so it’s a little over three hours to drive across it directly. We decided on a few stops along the way we wanted to see, a few towns which sounded nice, planning to get to the Cliffs later in the afternoon when the crowds would be gone.

Before any of that though, breakfast! We walked to a Mediterranean café nearby, which we had to wait twenty minutes for, as it hadn’t opened yet. Luckily good things come to those who wait – the food was great. No photo, as I was too hungry to spend time on that all that jazz.

After our meal, it was back to the hotel to get the car and start our trip. It was about 9:30am at this point, as we set out of busy Dublin city, crawling slowly along the congested roads. The weather didn’t look promising either (it never does here), but we trudged on.

Soon the busy city streets merged into wider highways and before we knew it, we were off across Ireland!

For the first half an hour or so there wasn’t much to see. Mostly just trees lining the roads, with the occasional clearing. Once we got off the highway and onto the narrow winding roads which seem to cover half of Ireland (still 100kph limit for some reason – really doesn’t feel safe), the scenery opened up and we were treated to rolling hills, farmland, mountains, forests and small Irish villages.

Following our car’s navigation system, we were headed for the town of Limerick, where we were planning on seeing the large castle there and having lunch. After driving for a while, we came across a small village, Portumna, which boasted a castle and gardens. We decided to stop in and take a quick look around, first going into the large church we found.

After the church, we walked to the castle grounds and walked around the surrounding area.

Before we could actually go into the castle, we realised we wouldn’t have time, and returned to the car. It was at this point that I conferred with Google on the directions to Limerick, as it felt like we were heading too much West, and not enough South, and sure enough we were being led astray!

Not entirely astray, luckily, but it was taking us to some other place, so we had to backtrack a bit and lost about half an hour, but we didn’t mind, as we got to see Portumna which was cool. Now back on track, we headed to Limerick and found a pub to get some lunch. Their burgers sounded good, so we all got one and lo and behold, this beauty.

It was substantial, and delicious, my favourite combination of adjectives to use when describing food. Now that we were full to the brim, we headed back out to drive to the cliffs. It was now about 4pm, which meant we didn’t have time to check out the Limerick Castle either, as we still had a three hour drive back to Dublin. No matter! We were determined to make it to the cliffs at least, and had heard you shouldn’t go before 4:30pm, as it’s way too crowded.

It was a little over an hour to get from Limerick to the cliffs, and as we got closer to Liscannor (the town near the cliffs), the scenery once again opened up and we were winding down narrow roads, looking upon an expanse of farmland, rivers and in the distance, the ocean! We made it to the coast!

It was around 5:30pm when we arrived, meaning we had two hours (it closed at 7:30pm), but we didn’t need all that time. We parked in the provided area, and walked up the path and steps, bracing for the imminent view expectantly.

And then we reached the top. I feel like showing you a photo of it is just going to elicit an “ahh yeah cool” reaction, as it’s not the same when flattened into a photo, and shrunk to fit on a computer or phone screen. But I’m going to show you a photo anyway.

To see in person, it really is spectacular. The cliffs are huge, and the ocean surrounding was incredible. The paths provided allowed you to walk up to the right side cliff and see the main cliffs on the left from a great vantage point. Then you can walk the path up the left side, on top of the very cliffs you were looking at, and now you can look back at the right-side cliff and out to the ocean and distant horizon.

We were lucky that the weather cleared up for us enough to see everything we wanted (although it’s windy at the cliffs), and it only started raining again once we began driving back.

And that is what we’re doing now as I write this, driving back to Dublin. It’s almost 9pm and we’re about an hour out of the city. Sunset isn’t until 10pm so we should make it just in time. I figured I’d get a head start on this blog, since we need to sleep earlyish tonight. I’ve still got to transfer all the photos and video from today, and process the best ones, so maybe another hour once we get to the hotel, but at least I won’t need to write this.

We have to wake up relatively early tomorrow for our… special adventure. Let’s just say…

Winter is coming.

Day 3 – GoT Tour (Northern Ireland)

Posted on June 29, 2017

Winter is coming.

Today was our Game of Thrones tour to various locations in Northern Ireland. It started with a hot chocolate before joining the rest of the group at the meeting point.  We had a small group which was nice – under twenty people.

We all got on the bus and were introduced to our tour guide for the day, Eric Nolan, who works as an extra for GoT (and Vikings). He was super nice, fun to be around, and full of great stories and information about the show and his time on set. He was also involved in the Battle of the Bastards (Season 6 Episode 9) and told us about the super long days of grueling fighting which lasted a month. He said there were about 150 extras, shot and enhanced to look like thousands, and that Season 8 was going to have a scene with 1000 extras… so… that’ll be huge.

There wasn’t much info he could give about seasons 7 and 8, but he did say Miguel Sapochnik would return to direct some episodes for Season 8, which would premiere in 2019. And once GoT ended, the spin-off show/s would start airing very soon after (apparently there could be five spin-offs?!).

Anyway, our tour began by leaving Dublin, headed for the first location, Tollymore Forest. This was the forest where the opening scene of Season 1, Episode 1 was shot, as well as the scenes where the Starks find the direwolf pups. It was a typical Ireland day, wet and cold, but it was a pleasant trek nonetheless. The weather only made the experience more immersive and realistic.

It was cool to see the locations used in the show, but everywhere else was equally scenic, if not more interesting to see.

After the forest, we headed to a small town for lunch and a bit of a break. After our lunch, we got a nice surprise and were able to meet Summer and Grey Wind, the dogs used as direwolves in the series. The family who owns the dogs were also there and told us the story of how their dogs were chosen and some of the extra work they’ve all done. Fun fact: each dog is insured for one million pounds.

Next we headed on to Old Castle Ward, which was used as Winterfell in the first episode, when Robert and the Lannisters visit Winterfell.

There was also a tower which was used for The Twins. There were a few other locations along the way as we trekked up the coast. It was even colder, wetter and windier here, but still an enjoyable hike.

Our final location on the tour, was Inch Abbey, where Robb Stark is crowned King in the North. It was here we were given cloaks and replica steel swords to use and take photos with. They had Needle, Longclaw and a couple others, including Ice.

After photos were done, we headed back to the bus and began the trip back to Dublin. It was a two hour drive, so they played the two best episodes of GoT for us. Oh and as we drove to each location they also played some behind-the-scenes videos and other GoT-related stuff.

Once back in Dublin, we said goodbye and began the walk back to our hotel, eager to warm ourselves and dry off. I did remember there was a highly recommended Vietnamese restaurant close to our hotel (Pho Viet), and suggested we eat there first, as it’d help us warm up.

We each ordered Pho, and it was the perfect meal to fight off the cold. So tasty, and such a huge portion. None of us could finish it, which is rare for me.

And that was it! Overall, a wonderful experience, with some really cool locations. Special thanks to Eric for making the tour memorable and engaging. Next time, you’re singing a song though.

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