Archive for February, 2009

Dublin!!

Posted in SLAINTE! on February 12, 2009 by robdc

This will probably be my last post so I assume it will be pretty long and filled with pictures. Since leaving the Byrne family home and having my last “Fry” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_breakfast) in the Waterford area we have hopped on a train and headed in to Dublin. Our gracious host Carmel picked us up at the train station and took us to her place which we would call home for the next 2 nights. On the first night we headed out to Temple Bar, a downtown section of Dublin where the bars stay open late and there is usually live music in most places. Here are a couple of (admittedly blurry) shots of us at The Quay (pronounced “key”).

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It was COLD outside, and Keara was having her new favorite, a hot whiskey with a slice of lemon and fresh cloves. After roaming the area and bars for a while we headed back to Carmel’s to turn in for the night.

The next day we set out on the “hop on hop off” bus which Carmel was kind enough to get us tickets for. The bus took us all over the city and the drivers were hilarious, letting loose with off color comments about every landmark we passed. And although we passed many interesting things, the most important and entertaining on the route was the Guinness factory! I had secretly been waiting for this almost as much as the trip in general. This place was like a playground for someone who is a true lover of Guinness, and since Keara doesn’t care for the stuff, I got all her free samples! The sights were what you might imagine in the biggest brewery in Europe, fresh water waterfall:

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Fresh hops:

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Armchairs to sit in and look creepy:

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Even convenient postings to solve the previously unanswerable conundrums of the universe:

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You read it right, the thing inside bottles and cans of Guinness is officially called a Widget!

The whole building was shaped like a giant pint, and you could tell that a great deal of artistic planning went into the design of the place. Nothing was just placed in a display case, everything was placed with great care in ways I can only imagine were meant to make you think “I could really go for a Guinness right now.” Crazy video installations and sticker grids made me wish I had this much of any one companies propaganda just to arrange it on my walls like this.

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The concept of Guinness making you strong was a common theme and they seemed to have very little regard for the accurate portrayal of other cultures:

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At the top of the giant pint glass is the cherry to the cake that is the Guinness factory tour, A bar in the sky with a 360 degree view of Dublin and a free pint of the freshest Guinness you could ever possibly get.

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I thought the free pint and the amazing view would be my favorite part of the Guinness factory but just when I thought these crafty Irish brewers had nothing left to show me they topped themselves again. The final room as you exit the building finds you surrounded by lcds and mirrors and a loud sound all meant to make you feel like you are living inside the head of a giant Guinnes pint, and the music in the background? Stem by D.J. Shadow!! They really know their audience.

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After that we got classy in Trinity square:

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In the end, it turns out that I love Ireland! Not that I’m completely surprised by this verdict but still, I had no idea how fond I’d really be of this place until I came here and saw and tasted for myself. I can’t wait until the next visit. Thank you to Ireland and everyone here who made this as fantastic of a trip as it was!

Slainte!!

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Mickey said to call him!!!

Posted in SLAINTE! on February 10, 2009 by robdc

So last night the real fun was had. I finally met the whole family, we drove out to Eniscorthy to meet the Deely’s and the Byrne’s, the real roots of Kearas heritage. I had been warned about this bunch and let me tell you the warnings did not do them justice. We arrived early on and were the first ones there so we had a chance to settle in. Around 6pm they started trickling in, and before long I found myself surrounded by the laughing and drinking that characterized this country in my imagination. At first it was very much like most family gatherings accept for the flagrant cursing but once the children all went home and we all ate, it was all downhill. Apparently Keara and her parents had talked me up a bit to the rowdier of the drinkers, telling them that I knew my way around a pub and they were eager to test my metal. The lineup varied through the night but the main offenders were Mickey, John and Little Nole, together they made up some of the quickest bastards I’d ever met. The drinks disappeared and the insults flew, this was a direct challenge, and I had been training for it for years. Here’s a shot of Mickey and I:

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And one of Little Nole and I after he called me “a legend,”

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Apparently I passed their test as Mickey promised to drop off a bottle of some “poitin” in the morning for me to take on our journey. He said it puts absinthe to shame and any person who’s cut of our jib should have some of it stashed away. I happily accepted.

The night ended when Liz, the matriarch of the house, staggered into the kitchen saying she couldn’t drink another drop of brandy: (which was apparently beyond rare)

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They ran me into the ground, I’m lucky to have survived, but I did, and thanks to that fact I’m welcome back here. These people know how to enjoy themselves and they treated me like family, next time I’ll have to bring more then just a bottle of Jameson. Oh yea, Mickey had brought a bottle of Johnny Walker Gold label for Richard, it didn’t take long before we were on him about letting us drink it (Mickey included) and after some coaxing we succeeded.

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The entire house was littered with bottles and as you can see from the pictures. This place is heaven and these people are angels, I can’t wait to come back.

Now entering Waterford

Posted in SLAINTE! on February 9, 2009 by robdc

When we arrived it had been snowing which is apparently rare for this part of Ireland. The hills and roads were covered in snow and it appears we had just caught a good bit of luck to even be allowed to land in Dublin as Kearas parents plane was diverted to Paris on their way in.

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The countryside is seriously amazing to drive through and it’s littered with remnants of castles and old churches.

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The town where Finton and Annette live may sound familiar if you’re a connoisseur of fine crystals as this is the sight of the Waterford crystal factory and showroom. Apparently the present state of the world economy has hit hard here as well since the factory seems to be shut down. The place where we are staying is just a bit out of town and has a fantastic view of the country. Apparently Keara spent a great deal of her time here as a kid but doesn’t show it, she knows her way around pretty well and its pretty funny to hear her let the Irish in her out now that she’s here.

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Ever since we got here everyone has been joking aound about “tinkers” and I wasn’t completely sure what they were talking about. “They are like Brad Pitt’s character in Snatch” is the best description I got. I didn’t want to believe it until I saw this:

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Sure enough they are exactly like the “Pikeys” in Snatch abandoned baby carriage and all, they roam the country in their caravans and consume the roadsides leaving only rubbish and discord in their wake. The local government has deployed low barriers at roadside rest stops to prevent caravans from entering… gypsies, a real problem across the globe.

We were on our way to a favorite eatery of the group, a place called the Horse and Hound Inn. I have to say so far the food here has been exactly what I love, mornings begin with a “Fry” which is basically eggs, bacon, sausage and “pudding” which is some sort of fried ground meat, and it is all delectable. At the Inn I got to sample another of Irelands great Ales, Smithwick’s.

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(I know the Guinness picture came out much better)

Then we were off to forest mountain (the actual name was something in Gaelic that I didn’t write down but this is what it translates to) where we could get a view of the whole county. Also JFK’s ancestors apparently come from this area as there is a park in his name here and several statues scattered around, his ancestral home is also preserved here, we had a quick drive by.

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Pressed ham courtesy of Richard Goldblatt.

Make yourself at home

Posted in SLAINTE! on February 8, 2009 by robdc

The flight over was actually not bad. I’m not sure if it is the economic situation or the time of month but MIA was abandoned. And the flight over was empty too! Keara and I got caught up watching an episode of the office and missed out on the empty row sniping.

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Quick switch over at Heathrow and before we knew it we were in Dublin. Keara’s parents and aunt and uncle Annette and Finton were all waiting for us at the airport and we all got in the car for the drive to Waterford. Apparently the drive used to take well over 3 hours but the new highway that had been built saved us some time as it got us half way there. Once the Highway ended we were on real Irish country roads, barely 2 car widths wide and winding constantly. Passing oncoming traffic was an experience, but luckily Finton is a skilled driver.

Waterford is a beautiful city and it has many quirks, the first was a giant painting of a girls face who’s eyes follow you all the way down the river that makes up the main road into town.

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We settled in and promptly headed out to a favorite local pub, where I had my first REAL Guinness!

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words can not describe how good it was. Then when we were done they brought us complimentary mini Guinness shots

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The shots were actually Tia Maria with some fresh cream on top but they certainly hit the spot.

I have to get going but here are some shots of the room I’ll be calling home for a few nights, I’ve never had a fireplace in my bedroom before and I have to say that stoking a fire right before bed is a custom I could easily get used to.

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Of mice and men…

Posted in SLAINTE! on February 3, 2009 by robdc

Having great plans is one thing, having them work out is another… I was planning on taking both my cameras with me on this trip, my point and shoot keep in my pocket camera and my canon S5 IS for outdoor shots and pics of some of the famous rolling hills I’ve heard so much about. Well, my canon hasn’t gotten much shutter time since the first round of artsy type shots I took with it when I got it last summer. So when I fired it up last night I was pretty destroyed to see that the image on both the viewfinder and the LCD was completely distorted! I called Canon today and they apparently recalled this whole series of cameras for this reason so they’ll fix it for free but I’m back to a single camera for the trip… boo.

The calm before the… something.

Posted in SLAINTE! on February 3, 2009 by robdc

I guess I’m starting to make a habit of this. I leave to Ireland in a couple of days and this page will hopefully document what I do while I’m there (network connection permitting). Trying out microsofts new live writer ‘09 for offline posting, hopefully that works out (this first post is being published in it so fingers crossed). To any friends and family who read the japan posts, this should be pretty familiar its just going to be my rambling thoughts and recants of the days activities. I’ve also turned off any need to have any sort of google account to comment so fire away (try to keep it PG please). Other then that you’ll hear from me next when I’m in the land of Guinness and potatoes (I hope that’s not racist).

Slainte!

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