Derry!

So this is an update for the last two days. I didn’t write one yesterday because there was not much to say! We got home from St Paddy’s day to discover my knee had swelled to the size of a grapefruit. Because of the back pain, I was favouring my right leg, and apparently it didn’t like being favoured for seven straight hours on St Paddy’s day. So I spent the day sitting down, uploading photos and reading and watching Gavin and Stacey (great show!). It wasn’t a bad day, but it wasn’t terribly exciting (except for Skyping Mum and Dad. It was wonderful to hear their voices!!). I went out that night with Kim and Sean to buy a book and have a pub meal, then went back to the hostel and eventually, to bed.

This morning we slept in, checked out and went to the main bus terminal in Dublin, Busarus. Again, I had to sit and read, but this time I chucked some frozen peas on my knee which helped with the pain a little. Then we got on a bus to Derry, which took about 4 hours. I sat next to this gorgeous woman, originally from Northern Ireland, but she’d lived in America for 30 years. She sounded completely American, but had moved back to Northern Ireland finally to get work. We chatted for most of the trip and during the bus ride she got a phone call offering her a job from an interview she had done last week. It was wonderful. She was so excited and began ringing all her friends and family to let them know and it was just so brilliant to see something work out so well for someone else. Once we got to Derry we took a 2 pound fifty taxi to our hostel and settled in. Paddy’s Palace is a really nice place and it’s a real shame I won’t be here for the whole two weeks I had planned with Kim. We met some great people – volunteers and travellers and the Paddywagon tour coming through. A guy from our Haggis tour is on the current Paddywagon tour and it was great to bump into him again. We all went out to a great, cheap pub for dinner and had lots of food and conversation. I am pretty tired now, but I think I will head to bed and try to get an appointment at a physio tomorrow.

Blog soon! xx

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St Patrick’s Day!!

This was it. The reason for my entire trip! Two Christmases ago I sat opposite Kimberley at the table and said ‘Do you have any plans to be in Dublin for St Patrick’s Day 2012?” ‘No’, she replied, ‘Do you?’

And thus, the trip was born. We both planned our entire holidays around the fact that we would meet up in Dublin in the middle of March, in time to see the parade on the 17th. And we totally pulled it off like bosses. We were up more or less when our alarms went off this morning, in time to make breakfast and get ourselves greened for the festival of all festivals. There really is nothing like it in Melbourne. NYE comes close, but it’s worldwide and of an enormous scale everywhere. St Paddy’s feels like one big NYE in daylight, that stretches for a couple of days – and everyone is in costume. We used facepaint, temporary tattoos and big green hats to doll ourselves up before heading to O’Connell St, along with what felt like half the population of the world. We weasled our way into spots as close to the barrier as we could get and planted ourselves there for the next two and a half hours to wait for the parade. We met a gorgeous Irish woman who was so cheeky and entertaining. She stood with us the whole time and chatted to us about all things Irish and Australian and the time flew by much faster. We watched various Irish TV and sporting personalities walk past, and our new friend pointed them out to us. One very bright and bubbly TV presenter was impressed to learn we had come all the way from Australia just for the parade (I didn’t mention the other 14 weeks…).

The parade began with a convoy on bikes and a car dropping off the Irish Prime Minister at the Grandstands, which we were steps away from. Then there was a marching band and after that I really couldn’t tell you what came when. The next hour and a half was a huge flurry of colour and costumes and music and puppets and bands and dancers and flags and floats and fire-twirling and stilt-walking and all manner of cool things carnival. My feet and hips and legs and back were so sore by the end but I hardly noticed it because the spectacle was so enthralling. We were pretty much in the second row, pressed against the barriers with a wonderful view. I took heaps and heaps of photos and about two-thirds of the way through the parade my memory card filled up and my battery started to die so I had no choice but to ignore the camera and just absorb as much as I could of it.

When it finally finished it felt a bit bizarre, like, okay, where do we go now? First things first: back to the hostel to grab a warmer jacket. We had in fact been blessed with rare Dublin sunshine (and one brief, but heavy, rainshower), but it was now starting to get a bit colder. We sort of collapsed for half an hour or so while our feet slowly throbbed back to normal, and then we set off again, grabbing a kebab after a half-hearted check to see if there was any room at the pub. There was, in fact, none. We headed back to O’Connell St where we met Aaron and Katie, Kim’s mates, and their friend, also named Aaron. We took a long walk down O’Connell St and then south of the river until we found a slightly less crowded pub. There was still no room to sit, so we stood again for the next couple of hours while we had some drinks and chatted more. Our limbs protesting fiercely, we finished the drinks and stepped outside to find somewhere to sit, but ended up just standing on the sidewalk and talking more! Great company and conversation meant that we didn’t notice the pain in our legs too badly until we finally said our goodbyes and headed back. We stopped in briefly at Eason’s, a huge bookshop on O’Connell St, but they were about ten minutes from closing time and we couldn’t stay. We bought some groceries for dinner and headed back to the hostel, and I pretty much have not moved from the bed or the couch since. It was a wonderful, wonderful day and I am so glad it worked out so well. I don’t think I have the energy to go out again tonight, but neither does half the city by the look of it!

St Paddy’s Day EVE

This morning we didn’t set an alarm and we all slept until 11. But I don’t care, we clearly needed it! Then we got up and set off our separate ways. I aimed for the Writer’s Museum, but the buses were delayed and my back was too sore to walk there and then a bird pooped on my jacket, so I ended up just waiting for a new bus and jumping on to do the round trip. The commentary is very entertaining, and it’s peaceful letting yourself be driven around. I hopped off at Christchurch cathedral and went inside where I bumped into Sean. We saw ‘Tom and Jerry’ – the mummified cat and rat who were trapped inside one of the organ pipes for centuries. We saw the crypt and some beautiful architecture inside the church, then we met Kim outside.

Kim and I went to Dublinia, a historical museum that chronicles Viking Dublin, Medieval Dublin and archaeology and restoration in Dublin. We were a bit too tired and delirious to take much in but my goodness it was fun. It pretty much consisted of us wandering round looking at pictures, too exhausted to read anything, then finding a helmet or some chainmail or some stocks to step into and take photos of. Then I bought earrings in the gift shop. Oh yeah! Kim and I jumped back on the bus for another half-circuit and then got off to bookshop browse on our way back to the hostel. The highlights of this part of the day included Burger King and a book signing by Sugar Ray Leonard. I washed my hair when I got back to the hostel (exciting! It was truly rank beforehand) and then spent a good hour on the internet looking for shows to see. Then the three of us went for a huge walk through O’Connell St, Dame St, Temple Bar, Trinity College, Grafton St – and it was all packed and busy. We found an excellent little tucked away ice-cream store (I think it was called Murphy’s?) and I had Baileys ice-cream and brown bread ice-cream. Both some of the tastiest ice-creams I have ever had. We bought some supplies for tomorrow and headed home. We need to set an alarm and be up bright and early tomorrow so I’m off to bed now.

Toodles!

Fell asleep on a bus today.

This morning we were meant to go to the bus station at 10am. We were there just after 11, minus Sean because he was still showering, but it meant I caught up with all my photos! Yay 🙂 We sorted out what we needed to do to get to Derry on Monday and then headed off to do our own thing. I planned to go to the Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship museum, but my back was sore and my legs were sore and there was really no reason why I absolutely had to go, so I went back to the hostel and did more of my photos and journal entries. I walked to the Old Jameson Distillery (and along the way found a great discount bookstore) and then met Kim and Sean to do a tour of the distillery. The tour was nothing exceptional, but the tour guide was lovely and Sean was on a team of volunteer tasters who compared different whiskies. We all got a glass of complimentary whisky, which I have never really enjoyed, but I had mine with cranberry juice and it was quite nice. We were going to head to the Guinness Storehouse but Kim and I were nearly falling asleep on our feet. So instead, we jumped on the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus that goes round the city with a running commentary. That was really enjoyable, but I managed to fall fast asleep anyway, in a big noisy bus heading down the centre of Dublin. After the bus we went to a small pub near the hostel for dinner and watched a football match, not something I have ever done, but I really got into it! Then we came back to the hostel and have literally spent the last three hours talking to a guy from Ireland and a guy from Morocco. Great times, hazy days. It’s been a good day, and I am trying to psych myself up for a bigger day tomorrow!

Dubh Linn

We slept in again today. Yep, we sure did. So sue us! After a restful morning we went for a walk to find breakfast and grab a Dublin Pass from the tourism place for Kim. The lady at the tourism place was one of the friendliest, most helpful people I have encountered ever, and it was a really nice way to start the day. We walked down to the City Hall, where our Sandemans tour was to begin at 1pm. Our guide’s name was Kiel and he was from Ballarat. Exotic! But he was really friendly and a good guide. This tour was easily the longest we have been on. It went for just shy of four hours and my feet were ready to curl up and die by the end of it. But we had fun, and I shall endeavour to remember everything we saw.

First we went into City Halls, and then the courtyard of Dublin Castle, as they are right next to each other. We heard about the failed Easter Rising, standing more or less on the spot where parts of it had occurred and glimpsed the different parts of the castle – the State Apartments, which have housed Bill and Hilary Clinton and Obama among others, the Records Tower, which is the only surviving medieval section of the castle, the chapel, and the statues of Fortitude and Justice. The only man to ever escape from the Records Tower, which was at times used as a prison, was Red Hugh O’Donnell, who has quite an interesting story of his own.

We then went into the Dubh Linn gardens, which are beautiful, and look on to the amazing Chester Beatty Library. The gardens have little paths that snake through that are meant to represent river eels from when the gardens were underwater. The words ‘blackpool’ translate to Dubh Linn, hence the city’s name – Dublin. Kiel told us about Jonathan Swift, and what a long and varied life he led, and then we saw Christchurch Cathedral (including the remains of a Norman church) and the remains of a Viking settlement marked in the ground by stones. Apparently the new city council offices were built on a priceless site of Viking remains which caused an enormous backlash.

We then walked through the Temple Bar district and saw the building where a little, unknown band called U2 won a Battle of the Bands contest. They then went for a drink at the Clarence Hotel across the street where they were refused service for being a bit scruffy looking. So when they were rich and famous they bought the hotel, sacked the rude manager, and held a free concert on the roof, for which over 100,000 people showed up.

We crossed Ha’penny Bridge and saw a hoax commemorative plaque on O’Connell Street for a fictitious man called Father Pat Noise who was in a fictitious accident that saw him fictitiously drown in the River Liffey. We went into the courtyard of Trinity College, and saw Oscar Wilde’s window and heard some of the more ridiculous laws of Trinity College. I think I will go see the Book of Kells on Sunday. Trinity College boasts some of the greatest literary minds as students, and also, Courtney Love. She was expelled for selling LSD to students. We then walked to St Stephen’s Green (via Bram Stoker’s house!) where we saw some incredibly moving sculptures and learnt the history behind them – Wolfe Tone and the Famine Monument. We were then told the story of Michael Collins and Ireland becoming a republic, which was a wonderful way to finish the tour.

Afterwards we went to O’Neill’s with the tour guides, where we could get a meal bigger than my own head for ten euro and a free soft drink. I couldn’t finish my fish and chips but we bought tickets for the pub crawl that night. We stopped home quickly with some groceries and put warmer clothes on then headed back out to the Workers Bar for our free pint to kick off the night. Then we headed to the Garage for half-price cocktails and pints, then to the Mezz for a bottle of beer and a shot of tequila for 5 euro. Then we headed to O’Neill’s (again) for a free shot of Jager with any drink. This was easily my favourite bar as the guys playing the live music where playing traditional Irish songs. One played guitar, one played accordion and they both sang their lungs out and everyone was jumping and clapping and singing and it was totally amazing. Among such awesome anthems were ‘Galway Girl’, ‘The Rattlin’ Bog’ and ‘If I Ever Leave This World Alive’. Then we went to the Porterhouse Brewing Company for more free shots with any drink and the music there wasn’t bad, and then back to the Workers Bar, which turns into a nightclub. None of us are really clubbers, so Kim and I walked home (via Burger King for some greasy food) and Sean wasn’t too far behind. I didn’t drink too much tonight (I certainly didn’t take advantage of every free offer because that would be way too much for me) but I had a really great time at the different pubs. I would have loved to finish the night at O’Neill’s – that had the best music and the best atmosphere, hands down.

DUBLIN!

Phew, what a day! We were up at 6, and at the station by 6.45. Quick breakfast, then on a long train ride at 7.21, which I slept and listened to my iPod for most of. We arrived at Holyhead at 12.15 and had some lunch, before jumping on the ferry at 2.10. On the ferry we went to the cinema and watched the Muppet movie, which was just as good the second time round, and we were in Dublin by 5.30. A quick bus ride, and an even quicker walk and we were at our hostel!

Kim met us out the front and it was so good to see her! We pretty much chatted non-stop for the next four hours, during which time we set up in our room, went to a pub for a lengthy dinner, and stopped for a quick grocery squiz before heading back to the room. The hostel is not nearly as bad as we had expected. Due to Sean’s unstoppable need to read reviews on everywhere we are staying, we had worked ourselves into such a state we pretty much expected to be sleeping in some sort of dilapidated prison. But it’s totally fine. Not the best, but we have a private room and our own bathroom, and it will be more than fine for a week. Now to head to bed relatively early, so we can start on the sightseeing tomorrow!

xxx