Saturday, 31 January 2015

Last night, Gerry drove me up to the mountains that would be known as the Dublin Wicklow mountains, since they lie along the border between the two counties. From the mountains you can see Dublin city lights and beyond them, the Irish Sea. It was already getting dark by the time we arrived, but the view was breathtaking. I cannot wait to take this drive during daylight - these mountains are incredible. 

I've never had the chance to see the lights of a city this large, so it was an absolutely amazing first experience. 

Across the sea, the village of Howth is still just barely visible.

I was surprised to see that there was some snow accumulation in the mountains, but Gerry reminded me that it's always a few degrees colder up there, so the snow is heavier than in the city, and it actually has the potential to "stick" in the mountains. We also saw a family sledding on one of the hills that had accumulated a couple inches of snow, which is something else I hadn't expected to see while being here. 

The view from a different lookout

After coming down from the mountains, we headed into the city centre, where Gerry treated me to my first fish-and-chips dinner at the original Leo Burdock's, which is located in Christchurch, Dublin.  I've been eating mainly healthy foods since being here, so I didn't feel a bit of remorse after devouring the largest portion of cod I've ever seen, fried in a delicious batter and then sprinkled with vinegar and oil. However, I was so full that I couldn't bring myself to finish my chips ("chips" are what we call French-fries, for all my fellow Americans).

Read about the history of Leo Burdock here:

Honestly, the picture just doesn't do it justice. 
After having a filling meal, we ventured into the city to check out the "Tradfest" event that was going on, which is a Traditional Irish Music Festival.  We worked our way through the city centre, following the music when we heard it and having a few drinks in the pubs as we went.

This is the statue of Phil Lynott of the band Thin Lizzy, music legend throughout Ireland
To read about Phil and his band, click here:

Walking the boardwalk along the Liffey River

Gerry and myself. I'm honestly not sure what I'd be doing around here had I not met this man
on the plane. He has proven to be an invaluable resource to me, as well as a friend.

This city is beautiful, and I am already starting to think of how much I will miss it when I'm gone. I still cannot believe that I am actually here, and that I won't be waking up to "real life" any time soon. It really is the turning out to be the adventure of a lifetime, and I must keep reminding myself of how incredibly blessed I am to be here.

Thanks for reading, and cheers!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

If you remember from my first blog post, I met a man named Gerry on my flight from Philadelphia to Dublin. Today, Gerry and I made lunch plans and he offered yet again to show me a few of the greatest views Dublin has to offer. He drove me up the coast of Dublin, stopping along the way to let me take it all in.  

We started off along the coast of a village called Dalkey.

The climb to the top was definitely a test of my rock-climbing abilities...
My first close-up view of the Irish Sea

To the north

To the south

In the distance, two towers are visible, which mark the entrance to Dublin Bay

Bullock Harbor

"Snowy" wanted to play fetch with us

Next we travelled north along the coast to a small beach called Sandycove.

"Where the sidewalk ends..."

"Forty Foot" is a famous swimming spot. Gerry told me it used to be a bathing spot for men, and so there is a sign to remind you that "Togs must be worn..." 

Walk right in...the water's grand.

They've got guts. Swimming in January and the air was 12 degrees Celsius (52 Fahrenheit)

Gerry and myself
Still traveling north...we came to Dun Laoghaire. 

Again to the south...

...and to the north(east)

While in Dun Laoghaire, we visited the James Joyce Museum located in one of Dublin's 26 Martello Towers.

The stairway up the tower was quite narrow, to say the least

The three-crowned flag that represents County Dublin
At the top of the tower. The track around the edge was used to
rotate the cannon to face any direction.

Through the left-most doorway was this small room. The holes in the wall provided a means of
shooting arrows or other weapons at enemies located just outside the entrance to the tower.
 The grate in the floor was used to pour boiling liquid or chemicals on enemies upon invasion.

We stopped for lunch at a diner called Teddy's, located just next door the the famous Teddy's Ice Cream Parlor.  I had my first traditional Irish breakfast (for lunch), which did not disappoint.

The traditional Irish Breakfast:Poached eggs, sausage, Irish bacon, tomatoes,
 brown bread toast, and black and white pudding (another type of sausage)

Black Pudding:
White Pudding:


After lunch we crossed the street and came upon a food market in a public park, so we decided to walk through to check it out.

A street performer who used her feet to make the puppets dance as she played

Also in Dun Laoghaire was Pier Seapoint, where the tide was high, according to Gerry.

It seemed we found a sailboat race

We crossed a wooden bridge at Dollymount to Bull Island, which is one of two bridges from which you can gain access to the island. 

The two towers to Dublin Bay are visible from Bull Island

One of the ferries returning most likely from the U.K.
Our last stop of the evening was Howth. There is a large harbor for fishing boats here, and you can see along the majority of the coast from this spot.

A boat named "Our Lass"

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Today was the first time I left County Dublin. The International Students' Society here at UCD hosted a day trip to County Wicklow, which not far south from where we are located, but is worlds apart in terms of the view. The Wicklow mountains are absolutely gorgeous despite only being a couple thousand meters tall (Ireland's tallest mountain is 1,038 meters - 3,406 feet).  We were blessed with beautiful sunshine throughout the day.

Our first stop was to Powerscourt Gardens. This National Irish landmark has been ranked the 3rd most beautiful garden in the world, and with good reason.  It consists of the gardens, the estate, a golf course, waterfall, the Pepperpot Tower, Japanese Gardens, lake, Pet Cemetary, and a trail that circles through most of the sites, with the exception of the waterfall (which I unfortunately didn't get to see) and the golf course.

You can read more about the Gardens here:

Brent, Hannah, and myself

A closer view of the lake.

The estate, now owned by the Slazenger family

The Pepperpot Tower
Hannah and myself
The view from the top of the tower

Breathtaking views from the trail itself

View from the trail of the Japanese Gardens

Myself, Brent, and Hannah

Walkways throughout the garden were built into the surrounding stone

The trail wound around the lake, and this is the view from the other side.

On the other side of the lake, we found horses!

Hannah, myself, and Brent

Through a gate and past the fountain...

...was the Pet Cemetery. Many of the pets were deceased from 1914-1970 or so.
The headstones indicated the cemetery contained every species from dogs
 to Angus cows to miniature and full-sized horses!

Our next destination, located in Wicklow National Park, was the well-known Glendalough Valley. This valley has both an Upper and Lower Lake, a graveyard, and an ancient monastery within.

Read more on Glendalough here:

The ancient monastic site, founded by St. Kevin

We continued along the trail toward the lakes...

These marshy areas made me feel like I was staring into a magic forest of sorts

The Upper Lake

Brent, Hannah, and myself
 Our final stop was the small village of Avoca, where we visited Ireland's oldest hand weaving mill. We were originally going to receive a tour of the mill, but were late arriving, so we only got a five minute run-down and about an hour in the gift shop.

Sunset on the bus ride back
The tour bus company we used is called "PaddyWagon" and is ranked the #1 touring company in Ireland. Their guides have so much character; our driver's name is Gavin, and he spent about 20 minutes telling us stories of Irish folklore and history each time we got back on the bus. He also sang to us, told jokes, did some pretty good impressions, and was just overall the most entertaining tour guide I've ever had. So if you're taking a trip to Ireland any time soon, look this guy up!

Gavin and myself

When we arrived back on campus, I first made dinner for myself and my friend Hannah, and then we joined some friends at the student bar. We were joined by a few others, and ended up playing Jenga for a couple of hours while we all enjoyed a pint of cider or beer.

Back: Paul, Richard, Nicole, Hannah, myself, Christine
Front: Eli, Connor