Sunday, 27 July 2014

Suddenly it was late July...

It's July 25th as I write this. We have been back from Ireland since the 22nd. I started to write this on July 15th sitting at a pubic access site in my hotel lobby in Dublin but vacation time didn't allow for me to keep up. Summer back in St. John's started with great weather, albeit somewhat windy for riding. I did get a few rides in and spent part of the week one painting the deck.  Also, for part of week one and week two the house was in upheaval with painters and plasterers. This is part of our seven year plan. Each year for the coming seven years, including this summer, we have a project with the house  as we ready it for market prior to implementing the grand retitrement scheme of living as gypsey bikers. This summer it's covering the stucko ceilings, a mjor and expensive undertaking. Also having some painting done and putting up some new fencing. That's about as much as the pocket book will absorb for this year, especially given the cost of our excursion across the pond...speaking of which!

Dublin, Part One
We arrived in Dublin on the morning of the 13th after departing around 11:15 from St. John's on the 12th. With the timezone difference it was about 7:00 AM when we arrived and craving sleep. We stayed at a hotel close to the shopping district on Grafton Street and they were great about getting us checked in as early as possible. After a few hours nap we did as much touristy stuff as we could. Supper was at gourmet burger kitchen or GBK. Holy smokes, what a fantastic burger place. We have to get one of these in St. John's. We ended day one with a lucky break, stopping into a pub called the Store House where we were treated to  a free show of Irish song & dance. Pub prices weren't to bad either.

Day two started off sunny enough.The weather was similar to Newfoundland. The similarities go well beyond the weather. A three hour walking tour of Ireland gave us a great summary of the countries' history. The parallels between Ireland and Newfoundland are quite strong, not only culturally but historically/politically too. The people of Ireland are quite conscious of their history and it's not possible to tour the place without touring the history. In a word...sombre! After the tour we did some shopping and eating, got caught in a rain shower and finished off the day with the younger set heading off for a pub crawl while Sherry & I , along with our youngest who was not of age to go pubbing with her sibs, took in an evening of food, fairies and folklore ( ) The traditional Irish menu was a bit bland for my taste, not that I'm a culinary adventurer. I'm not sure how much child # three, Erin, enjoyed it, but I found the evening interesting and enjoyable. The host covered some of the historical piece we'd done in the morning but also spend a lot of time giving background and plenty of examples related to Ireland's rich history of story telling. The motto is, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, and they don't.  Their was a traditional music piece to this as well. We took a cab to the pub, the Brazen Head which dates backs to the 1100's but by the time we finished, after 10:00, we were able to wind our way along the Liffy river and find our way back to the hotel.

Day three started off with a bit of a dud, a poor choice for breakfast stop but we soon got over that. The coffee here is great, though, Americano espresso. We did the Kilmainhan Gaol (jail) tour today, another grim and sobering reminder of the struggle of the Irish people and for me, as a proud Newfoundlander, the parallels keep hitting home. Day four saw us head out of Dublin to Cork County and the surrounding attractions including an old castle/church on a hilltop called Rock Cashel as well as Blarney Castle. Ireland's history is very much told threw its ruins. I didn't bother with the line up to kiss the blarney stone. If you've read this far you know I don't need any help in the blarney department.. Sherry and I did walk the grounds and they are really picturesque. It was nice to see more of the country side and it is very much like we'd seen in pictures of Ireland. Sherry & I are already planning to return for a couple of weeks somewhere down the road and tour the country on motorcycle. Day four finished with a great meal and a few drinks at Harry's, a pub/restaurant around the corner form our hotel.

London--It was Something to See

After four days in Ireland we flew via Ryan Air to London. Ryan Air is something one must experience. I'm not sure if they are a publicly traded company but if they are, they would be a sound investment as the making of money is of far greater priority than anything related to service. However, they did put enough fuel in the plane to get it to London and supplied capable pilots for the round trip. We stayed at a hostel in London. Apparently that is more the norm than hotels, which can be significantly more pricey than here in North America. It was very clean and we did have private rooms for about $140.00 Canadian per night. We were on the 5th floor and London is in the middle of a heatwave. There was no air conditioning and with temps hitting over 40 with the humidity,well....

For me the highlights of the London stay were the shopping excursion to the giant artisan market know as Notting Hill. I didn't buy much (except for a fan to clip to my bed) but just wandering and picking & poking at the various stalls was entertaining enough. The only store that I thought might have something I'd buy was a western boutique specialising in ornate bracelets and bangles for men and women. The had some really nice ones, with cool engraving and turquoise stone. However, when a fairly simple designed one I was looking at turned out to be 500 pounds (nearly $1000.00 Canadian) I said my thanks and went about my business. Other than that I had a visit to the Ace Cafe on my must see list. Amongst motorcyclists the Ace in London is pretty significant dating back to the late 30's as a starting point for bike racing anywhere in the world. It was a pretty good trek to get there, involving a ride on the subway, called the Tube, and and also a train ride, plus a bit of a walk from the station. That is pretty much the norm for most things you might want to see in London. It's a huge city and so public transit is essential to getting to where you plan to go. I had also hoped to get to the National Motorcycle Museum, but that was even more of a trek than the Ace, so it'll have to wait.

Our oldest daughter, world traveller that she is, co-ordinated sightseeing for the trip. She made sure to include a show at one of the theatres in London's famous west end, after which Broadway is modelled. We saw a Beatles musical revue called Let It Be...very well done.

We did do the typical London tourist stuff too, such as Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park ( quite a nice stroll) and the London Eye Ferris Wheel. But London was more for the kids to do some shopping than anything else and shop they did. We were near Oxford Street, the main shopping area, and I do believe the phrase teeming mass of humanity may have been invented for this place. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of people in London.

We left London after four days and headed back to Dublin, as that is where we were scheduled to fly home from. The last day in Dublin was very leisurely. I had a great time doing a tour of the Jameson's whiskey distillery. I sampled some of the different varieties and ended up buying one called Distillery Reserve, available only at the distillery. Smooth is an understatement, although at 60 pounds for a bottle that is to be expected. For our last night in Dublin we took in the Irish Kitchen Party. The meal was great, the service as good as you'll find (which was typical of Dublin) the musicians were proficient, but I have been to kitchen parties in Newfoundland that would have put that one to shame. That was a minor blimp, however, on what was a very entertaining evening and and overall visit to Ireland.

Pictures: I'm not much of a photographer and generally I find photos don't capture the spirit of the scene, but for what it's worth, here are some pics. The ruins of Ireland and the monuments of London are best seen live than via photo.
Busker on Grafton Street, Dublin. We saw/heard many talented performers

Typical street scene in Dublin

City Hall, where we began a three hour walking tour...I highly recommend this and it's free

Tour Guide, James

Dublin Castle. One o f the few old buildings pics I took. My photos don't do them justice

Veronica Guerin monument.

Just an alley way on the tour

Christ Church, Dublin

Not sure what's up with everyone having to have a different coloured door

To the right, the hotel U2 bought after they "made it" Before they were famous the manager kicked them out for looking to scruffy and Bono vowed he'd someday own the place. The actually bought the whole block.

Art school where U2 met and were formed.

More of U2's block.

Original Temple it's a whole section of the city, like George Street in St. John's but much bigger

Hay Penny Bridge on the Liffy

Liffy, main river running through Dublin

Plaque clandestinely placed on bridge by two brothers as a ruse. Government refuses to remove it because it's such a good story...The Irish love their stories. ( )

O'Connell statue. This guy is revered in Ireland'Connell

Entrance to Trinity College

Memorial to rebels who fought for Irish independence, across from Kilmainham Gaol

Housed many poor as well as Irish independence rebels over the centuries. The death of 16 Irish freedom fighters during the Easter Uprising of 1916 (shot while imprisoned at this jail) finally lead to formation of Irish Free State

Corner gate of St. Steve's Green, near Grafton Street
Rock Cashel...

Blarney castle. The grounds are stunning and very tranquil.

Sherry walking along the river, Blarney

Just saw this place on the grounds of Blarney Castle. Don't know if it is still inhabited.

Tree in huge horse pasture

wild poppies

The family discount for our trip to England :(

London from the London Eye

I just liked the art work on the front of the building

Busker at Notting Hill in Gretsch guitars... the next few are just some random pics from my stroll through Notting Hill, which has a giant artisan craft section that goes on for blocks.

'nuff said..they had Cap'N Morgan dark too.

Getting to know the London subway is a must.

token red phone book... gross, people pee in 'em!

Plenty of pubs and shopping in this section of London

This one and the next few are from my visit to Ace cafe in London. Birth place of motorcycle racing in England and a significant landmark in motorcycle circles.

with my son, Steven

My oldest, Emily, who planned much of the trip. This was her third trip to Europe and she is only 21

War memorial...Canada Monument, next to Buckingham Palace

Newfoundland Column on the wall surrounding Buckingham Palace

Me and London Bobbie

Next few are of St Steven's Green In Dublin

My tour of Jameson's whiskey distillery

I was selected to for a comparison taste test at the end of the tour..Johnny Walker Black, Jack Daniels and Jameson's. Having had three rum for lunch, a whiskey while waiting for the tour to start, and then being provided a complimentary Jameson's as part of the tour, I had a pretty good buzz by the time I got to the tasting. I voted for Jameson's.

Chip Truck on Grafton Street, Dublin

GBK.-- Gourmet Burger Kitchen...fantastic burgers..and milkshakes

mural in Dublin

street in Temple Bar section of Dublin

From our first night in Dublin. We happened on these Irish step dancers in a pub...great show and no cover.

They label their pop cans a bit differently.

The whole crew in Dublin

me and the missus

my youngest, Erin. She was thrilled to find a store with her name, and thought it was pretty cool too, that she could get into  a pub.

Enjoying an Americano at The Breakfast Club, just one of the great cafes we found in Dublin and London to grab a delicious meal.

These are all over London. Very nice restaurant.

Selling homemade ice cream. It was quite good. We also had genuine gelato...delicious.

This pub/restaurant was just around the corner from our hotel in Dublin and the server, Trudy, was always friendly and helpful. Most people we encountered in Dublin are really helpful and easygoing.

Last night in Dublin

me and da b' son Steven to my left and his buddy Thomas who came along for the trip.

Back To Reality But We'll Go Back, For Sure
We arrived back in St. John's on July 22. Painters/Plasterers had been in while we were away and the house was covered in plaster dust, so we hit the ground running. There is still more painting to be finished and then the lights that were taken down from the ceiling to accommodate the new gyprock have to be put back; Electrician in on Monday, July 28. 
For 10 days it was great, no schedules, no "'to do" list. Ireland is beautiful and the people are very friendly and helpful. London has so much to see that four days wasn't near enough, but you have to go with a plan and an idea of how you're going to make it happen. I prefer the pace of Dublin/Ireland but both places have so much to see and do.