Hey... So, since we've talked last, a lot of things have happened: My computer crashed (twice), I got a new computer, I graduated, sold a bunch more bags on Etsy including one custom-dyed one (first time for that!), got involved in some T-shirt printing projects, and a bunch of other stuff, but we'll talk about that later, because the Very Important Thing that most recently happened is that I went on a Grand Adventure!
We visited Ireland, England, Amsterdam, and Berlin- but since telling you about the whole entire trip would end up being a terrifyingly long blog post full of a terrifyingly large number of pictures, I'm breaking it up into four bits. If, for some inconceivable reason, you just really hate Ireland and can't stand the thought of reading about our experiences there- feel free to skip this one and wait for England, which will be up in a few days.
We were in Ireland for four days, three of which we spent in Dublin. The above is a from a shopping center we found. I kind of really wanted to know what it would be like inside there when it was raining, but we had dry weather nearly the whole time we were there. Here, I found a little craftsman shop that had things like handmade fisherman's sweaters, woolens, hats, and silver stuff. I bought an Irish-made scarf that was made from Irish sheep, and some yarn as well.
For your knitting history fact of the day- knitting was and still is extremely popular in Ireland. Back when its main industry was fishing, (not a thing so much because of the EU) each family had a unique cable pattern that they would use to make sweaters and other woolens for the men going out to sea. If a fisherman fell overboard in a storm and drowned, his body was often identified by the sweater he was wearing. They're unique to the families, much like Scottish tartans.
We wandered a bit, and discovered that there are a lot of older churches in a very small area- only about a ten minute walk from our hostel. St. Patrick's Cathedral is the largest in Ireland, and it is apparently beautiful on the inside but we didn't go in. This one is still functional, which isn't true of a lot of the church buildings in Ireland.
We also wandered over to Trinity college, which was very beautiful and which was also entirely gated except for two entrances. We may have gotten a little tiny bit turned around in a hunt for Oscar Wilde's house- which turned out to be closed anyways, but we made it out alive. Trinity college seemed to have swallowed up his home- it's part of the building they use for computer science, and since we went on a weekend, we couldn't get in. This is one of those colleges where you're not allowed to walk on the grass, but everything is so very green and manicured, also. We sat for a bit looking at the green space, and compared it to Truman where someone is always playing frisbee somewhere.
At a few people's suggestion, we visited the Guinness Storehouse, which is basically a museum documenting the history and general goodness of Guinness, along with a brewery tour. I was glad I wasn't there with Dad, because he probably would have pitched a tent in the corner and decided to stay. One of the very cool things about the place is that it's in a building that used to be functional as part of the production of Guinness, so it's got these neat pipes, drains, valves, and duct work everywhere. Besides that, there was also an entire floor dedicated to the many ways in which Guinness has been advertised:
This, especially, was super cool:
There was also, of course, a tasting, and a lesson on the 'correct' way to drink Guinness, which involved standing up straight, raising your elbow parallel with the floor, toasting the founder, and feeling proud of the Guinness in order to get the full effect. I'm not the hugest fan of Guinness, but the whole thing was awesome: we both had a lot of fun. The Irish work it into everything, too- although I wasn't the hugest fan of the beer, I had a truly fantastic Irish Guinness stew in a pub, and I'm glad that Guinness exists so that that stew could happen.
On a side note, I'm reasonably sure that I belong in Ireland based on the fact that it is socially acceptable to have a potato dish with two different sides of als0-potatoes plus bread. It was like carb heaven, and if you know me, you know that I have an unparalleled love of potatoes. Why yes, I will have potato stew served over mashed potatoes with a side of fries. Do I get seconds with that?
We were in Ireland for four days, one of which was spent on a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher. The nice thing about this trip was that we stopped at a lot of scenic and historic places along the way, so we got to take pictures and learn about a lot of Irish culture. For example, there aren't a lot of castles or older buildings in general in Ireland, because the English tore a lot down when they decided they wanted Ireland: this castle is a rare exception. (Also, random wild swans?!)
I spent basically the whole time taking pictures out the bus window- a lot of them turned out questionably, but that's how it goes. In total, I took 1456 photos on this trip. The Irish countryside is littered with rock structures- buildings like this, and of course the dry-stone walls that divide Ireland into sections so famously. It was really weird to see those walls, because nothing like that exists in the US. It's all green grassy countryside, but separated by low rock walls- whereas here, there are no walls, but you can tell the separations because of the different lawn treatments and crops that people grown. What we saw in Ireland was mostly grazing land, not cultivation. Irish sheep!
By the time we got to the cliffs, it was beautiful and outside again. By beautiful, I mean cloudy so that we pale folks don't risk third degree burns by stepping out of doors. Ireland understands my needs. Potatoes and clouds- it's not so hard.
In the movie Princess Bride, this was the filming location for the Cliffs of Insanity scene- time to rewatch that and recognize that! I'm pretty sure a lot of it was painted set rather than actual cliffs- and the top of the cliffs in that movie are sandy, whereas the tops of the actual ones are green and grassy- like the rest of Ireland.
When you get to the Cliffs, you do so from behind, and there are two options: turn right, and you get to the area where you can take picturesque pictures of the cliffs (reference: first two photos). Turn left, and you can walk all the way up to the edge of the cliff, if you are feeling adventurous or suicidal. We did that thing, of course. Maybe not toes-hanging-off kind of up to the edge, but at least within a few feet. The castle on a cliff photos are from the left side.
The water there was beautiful, too. It was this sort of teal color and was crashing up against the rocks at the base of the cliffs. We saw a boat while we were there, and resolved next time to see the cliffs that way: from the water looking up, instead of from the top looking down.
All of Ireland is beautiful! Every single solitary little bit. I loved it all.
On our way back to Dublin, we drove through The Burren, which is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him- according to Edmund Ludlow, who definitely knew what he was talking about. It's beautiful and desolate all at once. The whole place is basically rocks. It's on the coast of Ireland opposite Dublin, and the bit we visited was at the edge of Galway Bay. In the distance, we could see the Cliffs of Moher.
If you look closely, you can see the dry stone walls dividing up the countryside behind the remains of this church. Our last stop was an abbey from the 1100's:
There was a plaque: Corcomroe Abbey, St. Maria de Petra Fertilis. Foundation c. 1182, ascribed to Donal Mor O'Brien, King of Munster. In 1248 it was placed under the rule of the cistercian abbey of furness in Lancashire. During the many changes of ownership following its dissolution in 1564, the monks continued to tend the Abbey. Among the many interesting tombs and effigies in the chancel is one of a crowned figure, said to be that of Conor O'Brien, grandson of the founder, and a noted benefactor of the abbey.
The neat thing about this abbey- other than the obvious oldness and coolness of the architecture, of course, is that if you grow up in the area, you can still be buried there. The plaque mentions that the son of the founder was buried there (or at least he has a headstone there)- but I also saw headstones from as recent as 2012. You have to walk very carefully in order to avoid stepping on anyone's graves.
Excuse me while I nerd out some more about the architecture of this place...
Ireland was wonderful- we went out with some people we met in the hostel, one of whom was a printmaker from South Carolina who I am now friends with on Facebook- we spent all evening comparing his lithography work with mine (huge nerd alert, don't mind me...) The food was great, the people were interesting, and it was all a great experience as the first leg of our trip.
There were occasionally other people with oddly colored hair, but nobody stared too hard at the color of mine. A lot of women have dyed dark red/maroon colored hair, which I thought was an interesting choice considering the stereotypical fiery Irish redhead image. When we visit again, we would like to make more of an effort to see other parts of the country, now that we've seen the city.
There. You have the down low on Ireland, and the beginning of our Grand Adventure. Next stop, London- and an unexpected journey that technically came before Ireland, but which I am lumping in with the rest of England...