Our Europe trip was basically planned around a surprise birthday party for a friend of ours from Ireland whom we met while traveling in New Zealand. I think we met more Irish people traveling then from any other country. We met Niamh (pronounced Neeve) and Michelle on the South Island of New Zealand; we were on the same bus and we got along really well.
We traveled the next 8 days together (which doesn’t sound like lots of time, but when its 24/7…you become family in about 2 days!) a few extra days with Niamh and randomly bumped into Michelle later on our way north again. Niamh had told us that friends and family were planning a surprise birthday party for Michelle, and gave us the dates. We totally wanted to be there…so planning Europe began to revolve around the dates we needed to be in Ireland.
We flew from Lubeck, Germany into Dublin, Ireland. It was similar to flying home for me. After 3 countries in which we didn’t know the languages, and couldn’t understand the signs, I loved seeing English everywhere. There are 2 official languages in Ireland, Irish Gaelic and English; therefore all the signs are in both languages.
We arrived in Dublin and took a shuttle downtown. An overwhelmed German boy began talking to us (in German) in the shuttle line (we had been on the same plane). We soon switched to English and he told us that he had come to Ireland to go to university for at least one semester. He was so nervous and scared. We invited him to dinner because we felt so sorry for him, he ended up only having a drink and left after that because (and I quote) he wanted to phone home and cry…it’s hard when it’s your first time away from home. Its amazing how alone you feel.
We spent 2 days in Dublin. Michelle had sent us an extremely detailed orientation list of all the things we should do and why in Dublin…we got in quite a few. We walked to the old gaol where the men who were involved with the Irish uprising had been held and later executed…im sorry but I don’t quite remember the history about it.
Ireland has an extremely interesting and involved history its no wonder they are so patriotic they really had to fight for their country. We saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College and according to the tour guide the maple trees on the main quad (which used to be a cemetery) are Canadian.
We went to the Dublina Museum (the Viking museum…an extremely entertaining and hand’s on museum…so much fun) as well as Christ Church Cathedral. The Cathedral is amazing and is over 1000 years old.
One of the things that I remember about Ireland is what its flag represents. The green stands for the catholic, the orange for the protestants and the white the peace between the 2. I cant remember how long that’s been their flag but I take it as a symbol of hope that this is what they are striving for.
Dublin as a city is another big city. I love the pub we stumbled into after visiting the goal…we were starving and the sign above one of the doorways said “please refrain from dancing” as the ceiling is too low! I wonder how many bumped their heads before the sign went up…and does it get obeyed? All along our trip we tended to enjoy the countryside better then the cities, because we got to see and experience the country in which we were in. I find a city is a city is a city after a while, but they each have something that makes you visit it just to say you’ve been. Sydney’s got the opera house, London’s got Big Ben,
Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Hamburg’s got a crazy 5 am fish market and so on. Dublin’s got statues all over the place. In the boulevards, on street corners, in the gaol, outside the gaol, now that I think back…Aix-En-Provence may have had more, but not many…it was interesting to see if you’d recognize any of the statues, oh…and if you wanted a nice photo of any of them, you better buy a postcard…there’s less bird poop on them!
Day 2 We spent the morning exploring then had to hurry back to the hostel to collect our things and then hurry to the bus station to catch the bus. Now I don’t know why I said bus station, those don’t seem to exist in some areas. Basically we had to know which store front to stand in front of to wait to catch the bus. Luckily it was in front of a sandwich shop so we got food, and then 4 buses seemed to show up all at once and Heather is still ordering food, and I’m beginning to panic because I don’t know which bus we’re to get on, and I’m waiting with all our luggage, and I hope Heather’s sandwich maker is moving fast, and can I ask someone where this bus is going and still keep a eye on our bags…oh phew…we got on the bus, ate lunch and enjoyed the journey out of the city, through the countryside that got progressively greener the further south we went from Dublin.
We were heading to Cashel,. to spend the remainder of our Ireland time with Michelle (remember the girl whose birthday we were coming out for). Michelle is a primary school teacher and we spent the Friday in class with her. Learning Irish Gaelic, helping them paint and thinking about how adorable 4 and 5 year old Irish kids are! Hey they all had accents…and its so cute when they’re small! Michelle took us to the Rock of Cashel,
which is a centuries old castle situated on a hill overlooking Cashel and the surrounding countryside. She used to work there and give tours, so we went on one and she filled us in with all the extras that our official tour guide forgot. On Saturday (the day of her surprise birthday party), Michelle, her sister Sinead (pronounced Shinead) and Heather and I went south to Cork, the Blarney Castle
(where the Blarney Stone is…the one you’re supposed to kiss) and on to Kinsale.
We kissed the Blarney Stone
which we really didn’t need to because it’s supposed to give you the “gift of gab”…none of us needed that gift, we had it in abundance! They allowed you to wander all over that castle because you had to climb to the top to kiss the stone anyways, and each room had a sign stating what it was once used for. Its fascinating trying to picture what life would have been like hundreds of years ago. As a heads up to anyone thinking of visiting Blarney Castle…bring a flashlight! There are dungeons and a cave/tunnel route that the soldiers inside the castle used to escape through when it was being attacked. We used camera flashes and a cell phone as light, but it didn’t work all that well.
And all the while Michelle’s 2 girl friends kept phoning about plans to go out that evening, where they wanted to go and then changing their minds, wanting to dress up, not wanting to dress up, using us as an excuse to dress up, picking one pub and then another…and in hopes of annoying Michelle, (and it worked) to throw her off base. She didn’t have a clue about the party. And she wasn’t dressing up, oh and she had wanted to go to a different pub then the one we ended up at!
But she was definitely surprised! All her family was there! Her colleagues from work, good friends and us!
And the fact that we knew about it! Oh it was hilarious! It was a smallish pub and we took over most of it. There was dancing and a one man band, and a friend of hers from work got up and sang a couple of tradition Irish ditty’s or maybe they were ballads. She sounded lovely either way. She wanted us to get up and sing a traditional Canadian song…I don’t know about you…but I’m not completely sure of all the lyrics to Stompin’ Tom’s old Canadian folk songs!
A group of us headed to Michelle’s friends place after the party
and the next morning we all indulged in a good greasy breakfast! From there it was a quick trip back to Michelle’s place to pack and then the 2 hour ride back to Dublin with a friend of Michelle’s who had come out for the party. Its amazing how quickly time flies when you’re having fun! And before we knew it we were on our plane to London, England. Cheers Ireland and I will DEFINITELY see you again!!