From London our journey took us north, as I said in the previous issue. After passing through many unpronounceable cities in Wales, we came to Holyhead where we waited around in a remarkably cold station for hours before we were allowed to board the ferry. Once on board, it was just a matter of finding a little place to lay down and sleep our way to Dublin.
There were a few pictures I could have chosen to be the first on this post, but I feel like this one sort of perfectly sums up our time in Dublin.
We arrived early in the morning and rode our way through the relatively empty streets to where we'd spend the next handful of nights. Finally back in a country that was on the Euro system, getting a reasonable B&B was much easier.
As you might guess, one of our first stops was the Guinness factory at St. James' Gate. We went through a nice museum next to the factory and learned about how "the black stuff" is made. At the top we were treated to a fresh drink each and a 360 panoramic view of Dublin.
From there we visited Trinity College where we got to see the Book of Kells and the famous library. The smell of old books was intoxicating. I stood far too long watching a man restoring an ancient looking tome, and was decidedly disappointed when we were not allowed to actually browse the library in any real fashion.
We were also forbidden from taking photographs of the Book of Kells section of Trinity, so this classic will have to do. There were several displays of many varieties, and it was nice to see a personal favorite behind the glass.
From there we went to the Brazen Head which is the oldest pub in Ireland. It was a quaint little place tucked back between buildings. My favorite part about the older pubs we've been in is how twisty their halls are. You can walk around, never quite sure where you're going, and just come out into another little nook or corner where people are eating and drinking.
The rest of Dublin was fun to explore. There was a smattering of old mixed in with new construction. We finished off our time there with a tour of the original Jameson Distillery. They no longer brew in that particular location, but it had a lot of the original pots and the building itself was from the old days of Jameson. Of course, there was a tasting of Jameson during the tour and a nice glass of it awaiting us at the end.
Deciding exactly where to go in Ireland next was a huge step. We needed to figure out where our time would be best spent, and how we should go about spending it. Originally, our favored destinations where to the west and north of Dublin, but every list we looked on and everyone we spoke to sang the praises of County Kerry. So, after some debate, we took a train south to this fabled land. We got off the train in a city named Cork, and from there rode to a smaller town called Tower, which is right next to a much more famous village: Blarney.
The park leading up to Blarney Castle is beautiful. It's an open area, free of "warning" and "stay off the grass" signs, which I love. I've said it before, I'll say it again, it makes me happy when places just let you go and do as you please, leaving you to judge situations with your own common sense.
The castle originally dates back before 1200 when there was a wooden structure there. After that was either torn or burnt down, they rebuilt it with stone around 1210. The castle has gone through a few phases of being destroyed in part, and then rebuilt. It and the surrounding land has changed hands over and over, but it still remains.
Of course the most famous part of the ruins is the Blarney Stone. For this you have to hang down over the wall to kiss a stone on the outside of the castle. While you do this, they take very unflattering pictures of you with the promise that in return you will acquire "the gift of eloquence".
Around the castle are several gardens, including the Rock Garden and the Poison Garden. You'd be surprised to learn just how literal those names are. One was a garden full of oddly stacked rocks, while the other was literally a garden of poisonous plants. There were warning signs here not to eat the plants. I suppose they didn't want to rely entirely on an individual's common sense when it came to beds of deadly, deadly nightshade.
The Rock Garden also had a few small caves said to be ancient dwellings for druids. There were massive trees with huge roots dancing in and out of the ground and over cliffs. Of course, at this point, my camera decided that it had taken enough photos and it let its battery die. How unreliable.
The Tapestry was 230 feet (70 meters) long and 20 inches tall. It depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. We got to walk around the tapestry, listening to a scene by scene description of what was going on. It was an amazing piece of history.
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