So on the Thursday night I took a £5 or something ridiculously cheap Ryanair flight up to Dublin to visit Bex and Johnny. Johnny picked me up from the airport (yay! thanks Johnny! One less manky bus ride and a much better guide) and I spent the whole journey back talking non-stop and doing the trying-to-twist-my-head-in-multiple-directions-silmultaneously-in-order-to-see-everything thing again to take in the Dublin scenery. Dublin is pretty. Lots of dark stone buildings with perfect gardens. The place is very laid back, and everyone was pretty friendly. It was also my first taste of looking like an eskimo while everyone else looked summery (haven't yet acclimatised, or perhaps more accurately, am wuss).
Bex and Johnny's apartment is very central, and I was relieved to be able to chill the first night and eat home-cooked noodles (I never thought I'd get sick of eating out, but sometimes it's quite nice NOT to have to make a decision on what you're next eating!)
The next day I jumped on the Dublin Hop-On Hop-Off bus to have a wee look at the city. I would thoroughly recommend it... the bus drivers give live commentary as they circle, and joke and tell hilarious stories the whole way round, different drivers tell different jokes, and none ever sounded like it was the 50th time they'd regaled that particular joke that week. I did a whole circuit to get my bearings, passing such sights as the Guiness Storehouse (now pipped at the post of being largest brewery by the Guiness Brewery in Nigeria of all places), Trinity College, O'Connell Street, Temple Bar, a whisky distillery and some very pretty churches of which I forget the names, eek!
Hopping off, I did a walk through Temple Bar (the old bar area which comes alive at night), up O'Connell Street (the oldest and main street of Dublin) where I had to waste a bit of time looking for a cheap pair of jeans (I only brought one pair with me from NZ, thinking it was going to be much warmer, and have been suffering... very dumb), and then after lunch, I hopped off at the Kilmainham Jail, a forbidding looking building that many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned in and executed.
It was supposed to be a revolutionary new jail with better conditions, but proved to be pretty awful.
Kilmainham Jail, Dublin, the bleak looking spot where 10 of the Easter Rising rebels were executed.
One of the corridors in the prison.
The main courtyard of the prison, used in a good few movies.... ie the original The Italian Job and In the Name of My Father.
Pretty Dublin church (I forget the name, arrgh!)
On Friday night, Aneela arrived, so Bex and Johnny took us out on the town.... we went to a pub where I cautiously tried my first ever Guiness... and liked it! Definitely a meal of a drink, but very tasty.
Saturday we went to see Newgrange. Well, I was way more impressed than I'd anticipated, mainly with the age of the things. They are massive burial mounds built during the Stone Age, around 3300-2900 BC.... that's 500 years older than the pyramids at Giza, and 1000 years older than Stonehenge. So hard to comprehend that amount of time, when the oldest building in NZ is 1820's. Definitely makes you feel completely insignificant in the grand scheme of things :-)
The rocks all around the edge were huge, hauled from quarries a fair distance away by teams of men. There was a tiny opening in the centre that lead through an incredibly narrow stone passage (no fatties in the Stone Age) about 20 metres long, that came out into a tiny burial chamber at the centre. No cement going on; the rocks were stacked in such a way to hold up the tonnes of earth above us. In cruel irony, we discovered our tour guide was in fact claustrophobic (perhaps in the wrong profession).
The mounds are designed so that on the week around winter solstice the rising sun comes up and through the tunnel, illuminating the tomb inside - an eerie sight that entices thousands of people to enter a lottery they have each year to get places on that day to potentially see it.
Me at Newgrange, massive Stone Age burial mounds older than the Pyramids at Giza....very cool! (I look freezing.)
Dublin countryside....very like New Zealand, and yet I keep expecting to see Postman Pat.
After Newgrange, we drove through the countryside, stopping to let me ramble through a cool ruined abbey.
Me in front of cool Irish ruins :-)
And then we ended up in Howth, where we had fish and chips and an evening walk along the pier.
Bex and Johnny :-)
Me, Bex, Johnny and Aneela on a walk out on the pier at Howth after fish and chips.
A very cool day!
The next morning I spent trip planning. It took a whole morning because the Virgin trains website was down, so in order to get my ticket, I had to call. To find that the stupid automated ticket booking system for the Virgin trains (voiced by a pre-recorded plummy englishwoman) couldn't recognise my kiwi accent, and so I had to put on a plummy english accent to get it to work, which Johnny and Aneela listening in thought was hilarious. Anyway, the day went very fast, and suddenly I was winging my way to Scotland....