Archive for October, 2011

Bombs, Alarms and Castles… Oh My!

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Well, friends, what can I say… these past two days have been very interesting for us.

I try to keep a very open mind, I do. I hate being judged or perceived to be a certain way based on past actions, or the way I look, sound, etc. But my entire life I have heard that Northern Ireland is a hotbed of social discord and one should be very careful while visiting. I have to admit, I had my hesitations about stopping there.

However, if a highly recommended and regarded tour was taking me through Northern Ireland then it must be safe, right? And it was, however, there is a reason why we have gut instincts and my gut instinct was to not like this place.

Let me first start by saying that Derry can be a very beautiful town and like most places of social unrest it has given birth to inspiring murals, museums, theaters and other cultural benefits. Which is probably the reason why a small bomb placed in the cultural center our first night there was so surprising to me.

We didn’t know what it was, but we heard a large explosion and from the window of our corner room on the sixth floor we could see smoke billow out from an alley way. Eric tried telling me that it was a boiler or something of a non-issue, but I knew it wasn’t. I couldn’t sleep that night amongst the shouts and bantering back and forth between people outside.

The next morning we rode the elevator down to the lobby with a lovely older couple who were checking out. The woman asked us if we heard the explosion last night. She was the one that informed us what it was.

“Oh, but don’t worry, dearie, it was just a squib, nothing to be worried about now.”

Oh, just a squib. Psh. That’s nothing.

It wasn’t until later that Eric explained the a “squib” is a small bomb. Well isn’t that nice. Just a squib, then.

(more…)

Till Friday…

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Hello friends!

After a week of cataloging my adventures for you, and for me, I’m taking a little hiatus from my notes. We’re currently in City Hotel in Derry and the internet connection leaves much to be desired. Well, that, and every hour you need to call down for a new password and username to use the internet. With the time it takes me to upload pictures, fix them in the post and write, it’s too much.

I’m hoping to catch you all up when we reach the Cabra Castle in Kingscourt, our next hotel on Friday. Until then, I wish you many happy moments and thank you for coming along with me on this journey.

Cheers!

A Drive Through the Countryside and Peeing Sheep

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

We had high hopes for today… ok, not really, but we did have some plans that fell through.

We drove up to Connemara National Park to walk around the grounds, but due to the rain and all around miserable day we didn’t stay. In fact, we got out of the car, walked around the visitor’s center and learned about the natural habitat and bogs, took one picture of a man-made waterfall and left.

We go all the way to a beautiful national park and took a picture of a man made waterfall.

I do have to say the ride to the national park was quite fun. For a week now we’ve been driving around the Irish countryside and a brunt of our conversations revolve around the sheep we see dotting the mountains. (Look to my Day 4 post of the trip for more on our sheep conversations.) This is a conversation we had today…

(After seeing sheep quietly eating grass by a lake)

Me: What if the sheep falls in?

Eric: It gets wet.

Me: But how does it get out?

Eric: I would assume they can swim. I mean, deer can swim so why not sheep?

Me: …pull over.

Eric: I am NOT pulling over so you can push a sheep in the water to see if it swims!

So, I didn’t get to do a little experiment about the aquatic abilities of sheep but thanks to some road side wanderers another sheeply question of ours was answered.

I’ve been wondering how the farmers were keeping track of all these sheep. Some of these guys are by themselves on the side of some mountain, totally removed from civilization. Luckily for us, we got up close and personal with some sheep today, so up and close that one felt comfortable enough to pee in front of us. ;)

Actually, he tried to run away but ended up running in front of us, then on the side of the road he peed a little, then ran a little, then peed some more, then ran. It was quite amusing.

"Whatchu looking at?"

"You literally scared the piss out of me!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only did I get a close view of a sheep peeing, I got a close look at his ear that had a tracking device pierced through it. Mystery #1 was solved. Now if Eric would have only pulled over I would have had the answer to my second question already.

After saying goodbye to our sheep friends we headed to Brigit’s Garden, 11 acres of woodland with gardens and areas set up as each of the seasonal celebrations at the heart of Celtic mythology. If you’re interested in Celtic mythology including the four seasons (Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnasa) I highly recommend stopping by here, especially if its a new interest for you.

The first area is divided up into four areas, each one explaining the four seasons and their significance to Celtic mythology. There’s also a trail that leads you through the grounds that explains certain plants, trees and wildlife that played a part in Celtic mythology.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is an absolutely stunning and inspiring place in the Spring and Summer when the flowers and plant life are alive and beautiful. However, on a cold, dreary, wet day in the middle of October it was… well, it was wet.  Luckily for me I have an imagination and I swore I could hear the fairies laughing at our misfortune with the rain. :)

Diarmuid and Grainne's bed - a secluded hollow where mythical lovers can rest and watch the stars above them. (Bealtaine)

Walkway through the forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that our feet were sufficiently soaked through we decided we had enough of the rain and drove back into Galway to buy some souvenirs. We walked around downtown Galway, bought some Celtic rings, ate at a McDonalds (it felt wrong) and got some jewelry and knick-knacks at the Connemara Marble gift shop. (Really, truly beautiful pieces here, friends. If you’re a cherished loved one or family member, you may see a little marble clover in your future.) ;)

We ended the night at the hotel bar, eating spectacular food, drinking Guinness, Bulmer’s Cider, (strong!) Irish coffee and watching the Republic of Ireland take Armenia in a Euro 2012 qualifying match. It’s one thing to watch a soccer match at home, but in a country were soccer is a bit bigger than America and it’s their team you’re watching, um, yeah, whole new ball game here, folks!

Now its time to talk with my girls then tuck myself in. We have a long drive ahead of us tomorrow all the way up to Derry/Londonderry. Thank you, Galway, it’s been an honor!

***Note: Thanks to Kristi Silva for commenting on my Facebook page with this clip of Peter, the swimming sheep. Check it out! Amazing! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSAZ1t7UcbY (I like his little wiggle at that end!) ;)

Oh, Whatta Day!

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Just because you’re on a trip of a lifetime doesn’t mean that everyday is going to absolutely rock. In fact, in a two week vacation its bound to happen that at least one day things will go to shit. Well, friends, I’m sad to say that today was that day.

Now, before I act like it was all horrible and I need to drink my day away, (which, let’s be honest, in Ireland, I’ll do that regardless of the type of day), there were some high points. But let’s start with the bad and end on a high, shall we?

  • I blow the transformer we brought to operate our electronics by turning on my straightener. I blame the hotel, it worked at the other two hotels we stayed at. Last night’s hotel had slow service, even slower internet service and then it can’t handle a rinky-dink straightener. #hotelfail
  • I’m a pretty good driver at home (everyone whose ever driven with me is still alive so that counts for something, right?) and I have to admit I’m doing rather well over here. However, I do horrible with circles, or round-abouts, at home so you can imagine my fear of them in a country that drives on the opposite side of the road as mine. Eric keeps on bringing up the National Lampoon’s European Vacation clip… (I would love to display it here, but they restricted sharing on the clip so just click on the name.)

    Needless to say, I had to drive through FOUR round-abouts. I was not happy.

  • It’s Ireland, so of course it started to rain. Then it stopped, then it started, then it misted, then it rained.

All of those things would be just any vacation fodder until it was compounded by the following:
  • Before boarding the ferry to cross the Shannon Bay I get a text from my father-in-law telling me that they took my youngest to the ER last night because she was having difficulty breathing. She has been fighting a terrible cough which I had a feeling would turn into croup. I told my in-laws to have my mom take her to the doctor tomorrow (which would be today) and that they’d most likely administer steroids and send her on her way.

    Well, my little one didn’t feel like waiting and had a breathing fit at night that they couldn’t get her out of, so off to the hospital they went. When I got that text I had several moments of extreme terror and worry. My poor little girl was in the hospital and I’m in Ireland living it up. What kind of mother was I?

I tried telling myself that all was well; that she was in good hands, that it probably was just croup but they were just taking precaution with the tests. But then again, it wasn’t my hands she was in. It wasn’t my arms holding her close to my chest so she could hear my heart beat and in turn calm her down. It wasn’t me telling my baby girl it was all right. It wasn’t me. It broke my heart. I still tear up when I think about it.

** I won’t hold in you suspense and have you wait until I get to the good parts of today to tell you that she’s doing fine. Thankfully I got a hold of my father who was still at the hospital with her and my mom. It turned out to be croup and after some nebulizer hits and steroids my baby girl was released home and she’s currently waiting for me to talk with her. :)

  • While driving through a sleepy beach town we realize that our front tire was flat, most likely to the curb I hit by taking a turn too sharply. Eric goes to fix the flat only to find that the tools that the rental car company gave us to fix a flat tire do not fit the tires they put on the car. Lovely.

  • It was raining heavily and steadily at this time.
  • We make it to the famed Cliffs of Moher to see…

Apparently there is a stunning view behind me...

  • Almost got into a car accident around a blind curve, on a steep hill, in the fog. So we got cursed out by a very angry Irishman, which I admit was quite amusing. :)
  • We rolled into Salthill, right outside of Galway, and we were so cold, wet, and weary we passed on finding a local pub and sat at the hotel bar.
Now. The good stuff…
  • Breakfast and dinner were delicious.
  • We saw a cow crossing. Moo.

Cow crossing! I was so excited I almost drove off the road... ok, technically, I did, but only a little bit. :)

  • My baby girl is at home and healthy waiting for me to skype with her. :)
    • The garage that fixed our car did it in 30 minutes.
    • We’re in Ireland ;)
    • We stopped to see Poulnabrone Portal Tomb that was constructed over 5,000 years ago and where the remains of 30 people were found.

    Rain or shine, this is still an impressive site.

  • Driving in the countryside at a slower speed because of the rain I got to take some pictures of ruins that I normally would have missed at normal speed.
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    • We ended the night with a pint at the bar and a skype with our girls.

    Guinness after a long day is a wonderful thing.

    Hm, looking back, it doesn’t seem like that bad of a day. I think worrying about our little “Trouble” (our nickname for our youngest) and the weather just affected us more than we would have liked. But when I line the events of the day up, it wasn’t so bad after all.

    However, it was exhausting so I bid thee farewell, my dear friends, for it is time for me to turn into a pumpkin for the night.

    Till tomorrow!

    The Ring of… Fog

    Sunday, October 9th, 2011

    On today’s itinerary we tackled the Ring of Kerry, “Ireland’s most popular scenic drive. It takes in panoramas of rugged coastline, tall mountains, and pristine lakes.” (Ireland Day by Day, p264) You want to know what we saw? Fog.

    View from Glenbaigh beach. See those clouds? Yeah, that's were we went driving. But we touched this side of the Atlantic Ocean, so that was pretty neat. :)

    We did manage to take in some of the sites of Kerry, including the Kerry Cliffs; not as popular as the Cliffs of Mohr (which we hit tomorrow) but breath-taking all the same.

    The Kerry Cliffs - You're supposed to be able to see Puffin Island, the Skellig islands, and the beehive cells (the Monks homes on the coast)

    Just a tad bit windy up on the cliffs

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After fighting the winds and getting back to the car I thought it was about time for me to take the wheel. Now, obviously I am sitting here typing this so I’m here and I doubt jail would allow me time to blog, so you can guess everyone came out of the experience alive and well. Even the sheep.

    Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

    I have to say, other than the bridge incident I did pretty well. What bridge incident, you ask? I’ll save that story for another time. ;) (more…)

    That’s No Blarney!

    Saturday, October 8th, 2011

    Hello friends!

    Today was the day I was waiting for. There are a lot of reasons why people travel to Ireland, Guinness, relatives, Guinness, but more often than not people come to this country for inspiration, for magic. That reason alone is enough to draw millions of people here to this tiny island every year. It’s the reason why I came. Ever since I could remember I have been infatuated with this culture, people, history… accent. sigh ;)

    When I read books with Ireland as their setting I longed to see the greenness of the grass, to hear the music in the waterfalls, to feel the wind whip up from the cliffs, but most importantly, I wanted to feel that magic. You know what magic I’m talking about. That feeling of awe, of awareness, of letting go of all preconceived notions, responsibilities, general thought and letting the feeling of the land take over. For the past couple of days we’ve been doing the touristy stuff, not really getting into the heart of the island. Today started out to be the same kind of day and then it hit me, completely out of the blue at one of the most touristy locations on the isle, Blarney Castle.

    Blarney Castle

    It was also in the most oddest of places, too. Blarney Castle grounds are beautiful and inspiring in and of themselves, inspiration is basically thrown at you as you enter the Rock Close, but I’ll get to that in a minute. No, my inspiration hit me before the Rock Close with it’s breath-taking landscaping, before I even entered the castle. After I took the above picture I wondered over to the one round tower. I stood in the entrance way and looked up. You could see where the wooden beams would have been to create a spiral staircase leading up to the top. For just a second my world stopped. The bird song quieted, my heart stopped beating, I had no breath. I can’t explain why it happened or how, but I felt an electric buzz throughout my body. Then, I couldn’t help but smile. I was standing in a doorway to a tower, nothing special, nothing heroic happened there, just a lookout tower. Yet, it did the trick.

    Eric doesn't realize what he captured, but this is when inspiration took me over

    I felt energized, excited and something that has been escaping me lately, happy. In short, I felt magic. And thank God I felt energized because the walk up to the Blarney Stone is one hell of a trek! ;)

    After my little experience in the tower we made our way up to the Blarney Stone. To get to the top you have to climb a spiral staircase so tight I frequently stopped to ponder how in hell Laurel Hardy and Winston Churchill fit up this tiny stairwell. If you want to feel what it’s like to climb up them, stand up, turn in a tight circle where you’re standing for about 30 – 40 times. You won’t get out of breath, but you’ll get dizzy! The one thing I absolutely loved about Blarney Castle is its accessibility to the tourists. So many times things are closed off for our safety that we miss out on experience. For Blarney Castle, if it had a floor, you could walk on it.

    Standing in the entrance to the dungeons. Just ahead of me you can crawl into the dungeons, but I was not about to do that... this jacket is new! ;)

    The 3 main floors of the castle

    The 3 main floors of the castle

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    And of course, when we made it to the top of the castle, we kissed the Blarney Stone. Which, by the way, is more of a rock than a stone. I envisioned this tiny little stone that I had to find just right or else I was just kissing some 15th century rock instead of the Blarney Stone, and who would want that? But no, it’s like 2 feet long and very hard to miss, hard to reach, but not to miss. So, if you don’t mind hanging off the side of a castle with just a guy holding your sides, and you can block out the dear friend who mentioned that someone he knows told him how he peed on the stone then laughed at the tourists who kissed it (thank you, Daniel), then you’re good to go. ;)

    Kissing the Blarney (rock) Stone. Do I sound more eloquent now?

    Remember how I said I felt all inspired after walking into that tower? Yeah, well, that inspiration was kicked into overdrive when I walked through The Rock Close on the grounds. Filled with low, overhanging, wispy trees, waterfalls, druid circles, witch’s kitchens, it’s hard not to believe in magic while strolling the grounds.

    Entrance to the Wishing Steps. Legend has it that the Blarney witch takes wood from the forest to light her fires. In exchange she must grant a wish to those who walk down and up the steps with their eyes closed, some say you even have to do it backwards. I did. :)

    Just inside The Rock Close Entrance

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Touching the Domlen. No one knows how the rock got there, teetering on a small rock, and no one knows why it sometimes moves.

    I couldn't stop writing when I was there. At first it was just thoughts, impressions and be before I knew it *BOOM* magic. I was writing scenes, dialogue, character's thoughts and impressions.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Willow walk way... and my notebook :)

    I couldn't help but stare at this yew tree, do you see want I saw?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Inside the Druid's cave

    Touching the alter inside of the Druid's circle

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I could bombard this blog with more pictures of this mystical land, but I won’t. In fact, because it took me so long to upload the pictures I did (I miss my high speed internet back at home) I’m going to have to say good night.

    Later today we hit An Drum Beag (The Small Ridge) a stone circle on a farm. It was amazing and a place of great wonderment but I’m just too tired to give it justice. But I will leave you with this startling image of it. The sun came out just as Eric took the shot. The light from the sun made the grass that much greener. Stunning.

    An Drum Beag (The Small Ridge) est 5,000 - 500 BC

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Ruins and Sheep – Day 3

    Friday, October 7th, 2011

    After an early breakfast this morning, Eric and I picked up our car and headed out into the Irish countryside to find our way through some ruins en route to County Cork. The conversation in the car went something like this:

    Me: “The cab driver told you to “just think left.” So, just think left.

    Eric: “Got it. Just think left. Just think left. Just think… SHEEEEEEEP!”

    Now, wouldn’t it be funny if I then told you that he barreled through a herd of sheep? It would, but then I’d be lying.

    No, no sheep were harmed during today’s drive, but we definitely saw a lot of them. And when I say “a lot” I mean that towards the end of the day’s drive the interjection of “sheep!” became so common that we hardly noticed it in the conversation.

    Eric: “I wonder how Lily’s cold is doing. She sounded like she was going to sheep hack up a lung last night.”

    Me: “I know. I should really tell my mom to sheep keep an ear out and sheep listen for any sheep rattling in her lungs.”

    ;)

    All joking aside we hit some really neat ruins today. We started the day stopping at Glendalough, an old monastery that was founded by St. Kevin (a different St. Kevin from yesterday’s post) around 500-600 AD (He died in 617AD and is said to be have 120 years old at his passing.)

    The Gateway to the monastic city

    The Cathedral had several phases of construction with most being from the 12 and 13th centuries

    Entrance to the Priest's house... man, these guys were tiny!

    St. Kevin's Cross

    View of the Priest's house, the Cathedral and the Round Tower.

     

    I had to take this picture because it was pretty. :) It's a view from a small bridge by the ruins.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Next we hit Cashel Rock and if you’re like me the second I heard “Cashel Rock” I had the “Fraggle Rock” theme song in my head. If you are… then you’re welcome. ;)

    The Rock, insert Sean Connery’s voice here, had two major purposes, first was royal and the second was religious. Most of the construction is from the 12th and 13th centuries and was built for the King of Munster. The castle survived Norman and English invaders and, forgive me, but I can’t remember when or by whom but it was turned over to the church by one of the family members who the castle came to. The church of Ireland used the church until the 1700′s when it was decided that the upkeep was too much and was left abandoned for over 100 years.

    This isn't my shot. The front part of the Cathedral is being saved from deteriorating mold so it's covered by scaffolding. This is from Cashel Rock tourist website

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    View of other ruins taken from the wall around Cashel Rock

    Standing in the doorway to the cathedral

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Back of the church with the Round Tower

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After visiting Cashel Rock we had our fill for ruins, and the wind, for a day so we packed up and drove the rest of the way into Cork. The shopping district here is gorgeous, open and inviting. If we had the time and money I fear I would spend a lot of it in Cork! But now it’s time to talk to my darling girls (who seem even more darling now that I’ve been away from them for four days!) and then sleep.

    Tomorrow we start with a short trip to Blarney Castle and then a nice drive down the coast to see a stone circle. Good night, friends and thanks for coming along with me on my Ireland vacation!

    I’ve Been to Hell

    Thursday, October 6th, 2011

    Good evening, all!

    We ended our stay in Dublin getting to know the seedier side of the city. This afternoon we toured St. Michan’s crypts where we came face to face with mummies.

    St. Michan's Church

    Originally founded in 1095, the current building was built in 1685 with the vaults under the church giving final resting places to prominent families of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

    I was very excited of the idea of walking in the crypts but I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea when we walked down the steep, stoned steps that the tour guide would remove the gate in one of the doorways and tell me to go in. Oddly enough, there was no hesitation on my part, Eric, on the other hand, needed some “assistance” in the form of good old fashioned ribbing, thanks in part to a jovial tour guide. ;)

    There were four open coffins. The first three contained a thief, who was missing his right hand (he was also missing his feet, but that’s because he was too tall for the coffin), a nun, whose finger and toenails were still in tact as well as, the white whimple (garment that covers the nuns neck) around her neck, another man, who sadly doesn’t have a story, just that they know he’s a man. ;)

    The fourth mummy was laid against the back way and he’s lovingly referred to as “the Crusader” even though he didn’t live to see the Crusades. His legs were cut off to fit into the coffin, but they put they legs in with him to keep him whole. Wasn’t that nice?

    This is the time the tour guide told me to touch his right hand for luck. I thought he was nuts.

    “Look, you got me to walk into a crypt with open mummies and now you want me to touch the thing?”

    But I did. Now I’m lucky. Woo. I even got Eric to touch it. Now we play the lottery and wait.

    There were other crypts that we could peer into but not enter. Darn. Many of them have coffins that have fallen over causing the bones to stick out at odd angles. Walking back down the corridor the tour guide points down into a crypt and says “Oh, look! A foot!” Lovely.

    Several of the doorways to the vaults just had random skulls laying in them. We were informed that since these are family crypts, family members can still rest with their relatives eternally if they wish. Of course, it would have to be in ash form since most are already full.

    Click on this sentence to see the picture of the mummies whose crypt we could walk into…


    Tonight we took a tour to get to know Dublin’s darker side with the Dublin Sighseeing Tour Bus.

    The tour bus

    Our first stop was the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland to learn about Dr. Samuel Clossey who taught the students the “art” of dissecting a human cadaver, and by art I mean taking a really big knife and cutting the line up the body. Once that was done he’d take his bare hands and rip open the chest cavity, pulling entrails and all out with his hands and dumping them in a bucket. It seems Dr. Clossey had a problem with God and organized religion and needed to prove that we are only what we are by going through this routine with his students. He died in his 50′s shortly after going through one of his routines. An insomniac who would walk the halls at night, he can still be heard singing songs to occupy his dark, lonely and never-ending nights.

    I would love to tell you about all the stories we heard by a very talented and enthralling tour guide, however, this post is going to run long so as it is. If it weren’t I’d tell you the story of  St. Kevin’s Churchwere most people don’t even realize that it is a church, or that their picnic lunch is resting on top of forgotten graves. The story of St. Kevin is amazing and I encourage you to look him up.

    Ruins of St. Kevin's Church

    Over the course of the tour we learned where the expressions, “Saved by the bell”, “Dead ringer”, “graveyard shift”, and “fell off the wagon” came from. The first three had to do with the disease of catalepsy and being buried alive. I heard this story before so I kinda checked out during this portion. But simply put, catalepsy makes a person appear to be dead although they’re not, kinda like in a comatose state. For fear of this happening, people asked to be buried with a string tied to their thumb. This string was then pulled up through the coffin and the ground and tied to bell. If you rang the bell, a man whose job was to sit and watch the bell (ie “graveyard shift”) would dig you up and save you. From then on you were known as a “dead ringer” and the expression caught on as meaning having the look of someone else, in this case, someone who was presumed dead. Little did they know at that time was it was quite possible that the dead ringer was the actual person!

    “Fell off the wagon” refers to the guards that would take prisoners to their hangings. Apparently there is a legend in Dublin that if you are on your way to your execution and you pass a bar, you are entitled to have a drink. Well, in Dublin, there are a lot of bars. (Surprising, right?!) The guards weren’t supposed to drink, but if someone offered you a drink, would you turn it down? Didn’t think so. Neither did the guards, sometimes they had too much and they… you guessed it, “fell off the wagon.” They drank when they weren’t supposed to. There you go.

    The last stop was the most intriguing to me. Hell.

    St. Audoen’s church is the oldest, existing and still used medieval church and is located on the north side of High Street. The church is dedicated to Normandy’s patron saint Ouen, the 7th-century bishop of Rouen, or St. Audeon. Oeun died in Rouen in 684 but a church was built in Dublin in his honor in 1181-1212.

    Just on the outside of the city walls, this place was known well to criminals and degenerates. Criminals overtook the church’s crypt and used it for gambling, whoring and killing. The infamous 40 steps that run along one side of the church were where many people lost their lives. If you weren’t supposed to be there, you were killed; it was not wise to go there alone.

    Don't go up these alone and at night. ;)

    *Looking at these steps, the “gateway to hell” would be right behind you.

    At the bottom of the steps was an entrance to Hell. Down a tunnel that led to the crypts, criminals laid their plans of destruction and mayhem. Many times if you walked in, you didn’t walk out. Darky Kelly, a madam in the 18th century, ran her brothel down there. It is said that when she didn’t give up the whereabouts of her baby she was tried as a witch and killed. She was hung from gallows above a gate near the gateway to Hell. The intention was not to kill her, so after they “dropped her” they cut her down, her body falling to the steps below. They picked her up, tied her to the fence and burned her as a witch. Her ghost can be seen walking between two doorways, the gateway to Hell and a doorway where “Hell ladies” would leave their abandoned babies to a building by the church that served as housing quarters.

    Above the gate in the stone structure sat the gallows. Kelly hung from those gallows and when they cut her down, still alive, her body dropped to the steps below. She was then tied to the fence and burned.

    The doorway on the right is the "gateway to hell." The doorway straight ahead is where other "hell ladies" including Darky Kelly laid their unwanted babies. Kelly is seen standing in the doorway wearing green, crying and distraught.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    *Looking at the Gate picture: If you were to turn right you would see the entrance to the tunnel, or the Gateway to Hell. The door where the women left their babies is directly behind you.

    **Looking at the two doorways: If you were standing closer to the doorways and look to your right, you would be looking up the 40 steps shown in an earlier picture.

     

    Well, tonight we say to goodbye to Dublin, well, until our last night when we return here. Tomorrow we leave for Cork and hope to stop and visit Cashel Rock and Glendalough, particularly the abandoned monastery.  Until then, night!!

    Cashel Rock

    Glendalough

    Good Day from Dublin – Day Two

    Thursday, October 6th, 2011

    Hello all! It’s after four pm here and we’re about to head for dinner in about an hour so I wanted to give a quick update on our day.

    We started the day tracking down a piece of the original city wall of Dublin. It’s the only piece left standing outside although there are some remnants of walls in people’s and business’ basements. We have a picture of me in front of the wall so you could get an idea of it’s height, but we didn’t take it on my camera and someone, who shall remain nameless, forgot to bring cables to take pictures off of his camera. ahem ;)

    Anyway, here is a shot of the wall for all you history buffs out there:

    Original wall of the original Dublin City (Dubh - black and "Linn' - pool) in its original height and thickness. Cornmarket and Lamb Alley

    After we tracked that down the wall we ventured down towards the Guinness Brewery, yes, again and no we didn’t take the tour. (Although the thought did cross my mind) ;) We took some pictures of Andrew Guinness’s house located right next to the brewery and the actual St. Jame’s Gate.

    No, this NOT the gate, that too is one someone else's camera, this is just a door that said Guinness that I liked. :)

    By this time of the morning my toes were about to fall off so we hopped onto the tour bus and made our way to Kilmainham Gaol. This jail was heartbreaking to walk through. Created in the hopes of reforming the open concept jails and to bring solitary confinement to the inmates the jail lost its path when overcrowding due to transportation and the famine occurred. Kilmainham was used as a transportation spot for inmates awaiting their one way ticket to Australia. Other uses of the jail were used to house children who stole bread to survive during the famine. Honestly? Rapists, murderers, thieves and whatever else, I can see, but starving children? However, the joke was on the prison, at least in jail the children got three square meals and a roof over their heads. Unfortunately, that roof wasn’t the cosiest. Those cells that were meant for 1 person ended up housing up to 5. Many prisoners, including the children, were forced to sleep in the hallways under the open windows with the limestone walls around them condensing with evening chill.

    The hallway outside of the cells were overflow prisoners would sleep.

    Jail cell

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The jail was also in operation during a very uneasy time during Dublin’s history and housed many of political prisoners. In fact, with the exception of two, this jail housed every significant Irish nationalist leader of both sides of their Civil War.

    Our tour guide took us to the Stonebreaker’s Yard where 13 men from the 1916 uprising were executed. One of whom’s dying wish was to marry his sweetheart, Grace Gifford. The ceremony took place by candlelight and was witnessed by the priest and the guard. Joseph Plunkett and Grace could only exchange vows, nothing else. Later that night, Grace was allowed back in to say goodbye to her husband; after those 10 minutes were up she never saw him again.

    Site where Joseph Plunkett and 13 other Irish leaders of the 1916 uprising were executed marked by a black cross

    James Connolly, Commander, Irish Citizen Army was executed on this end. He was dying from gangrene that had set in a bullet wound in his leg he received during the Rising. Yet, British guards carried him into the yard, tied him to a chair and shot him.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After all the depressing information from the gaol, I needed a drink. We made our way down to the old Jameson Distillery. Now housed in Midleton, County Cork, the old distillery is now a museum and bar. Bar? Sounded good to me!

    Entrance to the old Jameson Distillery, now a museum

    I'm freaking freezing but I'm about to go warm up with some whiskey! :)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Well, my tummy is rumbling so its time to leave for dinner. When I get back tonight I’ll post about the creepier side of Dublin starting with crypts of St. Michan’s Church (I touched a mummy!!!) and the ghost tour we’re going on after dinner. Soooooo excited for that!

    So until then, friends! Slainte!

    Guinness, Anyone?

    Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

    Well, hello good friends! It’s almost 11pm here and I’m just about to get on skype to talk with my girls back home, but before I do I needed to catch you up on my first day in Ireland. We arrived at Dublin Airport at 6:31am, which is not terribly early, however when you factor in that our flight left Newark at 7pm the previous evening and we time traveled five hours ahead, it was pretty rough for me. Somehow I got into a routine of every 30 minutes changing my position in my seat in fruitless attempt to find comfort. You can imagine my elation when with an hour left in the flight I realized that I sat in every combination possible except for just sitting there and crossing my legs! Seriously people, it’s the little things for me and sitting in that position, first one leg crossed, then the other, kept me sane for that last hour.

    Off the plane and ready... for bed. Just kidding. We're off to our hotel.

    We’re doing a self-tour around the beautiful country of Ireland arranged by CIE Tours. Our first two nights are spent in Dublin in the Davenport Hotel. Today we were lucky enough to be able to check in when we arrived in the morning. After a quick cat nap, we hopped on the “Hop On – Hop Off” bus, a tour that takes you around the city of Dublin and allows you to get off at different stops, explore, then get back on at your choosing.

    Davenport Hotel

    Some of our stops on the tour…

    St. Patrick’s Cathedral

    St. Patrick's Cathedral

    Inscription: This stone was found 15th June 1901 six feet below the surface of the traditional site of the St. Patrick's Well

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    St. James Gate for a Guinness Tour

    Getting ready to go into the Guinness Storehouse :)

     

    My Goodness! My Guinness!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I couldn’t believe how smooth Guinness is over here. I really don’t know if I’ll be able to drink Guinness back at home after this… ok, I know, that’s a stretch, but still, I’m telling ya folks, it’s like drinking silk. At one of the cafe’s in the Guinness Storehouse we drank the water that is used to make the beer and that was the softest water I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if you can use “soft” to describe water, but really, I can’t describe it any other way.

    For dinner we ate O’Neill’s a true, traditional Irish pub. It was quite an experience since we had no idea what the hell we were doing. Used to the American way of dining of walking in and being seated, we meandered around three floors trying to figure out where do we sit and where everyone was getting the food. We couldn’t see any waiters or waitresses but food was appearing and drinks were disappearing.

    O'Neill's

    Mustering up some courage we jumped in a line and low and behold we ordered food and were served. Now that we had our food, we needed to find a place to sit. Which was no easy matter. Balancing an overflowing Irish stew with an overflowing Guinness we did our best not to spill everything. There were clusters of tables in the corner, one random table with two small stools by the stairs, a row of chairs by the bar; it was nerve-wracking and exciting and relaxing all at once. The Irish music streaming down the steps lulled our tense traveling nerves and encouraged us to just sit down and relax, and we did.

    Mmmm, Irish Beef Stew with Guinness and a Guinness. (Seeing a pattern here, folks?)

    So, that was our first day, now it is way past my bed time (I talked to the girls in between trying to upload these pictures!) so I’ll be going to bed now. Tomorrow we’ll be visiting a church with crypts, a gaol and we’re doing a ghost tour around Dublin at night! Hope to see you tomorrow night!