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Sunday, August 11

Seeing Ireland - Dreams Come True

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Note: We recently returned from three MARVELOUS weeks in Europe! In the last few posts I've shared our adventures with you {as well as some of the things we learned}. We chose to plan our own trip because we couldn't picture ourselves on a  bus with a bunch of other tourists. Whenever possible, I'll explore the myths & stereotypes that I've always heard & if they are true or not. I'm going to be honest about our opinions & experiences - in doing so, I hope I don't offend anyone. I'm also including links to many of the sights in case you want to learn more. 

I'm a little bit Irish . . . I didn't even know until I researched my family history & found several ancestors who immigrated to America from Ireland. Ever since, I've wanted to visit The Emerald Isle. Because of time constraints, we only got to see one little area in the east of the Republic of Ireland. As we expected, it was really beautiful.
Me & my {good sport} son, Jeff wearing "the green"

We stayed in a little town north of Dublin called Howth {pronounced like "growth" & some of the locals drop the "h"}.  Howth is on the coast & it felt a lot like California to me. We hiked around the Webb's Castle Rock area near the Baily Lighthouse & walked down a steep path to the Irish Sea. Of course, I had to stick my feet in the ocean. Even though it was July, the water was quite cold - which did not deter some adventurous swimmers - including a seal frolicking in the water. 
We ate at the King Sitric  {on Rick Steve's recommendation}.  I love fresh seafood - which we don't get a lot of in Utah - so we decided to splurge on this pricey restaurant. Although the service was good, the place was lovely, & the presentation was great - I'm sorry to have to say that the food just didn't taste that good. Sad, because our bill came to $207 {in US money} - keep in mind we don't drink alcohol, so that's just soft drinks & our meal. I had the lobster, so I got a cute little bib, but the meat was quite tough. {I did grow up in Florida, so I know good seafood when I taste it!} However, we decided we had a nice time anyway. Here are some pics:
King Sitric Restaurant, Howth Ireland - pretty, but I can't recommend it!
Howth is very close to Dublin, so we drove to the train station & rode in to the city for a tour. One of the highlights was learning that  Handel's Messiah was first performed in Dublin in 1742 at Neal's Musick Hall. The building no longer stands, but the Messiah is still performed every year in Dublin. We also saw noteworthy places like St. Patrick's Cathedral & Trinity College.

And we saw/talked to some pretty nutty people. {No doubt, some of them tourists} . . . 
The Kilmainham Gaol prison was very worthwhile & I would recommend it. This jail dates back to the 1700's & the tour is very interesting. Even though it was a miserable place to be, some committed crimes during The Great Famine just to be incarcerated so that they could have something to eat. Children as young as five years old were jailed & treated the same as adults.
Hundreds of hangings took place in front of the jail {L, bottom} as many spectators watched as a form of entertainment

And the notorious doors of Dublin were SOOO delightful! One of the stories is that after an English royal died, the doors of the cities were ordered painted black in  mourning. Which sent the residents of Dublin right to the paint store! Another story claims that because the men would come home drunk in the evening, the wives had the doors painted distinctive colors so their husbands would enter the right home! Whatever the reason, I love them.
 Also worth seeing in the area - Bru' na Bo'inne. But it will take all day, so get there early for a tour.

Myths & Stereotypes
  • The Irish have red hair. TRUE! I saw many people with beautiful red hair & darling freckles. They're adorable!
  • Ireland is part of the UK. TRUE & FALSE. Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom. "The Republic of Ireland" {3/4 of the island} is their own country & considered part of Europe. They also use the Euro for currency. But they do drive on the left side of the road!
  • The Irish drink a lot. TRUE. Even in the short time I was there, I got the impression that this reputation is well-earned.
  • Irish people are friendly. TRUE. Everyone we met was very nice. And the people we talked to often had a sense of humor.
  • They say, "To be sure, to be sure". TRUE. There are certain little sayings that we would hear & then turn to each other & exclaim, "They really do say it!".
  • They eat Lucky Charms cereal. TRUE! Just kidding - you have to get it imported from the US for about $8 a box!
Would you like to read more about our adventures?

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