Dublin, Day 5: Viking Museum and Kilmainham Gaol (Jail)

Today was our last full day in Dublin–tomorrow morning we will get up early and go collect our weary dog from her overseas travel (poor thing, she didn’t even know what she was getting herself into joining our jet-setting family). There were still several attractions we wanted to see but, alas, time was running out.

First thing this morning we walked down to a restaurant my fellow traveler-friends have been raving about: Queen Of Tarts.

20130807-211147.jpg

And now I see why. The shop sells every sort of baked scrumptiousness that you could ever hope to find in one space. For a sweets addict like myself, this place could be big trouble if I lived close enough to visit every day (because I’m pretty sure I would go there just about every day). This morning We all had raspberry scones with raspberry preserves and cream. They were simply divine.

20130807-211527.jpg

After breakfast we walked across the street to Dublinia , a Viking and Medieval museum. Since Jon comes from Viking lineage, he really wanted to learn a bit more about his barbarous ancestors and their role in Irish history.

20130807-211930.jpg

The museum was really great. There were lots of interactive exhibits and period actors who kept things engaging for even the squirreliest of toddlers (mine). David got dig for Viking artifacts, sit in Medieval gallows, and try on Viking helmets.

20130807-212626.jpg

When we’d had our fill of Viking paraphernalia, we walked down the block to Dublin Castle. Dublin Castle was built in about 1200 and it was later used as the seat of British rule in Ireland until the 1920’s. It is now a major Irish government complex.

20130807-213531.jpg

We looked into going on a tour of the castle, but the wait was several hours. In my experience, waiting and little boys don’t typically go well together, so we counted our losses and moved on.

Our next destination was the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). The gaol was built in 1796 and housed many of Ireland’s most notorious criminals (and loads of other people who did terrible things like steal bread when they were starving…). Several leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned–and executed–here.

20130807-214105.jpg

We were able to snag spots on one of the last tours of the day. When we purchased our tickets we were forewarned that if our kids were being disruptive during the tour that we’d be locked in a cell and left overnight.

20130807-214426.jpg

Just kidding (kinda). Thankfully Jacob fell asleep in the Ergo halfway through the tour and we kept David busy with videos on my iPhone so we could actually make it through one whole tour on this trip. Hey, don’t judge. It worked.

The iPhone came in handy again after our tour when we boarded our bus back home. We barely managed to squeeze on to the overcrowded hop-on, hop-off tour bus–it was so full that we literally put David up on a shelf. He was seated between some boxes of tour pamphlets and a nice Swiss woman (who also managed to find a perch up on David’s shelf. Did I mention those dang “convenient” tour buses were crowded?). Anyway, Nice Swiss Lady let David play with her iPhone the whole 30-minute ride back to our bus stop. She taught David how to use this ridiculous app that makes all sorts of obnoxious sounds. David, of course, loved it.

20130807-215311.jpg

And just like that, our whirlwind tour of Dublin was over. We had many new experiences, a few incidents that I’d like to forget, and many great moments. I’m glad that we live close enough to return to Dublin some day, because it really is a wonderful city.

Until next time, Dublin!

20130807-220029.jpg

Dublin, Day 4: Double-Decker Bus Tour to Trinity College and The Guinness Storehouse

Dublin is a very difficult city to drive in: parking is a nightmare and the roads go in crazy patterns (so if you miss your turn, it could be half a century before you find your way back). Because of this non-drivability, we’ve been walking everywhere. Today, though, we decided to mix it up and try a hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus tour.

While it was fun riding the bus and convenient getting dropped off at each destination, I think the big red bus actually caused us more trouble than help. It took a long time to get places (the loop through the city took over an hour). My kids don’t do well sitting still–and remaining content–for more than two micro-seconds, so that was a bust. Plus, most of the buses we “hopped” onto were super-crowded and I had to give puppy dog eyes to comfortable-looking passengers in the hopes that they’d sacrifice their seat for a distressed mother carrying a baby, a diaper bag, a stroller, 3 jackets and an ankle-grabbing toddler. In the end, though, the experience did make for memories (and a cute photo).

20130806-211106.jpg

The first stop we departed our bus for today was Trinity College, a several centuries-old university in the heart of Dublin. As a former college tour guide myself, I just had to go on the student-led tour of campus.

20130806-210856.jpg

Our tour guide was friendly and witty and loud enough that I could hear her over the two screaming banshees we were pushing along in our stroller. It’s a beautiful campus full of interesting architecture (one dorm didn’t get running water and electricity until the late 1990’s–and now the entire dorm shares one measly bathroom), traditions (graduations are–and always have been–done entirely in Latin. The poor graduates can’t understand a word of their own ceremony), and colorful histories (a group of discontent law students murdered their law professor–and got acquitted in court. Hey, at least we know the late-professor taught them well…).

The most famous piece of history that we saw at Trinity College, though, is The Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a gospel book written in Latin by monks in the year 800 AD. It contains the first four books of the gospel, and it is beautiful. There are ornate drawings throughout the book and the text itself is so fancy you can hardly tell there are supposed to be words on the page. We almost didn’t wait around to see the Book of Kells because there was a horrendous queue, but I’m sure glad we did.

After we viewed the Book of Kells, we went upstairs to the long hall of the “Old Library”. It’s a massive room with hundreds of thousands of volumes of literature dating back hundreds of years (this library has a copyright agreement that entitles them to one copy of every book printed in England or Ireland every year–that’s a lot of books).

20130806-212018.jpg

After our tour of Trinity College we hopped back on our bus for our afternoon adventures. Jon was really excited to go to the Guinness Factory but, since neither me nor the boys enjoy drinking beer yet, we decided to part ways for the afternoon. Jon had a great time learning about Guinness brewing and learning how to pour (and drink!) the perfect pint.

20130806-212558.jpg

While Jon was at Guinness, the boys and I returned to the zoo to visit some of our favorite furry/feathery/scaly friends. The boys’ favorite part of the zoo today, though, was playing in the sand and hitting bushes with some sticks they found on the ground. Ah, cheap thrills.

20130806-212839.jpg

To round out our day we made one last stop in Temple Bar for dinner. We went to a restaurant that a friend of mine recommended called Boxty’s. A boxty is a bit like a potato crepe stuffed with savory fillings, and it is delicious. Really, really scrumptious.

20130806-213111.jpg

Another busy day of adventure–and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Dublin, Day 3: Newgrange Tomb, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and St. Stephen’s Green

For Day 3 of our Great Dublin Expedition we actually left Dublin and drove about 30 minutes north to a place called Newgrange. Newgrange (along with her sister sites, Knowth and Meath) is an ancient Stone Age passage tomb. When you first see it, it doesn’t look like much more than an earthen mound at the top of a knoll, but it is most certainly more than a lump on a hill.

20130805-152359.jpg

The tomb is old…very, VERY old. Since it was constructed long before people had a written language, the only way to ascertain its age is through carbon dating. Estimates place Newgrange’s construction at about 3200 BC–making it well over 5,000 years old. This means that Newgrange had already been standing for several centuries when Stonehenge and the great Egyptian pyramids were built.

Nobody knows for certain what Newgrange was used for, but it was definitely a burial tomb with deep religious significance. Incredibly, every year at 8:58 on the morning of the Winter Solstice, a ray of light reaches from the entrance if the tomb all the way to the central chamber and illuminates the space. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how people living 5,000 years ago constructing giant stone domes would be able to create such a flawless design. I barely passed Physics 101, so I know they wouldn’t want me on the planning committee.

20130805-153558.jpg

The tour of Newgrange takes you all the way in to the central chamber of the passage tomb. It would have been really awesome to stay and hear the tour guide’s spiel about the mystical and historical significance of this Neolithic wonder, but we were politely asked to excuse ourselves so the other guests could carry on with enjoying their day (“Ma’am, are you sure your squawking baby wouldn’t be happier outside in the fresh air?”).

It’s actually a good thing she asked us to leave, because shortly after we got outside David had an incident (c’mon, we’re traveling with two children under the age if 3. You just know something has to go terribly wrong). David was having a great time running through the grass in front of Newgrange and we were happy to let him blow off some steam. That is, until he ran across the field, pulled down his pants, and started to pee.

By the time I could catch up to him (running across this ancient burial site with Jacob in the Ergo and lugging 3 jackets in my arms), he was already mid-stream. Whelp, guess you just peed on the oldest sacred ground known to humankind, Buddy. Thankfully our tour group was still absorbed in their lecture, so I was the only one who had to witness the Great Desecration.

20130805-155523.jpg

Potty incidents aside, it was an amazing experience walking through Newgrange. Perhaps we will visit again some day–some day after our children are fully potty-trained.

20130805-155626.jpg

20130805-155714.jpg

When we returned from Newgrange it was time for the boys’ afternoon snooze. I seized this opportunity to sneak out alone while Daddy manned the fort. I decided to use my alone time to walk down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (because, after the morning’s incidents, I realized that sacred sites and toddlers just don’t mix well).

20130805-215456.jpg

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a 1,000 year-old stone cathedral that is said to be the spot where St. Patrick himself baptized new converts to Christianity. Incredible! Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels Was a Dean here and spent several years serving The Church. The cathedral is also where Handel’s “Messiah” was first performed in the 1700’s.

The inside is beautiful–full of marble statues, stained glass, and ornate carvings. It was breathtaking. The Cathedral Choir was also singing while I was walking around, their music echoing through the cavernous halls.

20130805-215831.jpg

It was a remarkable place to visit–and I’m so glad I got to see it sans-children!

By the time I got back from my trip to the cathedral, the boys were up and it was time for dinner. We wandered down the street until we happened upon St. Stephen’s Green, a large park near the main shopping quarter of Dublin (Grafton Street). We picked up some burritos to-go and had a picnic dinner in the park.

20130805-220520.jpg

The boys had a great time running through the grass, watching ducks in the ponds, and playing on the large playground. And, because no day would be complete without a treat, we stopped for gelato on our walk back home.

20130805-220641.jpg

A sweet finale to another great day.

Dublin, Day 2: Dublin Zoo

For our first full day in Dublin we decided to do something child-centric (perhaps if we appease the munchkins upfront they’ll allow us to enjoy some museums and cathedrals later this week. I know it’s probably unrealistic, but I can still hope…). The Dublin Zoo came highly recommended to us–and, as an added bonus, we have free admission thanks to our season pass to our zoo in Cork.

After a frustrating attempt to find breakfast before 10 AM (really, do Irish people not have kids that wake up hungry at 6:00?!?! If so, I need to know what “supplements” you give your children to help them sleep in), we drove across town to the zoo.

20130804-161720.jpg

It was a really fun zoo with lots of lively animals. David INSISTED that we find hippos (thankfully they actually had them at this zoo), so we bee-lined it up to the African Savannah portion of the zoo. Here’s David with his beloved hippos:

20130804-161945.jpg

The hippos were actually quite entertaining to watch, but I think the main reason David wanted to see the hippos was because he was hoping they would sing and dance like the hippo in his favorite YouTube video.http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zHDLUbssMIw

The hippos didn’t sing, but they did swim and chomp and pounce upon each other.

20130804-162654.jpg

By late afternoon, everyone was exhausted and ready for a nap (hmmm…maybe we shouldn’t wake up at 6 AM, children). We didn’t quite see everything, but we made some good progress. Since we get in to the zoo for free, we may go back again if we have some extra time later in the week.

20130804-163200.jpg

After a much-needed siesta we walked along the canal to an area with lots of restaurants. We typically avoid taking the boys out to eat very often (because they’re loud and messy and require more attention than the meal I just paid $20 for) but, hey, we’re on vacation. We found a great Asian street food restaurant called Neon. The food was good and (by Dublin standards) relatively cheap, so the place was busy. Just busy enough that I don’t think the other patrons could hear David yelling 10,000 times about wanting to play the coloring game on my iPhone, busy enough that I could blame the pile of noodles under our table on the family sitting next to us.

20130804-205538.jpg

The day was absolutely grand. No, it was brilliant (look how Irish I’m becoming–already using fancy words like grand and brilliant!). Brilliantly grand.

Dublin, Day 1: The Rock of Cashel and Temple Bar

This weekend we decided to take our first mini-vacation since moving to Ireland. Monday is a “bank holiday” in Ireland, meaning Jon has a 3-day weekend. We wanted to do something fun with the long weekend and get out of town for some exploring. And, since our fur-baby (dog) Bota will be flying in to Dublin on Thursday morning (yay!!!), Dublin was the natural choice for our getaway.

We left our home in Cork on Saturday morning and started driving north. One of my favorite spots that I visited on my last trip here, The Rock of Cashel, is just off the main highway between Cork and Dublin. Jon didn’t get to see “The Rock” with me, so we decided to stop by on our way up to Dublin.

The Rock of Cashel is an incredible castle built on a high precipice overlooking the town of Cashel. The Rock is reputedly the site where St . Patrick converted the king of Munster in the 5th century, and was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years.

20130804-153634.jpg

It is an impressive space to walk through and imagine what life must have been like inside these walls 1000 years ago.

David’s favorite part of The Rock was running through the cemetery (we got a few nasty looks for this one, but you do what you can to make history interesting for a 2-year old).

20130804-154231.jpg

It was un-Irishly warm at The Rock, making for some beautiful views of the castle and the surrounding countryside.

20130804-154430.jpg

After our stop at The Rock we loaded back into the car and headed on to Dublin. We are staying in a rental house that we found on airbnb.com. As far as I’m concerned, air bnb is the best travel tool ever created. The site allows individuals to list their homes for short-term rentals–and allows people like me to rent out a full house for the same price as a cheap hotel. Plus, you can rent castles on the website. Real castles. I will do that some day, but for this trip it was a bit out of budget. Anyway, our rental house is comfortable and close to all the action in downtown Dublin so we can walk to all of the local attractions.

Things don’t really get hopping until about 9:00 around here, so we gave the boys a late nap and then took our babies out for a taste of the night life! On our first night in Dublin we walked to the infamous Temple Bar area for some dinner and trad (traditional Irish music).

20130804-155214.jpg

We ended up finding a great place called the Vat House. The food was excellent and the music was so much fun! The musicians even invited the boys to dance and help play their instruments.

20130804-155817.jpg

20130804-155850.jpg

We were enjoying ourselves so much that it was nearly 11:00 by the time we left the pub. A late night, but well worth it (well, at least until the boys woke us up at 6:00 the next morning…but I’ll save those adventures for my next post!).