Sunday, May 29, 2011

My trip to Ireland: Dublin, Cork and Blarney

After handing in my master's thesis, I took a 5 day trip to Ireland with my friend Christopher. Of course, I brought along the 5D markII, expecting the Emerald Isle to be photogenic at least. I must say, my expectations were far surpassed! Ireland is a beautiful country - warm people with charming accents, livestock grazing in the greenest fields, quaint pubs, castles, history and more. I promise, no one is paying me to write this! It really is a wonderful place. I can't wait to go back!

So, without further ado, here is a photo tour!


Christopher and I took in a free walking tour

The General Post Office on O'Connell Street became famous leading up to the Irish fight for independence when it was used by the organizers of the rebellion for meetings and such
One of the first sights you will see as a tourist in Dublin is this statue of trade union leader Jim Larkin. He stands before the 'Spire of Dublin', completed in 2003 for €4,000,000, reaching 121m toward the sky it is claimed to be the "tallest sculpture on the planet," putting Ireland at the top of the international list for municipal phalli! Someone in the know, please tell me: are the the Irish just compensating or what?

Father Mathew, the temperance reformer, with an advert for what one might presume his suggested drug of choice would have been for the members of his flock who just couldn't keep off the booze.

In what appears to be a confessional right outside the main entrance to the Royal Palace in Dublin

Inside the Portrait Hall in the Royal Palace

The ceiling of the main hall, where important diplomats and head of state are entertained (including President Obama on May 23rd of this year)

Christ Church Cathedral, founded c. 1030 after the Norse king Sigtrygg Silkbeard, decedent of the original viking founders of Dublin, made a pilgrimage to Rome.

St. Patrick's Cathedral founded 1191

The very popular, self-guided, 11 euro Guinness Brewery tour

In the cylindrical "Gravity Bar" on the top floor, with windows all around offering a nice view of Dublin.

The Brewery from above

Finn's Hotel, where James Joyce's  lover, inspiration and future wife, Nora Barnacle, worked as a chambermaid. The two met on June 10, 1904 and six days later decided to take a walk together through Ringsend, a seaside village suburb of Dublin. That day is the one day that inspired Joyce's legendary literary masterpiece Ulysses.
Cafe en Seine is a really, huge cool art deco style bar with great decorations and a range of (albeit quite pricey) food and drinks

A burger joint

A drag show with touring American comedy team called the "Screw You Review." Very funny!

The Crann An Or, Tree of Gold, outside the Irish Central Bank. Now that the "celtic tiger" seems to have fallen asleep (or shot itself in the butt with a tranquilizer dart), Dubliners look upon this sculpture differently. Money no longer grows on trees, so to speak. Yet, the work was originally designed to symbolize the valuable skills of the Irish labor force as the true gold that just kept growing and growing.

Doors of row houses are often all painted different colors. It is said that this was to help the drunken men remember which house was theirs as they stumbled home from the bars in the evenings.

Christopher over the river Liffey

Est. 1198

Traditional fare: lamb stew and Yorkshire beef pudding with Bulmers ciders

Stuffed and a wee bit potty, we were back at our hotel - saying goodbye to Dublin. The next morning: packing up to head across the island to Cork.

On the road from Dublin to Cork

Approaching the famous Blarney castle, about 10 km from Cork
There is even a rhyme to remember when the Blarney Castle was made: "Cormac MacCarthy, bold as bricks, made me in fourteen forty-six!"Cormac the Strong was the chieftain of the MacCarthy Clan, and Lord of Muskerry. Formerly on this site, there had been a 10th century wooden hunting lodge used by the Kings of Munster. The castle itself was surrounded by an eight-acre enclosed area surrounded by a perimeter wall and several small watchtowers.
The MacCarthys remain one of the most ancient clans of Ireland. St Patrick himself converted one of the MacCarthy ancestors to Christianity. Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) is credited with coining the term "blarney" when she learned that the MacCarthy chieftain would not relinquish his ancient rights and accept the authority of the English throne. He would offer lavish praise of the queen to her emissary, but never agreed to her terms.

The stone spiral staircase gets narrower and steeper as you go up

Not for the faint of heart

At the top of the castle. There would have been a roof above the room where those people can be seen standing below. They are in what would have been the chapel. Below that, a banquet hall with an enormous, man-sized fireplace, and below that laid the family room. The family room had a stone floor, which is still intact. Since the wooden floors are gone now, one must imagine what the rooms would have looked like from remaining structural clues like the stone supports that held up the floorboards and different shaped windows.
Christopher kissing the Blarney stone: I hope the "gift of the gab" comes in handy as he completes the final draft of his master's thesis!

Yours truly, having just enjoyed my brush with death and anticipated eloquence
What we very well may have looked like from below, while hanging over the edge of the castle roof, kissing the Blarney Stone!

We learned the difference between blarney and baloney:
"Baloney is when you tell a 50 year old woman that she looks 18.
Blarney is when you ask a woman how old he is, because you want to know at what age women are most beautiful."

Poised for defensive action in an arrow hole

 "The murder hole: When the outer doors had been battered down, assailants entering the lobby below were easily 'dispatched from here' [ie: disposed of, rubbed out, sent to meet their maker] by boiling liquids, stones or other missiles."

The Poison Garden from above

The Poison Garden at Blarney is just another thing that makes this place so cool. It has been active since the 18th century and now holds living samples of the worlds' deadliest (and/or most psychedelic) plants, including Mandrake, Deadly Nightshade, Henbane, Oleander, Opium Poppy, Wolfsbane and Woormwood, just to name a few. The Cannabis specimens were seized by the Irish police (Garda) in 2010 and thus are currently absent from their 15ft 1/2 spherical cage.

Finally, I ventured down into Badger Cave, a series of tunnels under the castle that were purportedly used by inhabitants to flee when Oliver Cromwell's men besieged the castle in the 17th century. Legend has it there are three extraordinary hidden passageways from the cave: one that leads to Cork, one to the lake and one all the way to Kerry (80km away).... The castle inhabitants are said to have squirreled away all of the MacCarthy's gold down these tunnels while they escaped the English.

Fellow tourists and probable Blarney Stone survivors

Back in Cork, we discovered this strange window arrangement while exploring the town.

The English Market in Cork
Drisheen and tripe: local specialties...

Church of St. Anne Shandon: the clocks were installed in 1847 with the inscription, "Passenger measure your time for time is a measure of your being." The internal mechanism remains the largest clock in Europe. Still, the four different sides never read the exact same time, earning it the nickname "the four faced liar."

Old books on display at Shandon

Where we played the bells of Shandon. Set list from our free concert included such timeless hits as "Oh! Susanna," "The Last Rose of Summer" and "The Final Countdown!"

In the bell tower at Shandon

18th century bells, each with a different inscribed dedication

The view from the top: Cork city

Leaving the Emerald Isle