Thursday, April 30, 2009

I kissed the Blarney Stone and it was awesome!

Wednesday, April 29th 2009.
I woke up at 6am to catch my 7:10 Paddy's Wagon bus tour to go to Blarney Castle!! The girl who booked my tour for me with Paddy's Wagon said she had heard great things about their tours and so did a couple other people that I spoke to so I was excited to do it and it seemed like there would be a younger crowd of tourists on it like me. Their slogan is even "Award Winning World Famous Tours of Ireland" but that it was not, at least not from my experience.
Normally I think I'm a generally happy easy going person and I don't let things bug me but right off for this trip there were whining older people complaining about the weather, eating their stinky breakfast on the bus. Then as we drove the bus got all steamed up so we couldn't even take in the views of Ireland as we drove through it and also the 'tour guide' was just driving us and not giving us any info or history about Ireland. All he did do was repeat a few times where we were headed and that there were 2 groups of us, one group that I was in going to the Blarney Stone and the other group staying with him and going to the cliffs of Moher which he then says no trip to Ireland is complete with out seeing them... great for the 9 of us who aren't.... then he repeated a few times what the cliffs people would be seeing and never told us once what The Blarney people would do. Half way to Blarney we stopped to view the King Johns Castle in Limerick and the 9 of us got an even smaller bus to go to the Blarney Castle. This new tour guide/driver was Kevin and he was a way better tour guide with his thick accent from Cork and tried to fill us in in everything he knew about Ireland. He told me an interesting fact too! the Gardia (police) that they have don't have guns! they only have batons and just recently the government has thought about giving them tasers. I'm pretty sure they are the only police force in the world that don't carry guns! What do they do when someone is running from them?? "Stop! or I'll throw this stick at you!"?? but recently i think it was in Limerick they have been dealing with alot of gun violence so they brought in a special police force who carry guns to get rid of these bads and then they will leave once the job is done. Crazy eh?
Once we got to the Blarney Castle I was much happier, the Castle was beautiful!!! and was sitting on acres of land with beautiful trees and flowers around it, unlike some other castles where the city is built right on top of them. Quite smaller than I had imagined, and pretty much just walls, when you climbed up to the top where the Blarney stone is you can look down right through the middle to the bottom floor. Once i was

at the top it started to rain a bit but it was time to Kiss the Blarney Stone to get my gift of gab and eloquence!! I just took these photos off the net as I can't upload mine at the moment but this is exactly what I saw. In the first photo you can see the Blarney stone at the bottom, its just that little sliver of rock that looks dirty from everyone kissing it..... eewwww haha and then you can see in the other photo how one would attempt to kiss the Blarney stone. You lay down on your back and shimmy yourself backwards and an old old man holds on to you as you lean back. But looks may be decieving once you are actually trying to do it, it is much farther away than it appears!! Its kind of scary because literally you are hanging upside down over the side of a castle thats at least 3 or 4 storeys high and all you have is an old old man trying to hold you up!!

This picture that I found on the internet shows the castle and where the stone is. Not sure if this person put BS for Blarney Stone or for something else.... But that is exactly where it was and there is a big gapping hole where the arrow points so you are literally hanging out right over the edge!! While there I also learned that this is on the Discovery Channels list of 99 Things to do before you die! So I have at least one checked off i tried searching for this on the internet but couldn't find it right away so i couldn't be bothered at the moment... haha After the Blarney Castle I had some lunch and watched the news as I ate it and was informed that more and more people in Europe are getting the swine flu..... i'm in europe ...... oh well! :)
Then we drove back to Limerick to get back on our original bus and headed back to Dublin and we drove for 3 hours straight! The guy just bombed it in with no washroom breaks or anything. I'm not recommending these guys to anyone... but to each his own.
After I got back to Dublin I met with my friend Matt from Halifax who has been living in Dublin for the past 2 years at least and lives only 2 blocks from the hotel I was staying at! We caught up and I had another Guinness which I now really quite like and a few snake bites! I'm going to the miss the cider! Hopefully I can find it back home. It was a successful day altogether! :)

My Goodness, My Guinness!!

Second day in Dublin Ireland!! The first thing I did was eat a traditional Irish breakfast which includes toast, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and some kind of pudding - I of course left the mushrooms, tomatoes and pudding to themselves.... eeww hahaha so really it was a normal breakfast. Then I hoped on a city tour bus and took it to the Guinness factory! The interior of the Guinness store house is shaped like a 7 storey pint of Guinness and if it were filled with Guinness it could hold something like 14.3million pints which is what the entire world drinks in beer in a day and a half. They had a really neat graphic wall surrounding you like looked like Guinness was actually being poured all around you it was pretty cool. The tour of the place was self guided with a map you followed around with arrows on the floor and interactive tv screens every where you went it was great . With your entrance ticket of course you also got a coupon for a pint of Guinness if you wanted or any other drink, but really who would want anything else if they are at the original Guinness Brewery from 1759!!! Funny thing about the acres of land that Guinness owns right in downtown Dublin when Arthur Guinness first signed the lease for this land he made it out for 9,000 years!!!!! and this year they are now celebrating 250 of brewing!!! they have 8,750 years left on their lease at this location! its unreal really!! They teach you the whole process of how they brew the beer and then on the 6th floor you get to learn how to pour your own perfect pint of Guinness but as I'm about to do it I get told that if I pour my pint on the 6th floor I dont get to drink it on the 7th floor where the bar is, so of course I skipped the pouring and headed up to the 7th floor. The 7th floor is the head/foam of the beer and is circular and all glass giving a full 360 view of all of Dublin and is full of tons of people! I take a few pictures, hand my ticket in and watch my first official Guinness being poured. I'm a bit worried at this point as I've never enjoyed in a Guinness before, but when in Rome!! The bartender hands it to me and informs me to properly enjoy it I have to let it sit for 2 minutes to let it set. I find the only seat left in the place, wait my two minutes and drink one of the best Guinness's I've ever had! It was great!
After the Guinness tour I hoped back in a city tour bus and went to the IMMA (irish museum of modren art) and quite frankly it was quite lame and didn't compare to the Tate in London at all! After that I did some more city bus touring and went to Pheonis park which holds the Dublin Zoo this park is so huge it has over 300 dear and could hold two New York Central Parks in it!! It is also where the Irish President lives from what I could figure out and where the US diplomat lives. Sweet place to live thats for sure! I did some more city touring and some gift shopping then went to bed early as I had to get up for my trip to kiss the blarney stone the next day!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dublin, Ireland!!

Monday April 27th.
I had to wake up at 5am to catch the airport bus to the Edinburgh Airport for my 8:20am flight. When I got there, there was no line to check in but then the line for security had to be at least 200 to 300 people it was the craziest thing I had ever seen, but thankfully was moving really really fast. After I got on the plan within an hour I was in Ireland! Country #16!!!!!!!!
I took another airport bus into the city where I was let off at Trinity College founded in the 1500's by Queen Elizabeth I to educate the Irish. Its pretty much dead center of the city and has a huge campus and holds the "Book of Kells".
I found my hotel "Adams Trinity Hotel" just a few blocks down the street hidden in a bit of an alley way, checked in and slept for a good 3 hours.
Later that afternoon I explored the city and took a sight seeing tour to check everything out and that is where I first saw the Guinness Storehouse
that would be high on my list of things to do for the next day.
I also discovered the Temple Bar area which forever took me to figure out that it wasn't just a bar called Temple Bar but that the whole area of pedestrian roads and bars and shops were called Temple Bar.
At 7:30 I met the lovely Caroline Hall at my hotel. Caroline and I met a year ago and were on a Contiki Tour together of the East Coast of Australia and is from Belfast herself but is currently studying at Trinity College. Turns out she had won a radio contest and had a coupon for a free meal for two and a bottle of wine at this great place called Cafe Novo and the food was amazing and free!! We were so full afterwards but still had enough room for my first real irish cider. We went to the Temple bar area and drank what is called a "Snake Bite" which is cider mixed with black currant syrup. mmmmmmmmm it was good! here is a link about the cider i need to drink more of this when i get home!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Finally I've found an internet place with a card reader and since its raining I have time to upload some pics!

This is Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland and me trying to take a picture of myself with in in the background.

This is a photo of the Scot Monument in Edinburgh, Scotland at night time and to the right is a photo of the Three Sisters mountains on the way to the Loch Ness from Edinburgh very very foggy day.

Some lovely Loch Ness Mash that I drank on the boat cruise of Loch Ness and a picture of me with Lock Ness in the background and Urquhart Castle and some stupid person who wouldn't get out of the way.


I did see the Loch Ness monster I swear! and I have pictures on my camera but this internet cafe doesn't have a memory card reader so I can't upload the photos :(
Sunday was a very early day getting up at 7am to go on a day trip from Edinburgh to the Loch Ness and further up to Inverness before returning back to Edinburgh at 8:30 that night. My tour guides name was Brian, not the most authentic Scottish name but is accent and kilt definitely were. It was an amazing trip through the country side of Scotland driving past locations where Hagrid's house in the first Harry Potter films were shot, passing the William Wallace Monument and seeing many many castles. My favorite castle was probably Urquhart Castle which is now in ruins and is located right on Loch Ness. Right by this castle is where most of the sightings of the monster have happened. (all of my photos from Saturday and on are just taken from the internet as i am unable to load my own at the moment.) I got to go on a boat cruise of the Loch Ness where I bought a great book about the whole history of the monster and it's sightings and also I drank some Monster Mash, Loch Ness Monster Nessie Beer which was extremely good!! After the boat cruise we then drove the whole length of Loch Ness and continued on to Inverness. The country side was beautiful to see and the rain off and on with all of the fog just added to the experience, its hard to describe in words and I am dying to get my photos uploaded! We also stopped for lunch at the bottom of the Ben Nevis mountain which is the highest point in Great BBritain but it was so foggy we couldn't see the top so instead I tried some famous Ben Nevis Whiskey, straight up, it was nasty, but could I of expected anything less?? So I bought some! and of course I bought myself my very own Nessie. One of the best quotes of the day from the tour guide was 'You don't need a dictionary to learn Scottish you just need a spittoon!'
On the trip there were also many a 'Hairy Coo' spotted!! yes I said Coo not cow, one in particular was named Hamish and I got to feed him and we got along quite well! However I'm not sure if we got along as well as this guy did with him. (this pic was also taken off the net.)
Also I learned some things Loch means Lake, Glen means valley and Ben means mountain. Also we drove through a marshy, boggy, wasteland type area which was called Rannoch Moor with Moor meaning wasteland. When I googled a picture of it this is one of the images I came up with. I think I missed seeing Castle McDuck though... But take out the castle and thats exactly what it looked liked!!
I have now made it to Dublin, Ireland and have booked a tour on Wednesday to go to Cork and Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney stone!! I'll update more later!

Saturday in Scotland Part 2

At the Antiques sale in Edinburgh I had some great purchases. I found an old reel of 16mm film and from what the box says it might be an old Charlie Chaplin film and bought that for only £2. Then for £1 I got a great little gold charm bracelet with charms of different monuments in London hanging off of it, and also a great big huge cocktail ring that is really old costume jewelery. Just as I was leaving I spotted a great Egytpian charm like bracelet and bought it right away as it matches similar ones that I have from France and Italy. It has Pharaohs and Elephants on it. Really great but I can't post photos here :(
The rest of Saturday I did a few hop on hop off bus tours of the city which I thought were all the exact same trip aside from what the tour guides tried to tell me, luckily though a ticket for one bought me a ticket for all their tours so I wasn't that mad about it aside from the fact i wasted 2 1/2 hours hearing the same thing again....
I also got to Explore the Castle in the city! The first thing I checked out was the Crown Jewels.After waiting in line and being told the history and seeing paintings of the Jewels or fake jewels for 30mins finally I saw what is in the above picture. That was it, cool, but kind of a waste of time.... but cool. After that I went to the Prisoners area of the Castle which was really cool as they still had some of the original doors to the prison where prisoners had carved their names and stories into. Also they had their living quarters and all the art and things the prisoners use to make to waste their time and would then sell to locals through the gates for money and tobacco, and projected on the walls of the prison they had silhouetted videos of prisoners arguing and talking about their capture which was really great.
After the castle I also climbed all 287 steps to the top of the Scot Monument. Edinburgh is such a beautiful city and is in the top for my favorite city I've ever been to. That night I went to the famous grass market where a long time ago anything that ate grass was sold. Funny way to come up with the name of a place but that was it. I checked out some of the famous bars like 'The Last Drop' named that not because of drinks but because of the last hanging that took place in that very square. Also I went to the Three Sisters (not sure of the reason for the name) but it was a great bar in the city with tons of Hens and Bucks in the craziest costumes ever.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday in Scotland Part 1

I have a whole day trip planned for Loch Ness tomorrow so I'm not sure when I'll get to write about my events on Saturday but I can write some now as its mid-day saturday and write the rest Monday maybe.
This morning I got up really early and had an amazing breakfast on George St. at Centotre I think it was called which was conviently located right across from the Antiques sale i had heard about that was happening at the Freemasons hall. Good boiled/grilled bacon/ham stuff awesome scrambled eggs and toast with fresh squeezed juice for only £8.00 not bad i guess. I keep thinking these are canadian prices so I think they are great deals then i calculate in my head and worry about how much i've actually spent.... oops
After breakfast I went to the antiques sale and it was very small but awesome and I got some amazing charm bracelts, one was from Egypt!!!
but ill write more later!

Long Train Rides and lots of Sudoku

Friday April 24th.
A good chunk of my day was spent on the train from London, England to Edinburg, Scotland yesterday. 4 and 1/2hours to be exact right in the middle of the day but it didn't seem so long and was a nice scenic ride through the countryside. I think something that made the time pass quicker was Ian the guy sitting next to me who was from Massachusetts and is on a 3 week break from the Navy. Conversations with new people who work on submarines and playing many a game of the addictive Sudoku make long train rides seem to guy by very quickly!
After I got off the train in Edinburgh I was amazed at the beauty of the place even though there is construction everywhree as they are setting up for a new tram system. As I excited the train station I looked to the left and way high up on the hill was the beatuiful Edinburgh Castle! I had never seen anything like it it was really amazing!
I pulled my typically overpacked suitcase about 4 blocks until I got to my hotel which is beyond amazing (and it should be for the price!) tonight it is costing me £129!!! thats like $250can but last night (friday) it was only £65 and tomorrow it will be that again thankfully!
After I dropped my bags off I explored the city and took some great photographs of the Castle, the Scots Monument and of the city. In the Princes Street Gardens I met a wonderful old Scottish man who was talking to me about the Castle and the City but I quickly ran away after he was asking me to sit on the bench with him and hang out with him all weekend..... he was such a nice looking old man too haha I quickly made an excuse and took off and went to have some dinner. Tempted by the Hagis on the menu I decided to go for the real fish and chips and for only £9.50 along with a pint of beer it was probably the best fish and chips i've ever had. However at dinner I met two lovely ladies from Saskatchewan that I talked to about traveling and one of them who is originally from South Africa even invited me to go with her and her family the next she goes in September! That would be amazing if that could happen, but at the moment I need some more cash flow before I can even think about it! this trip is definitely draining away all of the government money i just got back and then some. But its worth it! After dinner I planned what I would do the next day to get the best out of Edinburgh and I booked a tour to Loch Ness for Sunday!!!!!!! I am so excited to be going to Loch Ness and am determined to get a photo of that damn Nelly Monster. I know no one has really been able to yet but thats because I've never been and I have a good feeling that I'm going to get it and make millions!!... we'll see I'll keep you posted....
internet is running out i apologize for errors...
more pictures to come!

Friday, April 24, 2009

On the Way to Scotland

Just about to catch my train to Scotland in 2 hours!!
Country #15, slow and steady wins the race right?
Yesterday was another great day in London, met with a few friends and ran into my tour guide from a european tour I did in December 2007. Its such a small world!
A good part of my day was spent planning. After paying an arm and a leg of course I have my travel and accommodation finally booked for the next week. Today I will take a 4 hr and 30min train from London to Edinburgh, Scotland and then stay at a ridiculously priced hotel for 3 nights and hopefully maybe make it up to visit Nessie. Then on Monday I fly from Edinburgh to Dublin, Ireland where I hope to track down some O'Neil's and hopefully kiss the blarney stone! On Thursday the 30th I fly from Dublin back to London for a couple of nights and then maybe I'll come home!
I also went and visited the Tower of London yesterday (which is a Castle but no one ever told me that! haha)
wikipedia says
''The Tower of London is often identified with the White Tower, the original stark square fortress built by William the Conqueror in 1078. However, the tower as a whole is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat.''
I was suppose to be meeting up with some friends and also because it costs £17 I didn't actually enter the Castle but got some souvenirs and took some pictures but might go back next week.
Can't wait for some yummy Hagis tonight!

''Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish.
There are many recipes, most of which have in common the following ingredients: sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.''

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tate, Tate, Tate!

Wednesday April 22, 2009 my second day in London. The plan for the day was to get up early and go to The Tate Modern and the Tower of London. I ended up waking up late and only seeing the Tate, but still had a great day. I wasn't sure how much I would like the Tate especially since I was just going in blindly and not knowing much about the place or what exhibitions that it currently was showing.
As I walked across the Millennium bridge towards the Tate I looked down into the Thames and thought of taking a picture of the water, just like an artist I learned about at NSCAD had done and made a whole photographic book about the water in the Thames, but didn't and just kept walking. However I was extremely excited just by a sign outside of the building before I even entered. The sign read 'Roni Horn aka Roni Horn'. I'm sure this doesn't mean anything to most but while I was at NSCAD I took about 3 different courses from this one teacher Stephen Horne and in every different class he spoke of Roni Horn. I've spent hours learning about her and have even written a few papers and now all of a sudden I stumbled on Roni Horn's first major showing of work in the UK and hadn't even known it. This also just happened to be the very artist I had just been thinking about as I walked over the Thames.
One half of a whole floor of the Tate was given up just for her work and it was very exiciting to see. However sadly you weren't allowed to take any photographs. The Tate then kept surprising me as I walked into one Gallery room I was excited to see actual prints and contact sheets of Robert Franks a favorite photographer of mine, then some Ed Ruscha paintings and of course some Andy Warhol!! I decided not to rush my visit and to spend time enjoying it all so sadly I took so long that the Tower of London was just closing as I left the Tate. To the Tower tomorrow! Later that night I wandered around and took some great pics of Big Ben. Tomorrow the Tower, seeing some friends and booking my Scotland and Ireland trips!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Europe April & May 2009

My first trip since I started my travel blog and I find myself in London, England. This is my third time here so sadly doesn't count as a new country. However on Friday I have plans of going to either Ireland or Scotland and then the other of the two on Monday. (Not sure which one I'll go to first). The plan is to go to Dublin in Ireland and maybe Cork so I can kiss me some Blarney stone. When I head to Scotland I hope to go to Edinburgh to check out some Castles and other interesting things! Before that I hope to maybe take a day trip to Stonehenge and Wales.
Its now the end of my first day here in London and all I've done so far is sleep and take pictures of Russell Crowe. Much more to do tomorrow like visit the Tower of London, see the Tate and hopefully meet up with some friends!