Thursday, February 27, 2014

UK: Dublin Feb. 21-24

We arrived in Dublin to a sunny Friday afternoon. We cleared customs and got another stamp on our passport. We ate at Celts for dinner, which is a pub and restaurant. Since the pub area was full they let us sit in the upstairs restaurant which was much fancier and we were accompanied by a few couples on dates. We had Balmers, the traditional Irish cider, which tasted pretty much like sparkling apple juice. 

On Saturday we went on a free walking tour and learned about Irish history by a hilarious tour guide. Later we went to the Guinness factory, learned about the process of making the beer and got a pint full of Guiness. None of us could actually finish it so we poured the rest into another glass which filled it so we could take the glasses home. Not sure if we were supposed to take the glasses, but they are in my suitcase now! 

Dublin Castle

The famous Temple Bar, the whole "Temple Bar" area has a ton of pubs and restaurants

A lot of street performers, including these guys!

Cheers at Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness factory

Emily and I went to a place called Banker’s bar because we were in the search for some good soup and brown bread. Both were delicious and we stayed for the comedy show. The comedians were surprisingly very good, despite me not being a stand-up comedian fan. One of them attempted to do an American impersonation of a Texan, which was so inaccurate it was funny. They also made fun of people from “posh” cities and it was great that they got so involved with the crowd. In anatomy class we learned about BMS shoes, which are the shoes like Sketcher Shape Ups which have the curved sole and supposedly help strengthen your ankles. We learned in class that this is a bunch of BS, so it was hilarious when one of the comedians brought up the shoes asking how people can walk on them when he would fall right over.

On Sunday we went to the Blarney Castle. We took a bus tour with Paddywagon tours, with just 5 of us, so they put us on a different bus which ended up being 3 hours each way. It was sort of a bummer, but we got to stop at a little town called Cork which had a lot of shops. Unfortunately pretty much everything was closed except the Burger King since it was a Sunday.

Outside the Blarney Castle

Me cooking in the kitchen

View from the top

7 years gift of the gab!

My first real sweater purchase!
We made it to Blarney and it was perfect since it was off season there was no line at the top to kiss the stone. We were caught off guard when we figured out what we actually had to do to kiss the stone. The grounds were beautiful and we didn’t have very much time there because of the tour so we missed seeing the caves and the rest of the garden area. We got to go into the Blarney Woolen Mills and I bought a giant cozy sweater and a headband for about 20 euros! Hooray for clearance rack! Next we went to the town where the Titanic left the port, but none of us when into the museum. It was a cute little beach town and we walked up and down what I think was their only street.

Just me and my new best friend

For dinner Emily and I made our own nachos with cheese, beans and salsa in the hostel microwave and got soup. All the bread was gone from the grocery store bakeries so we went into a random pub asking if we could just buy some brown bread. The bartender went to the kitchen and just gave us free brown bread. 

On Monday Emily and I went to breakfast at a pub. I got the vegetarian breakfast which consisted of eggs, toast, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and a potato cake. I ate the brown sauce with my eggs which is like a thick Worcestershire sauce but without anchovies. This prepared us for our horseback riding trip in Bray. We took a DART train to Bray, then a bus to Brennanstown Riding School. Emily had only ridden a horse once or twice and I hadn’t ridden a horse for probably 6 years, but the riding guide was so friendly and helpful and let us trot around the arena before going out on the trails. My groin and butt were sore for a couple days after riding! We went to the top of a mountain side which had an amazing view of the countryside.

On the train to Bray

Horsey riding with Emily!

These pictures don't do it justice

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Rome: The Ancient City and Colosseum

On Saturday we all met outside the Colosseum and started up toward Palatine Hill. It's amazing how much the ancient ruins contrast with some parts of downtown Rome. For a second you think you might be in New York city with all the metro stations and shopping districts, and then, in the middle you have such structures as these.

Arch of Titus

Even the rubble turned into an art form and became resting areas for those a little out of breath after walking up the hill. It's fascinating, though how most of the main structures are in such good shape and just as I had imagined them.

Roman Curia: The Council

Reenactment of the Assassination of Caesar

Colosseum from Palatine Hill
Although we didn't actually make it inside the Colosseum on Saturday, the view from the hills was spectacular.  We spent a couple hours exploring the hills, but the Colosseum closes at least an hour before sunset, so at about 4:30 and we didn't make it in time so we decided to come back Sunday morning before catching our train back to Venice.

"Suite" where the aristocrats watched

The Colosseum was huge! I wish we could have gone up to the 3rd story but the stairs were blocked off. Since we went right at 8:30am when it opened, it wasn't too crowded and was perfect for picture taking. With our Roma Passes we got to skip the line and go right in! In the above picture you can see the hypogeum which is the underground structure than was originally covered by wooden boards and sand. This is where all the animals and gladiators were kept before the fights! Imagine being in a little tunnel right next to some lions or elephants!

The view back at the ancient city wasn't too shabby either. Once again it was a beautiful Roman day.