Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kit says Hi from the East

Whoops.  I suppose I'm meant to be updating more often, aren't I?  Since I haven't, and I'm sure that at least a couple of people are curious, here's how the first week went:

(Skip to the end for summaries, because this is about to get verbose.  Click on the pictures for bigger versions and more; please excuse the fact that my camera lens is scratched, and thus I have a smudge in the corner of all of my photos.)

Monday July 5: Say goodbye to everyone; got on a plane, flew to NEW (Newark), flew to DUB (Dublin)

Goodbye, Vancouver!  See you again.... sometime.

Tuesday, July 6: Got off the plan in DUB; waited for Gonzo to catch up (spent 1.5 hours in the airport hanging out).  Talked to the tourist information people in Dublin and picked up transit/tourist cards.  Went to the Dublin HI (awesome, but tricky to find.  I think it took us about an hour to get somewhere that turned out to be 10 minutes away) and then explored Dublin on the hop-on/off tourist bus.  Found dinner at a decent pub with friendly staff and then went back to get some much-needed SLEEP (but we made it to 2200, so I don't think we did too badly)

Wednesday, July 6: Played tourist in Dublin all day.  Went on a guided (walking) tour.  Went to Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin.  Dublinia is housed in the synod hall off to the left.

and then Dublinia (essentially a "history of Dublin" museum) and then it was time for lunch.  We went to get cornish pasties from a shop we saw on the walking tour, and then hit up the Old Jameson Distillery (not bad; I might even drink it straight?), and went from there to the Guinness Storehouse (I'm not a fan; Guinness tastes like coffee to me; that sort of burnt flavour and I don't get along well.) Finally we went back "home" for the night, after a walk and some dinner, plus some ice cream.

Thusday, July 7: One more day playing tourist in Dublin.  We started at Croke Park, the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Sports Nerd in the company (not me, but I had fun anyways).  For those not in the know, the GAA is in charge of four sports: Gaelic Football, Hurley, Rounders, and Gaelic Handball.  I'm not going to go into details on them because it'd take too long.  Suffice to say they're all brutal, and Croke Park is the National Stadium for them.  From CP we went off to the Wax Muesum plus, which was... disappointing would not be too strong a word.  After the disappointment for the wax museum, we needed cheering up, and headed over to the pasty shop again, for more tasty pasties, and were recognized by the guy at the counter, before getting ourselves over to Kilmainham Gaol.  We made the tour group in the nick of time, and then spent the next hour trying not to be bored, because while the place itself is interesting, our tour group was HUGE, and our guide didn't have the kind of projecting skills she needed.  Also, she sounded bored.  And there were an awfully large nuber of details that would have been interesting if I were Irish, and knew all the people involved, but as it was, I don't, and thus didn't know the context of the information.  And that was Thursday.

Friday, July 8: Got out of the city today.  We took a tour out to Glendalough, the Browne's Hill Dolmen stone, and Kilkenny.  Glendalough (Glen da Loch in Irish; valley of the two lakes) is the site of the ruins of a monastic village, as well as the place where the Book of Kells was found, kept safe from Viking raids because the tower it was in doesn't have a door at ground level.

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That door is at least ten feet up.  We considered trying to climb up, but determined it would be inappropriate.

The views of the ruins and the valley were amazing.  Absolutely lovely.  From Glendalough we traveled on to the largest (discovered) dolmen stone in Ireland, weighing in at (speculated) 150 tonnes.  Pretty darn massive.  After that it was straight to Kilkenny, for the sake of the castle, and lunch.  It turns out that it's nigh on impossible to procure on-tap Kilkenny when IN Kilkenny, due to it apparently being crap.  The castle is...  another castle.  After a decent lunch we got back on the bus back to Dublin.  In which we arrived in time to find a postbox and then check in for our bus ride to London.  The bus-ferry-bus combination was pretty uneventful, though the ferry reminded us of the Spirit-class BC ferries, just bigger. 

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See?  Spirit class ferry :)

And paying for things with a combination of Euros and Sterling was fun.

Saturday, July 9: arrive in London absolutely sleep-deprived (the trip from Holyhead to London was not really restful; two people trying to find their respective spaces on a bus when they're only used to their own company is interesting) and without somewhere to stay.  The latter was resolved without too much trouble after a large amount of walking (past Buckingham Palace, and the Canada Gate at Green Park, and Guide House) and then some more walking, but we ended up at Holland Park YHA, which is directly smack-dab in the middle of a city park.  After dropping off our stuff, we went off to enjoy the city.  Meaning we visited the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery, and Trafalgar Square, and Picadilly Circus, and Leicester Square, and walked past Freed (but it was closed), and then came back to the hostel.  Where we bemoaned the exorbitant internet (£1 for 20 minutes; yikes!), did the necessary internet crap, and went to bed.  In the three-stacks of bunks.

Sunday, July 10: explore London a a bit. Wander about, a lot.  We started at Buckingham Palace, for the Changing of the Guard (one of those things that you have to see at least once). We also took in the Canada Gate

Canada Gate with Green Park behind.  Of course I had to share the one with the BC crest on it.

and the Australia Gate, and the "gift of New Zealand" statues and sculptures on the fountain. We also discovered the logic behind police hats and helmets, and the gender inequality inherent in the system ;) We went up to the Greenwich Observatory, and set our watches to GMT proper.  Stood with one foot on each side of 0°0'0" but no pictures.  Too many people.  From Greenwich, took the train a wee bit, and then walked to somewhere to see the Tower Bridge (didn't go all the way to the bridge, but took some nice pictures) and then walked to London Bridge, which was disappointingly boring.  

Continuing along the Thames, we, like the theatre nerds we are, made our way to the Globe theatre.  And asked about £5 tickets.  We were told that yes, they existed, and yes, they had some for that night, but we decided against staying; we'd missed the first 15 minutes of Henry IV (II), and the £5 tickets are for the groundlings.  And while standing for the show is authentic, it had been a long day (and no dinner yet) to spend 3 more hours on foot.  Instead, we walked over the Millenium Bridge, towards an unidentifiable dome which turned out to be St. Paul's Cathedral. 

Not your average cathedral shape in London.  No spiky turrets here.

Exploring on foot is great :)  From St Paul's, we wandered along back towards the touristy (and therefore open-on-Sunday-night) part of town.  We looked for a barbershop on Fleet Street, but there were none to be found.  One or two pie shops, though.  We also found the candy shop from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie.  Seriously.

Can it get any better?  I mean, really.  It's on the corner and everything.

Anyways, we continued on from Trafalgar Square towards theatreland, all the while avoiding the rabid soccer fans (there was some kind of game on?  The Spanish and the Dutch, or something? :p).  Saw a couple of hostels that were better than the one we were in, and finally made it back to Holland Park at about 2230.  Dang, that was a long day.

So, the summaries.

In Dublin:
The HI/An Oige hostel is great.  Wonderful staff, clean, fairly cheap, free wireless, and breakfast included.  10 minutes walk from the main drag.

Madigan's on O'Connell St is excellent.  Share plates contain enough food for two people (the way they're supposed to) and the toffee pudding is excellent.  They have good tea, too.

Do get the (3-day) Freedom Pass.  It's an excellent deal, and it makes it easy to get around.  Plus, the on/off buses are good, and the live commentary ones are quite a lot of fun.

Don't bother with a Dublin Pass (multi-attraction pass) unless you have at least 2 days to use it in.  There's just not enough time in a day for the one-day pass to be worth it.  Also, don't bother with the Wax Museum Plus (it's just boring, even if you're only 10) or Kilmainham Gaol, unless you're REALLY into Irish history. 

In London:

Figure out how the Underground works.  Learn how to read the map.  It will do wonders for your sanity and your ability to get around quickly, especially when paired with a Zone 1/2 daypass, as long as you pay attention to the service updates.

Find somewhere to stay before you get there.  Especially during high season.

Don't stay at the Holland Park YHA unless it's absolutely the VERY LAST option you have.  It's expensive, and the dorms suck.  I have no desire to pay £20+ a night (after the HI member discount) for a bed in a 20-bed dorm.  The staff are snooty, and while the breakfast is excellent (full english style) the internet is slow, and a ripoff (50p for 10 minutes, £3 for an hour).  It's also annoying to get to, and the kitchen is badly provisioned (in terms of dishes)

Walk around as much as you can.  The best discoveries are made on foot.

At this point, I'm almost a week behind, and I'll try to get things on track soon, but I make no promises.  Even my (paper) journal has been neglected for a few days...  Oops.  Anyways, till next.

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