Saturday, March 26, 2011

Patty's Day Weekend

Drumroll please...What you've all been waiting for...Patty's Day!! Patty's Day weekend was terrific.  Even more so because Ryan was here for the week, so I finally got out to the pubs and had a few pints of guinness (i didn't want to go alone to the pubs - irish men can be a wee bit too friendly!) On Patty's Day Eve (the night everyone goes out) Ryan and I went to the Temple Bar area. Lots of crazies were out - lots of green, lots of drinking and stumbling tourists...that area was pretty much chaos.  Nonetheless, we found a great spot in one of the pubs that had pretty amazing live irish music:

People really get dressed up for Patty's - it's almost like halloween, but everyone's dressed in crazy green outfits.  My personal favorites were those dressed as leprechauns and as priests (perhap's St. Patrick?)

The next day everyone gets off work since Patty's is a national holiday.  Ryan and I crawled out of bed around 11am and headed down to the center of town to see if we could catch the parade.  People get lined up for this parade starting early in the morning, so we really couldn't get any closer than 4 or so rows back.  The parade itself was very futuristic - not what I expected.  I was kind of hoping for irish dancers and bands, but there were more floats with techno and futuristic themes than anything else.  The irish bagpipe bands that went through were really great though!  My favorite part about the whole day was really just people watching and seeing everyone dressed up all crazy!  Babies with shamrocks painted on their faces, adults dressed as leprechauns and priests, and just a sea of green everywhere you looked.  Anyone lucky enough to have the name Patrick, Patricia, or some other derivative got free admission into the guinness storehouse for the day - normally 15 euros!

Believe it or not - no green beer!  I got strange looks from people when i asked if there was green beer anywhere...must be an american thing.  We met up with my friend Elaina from work and her boyfriend / friends later that night and hung out at the Hairy Lemon.  The Lemon is next door to the hotel I stayed at, and thank God I made friends with the hotel staff because the bathrooms at the Lemon were horrific that night!  Luckily I knew the staff working that night at the hotel so they let me in to use their facilities as needed, no problem.   Phew!

My friend's sister-in-law was really excited because she's taking a trip to the US in a few weeks.  And where?  To Nashville and Memphis! The "Real America" as she explained it. She was sooo excited and telling us her plans to go to Graceland, Dolly-Parton-World, Elvis-land, and to wear cowboy boots and ass-less chaps everywhere!  Sure hopes she brings back pictures!

Friday was a day of rest.  We got up for "breakfast" at about 4pm (whoops!) and went to Church.  And by Church, I mean a famous bar/restaurant/nightclub that was converted from an old Church. Ten commandments carved into the stone walls, stained-glass windows, and fully working original pipe organ!   Arthur Guinness was actually married here (see bust in center).

After breakfast if was off to The Woolshed - the only sports bar around that has March Madness playing on one of their 30 or so TV's off in the corner.  Needless to say, we spent a lot of time there watching the tournament.

On Saturday that weekend my friend Shampa was kind enough to drive Ryan and I with her boyfriend to Powerscourt Gardens in County Wicklow for a relaxing afternoon stroll.  Beautiful gardens and a huge mansion owned by  some really wealthy guy years ago and now open to the public.  Here are a few pics:

cool tree

After Powerscourt Shampa dropped us of in Ballsbridge where all the great Rugby pubs are right outside the stadium.  The crowd was absolutely wild!  Ireland played Englad in the 6 Nations match (annual tournament between England/Ireland/Scotland/Wales/France/Italy) and totally killed them!  Happy days all around because the Irish were not expected to beat England, and certainly not by that much.   To top it off you could snack on a piece of roasted pig that was turning around on a spit outside...or pass.

Sadly, Ryan had to go home on Tuesday and the long weekend came to an end.  Definitely wasn't long enough, but I guess it never is.  It was really great that he could come out here and meet my friends and see where I'm living and everything.  I think he liked the Guinness better over here too.  :) Hope to get him out here again soon.

Well before I get all teary-eyed and start missing him again, I must share with you my experience at the market this morning!  Little did I know, there's a fresh farmer's organic market 1 block away from my apartment every Saturday morning!  And it was really fab. I'm a totally obsessed with good food, so this was like a heaven for me! Got some beautiful salad fixings fresh from the local farms, freshly baked brown irish soda bread, fresh sheep's cheese, and some great olive oil. Also got some pork sausages (delicious!  tried a sample) directly from the hands of the farmer that raises the pigs.  Tasted so much better than anything I'd ever tried - no preservatives or additives at all - just organic pork and seasonings.  Happy animals = happy food. And my absolute favorite stand was the fish-monger from Donegal, about 3 hours north, who brought in all sorts of freshly caught fish and seafood from his locality.  I bought 4 scallops and walked home and cooked them for lunch - delicious!  I know where i'm going every saturday now... :)  So great eating food when you know exactly where it came from. What a great way to start the weekend! Here's there website:


Friday, March 25, 2011

Haggis in Edinburgh

Heya!  It's been a while since I've posted, but the past couple weeks have been very busy.  After a long week at the office (and a long day stuck at the immigration bureau this morning) I finally have some time for an update.

First of all, Edinburgh was AMAZING!!!  I truly loved the city - it's very gothic and harry-potter-esque (i think parts of the movie were actually filmed here).  Despite the snow on the first day, i still made sure to get out, attempted to climb the steep hill up to the castle, listened to street performers, and filled my belly with some scottish haggis: a dish containing sheep's 'pluck' (heartliver and lungs), minced with onionoatmealsuetspices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.

How they come up with these recipes, i'm afraid to ask, but surprisingly it was quite delicious!! Especially if you mix it up with your scrambled eggs for breakfast.  mmmmmmm.  Sorry to all you vegetarians out there!

Edinburgh's quite a small city, so very easy to navigate.  Everything centers around the castle, and the city is split into old town (gothic architecture, cobblestones) and new town (fashion district, businesses).  You can easily get from one side of the city to the other in a 15-20 minute walk.

Here's the castle:

looking out from inside the castle entrance

Perhaps the funniest part of the trip was the fact that the first thought that came to my mind when i got on the bus to get from the airport to my hotel, was how much the bus driver sounded like Fat Bastard from Austin Powers!!!  (keep in mind it was pretty late when i got in).  And it only got better from there - because soon I discovered that every man sounded like him!  I know I know, it's completely politically incorrect, but c'mon - it was funny.  :)  At least they didn't look like him!  Although I think if I stayed there any longer I'd probably start to get a wee bit rounder - the food is so rich and heavy.  Everyone at work told me to try the deep fried Mars bars - maybe next time.

Mary King's Close was a really interesting tour.  Believe it or not, there's actually an entire city beneath Edinburgh - it's how the city was initially constructed, with 5-6 or so levels below ground before the above ground parts were built.  The poorest of the poor lived at the bottom with no light (and with rats and all the raw sewage that got poured out of windows at 7am and 7pm).  Four families would live in a room that's about the size of my bedroom.  There were entire underground markets and everything.  During the plague, those unfortunate enough to catch it would be stuck down there and not allowed to leave - and no one would be allowed to get within 6 meters of them because there was such a fear of it spreading..  Lots of hauntings down there too from murders and all the people (and children) who died of the plague.  The entire city's haunted as far as I could tell!  Seemed like everywhere you look some gravedigger/haunted cave/ghost tour is advertised.  

You might ask why the people lived in such cramped quarters and didn't spread out further into the country.  At the time it just wasn't safe to stray from the city center because the Scottish were at war with the English, and there was no protection outside the city boundaries.  So people really had no choice but to live cramped on top of each other.  Now the underground tunnels, or "closes," are really just traveled by tour groups - no homes or businesses down there anymore. 

On a lighter note, here's a Scottish street performer:

Hearing this music everywhere while taking a stroll down the old cobblestone part of town up to the castle just makes you feel like you're living in another century - it's brilliant!!  Here's some pics of the streets in the old part of town.

Count on me to find the one thai restaurant around.  Had a nice lunch here.

My second night in the city I went on a literary pub tour - in hopes of meeting some new faces to share a pint with, as well as maybe learn a thing or two.  Well....I got 2 out of 3.  You are correct if you guessed the friends and pints.  This tour was hilarious because I could hardly understand a word the actors said during the entire thing! (I did pick up "slainte" which is scottish for cheers). Coincidentally I was not alone - I met some fellow Americans and a Swiss couple who also confided to me that they couldn't understand what the heck the guides were saying.  Granted, the Swiss couple was there to learn/practice English.  I think the irony lies in the fact that this was a "literary" pub tour.  As a followup - I'm trying to brush up on my Scottish by reading an Irvine Welsh book.  I have to actually read the words out loud in order to understand what he's writing.  You know what I mean if you've read any I.W.

Here's some pics from a local kilt shop - buy any kilt get a jacket FREE!  Better stock up!

Check out the legs on these fellas!

My last day in the city there happened to be a wedding at my hotel - I was right outside just at the perfect time to watch this:

So beautiful!  I know I've said I really want to get married on a sandy beach...but maybe we could throw a bagpipe player in there too?  

Here's some more pictures of the city...

At the Scotch Whisky Experience you can try 300 different types of Scotch whisky!  I took a pass on this one...

The weekend went by way to quickly, but it was a great getaway and hopefully I can get back there sometime in the future. And despite the difficulty I had with the accent, the friendliness and warmth of the people really made for a wonderful trip.  I highly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Street Performers

Back from Scotland - more on that later.  But for now, here's the pics as promised and a little something extra.

First off, Dublin has the best street performers!!  Last weekend I was taking a stroll down Grafton street and came across these fellas.  Not sure what they're saying, but it sure does sound good! (note-  you probably need to download adobe flash to view this if you don't have it already)

Here are some more coffee mugs I've had at work - trying to use a different one each day. Keeps the work day interesting when you never know which one you'll end up with.

One MILLION dollars...

Pancake Day!!

This is the castle in Swords (village I work in) - pass it every day on my way to work.

And finally, Dublin's version of Johnny Rockets:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Where's the Crack?

Yes, that's right - the Irish are really fond of their crack.  This is something that confused me several times during my first couple of weeks here - everyone's always talking about the great crack they had over the weekend!  Turns out crack (spelled "craic") is actually just the word for "fun."  I can see how it would be easy for an Irishman to get into trouble asking for craic in the states...

Week 2 has been fab.  I'm finally moved into a beautiful apartment in the city center, making new friends at the office, signed up to play on a coed-rec rugby team, and getting the hang of work.  One of my co-workers goes into the city center every so often, so we've met up for lunch on the weekend and she's shown me some great areas for shopping.  I have one person reporting to me at the moment at work, but I'll probably be seeing less of him over the next 6 weeks because he's taking an exam soon.

They love American shows in Ireland, so it's great having people to talk to about those great shows like Teen Mom, Celebrity Rehab, The Hills, Pimp my Ride, Laguna Beach, Cribs, and Jersey get the idea.  Ryan thought I'd be devastated without my awful VH1 shows! muahahahahahaaa....

I'd post some new pictures, but I'm actually in the airport at the moment and forgot to pack my cord to connect my camera to my laptop.  So you'll just have to wait in suspense...:)

Work has sent me on a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland for the weekend because I need to exit and re-enter the country to get my work permit stamped.  Not a bad excuse for a weekend trip!!  They're really taking good care of me here. Looking forward to trying out some interesting Scottish food - like haggis and square sausage.

Tuesday was Pancake Day in Ireland.  Everyone in the country eats pancakes, pancakes are served in the canteen (cafeteria) at work, and all the grocery stores were selling packages upon packages of pre-made pancakes.  So random!!  It's how they celebrate Fat Tuesday over here - a day to be gluttonous and eat yummy goodness before Lent.  I love that here they've decided that it's national Pancake Day - what a great idea!  Pancakes are sort of a rarity here - people only have them once a year as a treat - and my co-workers found it very odd that in the states people will eat pancakes for breakfast, and it's normal to have them more often than just on Pancake Day!

Some new vocab...
lodging = depositing (i had to ask about this one during my mandatory money-laundering training at work because i didn't understand the question on the test)
hire = rent
gilt = UK issued bond
quid = slang for euro
massive piss party = big drunk-fest (i.e. St. Patty's is gonna be a massive piss party!)
slagging = teasing
how are you keeping? = how's it going?

One other interesting tidbit - the national language of Ireland is Irish, but hardly anyone speaks it except in some parts of the west coast.  One of my Irish teammates is actually taking Irish language lessons at the moment.

Flight's boarding - gotta go!  More pics soon!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Porridge. With or without Whiskey?

Top 'o the evening my lads and lassies!  It's been quite a busy few days, but a lot has been accomplished.  Dublin is a beautiful and amazing city, and I think I will be quite happy here.  The people are absolutely the friendliest people of all the cities I've been to, and everyone - co-workers, hotel staff, and strangers - have been extremely helpful in getting me settled.

You're probably wondering about the title of this post.  Porridge (oatmeal) is a popular breakfast dish, and they happen to serve it with cream and "a dash of irish whiskey" at the hotel where I'm currently staying.  Thinking this was a traditional irish breakfast item, I of course had to give it a shot.  And it's delicious!!  However, after telling my co-workers about my whiskey porridge experience, I've learned that it is definitely NOT a traditional irish breakfast item, and no one had ever even heard of it before...go figure.

Believe it or not, happy hours are actually outlawed in Ireland.  As an attempt to curb heavy drinking, a law was passed that made it illegal for a pub to hold an hour of the night where drinks are cheap.  End result?  Pubs now hold entire nights in which the drinks are cheap (rather than a single hour), and people get even more smashed.

Finally found an apartment in the heart of dublin!  It's a nice 2 bedroom place 10 minutes walk from grafton street, a block from Trinity college, and 5 min from the bus stop where i pick up the bus to get to work every day.  Officially moving in on Saturday.  And just as an example of how nice people are here, the woman who's leasing the apartment to me has offered to pick me up with all my luggage and take me to the apartment, and then take me around town for any errands I may need - like groceries, linens, etc...  Because she knows what it's like to move to a new city.  Wow!

Note to self - The Hairy Lemon pub around the corner has AMAZING buffalo wings.  Thank you cab driver for sharing this secret with me.  :)

Some new translations:
dodgey - sketchy (i.e. "don't get an apartment near o'connell street - it's quite dodgey and you need to watch out for needles from the junkies")
porridge - oatmeal
pissed - drunk
table quiz - trivia
black pudding - NOT jello-chocolate pudding.  according to wikipedia, black pudding "is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled."

Food here is actually fantastic - I've had some great thai, and just had the best indian food tonight i've ever had for dinner.  so it's not all meat and potatoes.  it's definitely there for the eating, but the city has pretty much every type of restaurant you can imagine.

Most of my co-workers don't live in city center, so I'll need to figure out ways to make friends here (suggestions welcome).  Eating dinner alone isn't exactly the most fun thing to do, and going to a pub alone will probably just open the doors to unwanted attention from the drunk lads, which is the last thing I need.  So, my first attempt at making friends (besides co-workers and hotel staff) will be to meet up with a group of couch-surfers for a Korean dinner on Monday night.  There's a couch-surfing club here in Dublin that goes out to dinner together every monday at a different ethnic restaurant - so far some people from Ireland, UK, and Holland have signed up.  I'll be the token american. :)

Here's some local news from today:


And my personal favorite read this morning...

Perhaps the most bizarre place I've been since arriving in Dublin is the gym I just joined, Crunch.  I think they must have turned an old night club into a fitness center, because the place looks like a gothic palace/dungeon inside.  Here's what the entrance looks like.  I wonder if Bono goes there.

There's a kitchen at work with a cappuchino machine (sweet!!) and you get to pick from an assortment of mugs each day for your coffee/tea.  Today's mug speaks for itself.

And finally, I took these photos of the Liffey river on my walk home from work this evening.  I never get tired of this view.  That's all for now.  Cheers!