Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dublin-New York-Chicago-St. Louis

Lydia and I had one last pretty awesome breakfast at the Conrad Dublin before heading to the airport. Mom and Tom... don't have Hilton gold status like I do. I'm a pretty big deal, as you well know. In my defense I did offer them our breakfast though. Lydia just about cried.

By far my favorite part was this whole freaking honey comb available. Bees: I'm gonna eat your food, and your houses, and if you cross me I'll eat your children next. I remember that time you stung me when I was playing barefoot in my backyard. I do not forgive. I do not forget.

There were little like vegetable puree power juice things available in little shot glasses. Mine was some kind of carrot and ginger concoction.

While we were checking out the hotel desk clerk asked us where we're from and then told us he has friends in St. Louis that he visits every year. Small world after all.

This is irrelevant, I'm just happy that there's an anthropomorphic potato man named Mr. Tayto out there somewhere.

Dublin airport is another location where US Homeland Security is rocking the Preclearance on the foreign side of the trip. Then when you land wherever in the US you are treated as a domestic flight. Maybe this is just to relieve congestion on the US side or something? I don't really know. If you recall they have the same setup when leaving from Abu Dhabi's airport as well.

I thought it was kind of awesome how much Kennedy is remembered in Ireland. It's funny because we were just in Berlin and his smiling face is plastered everywhere over there as well.

And then of course we landed at JFK in New York. He's everywhere! I guess JFK is kind of unique because airlines were allowed to design their own terminals. The now unused TWA terminal was designed by Eero Saarinen, the same guy that did the St. Louis Arch.

I mean, look at this awesome coffee shop. I like that retro space age looking style they had.

Well we came home on the 31st partially because my Southwest Airlines Companion Pass expired January 1st, and at that point my carriage would turn back into a pumpkin. One of the connection cities on the way home was going to be Chicago anyway, so why not spend New Years Eve with my pals Natalie, Joe, and Sus in Chicago? Great plan.

Good times were had but I felt a bit guilty, we were so jet lagged and beat up by the time we made it to Joe's apartment that we had little gas left in the tank for partying. I brought them a few delicious treasures from Europe though so even-Steven?

We hopped on a train at Union Station and napped until St. Louis. When we first entered the station there was a huge line snaking out from the departures area. Ok fine, we got in line. I started to look a bit closer though, and like 50% of the people in line were children. Plus adults and children had these ridiculously festive pajamas on. What the heck? Lydia quipped "what is this the line for the Polar Express?" A parent turned around with these giant shiny golden tickets in her hand and said "yes it is." It was pretty funny.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Prehistoric Ruins and Guinness

We took one last little road trip out of Dublin to the prehistoric monument of Newgrange.

According to Wikipedia the site "It was built during the Neolithic period around 3000 BC to 2500 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids." Our guide told us that when this burial mound was built there were still woolly mammoths in Europe.

We made a friend that followed our tour bus and then sniffed around our tour group for a while before wandering off.

You can kind of see that there are two separate entrance holes. The bottom one is for people to enter, and the top one is for the sun. Natural light only enters the tomb for a few minutes on a few days during the winter solstice. I was initially disappointed that we had missed that awesome experience by only a few days, but it sounds like tickets are pretty hard to get. The interior of the tomb is tiny, only like 15 people could probably fit inside comfortably despite how giant the thing is on the outside. 

The giftshop was amusing.

Here's that craic "crack" word that I talked about previously.

Back in Dublin we ate lunch at Nando's, which is a Portuguese style chicken chain. It's funny I remember some friends talking about it when I visited Australia so when I saw it here I jumped at the chance. I think everyone enjoyed it. There's one in Chicago now apparently.

We force marched poor Tom and Mom across town to the Jameson distillery. When we got there they were booked up which was a pretty big disappointment. I felt bad that we hadn't booked ahead online but I didn't know that was even necessary.

Our plan B was the Guinness brewery. It's pretty expensive to get in so I had been avoiding it but what the heck.

So we arrived at the door to the visitor center and there was a giant line. We asked the guys guarding the doors and it was like an hour wait, which was going to conflict with the Christmas Pantomime show we had booked. We were just about to give up when Lydia pulled a miracle. One of the door guys seemed sympathetic and when Lydia told him we had a panto to go to, he perked right up and walked us inside in front of everyone who had been waiting in line. The guy at the ticket counter was initially skeptical of us cutting ahead but then was like "oh you have tickets to a panto? I haven't heard that one before." That's right you haven't. We keep it real.

Tom playing with the giant sandbox full of Guinness barley.

I like how everyone that makes any sort of alcohol raves about how magical their water is.

There was a whistling oyster.

There was a fun photo booth thing that we took advantage of.

We finished our tour with a complimentary pint.

We took a taxi to the panto at the Gaiety Theatre straight away.

I was a little worried in light of how many kids were at this show, but it ended up being one of those things where it's entertaining for kids but there's also a lot of winks and nods to adults. There was a lot of audience participation.. mostly in the form of yelling things at the actors.

The plot was loosely based on Red Riding Hood but was had about every fairy tale character in it that you could think of. For example the wolf and the woodsman had a confrontation and ended up doing that "Watch Me Whip/Nae Nae" dance together.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Cliffs of Moher

We rolled out of our rather tiny beds at McGann's pub and took a look around.

Our BMW rental chariot.

Today was fun because I feel like we really took advantage of the fact we had a rental car and near complete freedom over our destiny. On our way to Doolin I saw a sign pointing to the Cliffs of Moher. That sounded awfully familiar, and sure enough, it was an awesome place that wasn't far away at all.

It was especially sweet because we got there so early that there was no one manning the ticket booth and we just strolled on in.

We poked around in the gift shop there a bit first.

This was amusing because there's a restaurant in St. Louis called Three Kings that serves a sandwich called the "pog mo thoin" and I never knew what it meant until today.

There was a visitor center next to the gift shop with some amusing exhibits. This was a very outdated looking attempt at a virtual tour of the cliffs. Plus the cliffs are just outside so... why do I need to imagine what they look like with rough Sega Saturn graphics?

This is a pretty crazy video about how the continents formed and moved around on earth to get to the present day.

There were signs with very specific rules at the cliffs. No walking through fires when birds are watching is an important one.

No kicking monster truck tires.

It was a tad bit windy.

The Cliffs of Moher stood in as the Cliffs of Insanity in The Princess Bride, had a scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Maroon 5's "Runaway" video might as well be a Cliffs of Moher tourism advertisement.

In Ireland old castles are about as common as old barns are in Illinois.

We came to some especially narrow roads and did a lot of reversing.

We spent some looking around another ruined monastery called the very fun to say Clonmacnoise.

I found a little gem in the guide book while we were driving that we just couldn't afford to miss: Sean's Bar in Athlone. It's only the oldest pub in Ireland! According to its website "Sean's Bar has been researched thoroughly by the Guinness Book of Records and proudly holds the record for "The Oldest Pub in Ireland" with an official dating of 900AD. Research is ongoing into the title of "The Oldest Pub in the World"; so far, nothing older has been found." Boom.

The floors were covered in saw dust. Or maybe it had hard wood floors but after 1000 years of people river dancing on it the dust is all that's left?

I had an awesome conversation with a local about whiskey.

We had lunch around the corner from the pub. Mom was trying to be safe by ordering a ham and cheese sandwich but ended up with this crazy modern art piece on her plate.

Whining about taxes seems to translate well.

When we stopped for gas I grabbed a bag of my favorite Englishy candy.

We made it back to Dublin in one piece and checked in to the swanky Conrad Dublin.

I don't know who keeps encouraging Lydia to try on all of these ridiculous hats.

Stephen's Green Shopping Centre looks awesome inside.

We were back at the hotel and it was raining again so Lydia and I just gave up and ordered a pizza. I mean, sure it was Dominoes but the option to add potato wedges really gave the experience that Irish pizzazz.