Friday, July 29, 2016

Past POIs - Guinness Storehouse [Dublin, Ireland]

Located in Dublin Ireland is the Guinness Storehouse which is something that Allison wanted to see, which was odd since she doesn't drink, but continue reading to find out why we ended up going and if it is worthwhile!

The 6 floors of the Guinness Storehouse.
Inside the Guinness Storehouse.
The Guinness Storehouse is 6 floors of Guinness, which is odd, since there is no 6th floor, it goes from 5th to 7th. The site is where they used to make Guinness in the past and now is a museum and tourist attraction dedicated to showing everyone how they make Guinness and what makes it unique. They also go through taste testing where they show you how you are supposed to drink it.

Me with four 1st pour Guinness'
Now, with your ticket is a voucher which gives you one pint of Guinness which is redeemable at the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor or you can go to the 4th floor and learn how to properly pour a pint of Guinness and at the end of the lesson, you get a certificate to acknowledge that you know how to do so. And this certificate is the reason that we came. The lesson is actually pretty neat since you actually need to do two pours in order to make a pint of Guinness and the glasses that they make are actually designed to assist the bartender to show them when they should stop. I thought it was actually quite interesting to learn how it is done. After we finished the lesson, we went to Gravity Bar and the place is packed, it made me glad that we did the lesson instead of trying to grab our pint there. It does provide a very nice view of the surrounding area though.

Our finished products.
We spent roughly 2.5 hours here and the tour is at your own pace. You can purchase tickets online, however the price is the same as if you walk in. Don't worry about the line, the storehouse is really big once you go inside.

Visit the official site for more information at https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Past POIs - Kylemore Abbey [Connemara, Ireland]

Originally built by Mitchell Henry in 1871 as a gift to his wife Margaret is Kylemore Abbey, which spans over 15,000 acres. It was later sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1903 and was sold to the nuns of the Benedictine Order in 1920 who are the current owners of the property.


Now, open to the public and visitors are able to visit the grounds and go on hikes as well on the property. There is a nice tea room for a bite to eat if you are hungry, the Kylemore Abbey itself, the Victorian Walled Gardens, the Gothic Church just to name a few things that you can see while here.


If you come, make sure to buy your tickets online since you do save 10% at the time of this post. It is far from Galway, so you will need to drive there or sign up for a bus tour.


It is a very nice place and well worth a visit. Although after going to it, I was reminded of our trip in Eastern Europe where we drove to Neuschwanstein Castle, just in terms of it being rainy, a bit of a drive from the main city area.


For more information, visit the official site at http://www.kylemoreabbey.com/


Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Past POIs - Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge [Ballintoy, Northern Ireland]

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is likely a stop that you will visit when you visit Northern Ireland due to it's popularity and proximity to The Giant's Causeway.


Located in Ballintoy, Northern Ireland, the first rope bridge was built in 1755 by salmon fisherman so that they could cross to Carrick-a-Rede Island instead of relying on boats to do so. Over the years it has gone through many iterations and changes to get to where it is today.


Salmon fishing was really popular and profitable back in the days. Fisherman would catch up to 300 fish a day! However, it declined rapidly and by 2002, only 250 salmon were caught in total from spring to autumn and that's when they stopped fishing here.


The rope bridge itself is almost 100 ft (30 m) above sea level, so it isn't for the faint of heart. And just before the rope bridge is a very steep ladder just to get down to the bridge. There are attendants on both ends of the bridge to ensure that the bridge only has a maximum of 8 people at a time for safety.

You can check the official website for details on hours of operation and cost since it is likely to change periodically. It does get roughly 250,000 visitors annually which is pretty impressive. On a clear day, you are supposed to be able to see Scotland from here.

For more information visit the official website at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carrick-a-rede

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Past POIs - Trinity College Library [Dublin, Ireland]

One of my must-sees while in Dublin, Ireland is the Trinity College Library. While I was there primarily for the Long Room, the Book of Kells exhibit that was there was pretty interesting as well.

Trinity College Library Long Room.
The Trinity College Library is the largest research library of Ireland and is designated as the legal deposit library for the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, which means that they will get a copy of every book published within those countries. This amounts to over 100,000 new books every year and the library itself contains over 5,000,000 books, manuscripts, maps, and printed music.

Trinity College Library Long Room.
They don't allow photography in the Book of Kells exhibit, however, you can take photos in the Long Room. Admissions grants you access to the Book of Kells exhibit, seeing the Book of Kells itself, and the Long Room.

Your duration of stay depends on how much time you spend in the Book of Kells exhibit and how long you take in the Long Room. We spent about 1 hour here. Make sure to come early since tours happen and they have priority.

For more information, visit the official site at https://www.tcd.ie/visitors/book-of-kells/

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

2016 - Ireland Summary

Duration: 11 full days (June 6, 2016 to June 18, 2016)
Cost: $730 (flight) + $600 (car rental plus mandatory insurance) + $960 (accommodations)

Highlights

In no particular order, this is my list of top 3 things that I enjoyed while I was in Ireland that I saw during our trip. Obviously, there are things that we didn't fit in that may have been better.

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, this was one of my goal spots to visit when we decided to visit Ireland and so we made it a priority to see it at the beginning of the trip versus the end of the trip. We ended up visiting the site on the second day that we arrived and it was really really cool. You definitely should try to get here as early as you can to beat the crowds but this is a definite must-see for me while you are in Ireland. It is roughly 3 hours away from Dublin by car, however, there are tour buses that take you there from Dublin if you don't want to drive yourself. It is just like the pictures, however, it isn't as big as I imagined, then again, I probably had ridiculous ideas for how big it would be.

Rock columns of Giant's Causeway.
Rock columns of Giant's Causeway.
Me at Giant's Causeway.
Oddly timed photo at Giant's Causeway.
Slea Head Drive in Dingle, we had heard that Dingle is a very cute and nice little town to visit, however, it is a bit out of the way and initially we thought that we would skip this and I'm glad that in the end, we made it here. Slea Head Drive is the coastal scenic drive all along the peninsula and is a must do while you are here if you happen to be in Dingle. There are fantastic views, a bunch of car stop areas and it is in general, very beautiful. It isn't a long drive at roughly 2 hours in length depending on your stops and what you do. Take your time and make sure you go clockwise since the tour buses do the same.

Slea Head Drive.
Slea Head Drive.
Slea Head Drive.
Slea Head Drive.
Slea Head Drive.

Trinity College in Dublin, it is located within the university and you should definitely come early here as well. It is just like the pictures, although the purpose of most people's visit may actually be the Book of Kells which is one of the oldest books around. My goal was to visit the library and it met my expectations. It looks just like the photos and it is just so nice to look at. It doesn't matter that you aren't a book reader, if the pictures look interesting, pay them a visit.

Trinity College.
Trinity College.
Lowlights

Oddly, nothing in my mind stood out at disappointing. The most disappointing thing was the tower at Cliffs of Moher which you should avoid, but that's it. All the sites were very nice and worth while. I guess the only thing that can be an issue is really the weather. It is very unpredictable here and unfortunately, we arrive after 10 days of sun! It can go from sunny to cloudy, rainy, thunderstorm, and back to sunny all in the same day, or even all in the same 2 hour drive. You just need to plan that the weather will be bad and you should be okay.

Food Suggestions:

McGann's, best Lamb Shank and Fish and Chips we had while in Ireland. If you are in the Doolin area, make sure to visit here.

Fish and Chips and Lamb Shank at McGann's.
Anchor Down, very fresh and local seafood. A new restaurant in the area and we only found out about it from the tourist information booth. The owners are actually fishermen and they only sell what they catch, how can you go wrong? We actually liked it so much we went for dinner one night and lunch the following day!

Assorted starters at Anchor Down.
Lemon Hake at Anchor Down.
What would I change?

I know that during our visit, we visited a majority of the major sites, however, we missed the northwest side and the southeast side of Ireland. Obviously we couldn't hit everything during 11 days, but I think our itinerary was good, no changes in my mind.

Tips

Driving here can be challenging for some. If you are like me, you drive on the right-side of the road instead of the left, this meant that there were some challenges. You drive on the opposite side of the road, you can parallel parking in either direction, and there are a lot of roundabouts. I found that as long as there is traffic, you will not revert back to how you normally drive. For turning, I always mentally told myself that turning right means left and left means right. What this did for me was, if I turn left, I only looked left for pedestrians, and when I turn right, I need to look for oncoming traffic. I found that this was helpful and I quickly knew how to drive.

Final Thoughts

Ireland and Northern Ireland are very lovely and scenic countries. Make sure that you travel around if you come because if you land in Dublin, like most tourist would, it just reminds you of a regular city, the real charm is outside. If you can, do rent a car so that you can go at your own pace. I wouldn't be too concerned about driving on the opposite side unless you worry about driving in general. In my mind, a must visit country if you like scenic views, drives, and just a lot of pretty sites with a lot of very nice people.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ireland - Day 11 (Dublin)

Today, Glasnevin Cemetery tour and Kilmainham Gaol as our last day here.

Glasnevin Cemetery.
Glasnevin Cemetery.
Glasnevin Cemetery.
Started the day with Glasnevin tour which was about the 1916 Rising which after the tour, we still didn't quite understand much. 9:30am was the start of the tour and it lasted for 1.5 hours, it was too specific for us and since we did not know the history being the 1916, it didn't help us much at all. There is a general history tour, so that might have been better. The cemetery itself is really neat though, and hearing a bit of the history of it, the significance, and the cemetery itself, I thought was very neat and well worth visiting if you can. The tour cost us €24 for both. You can walk the cemetery for free and there is a parking lot nearby with cheap parking (I think it was €2 for 3 hours).

National Botanic Gardens.
Crostinis at The Gravediggers.
Pasta Bake at The Gravediggers.
Lunch will be at The Gravediggers which is nearby, however since we were still to early for lunch, we walked to the National Botanic Gardens next door for a little bit. The Gardens are very nice looking and very big, it is unfortunately that we didn't have more time to spend here.

The Gravediggers is the local pub which has been here for over 100 years! We ordered the pasta bake and the crostinis. It cost us just over €11, the portions are reflective of the cost, they were both smaller than what we have been used to seeing, however, the crostinis was really nice. The pasta bake was skippable. The menu changes daily, so you might not see what we ordered. Next to the restaurant is their pub and you should step inside for a look, it is really old and you can see how things were back in the day.

Kilmainham Gaol.
Kilmainham Gaol.
Kilmainham Gaol is next and we were there for the 2:45pm tour. If you need parking, park at the nearby Museum of Modern Art since there is no actual parking on site. It is about a 10 minute walk away and it cost about €3 for 3 hours if I remember correctly.

Kilmainham Gaol.
The Gaol was a bit boring compared to Crumlin Gaol. Kilmainham had a lot of history behind the 1916 Rising members, which again, we weren't very familiar with, so the tour was a bit lost on us. The interior was bigger in the hall area, which you can see from the photos, but the tour itself was quick, happened every 15 minutes, and we were done in 1 hour exactly. It seemed more rushed than Crumlin which might be why I was disappointed with this one.

Cottage Pie at Madigan's.
Gaelic Chicken at Madigan's.
With the Gaol finished, we decided to do some shopping in the shopping area and we ended up at Madigan's for dinner. Ordered the Gaelic Chicken and the Cottage Pie. The food was okay, nothing special. Cost us just under €28.

Sweet Republic.
We wandered the area a bit and ended up at Sweet Republic for dessert. We got a milkshake and an ice cream for €7.20. The ice cream here is REALLY big, so don't be scared by the price.

Overall, based on today's experience, if we had learned a bit about the 1916 Rising, we might have appreciated things more, but since we didn't, it felt a bit disappointing.

Tomorrow, we fly back to Toronto, so this will be my last daily post.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Ireland - Day 10 (Dublin)

Today, we visit Trinity College and wander the city center area.

We arrived at Trinity College at around 8:45am and we stayed for about an hour. The price of admission includes an exhibit about the Book of Kells and the library itself. I didn't really enjoy the exhibit itself, but you might. However, I really liked the library. Take a look for yourself at some pictures that we took.

Trinity College.
Trinity College.
Onto the next library, Chester Betty Library! It is a short walk away and we were there between 30-45 minutes. The library is open to the public and free. There is a short video about the history behind the library and how the collection came to be. Allison found this place and it was very fascinating how one individual was able to collect so many really old and rare books and items of mostly Asian cultures and backgrounds. Definitely come and have a look if you are in the area. Photography is not allowed.

Chester Beatty Library.
City Hall as next and worth a visit, it takes maybe 15 minutes depending on how much history you want to read at the free exhibit, make sure to go see the rotunda while there.

City Hall Rotunda. 
City Hall Rotunda.
Umi Falafel is where we went for lunch and it cost us €14.50 for a lunch for two combo which included falafels, hummus, spinach leaf wraps, and some deep fried spinach leaves. It was good and worth a stop and it made me happy that generic pub menus were gone.

Umi Falalel.
Guinness Storehouse was next and we made it there for 1:45pm. You can buy tickets online, but there really didn't seem like a need to do so. With the coupon book that Allison found, we got 10% off here. The storehouse is fairly large and there is a lot to learn and play around here. You learn about the history behind the storehouse, how beer is made, you can go through the taste tasting area where they explain Guinness, there's a section where you can learn how to pour a beer and you can also visit the 360 degree lounge/bar at the top.

Guinness Storehouse.
Guinness Storehouse.
Guinness Storehouse.
Guinness Storehouse.
We spent about 2.5 hours here with us leaving at 4:15pm.

Temple Bar.
Next we wandered the Temple Bar area. It seemed a bit overrated to me, lots of restaurants, pedestrian streets and just busy busy busy here. We stopped at Bunsen for dinner, a local burger joint, simple menu, reminded me of Five Guys, just burgers, no fuss. The food was quick and very good, recommended if you want a burger in the area.

Bunsen.
Bunsen.
With dinner completed, we crossed the bridge nearby and we wandered the shopping area a bit before heading back to the hotel and calling it a night.

Downtown Dublin.
Downtown Dublin.
Tomorrow, we visit the Glasnevin Cemetery and the Kilmainham Gaol for our last day of Ireland.