Monday, November 7, 2011

Pots of gold, leprechauns, and a bit of Irish whiskey!

Hej hej, 

I am finally back in Tenhult after some travel complications yesterday.  I have to say, it's good to be back :) It's always nice to travel, but it's also nice to return to (temporary) home base, as well.  After a week of living out of a tiny duffel bag (yes, I packed VERY efficiently), it's nice to be able to do laundry and spread out my stuff.  Those of you that know my packing skills (or lack thereof) should be particularly impressed about my ability to fit 8 days worth of clothes etc. into one little bag.  Normally, I could fill this bag for one weekend.  Obviously, my European travel is teaching me a bit about efficiency...I packed only what I needed and nothing more...I used everything perfectly.  It was a good feeling.  Though, I have to say, after the downpour we encountered in Cork, Ireland, it would have been nice to have another dry pair of shoes.  But, hey, that's part of traveling :) 

So, aside from the trouble we encountered en route from Amsterdam to Copenhagen to Jönköping on our final day of travel, the trip went pretty flawlessly.  Serves us right for booking through a cheap Swedish airline website.  We know better for next time.  The whole time we were just waiting for something to go wrong...up til then, we had made every flight, hostel check-in time, train, show time, etc.  It was too good to be true.  Guess returning to Tenhult at 2:30am was payback for the good fortune of the rest of the trip :) 

Last I blogged, I was en route from Dublin to Cork.  I shall try and pick up the trip from there.  I have to say, Ireland was most definitely my favorite stop! Sure, London and Amsterdam were nice, but there was something so very charming about Ireland.  I think it was nice to have a place that was a little more subdued after the hustle and bustle of the lovely (but quite busy and touristy) London.  We arrived in Cork to quite the rainstorm.  Our hostel was quaint, but very homey.  Despite the rain, I liked the style of Cork.  I think with more time, it would have been a nice place to hang out and explore.  However, being the ambitious tourists that we were, we had places to see! So we explored around town a bit on Wednesday night and even met an Australia girl (Sally) at our hostel who came out to the pubs with us, but the main event was Thursday and the Blarney Castle (and of course with it, the Blarney Stone)!! I was so very excited.  As many of you know, I had been to Ireland and Blarney back in 1999 and was glad to have the opportunity to return! Hey, it can't hurt to kiss the Blarney stone twice, right?! We lucked out and had a BEAUTIFUL morning to explore the grounds around the Blarney castle and climb up to the Blarney stone.  That's not always something you get to say when in Ireland...however, the rain wasn't far away and hit us on our hike towards the lake on the Blarney grounds.  So, we got soaked anyway :) 

Despite our enjoyment of Cork, we were headed back to Dublin that afternoon.  If I remember correctly from my 8 year old self, we didn't do much exploring of Dublin on our previous trip, so I was aiming to change that! After exploring a bit of the Temple Bar district on Thursday night (where our hostel was), we mainly focused on Friday...our one full day in Dublin! Friday we had quite the variety in our day.  We started off the day checking out Dublin's lovely cathedrals---the two most well-known ones (I think) are St. Patrick's and Christ Church Cathedral.  They were both absolutely lovely! I'm always a big fan of the European cathedrals and think they are so very elegant!  Not sure whether or not Gary felt the same, but he was a trooper and came along.  

Now, after the cathedrals, our day took a whole new direction...and that direction was towards the Guinness Factory and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.  I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.  Sure, the drinks at each may have had a little bit of something to do with it, but there were also some cool parts to the factories! For instance, the Guinness Factory was about 7 stories tall and in the shape of a giant bottle of Guinness.  On the top floor there was a 360 degree sky view of Dublin.  It was great! And, we even got to play bartender!  We learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness (I have the certificate to prove it)!  To continue on our alcohol tour of Dublin, we headed to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.  The tour was very interesting.  You learn how and why different whiskey has different tastes.  However, the best part was being picked to be an official whiskey taste tester (yes, I got another certificate).  The tour guides pick about 5 people from a group of 30 or so and allows them to taste test three different kinds of whiskey--1. Jameson Irish Whiskey 2. American Jack Daniels 3. Scotch (ehh).  At the end, she asks you what your favorite is...being at the Jameson factory and an official taste tester, you of course have to go with the Jameson :)

Considering how little I slept last night (3 hours, ahhh) and the fact that it is around 11:30 pm over here, I believe I will have to save my brief description of Amsterdam for the next blog post.  I will leave you with this idea...THERE ARE BICYCLES EVERYWHERE THERE!  That part was awesome :) By the way, YAY RAVENS!!!! My football teams are doing pretty well this year without my in country support, maybe I'm bad luck? (knock on wood, of course).  

Love from chilly Sweden,
Looking out from Blarney Castle

The old man helping out at the Blarney Stone was joking about Gary missing the picture
and offered to pose with me instead of me with the stone :) 

Christ Church Cathedral 

St. Patrick's Cathedral 

My own-poured Guinness :) See the Swedish cheers behind me...Skal! 

View of Dublin :) 

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