Sunday, March 28, 2010

Never can say goodbye

Oh, the comforts and joy of family! After my short trip to Berlin, I flew back to London and spent the rest of spring break with dear family members: little brother Austin and dad Bruce. I must admit, it was very bittersweet because I knew that time would go by quickly and they would be gone again, just like that.

Right when I landed into London, I stank so bad that I couldn't even withstand myself. I think I might have stunk up the tube hehe. So I went straight back to Regent's College to take a blissful shower and freshen up to impress the fam! Our reunion was uplifting, the hugs and kisses - I really missed them. Every time, without fail, I have really learned to appreciate my family more when I go long periods of time without seeing them. I have taken the comforts of home for granted all these years, up until I went off to college. There really isn't anything like it, that warm and fuzzy feeling and just being extremely comfortable with the people around you. Being out in London has put a strain on my deaf world, I had gotten small glimpses of the British deaf world, but not enough to actually establish some kind of connection to become comfortable and be a frequent visitor. So, when Austin and my dad finally got out here, I felt very relaxed and relieved because I had been working so hard to keep up with everyone's conversations and patiently asking for repetition. It gets annoying after awhile.

I gave them a mini tour of the College campus and a little bit of Regents Park (a beautiful place where I get my bird watching episodes every once in awhile) and then took them to one of my favorite restaurants, The Creperie, an excellent French restaurant that serves only the bestest (yes, it's that good!) crepes in London. Through the mouth-watering meal, I had the chance to catch up a bit with Austin on his life and the latest high school scandals. He had just finished acting in the school play, Little Women as the grandfather and he really enjoyed the entire experience. I was bummed out about not being able to see it. We also made plans for the week, places to see and things to do. By the end of dinner, we established a hefty but achievable list. Afterwards, we headed over to Green Park, where I crashed their hotel room for the rest of the week. Before we hit the hay, I thought I'd give them a small taste of London at night, so I took them on the tube to Westminster. As we came out of the tube station, we were greeted by the London Eye, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. It is always a very cool sight to see, especially at night.

After an interesting night (let's just say Austin tends to move around a lot at night...), we hit the ground running. I took them to see Big Ben, London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. When we were getting ready to enter Westminster Abbey and purchase tickets, a woman who worked for the Abbey noticed our cochlear implants/hearing aids and our signing came up to us asking if we were deaf (what a question! haha). "Yes" we answered, she then said that we should get into the Abbey for free. She came with us to the ticket booth and told the booth lady that we were deaf. The booth lady asked the nice lady how she knew we were deaf....these people really are brilliant. So, instead of paying £40, we got in free! :) Gotta love that deaf card. The Abbey is absolutely majestic, the ceilings are extremely high. I underestimated the size of this place, it is huge! There are so many people buried there, Sir Issac Newton, Charles Darwin (I was surprised), Winston Churchill, the Queen Mum, several Kings and Queens. Westminster Abbey is the place where the coronation takes place, so its history is impressive and intimidating. We had spent perhaps 2 hours there, just so much to see! Photography was not allowed inside, sadly.

The picture above is the entryway to Westminster Abbey, I really like the detail and artwork. Below is obviously a flower, in the background is one part of the Houses of Parliament. The third picture is the front of Westminster Abbey, it is nearly impossible to get the entire building in one shot!

We met up with a good high school friend of my dad's for lunch. I expected to eat at a sit down restaurant, but we ended up picnicking on Green Park, which is beautiful. Any idea why this place is called Green Park? I thought it had to do with the green grass and the British not being so clever. It actually was named Green Park because there are no flowers, go figure! One of the kings was married to a beautiful queen and she was always given flowers from various men as they strolled about. The king was super jealous, so he banned flowers. Whoo whee... that is one jealous dude if you ask me.

After lunch, we headed over to Trafalger's Square, place where they have the world famous lion statues, several museums and it is a great place to sit and people watch. On the way, we cut through St. James' Park where we ran into some beautiful daffodils. Naturally, we HAD to get pictures taken by the flowers :) I felt like I was getting my senior pictures taken again.

When in London, you have got to have a picture taken with a phone booth...after all, it is the thing to do!

Above is a picture of the world famous lion statues at Trafalger's Square. It was a challenge to climb up and there were so many people...ugh. Below is the view of Trafalger's Square from the National Gallery, where we saw several Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso. Jealous?
Many people don't realize how close everything is in London. Trafalger's Square is a 5 minute walk from Big Ben, houses of Parliament and Westminister Abbey. 10 Downing Street is in between the two sites. The structure is very similar to Washington, D.C. with all the monuments in close proximity.

Interestingly, I had never noticed this until my dad asked for it. It is nearly impossible to find iced tea in England! We went to Starbucks (yes, they have Starbucks here and it's not quite the same, but it's close enough) and my dad asked for iced tea. You know how they did it? I watched them and couldn't stop laughing. What they did was they brewed a cup of hot tea, put it in the cup and filled it with ice. Bizarre!! I guess iced tea is an American thing?

The next day was a bit more crazier. We hunted for a breakfast place and there wasn't much luck so we headed over to King's Cross for some quick breakfast before heading out to our activities for the day. If you are a Harry Potter fan, your heart would have skipped a beat when you read King's Cross. Yes, this King's Cross is the very same one where Harry gets to the Hogwarts Express! Naturally, Austin and I wanted our pictures taken at platform 9 3/4. We actually had a bit of a hard time finding it, so we were walking up and down the platform, looking for this glamorous platform. What's really funny is that the workers knew exactly what we were looking for and without asking, told us where to go. After three explanations, there it was, platform 9 3/4! Believe it or not, it has a cart in the wall :) We took our sweet time, snatching pictures and trying out different poses. It was a proud Harry Potter moment :)
Finally, after about 30 pictures with the cart at platform 9 3/4, we hopped onto the train to head out to Windsor where Windsor Castle, the Queen's favorite weekend home, is located. It was about a 45 minute trip and a bit relaxing. Before we knew it, we were in Windsor! I really liked the town, so small and quaint. It actually reminded me so much of Vail, Colorado. The castle is beautiful, no wonder why the Queen favors it. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside...grrr. They had really beautiful rooms decorated with all kinds of things from all over the world. We could not believe how much weaponry and armory there was...seriously, there was a lot, so much that it would cover every inch of my house and there would still be more to hang up.
These pictures are my attempts to capture the extravagance of Windsor Castle. Sadly, I did not accomplish that intention.
Even though the castle was beautiful and we enjoyed looking at everything, my favorite part was the guard. You know how in movies, they always have that guard who is not allowed to move, make any facial expressions, or anything of the sort? WE FOUND ONE OF THEM! :) Oh did we love him...
I waited for awhile to see if he would ask me out or at least compliment my beauty....after several minutes of awkward stares, nothing! I won't be going on a second date with him, for sure.

After Windsor, we went to Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana lived after she divorced Prince Charles. I tell ya, she was WELL off. The place was gorgeous! Psh, she did not have any problems living after the divorce haha. Sadly, the place was closed, so we wandered around Kensington Park/Hyde Park. Apparently, that was where they filmed Finding Neverland! Way cool! Before we knew it, we were exhausted and had no problems falling asleep that night.

The next day, we went to Tower of London mainly because my dad wanted to see some King Henry VIII history. One of my friends from St. Louis, Aislyn, was in town on her spring break visiting her British boyfriend and we met up! It was SO FREAKING good to see her. She and I got into the place for free because we were the "carers" for my dad and Austin haha! I ended up interpreting the entire tour for my dad. It was quite a challenge because the guy talked fast, he was British so he had the accent, and he was very funny. Nevertheless, I think I got most of the stuff right haha. If one is at the Tower of London, one must not only see the place, but also see the crown jewels. This was my second time seeing them and they still shimmered with gems. I am still convinced they may be replicas, hmmm....

After spending some quality time getting to know the history of armory and weaponry, we went over to the Tower of London. This bridge is pretty awesome, it has two towers and can open up when big ships go through on the River Thames. Many people think this bridge is called the London Bridge, guess what, it actually isn't! And the actual London bridge is pretty boring. We walked up and down the bridge, looked over to the sides and waved at boats that passed through. So much fun!

We also went to Abbey Road to get some pictures taken. It was not that difficult because it wasn't as crowded as we had anticipated it to be. The whole experience was hilarious because not only did we have to practice our pose, but we also had to worry about dodging oncoming traffic! Friday night, we met with dad's high school friend Mark and his wife, Melissa for dinner at a restaurant where Michael Cain is part-owner. Austin and I devoured our dinner so we could make it in time to go see musical Billy Elliot! The play was amazing, I am still in awe with the skills of the actors. A 12 year old boy pretty much led the entire show and man! could he dance! Austin and I teared up a couple of times during the show, it was emotional, inspiring, and absolutely dazzling.

Saturday was the last full day for dad and Austin, we went up to Greenwich with Mark and Melissa. What's at Greenwich you might ask. Well, the prime meridian is there! Yes, coordinates 0 degrees, 0' 0" in other words, the beginning of time. We stood on two halves of the world at the same time, pretty impressive, yes? We looked in the museum where the world's most reliable clock is located as well as history of navigation in the sea. It was really fascinating for my dad since he's a big sailboat guy.

I am proud to say that I have stood on two halves of the world simultaneously! Now, I want to stand on all four corners of the Earth. I wonder where that may be...

At precisely 1 o'clock in the afternoon, this red ball rises up to the top and drops, setting off a loud boom to let the world know it is 1 o' clock. We waited around since it was 20 'til 1. The anticipation built up and we got excited watching the ball rise dramatically aaaannnnnddddd that was it. The boom really wasn't that loud. What a disappointment. I think the whole New Year's Eve in Times Square Ball dropping thing came from this idea, I'm pretty sure it was copied off from the Museum. :)

As we walked around, Austin and I saw our first port-a-potties. To show just how civilized and proper the British are, they call their portapotties portaloos. What's next?
We decided to be cool and take the river cruise back to London. On this cruise we got to see much more of London than I had expected. Along the way, we saw Tower Bridge, London Bridge at its boring state and coolest of all, we saw Millennium Bridge, the very bridge that is filmed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It's in the scene where the death eaters are celebrating in the very beginning, the bridge that they zoom around and snap it from its supports, yeah that one!
Mark and Melissa took us to the Texas Embassy (it's a mexican restaurant and it used to be the official embassy when Texas was its own state way back when). We didn't eat there because apparently the food sucks, but the margaritas are awesome. A side note: mexican food in London is absolutely distgusting and I have been craving Chipotle for a very long time. So, when I get back to the states, I will be having Chipotle! :)

Dad, Austin and I had the rest of the night to ourselves so we took it easy and relaxed. It was really hard for me because I knew that in a few hours, my family was going to leave and I was going to have to go back into the hearing world, fully immersed once again. Their flight was way too early in the morning, so they got up around 5 am, woke me up and gave their biggest hugs. As I watched them leave the hotel room, tears streamed down my face. It was really hard, but I knew that I would be seeing them again before I know it. Getting back into the routine was not very hard, I tend to keep myself busy. A few hours after I left the hotel (I took my sweet time there, took a nice bath and all that jazz, it was so nice!), the family visit felt like a million years old already.

I am forever grateful for their visit, it gave me a sweet taste of home and it was enough to hold me over for the next half of the semester. I look forward to embracing them and the rest of the family again in May. However, as I look forward to seeing the family again and eating Chipotle, I am not looking forward to going back home because I love it out here. I have learned so much about the world and myself. I will definitely be back in Europe in the near future.

It's all German to me...

Planning a trip for spring break was one of the most hectic things I had ever experienced while living out here. So many countries to choose from, so many famous sights to see, and so little time. I considered going to multiple countries, just to mark them off my "places to visit" list, but I didn't think I'd get much of a chance to get to know the cities as well as I'd like to. It was a huge dilemma and I was losing sleep over that and that did not sit well with me. Luckily, I have befriended some really awesome people out here and they were extremely helpful in the decision process. A friend from New Hampshire, Alex, planned to go to Berlin, Germany to visit his girlfriend and invited me and another friend, Christina from New York to go along. Without hesitation, Christina and I agreed to go and there it was - a trip to Berlin was put on our agenda.

Alex, Christina and I left for Berlin with excitement and relief. Midterms had proven to be stressful for all of us. As we arrived in Berlin, Alex's girlfriend, Katrina met us at the airport. We all got our five day passes for transportation (a great thing about Europe - the public transportation is INCREDIBLE) and went straight to our hostel. On the U-Bahn (underground train in German and pictured above and please do not ask me what the sign means, it was the the name of the stop where our hostel was haha), I realized that this was the first time in my life to be in a country where I do not speak the official language. I felt incredibly powerless and began depending heavily on Katrina and Alex (they both speak German fluently and it is super impressive). The first German meal we had was at this small, cute restaurant and it served the most amazing authentic German food. I cannot tell you how happy my stomach was that night. I had been starving in London because the food isn't exactly ideal and it was a true blessing to eat German food. I had a whatchamacallit (it started with an 'm' and for the life of me, I can't remember it!) which is similar to a ravioli, it has meat and spinach mixed together in a noodle, like a ravioli and the kind I ordered came with tomato sauce and cheese. It was excellent. I only wish I ordered another one. The picture below is a sign we passed along the way. It says something along the lines of "We are all one people" or something just as equally powerful :)

Our first day in Berlin happened to be on the day of my 22nd birthday! whoo hoo! I actually wanted to bungee jump to commemorate my birthday properly. To my dismay, bungee season begins in April. I guess I'll have to hold up the birthday festivities and wait until I bungee jump!Christina, being the greatest friend, bought me some sort of German sweetcake (pictured below) and it was delicious. Did I mention, German food rocks?

Amazingly, there is this company that gives free city tours and these tours are phenomenal. The tour guides are from all over the world and they take you around the city on a 3 hour walking tour and you get to see most of the sights and get some of the historical background at the same time. So, for my 22nd birthday, I learned 800 years of Berlin history in 8 minutes! Not too shabby...our tour guide was from Ireland and he rocked. During the tour, we saw the holocaust memorial which is in the heart of the city of Berlin. Finn, the awesome tour guide, explained that the memorial is in the heart of Berlin to serve as a constant reminder to never let something as horrific as WWII happen again. The artist's objective was to keep the memorial as abstract as possible, to allow maximum interpretation. We walked through the memorial and this place is huge, it takes up nearly half a block and as you get closer to the center, the walls get much taller and more intimidating. I thought it was symbolic to how the politics of the Third Reich started, small, and eventually, it became so overwhelming, people got lost in the midst of it all. As we walked through, I noticed that it was raining a little bit and I looked up one of the pillars and noticed the rain flowing down the side, it looked like tears were being shed. My heart ached for the pain that my family's ancestors have had to go through for just being who they are and for standing up for their beliefs and I felt the hope for future generations to always remember and try to make the world a better place.

Some stops we made along the tour: the Reichstag (Germany's Parliament building), the Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie (where American control began), the Bradenburg Gate (a gate that has lasted through so much violence, separation, and destruction and now serves as a symbol of unity between East and West Berlin), we stood on top of Hitler's underground bunk and as Finn said, Germans take their dogs to the spot and make sure their dogs pee on it. We passed so many museums and historical buildings, it was really fascinating and eerie at the same time. I could not believe that I was walking on the grounds where one of the biggest Fascist groups reigned and shocked the world.

The first picture above is the Bradenburg Gate, a symbol of unity between East and West Germany. The second picture shows the brick outline of where the Berlin Wall used to be, I thought it was quite powerful how cars, bikes, and people can easily cross over the bricks like it's nothing. The third picture is the ground where Hitler's bunk lies below. According to Finn, it is used as storage or something of the sort. The fourth picture is the remains of the Berlin Wall in its original form, grey and boring.
We actually stood at Bebelplatz, the place where the first (I think) Nazi book burning took place. There is a memorial set up there and what you see is a window on the ground and looking through the window, you see white shelves filled with nothing, to symbolize the books that have been burned and will never return. There is a quote (of course, it's in German so I had my friends translate) which says, "where books are burned, in the end people will burn." The picture below is the plaza where the book burning occured, the building in the back is the university where the books came from.

The tour itself was exhausting, but totally worth it. At the end, we all tipped Finn for doing a job well done and moved on to find more good German food! We ended up at a brewery and had a great time eating and laughing.
The next day, we went out to a fleamarket! I could not believe my eyes when I went through this fleamarket. Cameras from the 1920s, old old keys, door handles, WWI helmets, letters from the war era, you name it, they had it. I enjoyed laughing and trying to take pictures without ticking off the sellers. It really was something else.
After the fleamarket, we went to Berlin's own times square for lunch. We saw more of the Berlin wall and this time it was covered with graffiti which made it so different and cool. We also heard some German music out in the middle of the square, kind of like that naked cowboy we all get to see in New York Times Square, only this was a band and they were not naked. Katrina translated some of the words and apparently, they were singing, "Everybody wants me, everybody wants me so bad..." Riiiiigghhhttt

I am straddling on the Berlin Wall line, on my left is East Berlin and on my right is West Berlin. Afterwards, we headed over to the Reichstag because they have a dome that's on top of the building and you get a really great 360 degree view of Berlin. The philosophy behind this dome is that it is completely in glass, making everything visible, including the floor below you. This glass floor is directly above the German parliament's commerce room, which serves as a reminder to Germany's representatives to continue making decisions for the people and to never let anything like the Third Reich's dictatorship happen again. Also, the people peering down on the German parliament helps them remind that Germany belongs to the people.

Katrina and Alex cooked us the most amazing chicken dinner. It so was scrumptious, I devoured everything and had thirds. Tells you how much I am eating out in England - not so much! Later that night, we went out to a jazz concert! It was my first one and I must say, the first of many. I enjoyed listening to the piano, cello, and drums through the night.

The next day was really busy as usual, Christina and I went over to Katrina's apartment for breakfast. They cooked us an authentic Bavarian breakfast which consists of sausage, bread, spicy mustard, and completed with beer. It was SO DELICIOUS and I couldn't believe I was sipping beer at 9 in the morning...I guess we all have those moments. Then we went out to see the Olympic stadium that held the 1936 games and the very same place/games where Jessie Owens dominated track and field. I felt absolutely proud to be there and know that this was where USA dominated :) At the entrance, there is a single tree and this tree's leaves were used to make the "crowns" that were given to the medalists of the 1936 Games. Each medalist received seeds so they could grow a victory tree wherever their home is. Pretty awesome, huh?

The victory tree whose leaves were used to make the "crowns" for medalists is pictured below.

Right after that, we went to the East Side Gallery, which is one of my favorite places. This gallery is not the typical art gallery, it takes place outside, on the east side (duh) of the Berlin Wall and it is 1.7 km long (1/2 mile). After WWII ended, the Russians and the Americans had some tension and split up Germany into two parts, East and West Germany, the line divided up Berlin as well. In 1961, Russia built a wall to keep East Germans from moving to West Germany. The wall stood for 28 years, until 1989. When the wall fell, it was so earth shattering for Berlin and Germany. East Germans rushed over the West Germany (West Germany was much more successful and prominent than East Germany). Interestingly, while the wall was up, bananas were so rare that some people had never seen bananas before and when East Germans ran over the West Germany, some were seen eating bananas with the peel. The East Side Gallery displays art that sends out a message to the world as a reminder to keep peace, unify the people, and to always remember.

The picture above was one of the most powerful murals I found at the gallery. It displays the Israeli and German flag painted as one and just looking at this sent chills down my spine. It is a reminder to me that even though the history of Germany is tainted with blood and tragic deaths, I should not associate Germany with the holocaust, most Germans had no idea what was going on.

The weather in Berlin was not ideal, it was windy, rainy, and it even snowed. So the East Side Gallery was extremely cold and we had to rush through some parts of the wall to try to revive our toes. The next place we went to was the Jewish Museum. This place was overwhelming for me. It talked about the holocaust, the history and the traditions, customs, and cultural aspects of Judaism. My favorite is the wedding customs, I have always loved going to my cousins' weddings.

I was sad to leave Germany so soon, especially when I finally learned how to pronounce thank you in German. But I also looked forward to spending the rest of my spring break in London, where my dad and brother were anxiously waiting for me! The entire time I was in Germany, I could not lip read anyone other than Katrina, Alex and Christina (because they spoke English). I felt extremely powerless there. When I was explaining this to a friend, I said that it was really weird not being able to lip read other people and she said, "Yeah Allie, your superpowers don't work there, in Germany you are just a mere mortal."
Most of the traffic lights have a little man, which is Germany's beloved Ampelmannchen, an image that was developed in East Germany during the Berlin Wall period. It is one of the most affectionate aspects of East Germany.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Green and not so Green Things of Ireland

Even though Dublin, Ireland is the first of the many weekend trips I have planned, I really fell in love with the city. The first impression, however, was not exactly welcoming. I flew out with my roommate way too early in the morning (we left for the airport around 3 am) and when we landed, it was foggy, so foggy we could barely see anything beyond the plane's wingspan and I could look directly at the sun. I really thought the weekend was going to be spent feeling my way around the city, barely seeing anything because of the fog.Interestingly, the fog is just a normal part of the early morning greeting of Ireland. The fog began to clear up as we rode the bus into the city of Dublin.

I half expected Dublin to be completely covered in green, shamrocks, and leprechauns....stupid American stereotypes....Dublin is a much smaller city compared to London. The people are extremely friendly and welcoming. I felt more at home in Dublin than I ever did in London. Unfortunately, the Irish accent was not exactly easy to lipread, so I depended on my roommate to do most of the communication. Not everything was green, imagine that! The pictures below are of the River Liffey, one of Dublin's famous bridges.

The first day was a bit chaotic, we had a hard time finding our hostel, but got to see most of Dublin wandering around. It so happens the hostel we chose was actually in Temple Bar, one of Dublin's hot spots for nightlife! After we checked in with the hostel and dropped our backpacks off, we looked around most of Dublin's tourist sights. Dublin is a smaller city, so it made wandering around much easier. We were able to get everywhere by walking. The only time I touched a bus was from the airport to the city and back to the airport. One of the first places we went to was Trinity College. Trinity College was absolutely beautiful. The Book of Kells is actually held at the College's campus. I thought it was interesting, but the most appealing factor about Trinity College was its Long Hall, a two-story hall filled with books. It was absolutely beautiful and glorious. I could only imagine how many scholars had climbed up the ladders and pulled out a book from the top shelves. It was absolutely beautiful and intimidating. I must have stayed in that room for about 20 minutes, just staring at the books, the wood work of the frames and ladders, and the books and the age oozing out of them.

I am standing in the middle of the plaza at Trinity College. On the right side is the building where the Book of Kells is and where the Long Hall is located. As you can see, it was absolutely beautiful outside. The sun was shining and I got my Vitamin D, loads of it!

Next, we walked to St. Stephen's Green. It was absolutely breathtaking, I enjoyed walking around the park. It was a bit crowded that day, probably because of the gorgeous weather. There was an arch right at one of the entryways, it is a memorial of the Irishmen who died defending Ireland and its independence.

At St. Stephen's Green, I saw the first sign of spring, flowers! This is one of the many pictures I took, I was a little obsessed with these flowers. My roommate gave me weird looks after taking at least 30 pictures of the same flower...haha. The funniest thing happened at the park and I learned a lot by witnessing this. At St. Stephen's Green, there is a massive pond area where many birds and ducks reside along with two beautiful swans. As I was taking pictures of the place, I noticed that one of the swans running/flying towards another swan. It did not look like a happy reunion, it was more of an attack than anything else. I saw this happen a couple of times. It looked like the swans were running on water and it sounded very much like horses running. The sounds coming out of the swans' mouths were not pleasant. After a few minutes of watching them run at each other and laughing at the weirdness of the situation, I learned that there was a third swan that came to the pond uninvited and the male swan of the pond was not happy about the invader. I walked over to the other side of the pond, where the swans seemed to be. Two swans of the ponds were swimming/pacing back and forth on the edge of the pond with their wings curved in ready-to-attack mode and the third swan, who was the invader, was on the sidewalk with its neck extended out all the way. What really cracked me up was that during this whole thing, there were people trying to feed the two angry swans bread. Some were so close, close enough to get their eye poked out, and they were oblivious to the fact that perhaps, the reason why the swans were not eating their bread was because they were angry. There were also people trying to get a picture RIGHT NEXT to the third swan....people can be stupid sometimes!
The angry protector of St. Stephen's Green (above) and the invader (below). Lesson learned: Do not mess with swans!

After exploring most of Dublin, we headed back to the hostel. I complained about how I hadn't seen any leprechauns and how disappointed I was about that. Lo and behold, there was a giant leprechaun standing at the corner of our hostel, waving at us. :) I had to get my picture with him!

We got up pretty early the next day and ventured out to the west of Dublin to find the Kilmainham Gaol, simply because I had put it down as the top 10 things to do in Dublin. I had no idea what it was, why it was important, or even why it was a tourist site. We get there, buy our tickets, and wander around the museum waiting for the next available tour. Thanks to the museum, we were able to discover that the Kilmainham Gaol was a prison and apparently, a famous one too! Walking around the jail was really interesting, fascinating at most times, and downright disgusting at other times. The most famous prisoners were the men who started the Irish rebellion in 1916, they were executed at the jail and it was the worst move the British has ever done. The arrests and executions inspired a national cause for the Irish. Many movies have been filmed on site, the picture below is one of the most famous areas of the prison. The movie, In the Name of the Father, used this scene a few times in its movies as well as the HBO show, the Tudors.

To be in Ireland and not see the national drink's storehouse, you must be crazy! The Guinness Storehouse was our next stop. A fascinating two hour tour, a free beer, and a 360 degree view of Dublin were all a part of the Guinness experience. I personally am not a fan of beer, but it was interesting learning about the hard labor that went into making Guinness. Did you know that today, over 10 million glasses of Guinness is sold everyday in 150 countries?

Afterwards, we saw Dublin Castle, a place that only has one original tower still standing. The rest of the castle blew up when it was attacked. What's really funny is that it was hit in only one tower and it so happens that one tower was where all of the explosives were stored. So when it was hit, the explosives went off, damaging nearly the entire castle.

A weekend in Dublin was perfect, we were able to cover most of the city by walking around. The weather was absolutely perfect, which helped elate my love for Ireland. I definitely want to come back and see more of Ireland, especially the cliffs of Moher, the wild shamrocks, and see some serious Irish dancing! Perhaps, I might run into some leprechauns! I also would love to bike around Dublin, especially during the summer and see all the sights again.

As the Americans like to believe the Irish say this on a daily basis - Top 'o' the morning to ya! (They really don't...really).