Thursday, 6 February 2014

A Bavarian Christmas

Garmisch at Christmastime is just magical. The snow-capped mountains, the delicious food, the beautiful German decoartions,  all make for a memorable holiday. We were so fortunate to have our kids meet us there for a week.  Here are some of the highlights.



A Little Irish Fun

A 4 day weekend, time for a short city break to Dublin.  We took a short Ryanair flight with NO problems!!!  I know that is practically unheard of here, but we learned that if you play by their rules (and there are lots),  you can fly to any one of their many destinations with ease! Magic!

Day 1
We arrived in the city and made our way to the hotel, first mistake. After checking in we realized we were famished so went to look for a place to get a bit to eat. Unfortunately it was after "lunch hour" so we had to settle for a chain cafe. Yuk. When we go away, each meal is opportunity to sample local cuisine or learn about the local customs and I HATE to waste that chance. Next time we will check our watch and try to eat within the adopted time frame, pulling our bags behind us!! Thanks to Ryanairs strict baggage policy, that is not too hard to do since you are only pulling along one very small piece of luggage.
We walked down Nassau Street, stopping at Kilkenny's Department store. They specialize in products made in Ireland. I'll take one of EVERYTHING, thank you. Gorgeous things like linens, china, crystal, knits.

 We made our way to Grafton Street, and admired the architecture. The shops were many of the same we see on High Streets here in England. Several bands playing music and buskers called human machines that are activated when you put money in their hat. We soon reached to St. Patrick's Cathedral, getting a little lost on the way. A friendly man got off his bike to set us in the right direction.

We were under the impression that Dublin cathedrals would be Roman Catholic. We were wrong. After some back and forth over the ages St Patricks Cathedral and Christchurch Catherdal have been Anglican,  Church of Ireland since the late 17th century. The Irish Church Act of 1869 disestablished the Church of Ireland as the state church and Saint Patrick's Cathedral became the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland. Many Catholics are still waiting for one or both of them to change, but after so long it is unlikely to happen. So while Dublin is widely Catholic city, neither of the two cathedrals are. Not to take anything away from them, they are treasures.

Jonathan Swift's resting place

Well used by St Patrick to baptize new Christians

On to Temple Bar with a short stop in the Long Hall to have our first Guinness.

The Long Hall is a fabulous pub, with a beautiful oak bar, decorative snugs, friendly bartenders, and a big beautiful antique clock.

You can follow the crowd to our next destination, the famous Temple Bar, which is not a bar itself but an area near the river, know for its raucous bars and restaurants. Temple bar is what I think New Orleans is like during Mardi Gras. Music, lights, cobblestone streets, bars restaurants, we were not disappointed!

The next day was very busy, we had a lot to get in!
First stop was Trinity College, where we took a tour with a student guide. Our's was studying for a Phd in Philosophy. He had a great sense of humor and was very well versed in the colleges lengthy history. 

Trinity College Chapel

Famous Trinity Library

Celtic Harp

We also saw the ancient Book of Kells, sorry, no photos allowed. These are the made up of the four gospels, of which you only see several of the illuminated pages. They are thought to be from the 7th century and so are very fragile and were very beautiful, made even more impressive when we found out that the artist were

Guinness Storehouse

We took a bus to the Guinness Storehouse, a disneyland for adults!! It is on the grounds of the Guinness Brewery and is a 7 story attraction. We felt we got a very good taste of what the company was and is all about and how entwined it is in Dublin's history. Aurthur Guinness the founder, was a visionary and had a keen mind for business, not mention a product that would become a symbol for the city of Dublin and Ireland. The history of the company is facinating and learning about it was like learning about the history of Dublin. The brewing methods, the employment practices, the marketing and advertising, and transportation methods all inspired changes throught technological history all of which are documented in a thoughtful and entertaining way in this museum.  Aurthur Guinness was also a phenomenal philanthropist, donating millions to the city over his lifetime.


Interactive displays told how only 4 ingrediants are used to make the brew and then how it is done.Two of the those are: 

Do you know the other two?

There are several restaurants in the museum as well as this rooftop bar.

Rooftop bar in the Guinness Storehouse

At the very top of the museum is a bar where you can enjoy a free pint. The floor to ceiling glass room offers some of the best views in the city.

The Dublin Art Museum is small but has paintings representing most schools of art from all over the world.  We spent a few hours there before returning to our hotel to rest up before the Musical Pub Tour. It was getting dark as we passed St Patick's Cathedral on our way to the art museum.

The musical pub tour met in Gogarty's pub in Temple Bar and moved on to three other pubs. Our  guides were, Athoney and Gary, two excellent musicians. One played the fiddle, one the guitar. As they played traditional session tunes they talked of this rich tradition. In any village on any given evening there is a session, where all are invited to participate and share a song or two. They appreciate the opportunity to learn a new song and the no one cares if can't carry a tune. In fact, at the end of the evening after several pints, they invited US to share a song, anything we wanted. PANIC set in. Thankfully, two men in our group volunteered. They sang, we clapped and it was over! Thank goodness.

The next morning we toured the Dublin Castle, which wasn't on our list of must sees, but SHOULD be on everyone's list. It is a worthwhile stop if you are ever in Dublin. This is where the Inauguration is held when there is a new president. There are three main parts to the castle.  A palace, a huge inner courtyard, and an archeological dig under the surrounding wall. All were very impressive, made even more so by our knowledgeable guide.   My camera had unfortunately run out of juice by this time so there are no photos. Take my word for it, it is impressive!

There were several more landmarks to hit before we caught the bus to the airport: the famous bookstore Hodges Figgis, and the coffee shop Bewley's.
Breakfast at Bewley's is a real treat. The building a feast for the eyes with marble sculpture, mahoganony snugs, paintings and remarkable stainglass windows. Then there is the food, which is quite delish! I had the  organic porrige with maple syrup and pecans and my date had the full Irish Breakfast, complete with potatoe farls. It has been in the same spot on Grafton Street for many years (since 1927) and is mentioned in many novels based in Dublin.

Hodges Figgis is the oldest and largest bookstore in Dublin and specializes in Irish literature. It has recently been bought by HMV with owns WH Smith and Waterstones, but its character still remains.
From its website:
It was founded in the 18th century, the year being 1768 to be precise, and has a very picturesque history. What is interesting is that it was mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses:

"She, she, she. What she? The virgin at Hodges Figgis' window on Monday looking in for one of the alphabet books you were going to write.

It was soon time to catch the bus to the airport, but we couldn't miss seeing Molly Malone on the way!

Molly Malone