Better late than never, right?
As I you may have figured out from my picture-heavy post a couple of weeks ago, David and I spent our christmas break in non-continental Europe. For just over two weeks, we traveled around Ireland, Scotland, and England, exploring, visiting family, and generally having grand adventures.
We’d originally hoped to spend Christmas with David’s cousins in Ireland, but due to unexpected illness, we didn’t end up getting to see them. (I’m still hoping we’ll get a chance to go back while we’re living on this side of the Atlantic, so I can meet them!) While Christmas without our families was a little lonely, it was really special to be able to spend it together. We spent half the day on skype with people from home anyway! Since everything in Dublin was closed, we spent Christmas day in our hostel, cooking apple and cherry turnovers and a hearty lamb stew with carrots, parsnips, and stout. My favorite thing about extended vacations is having enough time to relax. Sometimes, when trips are too short, I feel torn between my desire to see and do as much as possible in the small amount of time. It was great to be able to slow down while still enjoying an exciting new place.
One of my favorite things about Dublin, which we also enjoyed in Edinburgh, was the beer. Spain is a country renown for its fabulous wines, both red and white, but this country does not know anything about beer. There are only about three different marcas (brands) of beer made in Spain, and they’re all uniformly pale, light, and fairly tasteless. They don’t actively taste bad (a la Natty Light), but I’m a dark beer girl, so they don’t really do much for me. But head on over to Ireland or Scotland, and boy do they know how to brew a good beer. In addition to pouring our own “perfect pints” at the Guinness factory tour, we visited numerous pubs, and even a couple brew pubs where they make the beer in-house. Also, pub food in this part of the world is AWESOME. From beer-battered prawns to haggis with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), every single thing we tried was delicious.
Another culinary discovery we made while we were in Dublin was the vegetarian Cornucopia restaurant, which came highly recommended by some friends who’d eaten there repeatedly during a short stay in Dublin. With reasonable prices, generous portions, and a menu that changes daily, we also could not resist a return trip, and ate here twice. If you’re ever in Dublin, I urge you to check it out, even if you’re not a vegetarian (we’re not). The food is phenomenal, making use of traditional and innovative flavor combinations, and offering the opportunity to try several things at once with their cheap combination plate option.
On our last day in Ireland, we took a bus down to Kilkenny, to visit the castle and explore the town. I really enjoyed the castle tour, despite the fact that guided tours often get on my nerves. The guide was extremely knowledgeable, and always gave us time to have a look around the room on our own after he was done speaking. Also, learned something really cool about the history of the castle: allegedly, anyone with the last name “Butler” is descended from the family that owned this castle, because the first owner was so proud of his former position (butler) that he took it for the family name. They have a giant family reunion there every year, and anyone named Butler is welcome! How cool is that?
We also went into a lovely church in Kilkenny, although unfortunately I don’t remember the name of it now. It housed some remarkable stained glass windows, some of which were quite old while others (like the one pictured) were fairly new. There was also a really cool little statue from the 10th century which was discovered buried in the walls of the church when they were doing some restoration work.
I think my favorite place from all our time in Dublin was the Chester Beatty Memorial Library. On the grounds of Dublin Castle, this library boasts one of the most extensive private book collections in the world, housing some of the oldest existing copies of the Gospels, papyrus scrolls from Ancient Egypt, Japanese story scrolls, and about a hundred other things. If it has to do with books and you’ve ever seen it in a museum, this library has something like it, or maybe something even more amazing. We didn’t have time to see the whole collection on our first visit, so we went back again the next day. Obviously, David was just about in heaven, but even for someone lacking his obsession with rare books, it was really freaking cool.
Next up: New Year’s in Edinburgh! Keep your eyes peeled.