Powerscourt

Today began nice and early for a Monday without classes. Libby, Danielle, Mo, and I planned to catch the 9:45am DART into Bray to spend another day hiking and sightseeing. Matt and Pat also decided to join us, so we were a little late leaving, but were soon on our way.

The plan was to take the DART into Bray, then the 185 bus into Enniskerry in County Wicklow, and see Powerscourt. Unfortunately, since we were a bit late starting out, we missed the bus we first planned to take, and ended up having to wait for an hour in Bray for the next bus.

We found something to do.

Once in Enniskerry (which I’m told was a major part of the film P.S. I Love You), we headed to Powerscourt Estate. The house itself was based on a castle that was built on the land in 1300.  In the 1600s it was taken over by an English Viscount who built an enormous manor house and had a Renaissance garden designed for the grounds. Throughout the next few generations, the estate passed around family members until the early 1900s. The house was so steeped in debt, it was bought by another family who opened a golf course on the grounds and opened the house and gardens for public tours.

Lucky for us.

We spent several hours on the grounds looking at the Renaissance Garden (pictured), the pet cemetery (including dogs, Shetland ponies, and cows), the Dolphin Pond (with no actual dolphins), the Walled Garden (rather barren due to the fact that it’s January), the Japanese Garden (complete with bridges, reflection pools, and a horror-movie-esque grotto cave), an abandoned watch tower (that we absolutely climbed to the top of), and plenty of trees.

There were no "Keep of the Trees" signs.

After covering literally every inch of the grounds we had access to, we walked back into Enniskerry and missed our bus back to Bray.  With an hour to kill we had lunch at a great cafe called Poppies.

We finally got back to the DART station in Bray, and realized our passes expire tomorrow on the first of the month, so we headed into Dublin to go to the transit office and get stamps from the GPO. Tonight was all about catching up on homework, as tomorrow marks the start of another three day week of classes. Happy Monday.

Hiking with the Hitchcocks

This morning I got to sleep in a little bit, and around 11am I headed out to the DART with Kelsey, Libby, Anders, and Bill and Karen (our Loras professor and his wife). We rode the train south to Bray, which is a beach town in the Dublin harbor. Libby went off to Wicklow and Kelsey ended up on a different path, so Anders and I hung out with Bill and Karen, and hiked all along the hills in Bray.

We climbed that.

It was steep, and it was muddy, but it was a great time with a beautiful view. After we reached the first peak, we headed south towards the next peak, and then the next. After climbing three mountains, we were a little tired, so we climbed back down and walked to Greystones.

Just a quick jaunt, really.

Once in Greystones, Anders and I met up with Kelsey who walked from Bray to Greystones along the bottom of the hills, and had lunch before heading home to promptly pass out on the sofa. In all it was about a 10 mile day, and despite all the mud and possible shin splints, I’m going to say it was very much worth it.

Guess who's not from Iowa.

Tomorrow, Powerscourt.

South Georgia

Another Saturday means another tour, today of the South Georgia area as led by Danielle. We were told all about Trinity College and the book of Kells, which is a 9th century gospel from Scotland, and is well-known for it’s phenomenal artwork. We walked around to see different restaurants like Porterhouse, and popular shopping sites like House of Ireland, before heading to the National Library. The library is attached to the Leinster House and is a collection of all Irish Literature, and is currently housing an extensive exhibit on Yeats. After the library, we went to St. Stephen’s Green, which is sort of like the Central Park of Dublin. We wandered around and saw several statues of famous people from Irish history, as well as a fountain donated by the German government for the help the Irish provided with refugee children after World War II. We also fed the ducks.

And I was promptly attacked by pigeons.

After the park, we ended the tour at St. Stephen’s Mall, which is one of the only enclosed shopping malls in the area, and the charge €0.20 to use the bathrooms. We hung around the mall for awhile, then Kelsey, Libby, Anders, Pat, and I grabbed lunch at Charlie’s, a Chinese restaurant in Temple Bar. As expected, European Chinese food is a bit different that American Chinese food, and it isn’t too difficult to pick which I prefer. American Chinese food may be laden with MSGs, sodium, and preservatives that will stand until judgement day, but at least they don’t serve menu items like “chicken balls” served over chips and drenched in a vinegar-based sweet and sour sauce.

Other than the interesting cuisine, the day went well. Tomorrow we’re off to Bray!

Swans

We didn’t have our 8am class with Hitchcock this morning due to our full schedule of school related activities surrounding the weekend. Yesterday we had Libby’s tour and the Irish band performance, tomorrow we have Danielle’s tour, and Sunday we’re going to Dun Laoghaire to support the IADT students with stalls at the Dun Laoghaire market (several of which we graded on presentations last week).

After working on COBOL all morning, Kelsey and I met up with Libby in Dun Laoghaire and saw The Black Swan, which just came out here. For those of you who don’t know, the movie is about a dancer at the American Ballet Academy, and her brush with stardom and insanity. If you’ve seen director Darren Aronofsky’s other great work Requiem for a Dream, you can probably guess how psychologically antagonizing Black Swan was.

The new face of your nightmares.

Watching it sort of made me miss ballet, but it also made me glad I never went on a sociopathic rampage between barre exercises. Personally, I blame it on the pointe shoes and the diet. If Natalie Portman had gotten off her toes for a little while and had a cheeseburger, nothing bad would have happened.

Probably.

Regardless, it was a great movie.

The Grafton Street Occurance

After a morning filled with 8am class, COBOL, and effectively expanding Kelsey’s wardrobe again (though I can’t say much about this one since I got a €30 pea coat for €9 at Penney’s), we were off on our third group tour of Dublin, this time of Grafton Street. Our guide of the area was Libby, who after countless hours of research and preparation, was ready to show us all around Dublin’s finest shopping district.

Grafton Street is between Trinity College and St. Stephen’s Green, and is the fifth most-expensive shopping district in the world. Much of this is due to one store in particular — Brown Thomas. Situated with boutiques for Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Christian Dior, Armani, Gucci, Chanel, Valentino, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Vera Wang, Cartier, and Tiffany’s & Co., the entire store is estimated to have over €5,000 of merchandise per square meter. Needless to say, there were not any purchases made during our tour there.

Not for college students.

We also saw other attractions (expensive and otherwise), including The Duke, HMV, Davy Byrne’s Pub, The Dublin Book Shop, The Westbury Hotel, and statues of Molly Malone (the dolly with the trolly) and Phil Lynott (the ace with the bass). We were given some time to check out stores on our own before heading to Bewley’s Oriental Cafe. Bewley’s is well known for being a frequent haunt of James Joyce, and is the largest eatery in the country.

We ended the tour with coffee and dessert, though the rest of the menu looked fantastic as well. It’s not badly priced, so I’m sure we’ll be back.

Really, the crema says it all.

Tonight a few of us are returning to Grafton Street’s only bar, Captain America’s. It “brought the original burger to Ireland back in December 1971, and serves great American food at great value prices.”

It’s actually a comic book and guitar covered red, white, and blue nightmare, but a bunch of students from IADT have a band that’s performing, so we figured it might be a good way to assimilate. Otherwise we’ll be a bunch of American students at an American themed restaurant, and that’s just awkward.

 

Minor Differences

It’s come to my attention that Wednesdays are by far my busiest day of the week. I’ve got 8am class with Hitchcock, 9am (9:20)-11am lecture for Romanticism, my Romanticism seminar at 11:00, and my Cinema & Culture seminar at noon, after which I either return home after stopping at Tesco for groceries and perhaps do laundry, or stay in the library for several hours to get caught up on the strangely large amounts of seemingly pointless busywork we keep getting assigned.
Amazingly, I can hear all of you reading this right now weeping tragically for my cause.

“OH MY GOODNESS YOU POOR, POOR THING! STUCK IN IRELAND DOING HOMEWORK? ON A BUSY WEDNESDAY? THE HORROR!”

Cue the violins.

Thanks to my uncanny ability to detect sarcasm, I understand. I think it’s important to know that I’m still not complaining, though I do love the sound of a sad violin.

Despite being so horrifically busy (ha!), I can’t help but keep getting distracted by the most random things around here. I knew there would be small differences in a couple things (Yes, French fries are chips and chips are crisps. Got that one), but there are some I really wasn’t even thinking about. Cell phones are mobiles, bathrooms are simply toilets, and diapers are nappies. “Dipping” means “stealing a purse,” and “cheers” covers all forms of “thank you,” “you’re lovely,” and “good-bye.” People don’t really use the word “fine,” but instead heavily rely on “grand.” Sweatpants are tracksy-bottoms, and speaking of bottoms, God help you if you compliment someone on their pants instead of their trousers.

"Pants"

The other thing that really keeps throwing me are the spellings of things. For those of you who know the history of your language, we have Teddy Roosevelt to thank for all the confusion. I knew that we’d be visiting cultural centres instead of centers, and seeing performances at theatres rather than theaters, but it goes beyond the simple er-re switch. In lecture notes we learn how poetry can empathise or sympathise with different groups in centralised locations, depending on the brasenness of the subject, and how much it may have been criticised, or even recognised. And, of course, we can’t forget about the u’s that are everywhere — in colours, harbours, valour, glamour, favours, endeavours, rumours, moulds, and who knows where all else.

He tried to warn me.

I know it’s been said, but we really are countries separated by a common language. Other notable differences can be found in the media. The amount of nudity and crude humor (humour?) constantly being broadcast is a little unnerving to us modest Americans, but it’s really not considered a big deal here at all. It’s nice that the government spends time and energy on things that actually matter, like unemployment and education, rather than stupidly trivial things that some people take too seriously.

Pictured: Eminent Threat to the American Public.

All in all, they’re minor differences for a reason: they don’t actually matter. Different spellings and pronunciations of the same words never started any wars [citation needed], and let’s be serious, if everyone was exactly the same as us, there’d be no value to ever traveling anywhere. Also, people probably wouldn’t hate us as much.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot to get done on this, the busiest day of my week.

“Pizza”

I know I’ve been going to school for 14 years, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I would have homework to go along with school, even in Ireland.
There’s nothing out there that says I have to like it.

Of course I’m going to do my homework. That’s actually how I spent most of today, which was nice because I didn’t have much to do tonight.

We had dinner with a bunch of IADT students tonight, which was actually a lot of fun. We were told we would be meeting a bunch of students for pizza, which I guess means “a sausage and French fries covered in weird gravy,” but it was still a free meal so it wasn’t all bad.

Maybe.

It was really great to get to meet some more students and get a chance to talk to them about little things, like classes and snow and good places to hang out. I already have a few new Facebook friends.

Tomorrow will be a long day, so I’m going to finish reading William Blake and get to bed.