Sunday, August 7, 2016

Trip to Ireland (July 2016)

Ireland, or formally The Republic of Ireland, is called Emerald Isle. It is indeed. The entire Island of Ireland was all lush landscape of rolling green hills. Peaceful. Beautiful. And wonderful.

Ireland is also the birthplace of writers including Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats and Samuel Beckett. Of course, Dublin is home of Guinness beer and Irish dancing is popular.

The most famous man of Irish heritage to the USA is John F. Kennedy. He was an Irish American and one of the most famous presidents of the United States of America.

Shamrock is a 3-leaf clover and is the Irish national plant. Irish people use these Shamrock for many purposes, such as writing poems on Shamrock-shaped papers as shown to the left.

Ireland was established as a result of Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922. But it became a free republic state only in 1949. Until then, Ireland remained a free Irish state under the British dominion.

Ireland occupies 80% of the Island of Ireland and the remainder, called Northern Ireland, is still part of the U.K. With a population of 4.6 million inhabitants, Ireland is not a big nation, but its per capita GDP stands pretty tall and is one of the most rapidly developing nations.

Great Famines of Ireland in the 1840's is well known for its horror story. During this time period, one million people died of starvation and one to two million people had to leave Ireland for life, notably to U.K. and U.S.A.

Ireland is still in the complex dynamics with its neighboring Northern Ireland and the U.K. although it maintains peaceful relationship with them both.

I have posted a separate blog on Northern Ireland and please click here to go to the post. Also, I wrote a separate blog on the United Kingdom and please click here to go to the post.

Our trip to Ireland began when we took a ferry, Stena Line, at Port of Holyhead, England to go to Dublin. It was a short 1 1/2 hour sail. From the port, it took us only 30 minutes to reach Dublin.

Dublin is the capital city of Ireland. It is 1,000 year old city with rich history of the Vikings. Dublin means "black pool" and is the second city that the Vikings established after Waterford.

We explored the city on foot. Daniel O'Connell was the first great 19th century Irish nationalist leader. There was his statue and a street named after him.

Guinness is a black-color beer from Ireland. We toured the Guinness Story and took a photo at the famous St James Gate. The panoramic view at the top floor was stunning, but it was too crowded with people drinking free Guinness beer.(Not really free. It was all included in the ticket price!)

Did you know that Arthur Guinness, the founder, signed a 9,000 year lease on the premise where it is still operating? Yes! A 9,000 year lease... What a visionary he was! How ridiculous it was to sign such a long lease!

The Brazen Head is the oldest Irish pub that has been in operation since 1198. 818 years of operation! We ate the fish and chips over a glass of Irish beer. The food was great!

Trinity College is famous for housing the Book of Kells. This book was written in early 9c AD for 4 gospels. The book was written on calf skin or vellum at lona or Kells, County of Meath. The Long Room houses 200,000 oldest books of the library. It was quite interesting to see dozens of busts of renowned scholars in one place, such as Socrates, Aristotle, Plato etc.

Four gospels depicted

Apostle Paul depicted

The Long Room
Bust of Socrates
We explored the Museum of Archaeology. I saw the history of the Vikings in Ireland and Christian legacies.

Dublin has Liffey River flowing through the city. Liffey means Life in Gaelic. So it is supposed to be the River of Life. There was a story about Ha Penny Bridge. It was named as such because the builder charged a penny to all people who wanted to cross the bridge.

We passed by Tivoli Theater, a famous venue for theatrical performances in Dublin.

St. Patrick's Cathedral is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. It was built in eary 13th century (1220) St. Patrick is known to have baptized the converts at this place and they built the cathedral there. It was lunch time when we visited and a Children Choir was singing songs.

St. Patrick
St. Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. He is the primary patron saint of Ireland and the Irish people celebrate him through St. Patrick's Day not only in Ireland but also in many other countries. People wear green on St. Patrick's Day, but it is largely related to the color green for Ireland's nick name: Emerald Isle. Originally, the color associated with St. Patrick's Day was blue. People who are not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day are allowed to be pinched. In reality these days, St. Patrick's Day is an excuse to party.

St. Stephen's Green is a city park. We walked around the park that is located at the center of Dublin. It was a sunny day and all green spaces were crowded with people sunbathing. It was totally understandable in light of unpredictable weather in Ireland.

We watched the Merry Ploughboy Show. The show was the performance of Irish ballard music and Irish dancing. The Merry Ploughboy House is owned and operated by Irish musicians. Honestly, the music was so so. I could not sense musical talents. But the famous Irish tap dancing was quite impressive. We ate clam chowder, angus beef and apple pie. Overall, the show was dynamic and pleasant. In the audience was Shalmrock Choir from Chicago and they sang a song.

We were reminded that the year 2016 celebrates the centennial anniversary of Easter Uprising. Easter Uprising or Easter Rebellion was an armed insurrection in Ireland during the Easter Week, April 1916. The Rising was launched by irish republicans to end the British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in World War I. It is considered the most significant uprising in Ireland since 1798 and the first armed action of the Irish revolutionary period.

Waterford is the oldest city established by the Vikings in 914. There was a tower built by the Vikings as watch tower.

But, Waterford is better known to most for its crystal manufacturing plant that has been in operation since 1793. It used to be a small factory, but now a global company. We took a tour of the factory and watched the whole process of producing crystal products: blowing, quality inspection, marking, cutting, sculpting for specialized items, engraving. We learned that the difference between glass and crystal is that crystal has lead contents to gain more shine and weight.

Blarney Castle is one of the most famous attractions in Ireland due mainly to Blarney Stone. There is a legend that if you kiss the Blarney Stone you may gain the gift of the gap or of deceiving without offending. The gift is also called the gift of eloquency. The legend further goes that the Blarney Stone was Jacob's pillow at Bethel in the bible and was brought there by the prophet Jeremiah... Well... It appears to be a little stretch.

Anyway, the line to go up to the Blarney Stone was far too long in the rain and the staircase was too narrow to come back down. I did not want to be stuck and I did not line up. But, Mr. Choi and Mr. Yoon did wait and also kiss the stone. In the Blarney Castle, there also are Blarney House and Gardens, Poison Garden and Rock Closure. Rock Closure had small but cute waterfalls, giant-leaf plants and plant tunnels.

Kilarney is a pretty town in County Kerry by a lake. The Lake Hotel where we stayed for two nights is located right by the lake with peaceful and fabulous view. We strolled to the lake shore and enjoyed the beautiful view, soothing breeze, grazing deers, and colorful sunset. We learned that Kil means church in Gaelic.

Ring of Kerry is a 178 km circular drive route around the Iveragh Penninsula in southwest Ireland's County Kerry. It takes rugged and verdant coastal landscapes and rural seaside villages. Along the route, you can find breath-taking coastal views, emerald green pastures, charming villages. We learned that there is also a hiking route that is longer at 200 km and takes 9 days to complete.

It reminded me of the 17-mile drive in northern California, but a lot longer than 17-mile drive and less scenic than 17-mile drive, I think.

The most interesting spot on the route was Red Fox Inn where we drank Irish coffee. They were also selling Bailey's coffee. Whatever it meant, people were sipping Irish coffee all over inside the inn and outside on the parking lot. Irish coffee was selling like hot cakes for 6 euros!

We did a jaunting on a horse carriage in the Killarney National Park. The horse that pulled our carriage was called Barnie, an 8-year old horse. There was a Victorian mansion in the park. The carriage ran along the lake called Lough Lein and the most fascinating place of interest was Ross Castle. It was tranquil and peaceful. The scenery was stunning. Swans and ducks were swimming in the lake and they were so cute. Water reflection of the boats in a stream was beautiful. We passed St Mary's Cathedral that was built in the 1990's, old enough but so new by the Irish standard. Along the journey, we heard about the tales of Leprechaun and Faeries who are living in the park. Quite spooky and superstitious.

We drove the Wild Atlantic Way, an epic Irish scenery along the coastlines. We stopped over at Adare and Limerick.

Adare is known to be the Ireland's prettiest village with thatched-roof cottages. In reality, however, the number of thatched-roof cottages was less than a dozen and two of them were burned down in 2015.

The Heritage Center had a story of the Vikings. At this Heritage Center, I learned that Fitz means son of. Father's first or Christian name becomes the son's sir name like FitzJohn if the father's first name was John. Quite interesting. It is in the same line as Van, Mac, and ~son all of which meant the son of.

We also saw Holy Trinity Abbey Church. We learned that The Manor is now a hotel.

Limerick has 100,000 people and is the city of treaty. We saw The Rock of Treaty that was showing the treaties that were signed in Limerick.

Cliffs of Moher is one of the best known attractions of Ireland. It is part of the Clare Journey or County. The tallest cliff is more than 200 m high from the ocean. The scenery was stunning and panoramic despite the rain and sea mist. a Bohemian town with a population of 75,000 inhabitants. It is famous for its seafood, particularly oysters. Also, the Galway Ring or Ring of Claddagh, signifying Love, Friendship and Loyalty was originated from Galway. The main street, called Quay Street was packed with people along with street performers and vendors. We wandered around the streets of Galway.

Yeats Graveyard was located at St. Columbia's church cemetery. W. B. Yeats was the Ireland's first Novel Prize winner in literature in early 20th century. After Yeats, other famous Irish writers came along, such as Oscar Wilde.

His poems were thought-provoking.

"Cast a cold eye on life, on death.
Horseman pass by"

This was inscribed onto his epitaph.

I found another one that touched my mind.

"I spread my dreams under your feet.
Tread softly for you tread on my dreams."

Although the British Isles are small and their languages are rooted in Latin, their practical languages are quite unique and different. The Welsh is different from Gaelic that is spoken in Ireland and Scotland. The Gaelic should not be confused with the .Gallic which means the ancient French because France used to be called Gaul.

Overall, Ireland was full of green pastures with the sheep grazing on the pastures. The scenery was so beautiful and peaceful. All over Ireland, we felt that we were showered with the color green. Ireland has become a country which Kristin and I fell in love with. We hoped to come back to Ireland to enjoy the country more slowly and more deeply, Lord's willing. - Jeffrey

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