Well, it has been a while since our last blog post and due to popular demand Michael thought it was time for an update on our life in Dublin (actually not one single person has commented on our lack of updates however I won’t let the truth get in the way of a good story).
Michael is enjoying work and has undertaken a few business trips to Shannon, Edinburgh and London. He even came within a whisker of meeting the Princess Royal as she was presenting a business award at the hotel where he was staying.
|Phoenix Park only 5 km away with 2 herds of Deer|
Dublin continues to treat us very well and we have settled into a relaxed rhythm of life. It has been interesting to watch the city change with the seasons –not just the weather but also the people. During the summer, it is difficult to walk the streets due to the hordes of tourists who converge by the bus load into the city centre. The numbers ever so slowly dwindle over the autumn until by November, almost overnight, the streets are empty.
The weather is a topic that is constantly on the lips of the Irish people. When it is discovered that Michael and I are living here, people are incredulous that we would leave the Australian sunshine behind and settle here, albeit for a short time. Every single shopkeeper, without exception, will comment on the weather of the day, usually along the lines of “freezing today” or “shocking weather we be having”. It is wonderful to hear them say how “grand” the weather is when the temperature rises above 15 degrees. Actually, the weather doesn’t bother us much. The cold is not unpleasant (when you have lived in Canada, the Irish cold barely raises a shiver). The rain is manageable, although at the moment we are having one storm after another, which is causing havoc in the west of the country and terrible flooding in England. The wind is what I dislike the most, as the gusts can be so strong that they almost blow you off your feet. I always laugh when I see people battling with umbrellas, half expecting them to take off like Mary Poppins. All I do when the winds are up is pull by hair back with a Limerick facelift, tuck my neck down into my shoulders and stride purposefully to where I am going. Luckily the wind seems to only come for a day or two and then the rest of the time it will be nice and calm.
Michael managed to get in a number of dives over the summer including a deep dive on the MVS Leinster. The Leinster was a Dublin Steam Packet vessel, carrying 796 passengers, 501 of whom were lost after the ship was struck by two torpedoes, 14 knots from Dublin only one month prior to the end of WW1. The dive season ends early in Ireland as not only does the temperature drop but the water becomes very choppy and unpredictable.
Te Dejo Madrid
One of the things that we most want to do whilst living in Ireland is to take advantage of the closeness of some of the major European cities. In September we headed to Madrid for four days soaking in the sunshine and 30c temperatures. On the first day we were trying to find the famous Mercado de San Miguel however we somehow ended up the Mercado San Anton instead. We wanted to try the tapas for lunch however with our Spanish not being very good, we ended up with 5 full meals instead of the smaller tapas dishes. They were all lovely but far too much - even for Michael!
The city is absolutely wonderful with grand building and boulevards. It was particularly lovely to see huge banners strung across a number of public buildings welcoming refugees. This was a stark contrast to Australia’s policy on refugees.
We finally found the Mercado San Miguel, which held stall after stall selling many different varieties of fresh tapas and seafood. I don’t think I have ever seen so many jamons hanging, all of them glistening with oil. The idea is to grab a plate or two with a glass of wine and enjoy grazing and people watching. This is a very pleasant way to pass an hour or two.
One of the main reasons for our visit to Madrid was to see the Prado Museum and the work of one of our favourite artists, Hieronymus Bosch. The Garden of Earthly Delights is possibly his most famous work and it was lovely to view it up close before the tourists arrived. The museum also houses a number of works by El Greco and Goya and of course many other artists. The museum itself is very attractive and is well laid out.
Every Sunday the El Rastro streets are turned into a market place and the area transforms into a huge flea market, crammed with quality crafts. The crowds flock there and the vibe is very happy and bustling.
We found plenty of little bars that served the traditional tapas with wine and beer and overall the people were very friendly and welcoming. I think that Madrid was Michael’s favourite city that we have visited.
‘Twas Within A Mile o’ Edinburgh Town
In October we headed to Edinburgh for a weekend. I had visited there over 30 years ago and had always wanted to return. Michael had been for business however he did not have a chance to see the city. We could not have chosen a better weekend as the weather was a glorious sunny 15 c. Naturally we walked the Royal Mile and up to the castle and generally wandered the entire city taking in all the sites including the statue of Greyfriars Bobby. The only downside was going to the World’s End Pub to watch the World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand. We were a bit concerned when we walked into bar and there was a sign stating that Referee Joubert was barred! We did our best to keep a low profile however the Scots, whilst polite, were not sorry to see Australia lose. That evening was Halloween and there was an enormous street party that was completely packed out. We saw some amusing costumes, the best of which was a gentleman dressed as King Arthur pretending to gallop down the street whilst his friend jogged behind making horse clopping sounds with two coconut shells a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
We tried some Haggis in a number of places and I have to say that it was very pleasant. I finally was able to taste an Irn Bru (pronounced Iron Brew), which is often described as Scotland’s other national drink. It was very tasty.
Michael and I managed to take part in a whisky tasting in a lovely store just off the Royal Mile in Jeffery Street. A very knowledgeable gentleman took us through the history of whisky, and then we sampled various types. The only pain with carry on luggage is you cannot have any liquids over 100ml so that ruled out buying any bottles.
We had a great weekend and look forward to exploring more of Scotland.
From Dublin With Love
In November we were lucky enough to watch the International Rules match between Ireland and Australia. I was very excited, as there were 5 champion players as well as the coach from the all conquering, triple premiership winning team – the mighty, fighting Hawks. It was an interesting match although our skills with the round ball left a lot to be desired. We staged a late come back however it wasn’t to be our night. It was thrilling to feel the roar of the crowd once again. It was also a special night as it was the 95th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre at Croke Park and a memorial service was conducted and flames on Hill 16 were lit representing the 14 people murdered.
We have had a bit of fun doing a few touristy things now that it is the offseason. We visited the wax museum, which was a bit of a hoot (Madame Tussaud’s it isn’t). In fact, if the models hadn’t been labeled, we would have struggled to identify who they were supposed to be. Michael and I also visited the Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum Experience, which has recently opened. We had the guide all to ourselves and he took us on a fascinating journey through Ireland’s rich rock and roll past. The museum is crammed with memorabilia and it would be good to return there another day to just wander around and look at it all properly. There was even an opportunity for us to dress up and play musical instruments, which we politely declined.
Continuing the rock and roll theme, one of the highlights of our year was attending a U2 concert. Michael and I first saw them play at the Sydney Entertainment Centre just after it had opened 32 years ago (I believe that the Entertainment Centre is now to be demolished). The chance to see the band play in their home town was too good an opportunity to be missed, so Michael booked tickets to one of their sell out shows as soon as the tickets went on sale. It was an amazing night with a high tech stage that moved about and giant video screens so that you could see everything. Bono and The Edge were in fine showmanship form and the crowd knew every word to every song and sang loud and clear. They played all their old hits and some of their newer music and by the time the concert was over you felt well and truly entertained. It was a fantastic night.
The Strasbourg Clock
|Best picture in Munich|
Just before Christmas we headed off to Munich and Strasbourg for four days to see the Christmas Markets. We had been in Munich around this time 3 years ago and it was covered in thick snow and was very cold and you needed the mulled wine just to warm up. This time it was 15c and no snow to be seen anywhere. The markets were still great and easy to get around.
Once again we visited Wirsthaus Zum Straubinger so that Michael could have his schweinhaxe and beer. Michael ordered the whole schweinhaxe and the waiter did a double take and asked Michael if he was very hungry. Michael responded that yes, he was very hungry. The look on the waiter’s face was priceless when he came to collect Michael’s completely empty plate at the end of the meal. I don’t think that many people order and eat a whole schweinhaxe.
I had wanted to see the Christmas markets in Strasbourg as I had read that they were the best in Europe. We caught a train and then a bus to Strasbourg and once again it was a very comfortable journey. There was no snow however it was nice and sunny and so perfect to wander around. There were 12 markets of varying size in the old town all set up in old style and selling beautiful handmade decorations, chocolates and various other items and souvenirs. The street lighting was fantastic and finally I have found a city that rivals London for the best Christmas lights. They were absolutely spectacular and the Christmas tree was gorgeous. Even with the lack of snow you felt you were in a wonderful place that could only be European. Strasbourg has to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
Another bus and train journey back to Munich to relax and continue our travels. It was strange to see all the shops shut the Sunday before Christmas. In Australia people would accuse the Government of killing competition, but there they don’t have the Christmas hype and people were enjoying the decorations and markets that were on offer.
Dublin city looked very pretty in the lead up to Christmas. The streets were decorated with beautiful Christmas lights and we went the official “turning on” ceremony, which was fun. Many of the stores decorated their windows with Brown Thomas going all out with exquisite decorations throughout the store. Christmas music could be heard throughout the city which adding to the festive feeling. There was even a Christmas market close to where we live. Unfortunately the market was in danger of being blown away by the high winds that buffeted the area. It was only the second year that Dublin has run a Christmas market and they plan to grow it to rival the big European ones.
Michael and I had a very quiet Christmas in Dublin with a nice lunch at the Radisson Blu. It was a cold 9c and the rain came down in buckets. Still, we managed to enjoy ourselves and even had a chuckle at the waiter who served our red wine in an ice bucket! The food was very good and it was a nice place to enjoy our 4th Christmas away from home.