Our Blue Grotto Guide
Someone needs sunglasses.

We got a late start, but made it to the Isle of Capri before noon. Our first priority: The Blue Grotto, aka La Grotta Azzurra, known since the Roman Times and visited by Augustus Caesar. To get there in 2010, you hire a boat in Capri’s Marina. The big boat takes you past these amazing cliffs of insanity to rowboat jockeys. Then you wait near the grotto entrance for your rowboat turn, and then your guide takes you into the legendary sea cave. The process takes an hour for a five minute cave tour but the journey makes it all worthwhile.

As we approached the cave in our little boat, I had that same sensation I do in the opening moments of The Pirates of the Caribbean. Here, there are no rails.

The blue reflection is spectacular. Our guide sang well, putting others to shame. Instead of sailing back to Capri’s main harbor, we asked our guide to drop us off at a pier nearby.
Blue Grotto

Then, we took a bus to Anacapri, a small town way, way up. We found another pizzeria for Quattro Formaggi (this time with blue cheese amongst the usuals).

Our next stop would be the chair lift to Monte Solaro. I’m not sure what I expected but it was definitely something more akin to chair lifts at ski resorts. At Monte Solaro, you sit in a singular wooden chair and ride for 20 minutes high above the fields up the mountainside to a viewpoint with a cafe. It was mostly very peaceful & my favorite spot on Capri, barely edging out the Grotto. I loved it so much that after an hour in the cafe we nixed plans to hike down and took the chairlift back. I considered the roundtrip journey again.

We spent some time walking around Anacapri, the Capri Palace, & Villa San Michele’s grounds before riding back to Capri for gelato and a final ride on the funicular down to the Marina.

The last hydrofoil leaves around 6, which seemed early on paper. After a day full of sights & crowds, this 6 hours felt perfectly adequate for a day trip.

More pictures from our day in Capri here:

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Our Terrace's Lemon Tree
We switched into vacation mode today, with a full roster of nothing. We awoke to sunshine & lemons on our terrace.

When practicing la dolce far niente, one still must eat. We chose Inn Bufalito for lunch.
Inn Bufalito
Ok pizzabread salad

It was no Da Franco (a little bland, actually) but gave us plenty of energy for wandering Sorrentine alleyways & the marina, and to get our bearings.

Marina

alley in Sorrento

We ended our day at Il Buco, a well-known place in a restored convent. We had our second great dinner in a row: local prawns, octopus ravioli, buffalo mozzarella made nearby & served 4 ways, fettucine with walnut sauce, and baba au rhum.

The service was even better than our dinner, though maybe this was unusual — Mr. T overheard the nearby table remarking to each other that the staff was fawning all over us. I say hey, sometimes you just hit it off. I’ll take the good times.

Inside Il Buco, an old convent

The Best Pizza South of Naples, Maybe in Italy
I wasn’t sure what to expect of Southern Italy. I can be pretty Type A. I like order. Schedules. Lists. Plans. Following those plans. Italy is legendary for mixing it up. The further south you go, even more so. Would I go crazy from all the chaos? Even more importantly, would the food be any good?

Good food isn’t a guarantee in Italy — during a 2004 trip, I encountered as many downright bad meals as decent ones. Foodwise, I’d been disappointed & resigned myself to not being into Italy. Maybe France was just more my speed? But. I also know I am in a very different place in my life now. I’m much better at finding good places; I’m much more comfortable traveling in unknown circumstances. I wanted to try it again, and not solo unlike last time. So when it came time to choose springtime honeymoon destinations and given our predilection for Mediterranean destinations, Mr. T & I decided it could be the perfect setting between the coastline, potential for great food, & plenty of things to see and do. The Sorrentine Peninsula! Pizza! Pompei! Panini! Capri! Lemons! Gelato! Positano! The Amalfi Coast! Sunshine!

We arrived shortly before noon in Napoli Capodichino. Between transit & late afternoon snacks & naps, we weren’t out for dinner in Sorrento until 9 PM. How southern European of us! We picked simple: a pizzeria written as curiously beloved by locals. Curious, as in, the author wasn’t exactly sure why the patrons packed the place despite the crowds & plastic silverware and disposable cups. Curiously packed & beloved by locals? This sounded like a recipe for success to me.

Yes, dinner blew my expectations away. I knew immediately we’d come to the right place. I considered the police officers waiting for their pizza to be a good omen. When our number came up & we were seated, I ordered pizza alla diavola & Mr. T chose a pizza with parmesan & arugula and some sort of prosciutto or ham or something. I’d give you the name, but it doesn’t really matter because anything these guys at Da Franco put on their pizza tastes amazing. Plus, it turns out there’s not standardization amongst titles and their corresponding ingredients. Each establishment interprets their pizzas as they see fit. Pizza alla romana can mean anchovies in one place where anchovies are the centerpiece for pizza alla siciliana somewhere else. That’s Italy! Always mixing it up!

This pizza was something else: the flavors amazing & the crust was cooked to a perfect char. It was refreshing to spend 20 euro on dinner for 2 when we’d been ordering a single entree in Dublin for the same.

We noticed everyone else polishing off their own pizzas, but Mr. T & I could barely make a dent in half. I caught our server’s attention to ask for a takeaway box. He winked, then demurred: “Of couuuuurse.”

Then he brought us this box. Oh, Italy!
Da Franco's, ta go

St. Stephen's Green
Today was our last full day in Dublin. I’ve gotten completely settled & comfortable here & tried to ignore that I was sad it was coming to an end.

I added in a little more shopping & some last visits to places I’d investigated but wanted to explore further.
Museum, take 2
After my failed attempt last week, I decided to head back to The National Museum (of Archeology). It’s what you’d expect. Plus displays of thousand-year-old REAL bodies of those found in bogs. Did I mention the bodies were real? And maybe some of them had been a bit mangled in the farm equipment used at the bogs? But they were displayed anyway?
More tamely, there was another exhibit on the sacred sites at Tara and others of Celtic or Viking significance.
National Photographic Archive
Next up, The National Photographic Archive. This shoulda been a win. The current display was Witness to War, regarding the 1916 uprising and subsequent civil war. After the Gaol & other sites, the displays seemed lacking & received about 10 minutes of my time. Apparently I’ve turned into a snob about how photographs are presented in galleries, since I expect them to be a step above what I see in our lunchroom at work. My standards might be high, I don’t know.

After a quick stop at Tante Zoe’s, the cajun-creole place in Temple Bar (I know. I couldn’t help the curiosity.), I spent some more time shopping on Grafton before taking my late afternoon stroll through St. Stephen’s Green.

St. Stephen's Green

For dinner, we half-heartedly put our names in for reservations at the uber-touristy Gallagher’s Boxty House. I visited 6 years ago and liked it, but during our 45-minute wait, we stumbled upon Zaytoon’s Persian. Doner Kebab sounded perfect after 2 weeks of potatoes.

Tomorrow, we go to Italy!

Zaytoon's

Waiting for his Master, at Ladbrokes
I caught the best mate pictured above hanging in front of the bookmaker’s behind Grafton St. So loyal! Reminded me of The Baron.

We are nearly done with our main visit to Dublin this month. Since I was in the final stretch, and not reconciled to leaving, I took a long walk to The National Gallery & Grafton Street’s shopping options this morning.

Sleeper Hit: National Gallery of Ireland
Turns out, I’m a big fan of Irish artists of the 19th & 20th century. Namely, Paul Henry and his contemporaries. I’m a sucker for the way they use color and the mood of their work.
Then I learned in the giftshop that my book full of walking routes is packaged here differently as History and Mystery walks. Maybe it means they did the American packaging right that I wouldn’t be as interested in picking this up than the one I did:
My walk book, with a different cover.

The state of the Euro vs. Dollar being what it is, I’d avoided shopping. I remembered a few things I wanted to investigate regardless — so, off to Grafton Street. I hit up the fance Irish Department Store Brown Thomas for clothes and the hidden Dublin outpost of Ladurée. I picked up several lovely things though the shopping curtailed after a stop at the sweets. I would’ve gone back to the other departments, but the shopgirl doling out les macarons was a bit big for her britches, all eye-rolly like she had health insurance just for existing. So, I left Brown Thomas for the more earthly Marks & Spencer, where they didn’t have some clueless 21-year old who made me feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman trying to shop for her first nice dress. (I did like the good sir out front, though.)

Brown Thomas

Too much money later, it was time for dinner at The Winding Stair with Mr. T. Very good, but as we’re spoiled by great meals all week, this fit right in & didn’t make a name for itself. I’d go back, especially for the bookshop on the lower level.
The Winding Stair
We took a long stroll home via the Liffey.
Ha'Penny Bridge

Woolly Wonder
One of the suggested historical Dublin walks from my master book sent me up O’Connell Street today past the General Post Office (where the Revolution started) and the Millennium Spire, towards the Dublin Writer’s Museum. There was a brief stop in Beshoff‘s, an Edwardian fish ‘n chips shop that turned out to be a nice place to chill out and people watch at 2:30 on a weekday afternoon. I set my expectations a little high for the museum after yesterday’s trek to Dun Laoghaire but there were similarly worthwhile anecdotes across a broader set of authors.
Post office: where the revolution beganDublin Writer's Museum

On my way back to get ready to meet Sasha for dinner, I made what was supposed to be a brief stop at one of the coolest ideas for an exhibit ever: A Woolly Wonder: Hyperbolic Coral Reef at The Naughton Institute slash Science Gallery, a part of Trinity College Dublin. They had a few reefs represented, an area to participate by crocheting (interactivity!), and even a Maths exhibit to demonstrate the geometric models of crochet and the ocean. You can read more about the hyperbolic coral reef exhibit here. And there is even a TED Talk about the project.

I spent far more time there than I planned. Here are photos I took:

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Dinner was at L’Gueuleton, yet another fantastic recommendation from Sasha, but this time WITH Sasha. I had the goat cheese tomato tart, Mr. T had the Toulouse Sausage and potatoes. AMAZING food & cozy atmosphere in a busy part of town. Recommended. I wish we had this place in Seattle.

The Irish Sky at Dun Laoghaire
The Irish Sky at Dun Laoghaire
For lunch, I visited Mr. T’s office. I admit. I liked it even more than his work’s Seattle cafe. Here, they have a woodburning stove! For pizza! Delicious. It happened to be Batali day, too.

James Joyce tower
Then I took the DART out to Dun Laoghaire for another afternoon walk by the sea.
Once upon a time, James Joyce lived here. He later set the opening scene of Ulysses at this tower.

Temps had turned for the colder, so I took a break in the Joyce museum. The lady in charge was so kind — asking quickly if I was a stranded traveler, were my plans affected? I told her we still didn’t know if our honeymoon would be in Italy or not. But then I voiced that there were far worse places to be stranded and we had weeks more of exploring to do in Ireland should our flight be cancelled. She said that was so lovely to hear. It was true. I left the Museum, resolving to read Ulysses sometime.

Submerged bike path
Dun Laoghaire
Dun Laoghaire

I walked another mile or so before heading to the train station for pub night with Mr. T’s colleagues. Time to watch Barcelona vs. Milan!

Kilmanhaim Gaol
After the weekend’s grand voyage, I kept a lower profile today: cabbing it to Kilmanhaim Gaol to take the historical tour. My cabbie promised I’d want to shoot every last Englishman after I was finished there. I chose not to bring up my ancestry at this point.

Kilmanhaim was built as a humane prison based on the theories of Jeremy Bentham but spent far more time housing “criminals” during the famine and rebels during political conflict. The leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed here. Its last inmate became the future prime minister of Ireland. The doors were officially closed for good in 1924 after over a century of operation.

As our guide talked of how the British could have fed the Irish during the famine, how crops did grow in Ireland for shipment back to England while the Irish suffered The Great Hunger or migrated, I couldn’t help but think of the news story I’d read that morning. The one about all that food bound for Europe, rotting today in Africa due to planes grounded by the ashcloud.
Kilmanhaim GaolKilmanhaim Gaol
cell at Kilmanhaim Gaolin the yard at Kilmanhaim Gaol
From the Gaol

Afterward, I walked back from Dublin 8 past the Irish Museum of Modern Art — past the outdoor exhibits and Royal Gardens and past St. Patrick’s Hospital and the Guinness Storehouse.
Irish Modern Art
In the field at Irish MMA

Before dark, I caught a bus at Christchurch back to our hood by the Grand Canal. For dinner, Mr. T & I paid a repeat visit to one of our favorites: Juniors Deli. If you ever visit Dublin, Juniors needs to be in your top 3 places to dine. We walked home along the canal.
Grand Canal Theatre and Docklands

Giant's Causeway
Today, we visited rural Northern Ireland. I’m here to tell you, it’s gorgeous.

But first, we awoke in an overcast Belfast. Overnight, we could hear beleaguered hotel staff shepherding a British stag reveler to his room (notice a theme?). There was confusion as to where his friends were staying but they weren’t big fans of him lying in the hallway. By the way, ours was the 10th floor, home of the Bill Clinton Suite. I took this picture for my Mom. She’ll be so proud.
The Clinton Suite! Down the hall from our room.Scaling Hotel Europa
I’d be pissed if I were Clinton since it was across the hall from the elevator. Sidebar: I’m still not sure what was going on, but a ton of people were rappelling down the face of our Hotel this morning as we waited to pack up our things. The people watching seemed festive, so I assume nothing was awry.

Belfast, Sunday Morning
Belfast, Sunday Morning
After taking a few pictures of the murals in Belfast (no, no, certainly not intimidating!), we decided to take the quickest motorway north for more time-sensitive places first.

Bushmill's Distillery
The skies cleared as we arrived in Bushmills. We drove right past throngs of Sunday churchgoers to find the Distillery tour, where Bushmills has bottled for hundreds of years and where their new owner Diageo now bottles Jameson’s. There were families in our tour — reminding me of the time my parents took me on the Anheiser Busch tour. Sadly there were no clomping Clydesdales here, so I don’t know if the kids carried away the same positive memories I did. Nor could they get any stuffed animals to keep for the next 25 years. Old Bushmill’s should look into mascot opportunities. Lunch post tour in the distillery was great. Irish Stew Steak on potatoes! I bet there was whiskey in that and the lunchroom lady kept calling me Love.

Carrick-a-Rede Walk
Next stop: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Tour. This isn’t the sort of thing I’d normally hunt down, but it was on our way to the Giant’s Causeway draw. Tip: I’d go out of my way for this place; it’s gorgeous. You hike to the rope bridge to take in more views which were spectacular.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Finally we arrived at today’s biggie: The Giant’s Causeway.
Giant's Causeway
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also part of the National Trust, like Carrick-a-Rede. Mr. T had heard of this amazing geological formation years ago & suggested we visit. Stacks and stacks of hexagonal stones. It might not have made my radar otherwise & was a vacation highlight. Legend has it that Finn MacCool built the road to visit his lady in Scotland & a rival giant smashed it all up. In the interest of conservation (of our time), we took the bus to The Stones. Wise move, because we had plenty of energy for the cliff walk remaining. The coast views were amazing.
Giant's Causeway Cliff Walk
Northern Ireland, County Antrim
Northern Ireland, County Antrim

After our walk, we took advantage of our location to continue a drive through the Glens of Antrim. Shortly after the Causeway stop, Mr. T & I switched driving duties. Confession: there was a half an hour there where I thought I might die. I started looking out the side window instead. It was getting pretty late in the day & we started worrying places would close up shop on Sunday nights in such a rural region (less than 2 million people in all of Northern Ireland). So we stopped at the end of the Glen drive in Carnlough.
Northern Ireland
Turns out, Carnlough is the home of the Londonderry Arms – one of the best un-researched happy surprises of our trip. I now understand why food folk rave about Duck Confit. Their “Crispy Confit of Duck Leg nestled on Champ and braised Red Cabbage drizzled with a sweet Chilli Sauce” is to DIE for, Bahbara. To die for. The cabbage was a surprise hit as well. I cleaned my plate of it, for the first time. And now that I brought it up, another surprise of this trip has been learning the Irish are obsessed with two spice profiles right now: Cajun or anything with Sweet Chili sauce. In some of the less notable establishments I was grateful for that sweet chili bottle hanging about. Also helpful to know — champs = mashed potatoes. That took me a week to figure out.

Alien Bridge in the Republic
As seen on the M1 Motorway, just north of Dublin.
The rest of the drive was dedicated to getting back to the Dublin Airport. We arrived closed to midnight with a few mishaps (I’m blaming the space cadet from yesterday at Dublin Airport Hertz) but everything got turned in and we wandered to the taxi stand to catch a ride back to the city centre. This was the third or fourth day of suspended flights in European airspace & the place was eerie. We had to wake up the driver at the front of the queue. He drove us back quickly, lamenting the slowness, how it would be 2 weeks before any resumption of normalcy, and he laughed a little too heartily at our upcoming Saturday plans to fly to Italy. Hrmph. Well, there are far worse places to be stuck than the British Isles.

For more pictures of our day in The North, here’s a slideshow.

Posh Merchant Hotel
The lobby of the very posh Merchant Hotel.
All week, we debated where to head for the weekend. 4 out of 5 cab drivers voted for the Wicklow Mountains & Mr. T’s colleagues for Galway & Connemara. But last night I made a reservation for a rental car to take us to Northern Ireland for a first night in Belfast & a day in the country with a stop at the Giant’s Causeway. I was an International Relations graduate of the 90’s & had spent my share of time writing papers on the Irish Peace Process. I wanted to see Belfast. Sunday would be checking out the countryside, to see the home of some of my ancestors who lived in the Ulster Counties before they made it to America.

As this morning’s driver took us to the agency at the airport, in typical chatty Irish fashion, he asked where we were headed. I replied quietly and skipped over the Belfast part, “…County Antrim” (the county on the northern coast of Northern Ireland). He countered with an “Oh dear.” And never mentioned it again. It turns out many Dubliners have hung onto old notions and outdated fears of The North.

Mr. T nominated me for the driving given my one day of experience in the southwest. We hit the M1 & 20 minutes in when I realized the flake of a car agent at Dublin Airport Hertz (who ended up being full of misinformation regarding tolls and returns and whatnot) was incorrect about a full tank. Grr. After a checkin call to let them know our displeasure & to credit our account accordingly, we’d catch a gas station before the Northern Ireland border — gas is cheaper in the Republic than in the UK. Except, there was no sign we’d crossed! So there we were at a Pound Sterling cash-only gas station with only euros 2 km north of the border. Allegedly.

We backtracked to a station that proclaimed “Proud to Be Irish!” A good bet & 45 euro of gas later for a half-tank, soon enough we were checking into the infamous Europa Hotel at lunchtime. We were peckish, so this was excellent timing for the Saturday St. George’s Market. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable markets (for me) in northern Europe. There were stalls of a variety of foods with a notably more British bent than I expected. But better. At one stall, I went for the curry sampler. Mr. T went for the hog roast.
3 kinds of curry...or Irish Stew
Hog Roast
In my defense, she seemed to be loitering for a snapshot.
The Hog
The takeaway options were as varied, as were the food products.
Popular offerings
I tried the Spicy pie.
Had no idea so much seaweed on offer
But skipped the seaweed buffet to contemplate the spice bins.
Spice bins at St George's Market
Spice bins at St George's Market

After lunch, we wandered a little more through some of the clothing stalls and a neighborhood or two before heading to The Merchant Hotel.
Have we any of these in Seattle?
Have we any of these Rain Skirts at the fairs in Seattle?

I’d read somewhere that the Merchant had the most expensive cocktail in the world per Guinness World Records. Yeah, I wasn’t going for that, but some of their other noteworthy options. We chatted up the bartender (pictured on page 54 of the bar book, next to the Clover Club recipe) while the famed Afternoon Tea went on in the grand rooms next door. Sure, the drinks cost $15 USD, but this was absolutely the one experience where this was worth it.
Sloe Gin Gin Sling - Merchant Bar Belfast- Merchant Bar BelfastMelancholy Punch - Merchant Bar BelfastThe Presbyterian - Merchant Bar Belfast

After, we wandered Belfast with a shopping stop here or there and an illuminating Black Taxi Tour of Unionist (Protestant) areas, Shankhill Road, and “The Peace Wall.” Later we paid an early evening visit to the Crown Bar, noted for its private Victorian era “snugs” — booths with doors! I wish my pictures had done the booths justice.
in the Crown BarThe Crown
A friend in Dublin recommended some great restaurants like Deane’s or The Ginger Bistro…but it turns out the grounding of flights sent a lot of British to Belfast for hen & stag nights. We could only get a reservation at Cayenne for 10 PM. DUDE. Seriously? After a week without needing reservations in Dublin? After our luck in NYC where we walked in at Babbo & were readily seated? I half dreaded Cayenne — the restaurant had been on No Reservations (oh, irony!) and I worried it was over-hyped. But once Mr. T ordered that Irish lamb, the wait seemed so worth it: the best lamb we’ve ever had. You could sense the locally-raised, grass-fed impact more than any other meal we’d had. I don’t know how prawns with spicy lemon lentils & soy mayonnaise nor salt & pepper squid with nahm jim sauce could seem so magical but they were. I recognized the chef from that Bourdain episode chatting with customer friends; I’m convinced his presence after a brief period away promoting other places has raised the bar.

We ate so much we were grateful to happily walk home at the end of this great day, past many a drunk Brit, who freely swayed and shouted in the street. Certainly not hungry anymore:
Sometimes

Howth Cliff Walk - Coming
Today’s agenda:
1) Get an Irish phone number/SIM card
2) Go for a good walk
The 1st item was done after a brisk preview walk along the canal down to Lower Baggot St. It was lunchtime and all the office workers were lined up in packs of friends along the Grand Canal, eating and laughing and enjoying the sunshine.

For the 2nd item, I walked halfway back up the Grand Canal area to the DART station. I took the next train to Howth, a half hour north of Dublin. I feared my sunshine luck would run out and I couldn’t waste a beautiful day indoors – today I found the 4-mile Howth Cliff Walk along the Irish Sea.

Howth Cliff Walk Harbour
I started at the Harbour, with a visit to local Beshoff Bros for fish & chips.
Howth Beshoff Bros
They didn’t photograph pretty. But the box did!
After the satisfying lunch, I started my trek. I found the Yeats house.
Yeats Slept Here

Then came great views of hills and the sea.
Howth Cliff Walk

Sometimes I needed a warning & direction.
Howth Cliff WalkHowth Cliff Walk Thisaway

Sometimes I found cliff dwellers.
Howth Cliff Dwellers

Sometimes I saw 1 of a dozen ferries, getting newly stranded travelers home.
Howth Cliff Walk - Irish Ferries

Mostly I just enjoyed the views.
Howth Cliff Walk

Howth Cliff Walk - Lighthouse

At the end of the walk, I stopped in at the pub in the station briefly — a very drunk British lass (…is there any other kind? I kid! I kid!…) came running into the loo to tell me excitedly, “Did you hear? Just now, our flight on Ryanair’s cancelled the weekend through! We don’t have to go back to London!” I congratulated her on the good (?) fortune & was on my way.

Later, I joined Mr. T at The Pig’s Ear off Trinity Green for a well-earned nouveau Irish dinner.
The Pig's Ear
Great end to my first week in Ireland!

The library
After yesterday’s packed itinerary, I slept good and long this morning. It was the first seemingly overcast day. My only goal was to head west to browse shops and maybe visit the National Library or the National Museum (of Archeology). I puttered a bit getting there. Usually after an hour or so, I get Museum Brain — where my brain stops accepting new facts being hurled at it in all that dim, protective lighting — no matter how much I might love the subject matter. They don’t make higher priority in travel plans as they once did. Yet, it seemed nicely low-key & I was open-minded to stopping in. I’d read the library covered several famed Irish authors, provided genealogical advice for travelers, and had some Oscar Wilde hoopla going on. The Museum sounded as though it would give me context for wandering Dublin. Oh, and I love libraries.

I mistakenly thought it was Wednesday. Vacation mindset, eh? I knew the Library was open til 9 Wednesdays, so I hit up the Museum across the street first. Except, I’d taken so longer to wander west, that they were shooing everyone out of the Prehistoric exhibit when I arrived. (4:30 already? Where had the day gone?) I walked back to the Library and into the Keats Exhibition.

Beforehand, I didn’t know much about Keats but his salacious Occult fascination drew me in quickly. The exhibit was great! I half-thought it was too bad I was the only one in there, with full run of house. I surprised myself by really getting into watching all the videos & reading panels, when lo and behold, a very alarmed security guard found me. “What are you doing in here?!?”

It turned out they’d made last call an hour earlier when the other Museum closed and he had no idea how I’d made it in after closing. (Me either, I recall waving at a front desk lady as I walked in.) “It’s like you’re Home Alone in here! Don’t worry, ya ha’nt broken any laws around here.” And then he laughed away my apologies. I liked this guy.

We chatted for a bit more as he unlocked various systems and led me out to the sidewalk. It was great timing as the gray skies cleared while I was inside. Then he remarked, “Nice that the volcano ash looks to be going, idn’t it?” And I go, “…what volcano?”

Co. Kerry
As the sun rose, I was cabbing to Dublin International to catch a flight to County Kerry, in southwest Ireland. I’d gotten one of those legendary 10 euro flights. Since I could be back that evening and would need zero luggage, it worked out to be a great 12 hour day-trip.

By 9:30, I was southwest of the airport, driving on the WRONG side of the road for the first time ever. I headed for the Dingle Peninsula first. There are twice as many sheep as people — and didn’t realize til I arrived how perfectly I’d timed it to see the baby lambs! Spring!
On the sleepy side of Ireland, lambs sun by the sea
Dingle PeninsulaDingle Peninsula
There are few things I love more than baby animals or the seaside.
Co. Kerry - I stopped at Inch again
I especially loved the beach at Inch. (Gaelic: Inse)
The Best in the West
I didn’t think Dingle was all that notable, other than being surrounded by some of the best countryside anywhere. I did find the hot dog stand hilarious: The Best in the West!

I finished the peninsula drive earlier than expected, so started in on The Ring of Kerry.
Co. Kerry
Co. Kerry
Gallorus - from 700 ish AD
More scenic views. And a Christian church from 700 AD. Ish.
Impressive, but when Mr. T & I make it back, I plan to check out more of Killarney National Park — I was speeding back to the airport by this stage of the day. I actually got lost and ended up doing the whole Ring of Kerry since it was better marked than my shortcut ideas…I made it back in time for my evening flight. Lucky, considering around the same time, a little volcano in Iceland blew its top and I wouldn’t know for a bit longer than anyone else in Ireland…
Pre Ash, by about 4 hours

Can I get a Hallelujah in the House?
Can I get a Hallelujah in the House? Hands go up for every shout-out.
Not a newsflash: Jet lag blows. Today it hit fierce. I slept in until deciding to head to Temple Bar where I realized it was “In Handel’s Day” – the annual Dublin festival commemorating the premiere of Handel’s Messiah. They got the sinfonia, the mayor and this choir putting on a few show in the plaza where the theatre house stood.
Prime Real Estate for this concert
Four stories above the action, this guy has prime real estate for this concert. Okay, maybe all the time, being a block from the Liffey.

Since it was a few blocks away, I made it back to the Chester Beatty Library that was closed yesterday. I was struggling through the religious manuscripts (jet lag) and headed to the rooftop garden. Dudes, I feel ya on needing that nap.
Chester Beatty Rooftap
I decided a nap was in order for myself, and headed back via Dame Street.
Too many pints?
No more fish ‘n chips for this fella.

Bride at Dublin Castle
I followed some podcast iWalks from Dublin Tourism today. I covered City Hall to Dublin Castle to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with some lollygagging in the sun at Dublin Castle gardens AND in St. Patrick’s Park. Today’s plan: wander Dublin as much as I could stand. Turns out I have great endurance, despite jetlag.
My pale-faced people
some of my pale-faced brethren behind Dublin Castle

St. Patrick's Cathedral
St Patrick’s Cathedral

Gulliver
on my walk to the Cathedral, these apartments had Swift artwork

Dublin
Stained Glass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral

To get home, I walked from Temple Bar to the Docklands, listening to that path on the iPod tour. I was pretty wiped out, but napped before dinner with Mr. T at Ocean Bar.

Things I Learned the Hard Way (TM notmartha)
Originally I planned to use a Dublin bike and head to Phoenix park, but my US cards were no good for their system. Thus, the iPod came in handy. My goal was exploring Dublin. Partway home, I had my first foray onto the bus instead. I plan to stop at the TI to ask if there is a workaround.
I might rent one of these tomorrow.

The Chester Beatty Library is closed on Mondays. Ah well, the day was too beautiful for museums anyhow.
Hmph. Closed on Mondays.

When I don’t have a dining companion for lunch, I don’t make a point to eat anything better than grocery sandwiches. And I walk 5 miles too far, on top of another 8. Moderation is the next plan.

On a final note: we couldn’t have ordered better weather in Ireland this week! This city looks amazing in the sunshine!

Beautiful Dublin Day
We landed in Dublin this morning. Uneventful flight: my favorite kind!
Brunch - Juniors
We went straight for brunch at Juniors, thanks to sasha’s suggestion.

My Irish Breakfast & Mr. T’s roasted pork belly over choucroute were great, though next time I’ll go for the French Toast half the place ordered.

We overheard the woman next to us chatting about a packout and a quick conversation with her confirmed she’s a colleague of our friends who lived in Athens. Small world.

We spent most of the day wandering, fighting the jetlag.

Things I Learned the Hard Way:
Salamanca was great 5 years ago, but is now bland and flavorless. Unjustifiably pricey.

Ireland may run on the Euro, but they don’t run on the continent’s same electricity. My duo-prong was no good in this joint. What a rookie mistake, like I’d never visited the place! Thank goodness for our hotel vending machine.
Converter in a Vending Machine

Jetlag blows. (Ok, this is a relearn.)

We have Oscar Wilde & sunsets to soften that blow.
And I'd just said "There's gotta be an Oscar Wilde statue around here."

Oscar Wilde

Sunset over Liffey

New York, New York
over Sara’s island
Babbo!
A long layover gave us just enough time for dinner in Manhattan. We scored the last walk-in table at Babbo (with plenty of backup options thanks to friends’ suggestions). Amazing braised oxtail gnocchi, black spaghetti with rock shrimp & spicy salami Calabrese, bufa di mozzarella, a special season item of contorni of ramps, grilled octopus with limoncello vinaigrette: fantastic meal. We wrapped it up with chocolate hazelnut cake with orange sauce and hazelnut gelato. The perfect way to ensure 7 hours of hibernation. I noticed Seattle’s Salumi on the menu as well.

Once finished, we wandered back to JFK via the convenient West 4th stop nearby.

I really really love NY.
West 4th Site
To borrow from notmartha:
Things I Learned the Hard Way
AirTrain’s great for quick transit from JFK, but watch out for the subway connections. We hit a snag trying to catch the E from Jamaica Station, which was closed for the weekend. Better to have taken the LIRR and transfer again at Penn Station, rather than ended up on the slow NYC bus “shuttle” through neighborhoods of Queens.

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