the gifts of gab and guinness
Well hello there, readers. It has happened again…I’m behind in blogging. Shocking, right?
I wanted to start out this post by sharing with you all some photos from a ‘work party’ that we attended a few weeks ago. This was a party for all of The Netherlands and Belgium offices, and it was held at a major venue in Amsterdam. It was HUGE! No one seemed to know what was going to be happening at the party or anything about it going into it, so I had zero expectations. Also, the dress code was simply described as ‘colorful’ – whatever that is suppose to mean. (It was interesting to see everyone’s interpretations…to say the least.)
When we arrived, it became clear just how gigantic this party was. It was seriously like going to a big concert. There were DJ’s (very popular here) and bands playing (but mostly just DJ’s and techno music). Oh, and did I mention the amusement park ride that was going behind the stage? Oh yes, there was an amusement park ride at this work event! There was also a line of food trucks serving small bites of food and some ladies walking around handing out ice cream. That part was pretty awesome.
We enjoyed doing some people watching and even did a little dancing ourselves for a bit. A good time was had by all – definitely the craziest work party I have been to thus far!
We returned to the Heineken Music Hall (location of the above party) a few days later for a Lumineers concert. We met our expat friends for some dinner beforehand, and then headed over to the concert. The set up was fairly similar, but the music was a bit more my taste. It’s a standing room only venue, and given the height of the Dutch, views were obstructed from time to time. All in all though, it was a great show! We enjoyed seeing them live.
Now on to the main event…our trip to Dublin, Ireland. You might have guessed that I was talking about the Irish when you saw the title. They are such a cheery and friendly people, and we really enjoyed their hospitality.
We arrived in Dublin midday on a Friday, checked into our conveniently located hotel and then headed out for lunch. Along the walk to the hotel, we had spotted a trendy-looking BBQ joint down the street, so we decided that we should definitely have lunch there. We miss BBQ a lot, so we take any opportunity to have some! Brisket for BC and pulled pork for me…it was delicious! And even better, they had macaroni-n-cheese for a side option…
After that tasty treat (and large portions), we needed to do some walking! We headed to Trinity College to check out this really old and beautiful campus, and also to visit the Book of Kells exhibit. Trinity College was founded in 1592 under Queen Elizabeth to allow protestants to stay in Ireland to study.
We visited the Trinity College Library, which houses a collection of over 5 million books, including manuscripts, maps and printed music. The most famous book in the library’s collection is undoubtedly, the Book of Kells. This book containing the four Gospels was created by Celtic monks around the year 800 AD. It is written in Latin, and it is beautifully decorated. It was really wild to see something so detailed and from so long ago! (Sorry – no photos were allowed. Look it up online!)
After the Book of Kells exhibit, we headed into the library’s Long Hall. This was such an impressive room! Rows and rows of really historic books… We also saw one of the oldest medieval, Gaelic harps still in existence in Ireland (an important symbol in Ireland).
After the history at Trinity College, we decided to keep our sightseeing going. We made the trek to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church, two beautiful and impressive structures! We didn’t have time to go inside, but a worthwhile stop nonetheless.
From there, we crossed the river and headed to the Old Jameson Distillery for an afternoon pick-me-up, Irish Coffee. The distillery was decorated for Christmas, which was really fun!
From there, we made the journey back towards our hotel (since it was around 4:00 and had gotten fairly dark), and we stopped in one of the Temple Bar area pubs for our first ‘pint’ of the trip.
Then it was back to the hotel to meet our friend, Jan, who was joining us for the remainder of the weekend. We also met up with two other American expats on global exchange with EY for dinner: Amanda – who is in Amsterdam currently, and Ivy – who is living in Dublin. We went to an Indian restaurant (my first time, but I really enjoyed it) and then out to a hidden cocktail bar. We always enjoy hearing another expat’s experiences and just being social!
Then it was back to the hotel for the night…for an attempt at sleep. The Irish really do love to party – our ‘convenient’ location became less valuable given the loudness that lasted most of the night.
Nonetheless, we were up and ready to go again the following morning, after a ‘full Irish breakfast’ at the hotel for BC.
The next item on the itinerary, a bus tour of the “North Coast & Castles”. I thought that it would be a good idea to do a bus tour and get out of the city center to see more of the city and the outskirts as well. Our tour guide more than embodied the “gift of gab” stereotype of the Irish! He was great – full of information, stories and jokes galore. He even sang to us for a bit! After about 45 minutes of his commentary, we arrived at our first stop: Malahide Castle.
As we entered the property, we passed massive open green spaces. Our tour guide informed us that there have been huge musical performances on this open space. Then we approached the castle, which was lived in by the same family for 800 years! It was interesting to visit a castle that you could actually visualize someone living in. It was more cozy feeling than most castles that we have toured.
We had a little time before the bus left again, so we decided to take a quick coffee and snack break. I’m not sure if the lack of sleep or just lack of caffeine was the problem, we were in need of a pick-me-up! I thought this lovely croissant with chocolate bits on top looked yummy, but it became even better when I found that it was filled with chocolate inside! Bonus.
Then we were back on the bus for another short drive and entertainment from our guide until we arrived at our second stop: Howth Harbor. This small fishing town on the outskirts of Dublin was adorable! We walked along the pier and then headed back to the main street, where we found ourselves some lunch!
Then we made the return trip into the city, driving along the Dublin Bay on our way. When we got back, we realized that we needed to move quickly if we were going to make the very important stop at the Guinness Brewery Tour before it closed. So we put a little hustle in our step and headed that way. On the walk, I spotted the Half Penny Bridge, a pedestrian bridge across the river. I have no idea of the significance of it, but I thought it was really cute!
And then, we made it: The St. James’s Gate Brewery of Guinness. We did a pretty brief version of the self-guided tour, as BC had been there before, and we were primarily interested in the “Gravity Bar” at the very top of the building, with 360 degree views of the city.
After the tour, we stopped into a nearby pub called Arthur’s for dinner. Given that it was outside of the Temple Bar area, it was a much quieter place to sit this time. BC and I both enjoyed a Guinness and Beef Irish Stew! It was wonderful! I’ve already been looking up recipes online to make this myself some day…
We then decided to call it an early night when we got back to the hotel…thinking we might beat the street noise if we were early! 🙂 But on our way back, we strolled through some of the shopping areas of town that were lit up for the holidays!
The following morning, we headed out for a nice brunch at a bar/restaurant called The Bank on College Green. This is a really pretty old bank that has been repurposed. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas too! We had a nice half Irish breakfast with some amazing sausage, and then enjoyed a few rounds of coffees while taking in the live piano music and atmosphere.
I don’t think I have yet mentioned that the entire reason we went to Dublin was because BC had a work conference beginning Sunday afternoon for his recent promotion to Senior Manager. We headed to the outskirts of town after breakfast to check into our hotel for the conference. Then he was off to work and I watched on TV what was apparently a rugby match that will go down in history for the Irish! Now, I know very little about the rules of rugby, so I was pretty lost…but an Irish friend of mine had told me about this match in advance and I was told that I had to watch. Unfortunately, Ireland lost in the final play of the match to the New Zealand team which they have never come so close to beating before…and the NZ team wrapped up an undefeated season. It was a nail biter!
I did a quick Skype with my family before taking a much needed snooze after a few nights of noise in the city center. Then BC came back to prepare for the big opening dinner of his conference. There was some confusion about the dress code, but it had initially said “Black Tie, Formal”… So we had to go out and find him a tux to rent. Apparently the dress code was a little less formal in the communication a couple days before the event, but we had already rented it – so he was wearing it! Luckily, Jan had decided to join him. Apparently they were the only two who followed the original dress code! But they looked nice.
Apparently their dinner included a little presentation by the prime minister of Ireland! Pretty impressive.
As for me, I walked over to the big, family restaurant next door for a little dinner on my own. I have decided that eating out alone is both awkward and empowering. You do feel like everyone is looking at you, and there are a lot of breaks in the eating out process during which you have little to do… But as someone who enjoys being ‘independent’ (as my family likes to call it), I felt I was showing that I didn’t need anyone else to have a nice dinner out to myself and those around me. Even though I would compare this restaurant to an Applebee’s or something like that… 🙂
I even got some dessert…to go! Banoffee Pie…exactly as delicious as it sounds, with some toffee and banana in there.
The conference continued Monday morning with break out sessions and speakers…and from what I hear, not nearly enough coffee! 🙂
I had an early start myself, as I set off on a 40 minute tram ride back to the city to catch a tour bus through Wicklow County to Glendalough and Kilkenny. When I got to the city center, I did a frantic search for a tourist office to purchase my bus ticket. I was successful, and I boarded a full bus of tourists and another very informative tour guide. For about the first hour, she told us about areas of Dublin as we picked up more guests and then some general Irish history as we headed out of town. Then we started weaving through the towns and small farms of Wicklow County, climbing up all the while. And then, our first stop: Glendalough, an early monastic settlement started in the 6th century. We first stopped at the upper lake, which was beautiful! Then we took a pretty walk down to the lower lake and then to the highlight: St. Kevin’s Church & the Round Tower, surrounded by extremely old headstones. It was especially beautiful with all the fall colors!
From there, it was back on the bus for a 1.5 hour journey over the Wicklow Gap and on to Kilkenny. We were provided with loads of information yet again as we made the trip. We took one photo-op pit stop along… I braved the cold coatless to get this shot for you! 🙂
Then we made it to our second (and longest) stop in Kilkenny. I set out to find some lunch quick at a local pub, and then I met back with the group for a guided walking tour of the city. There is a lot of history in Kilkenny, but I was mostly just a fan of it’s castle and general cuteness. Here are a few photos to show you!
That evening, back at the conference, they had an Irish themed celebration and dinner. I hear there was Irish dancing, whiskey tasting and a whole lot more going on. Here is BC and a group of fellow Americans who are also currently abroad, including Amanda (next to BC) who is in Amsterdam currently and we spend a lot of time with!
Tuesday was the final day of the conference, so I laid low until it was time that afternoon to head out. What a fun time we had exploring Dublin, networking at a huge work event (some of us) and spending more time with some of our friends over here!
We have lots more to come, including highlights of our Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities thus far! Stay tuned!
Until next time,