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.

View from the balcony.

View from the balcony.

This is a DJ in a Mini Cooper in the middle of the crowd...naturally.

This is a DJ in a Mini Cooper in the middle of the crowd…naturally.

The food station.

The food station.

Having a good time.

Having a good time.

Did I mention there was a photobooth?  My Fellow Americans!

Did I mention there was a photobooth? My Fellow Americans!

BC & his co-workers.

BC & his co-workers being silly.

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.

Group Shot!

Group Shot!

The view.

The scene.

My actual view most of the time. :)

My actual view most of the time. 🙂

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…

Cute decor.

Cute decor.

BC's helping.

BC’s helping.

I even got free soft serve with my meal...bonus points!  Apparently this is popular in Dublin...reason enough for me to move there.

I even got free soft serve with my meal…bonus points! Apparently this is popular in Dublin, which is reason enough for me to move there.

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.

The campus was beautiful!

The campus was beautiful!

An interesting mix of tourists and students around the University.

An interesting mix of tourists and students around the University.

Pretty fall day.

Pretty fall day.

Sphere Within Sphere sculpture on campus.  There is one of these in Des Moines too!

Sphere Within Sphere sculpture on campus. There is one of these in Des Moines too!

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).

Entering the hall.

Entering the hall.

Wish I could get up to the balcony!

Wish I could get up to the balcony!

All extremely organized, of course.

So pretty.

The color! So pretty.

That's an old harp!

That’s an old harp!

Check out the dates on these books!

Check out the dates on these books!

I could have taken photos here for hours!

I could have taken photos here for hours!

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.

St. Patrick's.

St. Patrick’s.

Christ Church.

Christ Church.

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!

Crossing the river.

Crossing the river.

Looking back at Christ Church.

Looking back at Christ Church.

Out front.

Out front.

Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee

BC & his purchases with the Jameson tree.

BC & his purchases with the Jameson tree.

I thought this was pretty cool.

I thought this was pretty cool.

We had to wait about 5 minutes for someone to quit walking in this photo. :)  So worth it.

We had to wait about 5 minutes for someone to quit walking in this photo. 🙂 So worth it.

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.

A quintessential Irish pub.

A quintessential Irish pub.  They even had some live music.

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.

Full Irish Breakfast

Full Irish Breakfast

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.

Our sweet ride.

Our sweet ride.

The pretty open green spaces where the public gathers for various events.

The pretty open green spaces where the public gathers for various events.

The castle from afar.

The castle from afar.

These guys are so excited to visit the castle.

These guys are so excited to visit the castle.

Getting close.

Getting close.  I believe I even captured a small bit of sunshine in this one!  Rare.

Do you think I could get some of these windows in DSM?

Do you think I could get some of these windows in DSM?

Family dinning set-up.

Family dinning set-up.

One of us by the graveyard...yikes.

One of us by the graveyard…yikes.

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.

Mmmmmm.

Have you noticed there’s a chocolatey goodness theme in about every post? 🙂

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!

Our walk along the harbor - lots of fish restaurants (shocker).

Our walk along the harbor – lots of fish restaurants (shocker).

Looking back towards town.

Looking back towards town.

BC's panorama skills showing you the island off the coast.

BC’s panorama skills showing you the island off the coast.

Us + Lighthouse

Us + Lighthouse

Jan & BC + Lighthouse

Jan & BC + Lighthouse

Back to the main drag.

Back to the main drag.

Fish and Chips!  Three-way split of this big guy.

Fish and Chips! Three-way split of this big guy.

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!

Half Penny Bridge

Half Penny Bridge

Cute, right?

Cute, right?

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.

Approaching the brewery!

Approaching the brewery!

The Boys.

The Boys.

Our 'complimentary' pint at the Gravity Bar.

Our ‘complimentary’ pint at the Gravity Bar.

Soaking in the surroundings and the Guinness!

Soaking in the surroundings and the Guinness!

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…

Sorry - dark photo...

Sorry – dark photo…  There were mashed potatoes under that biscuit!

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!

IMG_2661

Something in the Irish language.

Something in the Irish language.

Me & Jan!

Me & Jan!

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 like Irish breakfasts!

I like Irish breakfasts!

Pretty building and decor.

Pretty building and decor.

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.

All dressed up!

All dressed up!

A message from the prime minister.

A message from the prime minister.

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… 🙂

Joel's Restaurant

Joel’s Restaurant

I even got some dessert…to go!  Banoffee Pie…exactly as delicious as it sounds, with some toffee and banana in there.

I enjoyed it while watching a terrible Christmas movie.

I enjoyed it while watching a terrible Christmas movie.

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!

Upper Lake

Upper Lake

Upper Lake

Upper Lake

Our pretty walking path.

Our pretty walking path.

The church and round tower behind.

The church and round tower behind.

The round tower.

The round tower.

Part of the former cathedral.

Part of the former cathedral.

A Celtic cross.

A Celtic cross.

A random sheep, of course!

A random sheep, of course!

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! 🙂

IMG_2737

Worth it, I think!

This was my bus and some fellow tourists, just an FYI.

This was my bus and some fellow tourists, just an FYI.

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!

The Castle

The Castle

The inner courtyard of the castle.

The inner courtyard of the castle.

Adorable town.

Adorable town.

A block of pubs.

A block of pubs.

This is like the "mother-in-law suite" of the castle.  I would be okay with that!!

This is like the “mother-in-law suite” of the castle. I would be okay with that!!

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!

Quite a good group!

Quite a good group!

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,
-MK-

Advertisements