succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Ireland - Day trips to the coast!

For our last two days we took the train to some suburbs on the coast. First was Howth, where I took a million pictures and absolutely fell in love. I could set up a tent on the cliffs and just live there. Though probably not really, since our B&B lady said on rainy days Howth residents are literally in the clouds, and considering how many rainy days Ireland has, I suppose SAD would be a real problem for me there. But the day we spent hiking around was beautiful.

Our last day was spent at Powerscourt

The formal gardens were gorgeous, but after all the uphill climbing in Howth, I sort of wished I'd been warned that Powerscourt is a mile straight uphill from where the bus drops you off! C'est la vie.

All in the all the trip was amazing. Good quality time with Mom, and some nice clarity on some of our (my) lingering issues.

Tomorrow morning I'm off to Denver, for another conference. I figure internet access may be slightly more reliable there, and I plan to spend much more quality time chilling in my hotel room (read: working on my course notes for the fall), but we'll see how that goes.

Ireland Day 7 - North of the Liffey

On Friday morning we trekked to the northern half of the city, passing the Clarence Hotel on the way, which is owned by Bono (sadly, in nine days, no Bono sitings).

We started our day at the Dublin City Gallery. I think the building itself is the showstopper, but most people come to see Francis Bacon's entire studio, transplanted (allegedly) as is to the gallery.

We had some more conference goings on in the afternoon (closing ceremonies, where it was announced that the next meeting will be in Florianopolis, Brazil. Mom didn't hesitate to ask if she would be invited to that one as well).

Then it was time to go back north to the Old Jameson Distillery. Frankly, I was pretty unimpressed with this tour, but luckily Mom and I knew to be ready to volunteer, so now we're 'certified' whiskey tasters!
The rest of the evening was spent wandering about various historical sites, like the General Post Office, site of the Easter Uprising in 1916

Call me a patriot, but I'm a sucker for a declaration of independence, be it my country's or another's.
Our founding father's signed their names knowing it meant risking their lives. Fortunately for all of us, they won their revolution, and therefore got to survive. Sadly, the gentlemen whose names appear above were not so lucky.

And the Garden of Remembrance, honoring those who died during the Easter Uprising.

And St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral

which has that weird name and somewhat non-descript appearance because, despite being the 'most important Catholic church' in Dublin, the powerful Protestant community at the time of the church's construction in 1816 balked at the idea of it being located on O'Connell St. (a main thoroughfare) and instead it was given cramped quarters at the end of a minor road. The 'pro' approximately implies 'unofficial' because church leaders planned to construct a more grand cathedral once they had more funding (and, presumably, a more favorable social/political climate).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ireland Day 6 - The Liberties

We started our day with a long walk from O'Connell St. to Heuston Station and the nearby museum of modern art. As with all modern art, I found it to be pretty hit or miss (though the hits were plenty impressive) but the best/creepiest part of the museum is that it's housed in an old military hospital (the Royal Hospital Kilmainham) so it's a little like looking at art in the middle of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The 'formal gardens' also feature some cool sculptures.

Next stop, for me, was the Guinness Storehouse, where I snapped plenty of images for use in my upcoming class this fall.

I also got a picture of a nice quote from Rupert Guinness:
We are brewers and always have been; and in our brewing we have sought, and we seek, to ally the traditions and craftsmanship of the past with the best that science has to teach us.

The tour itself was actually pretty interesting, though I suppose my expectations were set pretty low. I particularly enjoyed the tasting, when we sniffed, swished, sniffed, then drank. The typical pint is too full to allow for swishing to pop a few bubbles, so it was kind of cool to notice the increase, and change, in odor when that famous head goes down a bit. The gravity bar, where you get your pint, was a bit too overrun with tourists to allow for any sort of quiet reflection, but it does provide for some nice pictures

While I was drinking, Mom was checking out St. Patrick's Cathedral, which we'll come back to, because I trekked over to meet her and we went next door to the small Marsh's Library, which everyone should go see.

The exhibit changes every 6 months, but the one I saw included Newton's Principia Mathematica! Be still my heart! I just stood there grinning like an idiot with my little sweaty palm pressed against the glass. The librarian, and my Mom, laughed at me a bit. But a few cases later were copies of Chaucer and Shakespeare and Mom let out a little gasp too.

After Marsh's closed we headed back to St. Patrick's

for evensong. Now that's my idea of religion. Seriously - the sopranos hit notes that made me feel closer to God. And I'm not using hyperbole.

We rounded out our day, and kept up the musical theme, with some lovely authentic Irish music back at Kiely's, where I was pleasantly surprised to find a colleague of mine playing a bodhran!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ireland - Day 5 - The Boyne Valley

This was the day I was most excited about - an organized bus tour to ancient Celtic sites. Ok, so I'm not thrilled about the organized tour part, but the sites are tricky to get to, and frequently overrun with tourists in the summer months, so I begrudgingly booked a tour with Mary Gibbons. First stop is the Hill of Tara, alleged seat of power for ancient Ireland, though the exact significance of the site is somewhat disputed. Personally, I don't much care what the true story turns out to be, as the Hill of Tara seems obviously powerful and strongly connected to nature in that wonderful Druid-y way.

Also, fun fact from tour, Margaret Mitchell's parents (or grandparents?) were Irish and the plantation in Gone with the Wind is called Tara after The Hill of Tara.

Next stop was Newgrange, an ancient burial tomb, older than the pyramids and Stonehenge (they're particularly fond of reminding visitors of this fact). The tomb is set up so that the light box catches the first rays of sun at sunrise on the winter solstice, and illuminates the chamber. Of course, we entered the lottery to be able to be in the chamber on the next solstice (conveniently also Mom's birthday).

Walking in to the tomb was amazing - I love the idea that I was rubbing up against stone that human hands touched thousands and thousands of years ago. Ok, so lots of other humans have also touched the stone between now and then, but nevertheless.

More fun facts from the tour - we have the Celts to thank for the term 'honeymoon' - Celtic couples were encouraged to drink mead (made from honey and fermented apples) for fertility and vitality until the first moon following their wedding.

Both the Hill of Tara and Newgrange are located in the Boyne Valley, near the Boyne River

site of the Battle of the Boyne, between England and Ireland (who else?) in 1690.

And lastly, how cute are we?

Things that drive me bonkers

My Dad's reaction to my plan to apply for a swanky post-doc program - "Boy, you're just really working to put off the real world, aren't you?" Yes, Dad. When one of my profs made the extremely flattering suggestion that I should apply to this incredibly prestigious program, a program that's practically tailor made for my specific interests and skills, a program that would seriously help to launch any career interests I might have, my first reaction was, of course, oh goody! here's a way to continue to remain a perpetual student! Bah!

Things that drive me slightly less bonkers

The fact that Dad's reaction still bothers me so much. I knew what he would say, and I know he won't change, and I know I'm right about this and he's wrong. So I need to let go of needing him to approve the professional path I'm choosing (and will continue to choose) because it looks so different from the path he followed and therefore he will never endorse it.

Things that make me smile

Girls closing the gap on SAT math scores. Yeah yeah, SAT math scores are a highly questionable measure of anything anyway, sampling problems, does this mean girls are improving or boys are doing worse, etc. etc. It's still good news in my book.