Monday, 17 November 2008

Great craic

There aren't too many places we've been to over the past few years travelling where we have had the pleasure of being able to go back.

Our first trip to Ireland was on our "summer" holiday in 2006 and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

It was still an easy decision to go back for the weekend to partake of the black stuff. Rugby and Guinness.

While perhaps a little outside of the usual demographic (married, employed...) we had a really enjoyable stay in the An Oige (Irish for YHA) in slightly central Dublin. I assume it used to be a convent school or something as Mary was over the door and the breakfast hall was in a converted Church.

Outside the YHA

Having been to Dublin before we had no firm plans as to what we wanted to do (aside from the rugby), so on the suggestion of Jess & Reuven (fellow Kiwis) we spent Saturday morning in Kilmainham Gaol. The prison had been opened in the country towards the end of the 18th century and it wasn't hard to imagine just how dire it would have been in the early days with only natural light and uncovered windows. Over the years the prisoner population increased, and eventually, a "nicer" Victorian wing was built. Some would say that the increase in prisoners was due to it being used to hold convicts before sending them to Australia (and Tasmania - it would seem in the eyes of our guide to be a separate place), and some would say that it was because of vagrancy during the potato famine years, but Amy's theory was linked to the opening of the Guinness factory, just down the road.

The prison is quite famous because it ended up being the execution site for the leaders of the 1916 Easter uprising. More than the uprising itself, these executions - and the interconnectedness of the leaders - helped ultimately pave the way for Irish independence.

Inside the "new" part of the gaol

We moved onto somewhat more uplifting pursuits in the afternoon with the first game of the day. Mel (who is currently living in Ireland) met us with her local friend Heidi to watch the game between Scotland and South Africa in a cute wee pub before heading off to the game.

Part of the attraction in going to Ireland was to see Croke Park in action. Under the laws of the Gaelic football association, no English sports (football, rugby etc) were allowed to be played in their grounds, only Gaelic sports like Hurling (flat hockey sticks with rugby sized players) were allowed to be played in the grounds so the change in the laws to allow rugby to be played is quite a big deal.

Paul, Amy & Kiwi

Outside Croke Park - Mel, Jess, Kiwi, Reuven & Paul

The game itself probably won't go down in history as being one of the greatest games ever, but a win is a win and 22 -3 is quite a good win really.

A loss of 19 points didn't seem to bother the locals much. Heidi our host was in good spirits (I suspect not very surprised by it all) and after a lovely Irish-Italian meal took us to a listed pub near to Trinity College. We all agreed that it was the first time in a long time we'd seen so many rugby jerseys and it seemed a lot like [insert name of pub near to your own university]. When we were in Ireland the first time I had assumed that the friendliness was tied in many respects to us being in rural areas. Dublin proved itself to be a grown up small town and the evening quickly passed in waves of conversation.

The best or worst thing about staying in a hostel is the 10am check out. The kiwi manager did try and convince us to stay for breakfast ("...but it's free!"), but we had a brunch date with Mel and Heidi.

Fortified with coffee and yummy breakfast Sunday we left the girls on a quest for jeans and spent the rest of the day wandering the city looking at churches, parks, canals before having a piece of baileys cheesecake and catching our flight home.

Dublin Castle

Market women selling their bananas


Here are a few photos from a lovely autumn day in the sun (a few weeks back now to be fair), just up the line from our house.