Bring That Aston Down, Girl

Let me tell you. I am pretty damn proud of myself. No, I didn’t find a cure for cancer (i wish) and no, I didn’t figure out the answer for ridding the world of racism and terror (i really wish) BUT I did drive an amazingly kick-ass car down from Germany to Mallorca all by myself. Yep. Just lil ole me.

That car would be an Aston Martin and it costs a bit more than my old Ford Probe did (God, I loved that car – even had a sunroof). I won’t bore you too much with the drive because it can get a bit tiresome driving 8ish hours for two days straight. But I can also comment on two hotels, the ferry and some good tunes. Let’s hit the road!

First, I gotta fly to Germany. That’s Port d’Alcúdia you can see down there.

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Headed out on a rainy Saturday around 10 a.m. and took a sweet road which took me through twists and turns of a deep and dark German forest. Gosh, the forest can get dark so quick. I kept an eye out for deer that might jump in front of the car but only saw two of those majestic creatures in one of the farmland pastures: along with many cows, horses and some birds. I had to get on my phone navigation once before I hit the A44, then to the A7, then A5, then A63, then A6 and THEN A31. And then I would be getting into Dijon, France.

I made a few roadtrip CDs, a mash-up of songs that are new and old. One of my favorite new bands is Portugal. The Man. Have you heard of them? They seriously rock. Check out “Feel It Still”.

“Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now I been feeling it since 1966, now Might be over now, but I feel it still.” I rocked out man. The. Man.

The drive to Dijon was a lot of highway. And France has a lot of tolls. But you roll with it. When choosing a hotel I looked for a place that wasn’t too far off the highway and of course a good price. I wasn’t sure what time I would arrive and I definitely wasn’t going to be doing any sight seeing on this road trip. My hotel was in Arc-Sur-Tille, which is only 20 minutes from Dijon. And my hotel was L’Hotel D’Arc (naturally). It was super cute, good price of 95 euro for the night and the hotel dude was friendly and spoke English (thank you). The room with a view!

No restaurant at the hotel so they recommended a restaurant down the street next to the supermarket – La Table d’Arc. It was okay. There were lots of French people there eating and drinking and having a good time so it must be the place to hang out. I did find a piece of plastic wrapping in my chicken caesar salad which I did not like, they didn’t speak any English (which is okay, I AM in their country) and I had to flag down the waiter for everything after ordering my food – some water, a glass of wine, the bill. So, yeah, only okay.

Alright, it’s Sunday morning I must get myself and the car to Girona. We will be taking the A6, then the A7, then A9 and then AP-7. There was MUCHO MUCHO traffico on the roads! I had a lot of traffic jams around Lyon. And I had to drive through it, but it looked like a cool city to check out someday. Interesting architecture and the Rhone river runs through it. Also on the drive were loads of vineyards, next time defo stopping at one for some wine tasting. Starting in Narbonne and on the way down to Perpignan (I love saying all the French towns with a hard French accent). Try it – Perpignan, Montpellier, Lyon, Bordeaux. Fun, no?

I didn’t stay in the heart of Girona, remember I wanted to stay right off the highway. I stayed at Hotel Costabella. This place was a bit difficult to find (for me) and the room was really crappy, the sink wouldn’t drain and the room smelled cigarette smoke – even though they said no smoking and you would be fined if you did. I asked for a different room but they were completely booked for the night. The good things – very friendly staff, the dinner was excellent (i had gazpacho and then salmon for my entree) and I enjoyed the sauna. I always enjoy a sauna. Also, a big parking area which another thing I looked for in my hotel choices with such an expensive sports car.

Alright, finally Monday and the day to get home. Yipppeeee! I miss Felix and my kitties. I drove to the port in Barcelona in about an hour and a half from Girona. Got my Trasmediterranea boarding ticket for me and for the car (I reserved online about two weeks before), headed to the car area and we had to wait about 30 minutes before they let the cars on the ferry. Parked it here:

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Then headed upstairs for the eight hour journey from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca. I didn’t have a seat or cabin reserved so it was a bit difficult to find a spot at first. But after about 20 minutes after boarding they opened the “restaurant” area and I dashed in for a seat next to the window with a table and set up camp. Got bored with that after an hour or so but enjoyed watching us pull out from the port and head into the open sea.

I read my book, cleaned up my desktop on my computer, read a little more and then ventured outside. They had this tiki bar area set up at the top so that was kinda fun but again you can only sit for so long before getting bored of that too. It overlooked other car parking and then finally we started to see Mallorca show up on the left hand side.

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And finally I was home.

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Travel Wishlist

There are so many places I am dying to go. Here are my top 5 places I cannot wait to travel to, where are yours?

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JAPAN – Konnichiwa!! My first travel dream place is Japan. I picture myself walking through Japanese gardens dripping with cherry blossoms that gather at my feet, drinking rice wine and jamming out with my new Japanese friends at a karaoke in Tokyo. Did you see Lost In Translation? I had that movie on repeat for months. You will find me checking out the cool Japanese architecture, Mount Fuji and eating the freshest sushi ever.

 

iceland ICELAND – All I have seen about Iceland is how gorgeous it is. Amazing canyons, hot springs, black beaches, waterfalls and more waterfalls. And that Blue Lagoon that everyone Instagrams with clay on their face. It would be a road trip, which of course I love. In pictures it reminds me a lot of Norway. I would die to see the Northern Lights and would totally fall in love with a Puffin if I was able to find them.

 

 

portugal PORTUGAL. It is so close to me! I feel this might be the next one I actually get to visit. The others are at least a flight away while Portugal I could take the car on the ferry to mainland Spain and drive. Another road trip. I guess our family road trips from Oklahoma to Wisconsin or to Harlingen, TX drove me to love them (drove me – get it?) In Portugal I would drink port wine, explore the beautiful caves, visit a castle or two, snorkel in the Algarve and check out the forgotten temple. I’m getting excited just thinking about the possibility being there soon.

 

sa SOUTH AFRICA. My parents are planning on visiting South Africa for a month. And by golly I will be right there with them! I love traveling with my parents, we always have such a great time together. I’m not sure even a month will suffice, there is so much to see – Cape Town, a safari naturally, the amazing Blyde River Canyon, see the penguins on Boulder Beach, Victoria Falls and I’m sure soooo much more. I’m hoping this one is happening in the near future too. Maybe end of 2018?

 

 

The last one I’m struggling with because there are just way too many places I want to go! South Korea, Cuba, Hawaii, Greece, Turkey, Alaska, Australia but this one made it to number 5.

bali BALI, Indonesia – I want to live in a Bamboo house on one of their many sandy beaches and maybe just do that. But I won’t because there is just too many amazing things to see. I want to stand between the Lempuyang temple at sunset, play with the monkeys in the monkey forest, swing on the Ubud swing over the jungle, slide down the canal water slide. And so many jaw-dropping temples to gaze at for hours and hours.

 

 

 

 

Dine With A Ghost

You know there are TONS of ghosts in NOLA. Ghosts, voodoo, spirits, you name it, they got it. Some stories are down right scary and some are a bit, hmmmmm, not so sure about that one – skinned rolled back to look like a caterpillar?? You can take the stories with a grain of salt or you can fully believe or you can relax enjoy the ride and who knows! Maybe you will feel a cold hand on your shoulder or take a picture and when you look at it later you do see some kind of apparition. I believe in ghosts. One day I will tell my ghost story.

I think the ghosts tours are pretty much the same no matter which company you choose. We saw people on other ghost tours and they were all stopping at the same places we did. Now you MUST read this in a spooky and sinister voice.

Here are the stops we made:

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum – In 1823, Louis Dufilho became America’s first licensed pharmacist and opened his apothecary shop on Royal St. But he is not the one haunting this place, that would be Dr. Dupas. The mysterious Dupas bought the pharmacy from Dufilho right before he died. According to legend, Dupas did many experiments on pregnant women and slaves. It was said, you would go in healthy, and never be seen again. It seems, he was conducting experiments on people upstairs, giving them large doses of his voodoo medicine. He is usually seen in a brown suit and likes to move potions around on the shelves and sometimes throws a book. I had a strange experience there while trying to take a picture of the inside. My phone did over 60 photo bursts, I’ve looked through them and maybe I see something near the back in the middle, but I’m not sure. What do you see?

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Zach Bowen/Omni Hotel – Zach Bowen joined the military to support his wife and two children. He did a tour in Kosovo and a tour in Iraq (parts of which were spent at Abu Ghraib), where friends say he changed. Upon return he became a bartender in the French Quarter of New Orleans and soon after he separated from his wife. He met Addie Hall, a fellow bartender and the two of them liked to party – drinking a lot and doing cocaine. Also, Hall was said to be a mean drunk and abusing Bowen. Hurricane Katrina hit and they were one of the few who stayed and weathered out the storm. Many people said that going back to “real life” after the tragedy of Katrina was their downfall. On Oct. 5, 2006, they got into a fight (Hall claimed he was cheating on her) and Bowen strangled Hall to death before cutting her up into pieces. He placed her head in a pot on the stove, her feet and legs were either in other pots or in the oven where he tried to cook the body parts. During the next two weeks he spray painted messages on the walls, wrote his five page suicide note and went out drinking, getting strippers and doing drugs with friends. Late October he went to the Omni Hotel, had a drink and then threw himself out of an upstairs window where he landed on the roof of a parking garage. Police found the suicide note and where to find Hall’s body. Some claimed he had been possessed by a demonic spirit that was terrorizing them from the voodoo shop that was below their home. Was it that? Was it PSTD from his two tours overseas? We will never know. But there are still claims that people see someone jump from the Omni Hotel window. The police will show up but there is never anyone there.

Muriel’s Restaurant – Here you can dine with a ghost. The restaurant that is now Muriel’s went through many changes, owners, etc. On March 21, 1788, the Great New Orleans Fire started on Good Friday and burned 856 of the 1,100 structures in the French Quarter, and one of these was a portion of Pierre Phillipe de Marigny’s mansion that was burnt. During the next decade the city was trying to rebuild and Mr. Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan purchased the property from Marigny. We will call him Antoine from now on (why did they all have such loooooong names back then). Antoine LOVED his home but he was a huge gambler. In 1814 he wagered his home in a poker game and lost. He was devastated and before vacating the premises he went up to the second floor and hung himself. Supposedly he haunts the second floor – he can be seen as a bright glimmering light. In the past he would throw wine glasses off tables, but ever since the restaurant set up his own table, leaving bread and a bottle of wine (he prefers Cabernet) every night the “tantrums” have diminished. You can have a private dinner with Antoine but you need to call Muriel’s to set it up. Whether or not Antoine will show up, it is still one helluva a good promotion.

The Ursuline Convent – I thought this place was truly freaky. Here is where vampires arrived from the Old World to the New World. This three-story Colonial masterpiece (no nuns live here now) sits behind a high wall with gothic gates and a big courtyard. In 1727,  France sent young women (very poor and possibly homeless) to help populate the city of New Orleans. When the girls arrived they came with casket shaped boxes supposedly holding their belongings and both (the girls and the casket boxes) were placed at the Convent for the nuns to watch over them until they found a husband for them to marry. Thereby earning them the name of the Casket Girls. After they arrived the mortality rate skyrocketed – because what was in those caskets were vampires. Once the girls found suitors the caskets were opened and were found empty. Dum dum Duuummmmmm. Fear of what had escaped from those caskets brought the Archdiocese to the convent. He had them immediately moved to the third floor, where to this day unless you are from the Vatican you cannot go up there. Plus, the shutters are continuously closed. And on top of that they have closed them with 800 screws EACH, that supposedly the Pope blessed. That’s 8000 Pope blessed screws keeping whatever needs to be kept in there! But locals have witnessed the shutters fly open in the middle of the night. I could stop there, but there is one more story to this. Back in the 70s a group of paranormal researchers came to NOLA to check out the convent. Two stayed overnight, in front of the convent to finish their research. The next day they were found dead, and drained of their blood. Drained of their blood!! Now, nothing can be found on the news about this from the 70s but the people in New Orleans say it happened.

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Alright, finalizing things up. If you watch American Horror Story you might have heard about this last one, or at least about the lady – Madame Delphine Lalaurie.

The Lalaurie Mansion – This haunted history is perhaps New Orleans most famous ghostly tale. For more than 150 years, the Lalaurie House is said to be the most haunted location in NOLA. Delphine married her third husband, wealthy doctor Louis Lalaurie in 1832. They threw lavish parties and everyone wanted to be invited inside their gorgeous three story mansion. People started wondering about all the slaves that were being bought – they saw them go in but never saw any go out. Once in 1833, a neighbor saw Delphine chase her 12-year old slave around the roof with a whip. The child jumped to her death and was buried in the courtyard. Investigators came to the house and punished Delphine with a fine and making her sell all her slaves. Unbeknownst to authorities she had relatives buy them and she got them back. In 1834 the truth came out. A fire was started in the kitchen by her cook who was chained to the stove. When authorities came they found a very grisly scene in attic – slaves chained to the walls, badly scarred and starving. It gets worse. Reports say one man had a hole drilled into his head with a wooden spoon sticking out (to stir the brains), another woman had her arms amputated and her skin rolled down making her look like a caterpillar, a woman with her stomach cut open and her intestines wrapped around her body and another had her arms and legs broken and reset so she looked like a crab. Horrifying! Gives me the creeps. After finding this an angry mob grew outside the Lalaurie mansion, soon Delphine and her children came roaring out in a carriage and Delphine was never seen again. Some say she died in France, some say she is buried in a New Orleans cemetery. After we left, Jeannie told me she had felt a very cold breeze go by her. Here is where most people do feel something or see something.

Spoooky stuff right there. And even if you don’t believe, it is still some fascinating stories. Next time I think I will do the vampire tour. Do you have any ghost stories? I would love to hear them. BOO.

 

 

Restaurant ~ Stoop Your Head in Skerries, Ireland

After Newgrange we were hungry but we wanted something with a bit of a nice view. We took the “scenic” route, scenic to us because this was all new! And tried to drive along the coast as much as possible. We came into a small fishing village on R 127 called Skerries. It was almost too perfect. We spotted a restaurant by the harbor. It’s name – Stoop Your Head. Awesome name, must be an awesome place. My friends, it did not disappoint. Everything was so delicious.

Apparently we weren’t the only hungry ones. The place was packed. It isn’t that big of a place but it does have an outside patio to eat at too. But the weather was a bit chilly so we waited for a table to open up.

Finally one did. Hooray! I had my usual Ireland drink order – Guinness with black currants. And we each ordered the seafood chowder and I ordered the Rockabill Crab sandwich on brown bread. They have quite the full menu – everything, really. From soup, salad, sandwiches, appetizers of paté and falafel to main courses of tempting fish pie, baked salmon or Irish fillet steak. My mouth is now watering thinking of the savory foods!  All of their meat is fully traceable from farm to fork. And they only use Free-Range Chicken and Eggs.

You must check this place out. It is only a 20 minute drive north of Dublin. And about the name – well, it is true, some of the doorways are a bit short. And you MUST STOOP YOUR HEAD! Enjoy. And don’t forget about the Guinness!

Newgrange

The next day was Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland. Because of time constraints, I had looked into the places my mom wanted to go to, but never into much extent. So I was usually pleasantly surprised when we arrived to these sites, they were so interesting. Newgrange was the first of these stops.

Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it is a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, island, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance. It is one of the two UNESCO sites in Ireland. Newgrange is also called Brú na Bóinne.  It is a prehistoric monument in County Meath, Ireland, about a 30 minute drive from Dublin.  It was built during the Neolithic period around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids! The site consists of a large circular mound with a stone passageway and interior chambers. The mound has a retaining wall at the front and is ringed by engraved kerbstones. There is no agreement about what the site was used for, but it has been speculated that it had religious significance – it is aligned with the rising sun and its light floods the chamber on the winter solstice.

There is no direct public access to Newgrange by road. Visitor access to Newgrange is only by guided tour from the Visitor Centre on the south side of the river Boyne. Newgrange is on the north side of the river Boyne, visitors cross the river by pedestrian bridge and take a shuttle bus to Newgrange. Tickets are sold at a first come, first serve basis and we were told to arrive early as tours do sell out. We arrived at 10 a.m. and had no problem with getting tickets. Adults are 6 euros and children are 3 euros.

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Aren’t my parents adorable? 🙂 There behind them is the circular mound and within the mound is a chambered passage, which can be accessed by an entrance on the southeastern side of the monument. The passage stretches for 19 metres or about a third of the way into the center of the structure. At the end of the passage are three small chambers off a larger central chamber, with a high corbelled vault roof. Each of the smaller chambers has a large flat “basin stone”, which was where the bones of the dead were possibly originally deposited, although whether it was actually a burial site remains unclear.You can’t take pictures inside but here is one of the entrance.

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Do you see that large stone in front? Newgrange contains various examples of abstract Neolithic rock art carved onto it which provide decoration. These carvings fit into ten categories, five of which are curvilinear (circles, spirals, arcs, serpentiniforms and dot-in-circles) and the other five of which are rectilinear (chevrons, lozenges, radials, parallel lines and offsets). They are also marked by wide differences in style, the skill-level that would have been needed to produce them, and on how deeply carved they are. One of the most notable examples of art at Newgrange is the triskele-like features found on the entrance stone. (See above pic) It is approximately three metres long and 1.2 metres high, and about five tonnes in weight. It has been described as “one of the most famous stones in the entire repertory of megalithic art.  Archaeologists believe that most of the carvings were produced prior to the stones being erected in place, although the entrance stone was instead carved in place before the kerbstones were placed alongside it.

Check out the kerbstones, the Neolithic art, the possible tombs surrounding the mound and the structural slabs in the next few pictures. What was amazing to me was that geological analysis indicates that much of building materials used to construct Newgrange were littoral blocks collected from the rocky beach at Clogherhead, County Louth, approx. 20 km to the north-east. The blocks were possibly transported to the Newgrange site by sea and up the River Boyne by securing them to the underside of boats at low tide. Can you imagine? Remember this began around the year 3200 B.C. I was astounded.

 

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I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed seeing this place. It is a mysterious and fascinating site! I hope you will one day see it too. Until the next post, CHEERS!

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DUBLIN

Hello fellow readers! I returned from visiting the green island of Ireland a few weeks ago. I hope to take you through every area we visited in my next few posts. So keep in touch.

First of all, the Irish people are THE NICEST people I have ever met. I have traveled a lot (not to brag, but I have done a decent share – but that said, so much more still to see) and I have never had such a pleasurable experience with the people of a country. Not a single rude person. Everyone was friendly, helpful and most of all, funny. It was such a fantastic trip.

Let me just preface that I was traveling with my parents, not that THAT is bad! I just wanted you to know who I was with on this adventure. I love my parents and we had a lot of fun. Since moving to Europe ten (!) years ago, I have traveled with my parents a lot on this side of the pond.

So, let’s get down to it. Flying from Mallorca to Bilbao to Dublin I landed around 5:00 pm at the Dublin airport. And my first experience with Aerlingus. Nice airline – they had leather seats throughout the entire aircraft! And of course, friendly. Then I had to pick up the rental car from Hertz. And this was my first experience of the steering wheel on the other side and driving on the other side of the road. My parents had landed earlier in the day so they were already at the hotel. It was me and the rental car driving on the wrong side of the road together. YAY! Already friends.

Finally arrived at Clontarf Castle and went up to the room. Dad was still sleeping and mom was getting ready for dinner. We unpacked, talked about the trip to Dublin and went down for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Good food, good service and guess what – friendly people everywhere!! What is in the water? And can I get some shipped to the island of Mallorca?

Dad and I started off with a Guinness. Because if you are in Ireland, you drink a Guinness!! And by the way, have you tried Guinness with black currants!? DO IT NOW. You can thank me later. The most deliciousness of Guinness you will ever have. Yo.

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We called it an early night because we had to begin the day around 8 a.m. (pretty much every morning for the rest of the week). I did like that we each had our own single bed. Usually when it is three people one person gets totally shafted and has to sleep in that crappy cot (extra) bed. You know what I am talking about, right? And it really sucks. And is really uncomfortable. And it is always ME that has to take this bed because I am obviously the youngest – but not that young!! But here at the Clontarf Castle we each had a lovely single bed. A good nights sleep if only my dad didn’t snore!

DAY TWO: Hop On – Off (HOHO) Bus in Dublin. Some people don’t like these buses but it is an easy way to see the city without paying too much money. Just as the name states, you can get on and off when and where you like and walk around for as long as you want and then get back on. Of course, keeping with the bus time schedule. I think they start around 9 a.m. and end around 8 p.m.

Clontarf Castle has a free shuttle early around 8 a.m. But we wanted breakfast and then took a taxi took the HOHO Bus. The first place we got off was Trinity College. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, as well as Ireland’s oldest university. It was originally established outside the city walls of Dublin in the buildings of the dissolved Augustinian Priory of All Hallows, Trinity College was set up in part to consolidate the rule of the Tudor monarchy in Ireland, and it was seen as the university of the Protestant Ascendancy for much of its history. Trinity College is now surrounded by Dublin and is located on College Green, opposite the former Irish Houses of Parliament. The college proper occupies 190,000 m2 (47 acres), with many of its buildings ranged around large squares and two playing fields.

The main reason we stopped at Trinity College was to see the Book of Kells. This book is believed to have been created ca. 800 AD. Amazing, right!? The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin. It contains the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables.  The manuscript today comprises 340 folios and, since 1953, has been bound in four volumes. The leaves are on high-quality calf vellum, and the unprecedentedly elaborate ornamentation that covers them includes ten full-page illustrations and text pages that are vibrant with decorated initials and interlinear miniatures and mark the furthest extension of the anti-classical and energetic qualities of Insular art.

While they had two books on display (under bullet-proof glass) it was difficult to see with the amount of people trying to crowd in and look …. for hours. But I did get a peek and it was beautiful. A picture from a page in the Book of Kells from educationscotland.gov.uk.

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.Connected to the area to see the Book of Kells is the Long Room. The 65-metre-long (213 ft) main chamber of the Old Library, the Long Room, was built between 1712 and 1732 and houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. This was actually my favorite part of Trinity College. While the Book of Kells was so interesting and beautiful it also had so many people wanting to see it, read about it, learn every single thing possible. The long room was more calming and just so many books! My heart was happy.

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Back on the bus! We drove past tons of gorgeous places – St. Stephen’s Green, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dublin Zoo in the huge Phoenix Park. But then our next stop was the Guinness Storehouse. Did I mention the Irish people were friendly and funny? While leaving our guide mentioned to all getting off that the last pick-up from Guinness was at 8 p.m. Hilarious. 🙂 I thought we would be able to just go straight to the Gravity Bar at the top but you must buy a ticket to go there. Adult tickets are 18 euros each and you get a ticket for a free pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar. The self “tour” was fine, interesting if you want to know how they make Guinness. We went through it pretty quickly and headed to the top. Here you can receive your free (with your ticket) pint of Guinness and look out over all of Dublin. Great views!

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Our last stop was Temple Bar. Not really to see the area – because it is mostly bars and retro clothes shops. Which if that is your thing, this is your stop! But there was a big hurling game happening and we wanted to check it out. What is hurling, you may ask? What you DON’T know!? What planet are you living on!? Okay, kidding. We had no idea but there was a big game and our taxi driver told us all about it. Hurling is called the fastest game on grass.

The objective of the game is for players to use a wooden stick called a hurley to hit a small ball called a sliotar between the opponents’ goalposts either over the crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for one goal, which is equivalent to three points. The sliotar can be caught in the hand and carried for not more than four steps, struck in the air, or struck on the ground with the hurley. It can be kicked or slapped with an open hand (the hand pass) for short-range passing. A player who wants to carry the ball for more than four steps has to bounce or balance the sliotar on the end of the stick and the ball can only be handled twice while in his possession. It was a lot of fun to watch and to try to understand what exactly was happening. The big game was between two rivals Kilkenney vs. Tipperary. And it ended in a tie, something that is very unusual I was told.

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.Flags flying for their/your favorite team. That concludes my first day of Dublin post. I hope you enjoyed it. Next up is Newgrange and surrounding area of Dublin. Please check it out. Good night!

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