Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A white Halloween;
It snowed today for the first time in Oslo. It is not sticking to the ground yet, but the wind makes it look like a blizzard. I got the winter coats, hats, gloves, and scarves down from the attic, so we are all set to start the winter. If this snow fall is like last year at this time, the snow will not stick and it will not fall again until December, but at least we are ready now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Note on the milk;

Ben will never leave for work without giving me a morning cuddle and a kiss before he goes. Well Ben woke up very early this morning and left for work at 6:30 for no other reason then he could not fall back asleep. As a result I awoke to the alarm at 8 to find him missing. I realized his laptop was also gone, so I determined that he had simply left for work early. When I went to get the milk for my morning tea, I found a note on the carton. I was a very simple message of “ I love U”, but it has made my day. It is a great example of “gifts are always nice, but it is the little gestures that make a wife happy”.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

All in all;

This years Akadamy was such a great time. The weather was great (for Ireland) and the attractions were not to be missed. I did some shopping, and Ben got to code. It was a very enjoyable and I am very glad I got out of the city. The entire trip was well worth it. Next years Akadamy will be held in Glasgow Scotland, and I am already making plans for what I will see there

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

By train and bus, traveling in Ireland;

Taking the train to Blarney-

During the past year of planning our trip to Ireland, I was determined to find a way to get to Blarney to see the Blarney stone. I discovered that I could take a three-hour train to Cork, and then take a taxi or bus to the city of Blarney. The main website for Blarney Castle said that the self guided tour of the property would take about three hours. After checking the train schedule, I realized that I could take an early train, see all of Blarney castle, and still make the train back to Dublin. If I timed it all correctly, I theorized that I could be back by six that same night.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up at five A.M and got ready. I had packed my bag the night before, so I kissed Ben good-bye, grab my bag and headed down stairs. I took a taxi to the train station and found my platform. I had to wait a half hour before boarding the train, but was soon settled in my seat. The train was off at seven and I was able to watch the sunrise as we left the city. The train rout took me through the country and I was able to see the sprawling lands with mountains in the distance. It was a very relaxing and comforting site. I kept waiting for the tea cart to come to my car to get a cup of tea, but for some reason the cart never showed up.

The train arrived in Cork at about nine forty five, and I grabbed a taxi to take me to Blarney. Once at the castle grounds I went slow and took my time. First I went to the castle and slowly made my way up the stairs, exploring all the nooks and rooms (tourists are free to go anywhere inside the castle ruins). The stairs were very slick, steep, and tight. I made sure to stop fairly often to take photos and video of everything I saw. At the top of the castle, I was amazed at the views of the country. The sun was still out, and everywhere you looked resembled a post card. I made my way in to line to kiss the Blarney stone. To kiss it, you must lie on your back, hold on to parallel bars set in to the stone, and bend backwards to get to the bottom of the stone. A man sits next to you to hold you as you “hover” above the hole in the wall that is about five stories high. Although it seems dangerous, in reality there is a grate at the base of the outcrop, which will prevent you from falling more then a foot. For a little more info here is a link, http://www.sparta.k12.il.us/SID/blarneystone.htm.

While you are kissing the stone, a man is also above you taking your photo that you can later purchase at the gift shop. I then slowly descended down the castle again taking photos and videos of areas of the castle. I even climbed up in to window ledges to get and interesting photo. Just as I had finished my exploration of the castle, the sun went behind the clouds. I could not have timed it better my self. Back on the ground I explored the property. There were supposed Druid sites, the wishing steps, rock formations that seem to look like a witches head, and woodland trails. After the grounds had been thoroughly investigated, I returned to the main entrance, picked up my souvenir photo, and ate the lunch I had packed.

I explored the village of Blarney for an hour before hailing a taxi to take me back to the Cork train station. I boarded the three thirty train and headed back to Dublin. It rained for most of the ride however I was still able to see many farm animals grazing in the fields. As we were pulling in to one of the stops, I was able to see a full bright rainbow that was situated very close to the train tracks. On arrival in Dublin I walked back to Trinity and retrieved Ben. We went out to dinner before going back to the hotel, where Ben rubbed my soar feet. I am very glad that the trip was a success, and it was completely worth the time and effort to plan it.

Bus tour to Celtic sites-

On Wednesday I scheduled a bus tour to see the Neolithic sites know as the Hill of Tara, and Newgrange. The bus picked me up right around the corner from Trinity collage. The tour guide was an Archeologist specializing in Neolithic Irish sites. Our first stop was the Hill of Tara, which is situated in the middle of a sheep paddock. You had to be careful of where you stepped due to the amount of sheep dropping, and because the grass was wet and slick. Here is some more info, http://www.mythicalireland.com/ancientsites/tara/. From the top of the mounds on a clear day, you are able to see two thirds of Ireland. I was there on a rainy overcast day, so I am unsure if this is correct.

Our next stop was Newgrange, which is a mound made in honor of the winter solstice. It is built so that the sun will shine in threw a shaft and illuminate the chamber inside on the shortest day of the year. There are more mounds built for the summer solstice as well as other solar occurrences, but the winter solstice mound is the only one that has been excavated. It is the only mound that small groups of visitors are allowed to enter. Here is some more information, http://www.knowth.com/newgrange.htm.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What I saw and did in Dublin by foot;

On Saturday morning I got an early start and headed out in to the city. My first stop was St. Patrick’s, which is Irelands largest church. I then headed to the Guinness Brewery were I saw how they make their beer. Your “ticket” was a free gift of a clear paperweight that contains a drop of real beer in the center. The tour ended with a free pint, but since I do not drink, I received a large soda instead. My next stop was the Jameson Distillery, where they make whiskey. This tour ended with four volunteers conducting a taste test of the different whiskies produced by Jameson, and other top manufactures. Everyone else enjoyed a free glass of whiskey, or in my case a soda. I then walked around the block to the Jameson viewing tower. The viewing tower is am observation deck nestled atop a tall chimney. I was the only one on this tour, and had the deck all to my self to take as much video footage as I wanted of the city views. I next walked to St. Audens, which is the oldest church in the city. Not much is left of the church, however one small chapel remains around the ruins, and still holds Sunday mass. Next I walked to Christ church, where I found the most beautiful tile patterns on the floors. My last stop was at Dublin Castle. The castle was turned in to more of a state home, and only one tower is left of castle. One the tour we were taking underground, where we could see more of the original breaking walls, and what is left of the moat (still filled with water from the river).

On Sunday I again headed to the opposite side of the city to take a tour of Kilmainham Gaol, a prison built in 1792. It was one of the first “modern” prisons that held people in individual cells, and focused on rehabilitation. It was also the site were many rebellion leaders were executed. Next I headed to Phoenix Park to see the animals of Dublin Zoo. My favorite moment was when I was alone at the Gibbon house. I knelt down as a young gibbon approached the glass and we observed each other from very close up. This exchange lasted only moments when a young girl shouted excitedly from across the path. She ran up to the glass and freighted the gibbon away. My last stop of the day was to see the Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) exhibit. My guidebooks, and online research of this attraction led me to believe it was an exhibit on the life of the famous author. I quickly learned that the exhibit was a long hallway of news articles about the writer, that turned in to a cheesy haunted house.

On Monday I arrived at St. Michans, which is home to four natural Mummies. For those that might not know, a human mummy can be formed in any environment, as long as the weather conditions stay constant. Like a dessert, in ice, in peat moss, or in a constant dry cool place. The crypts of St. Michans created the latter conditions. Some of the coffins were damaged and the remains fell out. The church will not explore the other hundred or so coffins to see if more mummies exist. The tour of the mummies included two priests, one nun, and a crusader’s remains. It is suppose to be “lucky” to gently touch the finger of the crusaders hand. When the group was allowed to touch the body, the Archeologist in me told me not to, but the curiosity in me won out, and I did gently touch the finger. It was a thrilling experience.

I then started to walk towards Trinity College, to meet Ben at Akadamy. I intended to do some shopping on my way back, and was crossing a street when a man about my age said “hi” to me. The people are very friendly in Dublin, so I thought nothing of it and replied “hello” to him in response. I was about to enter a store when the same man ran up to me and started to talk to me. When he asked if I was traveling alone, I started to tell him all about Ben, and what we were doing in the city. He looked at me and said, “Oh, you are married?” while at the same time looking at my hand. I then realized he was trying to “pick me up”. I replied yes, and then asked him if he was going to ask me out. He responded that he was, and then apologized for not knowing I was married. Now it might seem strange that I included this experience in my blog, but this had never happened to me before. I have never been “hit on” or had a random person come up to me on the street to ask me out. It was an interesting experience.

When I arrived at Trinity College, I took a guided tour of the campus, which ended in the old library. It is officially called “the long room” and is the most amazingly beautiful library I have ever seen. There were no paintings, no stain glass, just the two stories high vaulted wood ceiling, with wood bookcases on the main level, and around the balcony of the room. Every shelf was full of old priceless books from floor to ceiling. The best part was the rich deep smell, of old manuscripts, and old wood. I found Ben at the conference site and told him all about my day. The guys laughed as I told them all about the guy that “hit” on me.

On Thursday I went to the Archeology museum, where there were three peat moss mummies on display. I also saw some Viking artifacts, including a small scout ship (about the size of a canoe). It was fun to compare that ship with the ships I have seen on display in Norway. I also went to the national gallery, where I saw some famous Irish paintings and sculptures. I spent most of the day with Ben as he finished the KDE conference, and I got online for the first time in a week.