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September 3rd 2017
Published: September 17th 2017
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It was nearing 3pm in the afternoon (31 August) when we arrived in Dublin airport to be greeted by grandma and grandpa. What a surprise to see them there. It was fun to get hugs and a pinch on my cheek. They say that I'm getting bigger. Even bigger than when they met me in Geneva. Before we reached the baggage collection area we already had an Irish welcome with a mother venturing: "He cleared up" ... referring to the fact that I had been crying in the plane but was then happy and flailing my arms!!! Twenty minutes of talk (rain, children, work / holidays and wordplay) later and with bags collected, we felt as though we had started our discovery of Ireland. Then our mini-bus driver to the hire car pick-up added a few jokes and set more of the Irish scene. "I met an Italian beggar, his name was Giovanni cash"; "I went to a really bad zoo, it only had one animal... a dog. It was a Shih Tzu".

But the biggest surprise for me is the skin colour of everyone - so pasty white relative to where we have come from, Menorca, where everyone has very brown tanned skin like daddy!

We collected a red car which we filled with all our bags... the boot was full up to the roof! Grandpa then drove us all to our accommodation, with daddy helping him to find the way. That night we went to a typical Irish pub. There were Guinnesses and stews all round that made mummy's milk a bit tangy, which I didn't mind so much. I found it difficult to settle, but eventually the music took its toll and I reclined into sleep. It is so cold here at night. I've been rugged up and have my blanket. I don't feel whimpy, because other babies are dressed the same way.

The next day (1st September) we took as a rest day. In the morning I had a good time playing on the floor - there was plenty of room for me to move around and explore. We stayed inside most of the day. The adults talked about where they had been and discussed what we would see in Ireland. Grandpa couldn't find his shoulder bag with his tablets in and Mummy's shoes. Apparently he had left it where we hired the car in Dublin. Daddy went with him (so he didn't get lost) to get the bag while grandma, mummy and I walked to find where to collect tickets for something called a hurling match. Then we went for a long walk and had an Italian meal.

On 2nd September we undertook a driving tour of the "wild" Wicklow mountains. I am not minding this car seat, and I can see out the window which makes it much more interesting. Outside I could see lots of rolling rugged hillside. Daddy was describing peat cutting, and implications on climate change (whatever that is!). There was also lots of discussion regarding what is the difference between heather, heebees and broome. The road was called "Military road", because the british built it in order to flush out Irish rebels who live in these parts. Nowadays, the road provides a wonderful ~100 km cycling loop for visitors and enthusiasts alike. We stopped at a café to get water, and a few sun rays. There we met two very pretty dogs - Jam Jam and Ponto. Daddy and I played with them and got dog hair all over the place.

Our walk that afternoon was around Glendalough, which means two lakes. There was in fact only one lake initially (carved out by a glacier), and then a lot of infill from a perpendicular river system filled in the middle section, hence now two lakes. This area hosts relics of "Saint Kelvin" monuments and living arrangements e.g. Round tower (for storing precious artifacts), monastery, tomb stone etc. St Kelvin was reputed to have lived to 120 years old, and to be so in tune with nature that a robin lay an egg on his hand. 'We' climbed around 500 steps to the top, although grandpa and grandma didn't go to the top but stayed on a large ledge overlooking a beautiful valley where we had lunch.

Our final venture for the day was a brief visit to the entrance of Powerscourt garden. We only arrived at closing time, just in time to see a drumming band performing at the wedding of Phil Coulter's son (Eurosong fame). At the entrance, I met Isabelle (with a nice smile and yellow cardigan).

For our evening dose of Irish music and food, we headed for the highest pub in Ireland (1100 ft) - Johnny Fox's Pub. It was lively and full of trivia and fun relics and sayings covering the walls. There was even a picture of John Howard, one of Australia's Prime Ministers, who had visited the pub! The pork ribs which daddy and grandpa had were massive - nearly as big as me. I got a full bowl of vegetables cooked in butter. It was so yummy, that I ate more that I have ever eaten. My poo will be super big tomorrow!

The next day everyone had decided to either go south or north depending on the weather. The weather was better in the north so we headed to Belfast. We had grand plans of completing a circuit of the Ard peninsula with a visit to both Mount Stewart house and the Ulster transport and folk museum.

During the drive we realised that there was a gap in the peninsula, and that we had to enter from the top. Besides the drive to Belfast took longer than forecast, so by the time we had reached there I was fed-up and needed a cafe stop. We stopped in Eastern Belfast where there were lots of murals of military operations. These are to remind people of the efforts taken to liberate the North from the Republic. It was our general impression that the North was more commercial and modern than what we had seen of Ireland despite the use of imperial units (I trust what daddy says!).
The Ulster museum was physically massive, and we found ourselves doing different parts. We all saw the trains and Titanic museum together but then mummy and I headed to the model train area (where I had a ride on a mini steam train!), and then to the folk museum. Grandma and daddy visited the folk museum complete with replicate of town life back in 18th and 19th centuries.We all came back together to have a late picnic. It was too late to visit the mount Stewart house so we decided to see what an Irish beach was like. We went for a big walk along the shorefront before commencing our journey home. It was dark before we veered off the motorway to find a local restaurant/ pub just before closing time. We found "the Anglers Rest" to be fun because the waiters talked to us about life in the village. They served our meal quickly because their kids were going to a local dance. That sounds like fun!

Mummy and daddy got ready really quickly this morning (3rd September) for our last day in Dublin, so the transition from warm bath to outside cool was a bit of a shock. They then ran to the Spire on O'Connell street to join a walking tour. Key information imparted during the section of walk that we did participate in included (Daddy helped me with this because I couldn't really understand everything that was being said):
# The spire has a colourful history. It was originally a statue of Lord Nelson which was beheaded by the Liberation army as part of the 1916 Easter uprising. The Irish army was to undertake the rest of the dismemberment, but succeeded in blowing the windows out all along the street!
# Daniel O'Connell was a key figure in revoking the penal laws. He used mass civil disobedience as his weapon and eventually brought emancipation after 30 years of British rule. His statue is riddled with bullets from the 1916 Easter uprising. Rebels were centered on the GPO, whilst the British fired from a boat in the Liffey river.
# Charles Patrick Parnell ("the uncrowned king") was also a strong figurehead in bring about Home rule for Ireland. William O'Shea brought about his downfall by divorcing his wife Kitty and claiming undue relations between her and Parnell, despite having been separated for many years.
# The river running up the heart of Dublin is called the "Liffey" which means "marsh", because that is what it was until channelised in the 11th century. The tidal variation of this channel is an impressive 4 meters.
# The first settlement of the area was around 120 AD. St Patrick's spire dates from Viking times. As does the Christchurch cathederal (460 AD). The offical settlement date is nominated as 988 AD.
# On the hill behind what is now Trinity College was the "executive meeting" and printing consul location for the Vikings.
# The book of Kells is stored in the library of Trinity College. Trinity College has a 60% female population which would make former provost George Salmon roll in his grave, since he declared "Women will set foot in Trinity college over my dead body".
# The average life expectancy in 15th century was 36 years old.
# The Norman / British presence was cemented by the building of a customs house in 1792. Dublin became a bustling centre, and the second busiest port in the United Kingdom.
# The old parliament building is now a bank with all the windows bricked up.
# Prior to the Act of Union (1801), Ireland was flourishing when their population was half that of Britain - 8 million. When all the political affairs of Ireland were conducted from Westminster, the social unrest ("ruin") of Ireland commenced. Embattled by the great wars and famine (1945-1948), the population halved.
# Long bitter struggles and religious battles followed. Independence was gained in 1922.
# An interesting impact of the departure of 35,000 British troops (Ireland was unruly and needed a high military presence) was seen in the collapse of prostitution around the Temple bar region. Over time this was replaced by students and music, and became the cultural heartland of Ireland! Of course tourism ruined all that ... now there are just over-priced drinks and bawdy music.

In the afternoon, we were going to the all Ireland senior Hurling final. The Irish lad we asked for directions on the street told us there were no tickets left - impossible to buy tickets at this late stage (and most are only given out via clubs). Luckily, GGs had a good friend in Australia, their accountant, who got us four special tickets. The only problem was, I also needed a ticket, we were told by the lady at the ticket office! Mummy didn't look too worried as she had an idea. When we got home, she put me in the front carrier and then zipped up daddy's jacket over the top of me. I wiggled around a lot because I didn't like having my head covered up. Everyone looked sceptical. They didn't think it would work. But mummy was very clever - she fed me just before we left, so that by the time we arrived at the gate, I was asleep and slumped over, giving her the perfect look for a pregnant lady. Apparently there were four checkpoints we passed through without anybody realising I was sleeping 'in her tummy'! I didn't stay asleep for long. It felt as though all of Ireland had come to watch the game - there was so much shouting! It didn't bother me as mummy put my earmuffs on - but I kept trying to take them off because I wanted to hear what was happening and they are too tight! Everyone was dressed in either maroon or blue (just like the State of Origin said mummy... I guess I'll see that one day too), and we were dressed in blue and white which were the colours for Waterford - the underdogs. Even my earmuffs were blue!

We had seats right near the endline, so we were close to the action. It is a very fast and furious game... apparently quite like AFL, but sticks are used to move the ball instead of kicking, and the ball is so small that it can be difficult to see. In fact, I just saw lots of people yelling outside the green area, and lots of running on the green field.The ability to carry a ball on the hurl and accuracy of hitting was quite phenomenal. The match was neck and neck until the end. The barracking was loud and passionate. A lot more swearing than would be expected in such a religious country!

The maroon and white team (Galway) won the match, but we were just enjoying soaking up the atmosphere.

We finished the evening in another Irish pub - Murrays. We all loved the music and Irish dancing show. Grandpa seems to have a massive memory for Irish songs. More to sing me to sleep with 😊. Mummy seemed to be very hungry as she ordered a second helping of Irish stew. She needs to eat lots to feed me! All in all it was a lovely way to spend (Grand) Father's day!

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