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April 12, 2011

POTD: Belfast City Hall

The civic building for Belfast, Northern Ireland.

January 27, 2011

POTD: The Upper Lake at Glendalough, Ireland

Glendalough, a glacial valley located in County Wicklow, Ireland.

October 27, 2010

POTD: Lough Tay (aka the largest pint of Guinness in the world)

lough tay

lough tay

During a family holiday to Ireland we took a tour of County Wicklow, where Lough Tay is situated. The estate in the photo belongs to the Guinness family, who imported the white sand, thereby making the lake appear to be a giant pint of Guinness.

September 13, 2010

POTD: Republican Murals in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Palestinian murals in Belfast

Palestinian murals in Belfast

A Republican mural in Belfast showing solidarity with the Palestinians. In addition to the murals, many Palestinian flags were on display throughout Republican neighborhoods. Taken during a July 2005 trip to Belfast.

August 5, 2005

Lindsay goes to Ireland: The End

St. Patrick

It’s been awhile since my last Ireland post, but there is still a bit more to say about the trip.

In Dublin, we visited a few other sites such as Kilmainham Jail, Trinity College (to see the Book of Kells), and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. While at St. Patrick’s, I came across this highly amusing donation “box”…it is actually a Guinness keg:

St. Patrick's Cathedral donation keg

Also, on a random note, I had nachos in Ireland. I wasn’t actually searching for nachos, either. We wanted to have some dessert, so went to a pub down the street from our hotel. I was scanning the menu and printed on the top was ENTRADAS. I remember thinking to myself “What the hell is that doing on the menu?” Well, as it turns out, we had walked into a pub that specialized in Mexican food. Yes, you read that correctly…an Irish pub that serves Mexican food. I promptly forgot about dessert and instead opted for the nachos:

nachos in Dublin

They were actually quite good. Yeah, a bit skimpy on the toppings, but overall, very tasty. We also went to a Mexican restaurant one night for dinner. Now, you might consider that to be quite odd considering we were in Dublin and should have been eating Guinness stew or cottage pie every day, but I was getting pretty tired of that type of food. It’s one thing if you are coming to Dublin from the U.S., where stews and pies aren’t your typical everyday dish, but out here in London I have had more than my fill of that type of food, so I was looking for something different. We ended up at a place called “The Alamo” in the Temple Bar area (cool area – must visit if you’re in Dublin). There was also a restaurant called – I kid you not – “From Mexico to Rome” which served, as you may have already guessed, Mexican AND Italian food. Two great cuisines, but not sure if I want them in the same restaurant, so we chose The Alamo. I’m not going to get into a long-winded review of Dublin Mexican restaurants, but I thought The Alamo was pretty good (although still can’t compete with the Mexican food in the Great State of California). I remember being especially pleased with the margaritas. Go figure, eh?

I really want to go back to Ireland someday…there is so much more to see! I would like to visit County Mayo, a rugged area on the west coast of Ireland that was the home of my Collins ancestors (the Catholic ones, ha). I hear the surfing is pretty good, too, with the exception that the water is freezing cold.
What’s funny is, I never felt really any attachment to my Irish heritage. My Irish ancestors came to the U.S. in the 1800s, so I didn’t grow up in an environment where our “Irishness” was constantly celebrated (well, except for St. Patrick’s Day, but then again, as the old saying goes, “On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish.”). As far as I was concerned, I was just an American, end of story. Visiting Ireland, though, gave me an opportunity to “reconnect” with my Irish heritage, and I must say that I left that beautiful island with a bit more Irish pride, and a desire to learn more about the history of the country and its people.

So, that’s the end of my Ireland trip. I still have to upload all my Prague photos and write a post about my trip there. In short, it’s a really great city. We saw a lot in our short time there, and even managed to visit the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, located 60km from Prague. Hopefully I’ll have those photos up soon.

July 29, 2005

Lindsay goes to Ireland: The Bullets and Bombs of Belfast

Belfast cemetery IRA plot

While in Ireland, my family and I took a daytrip to Belfast in Northern Ireland. I found Belfast to be one of the most interesting parts of our trip to Ireland, primarily due to two reasons. First, my great-great-grandfather was an Orangeman from Belfast, so I had an opportunity to see the part of Ireland that my O’Neill ancestors came from. Second, Belfast has been an area of conflict between Catholics and Protestants for many years. I still remember watching the violent clashes between Loyalists and Republicans on the evening news, and wanted to see this former “war zone” for myself.

We took the train from Dublin to Belfast, and upon arrival at the station, hired a local taxi for a tour of West Belfast, more commonly referred to as the “bombs and bullets” tour. Our driver was great, and at times, his commentary was rather amusing. He talked a lot about the different paramilitary leaders and the violence that has plagued the city, something which I only had a very superficial understanding of.

We went to the Milltown Cemetery, which has a section reserved for IRA “heroes”:

Belfast cemetery IRA plot

Belfast cemetery IRA Bobby Sands

Bobby Sands was an Irish Member of the UK Parliament who died during a hunger strike in 1981.

Belfast cemetery IRA plot

Mairead Farrell, Daniel McCann, and Sean Savage were IRA members killed by British special forces in Gibraltar. At their funeral, a loyalist gunman, Michael Stone, opened fire on a crowd of mourners and threw several grenades, killing three people.

After visiting the cemetery, we drove through the Shankill (Loyalist/Protestant) and Falls Road (Republican/Catholic) districts. Seeing the towering fences that divided the communities was incredible – it was almost too hard to believe. I have never been a very religious person (and currently my Catholicism is practically non-existent), so it was very odd to see neighborhoods divided along religious lines. Personally, I just couldn’t imagine living in a neighborhood that was only composed of Catholics.

Belfast peace line

Gates (the “peace line”) seperating the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. These are actually some of the shorter gates I saw. There are much taller ones that look like they came from a maximum security prison.

Belfast mural

This is the mural wall in the Catholic area. When we drove by, our taxi driver pointed to this section of the mural and said “Aye, there’s George Bush, suckin’ the oil outta Iraq!” Hahaha.

Belfast mural

Another part of the mural wall that displays messages of solidarity for Palestine. There are also hundreds of Palestinian flags flying in the Catholic area.

Belfast mural

A mural of Bobby Sands on the side of Sinn Féin headquarters.

Divis Tower

Divis Tower, a British Army observation post. “They’re takin’ a picture of ya right now, so ya might as well take a picture of ’em.”

Belfast protestant neighborhood

Protestant neighborhood. I’ve never seen so many British flags in my entire life – even the curbs were painted red, white, and blue. This place has really gone on a jingoistic binge – it seems as if they are desperately trying to prove themselves loyal to an increasingly ambivalent British government.

Belfast mural

“Queen Elizabeth, please please please don’t forget about us over here! We’re your loyal subjects!”

Belfast mural

Mural condeming Republican violence.

Belfast mural

The Ulster Young Militants, the youth wing of the Ulster Defence Association, a protestant paramilitary group. Basically, a group of thugs.

Belfast police station

A police station.

After our taxi tour, we still had several hours until our train departed for Dublin. Hmmm…what to do? Ah, well, I noticed Belfast had a “hop-on/hop-off” bus, so we decided to take that for a general tour of the city. Our first stop was the shipyards, which are mostly abandoned now. Belfast used to have a huge shipbuilding industry, but it was hit hard during the depresssion after World War I, and the industry never recovered. The most famous ship built in Belfast was, of course, the Titanic:

Belfast titanic shipyard

Belfast titanic shipyard

Huge cranes at the Harland and Wolff shipyard.

Belfast titanic shipyard

Three of the steam cranes that worked on the Titanic.

After we saw the shipyards, the tour took us through the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, so we had the chance to see those again. It felt very odd driving around there in a double decker bus with “City Sightseeing Tour” painted on the side, though. Can you imagine a busload of tourists driving around your neighborhood snapping photos of you? Very odd, indeed. Incidentally, although it was a “hop-on/hop-off” bus, no one actually got off the bus. I suppose most people took one look at the area and decided to stay on the bus. I would have liked to walk around the various neighborhoods for a while, but perhaps I will do that the next time I happen to be in Belfast (whenever that may be).

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend a daytrip to Belfast. I definitely came away from the city wanting to learn more about the area’s history, and once I finish my dissertation, I intend to read up on it.
I might have one more post about Ireland…and then I will work on uploading my photos from Prague.

July 24, 2005

Lindsay goes to Ireland: County Wicklow, the “garden of Ireland”

Dublin Sandy Cove

We took a daytrip to the surrounding countryside near Dublin.

First, we stopped at Sandycove:

Dublin Sandy Cove

The Irish Sea

Dublin Sandy Cove Joyce's Tower

A Martello tower, originally built by the British Army as a coastal fortification. It is now called Joyce’s Tower, after the writer James Joyce, because he set the first section of his novel, Ulysses here.

I love this sign. It reminds me of one I took a photo of in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Next, we visited Glendalough in County Wicklow. This is the site of an ancient monastic settlement that was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century.

Glendalough Round Tower

The round tower, and part of the cemetery.

Glendalough Church

An ancient church.

Glendalough Lake

We took a 20 minute walk from the monastic settlement and ended up here, the Upper Lake. Our guide pulled out a bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, poured it into small plastic shot glasses, and told us it was for sipping, not taking shots. I took one sip and have concluded that I can’t drink Jameson’s…it’s just too…ehhh…yuck!

The next stop was Lough Tay. Check out this beautiful lake:

Lough Tay

Does it remind you of something? Perhaps one of Ireland’s most famous exports? A pint of Guinness?
This lake and the surrounding land is actually the Guinness estate. The white sand was imported from the U.S. in order to make the lake look like a pint of Guinness.

Wicklow boglands
Irish boglands. Yes, Ireland really is that green!

More photos here.

July 22, 2005

Lindsay goes to Ireland: The Guinness Brewery (Storehouse)

Dublin Guinness brewery

Instead of writing one big post about Ireland, I’ll break it up into sections, as it’s easier than uploading all 200 pictures at the same time and then trying to write a somewhat coherent description of my travels.

Dublin Guinness brewery

First up: the Guinness brewery (more accurately known as the Guinness Storehouse). It’s no wonder that the Guinness Storehouse is the #1 tourist attraction in Ireland – who wouldn’t want to visit the location where the famous “black stuff” is made? The Guinness Storehouse, in fact, was our first stop on the Dublin “hop-on/hop-off” sightseeing bus. It was weird visiting a brewery at 10am, but it’s less crowded then, so at least that was working in our favor. The admission was an annoying 9.50 euros for students, but that did include a “complimentary” pint of Guinness at the end of the tour, and you also got to take home a paperweight kinda thingie that has a drop of Guinness encased within. Cute.

The Storehouse is pretty interesting…you learn how Guinness is made, how it is stored, transported, and finally, marketed. I’ve always thought Guinness has had some of the most clever ads, so it was cool to see a display with all of those.

Dublin Guinness brewery

That’s a lot of Guinness!

Dublin Guinness brewery

When you come to the end of the tour regarding the brewing of Guinness, they have this big glass tube filled with Guinness, all lit up…it’s amusing.

We also learned a lot about Arthur Guinness (“the man behind the brew”) and I came away from the tour rather impressed with Mr. Guinness. Not only did he brew a great porter, he was also quite progressive in providing his employees with medical/retirement benefits, paid holidays, high wages, etc.

At the end of your tour, you arrive at the Gravity Bar, which provides you with an excellent panoramic view of Dublin…and a pint of Guinness.

Dublin Guinness brewery

The bartenders, of course, know how to pour a “proper” pint of Guinness (it takes time, and is a process that should not be rushed) unlike many bars/restaurants in the U.S.

And yes, there was a Guinness store so you could buy all the Guinness goodies your heart could ever desire. I bought two pint glasses and a shirt. Guinness & Co. made a lot of money off of me that day.

A part of the tour that was disappointing was that we didn’t get to see the actual working brewery. I’ve only been on one other brewery tour (Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis) and what I really liked about that tour was that they took us through the actual brewery and packaging plants…also, it was free…and we were allowed two free beers and pretzels at the end…and we got to see the Clydesdales and the cute Dalmations. Still, the Guinness Storehouse was awesome, and definitely something that can’t be missed if you go to Dublin.

July 19, 2005

Eire Go Brach

I’m back from Ireland…what a great country! In Dublin, we visited the Guinness Brewery, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College (and the Book of Kells), and an old jail (forgot the name, it will come to me later). We also spent a day in the Wicklow countryside, which was absolutely beautiful, and the day after that we took the train to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Both Tracy and Moira had told me that it was a city worth visiting due to its contemporary history and the sights associated with it (neighborhoods divided by religion, Loyalist and Republican murals, etc). I took over 200 pictures, so I’ll post them soon and write some more about the trip. I still have to write about Italy, though…

July 14, 2005

Guinness and Shepherd’s Pie



In a few hours I will be heading off to Stansted Airport to catch a flight to Dublin. My family is flying out to Dublin from LAX, so I’m meeting them there. I’m really excited because I haven’t seen them since December. Also, I’ll finally get a chance to see the country that my Irish ancestors (the O’Neills…can’t get any more Irish than that) fled over 150 years ago. I still haven’t quite figured out why the Finchers decided to flee England for the colonies, though…maybe London wasn’t as exciting in the 1700s as it is now?

I’ll be back late Monday evening, but here’s a random question to ponder while I’m gone: Do you think bureaucrats get pissed when they go to, enter their country’s name as a search term, and the first result is an entry from the CIA factbook? If I was President of, say, Russia, I’d issue an executive order to knock the CIA out of the first result and make sure my government’s homepage was the site that you are directed to when you hit the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. But then again, that’s just me. Maybe Putin has bigger things to worry about.