Monday, August 31, 2009

They're After me Lucky Charms!

This past weekend, we took advantage of a Bank Holiday weekend and made the short journey to Dublin, Ireland! In case you are wondering...yes, it rains a lot! The rain, however, rarely washes out an entire day and does not seem so bad when you are surrounded by extremely freindly people and lush, green landscapes.

Our trip started early on Friday after a quick flight from London. We spent our first day exploring the city of Dublin. We slowly meandered from our hotel to the centre of the city. Along the way we stopped at St. Stephen's Green, a small but perfectly manicured park and Trinity College, Ireland's most well-known college. We also did a little window shopping on Grafton Street and people watch in the busy area of Temple Bar. After a lunch at Bewley's, a popular cafe, we headed to the Guinness Storehouse where we learned about the history and brewing process of the this popular Irish beer. Of course, the best part of the tour was the free pint of beer that we enjoyed at a 360 degree bar overlooking the entire city! The day ended at Botticelli, an Italian restaurant recommended in several tour books. The restaurant did not disappoint. Although the atmosphere was far from fancy, the food, wine, and service were impeccable.

On day two, we decided to head out of the city to the small fishing village of Howth. We explored the town and its amazing seafood stores and even made friends with some of the its most popular residents....seals! We then decided to check out the popular cliff "walks." Of the 4 "walks" available, we opted for the 10k (6.2 mile) trek. The sign estimated about 2 1/2 to 3 hours for the entire journey. Well, either the the estimate was severly off (maybe the person who determined estimate had just had a few pints of Guinness!) or we are just really slow hikers but we finally reached the end 4 1/2 hours later! Oh, did I mention that we were not exactly outfitted in proper hiking gear?! Regardless, we had a wonderful time and enjoyed the breathtaking scenery. Heck, we even managed not to throw one another off the cliff! The trail conviently ended near the door of a poular pub (do you see a theme here?). Before heading back to Dublin, we picked up some fresh fish and chips, headed to a bench overlooking the harbor, and watched the sunset.

Day three, our last full day in Ireland, we headed to another small costal town. Malahide is quaint village with a quiet beach and intercoastal way. We browsed some shops and checked out some of the local pubs (shocker, I know!). Since it was Sunday (everything is closed on Sundays in Europe) and rather quiet, we decided to finish some of the forgotten sights in Dublin. We listened to some traditional Irish music in Temple Bar and checked out the Liffney River. We even visited Mulligan's, home to the "best Guinness in Dublin" and once a host to President John F. Kennedy. Our day and trip ended with yet another dinner at Boticelli....this time followed by homemade gelato and tirmasu!

Ireland was a truly relaxing and enjoyable weekend away. We were able to escape the city and explore some areas not always frequented by tourists. Also, there was no pressure to see some famous castle or musuem. Until our next trip!


Ireland Pictures

The sign that greeted us at the beginning of our trek
One of the many seals of Howth Harbor

The beach town of Malahide

A scenic shot of our 7 mile hike

A furry friend that joined us for a part of the hike

A shot of the Howth lighthouse

You need strong arms to drink all that Guinness!

The Gravity bar at the Guinness Storehouse

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Renting Pains

For the last 6 months, we have been experiencing some renting pains. It all began when we (along with our next door neighbor) started to notice yellow stains developing on walls throughout the flat. When the stains climed the walls and turned various other colors, we our landlord finally decided to listen to us. He sent out numerous builders, contractors, and surveyors to determine the cause. They all came out looked at us, looked at each other, and scratched their heads. Some claimed there was leak in the tub while others swore there was a leak in the floor pipes. A few even blamed it on the flat next door. With no identifiable cause we have been visited with a constant parade of workers (mostly at ungodly hours in the morning). Jignesh was even caught in his underwear! Our bathroom floors have been ripped up and replaced. Pipes have been dug out of floor and re-fitted. Bathtubs have been cut out and then returned to where they were. Until now, we have been understanding and let this continue with no significant gripes. However, this week has pushed me to my limit. Right now I writing this while confinded to my bedroom while all the hardwood in living room is being completely ripped up and replaced. Since the room needs to be empty, all our furniture and other belongings are crammed into the very small second bedroom and conservatory. It is a struggle to just get to the garden to take poor Schlopy out. After the living room is complete, they are moving on to the conservatory! We have no TV and only have internet after 5pm. I don't even want to talk about the thick layer of dust and debris that is covering the entire place. I think Schlopy even looks a bit dirty. Even though they claim that the problem has been found, I am not convinced. Let's just say that if this happens again, we are not going to be so nice. I think it is time to move...oh wait, we are moving! Hopefully, leaks do not exist in Switzerland.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Hampton Court

Jignesh and the palace in the background

Some of the manicured gardens

More manicured gardens

Another shot of the palace

The palace and the gardens

We made it!

Henry VIII

In an attempt to see more of the UK before our move to Swizterland, we headed outside of the city this weekend to explore Hampton Court. One of the main residences of Henry VIII, Hampton Court is a palatial complex filled with history. Unlike many of the other palace and castles that we have visited, Hampton Court treats visitors to re-enactments of special occasions that occured within its walls. We were lucky enough to be invited to the Order of Service of the marriage between King Henry VIII and his sixth wife to be, Katherine Parr. We followed the costumed actors throughout the palace as they prepared for the big day. In the process, we learned about many details of the life during the those times. After the tour, we explored the rest of the palace on our own, including the vast kitchens and private aparments of Henry VIII. Our day ended with a fantastic lunch at an outdoor cafe (London was enjoying an unusually warm, sunny day) and a long stroll through the amazing gardens. We even found our way through the famous Hampton Court maze and watched some locals play on the the royal tennis court (a cross between racquetball and tennis). We are also tempted to pick some grapes from the world's longest grape vine. It was great to escape the city and see a bit of the English countryside.