Where has the time gone…?

Hey guys, I’m finally back with a normal Blog post. The last five Blog posts were all about my time in Ireland. But since we’ve been to Ireland from the 20th to 27th of August, I’ve been back here in London for three weeks now and it’s been nearly two month since I started my year. I can tell you, time flies!

But first of all I want to try to catch up with all that has happened the last few weeks.

You already know that we came back on Saturday, 27th August. On Sunday, 28th August I had my usual day off and since I’ve missed out on a whole week here in London I made plans to meet Maja again, the one Au Pair I went to see in Brixton the Thursday before we left for Ireland.

At 2.45pm I took the Tube to Warren Street, where I then met Maja. Together we walked down Tottenham Court Road until we came upon Oxford Street. We then just strolled around Oxford Street and went in a few shops, but never actually bought something. Until we came across a new pop up store, where we were able to buy clothes of good quality to a bargain price.

Later that day we sat down in a small Caffé Nero and started to plan the next day. At 6.45pm we said goodbye for the day, knowing that we’re going to see each other again the following day, and went home.

Since Monday, 29th August was a bank holiday here in England, I had another day off. At 11am I went to catch the tube, because Maja and I wanted to visit the Notting Hill Carnival.
At my tube station I first met Amelie. She is an Au Pair, too and lives on the other side of the Tube station, thus in the same part of London. Since our host families know each other, our host moms made us come in contact. Maja and I asked her to accompany us, so she would get to know some Au Pairs here.

At 11.30am Amelie and I left Woodside Park and drove to Euston, where we met Maja and took the tube to Notting Hill Gate. When we left the Tube station we were already in the middle of the Carnival, but decided to go further into Notting Hill. After we bought us each a flower crown we found ourselves a spot on the sidewalk of Westbourne Grove, where we watched two parts of the Notting Hill Carnival Parade.
The Parade reminds of the original Carnival in Rio. There is lots of music, colourful and fancy dresses and everyone is dancing.

After we saw the short part of the Parade we went to get something to eat and then went on. The food at the Carnival is really good. There are lots of booths which offer grilled corn cobs and lots of different grilled meats. Other booths offer a big variety of cocktails, fruit punches and other drinks.
Even though the alcohol consumption reminded me of a german carnival, we stayed completely sober.

We walked down the complete Portobello Road and went back to where we bought our lunch earlier that day. After we were stuck in the big crowds more than one time we decided to go back to the Tube station via a side street.

The Notting Hill Carnival is not that bad, there is lots of music and the people there are all in such a good mood. But the only thing is that there are just too many people. If anything would happen, there would be no chance for the police to keep control of the situation.
After I went there I have to say that it’s nice to go there to have seen it once, but I wouldn’t go there a second time.

The next few days were really nice. Since N. has been off devices, we actually had the chance to bond. Not only could I show him how to do Origami, but he also started drawing a lot and we baked some Rocky Roads together.

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N. and my Rocky Road masterpieces!

On Wednesday I received the first letter of my pen pal from Trier. It was really nice to read those few lines from home. Because I had some free hours that day I decided to answer her directly and send a birthday postcard to my mum’s best friend (Happy belated Birthday! 🎉).

Since Amelie’s Au pair girl and N. had been in the same class up until this year, because S. changed the school, we organised a playdate for Friday. We met at 11am and went to the park near our home, where the kids played a bit tennis. When we were back at the house at 12.30pm, Amelie and I started to prepare lunch: Pancakes, or rather Crêpes, while S. and N. tried to do some Origami.
After Lunch Amelie and S. went back home and N. and I drew a bit for the rest of the day.

Normally I’m off work on the weekends, but my host parents asked me to babysit on saturday night, so I had only half the day off. Therefore I just spent some time with Amelie on the High Road of North Finchley and we went down to Finchley Central.
On our way to Finchley Central we visited the Victoria Park, which is a really nice park.
When I was back home the boys and I had a nice self made Pizza for dinner.

On Sunday Maja came to North Finchley to see where Amelie and I live. After we showed her our rather small High Road, we took the bus and drove to Muswell Hill. We arranged to meet other Au Pairs here, since Muswell Hill is in the middle between North Finchley and Crouch End, where the other girls live.
It all started with a small group, but in the end we were eight girls. Because of this rather large group we decided to just sit down in a Café and talk a bit to get to know each other. Even though we were seven german girls we had to speak english so the one swedish girl was able to understand us.
At 5.30pm Amelie and I went back home and left the other girls to mingle for a bit longer.

The next week started with a rather relaxed monday, because both boys could stay at home the whole day. But on Tuesday the chaos began. N. had to be at Rugby practice for 9.45am till 3pm, while S. was free until he had to go to a school event at 4pm.
Wednesday got even more confusing, not for N. but for S. It started with a birthday party at 11am, from there he went to school for training and I had collect him there at 5pm and bring him directly to his tennis practice. N.’s plan for the day was quite easy since he had Rugby from 9.45am to 3pm again. But mixing them both together was very interesting and gave me a preview on how it’s going to be as soon as the boys start school again.

With Thursday the day has finally arrived. The boys are back to school. To make it easier for me, my host mother stayed home from work the first two mornings to show me everything.

I have to be downstairs around 6.45-6.50am every morning to prepare breakfast. At 7.40am we would leave the house and I drop off the boys at their now different schools, because S. starts senior school this year. I then drive back home and have free time until I have collect the boys again. Although I should do my part of the house work during these few hours so I can concentrate on the boys when they’re back from school.

Not only  did the boys had their first school day on Thursday but I had to mind them in the evening, too. The good thing is that they’re quite old already so I just have to sent them to bed and watch that they turn off their lights and that’s it. The only downside is that they are allowed to stay up later now, so I get to bed later, too.

In return for working late on Thursday night I got more free time on friday and the complete afternoon and evening off. I just had to bring S. to school, since N. had to be there an hour earlier. When I came back I ironed quickly and were off till 3.30pm when I had to collect N. and his friend. But again my host mum drove to show me a few things around the school. Back at home I was free and could do what I want.

On Saturday I met Amelie again and after she spent a bit of time at my home we catched a bus to Muswell Hill again. Since we didn’t really had the time to explore the shops there last Sunday we wanted to come back. I showed her my two favourite shops there: Art for Art’s Sake and Oliver Bonas. We then went to a Oxfam Bookstore, where we were able to buy some really good books for a few pounds only. After a small lunch break we took another bus to drive to High Barnet.

Normally High Barnet is just two more stops with the Northern Line from our Tube Station, but the Northern Line didn’t work between High Barnet and Archway on Saturday and Sunday.
In High Barnet we went along the High Road and visited a lot of Secondhand shops. They are really great to get books for less money. The last shop we went into was a sweets store which had a big range of baking supplies.

At 6.20pm I took the bus back home, while Amelie met another Au Pair. I would have liked to stay with them, but at 7pm that night the Last Night of the Proms started at the Royal Albert Hall and I wanted to watch the live TV coverage. With 15 minutes to show begin I was even able to cook a pizza for the perfect TV night. The live TV broadcast in Germany only covered the second part of the Proms. But I then called my mum and we commented the Proms watching it from two different countries.

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Watching the Last Night of the Proms

On Sunday, 11th September, we had a small Au Pair meet up from the smartaupairs agency. It started at 11.30am in the Starbucks on Oxford Street. At 11.20am we were already 29 people and there were more and more coming. In the end we must have been over 40 people and we blocked nearly the whole second floor. After everyone introduced himself we got together into smaller groups where we tried to get to know each other a bit better. My group consisted of four german girls (me included) and one from Netherlands and Sweden each. We went down Oxford Street to Bond Station from there we separated and everyone went their own way, but before we exchanged numbers so we could stay in contact and meet again.

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I feel quite happy that I got to meet those really nice girls!

I went back to Starbucks, because Amelie was still there with a group of german girls. We stayed there for a bit more and talked about the places we come from in Germany and it turned out that one of the girls just lives in the neighbour city of Trier. At 3pm we went on Oxford Street and visited several stores. Afterwards we went to McDonald’s for a small dinner and at 7.45pm I was back home.
It was really nice to meet so many Au Pairs and get the chance to exchange numbers to stay in contact. Hopefully we can see each other again.

I’ll tell you about the following week in my next post.
Thank you for reading and following my blog so far.

See you next time

Vicky xx

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There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were! 🍀

Okay folks, let’s face it…After my week in Ireland I got to know the Irish people a bit and I wish I could be a bit Irish. No matter what, they always seem to have their fun and are so friendly, welcoming people.

But before we went back to London we had another stop planned. So we left Tralee at 10am on Friday morning to drive to Kilkenny. After we had arrived we went for a small lunch and then my family and I went separate ways until 5.30pm. They went to visit part of their family, while I got free time to once again explore the city as every tourist would.

So at 2.20pm I started my way and tried to find the Tourist Information Office first so I would get access to a city map. The Kilkenny Tourist Information Office is really nice, not only do they provide a lot of free information about Kilkenny, but also about Ireland in general.
After I found two really good Guide Maps about Kilkenny, I sat down and planned a route through the city so I could see as much as possible in the short time.

The Tourist Information Office is inside the Shee Alms House on Rose Inn Street. It was founded in 1582 by Sir Richard Shee and is one of the few remaining Tudor Alms houses in Ireland. Their purpose was to take care of the poor providing bed and board of work. Since 1978 it is in possession of the Kilkenny Corporation.

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The Tourist Information Office inside Shee Alms House

From the Rose Inn Street I turned on the High Street, where I went to see the Bookcentre, the Sweater shop and the Market Cross Shopping Centre. Opposite the Shopping centre is the Tholsel Town Hall. After its construction in 1761 it served as custom house, guildhall, courthouse and is now the seat of the local government and tax collection. Its name comes from the old English words ‘toll‘ (tax) and ‘sael‘ (hall). Especially busking musicians and street art exhibitor favor this place.

I then turned onto Jame’s Street to visit St Mary’s Cathedral, which was built between 1843 and 1857 by William Deane Butler based on the design of Gloucester Cathedral. The 186-feet cut-limestone structure has not only a massive Gothic façade, but also an Italian marble high altar, relics of St Cosmos and St Damien and Benzoni’s statue of Our Lady to show off.

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St Mary’s Cathedral

The next stop should have been the Black Abbey, but I get lost on my way there. When I ended up on the Dean Street I had to walk back over a small bridge to come to The Black Abbey. It features a tower and some magnificent windows dating back from its original structure. In 1225 Sir William Marshall (Earl of Pembroke) founded the Abbey for the Dominican Friars, in the mid 19th century it became a place of public worship.

Following the small Abbey Street I came to stand in front of the Black Freren Gate (also known as Black Friar’s Gate) and it is the sole existing relic of the entrance gates to the medieval city’s Hightown.

After I’ve seen the Gate and the Abbey I went back the same way on to Dean Street again. On Dean Street are two small ways leading to St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Round Tower. The 9th century tower can be climbed and offers the best view of the city. The Cathedral was built in the 13th century on a christian worship site of the 6th century led by St Canice.

Being at the northern end of the town I went on Parliament Street, which leads back into the town centre. On Parliament Street is the Rothe House, a 17th century merchant’s townhouse. Built in 1594 by John Rothe it consists of three houses with courtyards.

Getting back to the town centre Parliament Street splits into two Streets: the High Street and St.Kieran Street. As I’ve been on the High Street already I choose St. Kieran Street, but went back on to High Street through the dark and narrow walkway ‘Butter Slip‘. With its arched entry and stone steps it is the most picturesque of Kilkenny’s narrow medieval corridors. Built in 1616 it once was a market location for the butter vendor stalls.

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The Butter Slip

At the end of the High Street I turned back onto Rose Inn Street, went over the John’s Bridge and followed Patrick Street to St. John’s Priory. The ruin was built in the 13th century by the Augustinians. Under the rule of Henry VIII in the mid 15th century it was handed over to the state and the Augustinians, who remained there until then, had to leave.

By then we had already 4pm and I had only 1,5 hours left, so I decided to go back to the other side of the River Nore and finally visit Kilkenny Castle. At the end of John’s Bridge I turned onto Kilkenny Way, which leads onto the Canal walk and to steps up to the Castle Grounds. The Kilkenny Castle Grounds are quite big and with the big patches of grass it is the perfect relaxing and picnic area in Kilkenny. Especially on a warm and sunny day you can find a lot of people sitting there and enjoying the nature and sun.

Walking around the Castle I came to the Castle Garden in front of the Castle. The Garden looks really nice and neat and gives the Castle the Castle-flare. The Kilkenny Castle itself was built in the 12th century for William Marshall and remodeled in Victorian times. It was the principal seat of the Butler family, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormond.

Across the Street of the Main Entrance to Kilkenny Castle is the Kilkenny Castle Yard and the National Craft Gallery. Being the stables of the castle, the unique complex of stone buildings in a courtyard setting was built in 1790. Since 1960’s it houses a centre of creativity and design. Ireland’s leading centre for contemporary craft and design is also placed in the buildings of Kilkenny Castle Yard. It’s the National Craft Gallery, which was established in 2000 by the Crafts Council of Ireland.

As it was already 5.15pm the family picked me up outside of Kilkenny Castle and we then went to an airbnb between New Cross and Rosslare for the last night in Ireland. The airbnb was actually a nice cottage which had a lot of rooms so everyone got their own room.
On our way there we tried to find a restaurant or something were we could pick up some food in New Ross. The only thing we found was a Lidl so we just bought some frozen Pizza we could bake at the cottage.
Knowing that we have to get up quite early the next morning I decided not to go to bed too late.

The next morning we tried to leave at 7am, because we had to be in Rosslare for the ferry at 8am and the ferry would leave at 9am. This time it left on time. While we were on the ferry we first ate breakfast and after that just relaxed for a bit.

At 11.30am I just needed to take a walk. I knew that I would be sitting in the car again soon enough, so better walk around as long as you can. So I went outside on the top deck where they actually have a walking route ‘Take The Salt Air‘. You just need to follow the directional arrows around the deck. 4 of those laps are 1 km and 6 laps are 1 mile. At first I wanted to just walk 1 km, but as I finished the 4 laps I just decided to do more and soon I walked one mile around the deck in 15 minutes. For some laps I chose to walk quite fast, other times I just walked quite slowly and breathed in the sea air.

After I finished the sixth lap I decided to walk one more really slowly and enjoy the fresh air and the nice few. I then stopped at a good viewing point, face held into the sun, just standing there for another 15 minutes until I went back to the others.

At 12.30 we had arrived at Fishguard Port in Wales. When we were off the ferry we finally made our way back home to London. We stopped once for a small toilet and lunch break and then went off again, so we arrived London at 6pm. After we emptied the car and put everything away I was finally off for the rest of the weekend.

Ireland was really nice and I definitely want to go back there, but I was also quite happy to be back in London where I have my room again. I was also looking forward to having a break of the family. They are really nice and I’m really thankful that they invited me to come with them, but after spending one week cramped together we all needed some space.

Thanks to writing the blog I could relive all the nice things I was able to do in Ireland.  But hopefully I can go back there one day. Even though I was able to fit in a lot of sightseeing stuff in the small time I’ve only been there, I missed out on a lot of things.

Sadly, Ireland is over. I had lots of fun being in Ireland and later on writing about it. But We’ve been back for 3 weeks now and lots of stuff had happened during that time, too. I’ll tell you all about it next time.

Goodbye Ireland! 😢🍀

Vicky xx

Für alle Trierer, ich habe die irische Variante der Bimmelbahn in Kilkenny gefunden!!!

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The irish version of Triers Bimmelbahn

The Rose of Tralee

After two wonderful days in Dublin, we had to say good bye.

I really loved the time in Dublin. Not only because of Kevin, but also because the family really welcomed me in their home.
It was quite hard to say goodbye. D. even got a small present for me.
But saying good bye to Trixie was the hardest. I really fell in love with her and I was told that she also trusted me easily. Normally she would take longer to feel at ease with someone new, but she stayed with me just after one day already. It could have also been because I rubbed her without a break. But let’s just pretend it was because she’s half german and I’m german! 😉

At 11am we hit the road to TraleeCo. Kerry. My host mother (Sh.) is from Kerry and her father lives in Tralee.
At 1pm we stopped for lunch in Adare.
After lunch we went for a small walk through Adare and the park. It is a nice small town and is quite famous for their cottages with the thatched roofs.

Around 3pm we got going again and finally arrived at 4.15pm at the house of my host mothers father. I then had time till 6.30pm to walk around for a bit or just relax in my room. But at 6.30pm we went to Sh.’s sister in law for dinner. She is married to Sh.’s oldest brother, but he was in italy during that time.
Dinner was really nice, but I was quite happy when we were back at 10.15pm so I could finally go to sleep.

The next morning started nice and slowly. At 12.15pm we went to collect the boys cousin and then drove to the beach. They played around at the beach and waited till the others would arrive. Sh. brother has triplets, one boy and two girls. We only picked up the boy, since the girls were at a friend’s house. So at around 1.30pm the girls arrived with their mother.

The Magherabeg beach in Castlegregory is really nice. They even got two attraction booth, which offered canoe, paddle boat and trampolines on the water.  To keep the boys and girls occupied, the parents booked first paddleboat and then a water trampoline for them. When they came back we had a nice picnic at the beach.

Afterwards we left the beach and the boys went with their cousins. My host parents and I went back home, where we arrived around 5pm. Once again I had time to relax until we had dinner at 7pm. This time everyone came to the grandfather’s house to enjoy dinner.

At 9.45pm my day ended.

Thursday morning started quite late again. After breakfast and a short briefing of the area I started my way to the Tralee Town Center at 12pm.
Even though Tralee is really small, I actually managed to get lost, but you can always ask for the way and they will be glad to help you. At 12.30pm I finally found my way into the town center.

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Welcome to Tralee – Streetsign

The biggest attraction there must be Penny’s (Irish version of Primark), no just kidding. But really the town is so much smaller than Oxford, but got a bigger Primark/Penny’s. But they’ve also got a Vero Moda (the first one I’ve been into since I left Germany) and a United Colours of Bennetton Store.
After I checked out the shopping qualities of Tralee, I stopped at Costa’s for a little Coffee break.

At 5pm I finally started the tourism part of the day and went to the Tralee Town Park. A must see for every park lover. The park is, compared to the town quite big and has a few attractions inside. There is, for example the Siamsa Tíre, which is a folklore theatre.
The Ashe Memorial Hall, which houses the Kerry County Museum and the Tourist Office, is at the end of Denny Street and is surrounded by the park.

Until the Tralee Urban District Council purchased the park in 1922 it was part of the private estate of the Denny family. In 1986 the Rose Garden was developed and now contains over 600 rose bushes of different varieties. The most noteworthy must be the Rose of Tralee, a hybrid tea rose developed by Sam McGready of Portadown, Co. Armagh and was presented in 1965. Some of the roses were presented as gifts to the park. Among those are the Goldstein roses, presented to Tralee by its German partner town of Frankfurt-Höchst in 2012. Other varieties include Samaritan presented by the Irish Samaritans, Diana Princess of Wales and the modern floribunda rose: Rhapsody in Blue.

In the middle of the Rose Garden is a life-size bronze sculpture of the poet and composer William Pembroke Mulchinock and his sweetheart, Mary O’Connor, the original Rose of Tralee. William is presenting Mary with a rose as a sign of his everlasting Love for her. The Sculpture was sculpted by the famous Irish sculptor Jeanne Rynhart (other works include Molly Malone, Dublin and Annie Moore on Ellis Island, NY) and the figures were cast by Séamus Connolly at his foundry in Kilbaha, Co. Clare.

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The Rose of Tralee sculpture in the Rose Garden

To mark the Golden Jubilee of the festival the sculpture was unveiled in 2009. In 2013 the glass Rose Wall of Honour was designed and erected by Tralee Town Council to salute all those honoured on this wall as Rose Finalists and all those who have worked tirelessly over the years in Tralee, Ireland and overseas to make the festival the international success that it has become since 1959. It was officially unveiled on the 15th of August to contribute to the Gathering 2013 celebrations.

The Festival itself has its very own history. It is based on the song The Rose of Tralee, composed by William Pembroke Mulchinock (1820-64), who fell in love with the beautiful Mary O’Connor. Because of the difference in social class, their relationship was discouraged by Williams family and he was sent to India. When he returned some years later he found that Mary had died. He was heart-broken and expressed his love for her in the song The Rose of Tralee.

It all started with the Tralee Carnival of 1958, which also included the selection of a Carnival Queen. A group of local business people were inspired and organised a new and expanded version of the Carnival based on the Mulchinock ballad. Based on personality rather than good looks, young women of Kerry and later Irish heritage would be selected as the International Rose of Tralee for that year and would become an ambassador for Tralee, County Kerry and Ireland.

The opening Rose of Tralee International Festival in 1959 was a resounding success with Alice O’Sullivan from Dublin becoming the first Rose. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Rose Centres were established in Ireland, Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Centres in Europe, the Middle East and Far East were later added, wherever Irish people had settled. There are currently over 70 Rose of Tralee Centres worldwide. Through this annual celebration, the Rose of Tralee International Festival continues to connect the Global Irish Community at home and abroad.

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The official ‘Rose of Tralee’ sign

In 1967 the Rose Selection was broadcasted on live television for the first time by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) from a stage erected outside the Ashe Memorial Hall in Denny Street. Later on it took place in the Rose Dome – a large tent – to accommodate the growing numbers wishing to attend the selection event. The Dome will be set up every year just for the festival. The Rose selection is one of the most watched live entertainment events on Irish television.

The selection of the winning Rose is the centerpiece of the 5 day festival. It will take place each year in mid August with parades, concerts, free street entertainment, horse and greyhound racing, air shows, firework displays, children’s amusements and Fossett’s Circus. With so much going on it remains Ireland’s main festival, attracting thousands of visitors each year. You can find all the news about the Roses, their Escorts and the Festival Timetable on the website, here.

This years Rose of Tralee International Festival took place from the 17th to 23rd of August. So our first night in Tralee was the last night of the Festival. Not only did it end with the selection of the Rose of Tralee, but also with a firework display. The fun fair, which was on a place near the park, stayed for a bit longer and I was able to see it while I was in the Town Center two days after the end of the Festival.

The Rose Garden is really nice and has more sculptures than only the Rose of Tralee sculpture. But the Rose Garden is not the only Garden inside the park. There is also the Garden of the Senses right next to the Rose Garden. It was designed to appeal to the five senses and was inspired by Soroptimist International Tralee and District in 2000. There are four sculptures to represent a sense:

  1. Sight: Standing Stone
    The Stone is aligned with Queen Scotia’s Glen on Sliabb Mis Mountain and looks back to a mythical time when the Milesians defeated the great Tuatha de Danann and Scotia’s son Amergin named the island ‘Eire’.

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    First Sense – Sight: Standing Stone

  2. Taste: Gauldron of the Dagda
    In ancient Ireland. The Dagda (the Great God) possessed one of the four treasures of the Tuatha de Danann, a vessel of endless beauty ‘from which none returned unfulfilled’. This sculpture features a drinking fountain.

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    Second Sense – Taste: Gauldron of the Dagda

  3. Touch: Henge
    A modern, rhythmic and tactile response in stone to an important neolithic settlement site discovered at Ballycarty, outside Tralee in June 1996.

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    Third Sense – Touch: Henge

  4. Sound: Horns of Clogherclemin
    A hoard of bronze age horns was found in a bog at Clogherclemin, Tralee in 1875. This interactive sculpture pays tribute to the craftsmanship of the ancient Irish.

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Fourth Sense – Sound: Horns of Clogherclemin

After I went through the Garden of the Senses and the Rose Garden, I went through the Park itself and left it through the main entrance to come back on Denny Street. From there I made my way back home at 5.45pm.

Because my host parents went out for dinner and the boys stayed at their cousins house, I was all on my own and used the free time to pack all my stuff.

The next day we would drive to the last stop and then would start the trip back home.
The time in Tralee was really nice, too. But you just can’t compare it to Dublin. Even though it has its own charme.

Only one day left in Ireland.

Vicky xx

Going to Jail

After the eventful sunday in Dublin, the Monday started much more relaxed.

At 10.30 am my host family, the boy’s cousin and I left home to drive to Kilmainham Gaol, where we arrived at 11.15 am. My host mother had booked a guided tour in advance, because they are always booked out for tours on the same day.

Our guided Tour was supposed to start at 11.30 am, so we walked around and read a bit of information about the building.

They startet building it in 1786 and it was opened in 1796 to replace the earlier prison.
The prisons before were usually disorderly places. All prisoners were held together and the conditions were unhealthy. After the prison reform movement (1727-1790) everything changed. Therefor Kilmainham Gaol has single cells and facilities for hygiene and health.

We also learned that the prison nowadays symbolises the tradition of militant and constitutional nationalism from the Rebellion of 1798 to the Irish Civil War of 1922-1923.
Not only the leaders of the Rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 were detained and some of them even executed, but also all the political prisoners were held in Kilmainham Gaol. The first political prisoner was Henry Joy McCracken.
However, as a county gaol, the political prisoners weren’t the only ones. Kilmainham Gaol held thousands of ordinary men, women and children.
It was also used to house those prisoners, who were sentenced to be sent to Australia. From 1800-1850 over 4000 prisoners were transported to Australia via Kilmainham Gaol.

As the time had arrived we started the tour. The first stop was the small Chapel. In there, they showed us a short slide show while the tour guide said some things.
For example did he told us that one of the leader of the Easter Rising, Joseph Plunkett married Grade Gifford in this Chapel the night before he was executed.

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The Chapel of Kilmainham Gaol

The next part of the tour was the West Wing where we could see all the prison cells.
This part of the prison is quite dark and cold, you wouldn’t want to live here. But they had a big problem with overcrowding from 1800-1860, because many people committed crimes to gain entry to the gaol in hope to get food on a regular basis. With the overcrowding there were now up to five prisoners in a cell which was built for only one. Problems such as diseases and poor health and hygiene started to rise and that there was no full separation between adults and children or between the genders.
We were also told that there were a lot of children held in Kilmainham Gaol. The youngest has been only 11 years of age. Children who had to stay longer than two weeks even got school lessons.

Afterwards we went to see the prison cell of Charles Stewart Parnell. Because he was a rather rich prisoner, he had his own room which he was allowed to furnish and keep his own possessions. He was also allowed to interact freely with any visitor.

We then finally went to the East Wing. When I first entered it I was gobsmacked. The Room was so big and bright.
I said to my host father that I think the room looks awesome. He looked at me with a funny expression and said that it’s not supposed to look awesome, it’s a prison after all. But that’s the thing, it looks nothing like a prison.

The East Wing was built in 1861 and opened a year later. It reflects the very different ideas of the Victorian age. They believed that the prison architecture is crucial to reform the inmates.
The use of light was deliberate to inspire the inmates to turn better. The form, called Panopticon, allows the observation of all the 96 cells from one central viewing point.
Underneath are four cellar-level isolation cells, which were used for dark and solitary confinement. After the new East Wing was built only the male prisoners moved there, the female had to stay in the dark and cold cells in the West Wing.
The East Wing will still be used today, not as a prison, but as a concert/theatre hall, to use the great acoustic you have in there.

After the East Wing we went back outside to the activity yards. All inmates were allocated one hour of outdoor activity per day.
But they were separated for their exercises. The ones waiting for their transportation to Australia or for their execution shared a yard and the ones who has been sent to prison temporary, occupied the other one. The women were in a smaller yard nearby. The children were also nearby, but had their own separated small yard.

Going through a gate in the wall, we went to the probably cruelest place on the grounds of Kilmainham Gaol: the Stonebreakers’ Yard.

After 1910 Kilmainham gaol was closed as a prison to save money and were given to the military, the british army. So after the 1916 Easter Rising the british army opened it for hundreds of men and women, who were part of the rebellion.
The leaders of the Rising were sentenced to death and 14 men were executed by a firing squad in the Stonebreakers’ Yard of Kilmainham Gaol between the 3rd and the 12th of May 1916. Seven of them were signatories of the proclamation. In the yard are two crosses, a name plate and the Irish flag to commemorate those who have been executed here.

During the War of Independence (1919-1921) the british government used the prison to hold members of the Irish Republican Army captured.
When the Civil War started in June 1922 Kilmainham Gaol was taken over by the Free State Army who detained and sentenced male and female political Republican prisoners. The Civil War ended in May 1923, but the last prisoner was not released until 1924.
Kilmainham Gaol was officially closed in 1924 to never be opened again as a prison by the Minister of Justice of the Irish Free State.

From the Stonebreakers’ Yard we went back inside through the main entrance. Above the door are five monstrous interwoven shapes. They have been called dragons, demons, serpents and a hydra. They should represent the five worst crimes: murder, rape, theft, treason and piracy.

The tour then ended and we took a look at the exhibition.
In 1960 the Restoration Committee was established and they restored Kilmainham Gaol so it could be reopened as a museum for the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966. It was opened by Eamon de Valera, at that time the president of Ireland (1959-1973), but also the last prisoner of Kilmainham Gaol.
In the exhibition they showed the process of the restoration, but also artefacts of the time of the Easter Rising and the times before and after that event.

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One of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic showcased in the Exhibition of Kilmainham Gaol

Around 12.30pm we left Kilmainham Gaol and went to a café/bistro across the street to have a little snack to satisfy our stomachs until we could stuff them with lunch at Nando’s one hour later. After Nando’s we went back home where I played with N. outside until D. and her husband (B.) asked me if I want to come with them to the beach to take Trixie for a walk.

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My first Nando’s lunch!

At the beach B. and Trixie took the lead while D. and I followed, deep in conversation. The beach is really nice! Especially because it’s so close to the city centre.

When we came back at 5.30pm we had to get ready, because we would all go out for dinner at 6.15pm.
We once again drove to the beach, but this time a different part, as we went to Howth Harbour.
Some of us went for a walk through the harbour, while the others waited for our table.

We had dinner at Crabby Jo’s. After a bowl of spicy buffalo wings as a starter, I had Gambas Tempura & Chips for my main course. For dessert we had a 99.

After dinner the ‘children’ went for another walk. This time we actually went into the sea. Because it was low tide we could easily walk quite a distance through the now empty sea.

We were back home at 10pm and the boys went straight next door to D.’s house to sleep.
My host parents and I stayed downstairs in the living room with the grandparents for a bit. On the TV was a show on called ‘Rose of Tralee‘ which is a very famous irish TV show. But I’d learn much more about it the following days, when we actually went to Tralee.

That was my second day in Ireland!
Only four days left! 😦

Vicky xx

In Dublin’s fair city

I started my one day in Dublin’s city centre on O’Connell Street at around 11.15 am on a beautiful sunday morning.

The first thing on my schedule was to find a cash dispenser, because for the first time in three weeks I needed Euro again. After I finally got cash I went back to the first bus stop of the green Dublin Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off Buses at Cathal Brugha Street (1.) and hopped on the bus standing there. To buy a ticket for 24 hours you have to pay 19€ or if you are a student you just have to pay 17€. You can buy the ticket directly from the driver.

Doing that I got to talk to the bus driver and he asked me where I’m from and was quite happy to learn that I’m from germany and welcomed me with a nice ‘Guten Tag!‘ on his bus.

Starting the tour he introduced himself as Kevin and welcomed everyone on the bus, but especially the german people, because he’s taken german lessons for quite a while and was happy to have an opportunity to finally put some of the knowledge to use.
So he told us that he can say three sentences in german:
– ‘Ich heiße Kevin.
– ‘Ich bin 33 Jahre alt.
– ‘Mein Deutsch ist schei*e!

While he was enchanting us with his german skills he drove on the O’Connell Street (2.), where we passed the GPO (General Post Office), The Spire and the statue of Daniel O’Connell. The O’Connell Street is the widest and most famous street Ireland’s. It’s also full of history as it has been the location for key turning points in the history of the state.

Crossing the River Liffey we drove further into the centre of Dublin. The next stop was on Nassau Street (3.) in front of the Trinity College. Just a few metres down the street was the next stop at the National Library & Museum (4.). Sadly I couldn’t visit all the Museums, because I had just this one day. The good thing is that most of the Museums and other exhibitions are admission free, especially if there is a ‘National’ in the name. So you can enjoy all that without any extra paying, if you have the time.

The next sight was the Merrion Square (5.) with a memorial sculpture of Oscar Wilde. The Square is the largest Georgian square in the city and is surrounded by original Georgian buildings. Across the street is the National Gallery which houses over 15,000 works of Irish art and was officially opened in 1864. The National History Museum & Leinster House (6.) came up next. The latter one is the seat of the Irish Parliament since 1922. Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (the Senate) are the two houses of parliament in Leinste House.

St Stephan’s Green is the largest city square in Europe. Open to the public you can see lots of commemorative monuments to some of Ireland’s historical figures. St Stephan’s Green and the Little Museum of Dublin (7.) share the same stop. The Little Museum of Dublin is voted ‘Dublin’s best Museum experience’ by the Irish Times and offers an exclusive free tour for customers on the Dublin Bus Tour. From St. Stephan’s Green Kevin drove us past the Mansion House, which has been the official residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin since 1715, and St. Ann’s Church on Dawson Street.

Because of the street system the bus had to drive back to Trinity College and went around the park of Trinity College to bring us after a short stop on Pearse Street (7a.) onto Dame Street. On Dame Street the bus stopped for the Molly Malone statue (8.) and the Temple Bar district (9.), where we passed the Olympia Theatre. The multi-award-winning Irish musical drama Once is running there. We then passed Dublin Castle & City Hall (10.).

At the end of Dame Street we turned onto Patrick Street and passed Christ Church Cathedral (11.) for the first time.
On Patrick Street you can see St. Patrick’s Cathedral (12.) and Marsh’s Library. St Patrick’s Cathedral is The National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland (Anglican) Community in Ireland and was built in 1192. Marsh’s Library was built in 1701 and became the first public library in Dublin.

After St. Patrick’s Cathedral Kevin made a small detour to Teeling Whiskey Distillery (12a.), which is the only operational distillery in Dublin city, and then brought us back to Christ Church Cathedral. From there he brought us directly to the Guinness Storehouse (13.) where he showed us around the whole area and even stopped in front of the famous black gate so we could take some pictures.

The next stop was the Irish Museum of Modern Art -IMMA (14.) and Kilmainham Gaol (15.). Before we could cross the river again we passed the biggest Public Transportation Station in Dublin: Heuston Station (16.). Back on the north side o the river it was now time for Phoenix Park (17.). It is the largest urban park in Europe. On the 1750 acres you can find the Dublin Zoo, the 62m high Wellington Monument and the home of the Irish president: Áras an Uachtaráin.

On our way to Old Jameson Distillery we passed the stops Ryan’s Victorian Bar (18.) and the National Museum of Ireland Decorative Arts & History (19.) and is housed in a formerly military barracks. After the Old Jameson Distillery (20.) we drove along the Liffey, past the Four Courts (21.), the Ha’Penny and the Millennium Bridge to the stop of the Dublin Discovered Cruise (22.).

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The National Museum of Ireland Decorative Arts & History

Finally we were back on the O’Connell Street (23.), turned at Dublin City Gallery & Writers Museum (24.) and then were back at the first stop at Cathal Brugha Street (1.).

During the whole Tour Kevin guided us through Dublin’s city with witty comments and interesting facts about Ireland. Though he would not only share facts and comments but also jokes, which were quite funny and when there was a longer drive between two stops he would even start singing!

While he started his third song I started sending voice messages to my mother so she could listen to his musical talent. She was so amused and enthused by him that she literally told me to stay on that bus until the end! But even if she wouldn’t have told me that, I would have stayed there because it was just such a great experience.
And I’m still happy that I recorded some of the songs because sometimes I just like to listen to them and be remembered of the good time.

Some of the songs he sang are well known as Molly Malone, The Wild Rover and With a littlehelp of my friends. But also some typical irish songs like Aon Focal Eile, The ABC Song and Seven Drunken Nights, which all sound like some songs the irish would sing after a bit of time in an irish pub.

At the end of the tour I was quite upset that it was already over, but I was also anxious to finally go through Dublin myself rather than on a bus.
Saying goodbye to Kevin I thanked him and told him to take a look on my blog, because I promised him I’ll write about this more than just great bus tour through Dublin.
So if you read this Kevin: Thanks again for the tour! I’ll always keep it in mind and if I’m going to be in Dublin again, I’ll make sure to visit you on your bus again!

After the two hour drive through Dublin I went into Carrols. If you’ve been to Ireland you know exactly what that means. For all the other ones: Carrols is a shop especially for Tourists. In these stores you’ll find everything you may think is irish, all the irish stereotypes are proved to be true. The bigger the store the more stuff they have – it’s a tourism wonderland.

Since my shopping spree wasted a lot of my time I was rather in a hurry afterwards and went to the GPO on O’Connell Street to buy a post stamp and to visit this historical building. It was here that the Proclamation of Independence was read in the 1916 Easter Rising. Because the Irish rebels fought against the british soldiers from inside the GPO, part of the building was destroyed. Today it is rebuild and still a post office, but also houses a museum and the GPO Witness History Visitor centre.

While I was still on the O’Connell Street, I also went to see the Spire of Dublin, or as it’s called in Dublin: the Spike. It’s location once was the location of another monument. The in 1808 built Nelson’s Pillar is named after the British hero Lord Nelson and was destroyed in 1966 by the Irish Republican Army Terrorist Organization, who were fighting British rule in Northern Ireland and didn’t want a British monument in Dublin. The 120m Spire of Dublin is the tallest sculpture and was built to celebrate the millennium, however it wasn’t finished until 2003.

Because of my 24 hour bus ticket I was able to get on another Dublin Tour bus and drive to Trinity College. It is Ireland’s oldest college, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. On Campus Grounds you can find the Trinity College Library, which holds the largest collection of manuscripts and printed books in Ireland. Under the Legal Deposit requirement of 1801, one copy of every published book must be sent to Trinity College Dublin. As a result the College Library now has a book stock of over six million books, manuscripts and maps.

Two of the greatest treasures of Trinity College Dublin is the Book of Kells and the Long Room in the College Library building. Arriving at the Library just a few minutes before they closed I was able to visit the exhibition of the Book of Kells and see the Long Room. Normally you would have wait in a 4 h+ queue to see the exhibition.

Around the year 800 Irish monks from the Island of Iona produced The Book of Kells, which is a lavishly decorated Gospel manuscript. The Book of Kells was sent to Dublin around 1653 for reasons of security during the Cromwellian period.

The Exhibition first shows images from that time and explains the Book of Kells. They also showed how it must have been made and other stuff from that time. Leaving that room I came in the room where The Book of Kells was exhibited in a showcase. I was told that they turn the pages of the book once every day, so you would have to visit the exhibiton every day for a year to see the whole book. The Book is pretty amazing and you can see how much work they must have put into making them.

The next part of the exhibition was the visit of the Long Room on the first floor of the old Library. It is nearly 65 metres long and houses around 200 000 of the Library’s oldest books. Marble busts are placed down either side of the room. (Just a few of them)

The Harp, which you can find on irish coins, is displayed in the middle of the room. It is the oldest to survive from Ireland, and probably dates from the 15th century. The Harp is constructed from oak and willow with bass strings and is an emblem of early, bardic society.
Right next to the door, through which you enter the Long Room, you can see one of the dozen or so remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Leaving the Exhibition I left the Trinity College behind and drove to Dublin’s City Hall. From there I walked to Christ Church Cathedral, which is one of Dublin’s most famous cathedrals and it is the original cathedral of Norse Dublin. Then I went straight back to Dublin Castle that is located slightly behind the City Hall. The British ruled Ireland from here until 1922.
But because I was short on time I just took some pictures from the outside.

Across the City Hall a road lead directly into Dublin’s Cultural quarter: Temple Bar. The earliest Dublin map to include Temple Bar is from 1673 and therefore it is one of the oldest parts of Dublin. I just took my time strolling around the pedestrianized streets. The atmosphere there is really great and dominated by all the restaurants, pubs, music venues and the people on the streets. Everyone in the streets seemed to be pulled in by the most famous pub, the Temple Bar. There is a theory that this unusual name comes from Sir William Temple, who lived in the area in the early 1600s.

Following the streets of Temple Bar, I reached the Ha’Penny Bridge. Which again is a quite unusual name. The original name of the Bridge, which has been built in 1816, was Wellington Bridge. In 1836 the name was changed to Liffey Bridge. However it is commonly called the Ha’Penny Bridge as a toll was charged on the Bridge up to March 1919.
The Ha’Penny Bridge is just one of many Bridges you can use to cross the 125 km River Liffey. However the Ha’Penny Bridge and the Millennium Bridge are two of the most famous ones.

The last thing on my Dublin Bucket list was to have a stroll around Dame and Grafton Street. The latter one being the premier shopping street in the capital. Going from Dame Street to Grafton Street I passed by the Molly Malone Statue and the St Andrews Church. The Statue is a reminder of the song of the same name. The statue has been constructed to celebrate the city’s first millennium in 1988. In Dublin the statue is commonly known as ‘The Tart with the Cart‘. The song is set in Dublin and tells the story about a fishmonger, who died young, of a fever. It is quite popular in Ireland and has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin city.

In Dublin’s fair city

Where the girls are so pretty,

I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,

As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,

Through streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

“Alive, alive, oh,

Alive, alive, oh,”

Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.

She was a fishmonger,

But sure ’twas no wonder,

For so were her father and mother before,

And they wheeled their barrows,

Through the streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

(chorus)

She died of a fever,

And no one could save her,

And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone.

But her ghost wheels her barrow,

Through streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

(chorus)x2

source

Getting quite tired I decided to walk back to O’Connell Street to have a little break at Caffé Nero. I then used the break to write a postcard to a friend of mine. I chose to sent only her a postcard from Ireland, because back in 2013-2014 she’s been an Au Pair in Dublin and had sent me a postcard. She inspired me to be an Au Pair myself, so I thought it would be suitable to sent her a postcard from Dublin back.
After writing the postcard I put it in the post box, which was right outside the Caffé.

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A little greeting from Ireland to one special Lady!

At 7.30 pm I finally decided to take the bus home. When I found the right bus stop (Bus stop 320: Westmoreland Street), I saw that I’d have to wait for 30 minutes. At 8 o’clock the bus arrived and I bought a ticket for 2,70€. When you want to buy a bus ticket in Ireland, you have to pay the right amount, because the won’t give you the change back.

After being out of the house for 9 3/4 hours, I was quite happy when I came back home at 8.45 pm.

I then spent the rest of the evening in the living room with the family we talked about the day we had. When I went to bed I fell asleep right away, because the day was just too exhausting.
I definitely have to go to Dublin again, then even though I saw a lot during that day, I didn’t even saw half of the things you have to visit in Dublin.

As I talked a lot about the Dublin Sightseeing Tour I was clearly thrilled with the tour and I can highly recommend them. If you’re interested you can take a look on their website http://www.dublinsightseeing.ie or just click here. Also I wrote down all the Bus stops of the tour for you. After the name of the bus stop you’ll find the number of the bus stop inside the parentheses and they are all marked in bold purple letters.
When you want to experience the same fun ride, make sure to hop on a ‘Live Commentary‘ bus and the chances that you’ll meet Kevin are way higher.

If you want to read more about my days in Ireland, please follow this blog and you’ll be one of the first to see the new posts.

Until then,
fheiceann tú arís

Vicky xx

All the information about the places are either from the Dublin Sightseein.ie Discount Map & Guide, A pictorial Guide to Trinity College Dublin or my own memory.

Whats the story?

Whats the story? – That’s irish slang for ‘What’s going on?’

So what has been going on for the last week.
With my host parents being irish, they still have lots of family over there so they decided to spent a week with them and I got so lucky to accompany them.

On Saturday, 20th August, at only 7am we started the long journey to Dublin. We drove for nearly 6 hours (with a ~45 minute break) until we arrived the Port of Holyhead. The plan was to take a ferry over to Dublin at around 2pm.
When we arrived we knew we had to wait for a bit until we could enter the ferry, but we never thought we had to wait even longer. Because of the bad weather the ferry before had to be cancelled and the one coming over from Dublin also had been cancelled.
Realizing that a lot of the cars in front of us had been waiting to get on the prior ferry , we started wondering how many cars can actually fit on a ferry.
With one hour delay we were finally able to enter the ferry and it seemed like every car fit on it.

The ferry started the journey to Dublin at 3.10 pm and it would take 3 1/2 hours to set over.
On the ferry there were several decks you could sit, a café, a restaurant and a souvenir shop. Also you could go outside on the top deck to enjoy the fresh sea air and the view.
But because of the weather you couldn’t stay out there for long or you would get blown off the ferry.

Up on the deck I was able to catch the first glimpse of Ireland.

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The first glimpse of Ireland

After we finally arrived in Dublin we had to drive for another 15-20 minutes until we arrived at my host fathers parents home.
While we were in the living room to rest a bit my host fathers sister (D.) and her family came over, who lives right next door.
His parents and his sister’s family are really lovely people and I’m happy that I got to meet them!

We then ordered some pizza for dinner, because we haven’t had a real lunch that day and were too tired to prepare dinner. After pizza the boys went next door to stay at D.’s home, while my host parents and I slept at the grandparents home.

They told us that we were quite lucky to be able to come over that day, because the ferry after ours also had been cancelled. The next ferry would have left the port at around 4 am during the night. Fortunatley we were in our beds at that time of the night.

The next morning I got up at around 8.30 am and had breakfast with the boys at around 10 am. After that my host parents told me the plan for the day.
I got so lucky and could spend the whole day in Dublin city, so they showed me where I had to get off the bus in the evening when I want to come home and also explained to me how the bus system works in Dublin.
After that my host father drove me into Dublin right on the O’Connell Street, where Dublin’s city centre starts.

If you want to know what happened next, you have to wait for my next blog post, where I’ll tell you all about my day in Dublin!

Stay tuned!

Vicky! xx