Spring weather arrived in the West Midlands last weekend! Perfect excuse for a hike in the Peak District. The exposed rocky cliff is Mam Tor, the site of a late Bronze Age/early Iron Age hill fort, complete with burial mounds. The hill is made of black shale and sandstone (recipe for erosion) and England’s National Trust organization has assumed responsibility for its maintenance.
The little village of Castleton at the base of the hills was bopping! We had no idea, but there was a ridge run scheduled that morning and there were also tons of hang gliders and paragliders drifting over Mam Tor. The atmosphere reminded me a bit of Colorado and the energy was contagious. How beautiful are these photos!? We made it to the peak of Mam Tor and had our first glimpse of accumulated snow since we’ve lived here.
How fun to float over the Peaks strapped to a human kite!! I don’t think I have the arm muscles needed to maneuver those ropes, but I’d definitely tandem fly if given the opportunity. Does that exist? Tandem paragliding?
Wherever you are, I hope you’re taking advantage of the nice weather!
A few months ago we nabbed insanely cheap flights to Dublin (under £40 for both of us, round-trip. Don’t hate me.) and spent last weekend exploring the little city. And it didn’t even rain! Miraculous!
First stop, Guinness Storehouse. Your visit is of the self-guided variety, and the building is shaped like a gigantic pint, guiding you upwards and steering you around the circular floors until you end up in a chic bar with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. Not a bad deal. The “exhibits” explain the brewing process, show off old brewing equipment and some of Arthur Guinness’ collections (including really cool old model boats), etc. One section covers the brand’s advertising throughout the years, which I thought was fun.
Some things were rather cheesy. Check out that electronic harp! We sampled the West Indies Porter, learned how to “properly” drink a Guinness with a mini pint (I’m still questioning the point of this exercise), and listened to a little Irish music.
Later, we checked out an excellent free walking tour of Dublin. We recently learned that many European cities have these free tours (tip your guide!), and Dublin’s had great reviews on TripAdvisor. The tour north of the River Liffey is at 3pm, south of the river is at 11am, and they also offer an evening beer/whiskey/Irish music adventure for 12 euro.
We chose the north side tour because the time was more convenient. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916 and the tour gave a great overview of Ireland’s struggle for independence. Our guide was awesome and he talked quite a bit about the current state of Ireland and the UK… we were hanging on every word. Maybe because this whole Brexit business is illustrating just how different it really is over here… and because he was so forthcoming with information.
After dinner we had drinks at The Black Sheep, a bar owned by Galway Bay Brewery. A+ for beer options, A+ for Galway Bay Brewery, C for crazy factor. It was packed, and I felt very old. Also I was recovering from the flu, so I may have been a bit of a party pooper.
One of my favorite parts of our trip was visiting the Trinity College Library. We saw the Book of Kells and then the Long Room Library. It took my breath away, and I snapped entirely too many pictures. So, so gorgeous. Does anyone else ever experience the uncontrollable urge to touch all the books when they enter a place like this? There’s something magical and sacred about this room. Everyone can feel it. Even the high school students were voluntarily quiet.
We walked around Temple Bar area, just to say we did it, checked out Dublin’s Castle, St. Andrew’s Church, Christchurch Cathedral, and wandered through some great little shops in the Creative Quarter and on Drury Street. Industry and the Irish Design Shop were great for souvenir perusing. Powerscourt Centre also had great independent Irish shops, antiques, and an incredible looking bakery on its ground floor.
We had lunch at a great little cafe on Drury Street (above) and then checked out the Brazen Head, Ireland’s Oldest Pub.
Also, at some point during the trip, this happened:
This, my friends, shows a child being forced by his PARENTS to HOLD STILL while they FORCIBLY PLACE A BUNCH OF PIGEONS ONTO HIS BODY. What in hell is wrong with these people? The child was clearly under 5 years old and not into this at all. Disgusting. Also, I sincerely hope that crazy red-haired woman is a stranger, and not part of the plot to cover a child in pooping, diseased, nasto birds. I should have rescued him. Poor little guy.
Anyways, we checked out some AMAZING Irish music after dinner. I found the names of two tourist-free pubs that have live music most nights, both north of the river tucked away in little neighborhoods, and the one we checked out was such a gem. Definitely full of locals and as authentic as you could ask for.
When we arrived Sunday night there were already three fiddles, one accordion, and three dudes playing different instruments in the flute/Irish whistle family. The musicians’ ages ranged from probably 25 to 65.
Connor proclaimed one of the fiddle men “a wizard” so many times that I started thinking of him as Gandalf. An hour after we arrived, a classy little lady in her 70s showed up and was given a prime seat in the “musicians only” sitting area. She bobbed along with the music for awhile, and all of a sudden, she procured a fiddle from the corner and jumped right in! That made my night (unfortunately, she isn’t in the above picture).
Another woman hopped up at one point and started tap dancing. My mother pointed out it was probably Irish dancing, and I’m embarrassed to say that never occurred to me. I’m blaming it on the image of bouncy curls, high kicks, and crazy outfits that are promoted back home. This was the real deal and it was so fantastic!
Unfortunately, a cab was picking us up at 4:30am the next morning, so we had to leave. Right as a dude walked in with his bagpipes. BLAST!!! We just couldn’t stay.
Overall, super fun trip. We did a great job digging out some of the local Irish culture and avoiding the gimmicky nonsense, and we felt like two days was the right amount of time. We agreed that if we had one extra day we would check out a couple of their smaller museums (Dublin/Ireland literary museum sounded fab) and take another one of the walking tours or the beer/whiskey/music tour, but we don’t feel like we missed anything major. AND we had a great Airbnb, north of the River Liffey.
Most importantly, happy happy milestone birthday to my wonderful Irish husband!! I love you dearly. MWAH!
PS – Flickr album from the weekend is also up to date. You can find it here.