Friday, 10 January 2014

New Year Travels 2 - Dublin, Out into County Dublin and an Heroic Story

January 1st

Another lie-in and we then went out to The Big Brunch in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar. Well it was more like a damp squib! Advertised as part of the city's New Year celebrations it was described as having entertainment, food and stalls, well it had one stall, one food van and a stage with no one on it and a handful of people wandering aimlessly in and out of the square.  We soon gave up on it and went to find somewhere to eat. Normally I can't stand the tourist trap of Temple Bar with its heaving masses, but this day it was so different, a steady stream of people but not manic.

My Brunch at The Shack
Danielle spotted a place nearby called The Shack which we all liked the look of so went in for our brunch.  And a good choice it was too, I had delicious smoked salmon with scrambled egg and salad which was absolutely delicious! The others were more than happy with their meals too. The place too had a good ambiance and the service was very friendly and good.

We then went on a walk along the banks of the River Liffey,it was another mild, dry day so it was very pleasant taking a relaxing New Year's Day walk there.  We crossed the famous Ha'penny Bridge and I noticed there were hundreds of padlocks with
names written on them attached to it. I hadn't heard of them, but Dianne had, they are "love locks" which lovers sign and and attach to bridges throwing away they key, it is a symbol of their never-ending love. Apparently it is a worldwide phenomenon at the moment. Whereas the symbolism is sweet, I thought they didn't look good on this historic, graceful Ha'penny Bridge, and Dublin City Council doesn't like them either and regularly cuts them off, worried about the damage they could cause to the bridge.

Love Locks on the Ha'penny Bridge
After this we went home and relaxed for a while before getting a taxi to Dun Laoghaire.  Our friends Ken and Elizabeth had invited us for a New Year meal and we knew we were in for a treat!

As usual we got a warm welcome and it was good to see them both again.  This is another friendship borne from U2 fandom.  Don't get me wrong, they aren't fans, but we used to rent the house next door to Ken and Elizabeth (which they used to own and used as a holiday let) and so we became friends. They don't let out the house now, but we always see them when we visit Dublin.

Their home at Christmas time is like a Christmas grotto with lights, candles and animated Xmas scenes, it's amazing! Elizabeth had decorated the table beautifully and it was all very Chritmassy.  We sat down for the meal and Elizabeth said we'd have to pull the crackers before we started and put the hats on. Well, my friends, two from the US and one from Canada (who has lived most of her life in the US), looked a bit mystified, not sure what to do. Unknown to me and Ken and Elizabeth crackers are not a Christmas tradition in the US and Canada. So we told them that you get the person near you to pull the cracker until it cracks open and the person with the big side gets to keep the contents, a paper hat, a piece of paper with a joke on it and a little gift. Then you have to put on the hat for the meal and read out the always cheesy joke. They looked bemused at first but followed the tradition and ended up really having fun wearing the paper hats and laughing at the daft jokes as  per the Christmas tradition!

We had prawns, smoked salmon, toast and salad for starters. Then delicious fresh salmon, turkey and ham for the main with all the trimmings. For dessert we had mini eclairs and homemade mince pies with cream.  Again mince pies were new to our New World people, at first they thought - not surprisingly - that they were meat pies.  But once tasted they were given the thumbs up by all!

After the meal the neighbours, who we also knew (and who now live in the house we used to rent) Anna and Moni came round, along with their lovely dog Bobo. We commented on what a multi-country night it was, there were people from Ireland, England, Canada, US and India!  We then had a fun trivia quiz which was a great laugh, I won, but there was no prize boo hoo!

The evening flew by and before we knew it it was time to say our goodbyes and go back home, what a lovely night it was!

Beautiful Killiney Bay, I  never tired of this place
January 2nd

Our last full day in Dublin and we had it all planned out.  Luckily it was a sunny, blue sky day, perfect for our first stop, beautiful Killiney Beach.  We wandered along doing our usual beach-combing, though I am able to restrict my pebble collecting to one per visit nowadays lol!

We then took the DART to Dalkey with the intention of having brunch in Finnegan's, however, it was heaving with people waiting for tables, so we walked down the street to The Queens which had room for us and we had a delicious meal there.

Next and final stop Dun Laoghaire to see the Shackleton Endurance Exhibition at the Ferry Terminal.  For anyone who has heard the story of the failed Antarctic mission and the story of their fight for survival over the following months, you can't help but be full of admiration and awe.  For me it is the most amazing and heroic story, overcoming obstacle after seemingly insurmountable obstacle -  and all survived.

The exhibition is made up of  walls texts, diary excerpts and, most strikingly, photos by Australian Frank Hurley. It tells of the planning of the expedition, the Endurance getting caught in the grip of the pack ice and eventually succumbing to its power. After realising they would not be rescued, Shackleton started the fight for survival, first getting as far as Elephant Island, then he and a small crew went on in the tiny boat the James Caird and in treacherous sea actually managed to get to South Georgia. One last hurdle was that they had to cross a huge mountain range to get to the whaling station, they did the very last part of that trip by hurtling down a glacier sitting on rolls of rope, the only possible way to manage to get there as they were by now very weak. A rescue party was sent to Elephant Island to pick up the rest of the men, who miraculously had all survived too. The ship was called Endurance and that is what the whole story was about, human endurance, great leadership and faith in their leader Sir Ernest Shackleton.

There was a replica of the James Caird in the exhibition and it was unbelievably small. The photos were wonderful, hard to believe they were 100 years old as they were of such good quality. Lots of them very personal, playing with the dogs they had (and eventually had to eat), day to day activities like scrubbing the floors, larking about. Also photos of the death of the Endurance as the ice crushed it to pieces. There were stunning photos of the of the White Continent itself that showed its awesome beauty. One picture I especially remember was one taken on Elephant Island from inside a cave with a round entrance of sheer, daunting cliffs. Frank Hurley's photos really brought the expedition alive and still does, unfortunately photos were not allowed \at the exhibition but you can view some of them on them on the website link above.

A sad fact was that after the extraordinary story of survival was that nine of the expedition members were British army members and on their return were sent to fight in the First World War, within three weeks six of them were dead.

The exhibition lasts until November this year, it has a reasonable entrance fee and is well worth a visit.

We headed home after this, ate in and had an early night as we were setting off for Iceland at crack of dawn (well before crack of dawn actually!)  As ever Dublin was wonderful, I feel so at home there. Hopefully I'll be back there for some U2 gigs if they tour this year!

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