Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Day 12 - Dublin (again!)

Wednesday, June 8th

Today is our last day of vacation - we fly home tomorrow morning. I'm writing this on Wednesday night, after a full day of airplane and bus travel. It will be light on words, I suspect.

I was a total dumb butt last night. I knew our flight was at 9:40, so I got off the phone quickly with Dusty and the girls so we could go to sleep. But then I looked at the boarding pass and saw that the flight didn't leave until 11:05. Cool! We didn't have to leave so early! We flew out of London Gatwick airport, which was about an hour and 15 minutes away in a confusing walk/subway/commuter train combination. This gal is from Iowa, remember? We don't do complicated public transit routes. We drive past cornfields and pigs.

Anyway... (hmmm, maybe not so short on words, after all?) I figured I must have been confused about the start time, decided we could leave an hour later than planned and we went to bed. Got up, mapped out our route and trekked across London with our suitcases and backpacks. At one point I realized that our flight did in fact leave at 9:40, that the 11:05 boarding pass I was looking at was from the flight TO London. This is the danger of having a super complicated trip that contains six airplane rides. Yikes.

We couldn't do anything about it, though, so we just prayed that the trains weren't late. Turned out to be just fine - we were one of the last passengers to arrive at the gate, but there was a slight delay due to fog in London, so we made it. Whew!

We got into Dublin, dropped our stuff off at the hotel, and then took a bus into the city center. We walked around for a bit and took in the sights. Such a colorful city!

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We got onto a bus tour just to be able to see as much of Dublin as possible. We had spent some time here touring the Guinness factory and going to the oldest pub in Dublin when we were here last week, but wanted to get a view of the city and thought this would be the easiest way for our travel weary bodies and minds to handle it.

Turned out to be an entertaining few hours. Our tour guide was Barry the Bard. It's hard to see him in this photo because this nice family from Ohio who sat in front of us was in the way. But Barry did his tour guide spiel seasoned with his own Irish folk songs, some of which he wrote himself. It was a good tour!

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I took these photos from the bus:

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Finn's Hotel is famous for something related to James Joyce, but I can't remember what. I know there's a collection of short stories by Joyce named Finn's Hotel.

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This is an old train station and I just love the way it looks. The architecture feels like a mixture of gothic and mid century modern or something:

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Dublin has an eclectic and modern area too:

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Train yards fascinate me for some reason:

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Ireland won their independence from England in 1922, but on Easter weekend in 1916, The Easter Rising was the beginning of the effort that would ultimately win them their freedom. There were signs like this up all over Dublin:

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This beautiful bridge is called the Liffey Bridge, or the Ha'Penny Bridge. It was built of cast iron in 1816. Before the Ha'penny Bridge was built there were seven ferries, operated by a William Walsh, across the Liffey River. The ferries were in a poor condition and Walsh was told that he had to either fix them or build a bridge. He chose to build a bridge and was granted the right to extract a ha'penny toll from anyone crossing it for 100 years.

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This is the last Dublin photo I took because frankly, I was tired of taking photos. :) We did not have enough time to explore Dublin properly, so that has to be done on a future trip someday.

We are both road weary and ready to be home, but are so very thankful to have the means to travel and experience the world like this. It has been a fabulous trip, and spending one-on-one time with Jake was even better than seeing these amazing sights of the world. If you made it this far through our travels, thanks for following along!

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Day 11 - London, part three!

Tuesday, June 7th

Tuesday was our last full day in London, so we made the most of it and were on the go for the entire day. We started by taking the bus over to Shakespeare's Globe Theater. On the way, we saw these gorgeous buildings. This is the Royal Courts of Justice building:

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And this church with it's tiered tower is supposedly the inspiration for the design of the first traditional wedding cake:

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We stopped by St. Paul's Cathedral on the way. We didn't have time to go in and do the full tour, but we did peek inside. It's gorgeous. Apparently the first St. Paul's burnt to the ground in the fire of 1666 because it was made of wood. Most of the buildings that were rebuilt after the fire were made from stone for obvious reasons.

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Here's Jake in front of the massive doors of St. Paul's Cathedral:

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And a view of the cathedral from a different side:

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We crossed over the millennium bridge, which is a footbridge over the river that opened in 2000, briefly, but was closed for another two years because pedestrians felt a wobbling sensation, so they closed it to reengineer it.

It's a lovely little bridge, and the views from it weren't bad:

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Millennium Bridge Selfie, with what they call The Shard in the background:

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Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theater, an Elizabethan playhouse that stood on the south bank of the River Thames, and originally built in 1599. The tour was fascinating, especially when they went on to explain how they tried to stay faithful to how the theater would have been in that time period. It was a daylight theater, with covered stage and seating, but a yard area where people could stand to watch the show. It cost a penny to enter the theater and another penny to sit in a seat, so many people stood in the yard. I imagine it was a muddy mess if it rained.

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The ceiling of the stage was decorated with zodiac symbols:

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Jake doesn't look too enthusiastic here, but he says he really enjoyed the tour.

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After the tour, we rode the subway to Kensington Gardens to walk around for a bit. The first thing we saw upon entering was this giant rosebush that smelled amazing:

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The gardens were serene, beautiful, and surprisingly quiet. It was hard to believe that a bustling city of 10 million or so people surrounds it.

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Along the perimeter of the park are these enormous mansions:

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Inside there is a playground area and a carousel:

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And hundreds of beautiful, enormous trees:

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Of course Kensington Palace is right by the Gardens:

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We didn't go inside to do the tour because we had other things on our agenda. But it's a beautiful stately castle.

Our walk around the park was a welcome relaxing activity after dealing with tourist crowds of London.  Watching kids feed the birds and strolling along the pathways was a great way to spend an hour in the middle of our crazy day.

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We walked to the Marble Arch area, where we saw these two statues. This first one is called "Brothers" and shows two grown men touching only with their heads. They look like they're about to get into a wrestling match to me.
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This is called "Horse Drinking Water" and is only a horse's head, seemingly floating in the air. Weird.

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Jake in front of the marble arch:

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We hopped back on the bus to go to Madame Toussard's wax museum. This entire trip we have had hot, sunny weather, and yesterday morning was no exception. But as soon as we got off the bus at Madame Toussard's, it started to sprinkle. Just moments after walking inside, it was a full downpour. Whew. We were lucky!
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So Madame Toussard's is a wax museum where you can pose for photos with your favorite celebrities. Or the wax version of them, anyway. Here's Jake with Leo DiCaprio:

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And me with Colin Firth:

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I hear Johnny Depp is in the news and could potentially be in trouble for domestic assault. I really, really, really hope that's not true or it'll be another celebrity crush turned sour. (File under: Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise). But here we are together:

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Speaking of celebrity crushes, Nicole Kidman is on Dusty's celebrity list. I thought I'd better stand next to her to size up my competition. The verdict: She's WAY TALL. Her boob is right beneath my chin! I look like Bilbo Baggins next to her, in more ways than one:

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Jake and Katniss Everdeen:

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Shrek's my buddy!

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Jake with Muhammid Ali:

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Oh, hey there, Mr. President!

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I took this photo from the bus on the way back to our hotel. I love the flags, it just looks so... British! You'll note the wet pavement. It misted for the rest of the afternoon.

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Trafalgar Square in the rain:

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Jake and I had dinner in the hotel's Indian restaurant. It was very good. From the window, I spied this bus passing along. It had an advertisement for Las Vegas on the side of it, with the tagline "visit a place where your accent is an aphrodisiac" Haha! Isn't that one of the storylines in the movie Love Actually?

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After dinner we went to see another show. This one was a production of Doctor Faustus, a play by Christopher Marlowe that is based on the German legend of Faust, a scholar who is unhappy with his life and sells his soul to the devil to become rich and famous. After that bad things happen. This particular version of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus had a modern twist to it, with a section written by Colin Teevan, and Doctor Faustus was played by Kit Harrington!!! If you don't know who that is, he plays Jon Snow in the HBO series Game of Thrones, which is based on George RR Martin's book series.

Here's a photo of the program cover:

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And the opening scene with Doctor Faustus (Kit) sitting on his bed:

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In case you wondered, there was nothing posted about not taking photos in the theater, and EVERYONE was doing it. I only snapped a photo before the show started (he sat on this bed as people made their way to their seats) and during curtain call. I didn't have my phone out during the actual show.

The play was very weird, dark, intense, bloody, violent, haunting, and at times confusing. But, the acting was superb, in my very untrained opinion. The set was really cool too, with great lighting and mechanics that were quite clever. Also parts of Kit's scenes were done in nothing but boxer briefs (that became stained with blood during a very weird shower scene, and again when he murders a woman - but who's being picky here?) and, not to get all giddy fangirl on you or anything, but ultimately I was in the same room as an underwear-clad Kit Harrington for a few hours last night. Don't tell Dusty.

Here's the cast during curtain call. We had excellent seats; this was taken with my cell phone, flash off, in the dark:

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After the show, they had a talk on stage with the director and Jenna Russell, the actress who masterfully played Mephistopheles. It was really great - she sang a few songs and answered a few questions from the audience. It made the experience even better.

We got back to the hotel around 11, weary from our adventures, and sad in the knowledge that we'd be leaving London. We really could have spent three times the amount of time in London that we did - what a vibrant city.