Friday, 11 May 2012

Ireland 2012, Part 4: Dubliners Day 2--Indoor Picnic

Now, why I didn't think to take a photo of our breakfast spread I can't really say. The main thing I was happiest about, to be honest, was the presence of a bowl of Weetabix at the buffet table, something I haven't eaten for nearly twenty years but remember so well as one of the best breakfast items I'd ever had. Ever.

Ah but aside from the buffet, there was an option for a fuller meal of cold cereal and warm food.

I figured "Why not if this is the way the Irish would normally eat?" Of course, the Irish might not really actually eat that way, now that I think about it, since we lived in hotels during our entire stay. If anyone Irish is reading this, please do let me know.

Anyway, breakfast. Warm breakfast.

I had my bowl of Weetabix and opted for what I assumed would be a much lighter meal: the vegetarian breakfast. My vegetarian meal was served on what looked to me to be a dinner plate so that's perhaps a diameter of 8-9"? Of which, perhaps half was occupied by baked beans, a little over a quarter occupied by scrambled eggs, and the remaining portion occupied by half a large roasted tomato.

Of course, that's nothing compared to what my husband had which was the Full Irish Breakfast (as it was labelled on the Stauntons breakfast menu). Two pieces, about 5" long, of thick-cut bacon--I believe they're called "rashers"--and two sausages, with two poached eggs, and half a large roasted tomato.

Oh and we shared a basket of toast. Yep, when they said "full" they meant it!

Of course, I was amazed I even managed to finish all of it. It made me feel like a pig for being able to finish that much food but I figured I would manage to walk it off somehow. Which my husband and I attempted to do.

Our first morning in Dublin was pretty much open so we decided to do a bit of walking in the City Centre. First order of business: minor unpacking and attire preparation.

I don't know too many people who have traveled with as many transfers as we had on our way to Dublin so you can probably imagine the girly giggles I got looking at the stickers on our luggage. The thing was so long I just had to take a picture. I've even kept both stickers for preservation in our Ireland 2012 scrapbook. (Obviously this is still on my "To Do" list.)

The best way to test how cold it is outside, in my opinion, is to open a window. Which I did and I figured, my body temperature being already normal, it would be best to somewhat bundle up. We double checked with our friends what time we ought to be back to rendezvous for the afternoon picnic, then headed out.

First, a photo of (myself and the hubby with) the sakura blossoms.

The park is huge, by the way. I think we only managed to walk about 2/3 of it which isn't too bad, actually, but still rather sad.

That morning, the lake was actually teeming with life. I don't know why I didn't notice them the day before; perhaps they were off someplace else looking for food. But the same lake that I shot on that evening walk suddenly looked a great deal warmer (read: warmer welcoming, not warmer go swim in it) than it did in my initial shot.

It was with much giddy childish glee that I observed the big fat (be warned: I will likely use "big fat" often in the succeeding entries) seagulls. I don't recall seeing seagulls up close before and it was so wonderful watching them swimming, flying, and bobbing in and out of the water looking for food. And walking amongst humans. Like dogs. It was almost like a movie, really, watching the birds weaving between slow-moving human legs, scanning the paths for bits of food, waiting for park goers to toss them more food.

Many of the birds gathered on a rock a bit behind the tree in the photo above. They can barely be distinguished though, now that I look at it, as nearly all of them have their heads under their wings, grooming.

We finally made it to Grafton after a less than ten-minute walk that turned into what felt like fifteen minutes, hahaha. This may actually be my only photograph of Grafton Street and if it is, it would be such a pity because the place is full of beautiful old and/or old-looking buildings (I'm not sure which is which) and the storefronts were all so inviting.

The building on the left is the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre. Mirror, Mirror seemed to still be showing. On the right are several shoppes but the one I remember the most is a Celtic jeweller's store, a very old one as it made it to the tourist maps but I can't remember the name. Typical me. ^^; Oh but their pieces were so beautiful, we just didn't have the chance to go back and really look at it all and the last time I peeked at the store window, I was having such a hard time deciding what would be good for sharing between myself, my mum, and my aunt!

The trip was a very quick one, and all we really did was buy postcards and a souvenir shot glass before we returned to Stauntons. I suppose it was good that our first shopping area trek was a quick one since it took us much longer to get back to the hotel!

Exhibit A - A kind of voyeuristic shot of the lake as though taken from the point of view of a hunter. Why one would want to hunt seagulls I have no idea though.

And if you're an amateur photographer like I am, no matter the camera, as long as you can see personally interesting shots, really, you just either keep taking them or at least watch the moments pass as they imprint in your mind.

Another series of shots I will share in my photo album page has to do with the handsome--okay, I really don't know if this is a male or female bird but I'll call it a "him" anyway--specimen below, who very willingly posed for me for a good five plus minutes as my husband and I observed him and several other birds from a lookout point across the bridge we originally crossed.

The funniest thing about this bird was that he was really just standing there, his back towards us. To get his attention, I kept calling to him and talking to him, my finger on the trigger, so I could capture several shots and decide later which one I liked best. The little guy didn't mind at all which gave me the opportunity to create a kind of mini story out of his photos.
He's such an excellent model, he deserves a large spread.
Now, when you see the photos in my album you might wonder why many of them look different. The answer is that for my blog, I play around with them a little bit, beyond simply resizing. Sometimes I go for a certain look to the photo like the next two images which I manipulated to make it look a little more magical/mystical. Nothing too fancy, mind, and not all out "worthy of a fantasy flick." Just some minor enhancements (not too unlike SLR/DSLR filters) to emphasize what I found most enchanting by these views.

My previous experiences with spring have generally been at the point where spring has already arrived but that walk in the park was made so much more magical by the fact that the flora was still in various states of waking.

This is worth mentioning because while most folk who knew we were in Ireland asked if we saw any leprechauns (no, we didn't) they didn't ask about other fair folk that do also exist on the Emerald Isle. Yes, those I did encounter though many of them not face to face as they were still in the process of waking their charges and were too busy or tired to really make themselves known...other than to consistently wake me some time from 2am to 4am.

They were very beautiful creatures, and peaceful too. In my opinion, this speaks highly of the area and its history.

But I digress.

Despite the beautiful surroundings inviting us to stay longer, we made our way back to the hotel in...well, let's say twenty minutes. Just in time to get refreshed and ready to meet with everyone at the hotel lobby at the appointed time.

What is hamming it up without a photo in front of our hotel? There's a very good story behind this photo too.

(Note that as I'm writing this, my husband is actually reading over my shoulder and is now being adorably annoyed that I'm even blogging about this whole thing.)

When we arrived at the front of our hotel I told my husband I wanted to take a picture of him at the doorway. Completely without any direction from me, he walked up the steps, gave a slight turn, and looked over his shoulder.

I snapped the photo then giggled, "Ano ba yan, darling, parang Chinese mafia!"

This is not inherently funny, I know, but what makes it funny is the fact that I've often teased him about how his often too serious demeanour has led people to believe he has no sense of humour and doesn't even know how to smile.

The actual comedy of the moment was, at that precise moment, a man with (I assumed) his son, was passing by. Language barriers aside, the tone of my voice must have clued him in on what I was saying, perhaps understanding that I was teasing the man in front of me.

"Chinese mafia!" he chuckled, pointing us out to his son. "Good one!" he added as he and his son passed.

This prompted my husband to ask to see the photo...which didn't really make much difference as he still couldn't see the resemblance to a Chinese mafioso as the rest of us often do.

Image found on Floor Heating System Site
I must admit, at this point, that I remember little of what was actually served at the indoor picnic. Indoor, because the morning was very muggy and by noon, it was threatening to rain. Rain it did, though much much later in the evening. But even without the rain, it was still bitterly cold because of the wind. An excellent contraption that I failed to take a photo of was an old-looking lamp which was actually a heater. For something rather small relative to the expanse of the patio, it provided a lot of warmth.

It is a pity that for all my kitchen skill I cannot, for the life of me, name dishes on sight. And because I have no photos of the food, I cannot really share what dishes our Irish hosts prepared for the picnic. What I can tell you is that the smell of the food alone and seeing all of it laid out on the table was enough to make me feel full. No kidding. I don't think I even managed to try half of what they laid out for us.

Naturally, despite feeling like I could use a month of hibernation after having that meal, there was still room for dessert. I swear I wanted to just pig out on all the sweets, especially the gorgeous Pavlova filled with fresh fruits.

Most amusing to me, however, were the little chocolate eggs in the basket beside the wine bottles. Okay, maybe not so little. They were the size of real eggs. You can figure for the scale a little bit in the photo.

Dear Cadbury, please send these yummy chocolate creme eggs to the Philippines too.
Perhaps those in countries that are used to seeing these little treats are less fascinated by them than I am but being in the Philippines where such things as chocolate eggs and bunnies are only seen in movies, believe me, I gorged on these and their caramel versions during our entire stay. (Thank you, EUR2 Store!)

I find it interesting that someone like me who normally prefers lighthearted conversation ended up talking politics and economics with various folk, comparing the cultures of Ireland and the Philippines as far as what's good and what's bad about each one, and gauging the differences. I believe the lightest conversation I had with anyone that night was to fangirl over the a very Irish accent brought on by one too many glasses of wine. Goodness. >.< I suppose it is quite fortunate that I actually do act quite normal even when I'm completely, staggeringly drunk.

The rain finally came at around 8pm, at which time most of those who dared to stay out in the patio came inside the house, then the entire party trickled out by 10pm.

To end this entry, I would like to share a bit of wisdom I gained from my best friend's then future father-in-law. He shared this line with us quite a few times so I suppose I can assume that this is one of, if not the, main philosophies he has/had in raising (his two) children: Go to nice places and we'll come and visit you.

Definitely teaching that to my kids.

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