Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tall Ships Tall Cliffs

I've been in a week of econ bootcamp, and for real classes started this week. Academics! But, before I started getting smart, I did some touristy stuff, and here's a rundown on a few tall things I went to see.

During the last weekend in August, Dublin played host and final stop to the Tall Ships Races. Dublin was the final port of call for a race that began in St. Malo, France, and passed through Lisbon, Cadiz, and A Coruña. The race is open to vessels with a crew who is at least 50% between the ages of 15 and 25 (Sail Training Int'l runs the race - thus the youth focus), and falls in one of four classes:
-Class A: Square-rigged and more than 40 meters long
-Class B: Traditionally rigged and less than 40 meters
-Class C: Modern rigged, less than 40 meters, no spinnakers
-Class D: Modern rigged, less than 40 meters, with spinnakers

View down the Liffy

Liffy lined with ships

There were about 10 ships from each class in the harbor, and lots of countries represented: (alphabetical so I don't miss anyone): Belgium, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy. Latvia. Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Netherlands-Antilles. Norway, Poland, Russia. Sweden and the UK.

The Alexander Von Humbolt II from Germany

Clearly there were tons of boats, and tons of kinds of boats. I noted at least one of each of the following, but likely there were more I couldn't identify - full-rigs, barques, brigs, schooners (2, 3, and 4 masted, and topsail), yawls, gaff ketch, brigantine, even a caravelle.
The Johanna Lucretia from the UK (it's flying the Red Ensign, which is bizarrely also flown by Taunton, MA)

For those of you who want to get really nerdy with boats and maps (so, me), you can see the race course here:

Just an idea of how unbelievably crowded it was.
Also pictured - the Dar Mlodziezy from Poland - curiously flying the Danzig flag 

Once the ships got to Dublin, there was a 3 day bonanza of super crowds, and ice cream stand, and tsotchke stands, and occasional boat tours, and people in sailor/pirate hats, and live music, and lots and lots of cider (Bulmers sponsored the festival bit).

The tugboats were wicked busy.

Anyway, I spent a few afternoons when the weather was nice delighting in the boats and not delighting in the crowds. The best/most fun ship was the Cuauhtemoc from Mexico. I went down for the final parade (when all the big boats sailed out of the harbor), and managed to get a spot right near her. The crew sang and danced before climbing up into the sails to sail out (presumably so they can let them down once they hit open water). It helped that the crew had matching sailor outfits, and endless enthusiasm.
Jubilation after the Mexican Anthem

Cuauhtemoc crew ready to let the sails down

Cuauhtemoc crew strapped in and ready to go

Cuauhtemoc crew looking out to sea

This boy was THE MOST excited, and then got really sad as the Cuauhtemoc left

In other news of tall things - and other pirate things, sorta - I went to see the Cliffs of Moher as a final hurrah before classes. The cliffs are better known (to me) as The Cliffs of Insanity. I've watched the Dread Pirate Roberts climb them plenty of times, so it was time to check them out in person.

The cliffs are notoriously rainy (cue my FAVORITE meteoroligcal/geographical phenomenon, orographic lift - no sarcasm for serious it's normal to have a favorite meteorological/geographical phenomenon), so I spent DAYS monitoring the radar. But, Ireland being what it is, the radar is basically useless. It will rain. Possibly while the sun is still shining. Nevertheless I was able to predict a day without torrential downpour, so my photos came out partly cloudy.


The cliffs are in County Clare. Despite being all the way across the country and down a bit from where I am in Dublin, it takes 2-3 hours to drive there (depending if you like the scenic route). If you drive across Ireland, you'll learn that Ireland is pocket-sized. And green.

Look, I don't mean to be rude but this is not as easy as it looks, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't distract me.
If you're in such a hurry, you could lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to do.

The top of the cliffs are between 390 and 702 feet above sea level, which makes for some pretty stunning visuals. On a clear (or clearish) day (when I visited was clear enough), you can see the Aran Islands on one side, mountain ranges on another side, and Loop Head on yet another side.

Just a cow. That lives on the Cliffs of Moher. NBD.

The cliffs are named Moher after a fort that used to stand on Hag's Head - the southermost point. That fort was destroyed around 1800 to build a telegraph tower. Now the main man-made landmark is O'Brien's tower, the castle-like building in my photos. It was built in the mid-1800s by Sir Cornelius O'Brien to, no joke, impress the ladies. I did not pay €4 to climb it, but I was impressed by it. I also didn't climb it because there was a very narrow windy staircase, and unfortunately a woman (in town for the Navy/Notre Dame football game) slipped and fell and became wedged, and it took a long time to rescue her and I felt bad so I gave her space and went very far from the castle.

O'Brien's Castle.

The visitors center (in this instance, is visitor plural or possessive or both? I've always wondered) was built into a hill and looked like a hobbit house. It also contained a pretty fantastic exhibit on the geology and history of the area. Rather than bore you with fun facts about rocks (I took notes, no sarcasm for serious it's normal to take notes in museums), I'll just link to the exhibit here:, and show you another pretty picture.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Beach Reads

For all pictures - Click to Enlarge

School starts tomorrow! I've had a lot of summer reading I was meant to do before my program starts, so I thought I'd share with you my favorite fair-weather study spots so far.

I've been spending lots of time in the various beaches around Dublin. If you have to read, might as well do it by the ocean, right? One of my favorite spots is on Salthill, overlooking the bay between Monkstown and Seapoint. When the tide is in, Seapoint is a great spot to go for a swim. The beaches near Dublin aren't like the beaches you traditionally think of - there aren't really long stretches of sand. When the tide is out the beaches are rocky and full of tide pools (with the requisite toddlers poking at stranded sea life). When the tide is in, you can go right from the edge into water deep enough to swim. At some beaches (like Seapoint), there is a stone stair built in, so at high tide you can just walk down it.

Anyway, after a quick dip (which is absolutely bone-chilling), I head up to Salthill to dry out. Salthill is a grassy hill, dropping sharply down over a seawall into the ocean. Here's the view from Salthill. To the left you can see Seapoint - the tide is about half out. To the right you can see Howth. Dublin would be straight down the middle. The panorama covers about 180 degrees, so the perspective is a bit warped.

If you're ever in the Dublin area, you can take the Dart train about 15 minutes from the city center to Seapoint (it'll cost you around €2). From there, it's a nice seaside walk of about 20 minutes to the port of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dune Leary). You'll pass Salthill. On the opposite end of Dun Laoghaire is another of my favorite reading benches, with this view (a bit more urban and cloudy):

Dun Laoghaire is the biggest marina in Ireland. The main marina is surrounded by two giant piers. This view is from the East Pier, looking south towards Scotsmans Bay and the promenade. This area was a popular vacation destination in the Victorian era, thus all of the hotels, and remnants of pathways and baths.

I'm also a big fan of the parks within Dublin. The quieter and smaller of the two main parks is Merrion Square. Like many city parks, especially those in Europe, Merrion Square started as a private park belonging to the various wealthy households surrounding the square. Most of those gorgeous Georgians are still standing, although now they're mainly office space. 

The Catholic Church bought Merrion Square in 1930 with the intention of building a cathedral, but for some reason nothing happened beyond that, so in 1974 the church transferred the land over to the city for use as a public park. For some time, it was known as Archbishop Ryan Park after the bishop who donated the land, but was officially renamed in 2010. The park now contains shaded walking paths, one formal garden, and several statues, including one of Oscar Wilde on lived in No. 1 Merrion Square for 20 years. 

The above photo was taken in the rain, but there's enough tree cover at Merrion Square that you can still spend time there in fouler weather. (Also visible: a Dublin Bike - subject of a future post).

The larger, more popular, city center park is St. Stephen's Green. St. Stephen's Green is smack in the middle of town, and is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike - so it makes for good people watching. The park is 22 acres, and like Boston Common used to be used as grazing land. It was walled in during the 1660s, and reserved as a playground for the wealthy until the 1870s when Arthur Guinness (who I'm quickly learning had his fingers in absolutely everything Dublin related), convinced Parliament to open it to the public and then paid to redesign it. Like with many other spots in Dublin, the Green got involved in the Easter Rising, although both sides did civilly cease fire now and again to let the groundskeeper through to feed the ducks.

I've noticed that the Irish are a big fan of picnics (perfection, as I am a founder of Picnic Tuesday!), and around lunch and dinner times St. Stephen's Green gets packed. I like to sit in the center of the green around the manicured gardens because it gets the most sun. My favorite spot in the center bit is the garden for the visually impaired, which is planted with scented plants that can stand up to being touched a lot, and everything is labeled in Braille. 

Fun fact: the lakes in St. Stephen's Green are fed by my local neighborhood favorite - and final study spot on this post - The Grand Canal at Portobello! (Well, technically, the ducts run from the park to the Leeson Street area of the Canal). There are several benches and dockside edges along the canal where you can cozy up with a book (if you're me) or a pint, a picnic, and a paper (if you're Irish). I like this one just a few blocks from my apartment both because it's local, and because on the weekends I can watch the kayaking tours launch.

I don't know that I'll ever go for the kayaking though. Even the feet dangling gets a bit dangerous - the ickies are very close to the surface in the canal.

And now tomorrow's my first day of school! What's my cutest outfit, you guys?