Exploring Ireland on Horseback

Horse riding has been something that I have been interested in for years, and although I don’t get on a horse as often as I should, I still love riding. There are many things that James and I do together, and he offered to come riding with me in Ireland. I knew that there were plenty of stables available throughout the country, as horses and riding are a huge part of the Irish culture.

There is no better way to explore the stunning scenery and amazing natural beauty of Ireland other than on horseback. I was concerned that Carl had never been on a horse before, but I soon discovered that there were stables that catered for every level of experience. This was fantastic as it meant we could both enjoy seeing another side to Ireland.

Riding holidays are very popular, but I wanted to just pop along one or two times and go riding, I don’t think Carl would have been impressed to discover that he was riding every day. There are plenty of different stables that will accommodate your needs, and when I explained that we didn’t need a riding holiday, they were happy to help.

Over the last few years in Ireland many of the stables have linked up to create a fantastic trail for all riders to enjoy. This is now so well known that people from all over the world are aware of its popularity. The trail provides stunning scenery, and allowed us to experience the true beauty of the country.

Connemara is a beautiful part of the country and is ideal for horse riding, so I decided to join the Aille Cross Equestrian Centre for the day. After an initial lesson for Carl to ensure that he didn’t just fall off as soon as the horse moved we were on our way. The expert staff ensured that we were guided through the amazing trails, and enjoyed the breathtaking scenery.

We choose to do the Connemara trail, which took us through the Highlands of Connemara, however, there is also a brilliant coastal trail, which I am determined to do when we return to Ireland. Once Carl had been on a horse riding trail and managed not to fall off, I convinced him to go on another. We both wanted to explore the National Park in Killarney, and what better way than on a horse.

The Killarney Riding Stables are perfectly situated in the breathtaking county of Killarney, and offer some amazing trails. I was torn between choosing the National Park trail and the Reeks trail, which takes you through the Highlands, and the Ring of Kerry. I couldn’t choose so returned for a second day to ensure that I saw everything.

Carl decided that he would not join me on the second trail, and enjoyed wandering throughout the area with Max. There is plenty to see and do, and I am sure that they both found some local people to stop and chat to whilst I was riding. Once you have explored Ireland on horseback, you will understand why so many people ride in the county.

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Missing The Gym

For about two weeks now, someone in my family has been sick. Now it has come to me. I don’t want to do anything, I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to exercise. I just want to sleep. And even that doesn’t work because I’m too clogged up to sleep.

Yuck!

I’m ready to be done with this so I can get back into my exercise routine. I actually miss going to the gym.

I can’t believe I actually said that, but yes, I’m missing the gym. There was a time in my life when that wouldn’t be the case. For the longest time I was actually afraid of the gym. You know, scared of all the machines and trying to figure out how they work. It wasn’t that long ago that I professed a fear of the treadmill. I can walk on it all day, but running is a different story. What if I fall off? What if I break it? I’ve since learned that I have nothing to be afraid of, and I even run on it from time to time.

Now I fear the weight machines that I know hurt. I like to think that’s a healthy fear. My knees aren’t the greatest and there are some of those leg machines that really hurt. I go back and forth in my brain on this one. Do I go ahead and use them, hoping to strengthen my knees, or do I stay away from them so that I don’t hurt my knees worse? I don’t really know the answer to that one.

I also fear the exercise video. Not for anything logical, I’m just afraid of looking stupid. Speaking of which, I kind of want to try the P90X videos. I have several friends who are working through them. Why haven’t I yet? Well, No. 1, I’m cheap. No. 2, I’ve heard they are extremely difficult, and I’m scared I won’t make it through them. I was also thinking of buying legal steroids online in US or UK, as my friends said they can help boost my stamina.

I’m really not this much of a fearful person normally. Maybe it’s just my sick, tired self talking. I normally don’t get sick, but this one is wiping me out.

There is something I have to watch for when I’m sick. While usually I don’t eat much when I’m sick, I do tend to overdo it when I start to get better. Kind of like I’m making up for lost time. So I’ve got to be careful with that and take it easy. I’m still doing fairly well with my eating-only-when-hungry plan, and I’m still using my Weight Watchers Online for Men tools. So hopefully I can come out of this illness pretty quickly and get back on track.

I am ready to get back to the gym. I love the extra energy I get from working out in the mornings. The feeling of accomplishment that I have from completing a workout that day. That’s why I’m so eager to get back there.

But for now I’ll just try to get better. Sniff, sniff.

By the way, you can locate gym facilities around the Ireland here.

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Enjoying the Water Sports in Ireland

Ireland is an amazing country with so much to see and do, both on the land and in the water. With over 1,372 kilometres of breathtaking coastline to explore, it is no wonder that James and I like many visitors wanted to join in with the water based activities. Water sports are huge in Ireland, and they take place on the rivers and lakes as well as the sea.

With so many exciting activities on offer, it can be daunting to know what to choose and James and I wanted to take part in several different water based activities. I love surfing and diving, and James enjoys fishing and wind surfing. All of these are available and popular throughout Ireland, and all you need to do is choose your location.

Canoeing and kayaking is something that we hadn’t tried, so we thought we would give this a go whilst on holiday. Typically though we didn’t choose a nice quiet activity, and decided that facing the rapids was the way forward. The 58KM Canoe trail at Lower Bann is exhilarating, and ensured that we experienced an adrenaline rush.

Sailing is huge in Ireland and there is a long tradition of excellent sailing schools and facilities for everyone to enjoy. The amazing waters that are found throughout the country are ideal for sailing, and we decided that we would give it a go and could even take Max. Although we were  along way off prestigious sailing experts, we had a fun time sailing over the lakes, and enjoying the cool breeze.

Wakeboarding was something that James had mentioned several times, and although I wasn’t too sure, I thought I would see what all the fuss was about with this activity. There are plenty of different areas to choose, and we thought that Macroon in Cork was ideal. I am good on a surf board, so presumed it would be similar, and James was up for trying anything.

Diving is something that I do wherever we go on holiday, and James decided that he would join me this time and explore the Irish waters. The visibility was incredible, and we could see on average up to 12 meters, which is good. The amazing sub aqua fauna and flora was impressive, and even James found the experience to be exciting.

We choose the perfect time to visit Ireland, and were lucky that the weather was good when we wanted to be out and about on the water. With so many different things to do, it is no surprise that visitors from all over the world travel to Ireland for the water sports. We choose to do both in the water and on top of the water activities, which allowed us to enjoy every element.

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5 Places To Go For A Sophisticated Night Out In Dublin

Dublin’s rich history, wonderful architecture and host of buzzing nightspots make it a fantastic destination for a city break. With flights from the UK to the Irish capital available for jaw droppingly low prices and journey times so short you’re hardly in the air before you begin landing, it couldn’t be easier to travel to.

Whatever you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in Dublin, so if you’re there on a stag do you’ll find plenty of places to have a riotously good time. However, although Dublin is renowned for being a good time city and a great place for night owls, there are plenty of sophisticated nightspots for the more discerning reveler.

The city’s continental feel makes for a great atmosphere and there are hundreds of fantastic bars and restaurants. Whether you’re looking for fine dining, elegant bars or a bit of culture, Dublin has it all. Here is a guide to some of the best evening entertainment the city has to offer.

Vintage Cocktail Club

Located in the buzzing Temple Bar district at 15 Crown Alley, the Vintage Cocktail Club is the place to be if you enjoy a fancy cocktail in elegant surroundings.

This gem is in the style of a prohibition era speakeasy and the only indicator that you’re in the right place is the label ‘VCC’ stuck on an inconspicuous white door in the middle of Temple Bar. Once inside, however, you’ll find a 1920’s style bar and an extensive menu of some of the best cocktails the city has to offer.

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

For a truly special dinner, make reservations at the internationally renowned Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. The only restaurant in the whole of Ireland to have been awarded two Michelin stars, this is undoubtedly one of the best places to dine out in the city.

It describes its food as ‘contemporary Irish with classical roots’ and uses fresh, seasonal local produce. The ambiance in the dining room is relaxed yet refined, the service is impeccable and every morsel of the food is both delicious and beautifully presented.

Expect nothing less than perfection from your meal here!

Bang Restaurant

Situated on Merrion Row, Bang Restaurant offers a fine dining experience and a modern twist on traditional Irish fare. This place is always packed and attracts a fashionable clientele, making for a relaxed and upbeat atmosphere.

There are three private dining rooms available for large groups, making it an ideal location for a celebration with family and friends. For a special treat, why not indulge in their five or six course seasonal tasting menu, which comes complete with a wine pairing with each course.

Bang Restaurant is in the heart of the theatre district and offers a fantastic, and very reasonably priced, pre-theatre menu.

An Evening At The Theatre

Dublin is home to many different theaters, offering ballet, opera, music concerts and both traditional and contemporary theater.

You could see a contemporary play by an emerging Irish writer at the Abbey Theatre, see your favorite band or comedy act at the Victorian music hall style The Olympia or an opera at the Gate Theatre.

Fallon and Byrne Wine Cellar

Located on Exchequer Street, this bastion of gastronomy is comprised of three floors of culinary delights. The ground floor is a food hall selling organic produce and the second is a restaurant, but it is the wine cellar located in the basement which people flock to come night time.

Here, the walls are lined with a selection of over 600 wines, all of which can be bought by the glass and matched with the tasty tapas style bar treats on offer. For a special treat, organise a wine tasting session for your group.

Enjoy Your Night Out!

There are a whole host of excellent bars, restaurants and other evening entertainment in the atmospheric city of Dublin. Get dressed up and enjoy your night!

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Touring Ireland with a Bike

Ireland is a beautiful country, and although you can experience many things in a car, the best way to explore is either on foot or cycling. We didn’t want to walk everywhere, so decided that we would hire some bikes, and go on an adventure. As we were never intending to be professional cyclists, Max came along to, and enjoyed the new way to travel.

James and I spent some time deciding what parts of Ireland we wanted to explore on the bikes, as there are numerous different bike trails available. Being on a bike allows you to stop and absorb the countryside, ensuring that you take in every aspect. We wanted to experience the atmosphere, and local villages, and on a bike you can do this easily.

Alongside stopping when we felt like it, and enjoying the local hospitality, it was a fantastic way to keep fit. Even Max shed some pounds using hCG homeopathic drops whilst jogging alongside the bikes, exploring the hedgerows, and chasing the local rabbits. James was sceptical at first, but I pointed out there were plenty of country pubs to explore on the trail.

We decided to be adventurous and choose to take the bikes to the North West Trail, which includes over 200 miles of breathtaking scenery. This huge stretch of countryside will guarantee that you experience the true Ireland. As we begun our journey, we noticed that every part of the route was well sign posted, ensuring that even novices like us, could not get lost.

We were amazed how easy the journey was, and travelled through a staggering six counties, including, Cavan, Tyrone, Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Fermanagh. James was impressed that the trails went through villages with quaint county pubs, and we even enjoyed watching a local game of football.

The coastline was my favourite part of the journey, and there were the most beautiful beaches to explore. Rossnowlagh Beach is fantastic, and allowed Max to cool down in the sea, and run around in the sand. We did struggle to cycle up the Barnesmore Gap, and were pleased that we had decided to leave max in the hotel that day.

As we approached the historical town of Omagh, I knew that I wanted to stop and explore what was on offer. The historical town trail allows you to enjoy a slower pace of life, and be amazed by the stunning architecture. We decided to stay a while in the town, and enjoyed a pleasurable lunch, washed down with some Guinness.

Whilst having lunch I decided that the next place to visit was the Florence Court Forest park, which has fascinating caves to explore. James was not too impressed, but I found the simplicity of these caves to be awe inspiring. We were beginning to tire, and as amateur cyclists it is better to pick parts of the trails to cycle, rather than attempt the whole thing.

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Top Adventure Activities in Ireland

When I told James that we were going to Ireland for our next holiday, he was delighted, but I pointed out to him that there is far more to see and do other than drink. The people are incredibly friendly everywhere that you go in Ireland, and there is a distinct party atmosphere in many towns and cities. However, there is also another side to the Emerald Isle, which includes the adventure activities.

Kayaking is something that we both enjoy, which is why I made a point of telling James that we would be visiting County Kerry for the amazing waters. The stunning Lough Leane which is situated in Killarney is beautiful, and the perfect place for water enthusiasts. We experienced breathtaking rapids, and watched the soaring Eagles above our heads.

James prefers to remain on solid ground if he can help it, so I found the perfect activity for us to do together in County Mayo. The brilliant disused railway line has been transformed into a fun cycle trail, allowing you to explore the local area. With over 30 miles of trail to discover, Max certainly got his exercise that day.

Ireland is surrounded by water, which makes finding water based activities incredibly straightforward. I love surfing, so, thought there would be no better time to grab a wetsuits and explore what surf the cost had to offer. James was happy to sit with Max on the beach, whilst I enjoyed some of the best surf in Europe.

With over 50 designated surf beaches on offer I was spoilt for choice, and decided to try out Garretstown and Strandhill. Both of which were amazing, and provided me with a few hours of excellent surf. Once I had finished in the water, we took a nice relaxing stroll with Max further up the coastline. Although the water was cold, it made a refreshing change from being stuck in the hotel.

We love walking Max and the hills and mountains in Ireland provide an excellent setting to ensure that he got many walks whilst on holiday. James suggested walking the 134 miles of the Ring of Kerry, but I thought that was a step too far even for Max. Once we began to explore what was on offer, we soon discovered that Ireland is a Mecca for thrill seekers.

James spent half a day convincing me to go up on a tandem paragliding adventure, but I managed to convince him that I wanted to keep my feet on the ground. There is so much to see and do in Ireland with numerous different adventure activities, we were never bored. I have told James that our next trip will involve zorbing, kite surfing and horse riding; he was impressed I could just tell.

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Fantastic Budget Accommodation in Dublin

Finding the perfect place to stay on a budget seemed daunting at first, but when Carl and I began searching on the Internet there were plenty of budget places to choose. Budget accommodation is often considered to be small, uninviting, and often not somewhere that you would return to in the future. However, I was surprised by the vast choice and quality of the budget hotels and hostels that Dublin has to offer.

We wanted to visit Ireland, and knew that Dublin was top on our list of places to see, but we were on a tight budget. Carl was skeptical that I could find somewhere even remotely nice for the small budget we had saved. However, I was determined to prove him wrong, and thankfully I achieved this mission.

Dublin remains a top tourist destination, and thousands of young travellers pass through the city every year, which has helped to reduce the cost of accommodation. Backpackers, students, families and people like us on a small budget, an easily find brilliant places to stay. There are plenty of hostels on offer, and I did research some to see if they would suit our needs.

Hostels have improved a huge amount over the years, and there are some within the Temple Bar area that looked brilliant. There were no curfews; award winning food, exceptionally clean bedding, and some even had en-suite facilities. One of the best hostels that I could find reviews on was the Generator Hostel, located next to the Jameson Distillery.

This was appealing to Carl, but I fancied something slightly more upmarket, and I believed I could find a hotel on our budget. I was also trying to find a hotel that would allow Max our dog to stay, and this was going to be a mission. Thankfully more budget hotels in Dublin are allowing well behaved dogs, so I just needed to find one.

The Viking Lodge seemed perfect, situated just 15 minutes from the city centre, and offering some basic but good amenities, I thought I had struck gold. Everything was within easy walking distance including the Guinness brewery, and Temple Bar which made Carl happy. There was no parking, which is an issue if you have a hire car like we did.

I fancied staying on the Southside of the city, further away from the main hustle and bustle, which is always present in Dublin. I saw the recently refurbished Uppercross House Hotel on the Internet, and it was ideal. There was free parking, which was perfect, and a taxi rank and bus stop just outside the hotel.

The building was beautiful, and although the new extension was built in 2000, the builders had matched the old with the new to a high standard. The rooms have free WIFI so Carl can go on his laptop, and Max will be welcome. There is a bar and restaurant onsite, which meant when we don’t want to venture out we can eat in the hotel.

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No visit to Ireland is Complete without a Trip to the Guinness Storehouse

Carl had been amazing on this holiday and had indulged many of my requests to visit the old historical landmarks and attractions. Therefore, when he suggested visiting the world famous Guinness Storehouse, I knew I had to agree. In all fairness I enjoyed the experience far more than I had anticipated, as the building is rich in history.

The Guinness Storehouse is often referred to as the Guinness Hop store, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. People travel from all over the world, and I was amazed to see so many people of different nationalities enjoying the tour. The area that the storehouse is located within is incredible, and seeped with tradition.

St James Gate Brewery was founded in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, and has been the home of Guinness ever since the doors opened. This impressive brewery is the largest in Ireland, and covers a staggering 64 acres. Throughout the 19th and 20th century the brewery owned a huge majority of the surrounding properties, which were used by the employees.

The storehouse has only been opened since November 2000, and I was amazed to discover that it has received over four million visitors in that time. The building is magnificent, and although that was not why Carl wanted to visit, even he agreed that the seven floors leading to the glass atrium were amazing.

Every floor offers a different experience, and on the first floor we learnt about the ingredients that are included to make the perfect pint of Guinness. Yeast, hops, barley and water from the Liffy are all that goes into this popular beverage. As we wandered through to the other floors, we discovered the history behind the brewery, and the distinctive advertising that has been used for years.

I pointed out the interactive exhibit about responsible drinking to Carl, and I don’t think he was very impressed. As we approached the seventh floor, and the Gravity Bar Carls mood improved, as he knew he was getting closer to a pint of the black stuff. As I enjoyed the spectacular views of the city, Carl enjoyed his free pint of Guinness.

The Guinness Storehouse provided us with an insight to the brewing process of this world famous drink and fed my desire to learn more about Ireland and the rich culture that is around every corner. Without the Guinness family who knows what Dublin would be most famous for, and for that reason Arthur Guinness is considered to be a hero.

As we left the storehouse and made our way back to the hotel, Carl continued to explain how Guinness was an integral part of his holiday. This led to use calling into one or two bars on the way home, and enjoying the local hospitality once more. Ireland is a fantastic place and somewhere that we will return to in the future.

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St Stephens Green is the Perfect Place to Unwind

We had spent many days and nights exploring what was on offer in Dublin, and many of the activities involved eating, drinking and socialising. I decided that I wanted to spend a day relaxing, but not in the hotel, so we went in search of some green space. Max was also going a little stir crazy, and needed some time to run around.

In the city centre of Dublin is the most amazing park, which attracts people from all over the city to enjoy what St Stephens Green has on offer. This fantastic park opened to the public in 1880, and is situated across from one of the main shopping centres. Many of the people working within the nearby office blocks will come out at lunchtime to enjoy the tranquillity that the park offers.

We loved the simplicity of the park, and it reminded Carl of an old style Victorian park, with people spending long lazy days enjoying the sunshine. This park was the perfect place to people watch, and we found ourselves laid on the grass, watching the lovers, individuals, families and friends. With over nine hectares of land to explore, you can easily loose a day wandering through St Stephens Green.

There is a unique history that surrounds these greens, and whilst we laid in the sunshine, with Max sprawled by our legs, I enlightened Carl on the fascinating facts. The greens were once the common that was used for the public hangings, whippings and burnings. Thankfully these have stopped and the green is far friendlier.

Knowing that I love to explore old buildings, Carl offered to wander through the park to see what we could find. The buildings that are on offer date back to the mid 18th century, and were part of the overall park restoration plan. One area that we found by chance, which is amazing, is located on the North West corner of the park.

Here you will discover a garden for the blind, which has the most aromatic plants in the world. These plants can withstand being handled regularly, and are all labelled in Braille. Moving further through the park, we soon discovered the huge lake, and had to stop Max taking a dip in the water. This lake is home to many water birds and ducks, and is fed by a beautiful artificial water fall.

As we walked across the O’Connell Bridge that spans the lake, Carl spotted the ornamental gazebo, which is the perfect place to stop and rest. To the south of the main gardens, there is more natural heath land, which was ideal for Max to let off steam. The bandstand is located near here, and we noticed is the ideal meeting point for lunching students.

Carl begun to enjoy the day, and although there was no Guinness involved, I think he was happy to relax and enjoy the quieter side to the city. I would recommend this area of Dublin to anyone searching for the perfect way to spend a few hours.

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Dublin still has my heart – The best week vacation of my life

Dublin has always been close to my heart, and although I have vested many times, my Boyfriend Carl was yet to experience everything this vibrant city has to offer. Situated perfectly in the centre of Ireland, the capital city has a massive array of different things to see and do for every traveller.

There are a few things that you are guaranteed when visiting Dublin, these are friendly people, great value for money, and the chance to experience the “craic”. Irish people have a lust for life, and there was never a dull moment when we were in the city. With so much to do in the city, a weekend was never going to be long enough, but we did as much as possible.

I knew that we could not visit the land of Guinness, without taking Carl to the world famous Hop Store, which attracts millions of visitors every year. This stunning historical building is located in the heart of the Guinness Empire and offers fascinating architecture, alongside a pint or two of the black stuff.

The history surrounding Guinness and the buildings that we were privileged to be exploring were unbelievable; I do think Carl enjoyed the Guinness more than the tour.  As we made our way to the wondrous Gravity Bar we were one of many to enjoy the breathtaking view of Dublin. Sipping our complimentary glasses of the black velvet, we began to plan our next event.

As it was beginning to get late, we decided that venturing out to the lively Temple Bar was our plan, to enjoy the local hospitality. This vibrant party atmosphere ensured that Carl and I were going to be entertained for hours. After a few more glasses of Guinness, Carl joined in with the traditional Irish dancing, and a merry old sing along.

Time goes so fast in Dublin, and before I knew it we were heading back to our hotel, although we could have partied until Dawn, we had left Max our beloved dog in the dog friendly hotel. These are becoming a popular option for dog lovers, and the one we had chosen was excellent. Many places throughout the city accept well behaved dogs, especially the older style bars.

The next morning we decided to venture out on foot, which is easily done in Dublin, and it also meant that Max could come with us and explore. Dublin is considered a compact city, with a huge amount to see, you can enjoy the old cobbled streets nestled amongst the new developments. We were amazed at the range of buildings, and were surprised to see old Georgian Squares, next to modern office buildings.

Carl decided that he had drunk enough yesterday, and today was about sightseeing, and he wanted to visit St Michan’s Church. I thought it was for the beautiful architecture; however, I soon learnt it was due to the preserved bodies in the vault. Carl was impressed by the body with its limbs severed, and the six foot six crusader that was preserved.

As we wandered through the church, I noticed that there were many original features, some dating back to 1095 when the church was originally built. However, a vast majority of the building was rebuilt in 1686. I was glad to escape the mummified people, but did enjoy browsing the unusual carvings, and majestic organ that is situated in the church.

We had chosen to visit in August as the weather is promised to be better than other months, and although the rain held off it wasn’t particularly warm. This is why it came as a huge shock when Carl declared he was taking part in the annual River Liffy Swim. This river is magnificent and cuts through the center of the city.

Over 80 years ago local people decided that it would be a good idea to swim from Watling Street Bridge to the Custom House. Now over 400 competitors join in this madness, and this year Carl would be one of the madmen in the freezing waters. Having qualified through the stages, he could now compete, and all max and I could do is stand and watch.

Another of Carl’s passions is sport, so we had to make a trip to Croke Park, which is the sixth largest stadium in Europe. He had never seen Gaelic Football, so I knew this trip would be an experience, as this is a strange sport. I did wander off during one of the games to admire all of the memorabilia in the GAA museum.

Shopping was next on my list, and as Carl had indulged in his interests it was time for him to join me as I shopped. There are many different shops to enjoy in Dublin, but I wanted to experience shopping in a unique style. This is why I ventured to George Street arcade, which is located in a distinctive Victorian building.

This place was incredible, packed full of small shops and stalls, offering numerous different items, all at incredible prices. I was in awe at the handmade jewelery, and enjoyed several glasses of the local wine which was on offer. Even Carl begun to enjoy himself, and discovered that there are many little cafes to watch the world go by with Max.

Once Carl had refreshed himself drinking the local coffee, laced with Jameson’s, he decided that a tour of the Jameson’s Distillery was needed. So, off we went for another booze-based educational tour, and in all fairness it was quite good. We got to taste the famous Irish whiskey, and learn more about the rich heritage that surrounds the city.

After we had finished in the distillery, I managed to convince Carl to join me on the historical walking tour of Dublin. This tour is excellent and is run by graduate students from Trinity College, and provided me with all the history and facts I needed. Towards the end the Whiskey was kicking in and I think we both needed a sleep.

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