Kilkenny Castle

On June 12, we boarded a Paddywagon bus for a day tour to Wicklow (where the TV show Vikings is filmed) and Kilkenny.

Kilkenny castle, built in the 13th century, was my favorite stop (and is the first castle I’ve ever seen).

The room above is the picture gallery, which I think is deserving of a more impressive name. It’s really stunning. It’s also bigger than what it looks like here; I was looking away from the part of the room that was full of tourists.

A hallway ceiling:

The drawing room:

The dining room:

A guest bedroom (I believe they said a queen stayed here):

The castle exterior:

I liked the experience of a guided tour. I learned more about Ireland than I would have if we’d gone on our own. For instance, I learned that:

  • More Irish is spoken outside of Ireland than in the country itself. When the British conquered Ireland, the Irish language was forbidden. Now the language is being taught at schools and signs are in both Irish and English.
  • Their religion (Catholicism) and the ability to own land was also forbidden.
  • President Obama is part Irish and visited his cousin (?) during his second presidential campaign.

There was more, but I seem to have forgot it!


Ben and I arrived in Dublin at 5:30 a.m. on June 11th. After catching up on our sleep, we left The Morgan Hotel to explore the area. We stopped at Sweeney’s Pub for lunch (U2 has played there), and Ben had his first Guinness in Ireland. Since then, there have been several pub stops.

My overall impressions of Ireland so far:

  • It’s cold; colder than I expected. I wear a scarf every day and we’ve been rained on daily without fail.
  • They use cash more than I expected. Before we get into a cab, we have to ask if they take credit cards (we learned that the hard way on our first day), and when we eat out, there is rarely an opportunity to add the tip to the bill.
  • Street signs are hit or miss in Dublin. Sometimes, they’ll be on a building on the corner of a street. Other times, they’re non-existent.
  • I prefer the countryside to Dublin. The mountains and greenery more closely match what I expected of Ireland and are more peaceful, while Dublin can feel grungy and chaotic, especially in the Temple Bar neighborhood, which is full of bars and restaurants.
  • The Bueno candy bar is delicious. It’s my new favorite. I’m going to look for it at our grocery store when we’re home.

I’m enjoying my time here, but I’m looking forward to seeing the sunshine in England and wearing summer clothes.

More pictures to come of Ireland!

A Summer Evening with Lady Washington

In honor of Martha Washington’s June 2 birthday, Mount Vernon had an evening tour of the estate yesterday. The tour started at 6:40 p.m. and lasted for over an hour, followed by a reception in the upper garden with music and greeting Lady Washington.

Ben was nice enough to go with me.

Afterwards, we went to Taco Bell, which we haven’t been to in at least a year (the closest one to our apartment is 20 minutes away). I was shocked at the amount of food that we got for $15 (not that we’re planning to make this a regular thing).

Random Thoughts

  • I missed posting last week, since both Ben and I were sick. He was sick on Friday, and I caught it on Sunday. I’m still not 100% better (I can’t stop coughing and I’m still congested), but I’m hoping to be recovered by the time we leave for our trip.
  • Our flight leaves on Saturday morning. We’ll spend the 11th through the 15th in Ireland and 16th through the 23rd in England, with a day trip to Paris on the 22nd.
  • We’ve booked a couple of guided tours, one to Kilkenny Castle and Wicklow and another to Cliffs of Moher. In England we had booked a guided tour to Bath and Stonehenge, but it was cancelled by the tour operator, so we’ll be going to all of our England destinations alone. I’m most looking forward to seeing Jane Austen’s home, Chawton House; Bath and Hampton Court Palace.
  • I will try to post to the blog during the trip, but we haven’t yet decided if we’ll be bringing our laptops.
  • I’ve never traveled internationally before. I’m so excited!

Museum of the American Revolution

Ben and I planned to visit Gettysburg yesterday, but the weather forecast changed from a high of 70 degrees to a high of 60. We decided to wait for a warmer day instead and drove to Philadelphia’s new Museum of the American Revolution.

I don’t have many pictures, since it was dark and crowded. The picture above is a sign on the liberty tree in one of the exhibits. The tree was fake, although it did have a piece of wood from a liberty tree that stood in Annapolis, MD until 1999.

The highlight of the museum was General Washington’s tent, which is in one of the museum’s theaters. It’s hidden from view as you watch a short movie about George Washington in the war (which includes a Mount Vernon cameo). Towards the end of the movie,  the first screen lifts to reveal a second and you see the silhouette of the tent; the video continues and gradually the second screen lifts to reveal the tent, with images of the changing seasons behind it. I thought it was dramatic and stunning. I watched it twice.

Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream

Random Thoughts

  • After he watched me take this picture, Ben told me that my photography would improve if I was less shy. He’s 100% right. I snapped this photo quickly, before the server could notice what I was up to. I’d love to be more assertive and ask people if I can take their picture, but I’m not there yet.
  • The new season of Silicon Valley is here! That and Fargo are the only shows I’m watching right now. I’ve been trying to watch less TV to make time for other things.
  • I discovered a new cafe that I like; it’s called BeanGood in Arlington.  Their chai lattes are better than others I’ve had at local cafes, and they have dedicated tables for laptops. (I’ve already added it to my “favorite places” map).
  • I also discovered that Arlington is a nightmare to drive in. After taking exit 50 toward Arlington Cemetery, Google maps told me to merge straight onto Washington BLVD. However, there was no straight – it was a fork – and neither street was labeled Washington BLVD. or anything close to it. I feel like that happens a lot around here.
  • After a few cold and rainy days, the weather is warming up and will be in the 80s and 90s for the rest of the week. I’m so excited. Warm weather makes everything better.