Saturday, May 09, 2009

Vacation 2009 - day 3

April 23, 2009 - Dublin

Up around 8:30am, breakfast in the hotel cafe. Drizzly day. Walked down to Trinity College area to see the National Museum and the National Gallery of Ireland. The National Museum is small but had lots of good exhibits of bronze age gold and other artifacts, people whose bodies had been found in bogs, and medieval artifacts. The National Gallery was bigger. In fact, we didn't have time to see everything there. Many nice Renaissance and pre-Renaissance images and a nice section on Dutch painters.

Had a good lunch at the Queen of Tarts, and bought some nice scones. Visited a traditional music record stores, Claddagh Records, bought a cd and got a recommendation where to hear some live music.

Went on a Dublin Castle tour, including a tour of the ruins underneath the current 18th century building. Then walked around north of the Liffey for a while in the drizzle and then back to the hotel for a break.

During supper, we got a call from our travel agent. Our hotel in Edinburgh had been bought and closed temporarily. They had transferred us to a four star hotel nearby.

After supper, we walked to the Cobblestone pub to have a pint of Guinness and hear some trad Irish music. It was quite good, though they did take long breaks between songs. It was a male flute player and a female concertina player. The bar staff was very friendly and instructed Stacey in how to drink a Guinness properly.

Then we had to head back for an early night to get ready for a our flight the next morning.

(pictures from Dublin)

Vacation 2009 - day 2

April 22, 2009 - Dublin

Got up after a good sleep, had breakfast in the hotel restaurant (Copper Alley Bistro), then went to catch the bus for the Tara/Newgrange tour.

The tour was very good. The guide gave us a lot of very good info about Dublin and Ireland as well as the sites we visited. First site was the hill of Tara, traditional home to the Irish kings. All of the buildings there are gone, so it is just a big empty hilltop with a great view, but it still had an interesting feel to it. The entrance is through the graveyard of a church converted to an interpretive center.

The main site was Newgrange. We got off the bus, saw a short video about the site, had lunch and then took a smaller bus up to the site. The site, with its reconstructed outside and intact interior was very neat, as was the fact that it had been there, much as we saw it, for five thousand years!

(photos of Dublin, Tara and Newgrange)

Vacation 2009 - day 1

April 21, 2009 - Dublin

Took coach from Dublin airport to Trinity College area and walked to our hotel near Christ Church Cathedral. Rainy/slightly cold day.

Dublin has lots of of old looking, brick buildings and a nice feel. Our hotel, the Harding, is quite nice - a large room with a great view of Christ Church. We walked back down to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and "The Dublin Experience". The college has an odd vibe because it has a lot of tourists wandering around but at the same time, it is a working college with normal college students.

The Book of Kells exhibit is very well done, with lots of info about the history of the book and similiar books, about its manufacture and almost destruction. When you get to the actual book, it's a little anti-climactic since you can only see four pages and they aren't as impressive as the large blowups that are part of the exhibition. After the book, you go into the Trinity College Old Library, which is an awesome two story room filled with very high shelves of old books. Afterwards, we had trouble finding "The Dublin Experience", so we went to find lunch at Powerscourt Tower, an 18th century house converted to a minimall. Decent food, but not great.

After that, Stacey looked at a few shops, we walked to Trinity to look for "The Dublin Experience" again, only to realize that it doesn't start until May. We walked back to the hotel room through the bar filled Temple Bar neighborhood.

(photos from Dublin)

Friday, May 08, 2009

I've been on vacation, and I'll post details soon. While on vacation, I finished two books - In the Ruins by Kate Elliot and Temple of the Winds by Terry Goodkind.

In the Ruins is the 6th book in Elliot's Crown of Stars series. I wrote about two of the earlier books here and here. From the foreword, there were supposed to be six books in the series but there were too many plot threads and characters too wrap up in one book. This seems to be a common failing in these huge series - George R. R. Martin has had the same issue with his Game of Thrones series and the person who is finishing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series has made the same comment. Also, like a lot of these series, the new books get harder and harder to read as it becomes difficult to keep track of all the intricacies of the plot without re-reading the old books.

The book itself is just OK. It kept me busy on the plane, but didn't have any thing really interesting to offer.

The 2nd book, Temple of the Winds, is very different. Although it is part of a larger series, Goodkind's books are mostly self-contained, with only a few continuing plot elements. The problem here is that the individual story isn't very good. At the core of the book is an absurdly constructed dilemma. It's designed to wring the maximum pathos from the characters, but doesn't make any sense in terms of the story. It feels like the author came with this dilemma and then tried to shoe-horn a book around it.