TOP OF THE MORNING TO YE ALL.
Hello friends and family, and welcome to my first blog entry of exchange 2012/2013. I do hope some of you actually end up reading this….always awkward to think you might be sending something off into cyberspace for absolutely no one to see.
So anyway, I arrived safely in Ireland on Sunday, after a flight that stretched to eternity, aided and abetted by 4 (YES FOUR) screaming babies who the flight attendants so helpfully positioned right next to me. There was also an awkward moment in Abu Dhabi airport where I was so excited to use the free showers that I forgot I didn't have a towel… so spent the remainder of my four hour stopover dripping wet in the transit lounge. Ah well.
Dublin is an absolutely beautiful city, a wonderful mixture of pre-Viking, Norman, Medieval, Georgian and Victorian architecture. There are lots of amazing landmarks and buildings around the city, including Dublin Castle, City Hall, Temple Bar and St. Stephen's Green. The Ha'Penny Bridge is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks of Dublin for tourists, yet locals in the know refuse to cross it; it was designed by the architects of and built by the builders who made the Titanic; and considering Ireland's ridiculously changeable and chilly weather, it's not entirely unlikely that the bridge will encounter an iceberg in the River Liffey one of these days. Of course, Trinity College is perhaps Dublin's most well-known building, and for good reason; the campus is absolutely beautiful and the students I saw looked like they couldn't believe their luck to be studying in such a wonderful location. But even Trinity has its eccentric side; its commonly believed that if someone walks through the Bell Tower as the bells ring, it means they're a virgin. Everyone on my walking tour scoffed at that until we'd all crossed it, and the bell started ringing just as the last girl, hailing from the Deep South of America, walked through the middle. She started getting ridiculously defensive about how "she was saving herself for her marriage to Jesus, and kept herself chaste without even a lustful thought, so the bell had obviously picked up on her purity". Coincidence? Or good old fashioned leprechaun magic? This is the same (quite high) bell tower that Trinity students get the opportunity to climb once a year, while a Professor of the school shoots blunted arrows at them. The idea is that if a student manages to get to the top without falling or being hit by an arrow, they are granted 100% in all their exams for that year. Probably not a risk I would take, personally….
Yesterday I decided to take advantage of the unusual sunshine and headed out to Powerscourt Estate, my future home (if only) and possibly the most beautiful building and gardens in all of Ireland, if not Europe. I walked around the fountains and roses and pretended I was Elizabeth Bennett, strolling around my own stately home. There was even a pond for Mr Darcy to dive into…. Where's Colin Firth when you need him?
Today I went on a day tour out to the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough Monastic Settlement and Trim Castle. I have to say, for men who had taken a vow of eternal peace, the monks at Glendalough had some fairly awful ways to repel invaders. They would pour boiling oil out from the cathedral windows onto the heads of unsuspecting marauders below, and would, upon victory, feast in their great hall amongst the bodies of their slain enemies. These guys, however, were no match for the Norman Lords of Trim Castle; some of their favoured punishments for anyone who remotely displeased them (by, say, stealing a loaf of bread, breaking the wheel of the Lord's Cart or some other hideous crime) included decapitation, the rack, hanging the poor victim by their thumbs for the castle walls, or simply sending them into a 30 feet deep pit to starve to death. My personal favourite medieval torture, however, involved strapping the offender into the stocks, dousing their legs with salted water, and letting a goat's rough tongue lick off first the water, and then the soles of their feet… Icky.
Trim Castle is also where they filmed Mel Gibson's film, Braveheart. One of the stuntmen had to be pushed out of an 8 story window 16 times before they were satisfied with the scene… You'd start to get a bit sick of falling into mid-air by the 12th or 13th time wouldn't you? Apparently Mel was also quite the charmer in the village, working his way through the local Guinness and the local lasses…what a lad.
Today we also visited the Wicklow Mountains National Park, and more importantly for me, the film locations for Excalibur, Heartbeat, The Tudors and P.S. I Love you. I am thrilled to report that I have stood exactly where Gerard Butler met Hilary Swank for the first time, although I must be honest, I was slightly disappointed that no dark haired, ruggedly handsome green eyed Irish man came wandering up to me while I was standing there. This has given me much food for thought, and I've come up with a strategic career plan. I am going to open a company that runs tours out to famous movie locations, hire extras and actors, and orchestrate re-enactments of romantic scenes. So I'll get someone who looks like Gerard Butler to be permanently roaming that road for tour buses, someone to dress up in a white shirt and dive into the lake at Pemberley and pretend to be Mr Darcy, a Hugh Grant lookalike to work in the bookshop at Notting Hill, a slightly crazed man to wander the English moors continually shouting "Cathy, Cathy"… I could even extend the franchise out to appeal to males as well… I could hire a whole herd of extras in kilts to charge tour groups at Trim Castle so every guy could have their own Braveheart moment. Hmmm this is a great plan! Mum, Dad, this is what I'll be spending my inheritance on…
And to finish off my first blog entry, let me share a little story of my continuing awkwardness and foot-in-mouth disease. I (following in the footsteps of chatty elderly ladies everywhere) had managed to strike up a conversation on the bus with two 22 year old boys from Santa Barbara, California, and they were asking me about Australia's view on Obama and the coming election. Because I know absolutely nothing about that topic, I went on a rant instead about how much Australia had ridiculed and disliked Sarah Palin and her stances on guns, Alaska, general humanity and life, etcetcetc, somehow culminating in my impression of Sarah Palin seeing Russia from her backyard. The boys listened in silence, before, to my utter dismay, one of them snarled "Sarah happens to be one of our close family friends. It's very easy for you and your convict countrymen to make judgements, but you don't have to live in a country run by a man WHO ISN"T EVEN WHITE". Awkward silence ensued for the rest of the trip.
LOVE ALEX XX