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08/29/2011

Northern Ireland

 By Kim Burke

Our class trip to Northern Ireland was really interesting. We stayed at a hotel in Belfast City Center Belfast city hall and did different tours every day. Belfast has a completely different vibe than Dublin, and the impacts of “The Troubles” and the tension between Protestants and Catholics are still very prominent. Beginning in the 1960’s, The Troubles came about due to tension between Catholic Nationalists who wished to be part of the Republic of Ireland, and Protestant Unionists who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom. The tension of the two cultural identities led to many problems in the North. The violent sectarian conflicts between these two ethnic groups continued until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 in which the right of self-determination and the recognition of the birthright of all people to identify and themselves and be accepted as British or Irish was established. Although this brought about a ceasefire, the culture of Northern Ireland is still very divided.

  Peace wall Bobby sands mural

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first day in Belfast we took a tour of different political murals and we walked along the “Peace Wall” which separates the Irish Nationalists and the British Unionists. The peace wall is covered with graffiti  written by people from all over the world who also wish for peace in Northern Ireland. I’ve never seen a city like Belfast before; the division between the two groups is very prevalent and affects everyday life. Even some of the pubs have a similar kind of peace line in which one side of the building an “Ethno-British” pub and one is an “Ethno-Irish” pub and it is clear that the people in these different pubs do not mix, even though they are literally one doorway away.

Titanic designed outside On a happier note, later that day we went to the dockyards where Titanic designed Titanic was built. We got to walk through the rooms in which the architects of the Titanic drew the blue prints, and we also stood in the room where they made the decision to not put enough lifeboats on board. It was a tad bit eerie, but nonetheless was really cool. Our tour guide made it fun and he pretty much quoted the movie Titanic word for word verbatim. He also made sure that we knew the old Belfast saying, “She was fine when she left us” and he made it clear that it was not their fault that she sank.

Free Derry corner The second day of our trip was spent in Derry, or Londonderry depending on whom you ask. Derry was an important city during The Troubles and was home to the Battle of the Bogside, which was a violent riot that resulted in many deaths, and was also home to Bloody Sunday. We walked around and looked at the murals and memorials dedicated to the sad events that took place there and then we went into the Bloody Sunday Museum. The museum is run by a man named John Kelly. He was there on Bloody Sunday and his younger brother Michael, was killed. This really hit home for me; the reality of how The Troubles impacts real people’s lives. The museum was sad and our group was pretty somber. We also walked along the city walls where the loyalist Apprentice Boys had marched, leading to the rioting of the Irish nationalists, which  
ultimately resulted in the Battle of the Bogside. At the end of the day a few friends and I stopped into a pub in Derry to relax while we waited to go back to Belfast. Upon arriving into this pub you are immediately welcomed with a big painting of Bobby Sands, the famous hunger striker, and a Republic of Ireland flag; it is obvious whose territory you are in. The cultural division runs deep and is made very clear wherever you go.

Fountain      Bogside


 

 

 

 

The third day in Northern Ireland was much more relaxed. In the morning we went and toured Carrickfergus Castle, which is an old Norman castle. This was a lot of fun frolicking around an ancient castle and getting to look at the different armor and weapons that were used. My inner nerd couldn’t help but think of the Lord of the Rings, it was awesome. 

Carrickfergus Carrick allie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop that day was to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This is a small rope bridge that allows people to walk over the ocean to a small landmass on the other side. The weather was great and it was beautiful right along the ocean. We considered staying on the little island and living there the rest of our lives, an idea most welcomed by a couple people that were a little bit terrified to have to cross back over the bridge.

CarrickaRede Kim bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last stop for the day was to Giant’s Causeway. Giant’s Causeway is on the ocean and is made up of naturally occurring basalt columns. This was caused by a volcanic eruption, although according to Irish legend it was a bridge built by a giant named Fionn so that he could get to Scotland. It was beautiful and the rocks looked like they were shaped and stacked so perfectly that I almost didn’t believe it wasn’t manmade

Session 2 group picGiants Causeway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, Belfast was a very interesting city and it was a great trip. The bus ride home was a little bit depressing, not only because the trip was ending, but because our stay in Ireland is winding down. Returning to Dublin from any trip, including around Ireland and even when I traveled to London and Rome makes me appreciate Dublin so much more. Every time I’ve returned, I kind of have a feeling of going back home, and I have an ache in heart thinking about having to leave for good in three days. I can’t think about that for now though, I have three days left and I plan to enjoy them!

 

08/24/2011

The luck of the Irish? I think not.

By Kim Burke

On Friday morning we toured St. Michan’s church in the morning and the Gla
vin Cemetery in the St Michans afternoon. St. Michan’s is the oldest parish on the north side of the River Liffey and although the church itself wasn’t that spectacular (especially having toured St. Patrick’s Cathedral the week before… can’t really even be compared) the mummies underneath were awesome. Underneath the church are burial vaults that have been naturally, perfectly preserved and mummified due to the constant dry condition in the vaults. We got to go down into the vaults and although my claustrophobia was kicking in big time as we climbed down the tunnel-like staircase, it was worth it. Our tour guide was very eccentric and he made the tour more interesting and he insisted that touching the hand of the mummy would bring us good luck. So I shook the mummy’s hand, hoping to receive some luck and then we left St. Michan’s.

O'connel tomb After stopping for a coffee break in a shop along the way, Martin walked us down to Glasnevin Cemetery. The cemetery has graves of notable national figures such as Daniel O’Connell, Michael Collins, Charles Stewart Parnell, and many more. Although the tour was really interesting, especially considering w  e have previously learned about many of the people that our tour guide talked about, it is still a little bit strange to me to have a guided tour of a cemetery. Glasnevin cemetery We went inside the tomb of Daniel O’Connell and our tour guide insisted that touching his tomb would bring us good luck. So once again I touched the tomb, doubling up on my luck for the day. 

This luck really didn’t come in handy the following day though when I went to go see Pheonix Park. We were told that Pheonix Park is a must see in Dublin and that it’s bigger than Central Park in New York City. It is home to the Dublin Zoo, the residence of the President of Ireland, the United States Ambassador’s residence, the Ashtown Castle, a café, ponds, and many memorials… we saw none of these. I went with my three good friends and after riding the bus for an hour we got to the park and started walking around. We walked for about an hour total and all we saw was one deer and tall grass that we couldn’t even walk through, it didn’t really look like a park at all, it looked like just a plot of land. We were trying to be optimistic and so we kept walking but to no avail. We sat at a picnic bench and laughed for about 10 minutes straight about our predicament and then decided to leave and head back into the city. We found out the next day all of Shamrock1
the awesome stuff inside Pheonix Park that we apparently missed, and we determined that we somehow must have used the wrong entrance and just walked along the outside of the park rather than actually walked inside the park. So we spent our last full Saturday in Dublin on a sunny day basically walking around on the grass next to a street. Fail. But on the bright side, we had an adventure and came away with a funny story. You win some you lose some, I guess. My luck from the previous day had apparently worn out.

08/22/2011

frolicking about Dublin

 By Kim Burke

Second session has been flying by! Second session has seemed really different than the first Writer's museum session. We have a lot more free time and less structure. I have learned to enjoy the freedom of the second session; I’ve been to a lot of different places in Dublin and I am finally figuring out the places I like most and we have even become regulars at a few. The first session we went to a lot of places outside of Dublin, we traveled to a bunch of different little towns and we did the touristy stuff like the Guinness Factory, so this session has been a lot more relaxed and we’ve mostly just stayed in Dublin. It makes me feel much more local and less like a visitor to be able to have a favorite pub or coffee shop and to actually have local friends. On Tuesday, we toured the Writer’s Museum in the morning and then we were free the rest of the day. The DublinersWriter’s Museum was  interesting; we walked around and listened to an audio recording about different books and many great Irish authors. Although, a museum about books wouldn’t usually be at the top of my list to go see, I did find a few of the exhibits interesting. I especially enjoyed learning more about the work and life of James Joyce. I read his book, Dubliners in high school and then had to reread it here for a class assignment. I remember thinking in high school that the short stories in Dubliners were boring and mundane. I didn’t get it at all. Reading them again after being here and studying the history and culture, it holds a lot more meaning. I like seeing that what I learn in school actually does change my perspective on things.

After the Writer’s Museum we shopped around the city a little bit and with the beautiful weather 
we couldn’t pass up sitting outside. We went to St. Stephen’s Green, which is a park in the middle of the city. We laid out in the grass at the park, which is a prime location for people watching. I saw an assortment of people there: young families, old couples, rowdy teenage boys, and I couldn’t help but imagine their lives and what it would be like to grow up here.Entrance to stephen green

I have grown to absolutely love Dublin and as I sat at the park with my three friends we dreamed what it would be like to move back here next year. I am learning to appreciate my uniq  ue position in life; with one more year left of college and no clue what to do next, I really do have the freedom to do whatever I want. The four of us sat at the park and conjured up our dream life for next year; we planned out where we could work, live, hang out, and we decided that everyStephen green sunny day in Dublin we would meet back at St. Stephen’s Green. Who knows if we could actually move  back here after we graduate next year, but the important thing is that we have the ability to dream about it. I came to Dublin at the beginning of the summer feeling very unsure about my place in life. It seems like there’s a lot more pressure in America to get married, secure a career, and have it all together right after college, it’s the white picket fence American dream, I suppose.

Don and Martin are always saying that Americans are way too In stephens green
stressed about everything; I’m starting to believe them. Rather than stressing out about life after college, I’m beginning to get excited. I had the privilege of celebrating my 22nd birthday here in Dublin, and although I’ve sort of been dreading it because it means I no longer have the excuse of being a young and reckless 21 year old,  I’m realizing that we take life too seriously and getting older should be an exciting adventure, not something to stress over. Alright, enough rambling and daydreaming, back to my day in the park. After enjoying the park for a few hours we ate at one of our favorite restaurants, Sweeney’s. Take note, if you enjoy drinking Blue Moon beer at home, go to Sweeney’s. Although it doesn’t taste nearly as good as it does in the States, it is the only place I’ve found in Dublin that serves it. All in all, it was a great day in the city.

08/09/2011

Come on you boys in Blue

By Kim Burke

 
I went to my first Gaelic football game yesterday. It’s like soccer on craic (pun intended.) The field is similarMatch teams to a rugby pitch with what looks like a soccer goal with football goal posts on top at either end. It’s worth 3 points to get the ball in the goal, and 1 point in the goal posts. Players can only run with the ball in their hand for four steps and then they must kick, throw, or bounce it off their own foot. I was actually at the stadium, Croke Park, the week before for a hurling match because they are played on the same field. Croke Park, like everything else in Dublin has an incredible history. The sad shootings of Bloody Sunday took place there, Group in croke park
but it is also a symbol of Irish pride and unity. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was established to unite the different counties in Ireland by competing in traditional Gaelic sports. At the beginning of the game, everyone sang the Irish National Anthem in Gaelic. While the rivalries between the different counties are strong, there is an overarching theme of Irish pride in their culture  and country. Yesterday, the match was between Dublin and Wexford and so I obviously had to support Dublin. The Irish are very loyal to their home teams and take a lot of pride in cheering for them. Not surprisingly, there was an overwhelming amount of Dublin fans, but among the sea of light blue Dublin jerseys there were also a few purple and yellow Wexford fans. We happened to be sitting among a lot of Wexford fans and, like most other places, we stuck out Match in action like a sore thumb. Never having seen Gaelic football before in my life, we were a bit confused at the beginning and we accidently cheered for Wexford a few times while waving our blue Dublin flags, but Gaelic football is pretty simple and we caught on quickly. It was a really close game and the fans were wild, the atmosphere reminded me of going to football games back home. The Dublin fans, otherwise known as The Dubs, were rowdy and I talked to a few students afterwards who assured me that the next game I go to I need to sit in the hill, which is the standing stadium for the “true fans.” My night ended at a sports pub, arm in arm with other fans singing along to Come On You Boys In Blue, which is like their spirit song. The entire pub was singing, with the exception of a few bitter Wexford fans, and I felt truly Irish and connected to the community. Match group in pub

 

08/04/2011

Happy 4th of July 'Merica! (in August!)

by Kim Burke

Fitzsimons I must say that without an outdoor BBQ, fireworks, and throwing the frisbee around, the 4th was a little bit of a let down. I was surprised to find that so many people here actually did celebrate it though. Much to the delight of everyone in our group, there is a pub on campus, which would be quite a rarity back home on an American campus. The pub on campus is called the NuBar and they were hosting a 4th of July bbq. After our fair share of hamburgers and corn on the cob at NuBar, we headed into town, and in true American fashion, we went to Temple Bar.

Many places in town had American flags hung and almost everywhere we went someone wished us a “Happy Independence Day.” Most the Irish people we ran into that night seemed genuinely American Flag Irish Bar excited for us that it was independence day and made a point to talk to us about it. Something I’ve noticed about the Irish is that they have quite a global awareness about other cultures. Almost every Irish person I’ve talked to is very knowledgeable about American history, politics and popular culture. I don’t know nearly as much about Irish society as they know about American society. As ethnocentric as this is, most of my perceptions about Ireland come from American movies, which is probably why most of my expectations about being here were wrong. Much to the dismay of all the girls on this trip, Ireland is not full of handsome Irish men wandering the countryside like P.S I Love You taught us, but nonetheless when we took a tour of Wicklow national park that didn’t stop most of the girls from looking. The Irish aren’t completely innocent either, considering that I’ve heard Jersey Shore quoted to me more than once. The first week of being here, when anyone asked where I’m from I would usually just say America, but most people usually seemed a little annoyed that I would assume they hadn’t figured that out. Turns out, everyone here knows where Colorado is, and I usually get some kind of response about Coors beer, the Rocky Mountains, and, much to my surprise, multiple people have asked me if I ride horses on the plains... I'm still a little baffled that that's the image some people have when they The Temple Bar
picture Colorado. Enough pondering about perceptions; back to 4th of July. With the responsibility of representing American pride we of course all wore red, white, and blue. My friend in the program, Erika, wore a red and white-stripped shirt. This of course led many people to jokingly ask, “Where’s Wally?” We were constantly correcting people saying, “His name is not even Wally, it’s Waldo!!” The following day, we were shopping at a bookstore called Chapters when we stumbled upon the kid’s section. Turns out that in Ireland the Where’s Waldo books do not feature Waldo, but they feature “Wally” and are actually called Where’s Wally? Typical, the joke is on us.

07/27/2011

The Wild West

by Kim Burke

Kim and Maddie We ended the first session with our West of Ireland trip and this trip was my most favorite thing we’ve done in the program thus far. We traveled out to Westport, County Mayo and stayed in a cute little hotel and did tours everyday. The first day there we hiked to Croagh Patrick, which is an ancient pilgrimage site that is still used yearly for the devout to climb up it barefoot. Across from Croagh Patrick is the Famine Memorial. County Mayo was hit the hardest during the famine and this memorial is in the shape of a “Coffin ship.” Tragedy struck in 1847 when the potato crop failed completely, forcing thousands of people toWhole group and famine village abandon their homes and way of life. Coffin ships were the name given to the ships carrying the thousands of Irish people trying to escape. Many people died on that journey, thus the name coffin ships. 
It was a very somber mood when we drove along the famine walk and we saw a famine village. The structures of the village were still there, but it had been completely abandoned, this gave us a tangible way to understand the devastation of the famine, it literally wiped out once thriving communities. It was humbling to be in a place that has overcome so much devastation.

Image012       Three students           
famine ship memorial                                                                    

We also got to tour Tom Hennigan’s farm. His farm has been in his family for generations and we learned all about how Irish farmers used to live back in the 1800’s. With my own family hailing from County Mayo, I couldn’t help but imagine that my ancestors lived similarly. I loved getting to hear from Tom as he talked to us about “the good old days” of Ireland and how much the world has changed. Most of the Irish people that I have conversed with are young college aged students like myself, so it was interesting getting to hear from someone from an older generation.  Group in connemara

Our West of Ireland trip was so great because we went to places that I would never have gone to on my own. It was also a last hoorah for the students that were leaving after the first session. Although I was really sad to say goodbye to the first session people, it made me really thankful that I have another month here. My time in Ireland so far has been a crazy, exciting, and scary adventure!

 

                                                       The Summer I group

07/21/2011

A New Summer School 2011


by Kim Burke


My time in Dublin thus far has been quite the adventure. From the first few Picture 2 Dubh Linndays of walking around the city in a zombie-like jet-lagged state, to being in tears at the end of the first session while having to say goodbye, I have come a long way. My expectations for Dublin were way off, but then again, most expectations are. Coming here, I knew that Dublin would be a thriving, international city but some part of me still wanted to believe it would be the green rolling hills full of sheep and farmers. While I was initially disappointed, little did I know that in a few weeks time I would be absolutely in love with this city.

Our teachers, Don and Martin, are great and they compliment each other well. Martin tries to 
always make sure we feel comfortable in the city and our school material and makes sure we understand Irish culture. Don helps us understand the culture too, usually by means of shocking us with the bluntness and forwardness that is uniquely Irish. The first week here was pretty much all orientation. As our teacher Martin walked us through the city, I was trying desperately to remember where everything is, mostly due to the fact that he continued to Picture 2 Sigpost jokingly threaten us with “ambush orienteering” in which he would leave us on our own to find our way, and I was determined to be ready for it. We walked around Dublin City Hall and were able to view the gardens of the black pool where Dublin’s name is derived from, originally called Dubh Linn. We walked along St. Audeon’s, Christchurch Cathedral, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

We also had class orientation and Don and Martin gave us advice about being an American living Picture 4 St Audeons in Ireland. I learned about “slagging” the first day of class, and I then experienced it first hand that night… and pretty much every other night I’ve been here. Slagging is basically poking fun at others but it is always done in good jest, and I’ve found that most Irish that slag you do it because they like you and it’s an easy conversation opener. There is one social aspect I picked up on immediately after arriving in Dublin; the Irish are extremely sarcastic and have a very dry sense of humor. The Irish perceive Americans as easy target for Picture 7 Sheep slagging, a stereotype I’ve realized we contribute to frequently, especially after Martin had convinced half of our class that the sheep in Ireland actually have longer back legs than front ones to help them stand on the mountains. Slagged.                                                        

 

I really love the lay out of our class; most days consist of a lecture in the morning and a sitPicture 15 Kilmainhamiiie visit in the afternoon. The site visits are always really interesting and I love that we can learn about  something and then go physically see it. My favorite field trip so far was our visit to Kilmainham Gaol, the jail that housed the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. The 1916 Easter Rising was a failed attempt for Irish freedom but when the rebels were taken to Kilmainham and executed there, it made martyrs out of them, which ultimately reignited Irish passion for independence from Britain.

  Some of us in Galway
Picture 12 Galway students All of my free time the first few weeks was spent traveling to different parts of Ireland. Heading out to the countryside was wonderful and it’s the image most people have when they think of Ireland; lots of green hills and beautiful seaside cliffs. I spent my first weekend in Galway, which I absolutely loved. Galway seems like a miniature version of Dublin; it has a small town feel but still all the amenities of a big city. It seemed to have a more “Irish” feel to it. The Irish are all extremely friendly and hospitable and when I walked into Picture 11 Galway
the pub in Galway that first weekend, I felt like I was already among friends. The weekend we were there they were having a Havana festival, so the town was full of live music and we sat out on the canal and watched the Havana dancers. It was awesome. I also took many day trips traveling to little fishing towns just outside of Dublin, and while these towns are usually less than an hour train ride away, I feel like I’m in a different country. The most memorable town for me was Howth (although seeing Picture 8 Howth
Bono’s door in Killiney was a close second.) My day in Howth consisted of gallivanting around the markets, hiking through the Howth Castle Gardens, and having fresh seafood and a bottle of wine overlooking the ocean. Not a bad day at all.

07/21/2010

And then there was 2 and a half hours until I go to the Airport.

I am writing this literally at last possible second, so I feel pretty good about recapping what I have learned this trip, in no particular order.

  • No one likes American guys. No one. We are boring in our own country and viewed as dead-weight for American Girls, which are the Golden Key to getting into any place or getting any discount. Thanks, American Female Friends
  • IRISH PEOPLE LOVE PRINGLES! SERIOUSLY! THEY'RE EVERYWHERE! ALL SORTS OF FLAVOURS! HAVE YOU EVER HAD PRAWN PRINGLES? They have! They love 'em! You get an American Girls with a tube of Pringles they just might hand you the key to the city.
  • When someone asks me where I'm from, I say Wisconsin. I'd say "America" or "The States" and they would be annoyed with me for assuming they couldn't figure that out.
  • Open Container laws on mass-transit systems cut down on drunk driving, but exponentially increase the chance of having a drunk homeless man fall asleep next to you.
  • Irish people know how to say their Th's in words like "Three" and "Theory", they just choose not to.
  • I look 17. People were incredulous when they would see I'm no longer a teenager.
  • I love Kebabs.
  • I love the Dog Track
  • Whenever you go t--Wait, back to the Dog Track.

Every session we have a "Farewell Dinner" at a nicer restaurant and usually have a very pleasant time. However, someone had the idea to have it at the Dog Track. So our pleasant time turned into a SUPER AWESOME TIME! What is better than eating salmon while watching the 12-1 dog place in second place? I'll tell you what, actually placing a bet on that instead of idly talking about it, like I did. The adrenaline, the chance, the surprisingly low amount of dead-beat heroin addicts, I love it!

  • Without fail, every time I told an Irish Person I was from Wisconsin they said, I quote: "THAT 70S SHOW!" This was a good 20 interactions that his happened. They LOVE That 70s Show, and most likely never met someone from Wisconsin. Which I why I got the following follow up questions:
    • "Living in a city must be a serious culture shock"
    • "I bet you're finally enjoying a farm summer!"
    • "You're from WiSCONsin?" - That was from Americans.

All in all, I've had an absolutely incredible experience that I can say with a great deal of certainty that I'll remember forever. The CIEE staff has been absolutely fantastic with Don and Martin being equal parts knowledgeable and personable. Dublin is now my second favorite city in the world and I look forward to coming back whenever possible. However, there is no place like home. It will be bittersweet in two hours when I have to get in that cab, but I feel confident knowing that I've done everything I could have dreamed of and more here.

Deuces, Ireland.

Hopefully next time we meet I can have a job.

....Alright, I gotta finish packing.

Northern Ireland: ...I'd feel too bad making jokes about this.

I was really excited to go to Northern Ireland since I heard about it. I never really knew what happened in Northern Ireland until I spent 40 class hours learning about it. It's super complicated and messy and the fact there is a ceasefire is amazing. 

Politics aside, Belfast was OK. It has a totally different feel than Dublin. High Rise buildings, all grey brick, it feel more like an American city than Ireland. (Well, technically it's not Ireland, but you know what I mean). The political murals were equal parts inspiring and terrifying and the fact that the Troubles were only ended 10 years ago is equal numbing.

One non-depressing, super awesome thing is WE SAW WHERE THE TITANIC WAS BUILT. Like, inside the buildings! So sweet! As they say in Belfast: "There was nothing wrong with it when it left here!".

Things then got somber again going to Derry/Londonderry and seeing the murals and memorials to The Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday. The Bloody Sunday Museum was especially poignant with the the sister of one of the boys killed runs the Museum and gave a talk to our group. She was recently in the news because her and the other families of the Bloody Sunday victims were invited to a formal apology by the British Prime Minister for the actions of the British police on that day after findings that the protesters weren't a threat to anyone's safety.

I apologize if a lot of this is foreign or unfamiliar with anyone. I don't think I can do a summation of the history of the Northern Ireland Tensions justice. However, if you're interesting in History, Politics, or Current Events, it's worth a look. A really interesting case of sectarian hate and tensions between ethno-religious boundaries. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Troubles
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Bogside
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Sunday_(1972)

On a happier note WE THEN WENT TO A CASTLE! IT WAS SWEET!
 The Carrickfergus castle in Carrickfergus, to be exact. It was a castle, and it was dope.

That brings us up to now, sort of!

Dublin Castle 'n' Stuff - 6/7-13/7

This week we had a lot of free time so I did more of the aforementioned bumming around and hanging out with friends from the session. A friend from freshmen year came in, we watched the World Cup, nothing Earth Shaking.

 Dublin Castle is a really cool spot. The inside is gorgeous. If you are a fan of old houses, walking around old houses, looking at classic architecture, looking at Victorian and Elizabethan furniture and decorations, go to Dublin Castle. They also sell post-cards with Family Crests on them. "A Cat When Stroked Is Gentle". Way to go Kane Clan.

With this break in the action, let me tell you about a rekindled love affair: Sugar and I.

In Europe, no one uses preservatives. In your candy bar and in your soda you just high quality ingredients and high quality sugar. On the downside, everything is way more empty calorie pack. On the upside, the majority of your beverage/snack food isn't made in lab. I am bringing home a treasure trove of goodies to show America the joys of sugar and hopefully it will catch on here. Or we can stick with the chemicals, I've been cool with them so far.

See you in Northern Ireland!

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