Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Canadian Celebrates American Thanksgiving in Ireland

 Turkey courtesy of yours truly! So much quicker with a convection oven...2.5 hours for a 12 pounder. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Belfast Round 2

We originally planned this trip as a quick overnight to visit the Belfast Christmas market. We booked a hostel and then re-read the website and realized the market didn't start until December 9th. We decided Belfast would be a fun way to end our reading breaks for we went anyway.

 Our really cute hostel. Funky and cozy, the best one I've stayed in so far in Ireland!

 Sitting for tea at the Queen's University Belfast Student Union cafe...
I really liked the teapot!

 Back to Queens for a few pictures while the sun is shining. 

City Hall.

Belfast Black Cabs.

I Can Stay!

Canadians get special treatment in Ireland, we are loved and adored by all and trusted not to disrupt the nation or make bad decisions. This is true because unlike my American neighbours I was allowed to stay in the country, without having to visit the GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau) until well into December. Americans and many of those from other countries were required to go into the Garda center in early October to get their immigration stamp and unlike me had to wait in lines of up to 5 hours - some even had to return twice. 

I had been hearing horror stories of the GNIB experience since my arrival and can tell you I was not looking forward to my turn, but despite the stories of my roommates I was determined to go in with a smile and turn on the Canadian charm. I figured I'd have to wait, I knew the lines would be long, I planned on it and expected it. I worried slightly because some people had told stories of how strict they were, how if you didn't have every document in perfect order they would send you away. The bank statement to show proof of available funds in an Irish bank was dated early October - I had since spent money and didn't want to risk getting another statement only to be told I had too little in my account. I was also worried about the health insurance piece. One of my roommates was turned away and had to buy separate Irish insurance even though she was covered in America. I was worried my paperwork wouldn't be official enough.

I decided that I would use this Wednesday to take my turn, I still had over 3 weeks to go before I was required to have the immigration stamp on my passport, but I figured better to get it over with sooner rather than later. So I woke up early, made my way to the city center, grabbed a large carry mug of tea and made my way over. 

The lines were nil, I got my number and read that I was 59th in line. They were serving number 55. I waited about 15 minutes, went up to the kiosk and met a very friendly man. I smiled, was pleasant, wished him a good morning and sat down to wait while he looked over my papers. He asked my for my health insurance. I fumbled a bit, realizing I had forgotten to stick those papers in the pile. As I hurried to find the insurance plan statement and my health card he stopped me. I looked up and he smiled and told me no worries, he believed me - he knew I must have the insurance, didn't need the proof. I was pleasantly surprised. He then took my pictures (I asked him if I could smile and he said yes). He then told me to go back and take a seat and they would call me when my card was printed. 

I sat down once again and waited about 20 minutes. They called my name - Canadian National McKendry, and I went up to get my card and my stamped passport. 

I was a lucky one, I was in and out of the Garda station in an hour and 15 minutes. No fuss no muss, all in all a very pleasant experience. I never even had to pull out my book or my Ipod. 

It helps to go in with a good attitude. I think some of my roommates missed the memo on that one. 

So, long story short I am now a legal resident in Ireland, and because I was so sweet, the man gave me an extra month of residence and stamped by passport with an expiry date of October 2012, instead of September. Yay!

**I had pictures up, but Uncle Bruce kindly reminded me about the little issue of identity theft. Thought it best not to advertise my passport and GNIB card online **

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tis the Season

Clearly I wasn't at home to enjoy the festivities of one of my favourite holidays - Thanksgiving, but in honour of the three Americans I'm living with we have all decided to cook a turkey and celebrate their Thanksgiving. 

So I went to the local grocery store today and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I could buy a Turkey for...wait for it...11.99!! Isn't that crazy?! I think the price is almost as exciting as getting to eat the bird itself. I'll be thinking of all of you, my friends and family back home while I cook the day away on Thursday - did I mention I'm making the turkey? oh and the apple crumble. It's is definitely on holidays like this that I wish you were all here with me. 

In other news, not so very festive, three of my roommates told us today that they are moving out. Kind of blindsided the rest of us who didn't even know they were looking or wanting to look, or even thinking of looking. But apparently they found a place and will be moving into their new flat in the city center on December 1st. Kind of cutting it close in terms of letting the rest of us know, but things are changing and changing fast I guess. Soon everyone will be heading home for Christmas break and one half of the term will be over. Time seems to be moving faster than I can manage to keep up with it. So, I guess as well as being Thanksgiving, this occasion will also mark the last family dinner for the six of us who started the year together.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Day 1: Blarney Castle & Cork City Goal

Blarney Castle! 


Me & Taylor, me new friend from Boston who I met on the trip.


Up again, the stairs in this place - Really!

 A secret window?
 Looking up towards the ceiling, I am guessing that those are the imprint of steps above, and perhaps a place for smoke to rise out of the kitchen??

  The Kitchen - above where you see the bars is a wraparound look out that looks down onto the open ground of the living room (pictured above) and also where we lined up to kiss the Blarney Stone.

View from the top - waiting to kiss the stone!

 Looking down...not recommended for those afraid of heights: a.k.a ME! I was gripping the bar for dear life!

"Lie down, lean back, grab the bars and kiss the stone." Easier said than done! I was hanging off a castle for crying out loud...hope I earned the gift of gab for my efforts :p

The door to the secret garden: the Rock Close & Water Garden
home to druid settlements, Wishing Steps, Witches Stone and Kitchen. 

 Onwards to the Wishing Steps

 Legend holds that if you walk up the steps backwards with you eyes closed, thinking only of your wish, it will come true in a year.



Bridge to nowhere...witchy magic

 The witches stone is home to many sacrifices and visitors leave trinkets to appease the witch - I emptied my wallet of all the small change I had no idea what to do with...

 Blarney House

 Underground prison...
Goodbye Blarney!

 On to the Cork City Goal: 1824-1923 - significant as 1923 was the end of the Irish Revolution. Ireland gained its independence from Britain in 1921. 



 Goal scale, used to weigh in the prisoners for multiple reasons. 
1. The prisoners were weighed periodically and if they had lost weight it was assumed that the guards were stealing their food and were punished. 
2. On the reverse side, if prisoners gained weight it was believe they were stealing food from other prisoners. This was rare!
3. When prisoners of the worst order - convicted of rape of murder were sentenced to hang, they had to weigh them so that the correct amount of rope was used. The first time they hung a man at the goal, they used the incorrect amount of rope given his weight and it took the man over an hour to die.

Kids kept getting in my shot!

Day 2:  
Cobh - Titanic Heritage Museum & Jameson Distillery Tour

First named Cove, then renamed to Queenstown after the queen's visit, now reverting back to its Irish name Cobh meaning Cove in 1923.

This town was the port where Famine & Immigration set to sea in 1848 onwards, about 2.5 million Irishmen and women departed from Cobh. 
Earlier in the late 1700s, this was also the port where Convict ships took prisoners to Australia. 

Probably the most famous departure was that of the Titanic in 1912. Once built in Belfast, the ship was sailed down to Cobh where it picked up the first of over 2,000 passengers who would make the maiden voyage. 


 Walking to St. Colman's Cathedral. You would not believe the hill we had to hike to get to the church...I would imagine everyone in this town is mighty fit!

Jameson Distillery.