May 9th, 2015
Today was our first day trip! It was such a fun day, but it came with a price. We had to be in the lobby at 6 in the morning. From the lobby, we went to the Heuston train station. We had breakfast in the station and I shared my scone with a pigeon and had some of the best chai tea. Then we boarded the train for Kilkenny at 7:15 AM. It was about an hour and a half trip and I really enjoyed seeing all of the Irish countryside. We got to Kilkenny and we walked through the town with our tour guide. We saw St. Mary’s Cathedral, which is the oldest cathedral in Kilkenny. It was beautiful and I will post some pictures of it with this blog. From there, we went to visit Kilkenny Castle. It overlooked a little river, and it is exactly what you would think when you think of a castle. After that, we had a riding tour through the city on a little motorized train. That was really fun because we went through neighborhoods and gardens. The fences between houses were literally stone walls, which was what everyone would think of when they think of Ireland. After our tour, we went to lunch and then headed to Waterford Crystal.
Waterford Crystal was an amazing facility. We got to walk through the entire process of making the classic Waterford Crystal, from start to finish. It was amazing to see the precision and time that goes into making each piece of crystal. First they have to make molds, and sometimes that is easy. However, sometimes that is more difficult because of customized orders, like the old NCAA National Championship football trophy. That was made at Waterford, and we got to see the mold and a replica of it. The amazing part of all of it are the glass-cutters. People practice a lot of their lives to be Master Glass-cutters. They started off as apprentices, and they had to go through many tests to become a Master. If they make a mistake during this test, they have to restart their training. During the tour, one of the glass-cutters let me hold one of the heavy crystal bowls. I was just waiting for my arm to spasm and for me to shatter the entire thing. Thank goodness my body decided to cooperate that day. Anyway, the rest of the tour went well. We were able to shop around in their store for a while and then we had free time to kill in the city. Most of us occupied our time by souvenir shopping. Our bus to take us back to the train was about an hour late, but we finally made it back to the train station to go back to Dublin.
May 10th, 2015:
We were rewarded with being able to sleep in today. We woke up and went to have an early lunch at a very American type restaurant called The Patriot. From there, our whole group split into two for our tour at Kilmainham Gaol. This is the largest prison in Dublin. It was a really cool tour, a little dark as to be expected. First, we went into the cathedral part of the prison to watch a video before starting the tour. We got to see actual footage of the prison in its hay day. It was sad to watch that people used to line up to view the executions like it was some kind of show. During the tour, we were able to see some of the individual cells, which were only about 9 feet by 6 feet. Men, women and children were all housed in those cells. Another interesting story was that the prison was at its fullest point (about 9,000 occupants up from 1,000) at the time of the potato blight. Everyone was starving at that time, so they would purposely commit a little crime just to get food and shelter at the prison. Our tour guide actually told us that only about sixty people died in the prison during that time, which is incredible seeing as their was so much overcrowding.
After leaving Kilmainham, we headed to the Guinness Storehouse, something much more uplifting. The storehouse was an amazing facility. It was incredibly interactive and made the malting process of barley and fermenting yeast really fun to learn about, not to mention there was a taste test. We learned all the processes on how the famous Guinness stout is made, and then we even got to learn how to pour the perfect pint. I have the certificate to prove it. It was a self-guided tour so we lead ourselves around in little groups and had a blast. I probably spent too much time and money in the gift shop area, but hey, it’s the experience. After the whole tour was finished, we got our own complimentary pint of Guinness to take to their sky bar AKA a bar with a 360 degree view of Dublin. It was amazing what you could see. You could even see the mountains where Guinness gets their water for brewing. All in all, it was a really good day in Dublin.
May 11th, 2015:
Today was IBM Day. It was time for our first official company visit. We had to wake up semi-early and it was time to break out the professional attire. At IBM, there was not really much that we could tour, seeing that a lot of people were just doing their work on computers. We ended up spending most of the time in a conference room watching presentations. It was not as hands-on that I wanted it to be, but it was still very informative. We got to learn more about cognitive computing’s impact on science and technology today. It was amazing to learn about what they wanted Watson, their cognitive computer, to do. Right now, people can go on the Internet and use the Watson program to help with analytical problems, such as finances or business models. However, in the future, they want Watson to be able to win a debate with a human. They also want to try and use it more for healthcare problems and emergencies. They want to do this through its cognitive learning and ability to diagram sentences to pick out the important information. They actually told us that right now they were having people read off words and sentences in order to get Watson to recognize colloquial phrases and dialects. We ate lunch at IBM (to be honest, it wasn’t very good) and then finished off the day with two more presentations. Overall, it was a really good visit and it taught me a lot about the future of technology.
When we got back from IBM, we dropped off our things and headed back to the City Center for our tour of the Old Jameson Distillery. The Jameson tour was another really fun experience. It was actually surprising to me at how similar the processes were for making beer and whiskey. Whiskey goes through the exact process as Guinness did, and was actually beer at one point. However, it goes through the triple distillation process, which changes things up more at the end. Jameson Whiskey differs in how it matures as well. It spends its maturation period in differently seasoned barrels. Our tour was concluded much like the Guinness tour. We got our taste test and our complimentary Jameson drink. They said that we could either get a glass of straight Jameson, or their classic cocktail which was just Jameson, ginger ale, and lime. I went with that one, and it was delicious. I liked that the tour actually had a tour guide though. We were able to learn a lot more about the process when someone was narrating it for us. All in all, another great day in Dublin.
May 12th, 2015:
Woo! Class Day number two! Today was actually much longer than the first class day. We met in the lobby at nine in the morning to head out to UCD again. We finished up learning about Tableau Public for the rest of the morning. After that, we took a break to eat lunch at the Pi cafeteria once again. After lunch, we came back to the classroom to learn about a simulation program called Arena. I’m not going to lie, I did not learn much about this because I don’t have any Windows converter installed on my Mac, and Arena kinda needed that to work, so…. I had to look onto someone else’s computer, which would be fine for most things, but simulation is not one of them. I was a little lost through the rest of the afternoon, but at least when I have to take that class in the future, it’ll be a little bit familiar to me. After class, we actually had a traditional pub-crawl. We returned back to the City Center and had a great night!
May 13th, 2015:
Today might have been my favorite day during our entire time in Ireland. We woke up early and a tour bus from Wild Wicklow Tours came and picked us up. That started our bus tour of the Irish countryside. It was absolutely beautiful. Even driving down the highway was a drastic change from driving down our highways here. The scenery was incredible. We drove for a while and first stopped at the Jameson Estate for a little break. It had a cute little store and café area. I definitely took advantage of the tax-free shopping. Then we got back on the bus and went towards Powerscourt House, which is a huge estate with a golf course, the main house, a green house, stables and all the works. I definitely would not complain if I had grown up on that land. From there, our driver actually got a head count and found out that we actually left two people at the Jameson Estate. Oops! So, that set us back a little bit. We went back and picked them up (not the happiest people) and then we headed to lunch. After that, we headed to Glendalough or “Valley of the Two Lakes” in Celtic. It was incredible. We had about two hours to explore the entire area. First, we got a tour of the clock tower and the cemetery, which was eerily beautiful in itself. We learned about how the clock tower was used in the war. Then we were able to split up and enjoy the nature. A lot of us went and skipped rocks and climbed around the water. The time came too soon when we had to get back on the bus. After that, we made our way back to City Centre and stayed there for awhile before heading back to the hotel for much needed sleep.
May 14th, 2015:
This was our free day in Dublin! A lot of us opted to sleep in and get a later start. Then a group of us ended up going to eat lunch at an organic restaurant called Farm. Then, my friend Jen and I set off to get some last minute souvenir shopping done since we were leaving the next day. I will say that we walked all around that City Centre. We walked back to the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery, a sports store for me, and then some other touristy souvenir shops. We didn’t realize until later that we really could have used a bus pass to get around… hindsight, you know? I will say that the highlight of the day was when we stumbled upon a little park in between all the buildings. That’s where we found the future of all playgrounds: iPlay. Look it up. Basically, it is a giant Bop It. Jen and I were running around trying to stomp it, hit it, and spin it just to make it to the next level. It was so much fun. After all that, we went and met up with everyone for our last dinner in Dublin. I will definitely say that it was bittersweet. I had enjoyed every minute in Dublin and was not ready to leave. Plus, that meant that our trip was half over. The dinner though was amazing. We all met at the Arlington Hotel for dinner and a show of traditional Celtic dancing. We ended the night singing some of our favorite Irish songs. Check out the links below. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel since none of us had started packing for our flight the next morning.
Check out the great Irish Music on iTunes: