(Before reading any further into this review, I strongly recommend you read my thoughts on the first one here)

I sometimes wonder if Fox appreciates how lucky they were to ultimately give Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds the chance to make Deadpool.  Especially when you take into account how little they did to get the film up and running, and stipulating things like the filmmakers were only allowed to use two X-Men.  It’s only because of R-rated takes on superheroes like this and Logan that Fox is even considered capable of being mentioned in the same sentence as Disney and Warner Brothers.

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And, with Venom appearing to be their last chance, this applies doubly so for Sony.

Going by the trailers, it seemed that new director David Leitch and his crew knew what the fans wanted and were more than happy to oblige.  More fights, more explosions, more 4th wall breaks, and, of course, Cable.  I don’t consider it much exaggeration to say that Cable & Deadpool  probably helped our regenerating degenerate get his foothold into Marvel readers’ good graces like he did in the early 2000s.

As expected of a sequel, there were plenty of elements in this film that played out like the first one.  To name a few:  the in-media-res start to the film, Deadpool stuck with baby-sized limbs as he heals up at Blind Al’s after a major fight on a busy road, Weasel’s outlandish analogies about Deadpool’s appearance, Deadpool and Vanessa reuniting as Wham! plays in the background (this time around it’s to a more somber rendition of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go), and a simplistically-drawn credits sequence.

Fortunately it wasn’t a total rehash, and brought in some new concepts as well.  I thought it was a bold choice bringing in his “seeking true death” motivation from the comics, as it lays bare just how miserable Deadpool can find his existence at times.  And as cliché as it may be to that the love interest dies in response to the protagonist fighting evil, I believe that something like Vanessa’s death in the opening was probably the quickest and most direct way to believably convey Deadpool’s desire to the viewer.

As opposed to, say, desiring to be with the universe’s manifestation of it (which was also Thanos’ motivation behind his actions in the original comics).

I was definitely pleased to see Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead return, and that we got to see more of their characters (NTW’s girlfriend and Colossus’ filling in for Cyclops’ by-the-(literal)-book foil).  Dupinder the cabbie also gets in on this character expansion, now serving as Deadpool’s self-proclaimed protégé (i.e., doing Weasel’s grunt work at the mercenary bar) and eagerly obsessively awaiting the day when he can fight alongside his idol.

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Although I doubt there’d be that many instances where “run the target over with your car” would be the best option.

And speaking of supporting characters, I’d be remiss if I forgot to talk about X-Force!  I definitely felt their scene was one of the better jokes in the movie, especially about how:  1) there are so many characters in the X-Men comics that four or five of them dying within five minutes of each other isn’t considered that great of a loss and 2) that details which most action films treat as minor (in this case wind direction and speed during a HALO jump) are actually quite significant.

Domi Kiger of Amy Chmelecki's skydive team motivates the all-women's skydive team.

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I’d imagine that for any skydiving instructors watching this, it would be a rather unexpectedly pleasant validation of their work.

I definitely believe that this, including how of this first draft of X-Force it was Peter that had the second-most amount of interactions with Deadpool, was the filmmakers’ way of showing Fox that even though they had access to all these movie stars like Terry Crews (as Bedlam) and Brad Pitt (as The Vanisher), they didn’t need them in order for the audience to like the film – definitely a bold move on the filmmakers’ part!

Focusing now on the surviving member of X-Force Version 1.0, I would say that I was satisfied with Domino’s portrayal by Zazie Beetz, even though her appearance in the comics makes the name more appropriate.

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Since “Die” would just be awkward, even though that name gives you a better sense of her probability-influencing power and deadliness.

Her scenes were definitely impressive to watch, and had some good back-and-forth with Deadpool about her power being real.  If they ever decide to have her show up again in any future X-Men films, one thing I’d propose would be to have her fight Longshot (since Mojoworld is clearly a thing after seeing Shatterstar’s pureed innards), just to see what kinds of crazy stuff would happen when two people that can manipulate probability to their favor fight each other.

Bullets hit mid air in battle.Highlight of world's biggest Gallipoli relics collection.6pm #7NewsMelb photo- @irepcg

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Maybe something like this, but with reality?

It was definitely interesting to contrast this performance by Josh Brolin against his in Avengers:  Infinity War.  For starters, his presence was far less overwhelming (naturally), but this only helps sell the sense that Cable is this grizzled bad-ass that had to fight every day to survive in his original timeline.   I was curious to see how much of the time-travel element of his (incredibly complex) backstory they were going to bring in, and was impressed that they not only kept it as a pretty significant part in this film but had him do it again at the end.  I definitely was satisfied with the job done regarding the audio-visual effects work of his cybernetic arm and futuristic arsenal – he had just enough to keep his fight scenes interesting, but not so much that it felt cartoonish; doubly so with keeping the number of them to a minimum, as opposed to his (occasionally mocked) portrayal in the comics.

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Although when he shows up like this, it’s a little hard not to…

As a side-note, Cable saying his daughter’s name was “Hope” is a not-so-subtle nod to a story arc in one of his comic series.  There, though, his role was reversed so that he was the one protecting a mutant child against another time-travelling warrior trying to stop said child from manifesting its power.

Seriously, though, between these two and the Winter Soldier, is there a mechanical arm liquidator in the Marvel universe or something?

As far as the targeted teen and moral core of the story, Russell Collins, I thought the actor did a solid enough job portraying him, and definitely had a few funny moments.  However, I feel he and his character arc work better when viewed as Deadpool learning how much of an impact he can have on his fans, especially the younger ones who tend to focus on his irreverence, combat skills, and cool appearance.  I don’t feel it’s too much of a stretch to say that Russell exemplifies some significant negative traits associated with comic-book fans:  pasty-white, noticeably overweight, sub-par social skills, and overestimating how tough he actually is (as evidenced by thinking that 1) “Firefist” works as a nom-de-guerre and 2) genuinely believing he could fight head-on against someone like Black Tom Cassidy).

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Sadly, they don’t bring in his laser-shooting shillelagh (or later being half-tree) from the comics.

Then, when you factor in his abuse at the hands (or cattle-prods, as the case is) of the school where he was sent in order to be made “correct,” it’s little wonder that Russell would so easily take Deadpool’s initial talk about people being crap, always looking out for yourself, dog-eat-dog world, etc., to heart and eventually become a mass-murdering madman who triggers the end of mutant-kind (somehow – Cable doesn’t elaborate all that much about it).  And this is before you factor in Cable’s steadfast belief that Russell can’t change; sadly, that kind of sentiment can be found here in the real world as well, specifically that maladjusted kids like Russell are innately bound to stay that way or get worse.

I feel that this is why during the climax, when he’s about to burn the headmaster of the school to a crisp, that Deadpool’s second talk to him about how he doesn’t have to become the monster everyone expects him to be and that there is enough good in life to make it worthwhile (to say nothing about literally dying for him) works in terms of both seriousness and sincerity and seamlessly carries over the 4th wall to the viewers who can relate to those feelings being conveyed.  It also gives us the hope that, now that he has people in his life that see value in him, Russell will improve himself.

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As a side note, I’m of the belief that the name of the Russell’s school is a reference to X-Men villain Nathaniel Essex (a.k.a. Mr. Sinister).

Because of these particular issues of Russell’s, I think the Juggernaut was absolutely the best choice for the film’s actual bad guy to stop.  Besides exemplifying how much better of a special-effects budget the filmmakers had this time around, it helps visualize Russell’s temptation to use his power to wreck society as payback for all of the rejection and suffering he’s gone through.  The Juggernaut himself even touches on this concept in one of his comic appearances from the early 2000s, where he’s fighting someone who stole his powers and remarks that being the Juggernaut is like being “an angry kid in a muscle suit.”

Although, to be fair, when your power derives from a godlike being that feeds on destruction, your options are somewhat limited to begin with.

One final thing related to the Juggernaut which I’d like to add – even though this connection is only superficial at best – is how this is not the first time that Ryan Reynolds has been involved with someone getting tased up the ass.

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And going by that smile, I fear it may not be the last…

Much like the previous film, Deadpool 2 is a fun, violent romp, which shows that having people in your life whom you care about can make you be better more than you might think.  With great special effects and writing that doesn’t just bring back what you liked about the original but builds on it, I give this sequel 4 restored teddy-bears out of five.

Previews included:  Hotel Artemis, which shows that even criminals desire free healthcare; Mission Impossible:  Fallout, where Tom Cruise once again finds himself trying to outrun the US Government; The Equalizer 2, continuing to demonstrate to us that just because a man is old doesn’t mean he can’t kick ass; The First Purge, where we finally find out how such an outrageous concept got approved in the first place; Tag, where Jeremy Renner tries to avoid getting slapped by people; The Predator, which is taking us back to Earth after the previous entry in the series; Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic about Freddie Mercury sure to get an Oscar nomination or two; Sorry to Bother You, which looks it might actually do something no film has yet done before (make telemarketers relatable); and The Happytime Murders, which appears to be a cross between Greg the Bunny and The Heat.

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My final day in Ireland was rather fast-paced, so I was not able to take all that many notes.  The short version is that I got to the airport fairly early in the morning, which was definitely smart to do so as to get through the many security officials at Dublin Airport.  The flight itself went much better than the flight in, especially in terms of my sneezing and congestion (the movie I selected was the Zach Galifinakis comedy Masterminds, which I found to be a little amusing at best).  I was certainly beat by the time it landed in Newark, and knew I’d have to rest up quickly as I had work the next day.

I am absolutely glad I decided to go on this trip, and especially doing so through Trafalgar Tours and Brendan Vacations.  I doubt I’d have been able to see even half the things which I did if I was vacationing on my own.  It was fascinating seeing all the differences between two countries that have so much in common, not least of which was navigating the roads opposite of how I normally do.

If you ever have the chance to visit Ireland, even if it’s only a city like Dublin, I absolutely suggest doing so!  With that being said, there are a few things I would advise doing before booking your ticket:

  1. make sure your passport must stay valid for six months or more while you’re travelling (some countries in the European Union need it to be only three, and you can always call up the U.S. embassy of whichever countr(y/ies) you’re travelling to to see what their rules are, but in general I’d say doing the first option is the safest)
  2. get yourself a credit card that bypasses the foreign transaction fees (for example, AAA members qualify for a credit card that does so)
  3. exchange some of your dollars for euros before leaving for your departure day (while you can certainly do this at the airport or in Ireland, you’ll usually have to pay additional fees – I suggest starting with the bank you belong to to see if they do it!)

For more international travel tips, I’d recommend checking out these two websites.

Thanks for following along with me and sláinte to 2018!

I woke up around 6:50 a.m.; breakfast consisted of some sausage links, eggs, tomatoes, and a croissant roll.  The weather was pleasant enough, which was good as the first item on the itinerary was a walking tour through Waterford to learn more about when it belonged to the Vikings and how those events shaped it (and to a lesser extent the rest of the country) into what it is today.

The tour started at 8:20 a.m., where we met our guide not too far away from the hotel; he gave us small radios and earbuds so everyone could hear him regardless of how far away they were from him, wisely anticipating that some people would slow down to take photos of the city.  Once everyone was set up he immediately began talking about Waterford, telling us that it was established by the Norse 1,167 years ago because of the security the area had being between all the many rivers and hills.  These rivers, he told us, would eventually be used to ship in coal from Wales as the age of the steam engine came about, as the southeastern part of Ireland is unable to produce peat like the rest of the country does for fuel.

Later in the tour we were told about how the siege in 1170 by Strongbow, a Norman baron who wed an Irish princess, was the start of the notorious Anglo-Irish tensions.  He even pointed out the exact spot in the city where the marriage between Strongbow and the princess happened, which was now in front of a Baroque-style church built after the French Revolution.

The tour ended at the Druids Wine Bar, where we were given samples of one of their wines.  One thing I liked about the place was that next to the paintings were brief descriptions about the what exactly it was the druids did in society (think a combination of lawyer and doctor, with a pinch of shaman to keep things interesting).

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Mystery no more!

Soon after we began our next tour of the conveniently nearby Waterford Crystal factory.  Even though I’m not a fan of glassware per se, I did find it interesting to see the process of how the various items were made.  However, I did certainly enjoy the part of the tour which allowed you to throw the rejected pieces into a crate which would be sent back to the always-on furnace to melt the glass to be reused.

And yes, this song was playing in my head when it was my turn to throw down.

At 11:30 a.m. we got on our bus to visit the Dunbrody museum in New Ross, to see what travelling to the U.S./Canada for the rank-and-file Irish was like.  I found it to be an incredibly sobering experience, from learning how the majority of the crops that were able to grow during the Great Famine were reserved for British commerce, to how the ship could only have a maximum of 313 people on-board (and even then, the second-class passengers could only be above-deck for a maximum of one hour and could eat only what was provided by the company which owned the ship).

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A sample ticket used by the passengers.

The tour ended in the Irish Immigrant Hall of Fame, which as the title suggests had pictures and biographies of various famous Americans with Irish ancestry.  I then walked a few blocks east, where I decided to to have a quick lunch at cafe right above a local theater.

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At 2 p.m. we left for the goodbye dinner (or as it was called in the brochure, Be My Guest Dining), which would be at a place called the Ballynocken House in the village of Glenealy that had been there since the 1850s.  Along the way, Jill talked a little about the Irish Travellers (a.k.a. tinkers), the Irish equivalent of the Romani people found in many parts of mainland Europe – their origins, some of the ways they can be distinguished, and how the Irish government is currently trying to integrate them into society.

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What’s more, I would not say that Guy Ritchie’s Snatch is a totally comprehensive portrayal of the community (enjoyable though the scenes may be).

We got to the farmhouse/cookery school at 3:50 pm where we were met by Catherine, a famous television chef in Ireland that owns the house.  The dinner itself was held in the barn, with several rows of tables for us tourists.  For the appetizer, she and her assistants served leek & onion scones and bowls of half garden-spinach soup/half carrot & cumin soup with a thin white line of cream dividing them (appropriately called The Irish Flag); the entree consisted of a fillet of Wicklow chicken in an Irish Cider sauce and sides of steamed potatoes, a penne salad, a carrot and cashew salad, a tomato and basil salad, and coleslaw topped with apple and yogurt (or yoghurt, as it’s referred to over there); dessert was an apple cake with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

We got to the final hotel, the Clayton Hotel Leopardstown, at 6:15 pm by way of the M11 highway; the room was quite nice, much like the last one.  I relaxed in the room for a little bit, as I charged up some of the electronics.  I left for Dublin at 8, where I took the LUAS tram line.  Much like the Light Rail that New Jersey Transit has running through Newark, Hoboken, and Jersey City, the LUAS was an above-ground, low-speed rail; even more like the NJ Transit Light Rail, I was never asked to show the ticket I purchased from the machine at the station.

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But as a friend of mine put it:  much like the Pendant of Life in Legends of the Hidden Temple, you always should have one, just in case.

I took the train to the final stop, St. Stephens Square, where I then walked around the surrounding area.  It was by far and away the most populated area I had been to during this whole vacation, and I think that was in no small part to it being 1) a Friday and 2) a much nicer day weather-wise than predicted.  I stopped at a pub called The Hairy Lemon, where I tried an IPA called Chieftain from the Franciscan Well brewery.

I got back to the hotel a little before 11 p.m., where I had the TV turned on to some talk show as background noise while I typed this entry.

I needed to wake up earlier than usual at 5:55 a.m., making sure that my all of my luggage was packed for the bellhops (or porters as they’re known here) to bring to the bus.  Breakfast was a spinach frittata and a bowl of cereal.  I was able to talk to some fellow members of the group, where I discovered that teens texting and driving is just as much of an issue in Australia as it is in the U.S. and there is a restaurant near this hotel based on the Lord of the Rings series.

So long as the waiter isn’t this guy, I think I found another reason to re-visit Kerry!

The bus departed at 8:05 am for Blarney Castle by way of N22, in the hope that we wouldn’t be stuck in the middle of the morning rush.  On the way Jill informed us that in Ireland the term “cute” means “shrewd” or “smart alec-y” instead of “attractive,” and that people from Kerry are known for being the former; what’s more, she told us that jokes about people from Kerry are the equivalent of jokes in the U.S. about Poles.

Personally, I never understood the appeal of them – maybe it’s just a Track & Field thing?

We got to the castle grounds at 9:35 am; fortunately there wasn’t too much of a line (at least not until we got to the castle entrance proper).  We slowly made our way up the castle’s spiral staircase, briefly poking our heads into the occasional bedchamber or kitchen if the line wasn’t moving.  The view from the top was well worth the wait, offering a cool breeze and panoramic view of the area.

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After making it to the top where the legendary stone sat, I walked through a nearby garden at the base of the castle comprised entirely of poisonous plants, including such classics as hemlock and wolfsbane and more contemporary ones like poppy and caffeine.  On the way out was another garden, this one containing different types of monuments and sculptures.

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And this gigantic tree, which we were told was not in fact forced to grow this way, but just did so naturally.

For lunch the group stopped at the English Market in Cork at half past noon, where we were left alone until 2 pm to explore the various shops.  I found myself almost immediately reminded of the Arthur Avenue Market in the Bronx near Fordham University.  For lunch I went to a small café nestled into one of the corners inside, named Café Anraith, where I got a tuna melt, a can of orange club, and a bag of Tipperary potato crisps (which is what people here in Ireland and the UK call potato chips).

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We arrived at the Fitzwilton Hotel in Waterford at 3 pm, and this was easily the most modern-looking of all the hotels; furthermore, the room was also the biggest.  After resting for an hour, I went to the bus for the day’s optional event, which was a round of free drinks at a nearby pub.  There was a whole room reserved for us, and family band for live music (and plenty of joking in between).

After that we were brought back for dinner in the restaurant area of the hotel (known as Chez K’s Bistro), where everyone was given a fixed menu:  for appetizers it was either a cream of vegetable soup or a Caesar salad with bacon (I picked the latter); entrees could be roast pork with apple sauce, salmon with dill, or a vegetarian option (I chose the salmon); dessert was a small plate with a cookie, a dollop of chocolate ice cream, and a piece of some kind of cake.

I heard tomorrow was supposed to be another early morning (and that the optional event for the day was happening before the departure this time), so after finishing my meal and conversations with the group members I sat next to I went back to the room to prepare for the morning.

I was able to sleep in until 7:15 a.m.  I decided to mix things up somewhat for breakfast by having a bowl of oatmeal with some brown sugar and a small piece of those small waffles you eat at room temperature.  This turned out to be a good idea, as once again I found myself to be one of the last people to get onto the bus for the 8:30 am departure.

Today’s ride was around the Ring of Kerry, which goes around the edge of the western half of County Kerry.  While on the previous days’ tours we’d occasionally get lucky with multi-lane roads, this one was exclusively single lanes (and sometimes even just “lane”); coupled with occasional stretches of road work, this led to some unexpected stops that Jill suggested was par for the course regarding these older roads.

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We came across several roadside vendors along the way, mostly selling hand-made St. Bridget crosses and sitting with some small animals and a little basket for spare change next to them.

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At one of these places (which happened to be a shore town called Waterville, where Charlie Chaplin lived briefly) was a van whose driver was selling small bottles of Irish moonshine, known there as “poteen,” for €5 a bottle.

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We later passed by the Skellig Rocks, which were used as the backdrop for both the final scene of Star Wars Episode VII:  The Force Awakens and Rei’s training scenes in the upcoming Episode VIII:  The Last Jedi.  As you can imagine, the stores in the area took full advantage of that fact, with several of them selling some variant of a “Skellig Wars” t-shirt (usually with a puffin wearing Darth Vader’s helmet).  As you can also imagine, these shirts are in fact available online – with free shipping, no less!

At Killarney’s

If Kylo Ren ever had a pet bird, something tells me he definitely would have tried doing something like this.

And while I’m on the topic of Star Wars, I unfortunately was still hacking and coughing non-stop like General Grievous from Epsiode III:  Revenge of the Sith (in case you thought I was lucky enough to start feeling better)

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Not too far off from how I was feeling on and off up to this point, interestingly enough!

Lunch was at a small place along the cliffs called The Scarriff Inn, which was a bowl of shepherd’s pie with some homemade iced tea and a slice of unfrosted carrot cake as a snack.  I sat next to an elderly Indian couple from Los Angeles, where I found out that they had already been in Ireland for a few days for a family wedding at Ashford Castle.

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We next stopped at a place called Avon, which a plaque inside said it was the oldest textile mill in the country that was still active, followed by a spot called Ladies View; this was where Queen Victoria, her ladies-in-waiting, and 100 of her mounted soldiers would stop to gaze upon the lakes and hills.

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Pretty hard to argue against this being something fit for royalty, no?

After this we made our way back to the hotel and almost immediately going to the day’s optional event, a jaunty cart ride through the Muckross grounds we went to for last night’s festivities.

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One of the most interesting things about the ride is that there were parts of it that took us onto active roads, which meant seeing cars either speed up to pass us or slowly creep behind us until they could make their turns to other roads; interestingly enough, none of the drivers seemed to be all that impatient with us or honked their horns at us.

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I’m sure at this point all of my readers near (or from) Amish Country are probably wondering why someone would ever get excited about something like that.

We returned from the ride at 3:50, after which I decided to rest up for a bit before heading out to get something to eat, which ended up being a restaurant called Bricín.  I actually made it in time for the Early Bird special, which was only 45 minutes long (I guess this was to bring in customers quicker after its afternoon opening more than enticing elderly eaters), where I ordered a boxty with curried lamb filling and a side salad, a Sunburnt Irish Red Ale from the 8 Degrees Brewing company, and a piece of warm chocolate cake for dessert.

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For those wondering, a “boxty” is essentially a potato pancake folded over a ladle-full of curried lamb, beef stew, or vegetable stew – and apparently an Irish favorite.  After enjoying the food, I found myself wondering why none of the Irish-styled restaurants in my area ever offered this, or even a facsimile of it; it’s not even like it takes a skilled cook to make one – you could just go order some latkes from a kosher foods wholesaler and call it a day.

Deciding to walk off the meal, I walked around some of the nearby side streets, seeing that even here wasn’t immune to patches of empty storefronts, where I got caught in the middle of a rather breezy and sustained sun-shower.  I walked as far west as St. Mary’s Cathedral, and then decided to head back to the hotel room to pack my things up for the next hotel tomorrow.

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P.S.  This was something I found on my way back to the hotel, and just couldn’t help but notice how similar this guy looked to that guy.

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Seriously, I can’t be the only one here that thinks that, especially with the coloration of the wood and the pattern its lines are taking, right?

I woke up at 6:55 a.m.  Since I was feeling somewhat congested again, I decided to have a smaller breakfast today (a sunny-side up egg, a piece of white toast and a sausage with coffee and some small glasses of apple and orange juice); I couldn’t help but notice how convenient that was, since the Greenhills’ offerings were definitely more modest (though the quality of what they had was still quite good).

Our bus departed at 8:12 a.m., taking a quick detour through Limerick so Jill could inform us about some of its history.  Examples include how it was founded by Vikings, who were later driven out by King Brian Boru, but was then conquered by the Anglo-Normans; that it was the sight of a great battle between William of Orange (a.k.a. William III) and Patrick Sarsfield, giving it the nickname “City of the Broken Treaty;” and that during the time of the Famine, the citizens were paid by the government to build walls around the nobility’s properties (known as penny walls) which still stand to this day.

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Not to be confused with this kind of penny, which itself is serving as a wall.

The first stop on our drive today were the Cliffs of Moher, which had a neat little visitors’ center showcasing the various wildlife that lived there; for those that felt particularly daring, there was also the opening to a footpath along these cliffs that connected with the village of Doolin (travel time approximately 4-5 hours).

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As we left the cliffs, we had an excellent view of the nearby beaches (all of which are publicly-owned) and briefly stopped at a small town.  This turned to be good timing, as I was in sore need of sinus relief pills; since I wasn’t familiar with what brands were popular here, I picked up several boxes and bottles of nasal relief from the town pharmacy (known over there as a “chemist”).

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Our tour bus barely made the 1 pm ferry leaving County Clare for County Kerry.  It had been a long time since I had been on a ferry large enough to transport cars, let alone buses and/or trucks (all of which were on this one).

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After our coach departed the ferry, we stopped at a spot overlooking Killarney Valley and the Lake of Learning at 2:45 p.m. for a group photo, followed by a stop at roadside store for some Irish coffee.

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For those wondering, the lake is named such because it was supposedly the place where Brian Boru (who’s kind of a big deal in Irish history) was educated as a youth by monks.  We were also told that this area was where this guy spent his youth as well.

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After driving through more countryside, we arrived at the Killarney International Hotel at roughly 3:45 p.m.  Unlike the previous two, this hotel was smack-dab in the middle of the downtown area.  What was even more of a surprise was the room itself, easily being the smallest one I’ve stayed in so far, in addition to the hallways leading to it being the longest and narrowest.

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After resting for an hour or so I went to the day’s optional event, a céilí with some local musicians and dancers at Muckross House & Gardens (formerly owned by a noble family, but given to the public so long as they maintain it as it was when the family left in the early 1900s).

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For those of you wondering what a “céilí” is, it’s essentially a gathering of at least 10 people where music and dancing is played.  The last time I had participated in one of these was back in my college days, specifically with the Fordham Gaelic Society.  Despite all of us giving it our all for them, it just couldn’t compare to an actual Irish one like tonight’s.

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It started off in a schoolroom, replete with plenty of old items that would have been used back then as teaching aids (some maps, some chalkboards, a globe, etc.).  One of the hosts gave us a brief lesson on how to properly pronounce some Gaelic idioms, and also told us about how most schoolhouses had a fireplace near the teacher’s desk which would be used during the day for warmth.

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Following that, everyone went to the dining/assembly area, where we were greeted by the three musicians for the night (a guitarist/singer, a fiddler, and an accordionist); later two step-dancers performed a medley of some styles.  At three different points in the night we were asked for volunteers – one for a step-dance style that incorporates brooms, one for a playing a hand drum known as a “bodhrán,” and finally to hold the lyrics to a song refrain (a la Bob Dylan’s video for Subterranean Homesick Blues (and/or the parody of it by Weird Al Yankovic simply titled Bob)) so we could sing along.  While all of this this was going on we had our meals, which consisted of a bacon-topped salad for the appetizer, a plate of bacon with a side of turnips and mashed potatoes with cabbage inside it for dinner, and for dessert was an apple tart (my drinks were a glass of Chilean wine for the meal and tea for dessert).

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The céilí concluded at 8:40 pm, with us promptly returning back to the hotel.  As it was still nice outside, I decided to go for a walk around the area, occasionally popping my head into a few of the stores that were still open.

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At the very least, it does feel nice knowing I won’t have to worry about packing all of my luggage up tomorrow morning, hopefully meaning there will be less of a rush in the morning to meet up with the group for tomorrow’s excursion.

I woke up at 6:30 a.m., in order to make sure I had time to properly shower and pack my things up for the next hotel.  Breakfast at The Dubliner (the restaurant inside the hotel) consisted of scrambled eggs, two links of sausage, some re-fried beans (which I learned a few years ago was a breakfast staple for most here), a bowl of honey, and part of the honeycomb that made it.  I was immediately blown away by how tasty the honey was, and realized I probably could have just made a meal out of that in itself.

The best comparison I can think of is one of these candy bars, but 5 times as tasty.

The bus departed for Galway a little after 8 a.m., and as we made our way out of Dublin Jill the tour guide reiterated parts of her monologue from yesterday for the people that joined us today.  Some of the new info she gave us included how St. Patrick’s Cathedral was the largest Protestant church in the country, and that the different parts of the city were categorized by the time when they were established, with some examples being Medieval Dublin, Viking Dublin, and Georgian Dublin.

Entering the M6 motorway, we got an excellent look at the vast amounts of farmland still in use.  Save for the occasional peat bog, if you were to look at it from a plane or helicopter the land would probably look like a patchwork quilt of different greens; Jill said that was one of the easiest ways that landowners back in the day would distinguish their properties from each other.  She also said that it was in this part of Ireland that the term “lynching” came about after the son of a mayor was not executed for killing a man, and was extrajudicially hung from one of the towers in the city.

On a lighter note, we also learned that one of the main differences between Irish bagpiping and Scottish bagpiping is that the Irish play with their elbows.

The bus dropped the group off near the city center at 11 a.m., leaving us to our own devices until 1 p.m.  I meandered around the area for a little while, taking a peek inside a few different restaurants/pubs and walking down some pedestrian-only streets, where there were a myriad of shops selling all sorts of products.  As you can tell from the following pictures, it was a markedly different atmosphere from Dublin.

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I decided to eat lunch at a restaurant called The Quays, where I ordered a salmon salad with a Smithwick’s Red Ale; to my surprise, the salmon was served raw, so that it was more like the lox you’d have on a bagel here in the U.S.   All the same, I finished and thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

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The next stop our group made was at Bunratty Castle & Folk Park at 4 p.m., where we once again were free to go where we wished.

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Besides the titular castle and its spiral tower staircases (which have been standing there since 1425), there were also several types of houses from the period of the various social classes, in addition to a small market street and some livestock.

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[Saying “Hi” to your mother for me intensifies]

Before we left, Jill had mentioned that there was an optional event going on later tonight in the castle, a type of medieval banquet – the first of several optional events we’d be offered for the rest of the tour – but I decided to pass on it to rest up at our next hotel.

We got to the Greenhills Hotel Conference and Leisure Centre at 4:15 pm.  After resting for a little over an hour, I went to Limerick to walk around a little bit (walking past St. Mary’s Cathedral and King John’s Castle) and get some dinner.

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Some of the, uh, local artwork.

I decided on this one bar along the Sharon River called The Curragower, which was the only eatery next to it due to landmark preservation laws.  I ordered a pint of Carlsberg and plate of shrimp scampi; unlike shrimp scampi in the U.S., this was served deep-fried with a side of tartar sauce and French fries (or as they’re called here, chips), along with a goat-cheese salad with shredded beet-root, blood orange, and pistachios.  For dessert I had a cup of peppermint tea and tried a banana split made with toffee-flavored ice cream and popcorn – with the two blending much better than I expected!

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After taking a taxi back to the hotel, I walked around a residential neighborhood that the hotel bordered on.  It was definitely like walking through my usual routes in New Jersey, in the sense of just how much each house was identical to the next.

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It almost made me think that the next corner I’d turn around would put me at Privet Drive.

After a brief talk with some family back in the U.S. over the phone, I packed my things up again in preparation for tomorrow’s bus ride to our next hotel.