London: Bond, James Bond

The Bond in Motion Exhibit at the London Film Museum in Covent Gardens has everything a 007 fan could desire: the real cars, planes, motorcycles, costumes, concept art, and props used in the movies, accompanied by the film footage of explosions, car chases, and jumping building to building. At the end of the exhibit, there are even lovely souvenir posters and a Golden Eye pinball machine. There’s also a life size replica of Mr. Bond for the ladies to fawn over. Carson also entered a drawing of an innovative “vehicle design”for the coveted prize of a James Bond goodie bag; let’s hope he beats the other children’s drawings.

Pictures: Day Nineteen

Today was a free day, meaning we did not have anything in particular planned. Carson opted to hang at the Cahernane house (who can blame him?) while Jake, mom, and I went to tour the Muckross House. It was in great condition with a bunch of old furniture, amazing woodwork, paintings, and history. While we were there, they had misplaced the resident cat, Lord Percival, among the antique furniture, and a worker came by making meowing sounds. Also, as our guide showed us these standing little square screens in the parlor, we learned where the term “saving face” came from; back in the day, when ladies desired luminous pale skin, they would put wax on their face (which somehow led to paleness??). While sitting by the fire, they would place screens between their faces and the heat to prevent melting the wax, thus “saving face.” Who knew?

After our tour, we grabbed Carson and stopped for lunch at a lakeside hotel with a view of the mountains; it also had a small ruin in the backyard by the lake. Ruins in Ireland are apparently like McDonald’s in America: they are around every corner. We then were DYING for clean clothes, so we found a laundromat in downtown Killarney. Right next door, serendipitously for us nerds, was a small pub called “The Shire,” with a whole Lord of the Rings theme. So after putting in our laundry and shopping around a bit, we stopped in for a pint. They had specialty brews designed just for their pub, with names like “Gandalf’s Ale” and “Frodo’s Lager.” I had a hobbit-sized half pint of Frodo’s Lager, and it was one of the best beers I’ve ever had. The boys tried it and agreed. They had Gandalf’s Ale, which was similar to a Guinness but less creamy and with a different aftertaste; also delicious. But Frodo won the day.

We adjourned to the Cahernane house for coffee and relaxing (and blogging for me, as my constant struggle for time to blog and internet connection continued). Every day, as you may have noticed, we took pictures of some new feature of the Cahernane house and the sheep in the backyard. Carson had a sheep interaction where one sheep was outside the fence and panicked when he saw the approaching human, and promptly got his head stuck in the fence. Poor guy. For dinner and evening activities, we had booked tickets to a show called the “Spirit of Ireland” which features traditional Irish music and dance. We walked down the road to the Gleneagle hotel and conference center, where we ate our included meal in haste to try to get seats right at 8:30 before the 9 o’clock show. The lady at the front desk warned us the room fills up before the show, so we were panicked about not getting good seats to see the Irish spectacular. Mom and I walked in the room and she grabbed my arm and started dying laughing; there were maybe five people. We had no problem getting seats. The show turned out to be amazing, despite the emptiness; it turns out two tour buses couldn’t make it due to dinner running late, so the show usually does sell out and fill up. It just happened we were attending the anomaly. Maybe our lowered expectations caused us to really enjoy the show, but the dancers blew us away with their lively jig of whirring legs and tapping feet and still upper bodies. The floor of the stage literally shook sometimes as they stomped their steel toes shoes. There also was a boy that could not have been more than twelve years old, who moved his legs so fast it was a blur; he was apparently a two time world champion of dance. I believe it. The band and singers were amazing as well, with guitars, violins, flute, keyboard, accordions, and some Irish drum I’d never seen before. They played some songs we recognized, such as a few bars of Whiskey in the Jar. We clapped along and had a great time; the show was such a cultural experience, we absolutely loved it!

Pictures: Day Seventeen

Today, we left the busy city of Dublin to travel to the Irish countryside, namely Killarney. Easier said than done, since we rented a car to get there. GASP! Left side of the road driving! Driver seats on the right side of the car! Generally, an American driver doesn’t stand a chance. We sacrificed Jake as tribute. We piled into a “Renault” (what even type of car is that?) and after confusing the driver and passenger seats, thereby unintentionally playing musical car doors, we set off. Jake luckily responds to stress with humor, and thus pulled out of the parking lot into traffic with a yell of “BLEAHHH!”that resembled a moose call. He was a fabulous driver, mainly because we are still alive and the Renault is in better shape than the Death Cube van was. (We may have lost a hubcap on that one. Videos coming.) Jury’s out on what shape we (or the car) would be in if I drove.

On the way to Killarney, we stopped at a site called the Rock of Cashel, a ruin that holds a cathedral, tower, and a cemetery. Highlight: kids rolling down the grass hill. (Video here) We also had lunch in the town, where I tried potato and lovage soup. It was GREEN which was so exciting and Irish. And delicious! Lovage, if you are asking, is “a large edible white-flowered plant of the parsley family” according to the Googles. We then finished our drive to charming Killarney, and as we pulled up to our hotel, it was truly one of those “woah” moments of the trip. The Cahernane House Hotel captivates upon first sight, and upon further inspection, is just magical. It, of course, used to be a manor home, and now has been built up and added on to, creating a hotel. Favorite features: a glass atrium complete with fountain, balconies, clawfoot tub, mahogany cellar bar, a tree swing, fabulous omelettes, and SHEEP in the backyard. Such sheep! Much bleating! Very pastoral!

We went into town for dinner and hit up a pub called Murphy’s, where we got Irish Stew, beers, and more delicious soup and brown bread (a homemade specialty at many of the Irish restaurants). The town had fun flags strewn across the streets and lots of little shops and restaurants. It was an absolutely charming day and we anticipated a great time in Kerry county!

Pictures: Day Sixteen

Day Sixteen: goodbye lovely Edinburgh, hello Dublin! Our fearless leader had to leave us to go back to the States, which was very very sad. We miss our gray haired leader. The remaining four Kupps took off on a green plane with a clover plastered on the side and Irish flight attendants. We landed in Dublin and took a ride with a witty and lively Irish man to our hotel. He told us about how his son met his girlfriend while selling fake IDs and shared about how his dog gets suspicious about the weather when it doesn’t rain and refuses to go outside. We made it to Temple Bar in the heart of Dublin, where we found our Fleet Street Hotel. The hotel was a maze of stairs and hallways and weird ups and downs, which was not fun to haul our luggage through. The rooms came with earplugs, which started to make sense with the lively Dubliners outside. At about three pm, we went to find food (we eat a lot), and had just been served water at a restaurant down the street when we realized we had less than two hours to get to the Guinness factory for a tour…and we had to walk. Apologies to the server we had (we hadn’t ordered yet and he was taking a bit to get back to us anyways), but we had to split and make time for the half hour walk to our destination.

It was Fourth of July, and we were sad (especially Jake) about not being in ‘Murica for the holiday. And as we walked down the street, wondering what to do about our American appetites, and there it was. The way to get in touch with the homeland: the Golden Arches. What is more American than eating McDonald’s in a foreign city? We scarfed burgers and chicken wraps and plotted our route to Guinness. We booked it while crossing streets looking left right left right and left again to make sure we knew where cars were coming from, due to the confusion the whole left lane driving causes. We made it to Guinness (proud to say I navigated) and took our self-guided tour; the best part was the end, were we entered the highest floor, the Panorama Bar, which had a view of the whole city as well as lovely bartenders who served us our free pint of Guinness. The beer was frothy, creamy, and thick, and very smooth for a very dark beer. We all enjoyed it and took a selfie.

After walking back and perusing a few shops, we refreshed and sought more food at a place called Elephant and Castle, which was quite yummy. Then Jake, Carson, and I went to a few of the bars – a must do in Dublin! – to see the live music and experience famous Temple Bar. We stopped first at a place called Oliver St. John Gogarty’s (a hostel, bar, and restaurant), due to it’s promising live musician. This turned out to be the best place of the night; the Irish man playing guitar and singing was fun, talented, and entertaining, and played a bunch of music we knew. There were tons of people out on this Monday night, and we wondered what it would be like on a Friday or Saturday (probably madness!). It turns out the city has about a million and a half people, a bulk of which are young university goers or twenty-somethings, which all made sense with the crowds in the packed pubs. We heard Irish tunes we recognized (Galway Girl), as well as American favorites like Brown Eyed Girl and John Denver. After the musician finished his set, we tried a few other places, but they were all packed and not quite up to par with our guy over at Gogarty’s, so we headed back to Fleet Street. Overall, we had quite the Dublin experience!

Pictures: Day Fifteen

Today, we took off on a tour bus with the “Rabbie’s” Tour Company and a super fun tour guide named Steve! A little about Steve: he is really good at sound effects (like cannons booming), and narrates stories with different character’s voices. After almost leaving dad behind in the cafe bathroom, we took off for the Villages of Fife, including Anstruther, as well as St. Andrew’s and Falkland. The first stop Steve took us to was overlooking three bridges, which were important for their architecture, since one was the model for the Eiffel Tower’s architecture. These bridges replaced a bridge that tragically collapsed, killing a bus of people, and the architect (named Bouch) was to blame. This is where we get the phrase “a botched job,” according to Steve. Next, we stopped at Anstruther, a little fishing village where we walked by the ocean, drank a coffee, and touched the North Sea. Then, on to St. Andrew’s, the golfer’s dream! We spent three hours here, jaunting about the course, buying lots of merchandise, and taking pictures on the small, famous bridge. I was excited about seeing ducklings in the little creek that runs through the course. I’ve never golfed, but I appreciate how hard it would be in those absolutely windy conditions.

On the bus, we met fellow Clemson Tigers, the Streeter family – it’s small and orange world after all! They were taking a family vacation as well, and I feel like I met a celebrity since the father was one of the coaches on the football team. They were a super nice family (of course they were, they’re a Clemson Family!) and we took a Tiger Rag pic to commemorate the event.

We ate lunch in town and experience a landmark event in our culinary lives: sticky toffee pudding. Oh. My. None shall be as good as that first taste of sticky toffee pudding.

For those of you who aren’t golfers, or for those of you that had a full English tea while watching the Royal Wedding, there is something else compelling about St. Andrews: the love story of William and Kate! They met at the university and the rest is history. I could imagine them walking the streets with Kate’s perfect hair being tousled by the wind. We also saw the cathedral, which held a fascinating and dynamic cemetery with the framing of the old structure. Not without some panic about the tour bus leaving us, we made it back to our vehicle and Steve to make our way to Falkland. This place is famous for both its Royal Palace as well as being the filming location for the Outlander series adaptation (a book series many people have told me to read, and now feel like I must!). Mary Queen of Scots stayed at the palace at one point, and the place is still in use by some royal family. After touring, we stopped in a dual coffee cafe/pub for a pint and a cappuccino (for our different cravings). There was a man playing the acoustic guitar in the pub, which added to the lovely low stone ceiling and general Scottish atmosphere. We made our way back to Edinburgh, and had dinner at the Whiski Rooms, which turned out to be one of our best meals (even though they were out of Steak!! A crisis for our family).

Pictures: Day Fourteen

Today, we hopped back on our red bus and toured the Edinburgh Castle. It was rainy (but of course!) and very crowded, but also a fascinating tour. We got the sweet audio headsets to guide us along, and saw giant cannons and a Dog Cemetery. When we got to the crown jewels, we found out that they had taken the actual Crown that morning to be used in a ceremony. Later on, we saw the police car bring it back. Just missed it! We were also able to see the changing of the guards and the one o’clock cannon boom. Back in the day, the cannon signaled the time for the workers down at the docks; why one o’clock you ask? One o’clock is cheaper to signal than twelve o’clock, since there is only one shot fired. Smart one, Scotland!

After our castle tour, we shopped on the “Royal Mile,” and Carson found a photo op with an owl. Classic. Mom and I bought scarves with fun tartan prints. We had lunch at the Beehive Inn, a fun pub with a lively atmosphere, and had more fish and chips as well as some sort of meat pie thing. On my bucket list to visit next was the Elephant Room coffee café where JK Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter books; it was packed, and we had no cash to buy anything, but hey, we saw it and could imagine her creative inspiration happening with a pen and paper and coffee in hand! Plus, the graffiti in the bathroom was super inspiring and all Harry Potter themed. Then we split, the boys going to hike the mountainous park right outside the city, and the girls going back to the hotel for Afternoon Tea. Because scones and clotted cream had to be consumed! Jake, Carson, and I attempted our “Hotel HIIT Workout” in the room, which was a challenge because we had three twin beds in a very small space. Burpees aren’t easy to do with 2 feet of carpeted floor. We made it work though, which was good because of the shortbread cookies. That night, we roamed around for some food that wasn’t fish and chips or in a super crowded pub, and found an American Style place where dad got Fajitas. It was actually very good!

Pictures: Day Thirteen

On day thirteen, we took a shuttle to the Zurich Airport to catch a plane to Edinburgh, Scotland! We landed, met our driver, and arrived at our hotel: “The Old Waverly Inn.” This hotel immediately became one of our favorites, even though there were stairs right away that we had to lug our suitcases up (it counted as exercise, amirite?). It had a great view of the Scott Monument right out the window (big pointy thing in the pics) and was right in the heart of Edinburgh. The Waverly had these BOMB Scottish Shortbread cookies that came in the room. (We almost stole a whole bunch when we saw them sitting in the hall; don’t worry, we have some restraint. We also smuggled all the extras they gave us in our backpacks, so they gave us extras every day. Muahaha.) There were scenic stairs that wound all the way up the hotel, and our rooms had a view of the charming department store across the street, “Jenners.” Soon after arriving, we ran to find some food, and of course got caught in rain without raincoats. Are we tourists, or what? But we ended up at an amazing restaurant on one of the main streets called “All Bar One” which I would go back to in a heartbeat. When we asked our waitress about the spontaneous rain showers, she said, “I don’t mind it – I’m not made of sugar, I won’t melt.”

We headed back to our hotel to catch our “hop on hop off” bus right across the street. Fabulous double decker fun! We spent the rest of the day on the bus, really just seeing the city. And what a city! When JK Rowling has graced the streets and cafes, you know it’s going to be magical. We circled around the city in the bus, driving by all sorts of little pubs, beautiful architecture, interesting structures, and fun people (including lots of KILTS and bagpipes!!! We saw so many! Dreams do come true.) We saw barber shops and hamburger places, historic pubs and literary tours. The entire city seems centered around the Edinburgh Castle, which sits on a raised volcanic cliff, and has a stadium sort of thing built by it, the kind that looks like  it holds the Quidditch World Cup. The city itself is on different levels, so you go up and down in the streets, and sometimes you go under a bridge. We stopped by a statue of a dog outside Greyfriar’s Bobby, and the story is that this dog visited his owner’s grave for 14 years. Tearjerker! It seems a lot of the pubs have stories behind them.

We learned by listening to our plug-in bus tour earbuds that there is a New Town and Old Town in Edinburgh, and we were staying near Old Town I believe. We found the skyline is truly amazing at night. Also, it stays light SO LATE and gets light SO EARLY, so our concept of time is really off. Good morning? Good evening? At this point, who knows! We ended up eating dinner at a pub, where we had some heavenly fish and chips. (PS, chips = fries and crisps = chips! Confused? So are we). We closed our blinds tightly and got some rest.