UK/Ireland 2018 travel blog

Our first glasses of Guiness in Dublin...when in Rome, yes?

The River Liffey at sunset

Catch that date??? 1198 my friends - WOW

St. James Gate @ Guiness Brewery

Jameson's Distillery...again..when in Rome, yes? My first Irish coffee came a few...

Just one sample of the many many beautiful buildings in the city

The Long Room at the Trinity College Library - home to 200,000...

Christ Church - founded in 1030

A little gem in the Irish Rock & Roll Hall of Fame...he's...

St. Patrick's Cathedral - founded as early as 890

Gripping Famine Memorial


Harp Bridge

Great advice in honor of the scores and scores of Irish writers...

Oh my which to choose

We were greeted with another sparkling sunny day when arrived in Dublin. It was a pretty non-descript ride from the airport, but it was clear when we arrived at our hotel that we had picked and other spectacular area - Temple Bar.

Day #1

We were lucky enough to be able to check in early and we were hungry after a plane delay and only granola bars for breakfast, so we immediately headed out for food. The Temple Bar area is quite similar to Gastown in Vancouver or Pioneer Square in Seattle - in other words, very touristy. But hell, we're tourists - but we also know we're going to pay more than we should for everything and we're game - so BRING IT ON!

In the Temple Bar area, we found The Temple Bar. The bar was PACKED (did I mention it was lunch time?), live Irish music was playing and the Guiness was flowing. We were able to find a seat and Patrick got us 2 Guinesses - one pint and one little one. At the time I didn't really like Guiness, but there would have been something terribly wrong not sampling the pride and joy of Dublin - where its been brewed since 1759.

While Patrick was at the bar, I listened to the music and the hordes of people singing along. I felt such a rush of joy tears actually came to my eyes. Then to have a glass of Guiness in front of me as I enjoyed the scene - well it was a perfect moment.

We only stayed for lunch because we had a couple of chores to do. We landed in town with only 100 Euros in our pocket and the few pounds we had changed at the airport. It was a decidedly uncomfortable feeling (even though both our wallets are stuffed with credit cards). So we needed a cash infusion. And we had changed our plans so that we would be staying in Dublin 5 nights instead of 2 and had already learned that our hotel couldn't take us for the extra nights. Because neither of us would have been able to relax until we settled where we were going to stay, we wanted to take care of that as well.

Once we got those errands run, we hit the Hop On/Hop Off bus to get our bearings and see the city. Ken, our driver, was HILARIOUS! I loved his accent and he was a natural story teller.

My first impression of Dublin was that the 17th century architecture was incredible. The buildings all through the city had such character. There was a charm to the city I was not expecting - as though the city had come up from the ashes of resentment, poverty, starvation and rebellion to a place that was thriving.

On our tour, Ken recommended a couple of places for food and traditional irish music and dance, we decided to head to those places for our evening entertainment. That meant a lovely walk by the River Liffey at sunset on the way to The Brazen Head pub - established in 1198. You read that right folks - 1198. It's tilled as Ireland's oldest pub, but frankly I haven't seen anything older, so it's THE OLDEST in the region if you ask me. Anyway, inside did not disappoint. It had these low ceilings, remnants of patrons for decades (in the form of signed bills, police patches etc). And the food was really great. The place didn't feel touristy at all. Ken made a GREAT recommendation. We went over to the other place he recommended, but the dancing didn't start for more than an hour and it was empty, so it didn't feel cozy enough to keep us occupied for that time, so we headed back toward our neighborhood.

As we walked back, we came across Fishamble street, which is the street our next hotel is on, so we decided to check out that neighborhood - which by the way was the location where Handel debuted his Messiah in 1741. The hotel looked cute and was attached to a bar called Darkey Kelly's. We headed in.

We learned later on that Darkey Kelly's had a sordid past. One of its early proprietor's Dorcas "Darkey" Kelly (deemed the most beautiful woman in Dublin) was burned at the stake for murder in 1761. She ran a brothel out of this location and occasionally she would have her "girls" murder rich clients by slitting their throats and dump their bodies in the river. How's that for a story?

Anyway, we walked in and was greeted by the soulful stylings of Mr. Cathal Hickey singing traditional Irish music. Frankly any song he sang would have sounded Irish with this voice. Again, more rushes of joy listening to him sing. It was a perfect day #1.

Day #2

Patrick had a great idea on the way home the night before - pick up some provisions for breakfast in the room the next day. And I was so bone tired when I woke up that the idea of not having to forage for my food that morning was PERFECT!

When we regained our energy we hopped back on the Hop on/hop off bus to give us a ride to our first stop of the day - Guinness. As we waited for the bus, a man from Israel asked me if I knew anything about the city bus schedule. I said "i'm not from here" and he laughed saying that he had been in teh city for days and hadn't met any Irish people - hahahaha (The European Union agreement means that many hotel staff are foreign). Anyway, hearing this an Irish man piped up and gave him the bus information, but also told him that he could walk to his destination in 10 minutes. Then he told us about "Irish minutes" - apparently eveything is 10 minutes away in Dublin. HAHAHA. We happened to see that same man at Guiness later in the day and he said it had taken him 25 minutes to get where he was going that morning :-).

It was a nice tour of Guiness. The most interesting fact was that the original lease for Guiness on its current site is for 9,000 years (again, this is not a typo - 9,000 years) and the cost per year is 45 pounds (again, not a typo). WOW!!!!!!

The best part of the tour, was learning how to pour a perfect Guiness pint (I have a certificate to prove it) and the tasting. The first thing the tour guide said was that if someone only takes a sip of Guiness it would be the worst thing to do to the beer. I think I felt my cheeks flush a bit, because that's what I did the day before, knowing I didn't like Guiness that much. He said, to really taste the flavor of the beer - the chocolate, coffee and malt - one must take a big gulp and hold it in your mouth for 10 seconds before swallowing. And dang it if it wasn't true. And when drunk that way it tasted AMAZING! I actually liked it. Now, Patrick, a long-time lover of Guiness beer commented that the beer in Dublin tasted WAY better than the Guiness that's over here. So take this with a grain of salt...or I guess a grain of barley hahahaha

Having sampled our free pint of Guiness, it was time to head to Jameson's Distillery, established in 1780 - I guess it was going to be an alcohol kind of day. Because we missed the opporuntity to have a tasting with experts in Oban, we didn't want to miss the opportunity at Jameson's. Now Jameson's Irish Whiskey isn't on the same level as Oban Scotch, but I noticed that one drop of water in each of the different options made it taste WAY better and we identified one that we wanted to buy (way more affordable than Oban) and made a note to pick it up at Duty Free on the way home.

On way home we walked through the Temple Bar area and right into some soccer revelers fro Wales (hundred of them) ready to walk to the Ireland/Wales game that was going to happen down the road. Needless to say they had been enjoying themselves in the the Temple Bar pubs for quite a while and the scene was exactly what you'd expect for a soccer match in this part of the world. Very intersting to see, but we definitely gave the crowd a wide berth. That said, once they were on their way, we found a place to have dinner, picking a bar so we could watch the game too - again, when in Rome, yes? As it turns out, no one at the bar was really paying attention to the game, so it was really just dinner and heading back to the hotel.

Day #3

We headed out early to see Trinity College - founded in 1592 by Elizabeth I and the Book of Kells - a finely illustrated ("illuminated") version of the 4 Gospels in the bible, created in 800AD. Before heading into the room that houses the book, we learned about the writing, the illumination and creation of the folios, the way they created the lambskin paprys. The book itself is gorgeous. We couldn't take any pictures of it and could only glance at it for a few minutes, but really stunning. Apparently experts can tell that it is the creation of only 4 people. The patience they must have had - by candlelight mind you- is astounding to think of.

After the Book of Kells, the tour winds you into the Old Library Collection of Trinity College - two stories high and 70 yards long - it houses 200,000 of the oldest books at the library. We passed by diligent people wearing white gloves cleaning old books. I bet they just rotate through them. The library at Trinity College houses one over book published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. One of our bus drivers told us they need a 1/2 mile of new shelf space every year -much of that going to Irish writers. The books are beautiful as is the staircase to get to the 2nd story. The Old Library also houses a 14th century Irish harp that is the symbol of Ireland.

From there, we took a tour of the Irish Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The museum is also a working recording studio and a small concert venue called The Button Factory. I'll be honest, I didn't know many of the musicians discussed in the tour, but our guide was SO passionate about music, it was hard not to be infected with his enthusiasm. The museum itself needs some work to be a real experience, but we got some good tidbits of new information.

After the Hall of Fame, we made the trek to our new hotel and while simple, the room was HUGE and the bed was HUGE and we felt like we were in a palace for our last 3 nights in town. Our window overlooked Christ Church Cathedral and the bells were peeling - and they were lovely. Obviously Christ Church had to be our nex stop.

Founded in 1030, the church is another great example of Gothic architecture. I won't bore you with another description of a cathedral. The most interesting part was called The Crypt underneath the Cathedral, which houses some lovely medieval treasures of Ireland. The treasure that kept most of our interest were the mummified corpses of a cat and rat. Found in the pipes of the organ in the 1850s, they were forever bound together and were even immortalized in the James Joyce novel Finnegan's Wake - "...As stuck as that cat to that mouse in that tube of that Christchurch organ..."

From there we headed to lunch and to St. Patrick's Cathedral - I mean, of course we had to go there right?. A church has been on that site for 800 years. It's a little younger than Christ Church, but was a special place because of its connection to the patron saint of Ireland - Patrick. There were a ton of stories in that cathedral and great videos to help put the church in the context of the wars and rebellions across the ages. And for the life of me, I actually don't remember any of them. Sad, yes?

Because St. Patrick's, when it was built was outside the city of Dublin, and Christ Church was inside the city walls, we felt pretty sure we would be able to find the medieval parts of the city and perhaps some evidence of the vikings who came up the River Liffey. And our hunch was right - we came upon the walls of the city - about two stories high. Again, walking in history.

All day long I had been looking forward to our plans for the evening - an Irish sing-a-long at Darkey Kellys. We got there early to have dinner to ensure we had a good seat. We were next to an older Irish couple - Michael and Angela. when the sing a long started, I learned some of the clapping parts from Michael and we started in with a couple of hours of gentle ribbing. They were quite cute. We also ran into a family we had seen checking in the day before: a mother and son traveling together along with the mother's husband and son's wife. The mother and step dad were WASTED and started getting in a fight. The son/wife came over to talk to us for a while and then we were were suddenly in the middle of the marital spat. I tried to concentrate on the singing and Patirck made sure our bill was paid in case we needed a quick exit, but things setled down and we were able to just hang out with son/wife as the sing-a-long continued. The singer never actually did any Irish music, but there's always fun in Country Roads, Mandy, and the like. He even broke out Metallica's Enter Sandman.

We stayed to the end - it was just too fun, but of course I wondered as we made our way upstairs, do I realy have to get up early tomorrow to catch a train to Belfast?

Day #4: See Belfast Entry

Day #5

We both woke up sad as hell - it was our last day in Dublin. Today had to be broken up with checking for our flight and some packing. Wah Wah. But regardless, we didn't let that dampen our spirit. The question was - how do we spend the day? I think I mentioned before that, in my life, I hadn't given much thought to my Mom's people's. Being in Ireland was an opportunity to explore her other half. And obviously her people got to the US because they emmigrated, so we headed to the EIP Emmigratio Museum. Along the way we came across the Famine memorial - a haunting artistry. I'm sure you all know about the potatoe famine in Ireland, but did you know that within a short 5 years, the country lost 25% of its population either to starvation or emmigration and it never recovered. And people emmigrated either because they were starving or taking advantage of the opportunities other countries marketed: free land; marriage; gold. I found myself curious as to whether Mom's peeps left Ireland because they had to or wanted to.

With so much of Ireland's population having emmigrated, the museum spent a considerable amount of time taking pride in the accomplishments of Irish immigrants and their decendents in the world (e.g. Barak Obama, JFK).

After the Emmiration museum we headed to the National Gallery of Ireland - lovely exhibit of Irish painters, one of whom was Jack Yeates (brother to W.B Yeates - quite an artistic family). After the first floor of the museum, I realized I'd reached my limit of museums and thinking so deeply about the human experience. I was "museumed out". Time to start our last happy hour (with my first Irish Coffee).

The happy hour place we chose was in a more retail area of Dublin and it didn't feel touristy at all. It seemed like it was packed with people ending work and starting their weekend. I LOVED the Irish coffee and tested my new skill for drinking Guiness properly. Then we headed back to our neighborhood and a Ceili at Darky Kelly's. A Ceili is traditional Irish music and ours had a flute, accordion, guitar, and fiddle. It was the perfect way to end our time in Dublin

...and that is the end of our story. It was an AMAZING trip and it's been so fun to relive it writing this journey. Thank you for being interested in our excursions. Love, Elisa

Miles walked: 25

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