Well after Portugal I had about five days to recover before Ireland, and by recover I mean work tirelessly analyzing poetry, translating my undergraduate thesis into Spanish, and giving a killer presentation on the novel El Sur. So yeah. We flew from Madrid Thursday evening and arrived in Dublin around 9ish I guess. It was actually somewhat warmer than I thought it would be, but Nola still wasn’t very tolerant of the low temperatures. We found the right bus from the airport to our hostel, and we learned that they drive on the left side of the road in Ireland too; I had no idea! Fun fact, Matt from Lisbon (who’s actually a Britt so obviously an expert) informed us that they started doing that back in the day when they rode horse and there was always a chance of a random duel; they therefor rode on the left side so that their right hand would be ready to yield a sword at a moment’s notice. Fascinating stuff.
Anyway, we had a bit of trouble navigating from the bus stop to our hostel, but we eventually made it. The hostel was nice enough I guess, but it was nothing compared to the one in Lisbon so it was almost disappointing. On a good note though, it turns out that Ireland also has Nando’s Chicken (that amazing chain restaurant we first discovered in London), and it was only about a 20 minute walk from the hostel, so that made up for it I guess. It was quite amazing, but afterwards we were wore out so we found a pub near our place and drowsily ordered our first Guinness! We had actually made a commitment a couple of weeks before that to abstain from Guinness until Dublin and it was so worth it. We retired a bit early that night, probably before midnight, which was also worth it. The whole hostel was pretty big, and we were staying in a 16 bed mixed dorm so that was interesting. Someone sleeping near to me, well I guess they ran out deodorant or something, so when you walked into the room there was a somewhat unpleasant greeting. It was fine while staying in the room though because it didn’t take long to get used to.
We woke up a bit early the next day to enjoy some complementary tea and cereal at the hostel, but then we went back to sleep for a while. We bought our tickets to tour the Guinness storehouse, but by the time we ended up leaving it was already time for lunch. We went to a small, authentic-looking restaurant and ordered some famous food. Nola got fish and chips, and I got the beef stew with mashed potatoes. It was pretty good. After the meal we navigated the tram system to get to St. James Gate but had a bit of a hiccup. We decided to get off the train when we saw a huge Guinness sign because we figured that had to be it, but it turns out there are huge Guinness signs all over Dublin so it didn’t help. We were in the vicinity so we were able to walk there within the hour.
We learned so much about the process of beer making! I’ve done the brewery tour in St. Louis, but this one was much more interactive and apparently Guinness has quite an interesting history. For instance, when Samuel Guinness first bought the store house he signed the lease for something like 10,000 years! We also got to explore Guinness advertisement through the years and found a booth where it Photoshopped your picture into an ad. After that we taught how to taste Guinness like a pro. First you have to smell it and take in the aromas, then when you drink it you have to try to taste the hops, barely, and other two flavors individually on certain areas of your tongue. Once we could properly taste it, we learned the exact way to pour it which is quite an art. Mine wasn’t the best, but it still tasted good. We were able to enjoy them on the top floor of the storehouse which offered a 360 degree of the city and it was gorgeous.
We went on our hostel’s pub crawl that night and it was quite a good time. The second bar we went to was more of a restaurant, and it featured live music. There was a guitarist and violinist who played a mixture of traditional Irish songs and variations of pop music. They were amazing, and we had such a great time listening and occasionally singing along. We ended up meeting two really nice girls from Switzerland and talked to them forever. The last stop was this unique sort of club in that the first floor was kind of just like a regular bar, but the second floor was a legitimate club. It wasn’t until later that we realized how massive this place was, but there were also several lounges and a huge smoking area too.
We had to get up a little early the next morning to check out, so we took the time to enjoy a full Irish breakfast. Nola got the blood sausage and black pudding, which were alright I guess, but I ordered pancakes – they even came with maple syrup!! I got a side of beans and cheese, which to me tasted like tomato soup with baked beans in it and it was amazing. Once we were sufficiently stuffed, we bought tickets for a city bus tour so we got to learn about the history of all the sights while being sheltered from the rain. I didn’t realize this, but apparently there was a huge uprising for government control in 1916, and there are therefore bullet holes still on many of the monuments. Also, the archives building got blown up at one point, so its now much harder for people to track down a large portion of their Irish ancestry. I think one of the coolest things we got to see was the Famine Memorial, but it was quite sad. It depicts a few starving people on their way to what were called Coffin Ships (I think) because they would set out to sea to escape the famine, but the majority ended up dying along the way. It was somber standing among the statues, because it was hard to imagine the magnitude of how many people would have flooded the streets in the those days. We also learned that at one time there was a separate part of the city for those with leprosy, and they were sometimes marched through the streets or something. Anyway, in those days they were commonly referred to as the Walking Dead! Also the mother of little Bram Stoker used to tell him stories about them, which inspired the idea of Dracula. Incidentally, the name come from two Irish words, “droch” and “ola”, which translate to bad blood! On top of all that we got to see were James Joyce lived! Oh and one more thing, in the middle of the city is the “spire” which is a monument to the sun, and its basically this really tall pole looking thing. Apparently if you stand at the base and look straight up it you can see the top moving on windy days. The guide warned us not to do try it though if we were prone to vertigo, and we understood why when we did it; its hard to describe but it was pretty disorientating.
Part of the deal with the pub crawl was that we got to do it again for free as long as we kept our wrist bands, so we gave it another go. At the first bar we met a group of grad students from the US, I don’t remember exactly where, who were out celebrating the one girl’s big achievement. I’m actually not sure what it was, but it must have been really great to warrant a trip to Europe. We went back to the bar with the musicians, and they were even better the second time around! Maybe it was because it was a Saturday night, but the crowd was much rowdier and there was quite a bit of dancing. The rest of the night was even more fun than the night before, and we met so many great people! Our flight was at 6 am, so we had to last until at least four, but by 1 or so I was fading fast. I decided to step out and look for a convenient store where I could buy some sort of energy supplement. Now I understand that’s unhealthy, and its typically not something I do very often, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I tried to ask the pub crawl guide for the nearest store and also asked if they sold 5 Hour Energy in Ireland. Instead of answering my question he went on a rant about how unhealthy that stuff is, and even went as far as to say I would be better off going back into the club and finding Ecstasy. I ended up with a Coca Cola.
By the time we left the final club things were starting to wind down anyway, so at least we didn’t really miss out. We caught our shuttle and I felt surprisingly awake all through the airport. That didn’t stop me from sleeping on the plane though, and once again, I enjoyed a much needed nap as soon as I returned to Madrid.