I realize by now you are all probably sick of hearing about Europe, but I happen to love drawing the experience out as long as I can! I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to get this particular blog written, but I’ve been having a hard time establishing how exactly to tell you about all of my Dublin adventures – they kind of blend in with each other!
In any case, I shall begin where I left off – heading from Glasgow to Dublin! Mum dropped off Sebastien and I at the airport, and we were extremely happy to be flying somewhere together for once! We’ve made many trips to the airport together, but this was our first time actually sitting together on the plane! Speaking of which, our plane that was traveling to Dublin was fairly obvious to spot…
The flight went very smoothly, and it was extremely exciting to look out the window at the green fields of Ireland for the first time. We even saw a rainbow as we were flying in!
When we arrived in Dublin, it fortunately didn’t take us too long to find our hotel. We ended up approaching it from a roundabout way, but we still arrived before the rain started. We had chosen a hotel that was right in the heart of downtown, which made walking to different places extremely easy for the rest of the week.
We spent a large part of the week leisurely roaming through the city. I have to say, it was a lovely change from the rapid pace and rigid schedule of the week before! We had never been to Dublin before, so we spent all of our meal times walking between different pubs and seeing which one tickled our fancy. I would probably say that our favourite meal was Guinness beef sausages with mashed potatoes at ‘The Boxty House’. The Guinness made the sausages amazingly flavourful, and they were definitely the best I’ve ever had! We didn’t eat at a ton of Irish Pubs though, mainly since they were usually on the pricey side. Sebastien and I also decided that we preferred pubs in Scotland to those in Ireland; while the ones in Ireland had fish and chips and a large variety of stews, the ones in Scotland had these things as well as macaroni and cheese, and haggis of course.
But believe it or not, we did not spend our entire trip to Dublin eating! There were a lot of cool monuments to see along the main road, such as a James Joyce statue and the Spire of Dublin.
It was pretty amazing to be so close to main street, and to be able to see all of these cool things by just walking out of the hotel!
The main street was extremely wide, with monuments on the island in the middle of the street. I have to say, I have never been in a city where the crosswalk lights are considered to be a mere guideline before. The light stays red for an exceptionally long time, so a lot of people just go ahead and cross the street…and often, so many people cross while it’s supposedly red that cars have to wait for most of their green light! There is also bountiful jay-walking, which was quite the thrill at times. But while the main street was extremely wide, it only took crossing the river to get to the good spot, where there are plenty of restaurants and old cobblestone streets.
And yes, it was in a restaurant on one of these streets that we had our amazing guinness sausages! It was also on one of these streets that we discovered why Ireland is sometimes associated with rainbows – while the sun was still blazing, there was a sudden rainstorm! We ducked under an awning, and it was over within minutes. Quite cool to see, although I’m happy it didn’t happen too often!
So for our first two days, we experienced great weather. I believe it was on our second full day there that we checked out the Guinness Storehouse! It was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel, and on our way we got to see the building in which James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ was filmed. Well, not the actual book, but the movie adaptation of the book.
Basically, James Joyce wrote a short story called ‘The Dead,’ which I believe was published in a collection called ‘The Dubliners’. I had to read it for my Irish Literature Course this year, and also watched the film adaptation. We didn’t get to actually look inside though; it used to be a museum, but due to a lack of visitors, the only way one can see it now would be to call up someone to come and open the door. We decided not to go through the trouble, since we were extremely excited about getting some Guinness.
I have to admit that Sebastien and I are not actually the hugest Guinness fans, but the tour of the factory was definitely worth doing! The tour started out showing us the different ingredients that are put in Guinness, where they come from, and the importance of their role. We then got to see a lot of the machines that they use for brewing Guinness, and then were given a sample (!). After that, we got to see a history of Guinness advertising, including the origin of how a toucan came to be used in Guinness commercials. Believe it or not, but I never knew that ‘Guinness is good for you’ until I saw this part of the tour! Although throughout the tour, it is emphasized that there are only four ingredients in Guinness, so it is extremely pure, as opposed to having tons of junk in it. The other interesting thing I learned was that the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ began when people in a bar were debating what breed of bird was able to fly the fastest. When they did the work to find out which bird it was, they realized that people in bars often debated facts such as this; so they began a book filled with records, and gave it to bartenders to settle disputes. Cool, eh?
After that, we got to see a short demonstration on cooking with Guinness, and how the different types go well with either savoury or sweet foods. I took a few recipe cards (Guinness chocolate truffles, Guinness beef stew, Guinness chocolate mousse…) and I got another sample! Each of these phases of the tour that I have mentioned were on different levels, and at this point we were getting pretty close to the top of the building. The top level of the building was a room with all glass walls, and a bar in the center. With the cost of admission to the tour, we got a ticket that would give us a free Guinness, so Sebastien and I cashed in and proceeded to enjoy the view of Dublin!
Unfortunately, about halfway through my pint I really started to remember that I am not a Guinness fan, and had to leave a bit in my glass before we left. But we had a nice walk home, and spent the rest of the day wandering through the city. One thing I forgot to mention about the downtown part of Dublin is that it is absolutely packed with tourists. I guess this is a fairly obvious statement, considering that everything tourists would want to see is right there, but I found that I was just as likely to hear a conversation in German or Spanish as I was one in English. Almost everyone we saw was carrying a bag from the major tourist-y store in the city, and one time in an Irish restaurant, we were next to a group of Asian people that were getting a real kick out of their big pints of Guinness. We had no problem with it, but it was funny to hear so much German when I had left Berlin just a few weeks ago!
The other mildly cool thing that happened while we were in Dublin was that the Irish premier of the movie ‘Total Recall’ happened at the theatre right by our hotel. There was a red carpet, three giant posters for the movie, and when we walked by at about 2 there were already crowds forming. When we left the hotel again at about 6 for dinner, we walked in the opposite direction since the crowds were so huge. However, we dared to walk on the red carpet a little while later when everything was being cleaned up.
When we were planning our trip, Sebastien came up with the brilliant idea to rent a car for a day. It was difficult to find a car rental company that wouldn’t charge an arm and a leg for Sebastien’s being under 25, but we finally succeeded. Sebastien had a great time driving on the wrong side of the road, in the wrong side of the car…he has actually driven on the wrong side of the road multiple times thanks to his previous trips to the UK, but this was his first time driving from the passengers seat. He got used to it extremely quickly though, and we headed towards Kilkenny. Unfortunately, the skies chose this day to open up and let it pour…the weather was absolutely miserable! Sebastien had a planned road stop at a cool outdoor site, but we didn’t see farther than the parking lot. We went into the tourist building to use the washroom, and by the time we got back to the car we were completely and utterly soaked. It also took us a while to figure out how to stop the windows from being completely fogged up, but I eventually found the right button. Our plan had been to take the small scenic roads on the way up to Kilkenny, and then take the highway back. But despite the terrible weather, I still was extremely pleased that we took the road trip. When I had pictured coming to Ireland, I had imagined all of the scenic green fields covered in sheep that I had seen in movies. While Dublin was great, it was way more of a big city, and seemed fairly similar to other big cities I have been to. On the road trip, I finally got to see the small towns and sheep covered hillsides I had imagined. I would love to go back sometime to spend more time in the country, exploring it on a less rainy day.
To be honest, my primary reason for wanting to visit Kilkenny was that I wanted to say I had been there next time I was at ‘Kilkenny’s Pub’ in Calgary. Sebastien had much better motives – he was quite interested in seeing the Kilkenny Castle, and the other hot spots mentioned in brochures. Thankfully, the bad weather eased up by the time we arrived there. After having lunch in an Irish pub with a giant cricket bat (stick?) on the wall, we walked around the city a bit to check out the sites. The Kilkenny Castle was pretty impressive, and there was one room in which they were doing a presentation on it’s history. I’m afraid I don’t remember a lot of its history, but I can assure you that it is an extremely old castle! I remember Anne Boleyn being mentioned during the presentation, and by the time she was involved the castle had already been around for quite some time.
Of course, Murphy’s law ensured that we had fantastic weather for the view-less drive back to Dublin, but it was nice and relaxing either way. We also got to see cows heading home, which was extremely exciting in my opinion.
The next day was mine and Sebastien’s two year anniversary. It’s pretty amazing to think that we began our relationship (well, round two of our relationship, since round one all took place in Calgary) in Scotland, then celebrated our first anniversary in France, and were able to have our second anniversary in Ireland. Unfortunately we got to the Writers Museum too late in the afternoon to be able to check it out, but we did have a delicious dinner at a badass restaurant (I’m not exaggerating: it was called “Bad Ass”).
The next day, we were fortunately able to visit the Dublin Writer’s Museum, as well as see two movies, before we had to go to the bus that would take us to the ferry back to England. The Writer’s Museum was absolutely amazing to see! It was an extremely thorough museum, and had a wide variety of artifacts as well as extensive information. Since I had taken a class in Irish Literature, I found it extremely interesting to read all about the authors behind the works I had studied. There were lots of samples of literature; my favourite being a copy of a poem in which the author had gone and re-inserted certain stanzas in handwriting, since they had been removed by the government for being inappropriate. They also had a teddy bear that belonged to a famous writer on display, and my new goal in life is to be famous enough that people are excited to see my teddy bear. Sebastien also thoroughly enjoyed the museum, and we were extremely glad that we were able to make it before we had to leave.
That evening, we began the trek back to England. We took a bus to the ferry, which took us to Wales. We then had to wait the entire night at the train station in Wales, and eventually took a train to England (although we were not exactly awake for that leg of the journey!). From the Central Station there, we made our way through the various subways to the airport, and then took a bus to the hotel where we would stay for our last night. It was quite the trip! I was extremely glad that we had one more night though, instead of doing all of that traveling to instantly be separated at the airport.
I just noticed my word count…I guess I shall be writing one more blog after all! What summer adventure is complete without a summary blog? Thank you so much for reading!
Bis Spaeter (I hate being away from a German keyboard!)