Dublin in less than a Day
Dublin from Guinness Stockhouse
Granted - it was the middle of the night that our ferry was destined to begin its voyage from Holyhead, Wales to Ireland. Set to depart at 2:40 am, all that could be seen out the windows were twinkling lights of the shore that lined Angelsey, an island just barely off the Welsh mainland.
The ferry was so large it could hardly be called such, but perhaps a small ship. After the long walk way, we alighted, climbing some stairs and entered what only could be described as the entrance of an exceedingly posh hotel. As traveled as I am, I have never experienced such luxurious traveling, especially for just £33!
So large was this ship, one could hardly feel the soft purr of the engines which, perhaps from below was a ferocious roar!
We had been staying in North Wales for the few weeks before hand, which lead to our decision to depart from Holyhead. We found our tickets online at http://www.irishferries.com for prices far below the quoted ones from friends. While we were in fact traveling over night for three hours, we opted not to take a cabin, which was offered, or to upgrade to club class. It didn't seem those luxuries were needed, especially once we saw the comfort that was offered with an economy ticket.
There was a full arcade for both adults and children, two different restaurants, which on the way back offered grilled salmon with season vegetables and new potatoes. There was a full bar that also offered a poker table, and though I am certain the ferry company had nothing to do with it - the sunrise and sunset over the Irish Sea was spectacular.
As we approached Ireland, I watched from the back of the ship, simply watching the wake tumble casually behind the ferry, then noticed the lighthouse-shaped floaty slinking by us, bobbing in a wave. I turned and saw a small extension of Ireland, glowing red in the sunrise, its own lighthouse winking at us. I felt as though I were arriving on a ship which had carried me from New York from the old times, that I was an immigrant seeing land for the first time in weeks.
Armed with a Thomas Cook (City Spots) Dublin Edition and a DK Eyewitness Travel: Top 10 Dublin, we worked our way through the ferry journey plotting our 1 day in Ireland on foot.
Since our journey was a last minute jont while we were visiting the UK, I was feeling excited, though extremely under prepared and underfunded. In fact, I brought no sterling with me, only €100 cash. Once on board, I bought a €6.50 breakfast sandwich and tea, then spent another combination of currencies on the two travel books, leaving me with less than €90 for more than 12 hour stint in a city I had been warned was severely expensive. Upon arrival on the ferry, I learned none of my credit cards nor debit cards were working, which set in the worry of being without a cushion for the rest of the journey. I hadn't informed my bank I would be going to Ireland, after all - though surely they wouldn't put a halt on my cards so swiftly?
The Search of the Dublin Spirit
Upon our arrival to Ireland, through the drama of the burning sunrise and an element which must have been like arriving in a new land in the before-times, we realized that it was 6:00 in the morning, and while I had read that the #53 bus would take us to Dublin center, there was nothing which promised its function at that hour of the day. The only signs we had seen about transport at the ferry station had been that the bus would be €3 to the equivalent of the Grey Hound station or €4 to the Heuston station - which neither of us could figure out which destination we should be aiming for.
We checked the bus schedule of the stop just out side of the station, which read that the soonest bus would be at 7:30. After much debate as to what our next move was to be, a double decker listed as 53B arrived, and we gladly boarded. However, more confusion settled into our fuzzy, tired brains. There were, as mentioned, two stops, which one did we want? I tried, through half-asleep-not-fully-functioning muddled words, to ask what the difference was. I see the driver was trying his hardest to answer politely and without laughing that it depended on where we wanted to go. He advised us with the cheaper option.
We wandered outside, and I deflated. With the fiery sunrise, I was prepared for the excitement that a city proposes, with the color of history splashed against every wall and building. The sequel of Gone With The Wind, Scarlett had left the impression of vertically striped stockings and music around every bend, yet in the early hour of the weekday, I saw naught but grey. The energy of the city was not the dancing green, warming glow of orange, or the vibrant gold I often associate with cities which please me. Where was the spark? Where was the flare? Where was the color? I had to remind myself it wasn't even 7:00, and the city was still getting ready for the day behind the old buildings which shouldered between one another.
Without really knowing which way was up and how far time traveled, we gathered a vague understanding of our location and trudged forward.
"I need a drink," I found myself muttering. I am 26, and hadn't slept yet, in my mind it was still Tuesday evening.
It's Ireland! It shouldn't be hard to find a mimosa at the very least!
After wandering and finding ourselves on O'Connel St (Recommended by a fellow Hubber), and wandering over the River Liffey, we found the Hard Rock Cafe. Unfortunately, not an establishment which rises with the sun, though rarely do rock stars either, for that matter. We came upon Temple Bar, and in it, the Temple Bar Hotel, which featured an all-you-can-eat breakfast in their Terrace Restaurant for only €6.95.
It looked beautiful and posh inside. Surely mimosas were a common morning drink. After all, when I have been to hotels for similar breakfasts, mimosas are always offered, though that is the only acceptable adult beverage offered. I was half right. They had orange juice.
As it turns out, alcohol cannot be bought anywhere until 10:30 am in Ireland, or so we gathered. And so, I had apple juice with breakfast.
Hay or Nay? Jameson on the Way
The food gave us some energy, lifted our spirits, and re-affirmed that my credit card was still functional. While laughing at our pathetic attempts to pronounce the Gaelic words on signs, we headed to our furthest point - the Guinness Stockhouse.
Along the way we met a fork in the road, and decided to swing by the Old Jameson Distillary first. Liquor before beer, you're in the clear, right?
Aside from the busy bustle that can be expected our of city life, people were fairly kind, at least our first encounter was. As I tried to pose for my picture to be taken with some graffiti (which later sparked a Horse campaign with my travel partner - hay or nay?), a lady kindly asked if we wanted to pose together, even going so far as to cross the street just to ask if we wanted her assistance.
Our debate as to hay or nay to a horse sparked the ethics of chicken kicking and cock-fighting vs dog fighting - was one more justifiable than the other simply because one is food? But this was sleep-deprived babble as we wandered down the colored cobble-stoned streets until we reached the grandeur of the Old Jameson Distillery.
Now, something must be said about whiskey and my relationship with it: I am not a whiskey girl. In fact, it was the first adult beverage I allowed to intoxicate me, and I have never gone back to experiment with it. I had no interest in this particular Distillery...until I got there. We were greeted with a giant Jameson-bottle chandelier, and the floor was glass in places to show the spiraling wall which supported the building. It held the manner of an ancient labyrinth whose end could not be seen as it disappeared under the rest of the marbled flooring.
The tour still had some time before it started, so we had a look at the gift center and the menu for the Jameson cocktails - which wouldn't be served until after the first tour had finished. It was only 9:15 after all.
The tour was quite interesting, starting with a short film and then following the process or how the Irish whiskey is made, step by step illustrated by wax figures.
Jameson is an Irish whiskey which has been distilled 3 times, which is what gives it its smooth taste. While the actual distillery has moved to southern Ireland, the building which we had stood in had been around since the 1700's.
It was certainly a great way to spend €7.50.
At the beginning of the tour, volunteers had been called to do a taste testing at the end. When that time came, three whiskeys were presented: a popular American whiskey, a Scottish whiskey, and of course, Jameson. The volunteers were to taste each while our tour-guide explained the flavors they were experiencing. At the end of it, while every one enjoyed their free Jameson on the rocks, or mixed with ginger ale and a lime twist, a personal certificate for each of the volunteers for completion of the Jameson Taster course.
Brazen Head Pub
The Jameson excursion allowed us to pass by Ireland's oldest pub, the Brazen Head. I personally wanted to go to this pub as It would create a list for me, since at that point I had already been to England's oldest pub in Nottingham.
We stopped in, the entrance to which was a beer garden, partly covered, but with what looked like it would hold an entertaining evening. We wandered past the dining room and the kitchen, and found ourselves in a small room with the bar. There couldn't have been more than ten tables in there. While we stood waiting for our drinks, we noticed the unique wall decorations, or wall paper to be more precise. All the walls were plastered with American dollar bills which people had written on. The bartender joked that it was cheaper than paying for actual wall paper. notes of other currencies appeared at random, but for the most part it was all American dollars.
We were saddened we weren't going to have time to return later in the day. Our ferry required our return to the port at 8:00, and it wasn't until 9:00 that their nightly Irish music and dancing began.
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- The Brazen Head - Dublin Pub, Ireland - Irelands Oldest Pub Est. 1198
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- Hard Rock Cafe DUBLIN
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Guinness Stock House Experience
When people generally hear Dublin, they just might think of Guinness. Guinness is known for it's pitch black color, it's smooth texture, and it's creamy froth top. I personally have loved Guinness since my first sip of it. So I was very excited at the prospect of going to the Guinness Stock House and getting the freshest Guinness available.
It was by sheer luck that we stumbled upon the little allies which took us there. The maps provided by our two acquired books were vague in some aspects, the little side roads being one of them. But when we did find it - it was an exciting site. Two large doors marked the entrance for trucks to make their way into, blooming the Guinness signature, bubbling excitement within. These dramatic doors were not for us tourists unfortunately, but a small door which seemed to sweep us in with the flow of people (I hadn't been aware that I had instructed my feet to turn down that way until we were inside). Before I knew I was in line, we were paying some on €16.50 (!!!) for an entrance. To the side were free audio cassettes which would walk us through, if we wanted, though otherwise we did not have a tour guide.
Well, we did however have an introduction from one of the staff, who gathered us around to the circle of daylight in an other wise darkened floor aside from some blue lights which highlighted the memorabilia for sale. She instructed us to look up, towards the daylight, and informed us that we were standing at the bottom of the world's largest pint glass. Other than a general tube, I couldn't make out the distinct shape of a Guinness pint glass. She told us that the amount of pints it would take to fill it was 4-5 times that of the population of Ireland. She then pointed to the gold ring in the flooring which we were all circled around. It circled a document, which she told us was the original lease agreement for the building, to last for 9,000 years at a fixed rate of £45 per year!
As we wandered through the museum-like setting, which was completely dark aside from the projections of clips which illustrated each step in the Guinness-making process. The journey through each floor an up to the next seemed cold. Everything was just a trick of lights, there seemed to be a lack of caring, a lack of creativity. We passed under an indoor waterfall which accented why the Guinness brewery was built where it was: it provided the freshest and purest water.
Up the pint glass we wandered, until we got to the floor with all the restaurants, where they were also having a food tasting. The demonstration we witnessed allowed us to taste a salmon mousse on Guinness bread coupled with their Black Lager Guinness. The next bit was a Guinness chocolate truffle which was paired with the Foreign Extra Stout, designed for traveling abroad. Both of these little snacks were delicious, and the staff demonstrating was very personable, speaking to each of us and finding out where we were from and telling us of his favorite little hole-in-the-wall pubs. The snacks were so delicious we were nearly tempted to have our lunch there, though the prices of food were matching in the price of the ticket, and exceeding it in some cases. So instead we traveled up to the top for our free pint.
The top floor of this giant pint glass yields a glass room with the bar in the middle. It was the 5th floor, and allowed us a 360 degree view of Dublin. As we sat along the edge of this room, sipping our pints, I realized this was almost worth the entire €16.50. While the room was busy and quite packed, there was a certain calm that set in over me, and it was an almost perfect moment.
And, I have to say - the Guinness was superb.
After thoroughly enjoying our pints on top of the world, it was about 4:30 - where had the time gone?! - so we went searching for food.
The problem with most places across seas that I have found, is their willingness to close between the hours of 5 and 6, no matter how touristy. It was too late to do a few of the other things we had in mind, so we searched out a few shops before they closed for the evening in Temple Bar.
Temple Bar had a special feeling about it, which I hadn't really believed when I read about it in our tour-guide books. It reminded me of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. It was a concentration of colorful shops with eclectic designs of the merchandise within.
We found a Mongolian style restaurant and ate there, before finally wandering aimlessly and succeeding in finding the bus terminal, and bus which would return us to the ferry dock.
I was exhausted. I felt as though I had been there for days. Though my feet were sore from all our walking, I felt as though we had hardly accomplished any of our goals for Ireland. We had planned on seeing the Book of Kells, Viking Dublin, and I had even heard of a Leprechaun museum lurking about.
Perhaps one day I will return to Dublin with more time, more money, and a more organized manner of doing things, now that I have a better understanding of what to expect. I won't lie, Dublin did disappoint me. But then again, it wasn't 19th century Dublin that I had read about, either.
As the ferry pulled away from the docks, I waved good-buy to the green sloping land which ended in the winking lighthouse, and looked toward the open Irish sea as we glided toward the Land of the Red Dragon, the land of Wales, against the setting sun.