Other than making it to our terminal as the plane was boarding, our flight to Dublin was uneventful. We even pretty much made it straight to our hotel, something that we have found typically comes with some sort of strife or frustration (recall the Glouchester Terrace incident).
Arriving around lunch time and having retired Rusty and the gang to their quarters, we looked around, smelled the fresh Irish Spring air, grabbed our Lucky Charms, and made a bee line to the Guinness brewery.
Now I have been on a number of brewery tours, both large and small. Actually, that’s a lie. Mostly small. They show you around, tell you about where they source their special hops, tell you about their different types of brew, and all end with a tasting. Always fun – it is beer after all – but fairly by the book. Guinness did this same process but blew it out to a magnificent, big budget level. The tour kicked off standing in “the world’s biggest pint glass” (basically their atrium) and with a person telling you the story behind the malty meal replacement and showing you the 9,000 year lease signed by Arthur Guiness enshrined in the floor. The rest of the tour is self-guided, but it takes you through each step of the beer making process and why Guinness is unique in a large multi-media presentation that is quite impressive and very well done.
After a few floors of this, you get to the interactive part. With your admission you get to either have a free pint up in their sky lounge or opt for “The Perfect Pour” experience where they teach you how to properly pour a pint. We of course opted for the latter. There is a science to this (that I think many of the bar tenders in the US tend to ignore and/or rush) that I won’t take you through, but you can click here to find out. Honestly, I’m not sure how much of this affects the final taste of the brew, but now I can stick my nose up at people that don’t do it properly and wave my greater-than-thou certificate in their face that proves I know how to make the perfect pour. (We each got one.)
I don’t know if it was just being in Ireland or the tour or simply trying Guinness again after accidentally grabbing one at a party in college, but, damn, it is tasty stuff. Not nearly as heavy as I remembered, and I have developed a whole new appreciation for it. (I’m not leaving my beloved Yazoo Pale, but it is a nice addition to the rotation.)
After the brewery, we wandered about Dublin taking it all in and seeking out the best places to have a pint, eat some Irish delicacies (of which the locals will tell you there are none; they are mostly right), and most importantly listen to some live Irish music. If it had a banjo and foot stomping, we were in. After hitting up a few places (you can’t just stop at one, right?) we ended up at a great pub near Trinity College. Two guys were on stage rocking some traditional music mixed in with American covers (they love Johnny Cash over there). We struck up a conversation with the tables around us and sang the night away.
Oh, and they also have this genius innovation – pour your own beer at your table! Just put in your credit card and it tracks how much you drink. You avoid the rush at the bar, you avoid having to tip, and you never have to leave your seat. Why is this not everywhere in the US?!
The next day we went on a tour of Trinity College, led by cheeky graduate student, whose main attraction (and really the main attraction of Dublin) is the Book of Kells. The tour was actually pretty great, except when some random old lady on the tour ask the guide if the degree you earn there is good anywhere. Like it is some online course. It is the oldest, largest institution in Ireland lady. Really? Anyways. You learn a lot about the history of the area through the story of the college, and yours truly even answered a question correctly. I’m so smart.
The tour ends with the Book of Kells, which I knew zero about before this trip but the tour guide did a great job of putting the book in the proper historical context and really showed a passion for its history, which of course really makes you internalize its significance. Again, you can read about it all here if you like, but just do not miss it if you are in Dublin. And even after that main attraction, you get a HUGE bonus by getting to go up into the “Long Hall.” As our guide said, “I know you’re here for the Book of Kells, but the Long Hall will blow your socks off. If you ever wanted a true Harry Potter Hogwart’s experience, get ready.” And he was 100% correct. I wanted to sit in that room all day long and peruse through the thousands of books, sockless. We couldn’t take pictures, but here’s a stolen internet pic.
What did we do after the tour? Why a pub, of course. We stayed at one for a while until it closed. Like London, they also close early for stupid reasons. But Katie found a cool little place with a live funk band still open so we popped in. Now, for the purposes of the night’s account, it must be said that I was ready to head home. I was tired, had a headache, blah blah blah. But I didn’t say anything at this point and was happy to have one more pint before heading back (which is what I was planning on). However, at the bar two guys start talking with the girls and bought them beers. Normally, no big deal. Kristi is outgoing and friendly, and I am all for having some chump buy her a drink because she typically takes it, says the proper amount of conversation so as to not be rude before heading back to me. That or I come up and join in and we are all friends after a stomach punch (recall London). However, this night I was not in the mood and these Colin Farrell look-a-likes rubbed me the wrong way (maybe it was when they said they go to that bar to hit on the tourist girls). I can say something to Kristi, but Katie is single and I am 100% ok with her talking with whomever she wants. They stay at our table, the bar eventually closes, and I’m ready to finally head home. But Colin says he can get us in to a later-late-night spot and the girls want to go. I’m not feeling great at all, but don’t want to leave them alone with these guys so I begrudgingly head over with them. The place was as-expected (a club), and I sat down by myself playing with my phone while the girls had a great time dancing. (The Colins had gotten the idea by this point and moved on to other girls that didn’t have bearded, grumpy tired guys who didn’t want to dance with them.) We stay for a while and headed back around 2am.
Again, another late start to our day due to the previous night’s events, but I’m feeling better and we head off. We do a couple of lackluster Rick Steve’s walking tours (we came to the conclusion that he doesn’t like the UK; his walking tours are way better in central/eastern Europe), and did a normal travel day just walking around and poking in and out of shops. Nothing too eventful, however it must be noted that this was a top food day. We grabbed lunch at a place called Crackbird (this would do amazingly well in Nashville) and dinner at its sister-restaurant, Skinflint. Both amazing.
We then found a great bar called No Name Bar – apparently because for a long time it simply didn’t have a name, just a picture of a snail out front. Because we wanted to get up early in order to make it to Galway by early afternoon, we called it some-what of an early night. Which turned out to be good, because we had no idea the freaking ordeal we would be in for in the morning…