Monday, June 24, 2013


I didn’t really know what to expect with Ireland. From reading ancient myths & legends in the sixth grade, I had this image of wild forests, castles and little coastal villages. And, thanks to Cassie, I had watched P.S. I Love You and was expecting to find Irish accents, pubs with live music and beautiful scenery.

What we found was so much more than I ever could have expected. While Ireland is well known for it’s endlessly rainy days, we somehow managed to arrive during a “heat wave,” which essentially means normal California weather. We got to do a walking tour of all Dublin’s main sights, lay out in parks, stroll down the main outdoor shopping strip, and explore the Cliffs of Moher with clear, blue skies.

After arriving late in Dublin (around 11pm), we got dinner at a crappy little pizza shop with a 5 euro deal for a small pizza, “chips” (I swear, EVERYTHING comes with fries over here), and a coke. Once we were sufficiently stuffed we slept off our long day of travel and resolved to wake up early for a free walking tour through our hostel.

The tour was perfect for our first day. It turns out, there are actually not that many “must-see” sights in Dublin. Even Cassie’s guidebook’s suggestions were mostly strolling, sauntering, and people watching in various areas around the city.

Veronica Guerin: Famous Investigative Journalist

We got to see Trinity College (home to the Book of Kells), Dublin Castle, the Wall of Fame (a wall with a giant U2 poster, surrounded by a few smaller posters), some gorgeous churches and City Hall. My absolute favorite building in Dublin is the Old Stone Church on St. Andrews Street. It’s an absolutely stunning gothic church, which fell into disrepair and has recently been purchased by a tourism office. Viking Tours renovated the church and now uses the building as its headquarters.

Throughout the tour we got a history of Dublin: Viking influence (as we were talking about it, a bus tour filled with loud tourists in Viking helmets passed by), the Gaelic language (which has three significantly different dialects. Although most people in Ireland don’t speak it fluently, learning Gaelic is compulsory in school.), and the revolution that led to the creation of Republic of Ireland (there is still a bullet hole left in City Hall as a reminder of the fight). Ireland has a long tradition of occupation. The legacy of the invaders can still be seen today in so many ways.

Can you spot the bullet hole? It's left over from the fight for Irish independence. 

After the tour ended, we realized we were pretty close to the Guinness Storehouse, so we got some lunch at the Wall of Fame café (wouldn’t recommend that particular location) and trekked over to Guinness! We learned all about hops and barley on our way up to the Gravity Lounge. The whole storehouse is actually shaped like a Guinness glass. The top (where the foam would be) is a circular bar, several stories up, overlooking all of Dublin. On our way up, we met some fellow hostellers from Jacobs Inn and all agreed to explore some pubs later that night.

I was also meeting up Tierenen, an old friend from Costa Rica that night. The guys from the hostel called up some other friends in Dublin too and by the end of the night we had a giant, international group dancing and drinking our way through the city.

Queen of Tarts cakes

Keeping up with the locals was difficult and I definitely paid for it the next morning. We ate to a very late breakfast at the Queen of Tarts—the cutest little bakery I’ve ever seen—and spent a while exploring the National Museum. Instead of heading on to other attractions, we both hesitantly admitted that all we wanted to do was go home and nap.

Stephen's Green
We woke up just in time to join a pub-crawl for the night and went out again for the night to once again explore Temple Bar and the many pubs and bars waiting for us with a welcome shot of baileys at each stop.

The next morning, it was Cassie’s turn to nurse a killer hangover. We like to take turns, apparently.
After breakfast at the Queen of Tarts, we went to the National Museum of history and archeology (which was free!) and I got to nerd out and explore all the history of Ireland. The Celtic art was simply amazing! While I was running around from artifact to artifact and lost in thoughts of what life in ancient Ireland had been, Cassie was sitting patiently waiting for my nerdiness to wind down.

Our main event of the day was touring the Jameson Distillery. Since it was already 2 in the afternoon, we figured it was a perfect time for some whiskey! In the distillery we got to see all the old machinery that whiskey making requires. This may be common knowledge, but I didn’t know that barrels are reused to make different alcohols. The Jameson barrels are shipped from wine producers who can no longer use them. The type of wine that used to be stored in the barrel adds to the whiskey’s flavor and color. After the whiskey barrels are done, they ship ‘em off to be used to produce other alcohol. Rum production actually uses the oldest barrels.

Jameson Distillery
At the end of the tour, everyone got a Jameson drink and 8 volunteers were selected to do a whiskey tasting. Obviously, I volunteered. Turns out, I really don’t like scotch. But I did get a lot of free Jameson! And a certificate to prove that I’m basically a whiskey expert. I left the distillery a very happy girl.

As we were in the middle of an Irish heat wave, we decided to get milkshakes before heading over to Stephen’s Green. It was a perfect park day, but not quite hot enough to go tanning in my opinion. The Irish seemed to have a different idea of “tanning weather.” It was clear that this was not normal spring weather by the amount of pasty Irish teens out getting their tan on. I guess in Ireland you have to get in as much vitamin D as possible on those rare sunny days.

We found a little café right on the main shopping strip and got a table upstairs on the balcony, so we could people watch while eating dinner. As we headed back to the hostel, we heard lively folk music being played from a little pub bursting with people. We couldn’t pass it up, so we went in and found people of all ages enjoying a pint. The musician was like a jukebox! He knew every song and didn’t hesitate to take requests. There was a bachelor party going on with the groom-to-be all dolled up in a summer dress. Each member of the party had a little toy soldier and every time “Toy soldier!” was yelled, all the men jumped into the position of their soldier. As the night went on, it was yelled more and more and the positions got pretty sloppy at the end, but it was all good fun.

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