Dream trip Day 112 Bus to Blarney Castle, Jameson Distillery, Cobh

I’ve never been a morning person, even growing up. Man, high school started @745! I did it though, not sure how, that’s rather early.

Since our bus tour was literally a couple blocks away, we were safe getting breakfast by 8. I just got eggs this round. They arrived with a bread I’d only see in Ireland so I finally asked the waitress.

Soda bread! It was very dense bread made with baking soda vs yeast. Spread some butter  jam or marmalade, if yer fancy, on a slice and it’s pretty good.

It was quite cold walking to the bus depot. When we arrived, several men were gathered, steam billowing out of the cups of coffee. They all smoked cigs too and I watched as the smoke/steam rose and dissipate over the river.

There were maybe 15 of us on this bus, we were pretty close to the end of the tour season our driver told us in a very wonderfully thick Irish accent.

He told us history the entire trip to Blarney, offering insights into the area as well as translating some of the Irish signs along the way. He had a wonderful, calming voice.

O was not in this guy’s pronunciation, not as we know it in the US, it was more ahr, so Cahrk, was how he referred to Cork.

Only an hour drive to Blarney Castle. Our driver gave us about an hour and a half tour time, using the term ‘half one.’ Sure we are using English but very different perspectives on time and phrases.

We crossed the car park over to a stream, moat that was in front of the castle walkway.

peaceful pond

Calm waters turn into a little waterfall on the road to Blarney Castle.

blarneyfall

There were a couple of walking paths that we thought would be nice after seeing the castle, kissing the stone.

Now, I had grown up with my mom saying her grandma’s maiden name was Blarney but it had been changed when they arrived to America to Blainey.

In quite literally every place we went in Ireland, they had posters, books, crests on every Irish family. I always searched for Blarney.

Was this a sort of homecoming? Were we entitled to a small part of the castle? Nah.

I don’t have a very ethnic surname yet I’ve always wanted one or to know for sure where my family originated. As it was I was just a great American mutt, an unknown mix.

For a thing as big as a castle, this place felt small, narrow. In order to get up to the 2nd story, we waited while others ascended a very narrow set of stone stairs aided by a chain rail along one wall.

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The tour of the old castle left a lot to the imagination. No elegant paintings line the walls anymore, no torches lit to guide us, no animals roasting in the huge fireplace.

Just empty, drafty rooms, well-worn stones and stories of grand days gone by are all that remain. Oh and plenty of tourists, anxious to pucker up to the stone.

The tale of the stone is not well-known to me so I was happy to hear it in the castle. We slowly snaked up stairs towards the stone.

It is an awkward affair, you have to lean backwards over a large void many feet from the ground, a guide holds your legs, another takes a picture. Takes less than 10 seconds and 2 guys do this for hours per day, hundreds of people.

Great views of the village of Blarney though.

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Once we descended the stairs, I saw how long the line to kiss the stone had become. It was already in half hour or longer wait time. Early riser was the right call.

Outside the castle was a lovely garden. On display were many poisonous plants, including cannabis, somehow not stolen.

It is strange how all these naturally occurring plants that can easily kill are legal to buy and plant. Yet 1 is forbidden, how can you make nature illegal? Only if something that is man-made competes with a plant, only then can one outlaw nature.

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Soon we were back on the bus heading to Cobh, a tiny port where the Titanic and other ships bound for the US left.

The name of this place matched perfectly with our driver’s pattern of speech. The city was named Cove, but there isn’t a v in Irish language, so bh makes sort of a v sound.

Our driver explained that many cities had been overtaken by the English, but were now going back to using the Irish city names. There are other cities who were never under the English and are proud to have always used their Irish names.

We had a couple of hours, warned to be back by ‘half 3,’ Oddly, we arrived in the midst of a triathlon. The main road was blocked off as was the walkway.

A crossing guard waved us over as it was a point that bikers shot by on the way to the final, running stage of the event.

Along the coast most everything was Titanic themed from restaurants, posters for sale, anything nautical was Titanic branded.

Up a hill was the town’s cathedral, a wonderful view of the bay. It was comically windy when we walked the courtyard. I felt like a mime walking against the wind. I nearly was blown over!

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The town was so quaint, lovely. Seemed everyone was out watching the athletes, lining along the metal barricades on the street.

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We passed a statue to a Sonia O’Sullivan, Olympic medalist from Cobh. A couple of rowers from another small village on the island had won silver in the just completed summer games.

Venturing into the visitors center, we followed a line of people for a bit before realizing it was a buffet line, haha. Herd mentality right there because I wasn’t particularly hungry but if presented food, you likely ate. We hopped out of line.

Lots of cool displays, artifacts and even paid tours for more Titanic lore were in the visitor’s center.

This port is also where the Irish, English criminals that were sentenced to live in Australia shipped out as well as the ships bound for Amerikay.

I too felt the lure of the sea here. Doesn’t it sound grand, hop a ship to a far distant land, warmer climates, too. Sadly not many options on the island for a lot of people so they placed their bets on distant shores.

It’s one thing to send your kids off to college, now image shipping them out on a boat, alone, to start over somewhere else, likely  you’d never see them again. Wow.

Once back on the bus, to my surprise, our driver asked where everyone wanted to go next, we were due to go to another castle, but it was threatening rain.

Most wanted to go to Jameson, some felt they were done and wanted to head home.

“We’ll drop those off at Jameson, then I’ll run ye to Cahrk, then back to Jameson, that’s the plan.’ he decided.

It can rain at the drop of a hat in Ireland, bring a raincoat when you go.

Still raining as we pulled into Midelton, a tiny village that was home to Jameson Distillery.

We got out and raced down the road to the distillery, rain pelting us the whole route. Our tour was in about 45 minutes, so I figured we may as well have a leisurely beverage.

Tour includes 1 beverage, just a taste, not like some breweries that give out unlimited samples.

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Jameson and ginger ale or ginger beer is fantastic! Also lime and water is a good mixer.

In the large merchandise room, I saw one could buy a full personalized barrel as well as a machine that not only let you fill up a bottle but engraved it with your information, too. As you can image, both are expensive.

Our tour began and we got through a couple old barns and things before it poured rain, sheets of rain fell so we had to make a couple of dashes for shelter. On these occasions we all gathered at the opening whilst our guide pointed to the outside attractions.

As a beer drinker, I was fascinated by the process of making liquor vs beer. They actually did make beer before it became whiskey.

Whiskey began as a strong 12% beer but then they heated it further, taking the evaporated alcohol out of the beer.

Made me wonder what Jameson beer tasted like, it may very well had been horrible and only good for distilling.

It took years to age whiskey in barrels, and what we drink is several different years blended together.  Barrels that are deemed worthy are set aside for advanced aging.

They even worked with a brewery trading beer barrels for whiskey barrels taking turns coaxing flavors out of the barrel wood. They had a room just for experimenting with newer methods, grains, hops.

We finally arrived at the tasting room where we had fresh whiskey, 1-year-old and finished whiskeys. The fresh stuff is a bit harsh, like moonshine, it is clear colored too getting its brownish hue from the wood.

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This wheel used to turn the grain smasher for over a century. It still spins though no longer breaks the grains up.

 

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A worm tub turns vapor back to liquid. Worm refers to the coiled heating elements needed for this process.

Once the tour concluded, we had maybe 10 minutes before our bus was due. Slamming a beverage is not fun. Good call on pre-tour beverage.

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Again we had to make a run in the rain to the bus. What a day, we somehow got good weather when we needed it outside and it rained when we were indoors.

Our bus seemed to follow the rain back to Cork yet it cleared up once we saw the big ships at the docks at the entrance of the city.

We were both tired and a bit hungry. Rain was threatening again so we dipped inside a burger joint. It was a modern one, exposed pipes, elegant lighting, fries served in cones.

But they had beer and burgers, both much-needed. We talked about other options in the city as we had 1 more day before we left for Killarney.

I watched the pouring rain from the window and was thankful I was in a warm place, with good food and my mom was there, too.

We were able to discuss many things since we had so much time together. I’d ask about her trips growing up as well as trips we took as a family.

She told me of the long car rides her family took. They left as soon as her dad was off work Thursday, returning in time for him to work Monday afternoon.

They drove 7 hrs one way, only stopping at a place just before the Oklahoma border for coffee. They did this trip often, at least 1x month.

I am still not sure how we were able to take a long trip to Yellow Stone when I was younger. Without the internet we were able to secure lodging in several places!

I kept asking, ‘Did you call them, write them? How did you get their contact info? Did we have to go to a library to get that info?’

Due to our early morning, I only had 1 pint in the hotel bar before calling it a night.

The rain softly tapping a soothing pattern on the windows lulls us to sleep.

 

Beer: Rebel Red

Song: Ash   Girl from Mars

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Dream trip Day 111 Irish wedding party, bus to Cork, Irish BBQ

An early bedtime makes for an early rise. Time for breakfast.

Our room came with 1 meal at the pub. They didn’t have a very extensive menu so once again, Irish fry up it was. A sturdy way to start the day.

I think my mom was able to order scones here which precipitated a discussion on pronunciation. It seems quite regional as to whether one says scOHn or scOWN.

How ever you say it, with a smear of butter and some jelly, they were good eating!

A couple of the tables were full of people, a wedding was happening soon. Of course they were already drinking.

The wedding may have been rescheduled from the day before due to the rain.

We made a bit of small talk with some of the party. Soon it was photo time.

One of the ladies asked us to join their group for the photo. We were the only other ones in the pub so why not.

‘Sorry we are so loud, we’ve ‘ad a bit of drink.’ she explained. They were a nice group and we wished them a good day and happy wedding.

According to Eriann, they had a 2 buses daily from Kilkenny to Cork, about a 3 hour trip.

The only problem for us was they don’t put up a bus stop sign indicating the area the bus will arrive, the arrow on my map was off the main road near a mall.

It was quite maddening situation, the bus would block a lane of traffic if it were to stop where indicated, I guess that is how they do things here.

We hung around the general areas for a while hoping to see a bus. We saw a couple of buses pass by,  none stopping.

Finally a bus did stop right where the map said it would, traffic, what little there was, merely went around the bus.

Another difference over here was the fact that the driver could sell you tickets, cash or card with cash being king for most of the Irish.

We settled in and once we were out-of-town, it began to rain. Perfect timing, we had thought to hang around Kilkenny, see the castle but that wouldn’t have been possible in the rain.

Buses overseas do have free but extremely spotty WiFi so I was able to write a bit and watch a TV show. It seems pretty easy to me to figure out how to get internet island wide.

At least Europe, UK had figured out that using 1 cell technology made things a lot easier for customers and presumable cell companies since they could share towers and building expenses.

The rain had subsided upon arriving to Cork. Our route was alongside a river with huge freight ships waiting their cargo.

Our research indicated there was a tour bus that would show us some sites around Cork as well as a stop in Killarney.

On our way to our hotel, we stopped by the tour bus company to confirm several things about our trip, mainly if we could just leave a bus in a city that wasn’t the end point.

My mom really wanted to go on the Ring of Kerry tour along the western coast. The best way or rather the way to do the tour in 1 day is to start in Killarney.

Also on her list, Blarney Castle, just outside of town. On my list was the real Jameson Distillery, also outside of Cork.

The guy at the tour bus office was very nice and answered all our questions and concerns. He agreed with our assessment that staying in Killarney was best option.

We’d be seeing him in a few hours as with any bus tour, early morning is the time they depart to maximize the sunlight.

Our hotel was very nice, it even had a waterfall near the outside patio. Inside it had a small elevator that I had to take my backpack off to fit inside with my mom.

Still early, we took a walk back to the River Lee, crossing over to the other side.

cork river

We just walked down the street until it ended in a line of shops, currently closing for the day. Nothing opened on this side of the river, it was back over to the north side of town.

Now we were walking down a narrow, one way street our hostel was on, a row of shops separated us from the river road. A surprising amount of traffic on this road too.

Tee buildings were very cool around here,  doors between businesses as people lived above the ground level shops. Some of the buildings had 4-5 stories of rooms above them. How cool to be able to walk out your front door to a coffee spot or food option steps away?

Feeling a bit hungry we stopped into the most unlikely place for a couple of Texans in Ireland, a BBQ joint. White Rabbit BBQ, no rabbit on the menu.

Happy to report it was good Q. Tasty sides too, they got cornbread game. There are literally as many different styles of this type of meat cooking as there are US states , so I feel it is hard to say which is truly the best kind.

Texas is mostly beef, sausage, not too sauce-y either. There are good things about both sauce and no sauce. Just roll with it, enjoy where you are and have a taste of how they eat there. Foodcation, haha.

What was interesting about this spot was it fast became more of a bar as the night wore on. Trays of food and beers passed by frequently. The sound of the room grew louder as the tables filled up.

Back to the hotel bar, I had a couple pints talking with my mom. We had an early bus call tomorrow, 8am which meant we had to get up early in order to get breakfast.

Tomorrow on to Blarney!

Beer:  Beamish

Song: Sinéad O’Conner + the Chieftains  The Foggy Dew

Dream trip Day 110 bus to Kilkenny, rain, Billy’s Byrne’s

We woke up and sat outside on the small outdoor patio of our apartment for a few moments, watching the workers driving to work, shopkeepers opening the metal grates over their windows.

Our plan was to walk east to the bus rail station, buy a ticket to Kilkenney. No reason to really go to Kilkinney other than I’d had a beer named after the city as well as it being on the road to Cork.

Walking a couple blocks yielded what we thought was just a bakery. There were shelves of baked goods in the entry room, visible from the road, but further back, it opened up into a serve yourself buffet.

Tray after tray of eggs (poached even!), sausages, basically a fry up deconstructed and you were left to assemble it yourself.

I finally saw porridge but I elected to skip the mushy bowl o’ oats and instead savor blood sausage.

My mom elected to get Irish breakfast tea, which I’d seen her drink many times. It made me smile that she was in Ireland drinking this tea with me.

Following the river, we arrived to the bus station. Again, no matter if the conductor points towards a track, gives you the departure time, I methodically confirmed this several times. Look at the ticket, terminal #, bus name…still accurate.

Ireland is very green and rocky. It was gorgeous and surprisingly flat, not too many rolling hills or mountains.

It rained off and on during our trip, I sure hoped for a dry arrival.

We arrived to a small depot direct from a movie. It was a small, shed like structure,

I had the thought that since we were there to get our next day’s ticket to Cork, but I didn’t see a ticket agent, guess it was after hours or maybe they just relied more on internet sales these days.

It was lightly drizzling as we exited the depot, we hadn’t booked a room yet as we followed my travel style of just finding a place to stay upon arrival.

This was a horrible idea in hard rain, we ran down the main street of the city, stopping in a couple of places that advertised rooms, all full.

We arrived at what was an upscale hotel chain with a couple very pretty ladies behind the counter. They too were booked solid, yet one of them took up our cause.

‘Just let me ring a couple of places, luv, I’ll be back with ya,’ she said with a big smile.

Only 2 phone calls and we had a spot! As if it were a sign, the rain let up as soon as we exited the hotel, offering our sincere thanks as we left. She’d found one of the best places we’d stay on our tour of Ireland.

I’m pretty sure my mom took down her name to send a thank you to the corp office letting them know what a great worker they had at their Kilkenny location. If there is one thing I know, writing letters and thank you cards is what my mom does.

To my shock, it was a pub, Billy Byrnes, but they had ‘rooms in the back.’

The place had a very cool vibe to it, almost out of an old Western, though clearly we were in a small town in Ireland.

We were greeted by the absolutely most beautiful lady I’d seen. Long curly black hair was tied off via scruncy, the bit of hair past her neck poofed out a bit.

She was wearing yoga pants and without getting too creepy, she clearly was fit and had to have yoga’ed and any other activity to chisel her frame into near perfect form.

Of course this lady’s accent was thick and sexy, like buttery syrup. I did what I could to not stare as well as make some sort of joke.

If ever I encounter a pretty lady, the realist side of me says just make her laugh, don’t try to hit on her or anything, share a laugh, that’s always a win.

Happy to report I succeeded in making the lass laugh, mission accomplished.

After stowing our things and watching the still hard rain for a while, we had laid out a plan of action to Blarney, Cork and beyond.

Still early, we headed out looking for a dinner spot as well as to see this wonderful city.

If there is an Irish equivalent to Norman Rockwall, this would be one of the town’s he would likely have painted. It just felt like everything great about Ireland.

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We paused for several pictures once we arrived to a bridge over the River Nore.

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There was, of course, a castle, because that’s just a thing over here no matter the size of the town. Or should it be towne?

 

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We located an Italian restaurant a short walk from the bridge. It smelled great, like fresh-baked bread.

I had forgotten how close we were to the sea, seafood pasta would have been great here.

Alas, I was still in land lock mode and opted for pasta with meatballs. My mom ordered a fish with pasta dish, the fish served on a wooden board.

She won tonight’s meal battle for best dish by far. Whenever I go out to eat, I strive to order the most appetizing looking food at the table. It keeps things interesting.

We ended the evening at our pub’s hotel. It looks like we’d just missed a show, singer songwriter guy.

This place seemed perfect to see an ethereal lady singing. In fact, this place seemed like a destination for a lot of locals ready to have a pint, a laugh and a show.

It had been a wet but fun day. We were tired and needed to rest up.

Cork tomorrow!

 

Beer: Costellos  The Red

Song:  Clannad   Theme from Harry’s Game

Dream trip Day 109 Guinness for breakfast, library tour, Dublin College tour

We were staying in a great 2 bedroom Airbnb. Sometimes these places have a full fridge as well as cupboard but not this one. We were in search of breakfast.

According to my map app the place I’d been before served breakfast so off to Slattery’s we went.

We sat do wn at a different side of the bar than I sat in previously, I noticed signs: Anthony Bourdain say this is the best Irish breakfast in Dublin!

What luck! I quite enjoyed Bourdain’s writing (his fiction books are pretty great too) and to this point, I hadn’t eaten at one of his recommendations.

The menu was sparse to say the least, which is likely why they made a great fry up. No reason to make 10 plates that are ok if you can make 1 amazing plate.

It was pretty great breakfast! Bourdain was right and the place wasn’t so full that it was an adventure just finding a table or long cook time.

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After getting up and walking to the restroom, I noticed that everyone was having a Guinness with their breakfast. It was just after 10am.

Why not, I am on vacation and I am not driving today! Much to my mom’s chagrin, I ordered a pint. Twas good!

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My mom really wanted to see the Book of Kells which is housed at Dublin College. The book is a very old, ornately decorated early translation of the bible.  I had no idea it existed so I was intrigued.

It wasn’t too long of walk over to Trinity College. We popped into line and bought tickets for the tour.

We had an interesting walk and talk through some of the grounds. One of the memorable stories involved the old dorms, built separately from the showers. This meant students had to make a run to and from the showers.

Now the tour ended and we headed over to the line for Book of Kells tour. Our guide stopped us and said we’d only bought the college tour. Wait the tour all ready cost over 10€ which we incorrectly presumed everything.

Dejected we sauntered off away from the university. I hoped the overpriced tours paid for some rural kid’s tuition. Maybe the book tour through the huge library is cooler.

We were right next to Dublin Castle so we strolled through the grounds. Most of the castle is off-limits, need those tour €!

Soon we stumbled on a huge library and decided to check it out. This was a free library, essentially a citizen’s collection of artifacts.

What was more remarkable wasn’t the size of the collection, it was the variety. Several countries and time periods were represented in several large rooms.

This guy had to have bought most anything he ever came across that was for sale on his travels. I do recommend the Chester Beatty Library worth the hour or longer stroll.

courtyard

 

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Not knowing where else to go, I knew that St. Stephen’s Green was close, there were a lot of directional signs which made finding it easier.

As luck would have it, this was the best place to be during a pop up rain shower. The path was very well covered with trees. We watched the light rain fall on an open field.

We sat at a circle of benches in one of the park’s 4 corners. We talked a lot, sometimes commenting on the passers-by. Lots of important people wearing suits, their jackets flung over a shoulder model style.

Several ladies in nice dresses sat to have a smoke and chat or have a salad dinner.

Many runners whizzed by. It was near dusk, time to walk back while it was still light out.

We got close to the Spire when it really began to rain. Hard rain drove us to fast walk until we were under an awning of a clothier.

We passed by a restaurant, a carvery actually as they are know overseas so we stepped in. It was very long, cavernous place. The front part was mainly bar patrons, the eating tables were more towards the back.

There was 1 guy behind a glass partition, very much like the buffets I went to back home.

He shoveled huge portions of mashed potatoes, roast meats and mounds of fries from out of an assortment of metal trays in front of him.

We were wet from the rain and this food was very warm, very filling in more ways than one.

Mary St is a cool street to walk down as it has many shops, stores and places you can pick up some touristy trinkets.

My mom was tired, we did walk a long ways so she retired to our room. I wanted a pint before bed so off to the Black Sheep I went.

I didn’t realize it but the place was actually closed for a private event. Maybe not closed but 1 family occupied most of the chairs in the pub.

The bartender from last night, he had quite a nice mustache, waved me over. ‘The party is dying down, we aren’t too busy. What do you want to drink?’

I had a couple pints and attempted to mingle in the wedding party, or maybe it was an engagement party, I wasn’t sure, they were elegantly dressed, a notch above formal.

It rained off and on while I was in the pub. I was able to watch the street from a window, pulling a chair up so I could chill.

Soon the bartender waved me over, they were closing up early since there were only a handful of people there that weren’t a part of the party.

It had been a great day in Dublin despite the rain.

Tomorrow it was on to Kilkenny!

Beer: Cousin Rosie’s Pale Ale

Song: Pogues  Dirty Old Town

Dream trip Day 108 Mom joins, Guinness Brewery, the Black Sheep

I was in Dublin for 1 specific reason, to meet my mom! She had wanted to see Ireland forever, but our family couldn’t ever settle on taking a family trip there.

Once I began my dream trip, we corresponded. She mentioned maybe meeting in Ireland and I agreed. I hadn’t planned on seeing the country but then again, I hadn’t planned on seeing most of the places I went.

Take a moment, pause, call your mom, tell her you love her. If you cannot do that think about your happiest moment with your mom. Mom’s do so much for you and we, well I, probably don’t tell them how much I care, how often I think about them.

In my life I’d gone from not being able to sleep at a friend’s house across the street to flying to Europe and visiting places that made communication difficult, far far away from my mom.

I was fairly excited by the prospect of helping my mom fulfill a life goal. Our deal was she had a list of several places, cities she wanted to see. My job was to figure out how to get to these places via bus, rail or other means of transportation.

What was the most surprising was my mom adapted to my minimal travel, arriving with only a backpack, just like me. It was a lot bigger backpack but still, having seen many ladies on my trip with comedic quantities of luggage as well as the 1 piece of rolling luggage that was 2-3x as big as the lady carrying it, this was quite minimal.

It is a lot harder being a lady, all the clothes, garments, shoes and things that men, society expect women to have is astounding. I didn’t ever feel under dressed despite having basically parachute pants that zipped off at the knees illustrated the level of expectations between men and women’s fashion.

We met at the Spire and hugged! She did it, she had made it! Now what to do?!

Always good idea to lighten your load and drop luggage off where you’re staying.

To my shock our place was on top of a pub, the Black Sheep. I’d passed by it and made a note to check it out. Now I had my evenings planned, just go downstairs!

My mom was quite accommodating as she doesn’t drink alcohol but was ok with me taking her to the most special of breweries, Guinness!

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This was one of the better brewery tours I’ve been on I have to say. In many ways, Guinness and Dublin are one in the same, at least that is what the tour infers.

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I love the idea that at one time beer, wine, most liquids were shipped and stored in wooden barrels.

 

dublin view

For sure the Guinness Brewery is one of the tallest buildings in Dublin affording one a stunning 360° view of the city, provided it isn’t an overcast day.

At the end of the tour is a bar with free Guinness.

There is a process to pour a Guinness as it is very thick and can easily get heady. Begin pouring with the glass at an angle until it is a bit past half full, let rest for at least a minute. No matter how long the line is, you do not pour faster, they’d just line up pints on the bar to settle.

Once a pint was ready, then it would get filled up and have about a priest’s collar thickness of white head. A keen system that always worked, I don’t think I ever saw a pint poured straight through. I also didn’t hear anyone complain about how long it was taking for a pint. You waited for that pint.

It is also so far the only place I’ve seen their Dublin Porter on draught. The Guinness you think of is a stout.

The difference between a stout and a porter boils down, literally, to malts. They are both thicker beers than most people are used to in the US. Both styles, to me, are only drinkable when it is cool or cold out.

I don’t know too many people who would reach for a creamy stout in 100° Texas heat. But in the cool, Irish environment, nothing’s better.

We wandered all over the River area near the brewery until it was clear we weren’t going to stumble upon anything cool.

Heading back into town, we stop into a pub to eat and discuss our strategy for the trip. It was a very nice spot, The Quays, though we were in search of a music pub.

There did seem to be much more of a focus on live music in Dublin than in previous places I’d been. Not so much for the digital playlists here.

Consulting a map, she listed the must visit cities and sights. Using my apps, I located the National Bus of Ireland, Bus Eireann.

The crazy fact is that you could bus from Dublin to the Cliffs of Mohr and back same day as it is only a 2 hour trip 1 way, coast to coast!

There was a place south, Wexford, that made crystal glassware she wanted to see. Cork was on the list, a whale watch to the south, Cliffs of Mohr, were all on the list.

I was excited to just be here! I hadn’t planned on visiting the island so I didn’t get to do much research on what to do, see. It was all new to me anyway. Plus it is cool to hang out with your parents.

Our destination discussion continued as we walked through the city back to our place where we connected to WiFi and did some real planning for the next few days.

I like to look at a map and decide on a location, then see if anything is along the way there, try to break up the trips into 2-3 hour bus rides if possible. I just couldn’t see it being fun hoping a bus around 7am, drive to the west coast and then back around 7pm.

Our plan was set to check out Dublin College and Book of Kels tomorrow as well as Dublin Castle. I’d never heard of this book before so I was in for some learning.

We are all into different things, so I think it is very cool to check out what others are into, especially your parents. Hey they put up with you when you were a screaming kid, so walk with them, go on an adventure.

Around 10pm I headed downstairs to have a pint at The Black Sheep.

So far this is the only place I can think of that didn’t have a Guinness on tap in Dublin.

As I was the only one at the bar I was able to talk to them about some beers they liked and so they suggested another stout they felt was better than Guinness.

‘Quite literally you can get Guinness everywhere in this town and it is a great beer. We are just a place for people who may want to drink something else occasionally.’ the bartender explained.

He gave me a Galway Bay Brewery stout that was similar to Guinness. It was good and besides, I’d already had my daily Guinness. Time to try something new!

It wasn’t very busy at the bar so I was able to talk to a couple of bartenders about the Irish independent brewery scene. Sadly, it was about the same story as in the US.

Beer and liquor distributors controlled everything in Europe too. Another trend were pubs that looked old and authentic but were actually chains were buying up historic pubs across the country.

It was similar to the Wal Mart effect whereby the pub chain would come in, charge lower prices as well as carrying a couple good beers. Once the family pub closed, up went the prices, out went the independent beers.

Pretty much things had come full circle in that if you were a brewery that wanted to sell beers, you also had to open and run your own pub to sell your beer. This was why BrewDog had so many pubs across Europe, it was the best way to guarantee freshness.

You see whoever controls the distribution and/or warehouses controlled the industry. You piss off one of these entities, well maybe your beer doesn’t get refrigerated or maybe it doesn’t get delivered regularly, but hey, we have this fine similar beer made by huge beer company and we are never out.

The free market is hardly free don’t you see. Most things are manipulated in a couple of companies favor.

All night, we talked beer and they would slide a sample my way. I got quite an education on the emerging brew scene on the islands.

 

Song: Rollerskate Skinney   Speed to my Side

Beer: Buried at Sea

Dream trip Day 107 River Liffey stroll, Beckett Bridge, country music discussion

The room I was sharing at the hostel had a large window that overlooked the back courtyard, a very nice view. The window also faced east so the room filled with each morning, thus I was always up by 9am.

No worries from me though, I just roll with it. A few moments of research yielded another cool breakfast spot a block away.

Aside from its proximity, I chose Bleeker Street Cafe due totally to it’s name, which it shares with a street in NYC where CBGB’s was located, plus a lot of folkies lived on the block too.

There is a Simon & Garfunkle song about the street as well. Love me some S&G!

It was a fine place, cute gal behind the counter, nice coffee too. I went full Irish breakfast and was not disappointed.

At this spot was my first time seeing someone order a beer before 11am. What is odd is mimosas are huge in the States, brunch in general really, just not early beer.

Drinking is still a bit taboo before noon in the US, but not so much here it seems. For sure at this point of my trip, I felt quite all right with my level of drinking. It wasn’t close to what people drank in other countries, far less.

It was a muggy, overcast day so I decided to stroll along the River Liffey, try to get some cool pics. I also noticed in Europe, it was River XXX whereas in TX it was Rio Grande River.

liffey

This was moments after the tram passed over the river. Missed it by a couple of seconds.

 

tower

The history of Dublin on an under construction building. Brilliant cover up!

beckett

This is the Samuel Beckett Bridge, a modern construct named after the playwriter who was born in Dublin tho he lived and wrote in Paris…in French no less!

ship

I thought this was a real wooden ship but it is a replica of the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship which sailed the seas to the New World, the world of opportunity, America!

It was such a grey overcast day, always threatening rain, I just wanted to hang out somewhere instead of walking.

I headed back towards my side of town, this time turning left at the Spire, I hadn’t seen this side of the city yet.

It was an avenue of shops, eateries and the odd bar now and again. There was a church that had been converted into a club! It had a very cool glass encased staircase out front.

Seemed more like a heavy bass dance club however, not for me.

I saw a cool spot just as drops of rain hit my head. Slattery’s will do!

A fine old pub. I selected a chair at the bar and ordered a pint. My goal in Ireland was to have at least 1 pint of Guinness per day. Check!

A guy elbows me, ‘You from America or are ye English?’ he was already slurring and it was only a bit past 3 in the afternoon.

We talked for a bit and he revealed he loved, loved country music. He was rattling off names, but stopped at John Denver.

Well he didn’t really stop so much as pause to fully canonized him. ‘The best fooking songwriter of them all!’

Now I grew up listening to Denver and he is great, but the best, no. I tossed out Dylan and Hank Williams names to gauge his reaction. Nope, Denver!

The fact that there wouldn’t be a Denver without Hank, much less Dylan seemed lost on this guy. His arguments grew louder and louder.

For some reason they let him by us a round. We clinked pints and left the music discussion for later. I diverted him by asking what he recommended I see or do whilst in Dublin.

He didn’t quite make it through his pint before calling for another. This time they told him his day was over. Well at least there it was, I suspected he had a couple of spots he went to quench his thirst.

I tried talking to the as always cute bartendress but it was shift change time. She had better things to do than talk to a tourist.

I finished my pint, it was past dinner time now, time to move on.

After walking around for a while passing many small pubs, I ventured into a place called The Library, seemed cool enough.

This place was deceivingly large. I was in the very dive-y front section where there were TV’s. Nothing remarkable so I kept walking.

When I went to find the restroom, I learned how cavernous this place was. It opened up into a huge outdoor area. To one side were several pool tables, the other tables had TV’s around them as well as a wall used to project a footy match.

The restroom was huge, a pee on the wall with trough on the floor type situation.

I found  an area to hang out it, no seats available so I too stared at the big match even though I had no dog in the fight.

My gaze was soon dominated by a group of ladies, all dressed in 80’s streetware, askew ballcaps, tracksuits (1 leg rolled up at to the knee!), white sneakers, guy style crew haircut that were high and tight.

They took an incredible amount of shots throughout the evening, getting more and more handsy with each other with each drink.

These drunk ladies were way more entertaining than any game. They actually whistled whenever a cute girl walked by, or would doff their hat and try for conversation.

I want to say they had some sort of workout discussion because  at one point they took turns lifting up their shirts. These ladies were also deceptively fit, very much in shape though you wouldn’t know it from their baggy shirts.

They also fancied Calvin Klein boxer brief undergarments, which is always a very sexy choice for ladies.

I tried talking to a few people throughout the evening, most were more concerned about the pool game or the match on TV.

After a couple pints the time grew late and I headed back to the hostel.

Song: the Swell Season    Low Rising

Beer: Cute Hoor Irish Pale

Dream trip Day 106 St. Steven’s Green, Phil Lynott and Shepard’s pie

Woke up to an empty room. Didn’t realize the showers here were gym style, a row of shower heads in a room for the guys.

This hostel did not have a meal option that didn’t come out of a vending machine, so I searched via phone maps for good breakfast places near and located a tiny cafe about a block away.

I don’t know how I was so lucky with my picks were but this was such a homey feeling small place. I mean the lady behind the counter didn’t greet me so much as she procured a cup and asked me if was tea or coffee time.

Make mine coffee. I don’t think I ever did get tea with milk on my trip though I should’ve.

She brought my coffee with the newspaper, ‘just the parts I’ve read !’ she cackled. ‘and don’t go filling out the crosswords, lad. That’s my afternoon!’

I got eggs in basket, fried egg in the middle of toast. A nice light breakfast.

Several locals came in, she knew them not only by name, but what they usually ordered.

As far as I could tell, it was 1 women doing everything, greeting guests, filling up coffee, tea and cooking mainly egg meals.

An older guy came in and promptly greeted everyone ‘good marn-ing’ with a wave!

It was a glimpse of what I enjoy stumbling upon while traveling, just a normal day at the breakfast spot. Nothing contrived, or an artificial show for tourists, all real people going about their day and I was just a part of it.

I thanked the lady behind the counter for the lovely meal and breakfast experience.

Out into the street, currently under major construction. I think they were putting in rail lines for a tram.

Cross the bridge over to the Temple District, the heart of tourist town. There is a busy bar here I don’t recommend you go to as the price of a pint changes based on how busy they are and it is pretty busy most of the time. Plenty of places to get a proper pint but whatever you like, you should do.

It was a bit warm out so I popped into an old, oaken pub, many a stuffed animal head with antlers adorned the walls. This was appropriate as it was named The Stag’s Head.

Selecting a spot at the bar, I saw there were a couple of partitioned booths at the far end.

They resembled private booths so they could still order but didn’t have to get up from their spot at the end of the bar.

The bar was tended by a female w long curly blonde hair who told me about these things they called a snuggary.

Back in the day it wasn’t proper for men to be seen in public with women who weren’t their wives much less women drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Perish the thought, those aren’t lady like activities.

Sometimes this meant just gender segregation, ladies had to sit unseen behind the partition while the men drank in the pub.

Other times this may mean a couple who are not married to each other but are married may hang out but again, be unseen.

I presume it was mainly along gender lines though, yet now there was a female behind the bar and the sky had not fallen nor had the island slid into the ocean.

 

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The statue was the singer of a great band from Dublin, Thin Lizzy. I knew he was from the city but didn’t know he was statue worthy to others. I was happy to stumble on it.

A few more blocks and I was in a huge green space, St. Stephen’s Green. I do love big city parks and this was one of the best on my trip.

There are a lot of signs all around the park with info about various events that have occurred during the park’s history starting out as a private space for the wealthy, being occupied by insurgents during the 1919 Easter Uprising to a conversion to a tent hospital space during other conflicts.

Once in the park, I came across several large, 2 sided displays with text written by an Irish historian.

The pictures showed places on the island affected by the war as well as stories about Irish exploits in other battlefronts. Only 1 Irish county didn’t suffer casualties during the war.

I thought I knew about the effects of WWII but seeing these changes in person, the physical change in geography due to bombing, was all too real on this trip.

The US may have sacrificed lives, but most of Europe was physically changed, geographically, politically, socially changed by the horror of war.

I lingered reading each photo, learning some of the history of the Irish in WWII.

Nearly on cue, I heard a loud voice. Across a stream a tour guide in full military fatigues was leading a group.

It isn’t too hard to overhear these tours, some of which require money. Since this guy was dressed up, I guessed this tour wasn’t free.

He was also talking about the park’s military history which sadly had seen a couple of world wars as well as a civil war.

Following a path, I circled the whole park a couple of times, walking around it in both directions.

Benches were full of businessmen munching their lunch, university kids talking in a circle, musicians practicing. It is a truly wonderful park, a must visit in Dublin.

I headed north and walked through Trinity College, though uni wasn’t in session at the moment so the fields were empty.

The hunt had begun for a Shepard’s pie, the real version. To me it was the acceptable, adult version of pot pie, which I ate my fair share of growing up.

It was a long walk from the College past my hostel to get to Kavanaghs, but it turned out great! A small restaurant/pub with many local reviewers stating this was one of the best pies in all the city.

I found a table and surveyed the scene. Most people were eating and watching a football match on  TV.

There was 1 guy who waited on the entire floor, dude had probably 15-ish tables, yet he kept circling, grabbing empty glasses, delivering food and still had time to linger for a joke or 2 at a couple of tables.

The table just across from me had some twats seated. I say this because they were arguing about who could eat the most chips, fries. Saying you can eat the most of anything is pretty pathetic if you ask me.

They were young however and having silly contests is just part of that age I reckon. Great! You can eat 2 full plates of fries and gravy, high 5!

The pie here was served with chips, hell every dish I saw came with a side of chips.

Normally this is ok, but the key to Shepard’s pie is the mashed potato lid that turns into sort of a baked, mashed potato thing. It is the savory equivalent of crème brûlée, you have to pierce the tater lid!

It was a potato overload is all. The sole vegetable in this dish were peas. Real meat and potato meal right here.

I’d also had my share of spuds on this trip by this point too. Still this was one of the best Shepard pies I have eaten.

After finishing my meal I decided on 1 more pint to see if the crowd would pick up. It didn’t other than a group of doctors, nurses who took over the bar area.

There was a hospital across the street so that accounted for their presence. I always enjoy the contradictory scene of medical personnel in their work scrubs pounding shots and beers. Do as I say, not as I do, that sort of thing.

Still early, I set off in the hunt for music, any singer songwriter will do. Maybe someone from one of the bands I like will be playing their local pub gig, who knows?

I walked back to the river area and hear a guy singing from out of an open pub door. I ventured in and it felt and looked like someone’s living room.

He was set up in front of a brick fireplace using 1 amp and mic. A narrow walkway between wooden tables, chairs and booths lead to a backroom, then outside smoker’s patio. Even the ceiling here was wooden.

They had beer on tap so I got one and sat in a back room where I could still hear the music. All the seats were full in the ‘living room.’

The singer lead the group in several local tunes I’d never heard but everyone else sang along. When he tried to sing the standard “Wild Rover” he stopped the song several times.

‘Aye c’mon ya! You all know this one and we will do it fooking properly or not at all. No Nay Never, then 4 claps.’

(Start song again, then stops) ‘You aren’t clapping in time!’

(Begins song again) ‘Still shite but improving! It’s 1-2-3-4 da da da da.’

(plays song again) ‘Aye now you’ve got it!’

On the outside tables were empty liquor bottles, mostly Jameson, that had a candle in the mouth. The wax had coagulated into thick stream down most of the bottles. It was a bit of accidental art.

Once the songs ended I moved outside after getting another pint. The smokers patio had a lot more people than inside.

Across from me sat a couple of lads and a couple of girls. The girls were from Belfast and the lads from England, both groups were on holiday.

They were talking about the Troubles and the whole UK vs Ireland issue, delicately at first, though the ladies did get a bit heated. The guys kept their cool as I presumed they were trying to take these ladies home so they didn’t get out of hand.

“We aren’t our government and neither are you! We get on right? That’s all we can do because we can all try to change things at home, but right now, this is how things are so let’s have a pint, a laugh, you know?” one of the lads said while raising his pint for a toast. Cheers!

I didn’t stick around to see if the lads were able to take these ladies home. I was a bit tired from all the day’s walking so I headed back to the hostel for some much-needed shuteye.

Song:  Thin Lizzy  The Emerald

Beer: O’Hara’s