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…

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.

rainbow

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

river

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 hd 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 meal 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

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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.

slattery

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!

bfest

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!

gate

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.

barrel

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

Dream trip Day 105 Farewell Belfast, train to Dublin, hurling championship

Parting is such sweet sorrow, today was my final day in Belfast. I started out with a final breakfast at the cafe.

What constantly surprised me is places I thought were just for hostel guests, as in they were connected or just inexpensive food, but locals came and ate at the cafe too.

I don’t know, eating at a youth hostel or YMCA equivalent seems odd to me. I can’t place my reason for this opinion to this point, but clearly I was wrong. It was good food.

I never really saw or talked to any of my roommates, and there were a couple groups who passed through. Like passing ships in the night I suppose.

Checking out the train options for some reason I elected to walk to the main station vs. hopping on at the small station close by. I think this had to do with extra cost to some degree, or maybe I just wanted to walk through the city 1 more time.

The walk along the River Langan passes by the main rail station so that was the path I chose, one away from cars and traffic.

I’d just missed a train by about 5 minutes so I had to wait for about an hour for another 1. There weren’t many tracks at this station, maybe 3 I want to say.

Ireland sure is green and pretty. I do enjoy a train ride. Play some tunes and watch the countryside rolling by is nice.

A short ride to Dublin. Nice to have good weather for a change. Well it wasn’t overcast down in Dublin anyway.

For once I took my hostel’s location in relation to the train station, so it was a short walk.

It seemed to be about writers here as I walked on James Joyce Street to my hostel.

Check-in was a breeze and I was soon greeted by a guy and a gal laying on their bunks in the room. The girl was just as pretty as the guy was creepy. I mean dude turned out to be a step away from only wearing a long raincoat.

We chatted a bit about where we were from. The guy was Austrian, shaggy greasy dirty blonde haired guy who would just fire odd questions at you for a few moments before saying, ‘I must go smoke,” then leave for a bit, return as if nothing happened and resumed talking.

The girl related she was just beginning her trip through the island and through the UK.

I bade them a goodnight and headed out to see what was good in Dublin. 1st order of business was to get a Guinness, brewed right here.

A main street close to the hostel was severely under construction. I noted about 3 tough looking pubs on this side of the street.

Soon I was walking on O’Connell Street and encountered the Spire. It’s a big spike in the middle of a street, mainly used as a meeting place or orientation spot.

Ah a bridge over the River Liffey, I paused on the bridge to watch a ship pass under.

Wow, Dublin was beautiful, very cool city already and I just arrived. Continuing on the path I begin to keep an eye out for a cool pub.

I found one, a couple seats at the bar, right near the tap. I could watch the bartender pour Guinness, maybe learn a proper pouring technique.

Probably in my head but the Guinness here was very good, creamy malty. Different than I can remember even compared to Belfast.

The place was full of people, eyes tuned to TV’s with a sport I’ve never seen before. It looks like rugby but with sticks. Ah because rugby clearly isn’t violent enough, let’s give them a weapon too.

These guys were charging at each other full speed, trying to knock the ball holder down to get the ball back. Slashing their sticks while they ran.

I was watching the all Ireland hurling championships and by the sound of things, a lot of people here were well invested in the game.

There is always lots of singing, chanting at oversea events, made me wish we had something similar for baseball games in the US. Makes games much more of a group experience.

I decided to finish out the match here before heading out. 1 more perfectly poured pint of Guinness my good man!

Pint after pint, all Guinness, all night, my goodness! Tray after tray kept going out.

A huge cheer, Tipperary were the winners! A victory song was sung.

I give a nod to the bartender while saying thank you and back on the streets I went.

A bit hungry for some more fun or more like it I was just physically hungry.

There was a corner spot called Doyle’s that looked perfect. Fairly small place with not many seats, but there were some around the bar so I took a seat and scanned the taps.

They had it, Tubög! A beer I’d had a lot when I was in Copenhagen a couple years ago.

I’ve not seen it since, but the reality is it isn’t a great beer, just a good memory in a pint.

A guy sitting next to me commented on the beer, ‘that’s where I am from! Why do you like it?’ he asked.

I told him about my Copenhagen trip and we traded some info about the city as I’d only seen a small portion of it. He had grown up there but was now seemed to always be traveling for business. I think he was a banker.

He knew a lot about Dublin and filled me in pretty well whilst I enjoyed a burger, he just drank, like a machine, beer after beer.

“See Dublin College, don’t go to Jameson tour, Guinness is good,  get an Irish fry up at least once, it is my favorite thing to eat in Dublin. So so good!’ he said.

By this point, he had a 3/4ths full pint in front of him.  He chugged the pint, then hit the streets. Time to go.

After another pint for me, it was time for me to leave as well.

Once at the bridge, I paused just staring at the water. I don’t know how long I was out there looking at the water but I found some peace in that water, if only for a moment.

Beer:  Tubög

Song:  My Bloody Valentine   When You Sleep

Dream trip Day 104 Queen’s Court, St. George’s market, salmon of knowledge

Morning in Belfast! I headed down to the hostel’s cafe for breakfast. Just coffee and some fruit. I was heading to a historical market and had planned on eating there.

I read a website called reddit, which has many pages focused on specific interests, including pictures of delicious looking food. I was surfing this website the day before and saw a great looking egg sandwich from… St George’s Market, Belfast!

There is likely a GPS component that saw I was in Belfast and that is why the sandwich appeared in my news feed. All I knew is I had seen many delicious food pics but this was the 1st time I could sample the pictured food!

Despite the drizzling rain, I headed off towards the port. I probably took the long route, but there is a river near and I do like to walk alongside a river.

No boats on the river today, but there was a path for bikers and pedestrians. A lot of cameras up too. I think it was a UK thing to put CCTV recorders over their cities.

These covered markets are all over the UK, Europe. I’d found 1 in Dallas before I moved.

St. George’s Market is full of hopefully local farmer’s offerings. Some cooks, restaurant booths inside used the produce to make you meals. Or sometimes the chef would use beef or lamb from their farms.

 

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Once inside, I was gloriously assaulted on all senses. Lots of things cooking so it smells great. Large paintings, photos and other visual are were the 1st things I saw.

I would later sit and watch the singer/guitarist, but 1st I heard him singing in a thick Irish accent mainly singing US songs. Simon and Garfunkle, Bob Denver, Bob Dylan, folkies.

Some booths had crock pots and would scoop up soups, hummus, and rice dishes to order. Most food stalls were along the walls. More towards the center those stalls had grills or griddles, smoke wafting up to the rafters.

I found the egg sandwich stall and you’d think that I’d have taken a pic, but I didn’t. It was super crowded, I couldn’t find a place to sit or even rest my sandwich.

I had to eat and walk, which is tricky on it’s own, made more so if yolk and beard are involved. It was very delicious, full breakfast of eggs, ham and mayonaise on a bun.

Not sure how many times I walked around the market, but since it was raining, I figured this was the best spot to be in. I seemed to find something new with each pass.

Eventually I was able to find a chair and watch the young singer/guitarist sing covers.

One of the first times I heard Bob Denver played in the UK, but for sure not the last.

At last the rain ended and I hit the streets. I was just walking along the waterfront when I spied a very large fish.

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To me it was just a fish, an art installation. Once I got closer to the Salmon of Knowledge, I discovered tiles, tiles with information about city on them. Check it out it is very cool installation.

Belfast has a swagger in its step, it is very cool, hip looking and feeling city. I dug it.

I was in the cathedral district, near the heart of the city so there was a big cathedral, shopping mall and government buildings to see.

St. Anne’s was unique to me being a part of the Church of Ireland, which is more Anglican than Catholic yet overseen by Episcopalians, I think. Like a lot of things, it isn’t easily explained in Ireland and begs for further research.

Continuing to walk, I passed by the prince Albert Clock. You know that joke about prince Albert in a can just doesn’t work when you’ve not seen a tin of food, other than Spam.

I paused at the city hall building, which is very ornate, Baroque building with a lovely courtyard. Selecting a bench I casually people watched for a while, listening to some tunes.

It took a few hours to make my way back to my part of town due to all the stops I made to check out places or people watch.

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I walked all the way over to Queen’s University, strolling through the green courtyard full of artfully manicured shrubbery.

Getting a bit parched I popped into a pub called the Fly. I guess this would equate to being a sports bar, more jock-ish, full of rowers to borrow UK slang. I had a pint before moving on.

There was more of my style of place closer to my hostel. A nice oak pub for a change, I sat down at the bar with a pint.

My friends I met in France told me you can’t have a conversation with an Irishmen without politics coming up. This indeed was true.

I was joined by a couple of guys who immediately began to talk to me. Sure enough, once it came out I was American, we talked politics.

I told them about my walking tour and they laughed. One of them leaned over and told me,

“What is perfect, so perfect about the bloody English, is in London and other areas, they are against Muslim only schools as of late. So they pass laws saying a school can’t be exclusively 1 religion! (roaring laughter now). So so so yeah, they fucking very well forgot that is exactly how things are here in Belfast! By their own design! Separate Catholic and Protestant schools! Oh yeah we are going to court haha. Explain that one! No Muslim schools in England, Catholic only schools ok in Ireland! Those bastards!”

Now the bartender had a wide grin too. I was getting some 1st hand knowledge. Oh the things you learn over a pint with total strangers.

I stayed talking with these guys for a couple more pints just laughing the time away.

When it was time to say farewell I shook hands and headed out into the night. Cue nearly torrential rain as soon as I crossed the street. Unrelenting, hard pouring rain.

I was drenched, though happy I decided to come back to this side of town vs. staying in the city centre.

Sitting in my now usual seat on a sofa by the window, I took off my hoodie and shook it out as best as I could

Beer: Chieftain IPA

Song: Van Morrison  Moondance (the whole record, listen to it straight through)

 

 

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