Dream trip Day 115 Pat & Mary, Killarney Brewery, pub singing

This was my first bed and breakfast experience on my trip. Basically it is like staying in a hostel except you get your own room. Plus a nice breakfast.

Only 2 options for breakfast here, full Irish fry up or porridge. One of our hosts took orders, lamenting that he’d have to eat porridge again as no one was ordering it!

He was super nice and named Pat stereotypically. A discussion arose between my mom and he as to his egg poaching technique, 2 master chefs discuss strategy!

Haha the trick was he had small plastic bowls that floated in the boiling water, holding the egg’s shape. This made for perfectly shaped poached eggs.

I really cannot express how friendly and genuine the couple that ran this bnb were to us. What was very cool is how he’d volunteer information like ‘stay in today for a few more hours, it will rain.’ or ‘now’s the time to head out if you are going out, should be a dry day.’

As far as I knew we didn’t have much scheduled today. I knew my mom wanted to go shopping for a certain material, wool of some sort.

We had made it about halfway into town when suddenly it poured rain, just sheets coming down. We had to make a break for the awnings, following them for a few blocks until I spied a coffee shop.

You could tell the residents as they always carried a nice umbrella ‘ella ‘ella. If you are able to find a small umbrella, I recommend keeping one in your travel bag. You never know when it will rain but you will love having an umbrella if it does.

Can’t do much in this rain so dry out, have a coffee, enjoy the day, which is what we did.

This was for sure a ladies haunt, only saw women coming in for a cup or pastries to go.

Soon the rain ended as did our coffee’s. Time to go shopping.

There was a large corner store that we popped into. My mom was looking for crystal and wool garment as souvenir’s.

It was Wexford crystal, named after a small town in the southeast part of the island. I cannot recall the type of wool or garment my mom was also hunting for, I was just along for the ride.

Shops typically carried a scroll or other type of historical looking document that detailed the history of Irish family names, suitable for framing.

My mom lingered in the store for a while, piling up items in order to meet the frequently posted sign for ‘free shipping if you bought over 50€.’ She eventually realized the folly of doing this and put things back.

Traveling makes trinket purchases more enticing as you can tell people were you got a shamrock bell or beer glass. I also nearly bought bottle opener, even though I had several.

A bit more rain but certainly walkable, we headed towards my pick for the day, Killarney Brewery. We would just make it in time for the daily tour.

We stepped into a new, shiny brewery. I had a good feeling about this place.

A cheery guy greeted us soon and arranged us in a group of 6 I think it was, less than 10 for sure.

“How’s about a taste, yeah? Best way to start the day!” he exclaimed. He poured us all a light lager to begin with, darker beers to follow.

We introduced ourselves around, a couple from the US and Canada, eh!

Our guide lead us upstairs to a small conference room with a screen on 1 wall, chairs set in front of a projector. An image was already on the screen. No muck ups today.

The brewery had made a hilarious video about the brewery and its top-secret reciepes handed down by their ancestors. I cracked up several times.

It was a pro level quality film with special effects and many location and dress changes.

Once we had learned about their history it was time to taste it!

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We sampled several beers from light lager to a dark stout like Guinness. Suddenly our host grew quiet and whispered to us, ‘do yew want ta taste something special?’ of course we do!

They had made a winter ale that wasn’t available yet but the brewers drank it. It was nice, a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Why I was even able to make a contribution to the beer discussion explaining how hops are introduced to beer at 3 stages during the brewing process.

I volunteered at a brewery and picked up a lot of basics about brewing tho I doubted I could successfully brew anything tasty. Brewing beer is hard and involves a lot, lot of cleaning. Sanitize sanitize sanitize.

It was time for the next tour so we had to leave, no more beer.

We circled back into town for more shopping. My mom was looking for something golf related for my dad, a club top if I recall correctly.

 

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The town still has a horse and carriage waiting area just like taxis. There were probably 5 of them in this area willing to take you to a castle or through the forest close by.

We were very close to the Killarney National Park and would have walked it had the weather held up. As things were, it was on and off rain all day.

Not sure what to do, I suggested we pop in for a pint at a tiny pub. Can’t walk in the rain, not yet supper time.

There was a grandma behind the bar and a guy seated nursing a pint. Another guy was talking all sorts of nonsense but luckily his pint was nearly finished.

“Off with ye, Ned! Shoo shoo” she exclaimed while hand motions like she was fanning flames. This guy was already in the bag, not yet 5pm.

We chatted with the two there for a while, she was 3rd generation pub owner and soon held up a photo of her grandson, “Here’s 5th generation! My son will takeover, if ever I tire of pouring pints. Ha an easy task, he may never takeover!’

The man at the pub had quite a story we put together. He was from Missouri but had lived in Killarney for over 20 years. Came here for a college class and never left.

We didn’t get the whole story as he didn’t seem to have a job, though he told us each year he had to go before a local government official who would determine if he could stay or leave. Usually this was accomplished via some sort of requirement.

Up until recently, he said they just asked him for money, a reasonable sum he assured us. Now he was not only required to pay a bit, but he also had to buy into Ireland’s health insurance scheme.

The word scheme has negative connotations to me as I associate it with how can 1 person put something over on a group of people. Does seem fitting that over here it is used to describe government initiatives.

They do have island wide heath care though it seems in rural cities, they have a general doctor and work out payments in cash trade, no need for paperwork.

If only those in power in the US would realize it is better to spend tax money on people vs a new ship or plane.

We were soon joined by some people from Florida, a couple and their friend. They immediately bought everyone another round.

My mom was drinking a special Irish coffee the grandma made with heavy cream. All the best receipts use rich ingredients because they were making treats, things you’d have 1 or 2x per month. Now we have them weekly or daily.

Having never been to Florida, I learned the west coast was best, stay out of the north and Miami is a must visit city.

We were watching some sort of horse chariot race on the telly. The camera panned to the crowd.  Suddenly, ‘Oh who is that he’s with now? Oh my I’ve got to ring Sharon! Oh dear hahaha,’ exclaimed the grandma. Straight out of a show you’d see on the BBC.

Sure enough the phone was engaged and calls were made. It was a hoot watching the gossip mill in action.

Perfect people to run into on a dreary day.

 

Having only eaten breakfast, we determined we were hungry. Plus the rain and all, what else to do?

Due to the early hour, we were seated in a very classy joint. I got a steak, Irish beef indeed! Fancy spot with napkin rings, ice in the urinals that sort of affair.

We got out of there just as the dinner rush began.

Just down the street was a corner pub and I heard music coming. Let’s investigate!

Packed pub, all seats taken, a guy with a guitar to the left just as you walked in. He was aided by an Ipad for lyrics. You could yell out a song and if he knew it, he would play it.

Pretty much everyone sang along. John Denver, traditional Irish tunes. Bob Dylan. It was wonderful singing along, connecting with strangers through music.

Truly a special memory singing with my mom in this Irish pub. How far we’d both come in our lives to be there!

The night became funny as the drunk that we’d seen earlier stumbled in with a pint. He had the most amazing loud laugh, you could hear him over the music even.

Arrrrrrrhahahhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr

He was a riot! Apparently charming too as he entertained a couple of college age girls, mid-20s, he was well into his 70s, grey hair and mustache, permanently disheveled, black suit.

Finally persuading one of the girls to dance, he made his move shortly after a spin, in for the kiss. Success haha! The town drunk was having one for the books tonight!

The ringing in our ears carried us back to the bnb. Cool times in Killarney!

 

 

Beer: Killarney Golden Spear

Song:  John Denver   Take Me Home, Country Roads

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Dream trip Day 113 English market, rain, brewery, rain, fish n chips

It was the weekend so I knew that in most cities on the Island, there would be a market and it would be a nice place to eat and see.

‘Cross the River Lee over into the shopping district past the quays. Seemed a lot of places were called quays here so I looked it up.

quay= a concrete, stone, or metal platform lying alongside or projecting into water for loading and unloading ships.

Warf would the US word I presumed, maybe pier.

This market was great! On site butchers sharpening knives, flanked by beef and sausages on the wall behind them.

We walked around the whole market, from produce, handmade goods and butchers.

The tea room was upstairs and we had just made it in time for breakfast. Coffee for me, tea for my mom.

She worked at a tea room when I was in high school. It was an arts and crafty store, with cold sandwiches.

Full Irish coming my way as well as another discussion as to how one pronounces scone.

Our waiter had an opinion and recommended we use it through the island, ‘they (motioning with his head towards the east, ole England) say it scOHn.’

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I watched a lady sitting across from us having tea and biscuits for breakfast, a bit of jelly, you know. Here I was with basically a plate o’ Irish meats.

At every entrance there are large signs that read: no photos inside the market. A large group of tourists was taking pictures and videos inside. A butcher yelled at them to turn them off, no is understood in every language but especially if said when grasping long sharp knives.

I had to laugh as the sign was only in English and Irish but it clearly had a red circle with a line through an older camera image. Maybe they should use an image of a phone?

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We walked over another part of River Lee, as far as I could see, we were on the right path.

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We passed a small walled garden with some history signs. Seems the city of Cork used to be walled off and we were standing in the last standing section of that wall.

Being invaded, seized used to be a very real threat in this country and about every place I went had some sort of wall, moat or other type of defense.

Inspecting the wall, it was very sturdy, many hours had to have gone into it. Same mentality with houses, buildings. Build the things that matter to last, build them well.

The clouds opened up so we had to fast walk it to our destination, Rising Sons Brewery.

Very cool spot, serves pizza too. I don’t think there are tours of the facilities but the bartender or someone will explain beer and their process if you ask.

It kept right on raining, hard too so a couple pints, nice talk about life and where we were headed on the island. Time passes much faster in good company. It was nice to have someone to talk to, a new perspective.

Once the rain cleared we headed towards the river hoping to see something cool along the way. We passed the opera house and art museum. Think they had Beauty and the Beast running, or maybe Mama Mia.

I don’t go for opera but Europe seemed to be the best place to see one.

We eventually ran out of road along the river so I just walked towards the highest point I could see, a church steeple off in the distance.

There seemed to be more cemeteries on the south side of the rivers, we passed by a couple. People buried here for centuries no doubt. Old lands.

Houses seemed smaller but were a couple of stories tall. Like each floor could be a separate room you know? Really not small if you have a floor to your self so long as no one was going up or down the stairs.

The steeple I’d seen was a very small church when compared with most I’d seen. Likely the cathedral was just for this neighborhood back in the days.

It sprinkled rain on and off our walk as we found another river so we turned left. Cork is 2 islands or isthmus like Florida. Land surrounded on 3 sides by water. There are 2 River Lees and this day takes place walking on the land between the Lees.

As we were about to cross the street I witnessed a transaction rarely seen in the US: a guy was standing in the middle of the road, newsie hat on his head, with a newspaper in his right hand, a bag containing rolled up newspapers was slung low around his torso on his left side. A guy driving by in a small car paused, they exchanged coins, a rolled up paper was then handed over and the driver was off with a wave.

We paused for a few moments at the convergence of the rivers, which was where the port was, home to ships. Nothing actually going on, no crains loading or unloading, just a docked huge ship.

It was still threatening rain so we experienced the Cork mall. My mom was looking for a specific type of material or wool. We walked through a couple of stores but they didn’t have the right style.

Lots of shamrocks, driving caps and family crests on sale in most shops. They needed tourist euros here for sure.

Malls seem the same, though the teens usually minding the stores look perennially bored to the point of doing something, maybe even work.

We caught sunset from the bridge over the River Lee. Stunning view, wish I had a good camera and skill to document. I’d seen plenty of wonderful sunsets and I’ve got them saved in my head. Just need to concentrate and I’m there.

Everyday we passed by a small fish n chips joint, takeaway only, no seats inside. It was basically all fryer haha. Tonight was the night to get some fish.

Thing about the fish over here is you have several options, some I’d not heard of before.

We got a couple very heavy boxes of fish n chips and found an outside patio in front of a pub. I figured if they had a problem with us eating here they’d let us know.

It was very good fish, flaky too. I dipped mine into tartar sauce, I’m not sure what the standard sauce is over here aside from malt vinegar. That is always an option.

I’m not sure how anyone is able to eat all the chips, so many chips, likely a pound o spuds. Thick cut, steak fries is what they would be called in the States. Again, same language, yet different.

We were able to not only finish our meal undisturbed, I was able to procure a pint of Guinness to wash it down with too. Only 1 guy behind the bar, plenty busy inside.

Talking and watching the people pass by. There was some sort of theatre down the street so occasionally you’d see very well dressed people, suits and elegant ladies whose shoes made that authoritative sound on the pavement.

There was also a hostel nearby so you’d see a stag group all dressed up too but in fluorescent yellow/green full length tights. Head to toe covered, no eye holes even.

It is quite a site on the streets of Cork this night.

All good things end and this was our last night. Tomorrow it was on to Killarney!

Onwards!

Song:  the Cranberries   Linger

Beer: Mi Daza XXX the Pride of the South

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.

 

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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 97 Scottish fry up, train to Glasgow, Drygate Brewery

Even though my hostel was literally across the street from the city’s main train depot, or is it train station? At what point does it become a depot?

At any rate, I had all afternoon as it was a 1 hour train ride so I had to kill some time due to the late afternoon check in.

I had talked with one of my friends about a beer that we felt should have been easy to obtain in Scotland: McEwan’s Scotch Ale. Turns out it is made by an English brewery.

Using a beer finder app, I located a bar that a user reported had McEwan’s beer, plus they served breakfast. I’d need both things before heading to Glasgow.

I packed up my bags and headed into the overcast day. A few turns and I was at the Black Rose Tavern.

This was the pub I should’ve gone to most nights, it was real Scottish pub/music venue!

They had an all day Scottish breakfast consisting of eggs, hashbrown toast, haggis, black and white pudding, fried tomato and mushrooms. It was sooo much food!

This was one of my favorite meals on my trip. It was the 1st of many UK style fry ups that I’d have in Scotland, Ireland and England.

This was my first encounter with pudding, aka blood sausage. It came in black and white options. I presumed the black was the one made with blood, while the white was just a regular breakfast sausage. Both are delicious especially when dragged through the runny yolk of a fried egg.

Again, haggis isn’t bad and I enjoyed having it again. A nice Scottish meal sendoff from Edinburgh!

I did get a McEwan’s but not their scotch ale, it was a draft lager. My group of friends back home discovered this beer and hounded the bar where we visited to carry it. That was years ago, the brewery stopped exporting it for some reason.

Making my way back to the train station was easy, the hard part was finding the right place to buy tickets, then finding the correct track.

Lucky for me, Scotland has an intern program so there were people all over the station desperate for someone to ask them a question.

Not only was I pointed to the right booth for tickets, I had enough time to get the next train to Glasgow.

I was quite fortunate with my trains, but soon enough, I’d stumble like we all do.

Only an hour trip which flew by as fast as the countryside. A lovely country, made me wish I went up to the Highlands to see more.

I’d selected a YMCA style hostel near the tracks, but I only elected to stay 1 night so I could check out the place and that part of the city.

It was about a half hour’s walk through the bustling downtown. I arrived with still time before my check in time so I elected to wash clothes until they would let me into my room.

After washing I was able to check in. My room was empty when I got into my bunk for a nap, then was completely full when I awoke.

I noticed that there seemed to be 1 person who never left their room. They would arrange their bed with a sheet door so they wouldn’t be disturbed.

Some would be on their phones chatting, skypeing or just playing games their entire stay, from what I saw. At least I would have some stories other than hey remember that time we talked when I was in Scotland? Yeah that was cool….

I got dressed and mapped out a route to the nearest brewery, Drygate Brewery.

My route took me through an industrial part of town with not many houses, but I soon faintly heard music.

I saw a pub across the road I was walking and they were blasting Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35. You know that song: Everybody must get stoned.

Well this was a karaoke version lead by a man with the most stereotypical Scottish brouge I’ve heard to this point.

He was also adding in lyrics in between Dylan’s so it went:

They’ll stone ya when yer walking down the street (tha bastards!)

They’ll stone you when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat (cunts!)

They’ll stone you when you’re walkin’ on the floor (wankers!)

This is what I heard all down the street, big grin on my face. What a welcome to the city!

After turning away from the loud pub, I was on a main thoroughfare with lots of shops, pubs and restaurants.

Another right hand turn and while I thought I was heading the wrong way, the empty lots and warehouses gave way to the brewery.

It was a 2 story building with several picnic benches on an outside patio.

I made my way through the large indoor bar. In the back was the store where you can buy beer to go.

This would never work in Texas. The current law, unchanged since Prohibition, requires a 3rd party distributor. You can brew beer but you cannot just sell it directly to a person.

Sparse crowd out tonight, a week night and early at that. I’d soon learn they closed early too.

I picked up my pint and opted to sit outside, there was another group of guys out there as well as a table of girls, maybe it was a mixed group.

The sun went down just like the beer in my pint glass.

I sauntered back to the bar where I was informed this would be my last beer, but I could buy 2 if I liked.

Opting to taste a couple beers, I selected my final pint and sat down inside.

A girl came in and ask me for a lighter which I lent her. I’d gotten into the habit when traveling of carrying a lighter as it is a good way to meet people, start a conversation.

“You from Glasgow?” I ventured.

“Have to run, thanks for the light, cheers!” Came the reply.

I returned to my beer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t.

The walk back was a bit concerning due to the low light. They really needed to upgrade or install more lights, as several times I had to walk down a dark street.

No loud karaoke from the pub I’d passed before, just a group of people out front.

Once again I’m faced with McDonald’s as a late night option as there was 1 across the street from my hostel. Nah it isn’t real food.

I’d read this book and stopped eating fast food a few years ago. This trip was my ultimate test. Could I resist a taste of home?  A taste of something familar, or ould I venture out and try some local restaurants, a taste local flavors?

Tonight I won the battle and still don’t know what McD’s tastes like overseas.

A good travel day, tomorrow I explore Glasgow!

 

Beer: Ax Man

Song:  Belle & Sebastian   Stars of Track and Field

Dream trip Day 94 Tattoo festival, walking tour, the Hanging Bat

Another gloomy, overcast day in Scotland. Perfect for a walking tour!

Yet again, I was unable to charge my phone overnight in my room so I had to take a leisurely breakfast while it charged.

Today I just had some coffee, figuring that the Piemaker was just down the street, so  I should go there. Better quality food and a bit more affordable.

I got into a small talk with a local gal who also needed to charge her phone so we shared a table and outlet.

She was a nice Scottish lass, very talkative and friendly. Fringe Fest was her time in the city when she went out every night to catch a performance.

We talked awhile, me drinking coffee, her screwdrivers. She gave me a few hot spots to check out in the city, namely Princes Street Gardens and university area for free views.

I was given a list of shows not to be missed for the next couple days. She was less enthused when I suggested we check them out together.

“Oi, my boyfriend would not go for that. Neither would my girlfriend, ha!” She replied. “But you are cute, keep asking girls around here, you’ll be fine!” came the reply as she snatched up her phone.  Swing and a miss.

I’d located a walking tour that met in the city square not too far away. I should have time to get a pie and make it by meeting time.

For some reason, I see stairs as a personal challenge by architecture to me. It’s as if they are taunting me, trying to tell me there are too many steps up and I shouldn’t bother trying to ascend them.

Wrong again stairs, I win.

I was in luck again as the Piemaker had haggis rolls today so I was finally able to try haggis, a dish I’d heard of for years.

It wasn’t bad! It wasn’t good either. I wouldn’t turn it down if someone offered haggis to me, but I wouldn’t seek it out.

Haggis= all sheep organs chopped up with oats , onion and spices, then boiled in sheep’s stomach. Sounds great, eh!?

I also had a traditional English meat pie which was great. Reminded me of Salisbury steak wrapped up in a roll.

Now fortified, I made my way to a statue to start my walking tour. Always look for a free walking tour in any city you visit. They are always great and led by real people who live there.

My guy was a stout man, wearing a beard and kilt. He looked like he would’ve walked around with a sword too but it wasn’t socially acceptable anymore. Instead he carried a walking stick that was as tall as him.

A true renaissance man.

He had a booming voice and a tendency for using the joining statement, “nonetheless…” to unite his stories about the history of Edinburgh.

We paused for a while at a statue of David Hume, where people touch a toe for good luck which polished it compared to the dull green hue the rest of the statue had turned due to years of exposure to the elements.

Passing under an arch we were in a 4 story building’s courtyard. We then got a lesson in social standing in old Edinburgh. If you were working poor, you stayed on the bottom floor, due to the practice of people tossing their waste into the street, you got to smell that all day and night.

The very poor stayed in the attic, no heat, very little insulation from the elements.

The wealthy stayed in the middle floors, above the stench of the street.

Robbery, theft was fairly common in these days so builders would create an oddly placed stair that you only noticed going down, thus if you were trying to make a quick escape or just leaving, you may miss it and break a leg.

We did pass by the castle where we were informed that cannons were placed there for looks only, they never fired them back when the castle was in use. Queen Elizabeth I felt that a castle should have cannons so they added some.

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As we circled the castle there was a large line of people waiting to get into the stadium. It was the country’s tattoo festival.

Not that kind of tattoo, bagpipes. Groups of bagpipers from all over competed to be the best group in the land.

They take the term tattoo to refer to last call at pubs who took to playing a regiment’s corps of drum as a way to get soldiers back to their barracks at a reasonable hour.

In Dutch they would say doe den tap toe  (turn off the taps).  Try saying that pharse in english quickly, sorta sounds like tattoo.

We soon made our way to a cemetery where I learned that JK Rowling wrote about Harry Potter while living here. See would usually write in a coffee shop after strolling through this cemetary.

Many of the headstones were smooth due to age and erosion, but a couple had new headstones as Rowling borrowed some of the names from these headstones for characters in the book.

While she wrote these books in a particular coffee shop, one grew tired of being asked if they were the  coffee shop where Rowling wrote they put up a sign, “Rowling didn’t drink coffee and write here.” She actually did pop in for coffee there, saw the sign and promptly signed it, “And I never will,” and left.

Our tour ended in hangman’s square where we heard about the lady who was hanged but survived. Reading the letter of the law it only stated ‘hung by the neck,’ nothing about til death so she was a free lady and opened a pub overlooking that very square where she almost died. Soon after the law was changed, “hung by the neck until death.”

I’d done a spot of research about the craft beer scene in the city and other than BrewDog, there was a small microbrewery named, The Hanging Bat.

Very modern pub, pretty sure food was served on just thick, round cuts of wood, not plates.

Still they had some good beers here. I even recognized a couple guys who worked at BrewDog having pints.

It was around end of work day time so the pub filled in with nicely dressed people. I still didn’t miss work, not yet.

Exiting the now full pub, I was in search of reasonably priced food. The Bat did have food, but it seemed like small bites, appetizers.

Ah here we go, a potato shop. Looks to be a brick oven of foiled, baked potatoes. There must have been 30 toppings from haggis, chicken salad, to standard cheese, butter, chives.

I got a potato with an ungodly amount of cheese, he just threw a literal handful of cheese on it. He may have been working with the Scottish dairy industry.

It was good and I was able to chat up the owner who told me some cool facts about the city, country. He really loved Scotland. He said Glasgow and the highlands to the north were worth a trip.

Soon enough, I’d take him up on his offer by going west, to Glasgow.

On my walk home, I again was struck by how cold it was, especially as the sun went down. 50’s in August is quite unusual for a Texas boy and I couldn’t image a winter if that was the avg temp in the heat of summer.

I caught a couple performers on the walk back, and man, they really could vamp, promising an amazing trick, coming up soon, just need a few more people…

It was literally like sitting through a 10 min ad on YouTube for 20 seconds of content. I caught a fire breather show this night.

I was at my pub and tonight was their weekly pub crawl so it was very crowded. I was soon joined by some English kids at my table who were waiting to go on the crawl.

These types of things go on all the time and while they are usually great way to meet people, it was mainly an occassion to get black out drunk. Not my scene.

The organizers of the trip were setting up, one had a bottle and as each person was checked in, he poured a shot into their mouths. He had a spigot so it was a slow pour.

He soon came around to our table and got the English kids before asking me why I wasn’t going and I said it wasn’t my thing. He said I should at least have a shot, open wide!

I’m not sure what it was,  maybe grape vodka, but I recall it was purple liquid.

Soon the place was empty and I sat charging my phone, watching fubol.

This bar had big windows with shutters that were open this cool night. A guy yelled hey at me and motioned for me to join him outside.

We talked a bit, I had taken to carrying a lighter so I lit his cig. Soon he said we should go next door for 1 more pint, on him.

No sooner than he set foot into the door, the bartender said “Oi, out, out, out mate. We can’t keep doing this,” as he strode over ready to physically remove the guy who just turned and left mumbling under his breath.

I’m not sure what he did but he was banned from that pub. The bartender apologized, I said I had just met him and didn’t know his story.

I had a pint as they were calling for last drinks. The bartender recommended I come back in a couple nights, they had live, traditional music.

It was back to raining as I left the pub, at least I only had to go a couple doors down.

Another fine day in Edinburgh! Tomorrow was Arthur’s Seat.

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Beer: The Kernel Brewery  Table Beer

Song: Jesus and Mary Chain  Head On

Dream trip Day 84 C.K. Brower, Olympic handball, walking tour

Finally woke up to a bright, bright sun shiny day!

I have steadfastly avoided buying cereal where I live for the fact that I will more than likely eat half a box at a sitting.

I always tell myself I am just trying to use up all the milk, but then I wind up without milk, still a bit of cereal left, add a little more milk… Repeat process.

My friends have a kid so their cupboard had cereal and milk. So much milk; boxes and boxes of delicious cow juice I found in their laundry room.

Unrefrigerated milk, too, which still puzzles me yet I bore no ill effects even after going through a box.

Crunch crunch crunch

Doing some research into the Krakow beer scene, I found an old pub that seemed worth a visit.

Bonus as it was also near where the walking tour of the city heads out. Two birds, one stone!

I elected to walk a path along the Vistula River that lead to downtown. Much more scenic along the river vs. the car, tram heavy street.

The brewery was on the west side so I found the tree covered walkway and enjoyed a shaded walk until I found it.

C.K Brower wasn’t quite as old as I thought, est. 1996, but it sure looked and felt old as I entered and descended the stairs to the pub below.

At the end of the stairs are long, communal wooden tables on either side of a walkway that lead towards a bar, kitchen area in the back.

Several tables had beer towers sitting on them, a popular option at this place. Essentially mini taps for large groups that were quite a spectacle as well as a relief for wait staff.

I selected an empty table close to the bar. Nearly all of the others were occupied.

I was the lone, solo guy at a table as they didn’t have seats at the bar, this is my least favorite seating option.

Per the menu, the beers are made on site, the original way as they are unfiltered and unpasteurized using local grains.

To my surprise and pleasure this place had large TV’s that were showing a sport I’d never heard of before yet it was an Olympic worthy event: handball.

No surprise that team Poland’s game was on today and I watched perhaps a quarter or period of men throwing a ball to each other and eventually into nets.

While there was a goalie, stopping such a small ball hurled at great speed was very difficult and didn’t happen too often.

I saw many plates of food brought out and pass me by. Lots of sausages, fries and schnitzel are served here.

After my first pint, I selected their dark beer plus borscht, a dish I’d heard about but had never been tempted to get until now.

Here they served borscht the Polish way so it was white broth with egg and a full sausage. It was pretty good, peppery, I’ll have to try the red version that I had seen and think of whenever someone mentioned borscht.

After finishing my pint, I headed out towards the northeastern part of city centre.

I paused along the route in a park as there was a cool fountain to gaze at and I still had time to burn before the tour began.

To my surprise an army of nuns in grey robes, 10 in number,  with a bishop or some other high ranking man in red appeared around the bend and strode by, shoulder to shoulder, taking up most of the walkable space.

Jesus says, share the road!

Polish is one of the most Catholic countries in the world. There were a lot more cathedrals here than I recall seeing in other places on my trip.

I could see two just from my friend’s balcony.

Seeing nuns or priests on the street is not an unusual sight in Poland. I saw a group walking whenever I was out in the city.

Our tour met up on the north part of downtown. As always look for someone lofting up a red umbrella, ella ella ella.

This tour was led by a native of both the country as well as Krakow, which was actually a bit unusual. Most tours were led by people who moved from a rural setting into the bigger city, usually to attend university.

By giving tours they could afford tuition while using their study discipline.

All the tour guides were history majors, most also had a degree in psychology so the joke goes, “I will teach you the history of this place and if you have a crisis about what you’re learning, I’m ready to listen and help you through any breakdowns you experience!”

I joined a small group of people and soon we were in front of a pedestal that had a copper miniature map of the city complete with raised pieces for the taller buildings.

He showed us where we were and where we would be going using this miniature map of Krakow.

Soon we were in city centre and sure enough, we passed by a Hard Rock Cafe. Another pin for my bro.

We stopped in front of a towering cathedral and the guide talked and stammered a bit, as if he were stalling, waiting.

He glanced at his watch as he told a story about trumpets and how in the military they are used to communicate orders and instructions to the army.

Finally he revealed that he was waiting for the top of the hour when a trumper would appear atop St. Mary’s to play a few notes.

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The trumpeter appears in the left tower, top window. Read about the legend here.

Around this time some children sprang on the group banging on drums and tambourines.

“Do not give them money, they are professional beggars and thieves.” our guide instructed to the group.

One of the more messed up and sad realities is their parents knew people are more sympathetic to children so they teach them songs and make them go out and beg all day.

I saw a lot of these ‘homeless’ children playing instruments, crying if you didn’t give them money and generally looking as pitiful and helpless as they could.

Who knows how many were truely orphans or whose parents forced them to beg all day.

Across the square from St. Mary’s was the location where the public executions where held. Be sure to bring the kids, heads rolled here!

Hitler even spoke in this plaza when Nazis occupied the city, country.

We were told that after Germany invaded they invited all the scholars, PhD’s, higher educations teachers to the city for a conference. Once they arrived, the SS killed everyone in the room. You see, education is power.

We took a break inside an old university, Collegium Maius, that looked straight out of  Hogwarts from the Harry Potter books. See for yourself.

After a quick break where I got a nice cup of coffee, we went outside the plaza and into the Planty Gardens, the name for the green walkway around city centre.

Previoulsy the gardens were a moat for protection but had been drained in the 1800’s.

As our guide spoke an extremly elderly woman, hand extended, palm opened walked right into my chest. She kept repeating something in Polish so I didn’t understand so I kept saying “No, no.” Everyone seems to understand no in all languages.

She was insistant, even when our guide stopped and began to talk to her she refused to leave until someone put some zloty in her hand.

Our tour continued south passing by more castles, cathedrals and historic spots.

It ended at Wawel, the former royal residence of the Polish monarchy that is now a tourist spot as well as national place of pride.

Yet again it was revealed that there was a DaVinci currently onsite which we could see for a seperate, expensive fee considering that would be all that we’d see as it was housed in a small room.

Our tour ended with a brief history of the immense cathedral bell that took several people to ring thus only on very special occasions is it rung and could be heard citywide and further.

We were right by the dragon, basically my side of town. Well I knew where we were anyway.

I popped into a wok spot for dinner and a beer and was soon presented one of the spicies yet most delicious noodle meals I’d have on this trip. Not very Polish, but I do love noodles!

It was a good yet sad day as it was my last at my friend’s apartment. They were returning from their trip so I was back to the hostel life.

I was sort of looking forward to it as I hoped to stay around city centre, get a good view of the old city.

Plus I had a couple days to see my friends.

Beer: CK Brower Jasne

Song: Booker T and the MG’s  Something

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Dream trip Day 81 Stroll along the river, T.E.A. Time, Wawel Dragon

Woke up to the sound of pouring rain. The wind would whisper and I’d think of you…

Those are just Skid Row lyrics, but sort of true. It was still raining a bit and there was a lady I dreamed about far away, across the vast, lonely ocean.

Had a nice bowl of cereal with the last fruit pierogi for morning meal. What an awesome way to start the day!

I followed the street in front of the apartment, towards the river in hopes of finding a walking, biking path.

Of course there was one here, they do it right in the EU, making cities easily accessible for all, not just cars and trucks.

Lots of docked boats and the captain would bark all the info about his boat’s tour to anyone who passed by. I waved them off with a smile.

Unoccupied docks I came across usually contained some type of water fowl, ducks primarily but there were some other birds I’d never seen before.

I’d stay to watch one of these birds’ graceful takeoffs and landings.

Soon I heard a commotion and looked up to see a large group of people gathered.

To my surprise after I ascend the hill, I saw a huge metal dragon covered in small kids climbing all over it or parents would seat their kid to snap a quick pic.

A gasp escaped the crowd as the Wawel Dragon spewed fire from its mouth. Very cool statue to stumble on.

I continued on my walk past grand buildings, railway tracks and through amazingly long traffic.

To my surprise the traffic jam was due to 1 car waiting on another to pull out of a parking place. Likely 10-15 cars waiting, happy I was on foot and could pass them by.

Dark clouds appeared so I took a seat to figure out a enclosed option. A brewery was a few minutes away.

Ack so T.E.A Time means: Traditional English Ales, alas no Polish options here. I started with their most cleverly named option, Misty Mountain Hop, inspired no doubt by the Zeppelin song of the same name.

It began to rain so another pint. It was here I confirmed what I suspected about glass sizes in the EU vs UK.

Seems a lot of places will serve beer in ‘pint’ glasses which is an imperial pint in the UK= 20oz.

More commonly I was poured a US pint= 16oz, sometimes less depending on alcohol % or frankly how cheap the bar was about saving a few pennies.

In a better world, bars should have to post the size of their pint size so you know precisely what you are paying for.  It’s that or we all agree how many ounces are in a ‘pint’ glass.

The beer here was good and I was happy to avoid the rain, catch a bit of footy and have a couple pints.

Faced with the forecast for more rain, I decided to get a few items to cook dinner in the apartment.

There was a Carrefour store, a shop I’d seen in other countries on my route to the apartment.

I shopped at a pretty well stocked convenience store that wasn’t much larger than the US places I’d been except they had fresh pastas, milk, and cheese, not the typical roller dogs, chips and jerky.

I selected some pasta, sauce, cheese and chips, plus a sixer of Polish beer.

Back to the apartment I waved at the night door guy who was there after 6pm I think. Basically when the sun went down, they had someone to let you in, not that they spoke too much English other than Hello.

I cooked up one of the gołąbki along with some pasta in boiling water.

It was very tasty and made for a great dinner.

Due to rain and my exploits the previous night, I retired early.

Beer: Misty Mountain Hop  T.E.A. Time Brewery

Song: Behemoth  As Above So Below

 

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View from the mound