Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ireland: Give Me Guinness, Bachelor Parties, and Leprechaun Fields

It's been too long! Life at the Montarina has been busy, and life outside of Switzerland has been even busier. But I finally got a chance to sit, recollect my many memories, and write some of them down. I have Dublin, London, Paris, and now Rome to catch you up on, so let's first go back to Ireland..

After a train to Milan, a flight into Dublin, and finally a bus to our hostel, three forms of transportation later we had safely made it to the first leg of our ten-day journey. Since I’ve been in Europe, Ireland is the closest I’ve been to my roots. It’s where my mom’s grandparents were born and I felt like a McLoughlin as I went back to the place that is so important to my mom, my grandma, my grandpa, and all my relatives who came before. We arrived in the rain, which I thought was pretty appropriate for Ireland. After quickly freshening up at our hostel after a morning of trains, planes, and automobiles we were on our way to our first stop: The Guinness Factory. The factory was leased in 1759 by Mr. Arthur Guinness himself, but today instead of a working brewery it is a Guinness museum. It’s a seven floor building that’s shaped as a pint glass, and at the top was their “Gravity Bar” with all glass windows and a panoramic view of Dublin. We started out by getting a lesson at one of the bars on “How to Pour the Perfect Pint”. We learned a little bit about the history of Guinness, a little bit about the different types of beer they brew, and got a few samples. We then toured the rest of the museum, learned some more about the Guinness family and the Guinness brand, and ended at the Gravity Bar to claim our last pint included in the museum tour. After our Guinness experience we were hungry and ready to find a good place to eat. We found a “pub and beer hall” called The Bull and Castle which turned out to be a cute, clean, and nice restaurant. In keeping with the European style of dining, we had another long and relaxed dinner. Sat, talked, enjoyed the food and the company. And making the experience even nicer, it was one of the first places in Europe where we weren’t reduced to drinking tap water out of our waterbottles to save 4 Euro. They actually served you a pitcher of water for no cost! Oh, the things in America we take for granted. After dinner we made our way back to the Four Courts Hostel. We were tired from the beer, the warm food, and the full day of traveling. We decided to call it an early night and were tucked into our bunk beds and sleep sacks by probably ten o’clock. Easily the best (and longest!) night’s sleep since I’ve been here.

We woke up early the next morning to catch breakfast at our hostel and make the 11:00 free tour of Dublin. Our tour guide was an animated Dublin native who took us to the Dublin Castle, showed us places where they recently found Viking remains, City Hall, Christ Cathedral Church, and a park called St. Stephen’s Green. Midway through our tour we stopped at the famous (at least famous amongst college students) Temple Bar area. It’s a lively area with streets lined with pubs, pubs, and more pubs. We went into a pub called The Purty Kitchen for coffee and lunch. It had been raining all morning and our tour guide wisely told us that in Dublin, it never rains inside the pubs. We heeded his advice and ordered Irish Coffees. After truly embracing Irish culture by having our first drink only a little after noon, we still had a few places to see on our tour. On our way out of Temple Bar area, Michelle and I were mocked mid-conversation from across the street. A group of guys overheard our overexcited “oh my God” and immediately knew from that that we were American. We wound up talking to them, having a beer, and learning their story… they were a bachelor party from London and the bachelor himself was dressed from head to toe in a penguin suit. Relevant to being a bachelor, I don’t know how, but they were a ridiculous looking group in matching polos with the man of the hour prancing around as a bird. We eventually decided to go catch up with our tour and found our group at Trinity College. We finished the tour at St. Stephen’s Green and then Michelle and I ventured off and found a museum near the city hall and learned about the Vikings in ancient Ireland and saw other exhibits on ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece.

After getting our fill of history lessons for the day, Michelle and I decided that when in Ireland, do as the Irish do. So we continued straight on back to the pub Gogarty’s where we met penguin suited bachelor and company. At 4PM the pub was in full swing filled with people and live music. Our new friends were still there and told us to order a drink and put it on their tab. Well that one drink turned into a few more, and five hours later when Michelle and I were still there we estimated we probably put an extra 80 Euro on their tab… oops (not all for us of course, of course our Lugano friends wound up at Gogarty’s too. When they arrived since we were so happy to see them we told them we would by everyone a drink… only to put it right on the bachelor party tab). After making some good friends and having lots of laughs and too much fun at Gogarty’s, we weren’t quite ready to end the night. So we did our own little pub crawl in Temple Bar area, found some fun places (I think at one point Michelle, Tyler, and I went into a gay bar for a minute), got some pizza, and ended our Saturday at this awesome little pub with a great band. We just sat and listened to them play their guitars, fiddles, and harmonicas for a while and then finally decided it was time to make our way back to Four Courts.

On Sunday we woke up early and took a bus we had booked to the Irish countryside in Galway.  It was another foggy day, but the Irish country still looked beautiful. We saw old stone Irish gravesites in the middle of field, still standing tall after hundreds of years. We saw remains of old castles and our tour guide, a little old man named Desmond who might have been a leprechaun, told us stories of who lives there and myths surrounding the truths. We saw fields where fairies and leprechauns were rumored to prance around, and fields with little lambs and goats. The highlight of the day was probably seeing the Cliffs of Moher overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We spent two hours there walking around, seeing the cliffs from different viewpoints, and checked out the little museum they had with videos and pictures of the Cliffs year round. A lot of girls got claddagh rings there. After spending all day seeing the rolling hills of picturesque Ireland, we just got a little glimpse of their central city. It was so cute! I wish we had all the time in the world at all of these places, there are so many places to discover within each place. We walked around, saw some cute shops and nice areas, and got gelato before we got back on the bus for a three hour bus ride back to Dublin. It was Superbowl Sunday, and we got back to our hostel around 11 which was perfect since the ‘bowl started at midnight our time. We freshened up and then met up with some Canadian friends we met on our Galway tour to find a pub to watch the Superbowl. We ventured out of our familiar Temple Bar area and found a pub called The Bleeding Horse. There were Steeler fans from Pittsburgh watching the game there too. We had a few beers and made a few friends. Of course I was cheering for the Steelers—a fan because of Dillon—so it was a disappointing loss! I knew it wasn’t the happiest ending to the Walsh Superbowl Party in Charlotte. Also disappointing because the commercials were nowhere near the type of commercials they play in America. But Sunday Funday was a great way to end our short stay in Dublin. Ireland was a success. And in the morning, London…

No comments:

Post a Comment