Up at 8am. Once the pills kicked in last night I slept like a baby. Or is it a bump on a log? I heard babies wake up repeatedly throughout the night, so I think that metaphor's wrong. I put on my green St. Patrick's Day 2007 Phillies vs. Yankees Spring Training shirt from Clearwater (the game at which Kristen avoided me). And I noticed that my belt was...uh...noticeably looser. (I'm pretty sure I've used that sentence in a previous travelogue.) Looking forward to the final weigh-in tomorrow.
Out of curiosity I checked the phone book in my room and food a Stephen Craney. The Irish quarter of my family are the Craneys, of whom former WWF Superstar Jeff Craney is the most famous (actually that was when not every wrestler was a Superstar, and Jeff certainly was not), but I think they came from Cork.
[Before we continue...at work this week a few people asked me if I'd visited j2's office in Dublin. Are you serious? And if so, are you out of your fucking minds? Do you understand what a vacation is? And do you you really think you're the first person to ask me this question? Can you possibly conjure up a question about my trip that's not work-related? Or do you not have an identity outside of your job? God, so many of you are so boring. See, I told you when I came back I'd be grumpy and sarcastic.]
I set out to explore Dublin in the general direction of Guinness Storehouse.
St. Audoen's, the only remaining medieval parish church in Dublin. Seems like this is significant enough to be mentioned in Lonely Planet or on Wikitravel, which it's not for some reason.
Something I like in Ireland, and I also remember it from the UK... at every pedestrian crossing they've painted "look left" or "look right" in the street, because traffic goes in the opposite direction and a street-crosser from a non-Commonwealth country will instinctively look the wrong way. I wonder how many tourists were hit by cars before they came up with that idea.
Ah. Home. I was intrigued by the Carlsberg ads inside, but found out later that Guinness holds the Ireland license for Carlsberg.
Right about here, Slugworth pulled me into an alley and offered me "10,000 of these" if I could bring deliver to him a pint of Everlasting Guinness.
This is on the north side of James's St. The other buildings and the Storehouse are on the south side. This is a huge complex covering several blocks.
Outside the Entrance to the Storehouse.
I walked in with my printout in hand. I was greeted by an employee who saw my Internet booking (10% off) and directed me to the customer service desk for my ticket, bypassing the regular ticket line. So I recommend buying your ticket online. And I got my own complimentary Guinness paperweight, this clear round plastic thing with a small quantity of the dark stuff contained therein. I have one at work that Poodawg gave me, but I like the new one better. (Poodawg: Now I have a paperweight. Ho ho ho.)
Barley. They roast it till it's dark, which is what gives Guinness its color.
Hops. I didn't really know what hops were until today. In the category of describing the brewing process, Guinness blows away the Heineken and Carlsberg tours.
I thought this was the real original Guinness harp. But no, it's on display at Trinity College.
The Storehouse is all for show. Out the window, beer is being made.
At the top (7th floor) of the Storehouse, which is shaped like a giant pint glass, is the Gravity Bar where you get a free pint of Guinness. Oh yeah, I had a sip earlier in the tasting room too. I asked the bartender for the shamrock in the head but she could not do it, and said that's something they do in other countries for tourists.
My pint at 10:30am was clean and satisfying. At my table I chatted with an American couple (originally NY, now DC) on a cruise. Turns out they're eFax customers (paid). I offered a free month but the wife couldn't retrieve her number.
The Gravity Bar has glass walls with a 360° view of Dublin. Here are about 150 of those degrees:
Looking east. The spire near the middle is Johns Lane Church. The two towers to its right, below the skyline, are Christ Church. To its left, look for the faint spire in the distance above that Roman-style building, next to the dot--that's the Dublin Spire, or Spike, the tallest structure in the city center. Passed by it in the middle of O'Connell St on the way in last night.
Looking north upon the venerable St. James's Gate Brewery.
Gravity Bar. It was almost empty when I got there. This was after the cruise group arrived.
Guinness holds the record for Awesomest Beer, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, which is unbiased.
Next stop was the Old Jameson Distillery across the river. I did not know Jameson had gotten involved in whiskey-making. I thought he was pretty much done for after The Berserker threw him off the roof.
Entrance. People were taking photos of each other on that barrel bench in front of the distillation flask. I don't get this. A photo of you is OK, a photo of a thing is OK, but a photo of you in front of a thing looks stupid 100% of the time. That's just me the artist talking.
When I paid the €9.75 entry fee I finally got rid of some 1- and 2-cent coins I'd had since my last Europe trip.
The tour isn't as substantial as Guinness. You see a short movie about the company's history (and I think the narrator said "hwiskey", but it was subtle), go through a couple rooms with barley and distillation apparatus and whatnot, and see another movie. At one point the tour leader Maria said something like "CO2 is toxic, as you all know." It had to do with lowering a guy into one of the vats with a candle to see if fermentation was complete. Huh? It'll suffocate you in the absence of sufficient oxygen, but so will any gas. CO2 itself is relatively harmless. But I didn't correct her--I'd already used the "I have a degree in chemistry...don't question me on this" thing with the group in Novi Sad and didn't want to flaunt my authoritah. Anyway, at the end of the tour you go to the bar. Everyone gets a glass of Jameson, except the 6 people who volunteered in the beginning, who get to be whiskey tasters. And they get a glass of Jameson too. Thanks to Poodawg for telling me to volunteer.
First we tasted the three Irish whiskeys at the bottom and had to pick our favorite. But they're all produced by Jameson, so there was no wrong answer. Then we compared our favorite to a sample of Scotch (Johnnie Walker) and American (Jack Daniel's). Had to go with Jameson. In comparison, I found JD harsh yet bland (it's aged in new oak barrels, whereas Irish whiskey is aged in barrels from places like Spain previously used for bourbon etc., so more flavor is absorbed) and JW too smoky (because they roast the barley over peat--ah, the peat--it's Ireland that's known for its peat, but the Johnnie Walker distillery is right on the border). Maybe I should have had the Scotch with plenty of ice. They informed us that American whiskey is distilled once, Scotch twice, and Irish thrice. I got a whiskey-tasting certificate for my efforts. I think I was the only one who downed all his samples after the tasting.
On the way out I bought my only souvenir of the trip, a Jameson shirt. I figured that was cooler than the usual Guinness shirt every schmo seems to have.
So it was 12:45pm. I had in me a pint of Guinness and a partial glass from the tasting room, a glass of Jameson, and 5 mini-shots of various whiskeys. This day in Dublin was going exactly as planned.
I'd intended to swoop by Dublin Castle, but stumbled onto (into?) the Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub, estd. 1198.
The Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub, estd. 1198.
This wasn't an impulsive visit, just out of order. This bar was on my to-do list, because it's Ireland's oldest pub, estd. 1198. A tour group had just arrived and I darted ahead to make sure I got a good seat. I had (guess what) a pint of Guinness and the best bangers & mash ever. Something about the gravy, and the paprika sprinkled on the plate. I chatted with an American guy (from Baltimore) and his Scottish girlfriend/wife. Seems like there were mostly American patrons, and at least one American waitress, and hundreds of dollar bills taped to the walls inscribed with shoutouts to back home. Bartender Anne was cute but seemingly swamped, and cranky due to a 16-hour shift. American guy and I agreed that we would rather have more time than more money, as (according to polls) most Americans say they would. Anne overheard us and said she wished she had our problem. Her imbalance is the opposite of mine.
American guy and Scottish girl. He bought me a shot of Jameson, and I gave him my e-mail address and web site. Hi if you're reading this.
I didn't see any brazen hussies inside. My dad was fond of that term, and might still be.
I resumed my walking tour and arrived at Dublin Castle.
Castle Gardens (or Dubh Linn Garden as the sign says) with the Coach House at rear.
The Record Tower, the sole surviving part of the original castle dating to 1228.
Continuing toward the hotel, I looked down and saw a marker in the pavement for the Stag's Head, another bar on my to-do list. But this time I didn't stumble in. I went to the hotel, dropped off my stuff at 3:22pm (I was carrying around a bag with the Jameson shirt and the certificate in a tube) and then went out to do more stuff. I noted that I couldn't remember the last time I had so many drinks before 3pm. Not even on Wiffleball Saturday.
Ha'Penny Bridge and the River Liffey.
Just south of here are Grafton and Nassau Streets, the shopping area. I decided to do one last swoop in search of a shillelagh. I had to take €100 out of the ATM though. I was hoping to survive 5 nights in euro countries on the €400 I brought with me and €46 I got from exchanging Bosnian marks, but it didn't work.
I could not find a shillelagh anywhere, but I found Moo on the Loo. He had a cow sound effect, but he thanked me in English when I tossed coins in his cow-colored tray. See, you bad-attitude beggars in Bosnia and elsewhere...you can have my money if you show some creativity and give me something in return, if only a funny photo. Put in some effort.
I then went back to the Stag's Head, which Lonely Planet recommends.
Inside. Note the stag's head. I had 2 Guinnesses and a Smithwick's here, the latter just so I could use the pronunciation "Smiddick's" in Dublin. I watched the England vs. US Rugby World Cup game--an English guy at Jameson asked me about the game and I didn't even know we had a rugby team. I intended to have food here because Lonely Planet said it had a good lunch, but what it didn't say is that after 4pm there's no food at all. I'm not a big fan of Lonely Planet, but Let's Go didn't have all the countries I was visiting. When I paid my bill here that chubby bartender forgot about one of my beers. I corrected him and he said "thank you, sir...for your honesty". If you leave a beer off my bill, I'll assume it's a freebie, but if you specifically ask how many I had, I won't lie. There's a code of ethics in bars. I left the Stag's Head just before 8pm and the sky was still very light out. I forgot about these northern latitudes.
A belated thought about the tour group: Buz reminds me of E. Buzz Miller. No one reminds of the lovely Christie Christina.
I'd been craving Indian food, so I went to the first Indian restaurant I found, Taste of India (one of my favorite Ærosmith songs) in Temple Bar. Had lamb Vindaloo, rice, garlic naan and a 660-mL bottle of Cobra (5% beer). This was the hottest Indian food I've had without specifically asking for extra hot. Probably the worst thing to eat the night before an 11-hour flight. And it gave me very stubborn hiccups, which I tried to cure by startling myself. I remembered what I'd read in the Old Farmer's Almanac long ago: "The hickot is cured with sudden feare or strange newes." Some deaf people came in after I saw them conversing in sign language outside. Later I signalled to the waiter for my check and thought "wow, my first sign."
I exited Taste of India and realized I was a block from the hotel. So I stopped by to drop off the Indian kids at the pool. Then I went out to Temple Bar.
This is the bar in Temple Bar (the neighborhood) called The Temple Bar (the bar). This is the best bar I have ever been to. It's packed and noisy and impossible to have a conversation in, because it's so good. It's like Maloney's in its heyday. Almost every song was my type of song, like the best songs I put on the Wiffleball CDs, but without my rule against using the same song two years in a row. I felt like I crossed the line and became European when I sang along with the rest of the bar to Rockin' All Over the World. Obscure song in the US but it was the opening song at both Live Aid and Wiffleball X. It also felt good to sing along to Pride (In the Name of Love) at a pub in Dublin (oh oh-oh oh) even though no one else was. They probably get too much U2 here, if that's possible.
I had 2 pints of Smithwick's. I could have had more, but my belly felt inflated from all the beer and Indian food. Before I left I concluded that it would be much easier to meet a girl in an Irish pub than an American one. Duh. I could have assumed that before I started the trip.
I like Dublin. It has instantly become my favorite city in the world.
Today was a good day. (That was a YouTube link to Mr. Herbert and the eel, but it looks like Fox is cracking down on Family Guy clips, so it's gone.)