You might say a trip to Dublin was in my blood: I grew up south of Chicago, I’m a White Sox fan, I get sunburned to all hell in the summer, and my maiden name is Farrell. With those combined facts, you’d probably expect me to Irish jig instead of walk, slide down a Lucky Charms rainbow when I wake up every morning, and be a Notre Dame fan or some other nonsense ;). After hearing from every single person from the Southside that Ireland is the end all be all of travel destinations, El and I finally booked a weekend trip to Dublin for my birthday weekend. He had to do some work in Belfast during the week and took the train down to Dublin that Friday. I was able to find a round trip ticket for around $80 USD; as I’ve mentioned before countless times, flights from London to Dublin are crazy cheap and frequent, whiiiiiiich I guess makes it all the worse that we still hadn’t been to Ireland.
After a quick, after work, flight I landed at the Dublin airport around 10pm. When I stepped foot on the Emerald Isle, I was slightly confused because there were no leprechauns there to greet me with gold coins and gold beer. I mean, all I kept hearing growing up was how Ireland was simply paradise, so why the hell was I not greeted by a choir of angels and St. Patrick himself? I got cheated, I tell ya! There was hardly any line for non-EU passports, so I was in front of a border agent no more than fifteen minutes after landing. He started asking me all sorts of questions, and per usual for me, I answered like I was super guilty of something. He asked why I was visiting Dublin, and I responded with, “Uhhh because I wanted to see Dublin.” Poetic genius, I know. I stumbled through a few more questions, but I nailed my answer with his last one: Do you have any friends in Dublin? I paused for a second, actually looked right at him (I’d been avoiding eye contact this whole time), and responded, “Not yet.” That must’ve been the right answer, because he laughed, stamped my passport, and said, “You will” before handing it back to me.
I had the most awesomely Irish cab ride to our hotel. The driver talked the entire ride, and told me all about how he and his wife had been married for ‘turty seven years’ before launching into this sermon about how all the young kids are divorcing, and how all they want “tis the free sex!” It was beyond entertaining, and in true Irish fashion, he launched into story after story. I heard all about how the state police are assholes with their speeding ticket quotas, and how one time he called the officer ticketing him “a prick”. He also laughingly bitched about all the bike riders and made sure that I knew what laws each one was breaking (apparently at night you have to wear a reflective vest, helmet, and have lights on both the front and back of the bike).
My night’s entertainment dropped me off at the Hilton Hotel, right on the River Liffey, and after I popped on my Irish hat for the occasion Elliot and I shunned being old people and going to bed and crossed the river to the Temple Bar area. We’d been told how crazy and touristy Temple Bar was, but nothing prepared us for the “Pub Disneyland on steroids”. There were twinkling lights everywhere, and the streets were packed with people that were already three sheets to the wind. We passed colorful pub after pub where patrons had spilled onto the sidewalks and foot stamping lively Irish music could be heard playing. People were just shit-faced, and we heard nothing but American and British accents. We passed numerous hen and stag parties on our walk, and more than one person was wearing a goofy huge Guinness or bright green leprechaun hat. The Temple Bar area had very traditional looking pubs, but we were surprised how Dublin as a whole was very cosmopolitan. We only had a weekend in Ireland, so we didn’t have time to visit the countryside and coast; that’s where we’ve heard the real beauty is.
We left the Temple Bar area and walked through the more “trendy” and, by appearance, local area of Dublin before popping into the Hairy Lemon Bar. We weren’t seeking it out, but it was one that I had noted on my ever-present spreadsheet. We found two stools right at the bar and laughed at all the random celebrity pictures on the walls. I tried to act like a local and ordered “two pints of the black stuff”, to which the waitress just replied, “Wait, what?” My plot to look cool clearly foiled, I meekly replied with, “Two pints of Guinness, please”. We’d heard from numerous people that Guinness just tastes better in Ireland, and they weren’t kidding. The beer was creamy and delicious, so much so that we ordered another one after downing our glasses. The bar was playing a random music mix (the Fresh Prince theme being one of the jams played), and there were drunk people dancing and singing behind us. One couple was even deep in the throes of a make-out session. Took “Kiss me; I’m Irish” to the next level.
We walked back towards Temple Bar and found a bar called The International that had outdoor seating with barrel tables. Not soon after we sat down, a guy sat at the barrel next to us, and started playing music on a portable speaker he’d brought. Although odd, the tunes made a great soundtrack for the fantastic people watching we were undertaking. We only stayed there for a little bit before finding a place in Temple Bar for one last pint. We sat at a table where I was facing the crowd, but El was able to see everything going on because there was a mirror behind me. I’m glad he could because I never would have been able to describe what I was witnessing. There were these two girls who were all over this one guy, both rubbing up on him while they all flirted with each other. They all did a tequila shot, and it wasn’t long before a three-way make-out session was in full swing. There were these three Americans sitting next to us, and I just turned to the guy next to me and said, “Are you watching this?!?!” That sparked a conversation with them because they were all amazed at what was transpiring in front of us. The make-out session didn’t last too long though because the guy’s friends just grabbed his arm to get him the hell out of there. We thought that would be the end of our bar flies, but they kept reappearing every now and then, propping each other up and trying to find new guys for their menage a gross. It was like they were doing a circuit of sloppiness, and it was entertaining AF to everyone in the bar. Figuring we had seen enough interesting things that night, we took an uber back to the hotel. We hadn’t been out until 2:30am in a long time, but when in Dublin, do as the Irish do. Minus three-way make-out sessions.
The next morning, we walked along the river to the nearby Trinity College, where we joined a tour led by a student named Catriona. The weather was gorgeous, and even though TC was smaller than I’d anticipated, the grounds were immaculate. The campus is comprised of two squares, the front of which is called Parliament Square (because it’d previously been the place of Parliament). The tour was really interesting, especially getting the perspective of a student, and she wove some great Irish humor into her tour tidbits. She told us all about the monks who were buried on the grounds, and how they had to plant these magnificent maple trees because the ground was so swampy and buildings kept crumbling. There are classical style buildings lining the squares and about 800 beds for 17,000 students. Students have to apply for lodging, and you are “elected” to live there based on your accomplishments. Fellows and students known as “scholars” (those who studied a curriculum outside of their major for three months) are not only guaranteed lodging, but it’s free AND they get a three-course meal and a pint of Guinness every night for dinner. There are some downfalls though, as some people in the oldest dorm have to walk outside to shower, don’t have WiFi or central heat. Catriona was pretty hell bent on instilling in us how shitty of architects the Irish are (at least the ones employed by Trinity), and how the College didn’t pay the foreign ones who WERE hired. Besides bash her own people, she also told us how Oscar Wilde lived in building 18, explained the statues on the square, and described the significance of the square’s centerpiece: the bell tower. At its base, there are the faces of Greek philosophers, and higher up on the tower were four statues of women that represented the four original degrees offered: law, medicine, philosophy, and theology. At its summit, there is a cross, meant to represent the most prestigious degree to be awarded, at least at the time of its completion, the Doctorate of Theology.
As we moved through the campus, the topic of discussion turned to the famous library. Inside is the Book of Kells, brought to Ireland in the 9th century by Scottish monks who wanted to save it from the frequent Viking raids. It was found buried in a field, extremely well-preserved by the fact it was made on calf skin pages. There was a significant line queueing up outside the library, so we decided to come back later with our ticket. We followed signs to the “school bookstore” which was in reality just a convenience shop with like two t-shirts, before heading back to Temple Bar for lunch. We grabbed a table at a live music venue called Fogarty’s and I had a pretty delicious beef & Guinness stew, amazing brown bread infused with Guinness, and creamy butter for lunch. The food was very tasty, and live music performed by a guitarist and flutist was starting just as we’d finished eating. There were groups of lads that filled the pub, and one rowdy bunch that kept repeating, “The King in the North!” multiple times to my delight.
We stopped in an Irish name store, where I bought a coaster that has the Farrell crest on it, before we popped into our next pub, The (actual) Temple Bar. The “pub” was enormous and was already packed with people throwing back pints. There was live music playing in multiple areas of the bar, and a statue of a man standing on a whiskey barrel. We learned, thanks to the menus, that it was a tribute to the Unknown Whiskey Drinker. Apparently, this guy showed up when all these major historical events happened, would sit silently drinking his whiskey until jumping up on a barrel and reciting poetry. No one knows who he was, or why he only showed up on nights when historical events occurred, but he became a Temple Bar legend.
We went back to Trinity, where there was hardly a line to see the Book of Kells. We walked through an exhibition that told the story of monastic life in the 9th century and other similar books to it. It highlighted some of the pages, and the process behind how it was made. Finally, we crowded around a dimly lit display that contained the book. It was amazing how well-preserved it is, and the fact that it was actually legible was incredible. It was very ornately done and definitely worth checking out if you’re in Dublin.
You exited into the reading room of the Library, where books weren’t organized by name or genre, but by size. The heavier, bulkier books are on the bottom shelves, while the lighter and smaller books up top. I had a huge Belle moment because there were books everywhere! Spiral staircases and row after row of bookshelves that were lined by marble busts of famous authors and philosophers. We were in Dublin during an interesting time, as they were celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the revolution. There was a tower on the river that was decorated with the heroes of the revolution, and one of the original proclamations on display in the library.
We got our standard souvenir magnet before leaving to head back to Temple Bar. We took a picture with the bosomly endowed Molly Malone statue before having a pint of Galway Hooker at the Dame Tavern. The Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon was going on while we were there, and there was rockabilly music playing in the alley next to the bar. It also explained the insane crowds of people there that weekend. We made a pit stop at The Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub, for a pint with some history before deciding to do the most touristy yet necessary on any trip to Dublin thing in Dublin: The Guinness Storehouse.
The Guinness Storehouse at St. James’ Gate was incredibly crowded, so much so that we had to take a self-guided tour throughout the old brewery. Guinness is no longer brewed there, but you can still see cool exhibits on the brewing process and history of Guinness as you go up the multiple levels of the storehouse, designed in the shape of a pint glass. There was a floor dedicated to the Guinness adverts and Gilroy’s Circus, one that had old commercials archived, and a floor where you “learned how to taste” Guinness. You got crammed into a room with other people and were instructed to smell the vapors released from these different stands set up throughout the room. They were the “flavors” that were used in Guinness and smelled surprisingly good. We were then ushered into a second room, grabbing a mini pint of Guinness on the way, where a guy taught us how to drink Guinness. Taught is a generous word, considering his only instructions were to smell it and take a sip. I guess we got some extra Guinness out of the deal, so not all bad. The top floor was the Galaxy Bar, which had windows that gave us a panoramic view of all of Dublin. Since it was a clear day, we could see pretty far out, including the nearby mountains whose water give Guinness that unique flavor in Ireland. The crowd was pretty raucous, and the whole bar sang Happy Birthday to a 21 year old and cheered “Slainte!” to a bachelorette. We finished our complimentary pint and did a quick tour through the gift store before heading back to the hotel to drop off our purchases.
We got dinner at a pub called The Old Storehouse in Temple Bar, where I had a really good burger and chips with a side of annoying tourists behind us constantly talking about how this place and that were on Trip Advisor. We went next door to the Temple Bar Distillery, where we chatted with the bartender while tasting some Irish whiskeys called Conamarra and Green Spot. Our cashier at the Guinness Storehouse recommended that we check out a bar called Fitzsimon’s, so that was our next stop. It was definitely a more modern bar and had a “sky bar” aka roof top area that, like everywhere we’d been, was full of guys in stag parties. One bachelor was wearing a unicorn costume and another guy’s group got the whole bar to go “Ohhhhh!!!!!!” when one of the guys dropped his drink. As entertaining as that was, we went downstairs because the Olympics was playing on TV. Canada was just destroying Brazil in women’s rugby, so it wasn’t the most exciting event, and we were tired from being out so late the night before, so we ended up heading back to the hotel. After watching some more Olympic events, we fell hard asleep like the old farts we are.
The next morning, I got up and made my way through the crowd of Rock ‘n Roll runners to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the other end of town. I saw online that a service was to start at 9:30, so I left early enough to get there on time. Because of all the runners though, I ended up being five minutes late. When I walked into the church and told the workers that I was there for the service (because you have to pay to just visit), they told me that the service had already started and that they weren’t letting anyone inside. When I protested that I was held up by the runners, the lady just said, “It’s almost over anyways.” I responded that it had only started five minutes prior, to which she responded, “You know it’s an Anglican service, right? It’ll be over in ten minutes.” Because I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t do my research, I acted like I knew, but she still wasn’t letting me in for the service. That’s when I started to get all weepy and asked if there was at least a place where I could pray. I think I freaked her out because she immediately led me to the little chapel and got me a match to light a candle. The flood gates opened a little bit at that point, because I really wanted to go to mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin to say a prayer for my Uncle Lanny. When denied that opportunity, I kind of lost it. I was happy to at least be able to say a prayer, but I was still annoyed that they wouldn’t let me in. Also, how in the hell (pun intended) is the most Catholic associated saint in the most Catholic associated country the patron of an ANGLICAN church?!?! Seems just wrong to me.
Back at the hotel, El and I relaxed and took in some Olympics action through an Irish lens. It was pretty entertaining to get the Irish commentary on sports, especially when the announcer introduced beach volleyball as, “Okey dokey, now for a sport that unites us all: from the classic flesh-pervert to the die-hard fans.” No one can say that the Irish don’t tell it like it is.
We next walked to a place called Church that I had sworn I saw online had a brunch menu, only to find out that they only serve lunch and dinner. We still got an order of wings and hung out for a bit though because it was a historic building: it was a bar/restaurant that had been converted from an old church. But not just any church, it was the one in which Arthur Guinness got married and Handel played the (still there) organ for a service once. A plate of (non-angel) wings with a side of history; not a bad start to a Sunday
We walked about a quarter mile to the Jameson Distillery where we signed up for the next guided tour. It was much smaller than the Guinness Storehouse but still decorated in a really cool fashion: lots of barrels all around and a chandelier made of Jameson bottles. Like the Storehouse, Jameson is no longer distilled there, but it’s still a pretty interesting history. Our guide was a pretty witty young guy who, after showing us an introductory video on Jameson, led us through the distilling process and talked us through our tasting. We had a dram with Jameson, one with Johnnie Walk 12 year old, and a third with Jack Daniels. After the Jameson and Johnnie, the Jack just tasted kind of gross, and I guess that has something to do with the number of times each is distilled. We followed our tasting with our complimentary Jameson and ginger ale in their bar before walking back to the downtown area.
We stopped in the Porterhouse Brewery (same brewery as our Historic Pubs Tour) to get some food and choked down an….interesting….cheddar cheese bake and wings. The food was pretty gross, so after watching some quality hurling on TV, we just bucked up and went to the McDonald’s next door for some more substantial food. We then went to Mulligan’s pub for the supposed “world’s best pint of Guinness”, but we didn’t think it tasted any different than any other pint we’d had in Dublin. What was impressive was the fact that we got a cozy, under the stairwell, table in the very traditional Irish pub. We hung out there for a bit before watching the Olympics (again) back at the hotel. We were in the lobby, waiting for a cab, when this running group called the “Flashers” started chatting me up. They were clearly shit-faced, but it was entertaining as all get out to talk to them. That’s the cool thing about Ireland: everyone wants to make friends and share their stories with you. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the typically closed off English.
When we got to the airport, we were convinced that the gals working the Ryan Air counter were just shit-faced. They were cackling laughing and asking us all sorts of questions about our passports. Brilliant geographic things like “Minnesota? Is that by Texas?” and “Atlanta, isn’t that by New York?” and my personal favorite, “Pennsylvania? Like in Dracula’s castle?” I should’ve just said, “Yep. That’s the one.” What a bunch of malarkey…
From the music to the pubs to the three-way make-out sessions we witnessed, our trip to Dublin was anything but boring. Although I never rented a backhoe to find where the gold at, we had a blast and felt the thousand welcomes from the Irish people. Until next time, Ireland. Sláinte!
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