Of course I’m talking about the happy lively live music often involving a fiddle that you can hear floating out of the gloriously packed pubs with friendly people singing a tune together and holding a Guinness. Speaking of which that Guinness family sure cracked the big time!
This weekend away in November 2015 was for Harry’s birthday, and until the train ride to the airport, the destination was a secret. Until I was yabbering on about how I was talking to my work buddy and saying that she was going to Dubai and we were going to Dublin which is almost the sa……me! Oops! Give away! But I pretended that I was putting on a show to trick him and I could see the doubt creeping in! But he was 90% sure I’d fluffed it and once I handed him the boarding pass to scan himself through the gates, he saw the Aer Lingus logo and soon was 100% sure of our getaway location.
Seeing as this was my third time to Dublin, here’s Harry to tell you about his first impression of Dublin and the Temple Bar district where we were staying late Friday night.
Harry – I had tried Guinness maybe once back home and quickly decided never to try it again. However, after hearing from friends and family that Guinness tastes better in Ireland, I was pretty excited to try my first ‘proper’ Guinness in Dublin!
We got off the bus from the airport and walked a couple of blocks through Temple Bar to our very flash hotel! After checking in, Jodie and I decided to test out the local pubs. Temple Bar is a bit of a drinking district so there were plenty to choose from. We didn’t get far before I spied an interesting looking Irish Pub down a laneway. I don’t think Jodie trusted me at first, and after a wrong turn into the restaurant above the pub, we were both relieved when we finally ended up in Merchants Arch. It was packed to the rafters and there was a great sounding ‘fiddly dee’ band up the front. Only one issue.. it was so packed we couldn’t make it to the bar! The problem was resolved when a waitress took our order (table service – I like Dublin already!), a few minutes later and we had two nice cold Guinness pints in our possession. It definitely tastes better in Ireland!
After a few tunes and a couple of pints we ventured to the next pub, and found one which was actually called ‘Temple Bar’. I was noticing a few differences between Australian pubs and Irish pubs now, not only did we get table service in the first pub, this second pub only had two security guards on the door and they were more interested in telling each other stories than giving us a hard time to get in. Once inside, another difference – this medium sized pub held about 1000 people! Yet everyone was in such a good mood and quite happy to let you get past. The whole place was also decked out in some amazing Xmas decorations, complete with flying santas. We were entertained by the two piece band and one man next to us who was clearly asleep! But somehow still managing to hold his drink and sway along to the music every now and then.
The only downside to the evening was the sneaky Guinness farts dropping all around us.
Jodie – I realised upon arrival that I’d booked us into a hotel less than 50m from the accommodation I stayed in last time! Just much fancier! If you are ever in Dublin, we highly recommend the Morgan Hotel. Amazing location and modern furniture and decor, including Mona Lisa flashing her butt on the lift doors.
Day 2 Saturday – Guinness Storehouse & the old Brazen Head
After walking around for a while and thinking oh no this is just like France, no one does a big breakfast here with more than just bread (!!!)… we found The Old Mill. The food here is amazing. We had a full Irish breakfast which is pretty much the same as an English breakfast but with black pudding. Safe to say we left that on the side whilst lovingly devouring the rest!
It was raining but somehow it made all the colours of this beautiful town stand out. We may have cursed now and then when stepping in massive puddles and a mud slide here and there but it was still ama-zung! And essentially perfect weather for the Guinness factory! So off we hopped under our umbrellas, to the bus with our 72 hour travel card. Turns out everyone else had the same idea and I reminisced about the last two times I had been here and did not have to line up for centuries.
We finally made it inside, only to discover another long line! The trick is to book online. So we managed to quickly book online and enter a new and much quicker queue! Success! The Guinness Factory or otherwise known as the Guinness Storehouse is much more festive at Christmas time. Lots of bright and glittery decorations and an Irish drummer and dancers around the place to entertain you, especially if you’re in a line for something!
After some exploring and learning about the Guinness making process, we went into a tasting room. It’s a white room so that it prepares your senses for the tasting experience! We each got a small glass of Guinness, and after the white room, moved into a darker room where we were told how to taste Guinness. The instructions were to take a deep breath and then take a good sized sip to taste the beer on your tongue and around your mouth. Although Harry and I have just had a debate on this and can’t remember if this is 100% correct, but it went something like that.
There was another room for learning how to pour Guinness which was quite busy so we passed but there was some Irish live music and dancing happening including crowd participation that we always love! We felt very Christmas-sy here! No crowd participation on our behalf today though. There was a funny photo booth where you can pose with different Guinness backgrounds and it was actually really hard to get your face in the right spot as it had a slow motion sensor! Ofcourse Harry had perfect photos. Mine not so much. We had our free Guinness upstairs in the Gravity Bar and enjoyed the 360 degree views of Dublin, followed by some more live music and toe-tapping in Arthur’s Bar downstairs. Definitely a full day out!
Dating back to 1198, the Brazen Head pub is where we had dinner after the Guinness factory. Yep it’s officially Ireland’s oldest pub. Pretty cool. It’s definitely a tourist spot, with money (notes) from all different countries pinned up on the walls and ceiling with a message written on them. We even saw a few Australian $5 notes! We both had a stew but Harry won the food envy competition with his beef and Guinness stew and I had an Irish stew with lamb, potatoes and vegetables. Lucky he got lots of beef so I could enjoy the beef and Guinness stew as well!
Our shenanigans for the night involved an ice cream on the way home – no Guinness would you believe it?!
Day 3 Sunday – Selfie with pigeons & Kilmainham Gaol
Sadly we had to check out of our very elegantly furnished and comfortable Morgan hotel. Thanks to Google we found a very well hidden and tasty breakfast spot to heal the pain, called Hatch and Sons. No chance of finding it on our own. It’s right near Saint Stephen’s Green.
After breakfast we went for a walk around Saint Stephen’s Green and as per usual, admired mostly the animals. Particularly the ducks and swans both in and out of the water. If only you could hug and squeeze them before they ran away! And then! There was the man with all the pigeons surrounding him. I was about to take a sneaky photo of him before he said “come here” and shoved a bunch of oats in my hand. His pigeon friends took flight and soon landed on me and started eating out of my hand. LOVE. LIFE. Such a cool experience!
He told us that he had rescued about 14 of them (there were at least 100 pigeons there) and one of them even had a fox bite mark on its back! He takes them home to rehabilitate them before returning them to their natural habitat. He said that they trusted us because they trusted him. After chatting for a while, he gave us even more oats so they would walk with us as we walked away. Harry and I managed a selfie with at least one pigeon before they finished their oats and flew back to the man! This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.
For the afternoon, we had planned to explore Kilmainham Gaol. But we didn’t anticipate that it would take so long. That place is popular! Definitely book in advance if possible. We had to wait in line before purchasing a ticket for a tour a few hours later. And they don’t let you wander in to look around without being in a tour. So we visited the art place across the road and had lunch at the pub nearby to kill some time. The most interesting part of the pub was the kitchen or storage area that was below the hatch in the floor. We saw people coming up what appeared to be a ladder and out of the floor hatch before popping up behind the bar.
We got back to Kilmainham Gaol with enough time to have a quick look around before our tour started. The gaol was founded in 1796 and closed in 1924 and there were some fascinating things to see here including ‘the ring’ of Grace Gifford…
Wikipedia – Grace Evelyn Gifford Plunkett (4 March 1888 – 13 December 1955) was an Irish artist and cartoonist who was active in the Republican movement, who married her fiancé Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham Gaol only a few hours before he was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising.
Not sure what the Easter Rising is all about?…
Wikipedia – The Easter Rising (Irish: Éirí Amach na Cásca), also known as the Easter Rebellion, was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in World War I. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798.
We were shown around each section of the gaol in a group of about 30 people. One of the most interesting facts for me was about some of the prisoners carrying on their lives as political leaders after their time in the prison such as Charles Stewart Parnell.
Lastly, whilst a very sad and interesting topic, the tour leader spoke with a rising and falling voice that we couldn’t help but copy for our own amusement. Yes, we are children.
It was time to head back into town for a final dinner before heading off to the airport. Harry had a recommendation from his parents who recently visited Dublin, to check out the ‘Hairy Lemon’. We weren’t quite hungry after our late pub lunch and while we were poring over the menu and struggling to decide on food, the funny waiter very strongly recommended a Guinness for each of us in the meantime. We obliged.
The decor was very cool in this pub (lots of old interesting trinkets and more messages from tourists stuck to the walls) and it had different sections to check out, all packed with people. We soon decided on bruschetta and chicken wings which I have to say were delicious. Worth every last euro that we had on us. The nearby area (around Stephen Street Lower) is definitely worth exploring more than we did. We spent our final moments in Dublin getting our bags back from the Morgan hotel and making our way via the bus to the airport. Thank you Dublin!