The trip from Killarney to Dublin included a small intercity train for the first leg. It wasn’t as nice as the fancy train that took us from Dublin to Cork a few days ago. This one seemed to be made up of mostly Irish folk heading to Dublin for the weekend. DQT eavesdropped on a facinating conversation between a 20-year old Irish gal and an an American visitor in her 60’s. Highlights…
Irish gal: Do you have potatoes often in your meals?
American lady: Uh, not often. Maybe once or twice a week?
Irish gal: Ohhh, we have potatoes in every meal. It doesn’t feel like a meal without potatoes!
Irish gal: Are you having trouble understanding the accent?
American lady: I can mostly understand.
Irish gal: One of the things to remember is that we don’t say our “t”. Like…this feels so weird to say it like this…wah-TER. We say it like wah-ER.
American lady: Is it usually this cold in the summer?
Irish gal: Cold? The sun is out. This is quite nice, actually. Warm! We don’t see the sun much; that’s how we get so pale. *laugh*
American lady: I’ve been in Ireland for over a week now and I’m getting quite pale, too.
Irish gal: You’re not pale. You’re actually a nice golden color. THIS [pointing to her face] is pale!
We arrive in Dublin and check into our airbnb. It’s a small apartment but nice and with a kitchen. We make sure to hit up a grocery store to get supplies for breakfast.
Our apartment is just on the other side of the river from Temple Bar, which is the main pub and partying spot in Dublin. Just a quick walk over the Ha’Penny Bridge and we’re in Temple Bar.
The first night, we have dinner at Market Bar. It’s a tapas bar in a converted warehouse. The food is tasty, though not what we had in mind for our first night in Dublin!
We were looking for something more Irish but most places were booked! We made a note to make dinner reservations for future nights.
Dinner out of the way, we proceed to check out the Temple Bar pubs. Every spot was packed! But, that’s to be expected on a Friday night. Temple Bar is a little like Vegas or New Orleans, lots of people bar hopping in a small area and tons of bachelor\bachelorette parties. MDT is super excited to find a Ray’s Pizza out here in Dublin!
Street performers in Temple Bar. Nobody seems to mind the cold and drizzle except for us.
The first pub we visit is Stag’s Head. It’s one of the oldest pubs in Dublin and it looks like it – very cool antique interior. We score seats in one of the back rooms in spite of the fact that the place looks to be standing room only. Feeling very lucky, we decide to stay a while.
Next stop is George. It’s the first gay bar in Dublin. From the signs and rainbow paraphaneila, it looks like George is still celebrating the recent same-sex referendum that passed in Ireland. The pub is attached to a nightclub and DQT feels instantly at home here. From the inside, you could be at a gay bar in SF or DC! Right down to the drag queens in 5-inch heels ordering at the bar.
On our way home, we pick up a midnight snack at the pasty shop (open till 3AM!). We have the traditional, which is beef, potato, and swede. A quick google search tells us that swede is just rutabaga. MDT is estatic. This is exactly like the pasties he had as a college student hitting up festivals in the midwest. It’s been a decade since he had a real pasty WITH rutabaga.
DQT made Irish breakfast again. This time, with mini sausage rolls! We’re starting to get used to these big breakfasts. And DQT is really enjoying baked beans for breakfast. This may get incorporated into our weekend breakfast/brunches when we get home!
Today is all about doing what Dublin is known for: beer, whiskey, churches, and pubs.
First up, a visit and tour of the Guinness brewery. It’s a massive facility and takes up blocks and blocks in the city. It’s like the Apple or Pixar campus – huge, behind a wall, and only a small part is open to the public. On the way to the brewery, DQT stumbles on a curb and has a pretty bad fall. The cobblestones are not forgiving and she skins and bruises her knees pretty badly. This will render the running shoes she dragged 6,000K miles from home useless for the next week. Thankfully, DQT has packed bandaids in her travel purse! And some beer should help numb the sting. Right?
Inside the Guiness visitor’s center is the world’s tallest pint glass. It sits in the center of the building and spans all 5 levels. We are told it could hold 14 million pints (triple the population of Ireland).
We move quickly through the first few floors of the tour that cover how the beer is made (yadda, yadda, yadda, when does the tasting begin?) to get to the Guiness Academy. At the Academy, we learn how to pour a proper pint of Guiness. We both pass and have the certificates to prove it.
We take our pints up to the Gravity Bar for 360 views of Dublin. DQT drinks 2/3 of her pint – that’s the most Guiness she’s ever had in one sitting. For whatever reason, the Guiness here is tastes better than ususal (fresher? colder pours? the ambience?).
For lunch, we pick up fish & chips from Leo Burddock’s. We are super excited because it comes highly recommneded from friends and the guide book. Our collective opinion is “eh”. Though the fish was fresh, the breading and chips were both soggy. And, it needed more salt and vinegar. This is the first meal that doesn’t live up to expectations!
Across from the fish & chip shop is Christ Church and, like all other churches we’ve seen in Europe, it’s beautiful. (for those who checked out the Hothouse Flowers song, now would be the time to cue it up while you look at pics).
The crypt below was spooky and weird. It was a mix of memorials and displays about the history of the church (including a display about how “The Tudors” was filmed there) and a shop/cafe called the Foxy Friar. Also on display: the mummified remains of a cat and rat found in the church organ.
Just on the other side of the river is the Jameson distillery. We skip the tour and MDT orders a whiskey tasting flight instead. We’ve definitely lost a lot of steam by now!
After a stop at the apartment for a disco nap, we have dinner at Delahunt. It’s one of the best restaurants in Ireland and was just named best “emerging irish cuisine” in the country. Literally JUST named; MDT read the article in the paper yesterday and we booked for today. The food is amazing! It’s inventive and delicious. This place will be standing room only in a week…we just make it in under the wire!
We start with crispy pig’s ear with mustard, and braised ox tongue and tail. It sounds totally weird but came highly recommended by our waiter. The pig’s ear was crispy and tender. The mustard sauce that accompanied it was slightly sweet and a great pairing. This was the second time we’ve had pig’s ear (the first was in Barcelona) and we’ve loved it both times. The ox tongue was thinly sliced and very tender. And the beef tail was braised, breaded, and fried like a croquette. Also fabulous!
We shared the main – lamb with side of mint mashed potatoes. The lamb was cooked perfectly and the sauce is amazing. We have not had bad potatoes since arriving in Ireland. It was hard to share the plate!
As for wine, we saw a Picpoul on the menu. Since the first one at Fishy Fishy was so good, we order it. The wine was delicous! DQT may have found a new favorite white wine region.
We head back to the apartment for another brief nap, then hit the pubs: The Snug Bar, advertised as the “smallest” bar in Dublin (while tiny, the bartender admitted there were likely other bars smaller), Norseman, and various other pubs looking for traditional Irish music. No success! Temple Bar is a never-ending successions of frat parties, bachelorette parties, and stag parties. And it’s likely those groups are not looking for traditional Irish music. We feel really old here.
We did manage to find a great blues singer at the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn. And a Patriots fan (This one’s for Craig Alimo).
We also ventured out of Temple Bar to visit John Mulligans (featured in the movie “My Left Foot”) though MDT was done with booze by then.
Another night out past midnight, way past DQT’s bedtime!
We are exhausted. That was a lot of running around and drinking yesterday and, though we are loath to admit it, these 40+ year old bodies need some recovery time.
It’s a rainy day so we use it as an excuse to sleep in. When we finally get going, we head to Trinity College to visit the Book of Kells. It’s an illustrated book of the four gospels covering Jesus’ life. The book dates back to 800 AD. The writing and illustrations are all done by hand on vellum. Really amazing stuff! No photography is allowed so you’ll have to google it if you want to see samples.
Afterwards, we wander around campus and see the Library, which holds copies of all Irish works, the Berkeley Library, and catch a few minutes of a cricket match before it starts raining again.
We duck into the Irish Whiskey Museum for shelter from the rain…and, well, since we’re there…MDT takes a tour. DQT decided it looks like a tourist trap and hangs out in the cafe. MDT determines that while some of it is cheesy, the tour guides know their whiskey and the tasting is fun.
Since we had such a late start, we eat “linner” around 3pm at The Bank. It’s a gorgeous restaurant in an old bank building. We have the sweet potato soup with coconut milk, an Irish cheese plate, the beef rib roast. This is the ‘Sunday Roast’ that we will learn is staple throughout the UK, offered by most hotels and restaurants. It’s all super tasty. Perhaps most everything we eat tastes so good because we are on vacation?
All we want to do is go back to the apartment and sleep but there’s one more place we have to visit before we leave: the Brazen Head Pub. It claims to have opened in 1198 and is the oldest pub in the British Isles (though this is disputed). In any case, it’s really old with super cozy rooms. Most of the doorways are tiny and the floors, ceilings, and walls slope. You can feel the weight of history in a place like this. And we finally found traditional Irish music!!
This is becoming a habit…but we pick up pasties to eat on the train ride to Belfast tomorrow. Mmmm….meat-filled pastries….
Slainte O’Meter so far:
12 – Drams (whisk(e)y)
10 – Pints (beers/ciders)
4 – Wines
12 – Meat-filled pastries