For the couple of people out there who haven’t heard me yapping about it in the past year, I spent nearly three weeks in Ireland in September. Much like my visit to New York in June, I’ve been overwhelmed with the experience of my first trip to Europe. Ireland felt very much like home in that it reminded me of Kentucky. The lovely rolling hills and green pastures look a lot like where I used to live just south of Louisville. I must say, though, that the cows are much prettier in Ireland. Maybe because they’re pooping-up someone else’s yard and not mine.
Our first two days were in Dublin. From de-boarding at the airport to first pub took maybe two hours.
That included finding our bed and breakfast, unloading our luggage, figuring out the city bus schedule, and riding to city center. Dublin is okay, not my favorite place but alright for a jumping off spot. We toured the Guinness Storehouse, which was way too crowded and not worth the admission. The Gravity Bar on the top floor was so crowded we couldn’t get near the viewing windows, so we chugged our free pint and headed out to the evensong service at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The church was beautiful inside and out and the acoustics sounded nearly perfect when the choir was singing. As I was sitting there looking at the statuary and the tattered battle flags hanging from the ceiling, I got a true feeling for how ancient the culture of Ireland is. Construction began on the building in the mid-thirteenth century and took nearly forty years to complete. Throughout the trip I found myself mesmerized looking at pubs, buildings, houses, and stone walls that had been standing for hundreds of years. I couldn’t relate to the antiquity of it, I had nothing to compare it to. Even my visits years ago to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park were of little help since Europeans first set foot on these places 300 years after the cathedral was built. On to more old stuff…we ate dinner at the Brazen Head, which is said to be the oldest continually operating pub in all of Ireland. First built as a coach house in 1198, it has hosted literary giants James Joyce and Jonathan Swift as well as Irish radical and political hero Daniel O’Connell. Now, they don’t claim that there’s any of the original walls still standing but it’s pretty amazing to think of all the stout that’s been served on that spot over the years. We had pints Guinness and bangers and mash for supper. It didn’t take long for travel exhaustion plus a long day of walking miles in wonderfully fresh air to make us sleepy.
Saturday was an early start from the Almara B&B with our taxi driver Robbie. Sure and those Irish are talkers. In the 15 minute ride to drop our luggage in day storage we discussed the rain, American politics, our vacation, and I don’t know what all else. He took us to the top of Temple Bar and we walked our way back to Heuston Station for our train to Shannon. Did I say there was heavy rain? We managed to walk through the courtyard of Dublin Castle and a bit around the winding shop streets before we were soaked through. Can you guess what we did? Of course that’s what we did…we ducked into the next pub we saw, O’Shea’s Merchant, for our first stout of the day. I’m not saying who, but a couple in our little party did some whisky tastings, too. Before we knew it, it was time for a cab to Heuston because after beer and whisky shots, who wants to walk 2 kilometers in a rain storm? The bar tender made several calls but, due to the rain, none were available. In walks the bar manager and saves the day, or at least our feet. He offers to take us to the train station, can you imagine that? A vanload of tipsy Americans late to the train and he wouldn’t even take cash for his fuel.
That’s the Irish we met, though, always ready with a story and a helping hand.
PS. Craic is pronounced crack and means fun or good times. Another thing I learned is the term lads apparently refers to boys and girls as our bus driver Paddy referred to the group as lads almost every day.