Wednesday evening, I caught a short flight to Philadelphia and then the red eye to Dublin for my weekend in Ireland. Fortunately, I slept for most of the flight and was ready to go when my plane landed. The Dublin airport is not very far from the city center and after doing some research, I decided on taking the AirCoach bus for 12 euros round trip to my hotel. I was able to buy tickets right at the currency exchange counter by baggage claim. The Trinity Capital Hotel was only 3 stops from the airport. When I arrived around 10 am, I got lucky because my room was ready much earlier than the 3pm check-in time. I was able to shower, change, and freshen up before my 1pm Sandemans free walking tour of the city.
After the tour, I needed to go somewhere to warm up before dinner. What better way to do so then to visit the Jameson Distillery and enjoy some quality Irish Whiskey? While they don't actually make Jameson at the site in Dublin, it was still a fun tour. It reminded me a lot of the Sam Adams tour here in Boston. We learned how the triple distillation process works and got to have some samples. There was even a group of people who were taste testers and got to compare Jameson against some of the leading Scottish and American whiskeys. Though I would not appreciate "tasting" different shots of whiskey, I did enjoy sipping on my complimentary Jameson and ginger. I would recommend coming here on your trip. It is a bit out of the way from the other landmarks, but you can walk there if you want or hop in a cab like I did.
I blame the time difference as well as walking a good portion of the previous day on not getting up in time for breakfast on Friday. When I finally did get up and moving, Temple Bar was calling my name for a cornish pasty from Hamley's. The reviews online all made it seem outstanding, and while it was quite good, I wouldn't say it was incredible. At this point, I was 2 for 2 when it comes to having potatoes in my meal. From there, I wandered into a few shops and past some landmarks.
Gradually, I made my way to the Guinness Factory Storehouse. It is crazy how different this was from my Jameson experience. It is like walking into Disneyland. Everything is very "mass" oriented. There is no guide, but over 7 floors of random Guinness stuff, including an entire floor dedicated to marketing materials and a bar where you can learn how to poor the perfect pint of the black stuff - which I am now certified in, thank you very much. The gravity bar on the top floor provides nice views of the city, but it packed with people and nowhere to sit. I'm pretty sure I spent close to 2.5 hours in here, with at least 1/2 hour in the store. This is also a must-do while in Dublin!
|The perfect pour of Guinness|
Dinner that night was set for 7pm at the Brazenhead. This is supposedly the oldest pub in Ireland. I made my reservations in advance and walked into a pub with no hostess or waiter/waitress in sight. I've found that this is very common in the places I ate. Most of the pubs are self-seated, however the bartenders are usually happy to help answer questions. Imagine my surprise though when their website encourages reservations.. hmm. I finally asked the bartender about it, and he pulled out a piece of paper from behind the bar and "found my reservation". A group of very loud men were sitting at the table that was supposed to be reserved and I ended up waiting a little while before being seated in an isolated back room. Eventually other people came in to sit down, but at first it was very odd. I ordered the Irish Stew and a Bulmers. I love hard cider and this was pretty good. My stew was delicious! For dessert I had a Baileys coffee and some cheesecake. A Baileys coffee is actually very different from an Irish coffee. It is very delicious though and should be tried by everyone at least once. I also feel the need to point out there were a few scoops of mashed potatoes in my stew, so I am now 3 for 3 with potatoes in my meal.
|King John's Castle on the River Shannon|
Around 11:30, the bus arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. We really lucked out because the skies were clear and we were able to see the cliffs very well. Our guide mentioned that the previous tours didn't see the cliffs at all because of all the mist. Recently, they built a nice museum type of thing with a cafe and look out points right into the side of the cliffs. It's not as fancy as the lookouts at Niagara Falls, but it is a nice place to come in and warm up after being out in the wind. There are a few walking paths to take around the cliffs, but apparently this doesn't keep people from getting too close to the edge. I wonder how many people get blown over the edge in a year? That drop does not look too fun. In the summer, you can actually hop on a boat to the Aran Islands and view the cliffs from the bottom looking up.
|The Cliffs of Moher|
After lunch, we had some time for a small trek around the karst region of the Burren. This was pretty cool! The entire region is covered in limestone that was deposited along the coast by glaciers a long time ago. In the summer, there is some pretty unique plants and flowers, but we didn't really see very much because it is winter. From there, we made a quick stop at the 12th century Corcomroe Abbey. At this point, I've seen a lot of ruins in Ireland, but this was by far, the creepiest! There were a lot of very old graves and you couldn't really walk without stepping on one.
Maybe next time.