A long long time ago, when we were back in Nam, Clinton and I came up with the idea (after a couple of drinks) of surprising our dear friend Stu on his world tour. We had discussed options of where this may occur on our travels, looked at the map numerous times and had finally come to the conclusion it would have to be in Ireland. Stu’s tour would be in Ireland in March which also coincided with St Paddy’s Day, my birthday and the big 3 – 0 for Clinton. This would also provide a long awaited reunion with our close Melbourne friends, Battye (now Mike) and Nicky (now Nacky.) We left Berlin on the 11th March and headed towards the land of Guinness.
Upon arriving in Ireland we were pleased to hear the english language again. We had high hopes of finally being able to communicate properly, without Clinton regularly having to play charades! However what we had forgotten about was the old Irish accent….never had the english language been so different! We made our way through customs and caught the green bus into the city centre. We were staying at a hostel the first few nights, as Mike and Nacky were in the process of moving houses again. After dumping our bags, we headed straight for the first Irish Pub we could see, which was about 50m from our hostel. The first Guinness of Ireland was ordered and the love affair began. After the first round, we thought we should also try some of the other local brands, so a Beamish and a Kilkenny round was also ordered. We also had our first taste of Irish cuisine, with a steak and Guiness pie…our initiation into Ireland complete.
After a long day at work, Nacky was kind enough to meet us in Temple Bar whilst Mike was busy in London. We had a few guinness’ together at a local haunt and proceeded to make our way to a thai restaurant for dinner. Nacky and I promptly ordered a bottle of wine which was supposed to be a german reisling, and were absolutely delighted when the waiter bought out a bottle of Yalumba. (I hope you all can hear the sarcasm in my voice….) Horrible wine aside, it was great to chat with Nacky and share our travel stories. After a long day, we called it a night and walked back through the North to our hostel.
The next day saw us heading to our walking tour. Our guide was a born and bred Dubliner and had such passion for his home city as he walked us around Dublin for the next three hours. One thing that he did differently to some of the other walking tours we had previously participated in, was to encourage the crowd to speak with each other. Through various little games ie talk to a stranger on your left, we got to know the other 20 people on our tour and within an hour we were all chatting amongst ourselves and planning to go to the suggested pub crawl together that night. After the tour was over, most of the tour group accepted the guides invitation to have lunch at another irish pub. With our bellies full of Irish Stew, we made arrangements to meet our friends later in the evening for our pub crawl and headed off to take in some further sights of Dublin.
Now after my efforts with the Berlin Pub cawl, I was determined to make it to the Irish one. For 12 Euros we were promised 5 bars with a drink special at each. We met our friends at the 1st pub and began the night with an obligatory guinness. Needless to say the night started tamely and ended pretty wildly, not that I can remember much. I do remember Clinton participating in some Irish dancing, which at the time I thought was legendary, but in hindsight was probably pretty terrible. If the headache we both had the next morning is anything to go by, I would say we both had a pretty good time!!!
As we were approaching St Paddy’s day, the cost of our hostel seemed to triple, so we decided to leave the lights of Dublin behind us and escape to the country, Kilkenny. I was eager to see the countryside of Ireland, however without the cost of hiring a car, (and the fact that Clintons license had expired), we had no option other than to catch the bus. Kilkenny is a quaint country town though, and a car is not really neccessary. We arrived to our country hostel and were welcomed immediately. We had a 4 dorm room here, and so far no one else was in the room, hooray!!! This hostel was what I thought all hostels were meant to be. People sitting around a country table enjoying free tea and coffee and a basic breakfast whilst having a chat. There was also a lounge room with a fire, should we get cold later in the night. After a good hour talking to the locals, we decided to head out to the town. We made it to a recommended pub and spent some time feasting on homemade soup, stew and soda bread, all whilst having a guinness, or 3. I swear it does taste so much better over there! And after further investigation, it probably does taste different as its made differently over in Ireland compared to Australia. It also is not nearly as high in alcohol, so you can drink a lot more of it before getting drunk!!
After finishing at the pub, we walked around the old town some more and visited the castle. Whilst walking around and taking some photos, my bladder started calling the shots and it was back to the bar for a restroom, and another guinness. The Guinness is just that good!!! We stumbled back to our hostel to enjoy our simple dinner and have a few drinks with some of the other guests. At this point, the hostel owner asked if we minded if he put another person in our dorm. This seemed extremely strange, as we were staying in a 4 person dorm, so of course we said it was alright. What was even stranger, was he came back 5 minutes later and told us not to worry, he would put this person in another room and make ours a private for the night! Score!!! But so nice. We also had been told by the hostel owner, that St Paddy’s day celebrations were starting early in Kilkenny and we should head into town to see this pretty cool band that was playing and was free. How could we not? The only problem was, the band was a four piece ensemble of 50 year olds belting out their own version of some form of Irish music. As I looked around, I realised we were one of the very few “young” people in the crowd, and mostly it was grandma’s. As great as this cultural highlight was, we decided to find yet another Irish pub and head inside for some warmth, and perhaps a guinness. We found a little pub off the beaten track, and thought we had hit the jackpot! The place was filling and a band looked like they were just getting set up…Unfortunately, as is the trend in Kilkenny this band also resembled the mid life crisis age and were simply not very good. At this point, with our bellies full of guinness we decided we’d had enough for the night and headed back to our dorm for a night of blissful no snoring sleep!
Back in Dublin, Mike and Nacky had moved into their new abode and were kind enough to allow us to crash with them for the remainder of our time in Ireland. Super nice of them, and we can never thank them enough! Even though they had just moved in, I went into instant nesting mode and basically demanded the use of their kitchen for the next three weeks. After having no kitchen for the best part of 2 months, I was in my element and really enjoyed cooking a few meals for everyone.
We were very lucky to be in Ireland for St Paddy’s day festivities, which seemed to last a week, and not just one day! We met some of Mike and Nacky’s friends at a beer and cider festival that promised boutique beers and ciders from 25 micro breweries. Clinton and I managed to get in without paying the 10 Euro cover charge, but were left a little underwhelmed with the beers on offer. We then spent a few hours tasting a few more beers at a local craft pub before playing “the dice” game and ending up with Vietnamese for dinner. Just a little tip, Guinness does not taste very nice with a shot of Hanoi vodka in it. Lesson Learnt. We then took a stroll through Temple Bar which is the main going out area for tourists, and it was just jam packed, so we called it a night and took our weary souls home. Actual St Paddy’s day was pretty quiet for us, as we were all nursing quite bad hangovers. We did manage to catch the end of the parade, a walk through temple bar (again) but it was so packed with tourists and shoulder to shoulder that in our old age, we just couldn’t handle round 2. (plus Mike and Nacky had to work the next day)
Howth is a scenic sea side town just a train ride away from Dublin, so Clinton and I braved the windy cold weather and made our way out there. We would have been there sooner, if we rose from the platform when a train arrived, instead of just sitting there. With that minor setback, we arrived in Howth about an hour later than we had originally anticipated. That aside, we had a pleasant day admiring the cute seaside town and accompanying fishing village. We went on a bit of a cliff walk, but managed to go the wrong way to every other tourist, lucky for us though, this meant most of our journey was a descent walk, so it actually turned out alright for us!! We debated over having lunch out there, but prices were steep and the food looked below average, so we skipped this and headed back to Dublin, for a guinness….cause that totally counts as lunch right!!!
By this stage we were about halfway through our time in Ireland, so rather than make this one long huge huge blog, I will throw back to Clinton who is most excited to write the next couple of weeks of our journey!