45. Dublin // Limerick // Cork // Ireland

We hadn’t worked for a total of nine months and the inevitable was looming like an ominously black cloud. Our savings were dropping like the mercury in a coldsnap and London was calling for us like a classroom rollcall.

Thankfully, we had become rather adroit at procrastinating and utilised those newly acquired skills one more time. Our good friends Michael and Nicky were at the opposite end of their overseas adventure and were due to leave Ireland in three weeks time. We had already gotten in their hair the day they landed and figured why not bookend their stay and gatecrash their farewell also?

Before I get to Dublin, I need to talk about the flight. The skies over Western Europe is high traffic and I literally lost the run of myself as I saw another plane speed past outside my window. As I was excitedly pointing out the window and telling Elisha with the animation of Will Ferrel in Elf, I saw another one! This was insane. Sometimes you could see one on the horizon. Sometimes one would race diagonally across below you. Sometimes one would wizz past in the opposite direction. At its peak, I counted a total of 13 planes in my line of vision at one time! The skies were literally a superhighway for planes and something I had never seen before.

Nicky had already hosted her sister Nat and Nat’s boyfriend Dan prior to us arriving. And their apartment acted as bit of a hostel as Nat and Dan played tag team with Elisha and I in using Michael and Nicky’s blow up air mattress. We’d been pretty desperate to reacquant ourselves with some quality friends and it was a real welcome to see those guys again. M&N had actually participated in the grueling Tough Mudder that morning – something I couldn’t even comprehend in 4 degree weather! So they were obviously keen to start drinking instead of replenishing themselves with water and protein. We kicked off the party with some immediate pints of frothy Guiness in Temple Bar and it wasn’t long before we were tapping our feet to an Irish jig and Michael and Nicky were engaged in an internal battle between bed on a Sunday night and just one more pint. The Guiness spilled late into the night and, after our fifth “just one more pint”‘s, we wiped the smiles from our faces and grabbed a cab back to Smithfield. Although Michael and Nicky had to go to work throughout the week (looking very much like wagons) we contemplated our immediate plans and began planning for our soon-to-be life in London. However, every evening seemed to finish the same and we would again find ourselves painting our tongues with the famous black cream.

Nat and Dan were due to return on the Wednesday so Elisha and I made plans to head south and visit the little town of Limerick. Apart from its awesome name, there wasn’t too much to write about. Notably, we read the town had the biggest problem in Ireland for violence. As the sun set, it wasn’t long before all the 18 and 19 year olds were out in their skimpy outfits (oblivious to the fact it was freezing) and transformed Limerick into Knacker Central. Fun times.

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Come Friday, we left Limerick for Cork, an enchanting town at the very south of Ireland that we’d heard plenty about. Some Irish claim Cork is the true capital of Ireland and we were eager to finally see what all the fuss was about. Michael, Nicky, Nat and Dan weren’t due to arrive by car until late Saturday so Elisha and I booked ourselves into a cosy room in a Hostel. As the bus pulled in, the rolling hills and colourful terrace homes quickly ingratiated themselves with us. Google provided us with a list of bars to check out over the next 24 hours and Elisha dutifully compiled a list of cafes. Companies like Amazon and Apple have offices based in Cork and, as they require non-English speaking representatives, this attracts a lot of Spanish who are seeking work. Second to that, there is a strong student population. This culminates in a thriving night life, an inspiring music scene and some innovative businesses.

We checked into another hostel on Saturday afternoon and waited for the convoy to arrive from their day trip around the South West region of Ireland. After a quick freshen up, we went for a quick ale around the corner to meet n greet everyone, before moving on to one of our favourite finds from the day before – Franciscan Well. This was one of several breweries in the township and we tasted and sipped our way through their various lagers, ales and stouts. Elisha was very thrilled to find an unfiltered beer there – something that was quickly becoming a favourite. Whereas Galway had proven to be electric 6 months earlier for my birthday, Cork seemed to fizz at midnight and, although we were eager beavers to continue on, we found no bars wanting to take us in and had to disappointingly settle for the flask of Tullamore Dew I was carrying with me in the common area at the hostel.

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We began the next morning with an above average coffee and then followed it up with a below average brunch. Nat and Dan decided to continue on in Cork for one more night, allowing us to grab their seats in the hire car and join Michael and Nicky on an old couple’s Sunday drive through Kinsale. Kinsale is an old port town with links to the Spanish. It’s green and hilly and lined with tight, winding streets. We found an Irish pub and sat down for lunch and a pint. The bar tender lit up when he found out we were all from Australia as he was doing the complete same thing – he’d sold all his stuff and was due to fly out to Melbourne in several weeks. We were all pretty exhausted from our stints travelling so it was refreshing to see how passionate and elated this guy was who was still at the very start of his dream. We arrived back in Dublin around 9pm and, as Michael and Nicky weren’t keen to repeat their wagon states from the week before, Elisha and I were left to conclude the weekend with a quiet pint at the new local.

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The following weekend, Michael and Nicky surprised themselves when they realised they actually had a blank calendar. This meant the four of us could do one last run around Dublin and visit all the cafes, brunch spots and bars we had grown to love. Roasted Brown was the place for a coffee, Brother Hubbard proved the spot for brunch, we found a street not too far from Smithfield where we could grab a Korean Bibimbap and a Vietnamese Pho Bo. Michael and Nicky introduced us to one of Dublin’s greatest implementations and that was their bike system. A lot of cities have these but I was surprised to see how well it worked in Dublin. The roads aren’t too busy and the traffic moves slow so the threat of an accident is minimal. The bike stations are regularly and conveniently placed so its easy to use bikes like taxis and drop them off very closely to where you need to go. We had lots of fun and used them to get around everywhere that weekend. We also followed them out to Phoenix Park where, sadly, there were no deer, but there was an impressive vastness of parkland (the second most in the Northern Hemisphere.) Great weekend champs!

Midweek, we organised to catch up with Collette, Brid and Aoife – the three Irish girls we met back on the Blue Cruise in Turkey. The girls generously paid for an assortment of tapas (Irish tapas where everything was huge and mostly potato!) at a ritzy restaurant where we feasted and shared stories. The night quickly turned into a pub crawl and before we knew it, Elisha and I were struggling just to keep up drink for drink with them. Weren’t they supposed to go to work the next day?! It’s no stereotype that the Irish know how to drink and know how to have fun and I’m sorry to say to all Australians back home that they beat us hands down – Ireland 1 : Australia 0. By about 2am, and may I remind you again that they had to work the next day, the girls called it a night and we said our farewells. Crazy cats. I have no idea what Aoife was going to teach her pupils the next day at school. If she could even get out of bed that is! Or any of them for that matter.

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When we weren’t out socialising with the Irish, Elisha and I tried to keep our days pretty simple and an afternoon coffee at Roasted Brown or Brother Hubbard was usually the only highlight of the day.  Apart from that, we went to the cinemas for the first time since we left Australia and watched both Gone Girl and Boyhood.  Elisha also caught up on Game of Thrones and I got to take a plethora of photos during the Red Wedding scene.

The next weekend soon approached and Michael and Nicky had planned a grand night out in Temple Bar for their farewell and their London friends, Jules, Nina, Yoonie, Duncan and Karen, had flown over for the celebration. With a big one scheduled for the Saturday night, things began rather slowly with some quiet drinks at Oscar’s and a communal dinner of lollies before we all retired to bed.

The next morning we attempted to get 9 people a table at Roasted Brown where their breakfast menu had not looked all too bad. This was likely to be an impossible challenge yet, as we climbed the stairs on that Sunday morning, the place was completely empty and we had no problem pulling up a pew, unanimously deciding we’d all go for the breakfast bruschetta and bombarding the barista with an onslaught of specific drink orders – “Double shot, half sugar!” “Latte with no milk!” “Do you do Bloody Mary’s?” “Chai please!” “Latte with soy!” Although some of us had to wait while others were already finishing theirs, the breakfast bruschetta was unbelievable and the fact a sole, stressed lady was making these individually on a one gas burner left us singing praises for the rest of the morning.

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Chokka-full of avocado and poached eggs, we made our way to the Guinness Storehouse, famous for its fifth level bar that provides a panorama over Dublin (and I guess also famous for the little stout they make.) As expected, it was a touch commercialised but it was fun to see their old commercials from the 1950’s, the brewing process and to receive an official certificate confirming I could now pour the perfect pint of Guinness! Whatever fears I had about finding work in London were eased and I added the accomplishment to my Linkedin account.

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The Guinness was flowing freely at the bar and it took a little while before we managed to move ourselves onwards. The girls managed to sneak in a salad from the nearest Fresh in between pubs and we next found ourselves back up in Michael and Nicky’s apartment doing suma shots, Jameson shots, and Irish car bombs (shot of baileys in a half pint of Guinness.) Needless to say, it was getting borderline messy before we even made it to Temple Bar. To be fair, I can’t exactly remember too much regarding the events (I’m happy to put this down to writing the blog 10 weeks later though :)) There was a moment Duncan was denied entry. Michael became the dish pig with everybody’s left over drinks. We stopped in at the Whelans Bar – renowned for its usage in I Love You. We purchased a bottle of wine that no one could open – after every male in the vicinity had flexed their muscles but failed, we found the alpha male who managed to unscrew it. I bailed and made it home by around 2am, hoping to catch some sleep before our flight to London. I believe the rest of the group went back to the hotel, ordered a pizza, waited two hours for it, decided they didn’t want it when it arrived, paid for it anyway, ate it anyway, and then abused the concierge for not saying goodnight as they left.

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You can just imagine the state everyone was in come morning and I was suddenly feeling extra chipper about my decision to head home early. Michael and Nicky were bed ridden – and Elisha wished she could have been bed ridden. But alas – in a catatonic state she gingerly packed her bag – looking a total wagon – and dragged herself to the LUAS tram stop. A marathon was on that morning and we feared this might block our path to the airport bus. Alternatively, we caught the LUAS to the other side of the city where we then had to run with our backpacks (Elisha loved this whilst wanting to chunder) in a desperate bid to stall the departing bus. We did make it. Just. And we managed to drag ourselves to the airport with plenty of time. We farewelled Ireland – a country that had strangely become our second home due to Michael and Nicky’s hospitality.

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Ireland – thanks for all the fun – the craic – the laughs – the dancing.

I’ll finish with Poge Muh Hone!!

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15. Dublin // Kilkenny // Howth // Ireland

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.

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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!!

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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)

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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!!!

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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!