Monday, March 30, 2009

Stumblin' Round Dublin

Expectations before going into Ireland:
-Drinking. Lots of drinking.
-Red heads
-Everyone drinks Guinness beer
-An old book of “Kells” whatever that means.
-Harsh accents that, even though they are speaking mostly English, is completely foreign.
-Fiddle music
-Leprechauns or rainbows or pots of gold….or all!
-Fishermen and Sheppard’s all wearing traditional Irish Sweaters while performing their jobs.

Realizations after going to Ireland:
-Drinking. Lots of drinking.
-The red heads that I was expecting to see were mostly golden brown…or grey.
-Everyone drinks Guinness beer
-The book of Kells is over a century old and not only contains the 4 gospels of Jesus, but displays incredible art, precision, and discipline to produce an inspiring finished product.
-Harsh accents that are charming and when drunk: unintelligible.
-Not only fiddle music, but drums, guitar, and a lot of BANJO!
-Leprechauns do not exist. Rainbow are infrequent in Ireland due to missing a key ingredient in their weather most of the time….SUN. The Irish economy is bustling, and more expensive than England…so there’s your gold baby!
-No fisherman or Sheppard’s in the big city of Dublin, but the traditional Irish Sweaters are amazingly warm and cool looking!

Here is your update on most recent endeavor of the Traveling Halbury:

I spent 2 full days and 2 nights in Dublin, Ireland this weekend with my fellow travel buddy Colin and his cooperating teacher Harold.

We land in Dublin and I, being the savvy traveler that I am, talked the two blokes into taking the bus for E 2,20 instead of a cab for god knows how much (upwards of 30 Euros) into the center of Dublin. We found a friendly Irishman on the bus to tell us when to get off, and after 4 blocks of city walking we arrived at our hotel, The North Star.

After we checked in, put our bags down, and grabbed a quick bite to eat (pizza from a random pizzeria) we headed out on the town. Here is a picture of the famous Ha’penney bridge and Dublin behind it at night time (Ha’penny named after the toll it once cost to cross it). We arrived at Madigan’s Bar and drank our first pint of Guinness for E 4,60! All the while we were listening to the Irish version of your garden variety open-mic singer belting the tunes of the famous Billy Ray Cyrus. Imagine pulling up into a bar in downtown Dublin, all sorts of stoked on dipping your toes into the Irish culture and accompanying your first Guinness from its native land to the words “Don’t tell my heart, my achy breaky heart, I just don’t think it’d understand” in an Irish accent, with the entire bar singing along. Other highlights from the same singer included “Sweet Caroline” and my favorite (your listening to it right now) “The Galway Girl.”

We moved from there along the quay (river Liffy) down toward the famous nightlife district “Temple Bar.” I must say, I was thoroughly unimpressed with Temple Bar. I found an absence of traditional Irish bars sporting pub music and an abundance of shitty modern clubs with youngsters dressed in themed costumes listening to dance/techno music….not the Dublin experience I was looking for. We did find a good pub to sit and people watch and ended up calling it a night at 2 am.

Saturday was a long day, and thoroughly impressive in accomplishments. After a buffet breakfast in our hotel, we headed out to our first stop: Christchurch Cathedral. An impressive and beautiful church, but merely a stop on our way to the better known cathedral….Ay da catedral o’ Saint Patrick! Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. It was a striking church (seen to the side, set behind a blossoming cherry tree) and toward the end of our time there we fell across a Norwegian Choir practicing for an upcoming event. Gorgeous church and fitting music.

Feeling spiritual and inspired by the two Cathedrals we did what any good Irishman would do….went to a near-by pub. Fallon’s, a quaint little pub kitty corner from the church. From here on out, we decided to make the afternoon and evening about drinkin’! We headed to the Guinness storehouse. I must say, a VERY impressive tour and well worth the E 10,00 to get in! You climb up 5 stories, each level containing some form of history, beer making process, or beer industry information. There are tastings and beer stops along the way, that reach to the pinnacle: The Gravity Bar. This bar is one of the highest points in Dublin and has such incredible views of the Irish hills and the cityscape.

What would you do after a couple pints of Guinness? “Why head to the Jameson Distillery ya mick!!”
We caught a cheap taxi to the Jameson distillery, and it was well worth it…my feet were dead by this point. The distillery was a bit less impressive and we were not chosen for the special “whiskey taster” session at the end of the tour, but we still did get our own taste of Jameson at the end. It was great to be celebrating the booze of Ireland in Dublin only weeks after St. Patty’s day.

On the way home we stopped by a restaurant and I got to try what I was hoping to taste the entire weekend- Irish Stew. Let me tell you it was a great experience. The weather was cold and getting colder and we step inside this pub, order burgers and my stew and sit down to a Guinness and conversation. What do you know, the TV gets turned on and is immediately surrounded by all the men and women in the bar. It was the Ireland vs. Bulgaria football game. The final ended up being 1-1 (which probably prevented the night turning into a complete drunken mess).

Believe it or not Saturday night, the night when we were all planning to get shmammered, we crashed out very early in the hotel. It was upsetting at first. And then I realized how incredibly tired I was. It was a long day and sipping the Black Bush (Whiskey by Bushmills) on the hotel bed watching Irish TV was alright with me.

I started my Sunday with a trip to the hotel sauna (half to escape the two sickies in my room and half to breath in some warmth to clear my lungs).

We went to Trinity college (the famous university in Dublin) and the owner of an ancient library and the famous “book of Kells.” I was really impressed with the tour of the university. We had an exceptionally funny tour guide (a senior history major) and it ended with a viewing of the book itself. What an incredible book! It looks so incredibly labor intensive that I cannot imagine how long it took the group of monks to finish it.

We caught a “House of Ireland” store right outside the college and took a peek at some of their woolen mills. Damn. They got me. Colin and I had aspirations to buy traditional Irish Aran Sweaters while we were in Dublin, and we happened to find a great place to purchase them. I bought a light brown loom-woven sweater with some very intricate designs. It is very well made, and I am confident will last me a lifetime. Colin bought a much, much better quality hand-made sweater that looks absolutely bad arse. It was a good bit of money for us to spend, but will be well worth it in the memories that it gives us each time we put it on.

After some fish and chips, we arrived at the highlight of my weekend: The Brazen Head. The Brazen Head is best known as the oldest pub in Ireland. In a city of over 1,000 pubs….that’s just the city….that is an impressive distinction! While we were there, we stumbled into a side room and discovered the Sunday afternoon “Live Music.” When I say live music, I mean 1 fiddle player, 2 guitar player, 1 banjo players, and 2 Irish drum players (played with a wooden stick and looks like deer skin stretched over a wooden frame). Not to mention the random folks drinking in the bar that were called up to sing a particular song (men and women alike) or strum a little tune on the guitar. We killed about 3 pints of Guinness just watching them and enjoying the atmosphere. I was so elated to be having the experience that I did, and I am positive it wasn’t the Guinness speaking, but I had a natural high just living in that moment. It was great. And therefore the “High”light of the weekend.

We hopped a bus back to the airport (thanks again to the keen Hal, we got off the bus just after we were supposed to, narrowly escaping the catastrophe of missing our flight and being stuck in Dublin with no place to go).

It was an exhausting and jam-packed weekend that I am sure I missed some of the more intricate details of it, but you will just have to wait to hear those stories until we can meet over a Guinness or Jameson ourselves and tell the tales.

That’s the news for now. Sorry if the end of this post trails off, my attention is being divided in many directions and I am suddenly looking at my “to-do” list and realizing that I should be investing my time into other endeavors than my blog. Love you all none-the-less!

“and then I said ‘feck it, I’m in Ireland’”
-T-shirt in a souvenir shop


Mr. Kale Iverson said...

what is it about that stupid Billy Ray Cyrus song, the Eskimos play that crap all the time too.

Will this song not die already?

Erin said...

Hey Hal! I love reading about your adventures (and a bit envious!). I have wanted to bum around Ireland for some time now. Hopefully next summer.

I read a really interesting book awhile back called How the Irish Saved Civilization. It was about how Irish monks were able to salvage the literature of Rome after Rome fell. The monks saved the literature of civilization from destruction at the hands of the Germanic tribes pillaging the former Roman empire. Without the Irish all those illuminated manuscripts would have been destroyed.

It's a great and really interesting read! It was pretty cool to read about how Ireland was the literary center of the world at one time. I never would have guessed it. What a rad country!

Just thought I'd throw that out there for you to ponder. I'm sure you have all sorts of time to sit down and read about Irish history!

I'm already anticipating reading about the upcoming Iverson brothers summer adventures!

Anonymous said...

I recently watched a film about the Catholic Irish Magdalene Institutions...very surreal but also very true, and recent. It is amazing to learn of history, both the good and the bad. Check them out--you'll learn some important Irish stories that will make your jaw drop.

Sorry for the delay on the package from Pullman--the internship is wrapping up and I've been beyond busy. It's still coming, I promise!


ms. cugno to some said...

Hal- Ireland was one of my all time favorite trips, it was cool to read about yours. I too was impressed with the guinness factory/bar at the top, and unimpressed by temple bar. It's the little dives that are the true gems, turns out. and I love the accents, which definitely thicken with drinkin.. one of my roommates in nz was irish, can definitely attest to that... Have you/will you get up to scotland at all? Get yerself a kilt?

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