The last time I flew was on my honeymoon, seven years ago. The last time I flew was only the second time I’ve flown and both times were just to Florida, which is about a 2 1/2 hour flight, so that barely even counts. The flight to Ireland was a red-eye and was nearly 6 1/2 hours. The flight to Ireland looked at my previous flight to Florida and said “That’s not a flight. This is a flight.” but in a brogue instead of an Aussie accent. I had to work that day, so I was out of bed at my usual 6:30, except I had actually been awake since about 5 because it’s really hard to sleep with a whole gang of excited, methed up butterflies playing bumper cars in my stomach. So I was up obnoxiously early, worked a full day, our flight was at 10:45pm, flying at night means the plane is EXACTLY LIKE FLYING IN AN ICECUBE TRAY and is IMPOSSIBLE TO SLEEP, we landed at 10:10ish-am, given the time difference, had a full day planned in Dublin, and holy crap this is getting hyper-specific. Point is, we spent the day in Dublin after no sleep for many, many hours. But who cares? We were in Dublin, which is across the ocean and like a real, live vacation, beeches. EXCLAMATION POINTS. MANY, MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS.
Signs in Ireland have two languages on them – Gaelic and English. Gaelic is such an odd language. I’m pretty convinced it’s not real, just a bunch of random letters thrown together after a long night of drinking, just to throw off the foreigners. Which is probably exactly what happened, whether it’s real or not.
Dublin is like any other city capital city, except totally and completely different. With the Guinness Brewery at its heart, Phoenix Park, which is one of the largest city parks in Europe (our double-decker bus tour told us that you could fit two Central Parks within its walls. Who knows if he was right. I’ve heard the Irish like to drink and thread yarns, even if he was just a voice recording), and O’Connell Street. Our hotel was on O’Connell Street, which seemed nice. In the median was giant statues of various Persons Of Significance, although I barely remember a one. I know at the one end was uh…Mr.? O’Connell, but I only remember that because he coincidentally shared his name with the street. Weird, right? SHUT UP, I WAS TIRED. (I know who he was now, but only because of Google. Google knows everything.)
Also on O’Connell Street is this:
The Spire Of Dublin. That is the most beautiful and majestic 398 foot tall stainless steel toothpick ever erected. No, it’s not a toothpick, but it is nevertheless impressive. And that’s not the Death Star on the top, that’s the sun. We were told later, after we’d left Dublin, that O’Connell Street is rough, especially at night. Apparently, and this is just what we were told, so don’t shoot the messenger, O’Connell Street is where all the dumb tourists go and where all the not-so-dumb locals go to get drunk and rowdy. But whatever. We didn’t get robbed at gun point or gang raped even once, so it was fine. We felt safe the entire time we were there, even when we were walking the streets at night.
Where I’m from, an old building is 100 years old. A really old building might be 150. In Dublin, and I suspect this is true for most of Europe, an old building is many, many hundreds of years old. You can’t really walk down a street without stumbling into the broad side of cathedral built in the 1400 or 1500s. Cemeteries with crumbling headstones of people who were actually alive in the 1600s. Alive. In the 1600s. The architecture was absolutely mind-blowing. If I weren’t on a tour bus travelling at approximately the speed of light, I could have spent hours staring at some of the buildings and still not ingest every detail. Breathtaking, is what it was. Man-made beauty not seen on this side of the ocean.
We didn’t tour Guinness. The tour bus drove around the joint, which is approximately the size of a small village in and of itself, right in the center of the city, but we never got out. We heard it was expensive. We’re cheap. But we drove around that thing twice, at least, so we saw the crispy outer shell enough to get to know it well.
Have you ever had a Guinness? At this point I hadn’t, but (SPOILER ALERT!) I had a few on our trip and I learned something pretty interesting. If you have had Guinness, no doubt you’d describe it as a heavy, beer-that-drinks-like-a-meal, sort of stout. I bet even a few of you would say you didn’t like it because of that reason. Well, the Guinness in Ireland, and in Dublin specifically, was not heavy. It was light and crisp and delicious. Reason for the difference? The fresher the beer, the cleaner the taste, and how much more fresh can you get than drinking it in the very city it’s made? No more fresher, is the right answer. Connoisseurs can tell how fresh a Guinness is, even whether it came from the top of a keg or the bottom of a keg, by the taste, and obviously the fresher, the better. Cue the “the more you know” rainbow.
Our evening in Dublin went undocumented. I didn’t want to carry my camera because it’s weighs a shit-ton and I just wanted to be in the moment, you know? Not observing through a lens. We made reservations weeks in advance to enjoy an evening of traditional Irish fare, both culinary and cultural, at The Brazen Head, the oldest pub IN ALL OF IRELAND. Now THAT is an accomplishment to brag about. The pub was built in 1198, and the thing looked mucho frageelay, but we were assured it is not. The evening was a three course meal that was not at all like the pub food you’d expect. Warm chicken caesar salad, beef and Guinness stew or wild mushroom and sun dried tomato risotto, and chocolate fudge cake or traditional apple pie and custard. SO GOOD YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW. In between courses, we were entertained with stories of Irish history, fairy tales, and traditional Irish folk songs.
We walked back to the hotel, late at night, and really inhaled the fact that we were so very far from home. The pedestrian streets are cobbled and lined with shops with jacked up prices, the language is the same enough to understand but different enough to require learning, and cutting through the seedy sense of big city and metropolis is so much beauty and history and life you couldn’t begin to understand without seeing it.
Next up: Derry