This is where that little surprise comes in. I was all set to call it quits after Liverpool and was resigned to a long train ride back to Edinburgh but Jennifer had other plans. She had done her research (she’s good at that) and discovered we could fly from Liverpool to Dublin, spend the day in Ireland and then fly back to Edinburgh that night with plenty of time to spare to make the 6:30am flight back to Kaunas. All of a sudden our trip became 4 cities, 3 countries, 2 plays and 1 knight! I was beyond stoked!
We called a cab from the hostel to take us to John Lennon International airport (and really, how much does it suck to be Paul McCartney and have to fly home to that? Either you get reminded of your dead friend or you wonder why it wasn’t called The Beatles Airport). Our cab driver was a great bloke, a former professional baseball player in Liverpool whose wife worked for the local arena as an accountant. He was a talkative fellow for 5am and showed us, again, several of the Beatle sites. Including the airport which sports a full size yellow submarine and a 7 foot statue of John on the move, as if late for a plane himself. There are also a lot of Lennon quotes painted on the walls, giving the impression this is just another tourist attraction.
Our flight was uneventful and we landed in Dublin around 9am, giving us about 12 hours before we had to be back for our next flight. We left our bags and boarded a shuttle bus and hit the ground running. Our first stop was… you guessed it, the Information office. We wanted to pick up a Dublin Pass for attractions. If you’re a tourist and like doing tourist things (and I freely admit, I do), these cards are great. They offer free entry or discounts to way more than you can possibly do in the time allotted. A lot of cities have them for
24/48/72 hours and the ultimate savings, if you’re going to hit the highlights, is immense. So Jennifer was going to take care of the cards while I found a bathroom. I was looking around when someone walked up to me and said “Hi, don’t know if you remember, but we met on the boat.” I was gonna get a bit scared, like the business executive who tells his secretary “I’m not here to anyone who says we met at ClubMed.” but after a second it hit me… this was the father of the family I had talked to back at Loch Ness. So here in Dublin, another country across a sea, he wanted to thank me for pointing them to the Harry Potter stuff and that it had all worked out great for them. Let no one ever tell you this isn’t a small world.
We said good bye to them then headed on our way to the hop on hop off bus which would see us around the city. The bus stop was right next to Trinity College so we decided to have a peak inside and see if we couldn’t glom on to a tour whcih would take us to see The Book of Kells. As this wasn’t something I was dying to see, we figured if we could sneak in, we would, otherwise we’d move and and see what we we wanted to see first and then if we had time later in the day, we’d come back to this.We wandered the yard of Trinity and found where the library was, but there was no way we were going to get past paying the 10 pound fee so we skipped it for now. Instead, we headed out to wait for our tour bus.
We got on and already we were better than we were in Liverpool, where we had tickets but never used them. Our first stop, as recommended by our tour guide, was the Guinness Storeroom. He explained the tour there gets crowded as the afternoon progresses so if we wanted to see it, we should see it early. We made friend on the bus with Barb, a solo traveler from Florida who was also heading to Guinness so we teamed up for a bit. At the site, a former grain storeroom which they converted into a massive, 7 story tour facility, we walked right in, past the queue, thanks to our Dublin Card and headed to the first site to see… the 9000 year lease. When Arthur Guinness bought the brewery in 1760 he was in it for the long haul so when he negotiated the lease, he negotiated it for 9000 years. Yeah, 9 with three zeros. That’s a lot of beer. And the lease is under glass in the middle of the ground floor. Truth to tell, it’s pretty impressive.
In fact, the whole tour was impressive. It starts with a step by step explanation of how the product is made, including showing the four ingredients (Hops, Barley, Water and Yeast) in a way which makes it easy to understand. Then we get to see the vats and get taken on a video tour of the plant by the master brewer so the entire process is broken down into easily digestible parts. Even kids can go on the tour and learn from it. On higher levels, there’s a look at some of Guinness’ distinctive advertising campaigns and what kind of charity work the company is doing around the world. You learn that Arthur Guinness was one of the first to give his employees paid vacations and insurance. He was always about giving back. Further up the pint glass shaped interior is the Guinness Academy where you can learn to pour the perfect pint (the line was too long for us) and all the way up the top was the Gravity Bar, where you could trade in your ticket stub for a nice refreshing pint of, you guessed it, Guinness. It also offered an almost 360 degree view of the Dublin skyline so while we were enjoying our drinks we could spot various landmarks.
Leaving there, and back on the bus, we met up with a 6 year old Irish boy (whose name I’ve completely forgotten) and his mother/nanny/personal assistant named Pamela. We knew her name because he constantly asked her questions (he asked us, too). We learned he had great eyesight (“Do you see the windmill?”), had a favorite colour (“I like red, do you like red?”) and loved things in the water (“Do you see the boat? I like boats!”). We all ended up getting off at the same spot. Pamela and her charge to walk along the river while Jennifer and I headed over to the Writer’s Museum to learn all about Irish authors.
Again, with our Dublin card, entry was free and we were give an audio guide and told we couldn’t take pictures in the first two rooms, but anywhere else was okay. Of course, in those first two rooms were all the interesting things. This is where we saw original manuscripts and artifacts from people like Johnathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.
Upstairs, where we could take pictures, were some portraits and Joyce’s Piano. This, really, is like saying “Here’s Muhammed Ali’s boxing glove, but you can’t photograph it, instead, take a picture of his typewriter.” Aside from that, though, the museum was packed with information and arranged in a nice, chronological way so you could follow the evolution of literary Ireland easily. Definitely worth the stop.
By the time we were done there, though, it was mid afternoon and we realized we had forgotten to eat. We also knew we wanted to see the Jameson Distillery as this was our last chance to get in some good whiskey tasting. So we headed down towards the distillery, figuring to stop somewhere and eat along the way. Eventually, we found a nice chip shop and ordered some traditional cod and chips. I’m being specific because the choice of fish was rather extensive, including ray. But being traditionalists, we opted for the cod. We also decided we’d split a banana split for dessert.
After our fish, they brought out the Split. Remember when I explained about mexican food in Manchester? How it was more like someone told someone who told someone who told another person who then made it? I wish that was the case with the Banana Split. This was not anything resembling a Banana Split you’ve ever had. This was chunks of banana covered in vanilla ice cream. That’s it. It wasn’t even a split banana. It was a hacked banana with ice cream. No chocolate sauce, no different ice cream flavors, no whipped cream and certainly no cherry. But then again, on their own menu they made a mistake and their touting of the benefits of eating fish actually worked against them when you figure out what they were trying to say. Ah well, live and learn. In any case, we had food in our bellies and were ready for Jameson…
Except on the way to the distillery we saw a sign for the Leprechaun Museum. Seriously, how can you pass that up? So we went looking for it, afraid we were going to miss it, assuming it was a wee place with an entrance around our knees. When we did finally find it, it was, to our great disappointment, a full size place and not very leprechaun-y at that. Plus there was a line and we didn’t feel like waiting to find out what it really was. We decided our imagination was much better than whatever they could offer so we left and continued on our way to Jameson.
Our luck was holding and we got there in time to book the last tour of the day (free with card). Unlike the Guinness tour, this was no longer a working facility (Jameson is being produced today down in Cork but Guinness is still produced in Dublin, in fact all around the storeroom tour, you just don’t see it). Jameson has dioramas set up explaining the distilling process, which is similar to the brewing process and led me to wonder about the possible friendship/rivalry between John Jameson and Arthur Guinness. As far as I can tell, nothing’s been written about these two titans of sprits in connection with the other, even though they were operating at roughly the same time and must have known each other.
Early in the tour, they asked for a few volunteers for a taste comparison at the end, so of course, I volunteered. They set us up with three wee drams, one of Jameson, one of Johnny Walker Black and one of Jack Daniels and had us do direct taste comparisons. Having never done that before, I can honestly state there is a significant difference and Jameson’s is some very smooth whiskey. With a longer tasting, I might have gotten more of the flavors and notes, but in this brief one, I could definitely taste the difference between a single/double/triple distilled product. Amazing.
With the Jameson tour done, our day was also rapidly coming to a close. We jumped Hopped On our bus (which was the last one of that route for the day so they made us change busses for the last go round of another route) and ended up back where we started, outside Trinity College. We also were a short walk from the Dublin Hard Rock so we headed there, on the way walking past the hostel where Jennifer had stayed when she was last here. At the Hard Rock, they didn’t have the city drumsticks we were looking for, but the guy at the counter did give us some interesting civics lessons on the design of the flag, which was great. One more souvenir shop (where we both got Oscar Wilde quote T-shirts) and we were on the shuttle bus back to the airport.
We picked up our luggage (and may I say, the guys who work the left luggage concession at Dublin airport are some of the nicest people we ran into in our travels. If you’re in Dublin, use their services) and checked in for our flight. We got in line early so we could get two seats together, which we did, near the back of the plane. The best though, was when a guy wanted to use our overhead compartment to store his bag and then he explained that in order to comply with RyanAir’s one bag policy, was wearing about 4 layers of clothes, some of which he proceeded to remove once on the flight. Naturally, when he retrieved his bag, those clothes fell out and we were left handing him his skivvies.
We landed in Edinburgh around 11 at night and after grabbing a Kosta Coffee sandwich and snack, went off in search of a place to crash for the night. We ended up sleeping on the benches of another coffee franchise on the second floor and any fear we had that we would be the only ones to do this were unfounded. There’s a whole transient community, nightly, which makes use of the airport rather than go to a hotel. It makes perfect sense and but in the end, we probably each only got a couple of hours sleep. Around 5:30am, we said good-bye and I went through security and down to my gate, ready to board my plane for the flight home to Kaunas.
What a thoroughly wonderful trip this was and a great way to celebrate my birthday. Thank you Jennifer! Couldn’t have done it without you!