Monday, July 6, 2009

En Route to Prague, Installment Two: Dublin

This blog post is much less of a live update than the last, but to stay true to the spirit of my notes, I will type them as I recorded them in my journal. I am currently exhausted and hungry after a series of difficulties I had once I landed in Prague. But that is a story for later. I am getting ahead of myself. In order to pick up where we left off, we rewind to Saturday aboard the plane for Dublin.

5:48PM Made it on the plane. Already sick of carrying around my absurdly bulky backpack. My back is killing me.

Funny observation #1: The Irish (at least aboard Aer Lingus) pronounce "H" with an emphasis on a "hah" sound so it comes out like "hheych." I am seated in row 41, seat H.

6:05PM Seatbelt fastened. The anticipation builds.

6:24PM Take off.

Uneventful flight, uncomfortable seats, was only able to relax the eyelids for maybe 45 minutes.

11:58PM We land in Dublin. Local time 4:58AM. I will now switch to Dublin time, but refer back to time as my body perceives it for effect.

5:16AM A sneeze attack strikes as I make my way through border control. Though it was embarrassing, it may have led the border police to stamp my passport and wave me through faster than they would otherwise.

6:00AM Waiting for a bus into the city center. I just picked up some Euros, realizing how much I kind of missed the monopoly money. It's a shame that now I have to figure out Czech crowns.

6:19AM Having boarded my bus, I have U2 blasting in my iPod. My body is already starting to question this sunrise at midnight phenomenon, but I'm having a blast. There are Mike Biernes all over the place (cheers dad).

What to do @ 7am on a Sunday in Dublin? I need to get my hands on a decent city map.

6:28AM Oh boy, the old drive on the left side of the road number. Not as scary as it was the first time around.

6:38AM "Where the Streets Have No Name" plays. Dublin appears to have streets with names.
6:51AM This place is sleepy. The only other person I've seen out here was an elderly woman wearing a red, white, and blue cowboy hat and a flourescent yellow construction vest (I couldn't tell if there was anything underneath...ugh). After listening to her ask me the same slurred question three times, I got the jist. Apologizing, I told her that unfortunately, I was fresh out of cigarettes. She probably attended some sort of mocking July 4th event at a pub the night before and had yet to find her way home.

7:34AM After snapping some photos around the Liffy River (above) I decided to stop for some breakfast and coffee. Maybe that will set my body straight. Doubtful. It's 2:34 in the morning man, what do you mean it's breakfast time?

7:59AM Toast, eggs and coffee have really helped me shape up (so far as I can tell at the moment). I've managed to gather more city maps and now I figure that if I tour the Guinness factory, I may as well check out the Jameson distillery as well. Don't worry - I have no aspirations of getting out of hand here. If I expect to make it to Prague, we must have some discipline.

8:10AM Just met an Irish guy at this cafe that had just returned from Boston, where he had apparently been for the past month. We joked and bitched about the rain and marvelled at the sunny Dublin skies. I caught about 60% of what he said.

Quote on the wall: "Work is the curse of the drinking class." Oscar Wilde

8:37AM A very nice Indian family took my picture in front of a war memorial.

To the distillery!

9:26 Jameson not open until 10AM, to the Guiness factory (open at 9AM daily).

The tour was a pretty typical explanation of the brewing process, history, and legend of Guinness, though they clearly spent loads of money making it as engaging and interactive as possible.

Through the tour I was really just biting to get to the tasting - but WHAT a finale IT WAS!

A cleverly dynamic renovation has created a skytop glass panorama of Dublin with a free pint, fresh from downstairs, to boot. MY GOODNESS MY GUINNESS!

10:28AM Along the way I learned the proper pub pour of the elegant drought. Using an authentic Guinness pint glass, you pull the tap and run the beer down the side of the glass part of the way, tipping late and stopping short of the golden harp. Wait exactly 119.5 seconds, then tip the tap in the upwards, filling the glass the rest of the way with a perfectly formed head. The pourer or drinker is then left to marvel at the settling of the beer, which the Guinness people called "the surge."

The Guinness pint is a true thing of beauty. The freshness was unlike any other I have tasted. The bitter chocolate and coffee notes were so clear and crisp.
10:45 This view is unreal. Increasingly so given the sleep deprivation and beer.

11:39 The Jameson Distillery Tour. Yes, I squeezed both in before noon (or 6am according to my body). So it goes when you arrive as early as I did. The tour starts in 6 minutes and I am excited. While I am having plenty of fun on this solo adventure, I would of course rather be doing

this with friends. I haven't stopped noticing little things around the city that I know certain folks back home would appreciate (Ryan loved Lucozade energy drinks, no one appreciates Guinness like Brendan, and Patty used to go through Jameson like crazy when it was on sale).

12:45 Just wrapped the tour. Jameson certainly takes pride in its craft and in the process of doing so, puts down other whisky styles and producers. Most particularly, they seize on every chance to hate on the Scots and their "inferior" Scotch whiskey. There's a strong sense of triple-distilled superiority and suspicion of smoky peat perversions. They also trash on Jack Daniel's.

The tour guide was knowledgable but indifferent and blunt at times...I would have expected him to have shown more enjoyment of such a sweet job. Seriously.

Though the Jameson-cranberry juice is apparently an old Dublin favorite, I took mine on the rocks. No need for additives aside from temperature and mild dilution.
On my way out, I found a restaurant/bar (apparently voted one of the best in Dublin) called The Church! Go figure.

1:15 The rain has begun to come down steadily...this is, after all, Ireland.
1:51 Found a pub to grab a bite and wait around a bit before hopping a bus back to the airport. I thought I was about to watch a soccer match between Cork and Limerick, but it turns out that its actually Gaelic football. It's kind of like rugby meets basketball meets soccer. I am SO confused.

Here's a link with a clip of that explains some. I still don't get it.

Staring at my pint, I still don't understand how the brewing process is so similar to other styles, but the final product is so distinct. I wish I was back at the top of St. James Gate again. It was amazing how big Guinness really is in Dublin. When I would stroll through a pub, it seemed like 90% of the patrons (especially even the ladies) had a Guinness, and these people were no fair weather tourists. Even Budweiser doesn't have that kind of pull in the States.

2:50 I befriended an Irish guy named Sean and he was trying to help me understand the rules to the game. Unfortunately, he got the boot from a bouncer in the pub after trying to go out for a cigarette. I didn't think he was in that bad of shape, but who am I to question.

3:03 One for the ditch?

4:12 On the bus back to the airport. The U2 song of the moment is "In God's Country." The rain continues to fall.

9:16 Aboard the plane to Prague. It was not easy to get on. Initially, we had a full half hour delay due to a passing lightning shower. Once we finally boarded the plane, we sat for about another half hour before the captain informed us that due to a mechanical problem, we would have to get off the plane until it was fixed. Wonderful. Another hour passed before we finally were able to get on and take off.

I am beat, and hopefully I will sleep well tonight. Still having difficulty sleeping on the plane. It does not help that there is not one, but two screaming children that will not cut it out aboard.

11:59PM (Local Czech time, one hour ahead of Ireland) the plane lands.

And so it begins.


  1. Hi Keith,
    Excellent Update! Love the pic of you and your beautiful Guiness Pint! Isn't Ireland wonderful....I know you only had a glimpse, but I'm sure you will head back there one of these days! Did you visit an O'Brien's pub? I still owe you the story on that one!
    Looking forward to hearing about your first experiences in Prague!