Dublin's main touristy area is appropriately called Temple Bar. It's filled to the brim with pubs and clubs. Nearby is the old Jameson Distillery and the Guinness Storehouse. Yes- Dublin likes its alcohol.
When I arrived I was surprised at the European architecture. There are also tons of statues and a couple monuments, like the Dublin spire, which was a useful landmark in finding my hostel.
I had several goals for Dublin: 1) Drink Guinness, Irish coffee, whiskey etc 2) go on brewery/distillery tours 3) visit old famous Dublin bars (is there a theme here?) I did that and more (less alcohol related though).
I started off with walking around and orienting myself. Not even an hour in, i saw a girl wearing a Rider jersey!! So of course i yelled " go Riders" across the street to her lol. Awesome.
Then I went to the Stag's Head, a pub that was in my guidebook. Busy, lots of taxidermy on the walls.. And my first drink was a Guinness. Now, the beer is dark, basically like a meal. The first time I drank Guinness in Van it was a little much for me. This time I actually liked it! It was a pleasant surprise. It has a full, unique taste- something different, which is nice.
The next day I walked around a bit more. Grafton Street is a famous shopping street and I mainly recognized it as the street in the movie "Once" where 'guy' does his singing for money. At the end of the street is a gate entering into an adorable park called St Stephen's Green... Which I also know as the park where 'guy' chased the a****** who stole his guitar case full of tip money. I love that movie!
I also visited 2 of Dublin's famous churches, including Christchurch and St. Patrick's. Jonathan Swift is buried in St Patrick's. It's quite a large church with beautiful stained glass.
Christchurch is more medieval and includes an extensive crypt. The most interesting thing there was costumes from the Tudors tv show and a mummified cat and mouse. They were found stuck in the church organ in 1850(!) The cat was chasing the mouse, and looks pretty intense in its mummified state. Really creepy. Pilgrims used to visit the church to see the relic heart of St Lawrence, which is kept in an iron heart-shaped case.
Afterwards I went to the oldest bar in Ireland, circa 1198, called the Brazen Head. I watched rugby with locals and tourists (Dublin's team was playing), drank Guinness and ate Guinness and beef stew. It was heaven lol. The food was good- it was in a yorkshire pudding bowl and it was huge! I couldn't finish.
Now that I was full, I decided to head to the old Jameson Distillery. I didn't know much about whiskey-making, so it was pretty informative. From the type of barley, to the particular heating of it (they don't use peat, which means the whiskey doesn't have a smoky flavor like Scottish whisky does) to why they triple distill the whiskey (it's smoother, and has a cleaner taste). Jameson has a sort of vanilla/ fruit taste to it and that's because they don't use new barrels to age the whiskey- they use barrels already used to age bourbon and sherry. Jameson actually buys the barrels, lends them to the bourbon & sherry companies, then gets them back for the whiskey. Odd huh.
Of course I volunteered to be a whiskey taster. So at the end of the tour 8 of us had to compare Scottish (Johnny Walker black) to Jameson to American (Jack Daniels) whiskey. Jameson is the most smooth and, if you like the vanilla, easiest to drink straight up. I like Scottish whisky and that smoky flavor, so it was a close second. JD is best mixed lol. It was fun! We got a certificate saying that we were Jameson "Official Whiskey Tasters."
That night it was sort of quiet in Temple Bar. I tried out Dawson's Lounge, which has the tag line "probably the smallest bar in Dublin" but they were closing early. I walked past Davy Bryne's, which has a mention in James Joyce's Ulysses, but it was sort of dead. I ended up at the Porterhouse, the largest Irish independent brewing company... just as the Irish music was ending. Sigh. I got a pint of their Porterhouse Red, and it was delicious. Then I decided to call it a night.
Trinity College is very old, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. I decided to take a tour the next day, which is given by a student. Students have to wear these weird black robes and they only get sleeves after receiving a bachelors, then long sleeves after a masters. There is a set of tests, and if you pass them all, you become a scholar and you get a free 3 course dinner every night. Of course that dinner has a time and rules, like the dinner is over when the head professor(? I forget) is finished. So scholars learn to eat fast. The guide also showed us some private dorms and told us a story of a disliked teacher who lived at number 25. Students were throwing stones at his window, he decided to shoot back at them. So the students got their own firearms... And ended up shooting and killing him. After going to court, they were acquitted because the judge considered it a college prank that got out of hand lol.
Finally it was time for the book of Kells, a book of the 4 prophesies? written in 800 AD by Irish monks. Actually they displayed 4 books. Each include design pages or small designs at the beginning of a sentence or between lines. The minute detail is incredible. It looks like it couldn't even have been done by the human hand, it's that fine. The guide said that the different colours used in the book were from different parts of the world, which shows that 9th century monks traded with other countries. We also got to see the "long room," a huge room the length of the building filled with very old books, carved busts and an exhibition on the medical school and old medical books. The libraries at Trinity hold millions of books. So many that there is a warehouse miles away that they store some of them in... If a student needs one, s/he has to request it and it is collected. It was cool. I love old universities.
Next I went to the Wax Museum Plus. They had the history of Ireland in wax lol. They also had a house of horror featuring Dracula, the scary dude from Silence of the Lambs and Frankenstein. Of course there were celebrities/ characters too- U2, Elvis, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), Harry Potter... It was pretty cool.
Then it was time for Dublin castle. The original medieval castle is no longer there, except for excavations that took place in the 80's, which we got to see. It was cool- the remnants of one of the towers is still there, a staircase and an arch. There is still water where the moat/ river was. She said they found all sorts of things like jewelry and skulls there. It was likely that people who tried to sneak into the castle were caught, beheaded, and their heads put on display as a warning.
The buildings themselves now house state rooms and a grand room where presidential inaugurations still take place. Much of the items in the building are from Ireland, including the carpets and Waterford crystal chandeliers.
Finally it was time for the Guinness storehouse!! It is an old building in the factory that they changed into a tourist trap. They have a gravity bar on the 7th floor that was closing soon, so I went there first. It has a panoramic view of Dublin- it's a circular, windows top to bottom bar. Of course there's a free pint, so I enjoyed that, and the view, in the completely crowded bar. Was every tourist in Dublin there? Ugh lol. Then it was time for the tour. It was a pretty cool set up and though they have 6 floors, there was really only 2 with info. They had an interesting video on how coopers used to make barrels by hand. It was hard work! Somewhat similar to what I learned at Jameson- the coopers had to have 7 years of training! They also went through the ingredients. I learned about their hops and that the main reason the brewery is at James' gate is because of the mountains nearby- a good water source is very important. They also had old print ads and commercials, and damn, they've made some good ones. Guinness is good for you!!
That night I ended up hanging out with the one other person in my 8 bed dorm room, Caroline. We grabbed dinner at a restaurant ( I went with the chicken- not much Irish about it), then we went to The Celtic, a place near our hostel. The live music was a guy and his guitar, playing some well known Irish songs. Some were really sad!! It was good though. One of the best things about the pubs is the live music! I tried a different Irish beer - Smithwick's- but I didn't like it much.
I liked Dublin. It has a festive atmosphere- touristy but friendly and fun.
Off to see more of the country now. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the beautiful landscape I've seen in pictures and movies!