It’s been 10 days of very little sleep, for me at least. After a quick weekend in Switzerland, I took off from Zurich on Sunday morning to head back to Denver (cue excitement from me and jealousy from Ryan). Although it was for a work trip, and a quite busy one at that, I did manage to sneak in a few trips up to the city, including a stop by Ace, across from my old apartment! I was overcome with nostalgia for most of the week and told Ryan as I was leaving that, after a year away, I was fairly certain Denver had gotten even cooler! I rounded out the trip with a whirlwind of trying to catch up with some good friends before an early morning departure to DIA to head back across the Atlantic.
I touched down in Dublin bright and early Sunday morning. I settled in for a few hours of work and reading while I waited for my parents (yay!) to touch down as well. I enjoyed a few tearful homecomings, including a group of about a dozen twenty-something women who (from what I could tell by their matching polos) had just gotten back from providing medical services in a developing country. They were greeted by cheerful parents, balloons, and a bagpipe ballad. I got my own joyful arrival a few hours later and, with barely a break, we were off. We hopped in a taxi and made our way to the Roxford Lodge Hotel in the Ballsbridge neighborhood to drop off our luggage around noon.
The first business of the day was to make our way to downtown. We were pointed in the right direction from the receptionist and took off down the street. We walked from our quiet neighborhood down the street towards Trinity College. We stopped by (Kilkenny?), a boutique store with a cafe upstairs, complete with a pair of men entertaining the diners with a piano, saxophone, clarinet, and the occasional vocals. We munched on soup, cod in a cheese sauce, and braised beef with a mound of potatoes and broccoli. Then, as the music was ending, we made our way back down the stairs, through the shop and out to the bustling street. We crossed the road to Trinity College and wandered through the campus for fifteen minutes or so. My dad wondered how it would feel to go to a school so overrun by tourists. I marveled at how small the whole school seemed.
We only lingered a few moments though. It was unexpectedly warm and sunny throughout our trip and the sun was starting to beat down on us in the middle of the courtyard so we decided to continue our walk, this time in some shade. We continued down to Grafton street, where we watched a fiery redhead with a violin play Bastille with a loop peddle (very impressive)! We wandered down the street, then took a left and headed back towards our hotel, ready to actually check in. We took an hour break in the room (private sauna included, who knew?!) to freshen up after the long flights. My parents grabbed a quick power nap and I went through a few emails before he headed out again around 5:00.
We traced our steps back, this time heading for Dublin Castle. The tours were over for the day but we walked through the courtyard and listened to a group of singers that were gathered there. We’re still not sure what the event was, but lots of people came dressed up with invitations so we figured we probably shouldn’t snoop. We opted instead to grab some pre-dinner gelato (Irish salted caramel – highly recommend) before walking down the street towards the river and along the cobblestoned path through the Temple Bar neighborhood. We saw the Temple Bar, overflowing with jolly beer drinkers, and a few other pubs along the way. We chose the Quay Pub, just a few blocks down, for dinner and split an Irish Salmon, a traditional Irish stew with lamp, Mussels, and some cheesy bread (probably not Irish), paired with beer. We did our best to make a dent but we were still full from earlier, so we left with full plates but full bellies.
Everyone’s eyes were drooping around this time so we started the 30 minute walk home. We summoned the energy for one last walkabout, this time heading towards the loud music we had heard playing for a few hours. We walked about a mile, past embassies, homes, and restaurants, but couldn’t find the source of the sound. We settled for heading home instead, where I asked the woman at the front desk where it was coming from.
“Oh, there is some big concert,” she said with a shrug, “I think they’re called the Chainsmokers?” We thanked her and made our way up to our room, opening the sliding glass door to listen to the rest of the concert while we got ready for bed. We all dropped off long before the music ended for some much anticipated sleep.
10 hours later, we started to wake up, feeling refreshed. We quickly got ready, then headed out in search of breakfast. We opted for Angelina’s after a recommendation from the front desk, and got porridge, an “Irish Breakfast Sandwich” (egg and bacon on an English Muffin) and a “California sandwich” (the same on a bun with avocado and arugula). Then my dad and I headed back to the room to do some work while my mom started the trek back to the souvenir store we had passed to stock up on sweatshirts. We reconvened a while later and headed back into the city.
We made a beeline for Trinity College again, this time in search of the Book of Kelly and the library. We bought our 12:30 tickets at 11:57 and a kind worker let us into the 12:00 group. We spent half an hour wandering through the exhibit, learning about the creation process and the meaning and symbolism behind some of the pages, before making our way in to see the book itself. I was assured this would be a highlight of the trip and, while the age and intricacy of the book was impressive, I happen to think it paled in comparison to what was upstairs. We followed the crowd up into what may be the most beautiful room I’ve ever seen in my life.
Lined with worn dark wood and intricate carvings, the Long Room in Trinity College houses 200,000 glorious leather bound books. There was once a mandate that any book published in Ireland had to be placed into the library but they discontinued that rule after the began to run out of room and the last volumes were placed in there in 1910. We sat down on the heavy wooden benches and listened to a man describe how the books were ordered (biggest on bottom and smallest on top) and catalogued (a system of numbers and letters that had been stamped in gold on the spine of each book). I controlled the urge to reach out and touch the books, many of which had bits of paper in them or around the spines to denote that they were delicate, and settled for feeling like Belle in a library instead. I snapped pictures of the floor to ceiling shelves, each bay with its corresponding ladder to reach the highest shelves. I managed to drag myself away after about half an hour but I still felt dreamy as we walked out into the hot afternoon.
Our one scheduled activity of the trip was coming up so we started to walk towards it, stopping for some burgers and fries to prepare for our 2:15 pm Jameson Factory Bow Street Experience tour. Some of us more excited than others, we got to the factory with three minutes to spare before we headed up to read through the history of the factory and the family. Then we were ushered into a room where our guide began the theatric retelling of the family’s history, the daily grog, a recently discovered book of recipes, and the role the factory played in the city of Dublin and whiskey production in the world. We then moved on to learning about the production of the whiskey. I now know the difference between a pot still and a column still, but don’t ask me to do a taste test! We learned the difference between the barrels used and what other producers used, and about the Angel’s Share. Lucky Irish angels get about 30,000 bottles of whiskey a day from the evaporation in whiskey production at the Jameson factory in Midleton alone!
And finally, we moved onto the highlight of the trip. We each took a seat at a table with three shot glasses and a glass of water in front of us. We walked through the proper way to taste whiskey – tilt the glass at a 45 degree angle and swirl to see the “tears” (in Ireland) or the “legs (everywhere else), take a big sniff with your mouth wide open for the full experience, then finally sip and hold the liquid in your mouth 1 second for every year it was aged. We played along, my mom only making a few faces as she sniffed and sipped the whiskey, to taste the difference between Jameson, Scotch (Johnny Walker Black Label) and American “Bourbon” Whiskey (Jack Daniels). We knocked back a few more sips, commenting on the taste like we knew what we were talking about, then made our way downstairs to collect our own daily grog (the portion of whiskey each employee was entitled to after a day of working at the factory). I’ll admit, we left a little grog in our glasses but it was a wee bit early for that much whiskey.
Instead, we headed out into the sunlight towards our side of the river for a few more stops. We went to Dublin Castle first and led ourselves on a self guided tour that happened to be perfectly timed with a (slightly more expensive) guided tour through the rooms. We saw the Viceregal bedrooms, the drawing rooms, the dining room, and the grand ballroom, where presidential press conferences and state visits are still held. There, as pretty much everywhere else in Dublin, information about the Easter Rising was everywhere. While I’ll admit I’m far from an expert, I know a fair bit more now than I did 3 days ago!
On our walk over to the castle, we had passed The Brazen Head, a pub that caught my eye and, coincidentally, had been recommended to my mom as a top place to go! We took the recommendation and headed back to the oldest pub in Dublin (dating back to the 1100’s) for some beer and small appetizers in an excellent atmosphere. Not quite hungry but not quite full, we decided to walk back to Temple Bar area and try our luck for one more stop. We stuck our heads in Temple Bar to say we did but, not seeing any seats, we headed back out to the street. We came back to Quay Bar without realizing it and, after commenting that we liked the look of the outside, headed in to take a seat at the bar downstairs.
I recognized the snarky bartender as soon as my dad and I went up to order drinks. He asked for a cider he had yet to try but quickly changed his mind when he caught the look of evident disgust on her face. I ordered a Guiness, saying I hadn’t had one, and she rolled her eyes with an “Oh Lord”, then assured me she forgave me for the oversight and showed me a proper pour with a wink. Then I watched with delight while she heckled the rest of the customers too. One ordered a different cider – “it’s British you know, and absolutely terrible, but if you’re sure!” – and another tried to order a cocktail – “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” When the man tried to explain it as a vodka cranberry with pineapple juice, she screwed up her face and said “all in one drink? Yuck!” as she poured.
Drinks in hand, we settled back into a corner of the dark room, listening to two men with a guitar and a banjo play a few Irish and a few American songs while we watch the Iran vs Portugal game on the T.V. All told, we passed about an hour in the bar, people watching and enjoying the music before we finally started to head home. We made one stop for gelato, all made fresh from milk from Dingle cows, before tracing our steps back one final time to the Roxford. We all settled in for an hour of reading and catching up on work before falling asleep around 11:00.