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Dublin Illustrated

Monday night Jenna and I ordered a pizza. Wanting to avoid using French — if we can call the mumbling that leaves our mouths French — we paid for the pizza online, hoping to limit the transaction to a simple pizza handoff.

But when the pizza guy arrived, he was unaware we had paid online. Both Jenna and I tried, futilely, to tell the man the pizza was paid for. After a few uncomfortable minutes, Jenna grabbed her computer, typed out “We paid for it online”, ran the sentence through Google translator, and showed the delivery guy. Finally, he understood.

Such is life when you don’t speak the local language, an inconvenience Dublin provided a nice escape for this past weekend — though, truth be told, I think I understand some French speakers better than some of the Irish folk we spoke with.

We headed to Dublin with our Portugal travel mates Charles and Cat (The Cs), as well our latest couple-friends, Jon and Raven (aka JR, or Junior), whom you might remember from our Christmas.

Jenna, Raven and Cat. It took Jenna all of 10 minutes in Dublin to find a candy store and all of three seconds to tear into the bag.

We were fortunate to have unseasonably perfect weather (low 50s with constant sunshine, except at night of course), and because of some thorough group planning, we packed in a lot of activity without the feeling of being rushed.

What is art? What is not?

I think any trip should start the same way: just walk. Don’t head anywhere in particular, just try to get a feel for the city. Getting lost is sometimes the best thing that can happen to you. You often stumble upon some great sites not listed in tourism books, although this thing on the right was unmissable.

We never really found out what it was. I asked a taxi driver, and he said it was supposed to be some piece of art, but nobody in Dublin knew what it meant or why it was there. At least that’s what I think he said. His thick Irish accent sounded like he was speaking with a mouthful of saltines.

Even with all the “look right”  and “look left” warnings written on all the roads in tourist areas, the simple act of crossing a street in Dublin, where like the UK they drive on the left side of the road, can be quite complicated. Even though our mothers always warned us to look both ways, instinct tells us to look left first.

Charles and Raven follow instructions well.

Our first stop in Dublin took us to Porterhouse, a pub deluxe with multiple floors and dozens of brews, including some made on the premises. We ended up returning to this place on Saturday night for a variety of reasons.

Charles works the crowd at Porterhouse, our Dublin hangout.

One, we were craving burgers, and somehow every place we had gone to up to that point didn’t have burgers on the menu. Secondly, Charles wanted to watch a basketball game online (for once it wasn’t me dragging a group to a TV-friendly bar), and Porterhouse had free wifi, so he watched the game on a laptop.

The third reason we didn’t know was a reason going in. But around 8pm, a band of three musicians took a stage and started warming up. They then broke into a two-hour set of traditional folk-Irish music with a hint of modern rock. This might’ve been the highlight of the trip. The guys could really jam, particularly the guy who played some flute-like instrument (looked like a recorder) as well as some sort of bag-pipe. Their lyrics were poetic; you could tell some of the traditional tunes they played had been passed down for generations. Not many popular bands introduce songs with “This is a song my grandfather taught me.”

So moved by their performance, Jenna and I threw down €15 for one of their albums. You might look them up: Sliotar, which I have no idea how to pronounce.

 

We closed our first night in Dublin at the Winding Stair, a solid Irish restaurant recommended by multiple friends.

The ladies in the comfort of the plush Irish rail system.

Saturday we hit the road — rather, the train tracks — and took the rails down to Dalkey, a tiny coastal village south of Dublin. Raven has a friend that once lived near here. This friend must be successful — the town is pristine; the homes dotting the coastline were beautiful estates, built into the cliffs and offering amazing views.

We finished our Dalkey day with lunch at a place called Finnigan’s, where Bono (if you don’t know who that is, shame on you) is reputed to dine or have a pint every once in a while. We never caught a glimpse of the U2 frontman (for those who don’t know who Bono is, now you do), but we caught part of a rugby match on TV. More entertaining than the game, though, were the dozens of old men, all dressed in their Sunday finest, sitting around the TVs with eyes glued to the telly and hands glued to their pints of Guinness. Authentic Ireland, I tell ya.

Some scenes from our walk through Dalkey:

Upon arrival (around 11ish) in Dalkey, I stopped in a bakery for a quick bite. Slowly, each member of the group suddenly realized they were hungry too. First the ladies ran back across the street to the bakery. Then Jon went (he's looking left, not right, too), followed by Charles. The bakery was that good, though.

Scratching my hands was the price I paid for climbing up this wall for a better view of the sea.

Jenna looking lovely outside the front gate of a massive Dalkey estate.

The gents peer off the edge of a pier.

Our ship has come in.

We caught a brief glimpse of a seal swimming in the sea. Even with our high-powered zoom lens this is the closest we could get to the creature.

Jon attempts to tame a wild mountain goat.

I gaze at Jenna while she gazes at the sea.

One of the few times their glasses were full?

We all went to bed early Saturday evening to store up energy for big plans on Sunday morning. The girls had massages, drinks and brunch to get to, as you can see on the right.

The gents? The great tradition of an early morning weekend round of golf. But breaking tradition of playing a cheap municipal course, we played one of the top courses on the island, The K Club, which hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup.

Perhaps inspired by the history of the course, I got off to a blistering start (for my standards), tallying pars on five of the first six holes and scoring a 41 on the front nine. Then reality set in, and I’ll just say the pars were hard to come by.

Jon, who expertly set up the golf outing, came from behind to win the round by four strokes. While he was fist-pumping his dramatic victory, sealed with a birdie on the 18th, Charles and I were throwing our golf balls into the closest pond, lamenting our lousy play. Oh well, this course has probably tamed better golfers than myself.

You won't confuse us with professionals.

After resting a bit, and getting some consoling from Jenna for my hideous back-nine performance on the golf course, we decided to make the most of Sunday, our final night in Dublin.

Recommended by several friends, we signed up for the Writers’ Pub Crawl, a tour that takes you to several pubs where legendary Irish writers would go for liquid inspiration. Along the way, the tour guides — two chaps with sharp wits and amazing memory recall — passed on bits of history to the group, recited passages from famous literary pieces, sang traditional Irish pub ballads, and just simply entertain. They guides were amazing. I’d recommend them to anyone, be it a tourist or a lifelong Dubliner.

 

The Pub Crawl guides performing a scene from ‘Waiting for Godot’, which a critic once described as a play where nothing happens — twice.

Me with one of the tour guides. A colleague of mine in Brussels actually went to the University of Limerick with him.

We warmed up for the pub crawl with "Irish Car Bombs", as you can tell by the look on my face (I won, for the record). Fearing "Irish Car Bombs" might be an American thing and not wanting to offend, I simply asked for a half-Guinness with a side shot of half-Bailey's, half-Jameson, to which the waitress replied, "you mean an Irish Car Bomb?"

Women ... I don't get 'em. One moment they're serious, the next they're all laughs.

Only after a pub crawl can you force me on a dance floor. This is mid-Riverdance.

Fortunately Jenna came to my aid and showed me how dancing is done.

We ended our late last night in Ireland at a Scottish restaurant.

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Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. April 19, 2011 at 10:51 am

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