In Ireland! Day Ten, Guinness Edition

Arguably every day in Ireland could qualify as the Guinness edition (especially if you are a PIC named Randy or Drew) but today was the official unedited Guinness Storehouse tour (99), a fitting way to wrap up our time in my quarter homeland.

We were lucky enough to pre-book a private Connoisseur Tasting Experience in addition to the basic gen pop tour. Our merry band of PICs, plus a handful of others, ducked into a private elegant bar away from the cacophony of the gen pop tour area with Bill, our friendly and knowledgeable tasting guide. The tour started with a free bottle of Guinness’ new black lager variant. Next, Bill reviewed the history of Guinness, talked us through the three other variants (providing generous tasting samples along the way (note: I did not consume more than a couple of sips of each, no matter what you may read about grandfather clocks later on)), and taught us how to execute a perfect Guinness pour. The Experience concluded with each of us practicing said perfect pour, resulting in additional pints, which we got to keep.

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Bill also told us the story of the grandfather clock situated prominently across from the tasting bar. The clock that is always set at 17:59 (the year Arthur Guinness signed an approximately eleventy hundred year lease on the storehouse property). The very same clock that I almost knocked over on my way out of the bar. (Not for nothin’ am I nicknamed Grace.) Almost. It remained standing, although I did manage to knock the glass door that covers the clock face open. In my haste to distance myself from the near disaster, I forgot to check, but I sure hope the clock still said 17:59 when they did the next tasting.

In addition we each received a complimentary bottle of the variant of our choosing. I chose the black lager.

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Which promptly fell out of my bag and shattered on the cobblestones just steps from the storehouse exit.

A sad state of affairs indeed, but if I were going to lose a bottle in such a tragic fashion it was probably better to do so after I had been filled to the brim with complimentary Guinness over the course of several hours spent first in the private tasting, then the gen pop tour, then in the 7th floor Gravity Bar where we received yet another free pint to enjoy while admiring 360 views of Dublin.

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Also, the U.S. is one of the few places where the black lager is sold so I have something to look forward to when I get home.

Other tour-related highlights included:

1) Piling into an elevator to go to the start of the gen pop tour and having Bill join us. He was carrying a box of empty bottles so he gestured towards a button and asked me to press it. I thought, he can’t possibly want me to press the Open Doors button, so I randomly pressed another button and off we went. Which is when Bill gave me the stink eye. How odd, I thought. Then he told us that we were on the staff elevator and were going to end up in the kitchen. (Apparently he really did want me to press the Open Doors button.) We did not end up in the kitchen but he did kick us off when the doors next opened.

2) Watching a video about Guinness television ads, during which the following conversation may or may not have occurred (names have been changed to protect the not so innocent):

Video: images of people drinking Guinness and kissing

One of us: “Guinness makes you kiss.”

Another of us: “Guinness also makes you fart. But that isn’t a very good ad campaign.”

All of us: snicker giggle SNORT.

People around us: rapidly depart.

End scene.

Speaking of end scene, my final Dublin experience AND (cue trumpets) my ONE HUNDREDTH (100!) new experience of 2014 was seeing and walking across the Ha’Penny Bridge.

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It is old but lovely and I think at dusk with the lights on was the perfect time to see it.

In retrospect, getting to 100 new experiences really wasn’t so tough with a ten-day trip to Ireland involved. On the one hand I think I should maybe adjust my goal number. But on the other hand, I think I’d rather just see how many new experiences I can have in the remainder of 2014 instead of feeling pressured by a specific number.

Stay tuned, and see you back on the other side of the pond.

So long, Ireland. It’s been amazing. 🍀🍀

In Ireland! Day Nine, Dublin Edition Part Three — Game Day

96. The big day finally arrived. The start of Penn State’s 2014 football season and our match (not a game; we’re in Ireland now) against University of Central Florida, at Dublin’s Croke Park.

Where, I might add, our season opener’s priority in Croke Park meant that the replay of a(n Irish) football semi-final had to be relocated to Limerick. I bet a lot of locals weren’t pleased about it, but I’m hoping the ridiculous infusion of tourist dollars helped soften the blow.

My merry band of PICs partook in pre-game festivities at three designated bars in the Temple Bar district — Fitzsimons, Porterhouse, and The Norseman — where, rumor had it, fans could collect different commemorative pins.

We cheerfully collected our first two pins then arrived at the Norseman to get the third, only to receive a duplicate. When I asked a bartender whether there were different pins he told me that there had been a different one that the bar had given out the day before (rule breakers). My eagle eyes spotted one of the coveted pins on said bartender’s shirt. At which point the following exchange may or may not have occurred:

Me: Do you want to give me your pin?

Bartender: No.

Me: stink eye

Bartender: hands over the pin

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Next, the merry band of PICs, my collection of three different commemorative pins, and I made our way to Croke Park for what turned out to be quite a nailbiter. In the last two minutes we were down by one, cheated out of a critical six seconds leaving just three on the clock, then miraculously scored a field goal and won the game by two points!

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Celebration ensued.

First I enjoyed a delicious soft serve ice cream cone (which they just sell in convenience stores here, which is grand).

97. Next we enjoyed food and beverages at Madigan’s Pub, a fine establishment with a lovely manager named Jerry.

98. Then onto another pub, the Cobblestone, where we hoped to enjoy live music. It had the live music but lacked seating close enough to hear it. Ah, well, fortunately we met three fine Irishmen who were nearly as entertaining — Rob, the writer; Stuey, the motorbike messenger; and a third, the media correspondent, whose name I didn’t catch.

And now it is time to rest up; Guinness tour tomorrow. Also, I keep dozing off and writing things like “dzazs.”

In Ireland! Day Eight, Dublin Edition Part Two

Another day in Dublin, another batch of pubs.

In our defense we did attempt to start the day with straight up culture (aka kulture) by going to Trinity College so we could see the library and Book of Kells. However a very cute charming curly blonde Irish college student told us it would be better to come back later when the line wasn’t as long. He did encourage us to pay the additional 2 Euro to take the tour when we returned — just 2 Euro more than seeing the library and Book sans tour. None of us were particularly pro-tour but after talking to the cute charming lad, I for one seriously considered it. He was just that cute and charming. Then I remembered that he was born sometime well after I graduated college, which is decidedly less cute and charming.

So we did a bit of shopping then stopped by McDaid’s where Sara and I met the Seely PICs last night. The return visit gave me the chance to snap some pics which I didn’t do before.

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92. The second pub of the day was the Stag’s Head, where we had a delicious lunch with (again! hooray!) some solid veggie options. I fell down on the job and didn’t take any pictures of the pub except for this creepy fox that watched us eat lunch

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93. Then we returned to Trinity College and the exquisitely intricate Book of Kells and glorious library (no tour), which were both amazing. I’ve never seen anything like either. I also can’t imagine that anything in recent history comes close to being a modern day equivalent (it’s not like anyone will be queuing up in 2000 years to see the oldest Kindle in the historic Amazon marketplace).

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94. Next, off to the Temple Bar district and the pep rally in advance of tomorrow’s Penn State vs. UCF game. Just us and 10,000 of our closest friends.

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95. We wrapped up the day with a happy hour at the Gin Palace, where I was able to meet up with some of my favorite and most long-standing partners-in-crime, Rich, Everett, Mark, and Kimberly. It was also great to see PICs Dan and Sharon for the first time in a good long while plus many more friends new and old … about 40 or so total. I don’t want to brag but I’m pretty sure we made the Gin Palace’s day.

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I know, I know. We don’t look like we had any fun at all.

Game day tomorrow!

In Ireland! Day Seven, Dublin Edition Part One

It must be Thursday (for two minutes more at the time of this writing). PIC Sara and I know this only because today is the day we met up with the rest of our PIC crew as planned — Lynn, Drew, and Carol. The Seely PICs (Wayne, June, Randy, Judy) of Cliffs of Moher cruise fame (or infamy?) also arrived in Dublin today, so the gang’s all here.

87. First stop, Delaney’s, a late addition to Lynn’s “Grand List of Pubs to Visit in Ireland.”

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Delaney’s does not appear on Lynn’s carefully and impressively labeled map,

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but our airbnb apt host recommended it for its fine Guinness and toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. He did not steer us wrong.

88. In fact, Delaney’s was the site of my first Irish Guinness and my first full pint of Guinness ever. (I know! I’ve never really liked it, but it honestly wasn’t so bad today.)

89. Sufficiently fortified, we moved on to our tour of the Old Jameson Distillery.

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We learned all about how humble barley from the South of Ireland grows up to become Jameson whiskey. If you want more detail, you will have to ask one of my more studious tour-mates. To be honest the fact I remember most clearly is that the Jamesons had dozens of cats to keep the bags of barley free of mice and rats, and they rewarded their hard workers with bowls of milk at the end of each day.

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No, the cat isn’t real — it was part of the tour display. And in case you are wondering, yes, maybe I did sneak away from one part of the tour to go back to take a better picture of the cat. And it was totally worth it.

The other highlight was being selected as an official whiskey taster at the conclusion of the tour. Okay, maybe not so much selected as raised my hand before the guide finished his sentence asking for volunteers. Our group of PICs may or may not have accounted for more than half of the total volunteer tasters as a result. Also totally worth it. We got certificates and everything. (Is it wrong that I am equally as excited about the tube that holds the certificate as about the certificate itself?)

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90. We had a fabulous dinner at Oscar’s cafe bar, chosen mainly for its proximity to our apt when jet lag hit our latest arrivals like a freight train.

91. Once the others turned in for some much needed sleep after powering through the day and time change post-red eye flights, Sara and I made our way to McDaid’s pub in the Temple Bar district, where we met up with the Seely PICs for a pint and some non-Irish live guitar classics played by Judy’s friend.

And just like that I’m in sight of my 100 experience goal. Being in Ireland makes it almost too easy though. Lots more slated for tomorrow and the next couple of days as well.

In Ireland! Day Six, Castle Edition

Have you ever been to Tipperary?

As it turns out, it’s not so far … from Limerick, anyway. We passed through the town of Tipperary on our way to the Rock of Cashel (82), which is in County Tipperary. (Today was castle day as we made our way toward Dublin.)

It was gray and misty again, but as beautiful as ever. Also very very windy…I never realized how windy castle grounds can be. Being so often situated atop hills and all. Game of Thrones definitely leaves that part out (except for scenes that take place in the vicinity of The Wall … but I suspect that might have more to do with needing an excuse to have Jon Snow’s curly locks blow about…ah, but I digress).

Rock of Cashel was very cool. I went a bit picture happy, going so far as to camp out in a doorway for an extended period of time so I could snap a shot at the rare moment when other tourists were out of the frame (mostly…i see that one sneaky tourist snuck in after all).

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I also made an attempt at a selfie with my new camera…unsuccessfully. A nearby castle-goer took pity on me otherwise I might be there still. I don’t want to brag, but I think I kind of rock the peasant look. How could I not document that?

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83. Next stop, Birr Castle. The castle itself is still a private residence (!) but the gardens and grounds are open to the public. For a fee. I suppose they have to pay for their heating bills somehow. The grounds were tremendous. The map of the grounds not so much….after a couple of misfires I managed to see an area called the waterfall spiral….which had nothing to do with waterfalls as far as I know, but something to do with a constellation or solar system. There was also a huge (and therefore much easier to find) telescope (currently being restored).

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There was also a science room. A science wing, actually, PIC Sara informs me. In my last few minutes at the castle I could have either gone to the science wing or to the cafe for hot chocolate and a jammy buttery scone. Any guesses which option won out? Here’s a hint: I can’t tell you how the ginormous telescope works but I can tell you that I’m seriously considering how to incorporate jammy buttery scones into my daily routine.

84. Now, we begin the Dublin phase of our journey. Tonight we’re staying at the outer edge of the city before meeting up with a whole crew of PICs tomorrow and moving to an apt closer to city center for the rest of our time here. We found a lovely gastro pub not far from our hotel…called Searson’s. Warm and friendly service and delicious food! A mix of the traditional Irish pub fare but also a variety of other options, including … cue trumpets … legitimate inspired veggie dishes! One of my favorite meals of the trip for sure.

85. I also tried a new beer called … wait for it …

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It’s a pale ale. And yes, you read that right. Galway Hooker. Enough said.

86. Then on the way back from dinner, this happened:

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I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it.

Where do you go from there?

I don’t know either.

Probably to sleep, since tomorrow will be an early day and shenanigans are sure to ensue.

In Ireland! Day Five, Cliffs of Moher Edition

Today was a full day, and very Cliffs of Moher-centric.

The Cliffs are just over an hour from Limerick, the last bit on tight winding roads. Which I now handle like a pro. A grandma pro. Just ask the line of cars that queued up behind me. Ah well. We made it in one piece and that’s the important thing.

We managed to meet up with some other friends who are traipsing about Ireland and amassed quite a crew of partners-in-crime — Wayne, June, Judy, and Randy (aka the Seely PICs), plus Sara and me.

We started with a Cliffs of Moher ferry ride from Doolin. It hadn’t even occurred to me that there was a way to check things out from the water, but thanks to the crack research skills of the Seely PICs we got in on that action.

As a preview we were able to check out the cliffs from “beach-side.” Although the Cliffs were incredible, the main attraction was the beach itself — at low tide, a collection of virtual puzzle pieces of rock. Like an enormous beautiful natural sculpture with bonus tide water pools.

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77. Then on to the ferry ride. Where we first took small boats out to the ferry (the blue and white one).

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Then took and hour long tour about the base of the Cliffs (the pictures really don’t do it justice).

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Next we stopped for a bite in a nearby pub. Where, I’m happy to report, I made up for last night’s Japanese dinner diversion by enjoying my first legitimate Irish meal — the Guinness beef stew (78).

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I didn’t eat much of the beef but the veggies and broth were delicious!

After lunch Sara and I said goodbye to the Seely PICs (until we reconvene in Dublin in a couple of days) and headed to …

79. the top of the Cliffs of Moher. The sun finally made an appearance and the Cliffs and surrounding landscapes were truly breathtaking, although, again, I’m not sure the pictures do it justice.

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But I did have the opportunity to work on my scenic photo jaunty head tilt:

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I don’t want to brag or anything but I think I’m pretty awesome at it.

80. After a delightful, head-tilting, scenic cliff-topping good time complete with gift shop soft serve ice cream cones, we stopped at the nearby Clare Jam Shop for some tasty (we hope) Irish … you guessed it … Jams.

81. Upon our return to Limerick, we met up with a new PIC, Julie, for a couple of pints and a bite to eat at a lovely gastro pub, The Locke, which is near our hotel. It is charming and warm, and features live (and lively) Irish music and delicious food. I had my first ever pint of Murphy’s Irish red beer. Super exciting, I know.

We haven’t yet mapped out our plan for tomorrow, but we start to make our way back to Dublin, where a whole new crop of PICs will be joining us in adventures and shenanigans.

In Ireland! Day Four, Galway Edition

Another rainy day in Eire, but mostly of the misty variety. Although our base for the next couple of days will be Limerick, we spent the bulk of today in Galway (73) and will do another day trip excursion tomorrow (stay tuned…).

Galway has a lot going on and a lot of variety. To start, there is a quaint bustling marketplace filled with shops, restaurants, and pubs. We kicked off our visit with lunch at The Quays Pub and Restaurant (74), which I recommend if you ever find yourself in Galway.

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Plus, the quay and the Spanish Arch (75), where a street musician played today, safely out of the rain:

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I also found a handy pedestrian and bicycle bridge tucked behind the train and bus station:

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Ever the explorer, I am always on the hunt for a bathroom, or the toilet, as they simply and boldly say in Europe…I was pleased to find several that I thought were especially well marked while out and about, although I did wonder why the signs also pointed out offices…

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Yep, can’t get much past these eagle eyes of mine… (Don’t worry….I figured it out in time. And fortunately easily and quickly thereafter found the best spot for bathrooms in any city: the department store.)

My big purchase of the day was the latest book by an Irish author I really like.

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I’ve been waiting for the latest installment in this series for a while. I scooped it up a whole 3 days before it is released in the states. Impressive, I know. Especially since I likely won’t start reading it until I’m back in the U.S. … a week from now.

Oh, there was one other purchase. Today I finally bought my Irish burner phone (76) (is it bad to call them burner phones? Are burner phones ever not criminal?). I likely spent more on the phone and minutes than I would have on the Verizon global plan…especially because I’m now convinced that no one will actually call or text me on it. But after my ongoing battles with all things Verizon lately I just couldn’t stomach doing their global plan…which seemed to have the potential for a lot of undisclosed costs. So there, Verizon. I will just waste my money elsewhere. Specifically, at Tesco. In Ireland. #winning.

Today wrapped up with dinner in Limerick, where, I have to confess, I caved. I’ve tried to be in Ireland and do as the Irish do…or eat as the Irish eat. But my aversion to most things meat has made it a challenge. After multiple days of cream covered seafood, or cream covered veggies, or cream covered oatmeal (ok that one’s delicious), or fried fish, or French fries….I broke. I admit it. I ate at a Japanese restaurant. I had a gingery veggie pan-fried noodle dish and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. And.I.loved.it. I know I know. I’m a traitor to my 1/4 homeland.

Back to potatoes tomorrow, I promise.