The time has come for me to leave the beautiful green country of Ireland and head to the Scandinavian country of Copehagen. But my final days in this great nation were not spent in vain. I accomplished quite a bit in these last 24 hours and it has only improved my perception of this island and its people.
First, there was the walking tour of course! Again, my reputation for imbibing in the free tour may precede me. I couldn’t leave Dublin without having taken a grand walk around town. And I was glad to maintain this travel tradition, as this tour was fabulous! It lasted three hours which speaks volumes for both the guide and the amount of information she was able to obtain and disperse to us foreigners.
The tour started at the iconic Millenium Spire in the middle of O’Connell street and it ended at historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral. And we went everywhere in between! But the time flew by as our lovely guide, Sineade, told us all about her native land. In conjunction to Ireland, Sineade was quite impressive herself, having multiple degrees including her Masters and knowing multiple languages. It became very clear the pride she felt for Ireland. One might assume that someone so well-educated wouldn’t want to waste their time showing tourists around Ireland’s most notable sights, but it became clear that what Sineade does, she does out of love for her country. For that, and many other reasons, we couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love ourselves. But I digress!
Now, people always say to me “Wow! You’re traveling alone? How do you do it?”. My response more often than not: “I’m hardly ever alone.” This tour proves my point to the T. Back in Belfast, you may remember that I had met a little congregation of other solo travelers. Well we all ended up in Dublin around the same time so we made plans to meet up. Unfortunately one of my traveling friends, Sophie, never exchanged info with me so I had no way to get in touch with her. But on the morning of the tour, who should I find standing at the Spire? None other than Ms. Sophie herself! So, while I had originally planned on going at it alone on this tour, Sophie and I partnered up and began to conquer Dublin, with Sineade’s help of course.
And boy did we learn a lot! Since it was a good three full hours of information, I’ll spare you the detailed summary and just say that if you ever find yourself in Dublin, do yourself a favor and take a walking tour. Compared to other European metropolises, like London for example, Dublin may seem small. But what they may lack in size, they more than make up for in historical facts and figures. It’s an old town that dates back farther than the 9th century so there really is a lot of ground to cover (hence three hours). And of course, Ireland is notorious for its rebellious nature, participating in some sort of uprising about every 30 years for as long as anyone can remember. This was not without reason, however. Irish people have endured more than their fair share of persecution, if not by the Protestants, most certainly by the British; especially in the early years of the 20th century leading up to the 1916 Rising.
As we walked through Trinity College, Temple Bar, Dublin Castle and both Christ’s Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Sineade regaled us all with the history, culture, symbols, and even legends of Ireland. Her knowledge of age old figures like Red Hugh O’Donnell, Brian Boru, and even Bono was enough to knock my socks clean off! Never would I have imagined I were to learn so much in a seemingly short period of time. I even learned a little Irish; not just slainte, but slán (as seen in this posts title). In Irish, it means goodbye.
So as Sineade bid us all “slán” I headed off in the direction of the Guinness storehouse for a cheeky pint after all that exercise.
Now, to many the Guinness Storehouse may seem like a tourist trap, as indicated by the lack of actual Irish people there. But, at least for me, I found it a good way to get to know one of this country’s most favorite pastimes, drinking. And what else is there to drink than the national favorite, Guinness! I paid a student’s price so it wasn’t as expensive, but still about €15. However, in my mind this can be justified, at least ever so slightly, by the view from the Gravity Bar. In my experience to date, admission to any tower-like structure that offers unobtainable views of the cityscape charge you an arm and a leg. At least in the Gravity Bar, you get a beer with your price gouge. A beer, I may add, that will cost you €7 alone in the Temple Bar district. So again, for me, it was worth it.
The information you get at the storehouse was nothing compared to everything I had just learned at the walking tour but I was less concerned with learning the history and more concerned with learning how to pour my own perfect pint (which I did of course, and I have the certificate to prove it!).
But, in regards to the actual information you do get at the Guinness Storehouse, I was a little unimpressed. When you walk in, they have signs for audio guides but I didn’t realize until I reached the counter that they are for non-English speaking visitors. I was told by the attendant that the exhibit was so interactive I wouldn’t need the guide. I have to say I disagree. Unlike the Titanic Belfast, which displayed information in both creative and interesting ways, the Storehouse projected information in such a way that it was discombobulating, unorganized, and distracting. While all the information from the audio guide may have been printed somewhere around the room, I would be surprised to learn I had in fact received the same amount of education. Walking from one room to the next, factoids would be printed on the walls, on the floors, on kegs and canisters, and even coming out of the speakers. All of this was totally overwhelming and I would suggest to Guinness that they save themselves the trouble and just make an English audio guide.
By the end, I was more than ready to just drink the darn beer! Which I did, and it was delicious, even better since I poured it myself!
From there, I retired back to my hostel for a quick bite before meeting up with my Belfast buddies for a last night out on the town at Temple Bar. It was a great send off from Dublin, with cold brews, good company and terrific live music in the local pubs. This, by the way, was the best bit of Dublin in my opinion. Of course the sights were cool and the city is lovely, but just hanging out in literally any bar and hearing the best music anywhere you go is nothing short of amazing. Seriously, I have never heard performances like those I heard in Dublin. With more money, I would stay the whole day in pubs drinking beer and singing “Whiskey in the Jar“.
Upon departure from Dublin, I can say for certain that I will be back again for another stupendous time!