Swallowing the Blarney Stone, Part 2
Swallowing the Blarney Stone, Part 2
A 3 day road trip from Shannon to Dublin...
Day 2: On the road again; driving to Dublin
I have to tell you that I am not a morning person. Combine this with a wake-up call (or an irritating mobile jingle in my case) and a previous day of whirlwind activity, and you have me last Saturday morning. Confused, disorientated and supposed to be on my way to Dublin (which I definitely was not).
Soaking up the last of Ennis, however, I recovered from my trance-like stupor with a full Irish breakfast (when in Rome and all that). Alex’s eyes lit up when he saw the words ‘buffet breakfast’ on the menu, returning true to his nickname - the hoover - with a plate piled sky high full of sausages.
Thankfully, for the sake of Auburn Lodge, they eventually ran out of sausages and it was time to hit the road again. Norman was reluctant, particularly due to the two and a half hour drive, but after a little reassurance we were all raring to go.
Several songs, some misguided map reading (mainly by me), and a long stretch of wide open road later, we finally arrived in Dublin. Lush green countryside had transformed into a tangled web of lively streets, tall spires, Georgian buildings and picturesque squares. Bamboozled by this sudden new lease of life, like a farmer stumbling upon London for the first time, we staggered towards our hotel. Relishing the Radisson Blu’s plush interior - marble floors, leather chairs and super king sized beds - for all of a good five seconds, we wandered out to explore the bustling city, a hub of things to do in Ireland. Well, we were on a very strict schedule after all.
Much like a truffle hound looking for its prized possessions, within minutes I had sniffed out Dublin’s main shopping district. Located in the heart of Dublin and known as Grafton Street, this upmarket area can best be compared to London’s Covent Garden; a bustling thoroughfare brimming with Saturday shoppers full of the urge to splurge. Interspersed between the serious shoppers and the occasional dawdler were clusters of gawping crowds gathering to stare at street-side performances. Wandering along the pedestrianised pavestones, Alex and I discovered a clay-covered duo, a statuesque Viking, a drum-banging Dick Van Dyke and a Bono-inspired boy band. Not your average Saturday afternoon. Although, in Dublin, I got the impression that perhaps it was…
Next on the agenda was the Viking Splash Tour leaving from St. Stephen’s Green, a picturesque park close to the city centre. As we strolled along a chic Parisian-style promenade in the sunshine, passing by vibrant paintings and watercolours, I was excited to see what was in store. That was, however, until a lurid yellow contraption came into my line of sight. Apparently our tour transport for the day, I was less than impressed. This was not helped when subsequently I had to place a horn-shaped helmet on my head and roar at some poor unsuspecting people drinking their coffee (otherwise known as ‘coffee Celts’). I was simply not mentally prepared for this tour. Alex, on the other hand, seemed to have no trouble reverting to his childhood, yelping at people left, right and centre. He even tried to continue this practice later on; unsurprisingly, to no avail.
When I finally managed to embrace acting like a fool, no easy feat, I found Viking Splash a great way to view the city. Hearing the colourful history of Dublin, we flung past sight after sight from Dublin Castle to Trinity College. The particular highlight of the tour, however, has to be plunging into a Canal at the edge of Dublin’s quay. Transforming into an aquiline boat our former D-Day truck did us proud, buoyantly floating along the rippling water’s edge. Here, factories and flour mills sat peacefully alongside glass offices, cafes and art installations in an urban mix of post-modernist styles. As we bobbed back to land, we passed Bono’s local recording studio where the side-walls were emblazoned with the words: “What’s the difference between Bono and God? God doesn’t think he’s Bono.” Turns out no one likes him, not even the Irish.
As Alex’s stomach started to rumble (the ton of Irish sausages obviously hadn’t done the trick) we decided it was time for lunch. Fortunately we’d arranged to meet Mick and Gillian, some local friends from Dublin, at the popular department store of Brown Thomas. Dublin’s answer to Harvey Nicholls or Selfridges, this shopping compendium was full to the brim of designer brands, cosmetics, homeware and a very stylish looking café. Luckily, where we were headed, the menu offered a delicious selection of light salads, sandwiches, soups and hearty burgers. You can guess which meal Alex selected; I’ll give you a clue, it wasn’t the salad. In a true comedic style over the course of the meal, new smiling people would suddenly appear at the table. No, not a part of the Brown Thomas service, but simply an amusing situation that arose. First Mick and Gillian’s friends, then their friend’s daughter, and finally their daughter’s friend - try that for a tongue-twister! Soon we had a large, long table full of lively chatting, laughter and Irish jokes. I can only assume that in Ireland this is normal, too. Whatever the case, Alex and I left feeling a lot merrier; or perhaps that was just all the wine…
Following the old saying, ‘Beer after wine and you’ll feel fine’ Alex and I decided to put this theory to the test by taking a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. It may not be a national heritage site, but as the birthplace of that famed national drink, it has become intertwined with both Dublin’s commercial and cultural history. Stepping inside the beer-swilling-brick-spiral felt a little bit like walking into Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. True, I would have been far more excited by streams of molten chocolate and wondrous edible wallpaper, but for Alex in particular, this was the next best thing. Curious copper barrels, churning metal contraptions and colourful interactive displays, all explaining the historical brewing process of how to achieve the perfect pint. Talking of which, on the fourth floor there was a side-bar where I learnt how to pour the perfect pint. For those disbelievers out there, direct yourself to my work desk and I shall proudly present my crisp cream certificate.
As the evening drew to a close, we decided to finish the day the way we had started; in other words, with some honest Irish food and plenty more drink. Heading in the right direction, we were booked on an evening of ‘Food, Folklore and Fairies’ organized by the Irish Folk Tours at The Brazen Head, officially Ireland’s oldest pub. Perhaps my favourite activity of the whole whirlwind weekend, what ensued was a three course candlelit meal accompanied by spooky tales from the folklore tradition. Focusing on heritage of the Irish folk people from the mid to the late nineteenth century, our narrator regaled stories of their history, their triumphs, their tribulations, and their mystical faith. Believing there to be a thin veil between our world and the next, this was a time where misgivings were explained away by the calculating work of the fairies and the leprechaun was far from the jolly fellow he appears today. Concluding the evening on a post-gluttonous high was a curious duo, distinctly resembling Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Performing traditional folk songs, the evening transpired into the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and as everyone sang and clapped along, I wondered just which rabbit hole it was that Alex and I had fallen down...
At the end of this video you will have seen a sneak peak of the final part of our whirlwind weekend, a Croke Park stadium tour and Gaelic football match! Until next time...
Lush green countryside had transformed into a tangled web of lively streets and tall spires
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