Music, pubs, and a wee bit of magic.

Dublin!! The beginning of a rather spontaneous trip to another place on the bucket list…why not.
Delighted by the easy bus navigation system to my hostel, a warm reception at the front desk, I ventured out in high hopes of 1. COFFEE 2. a bit of sightseeing before 3. JAMESON tour! Yeah! Having heard about the friendliness o’ the Irish folk, I was immediately charmed by an old gentleman and his grandson who approached me to ask if he could give me directions. “why yes, of course!” I ALWAYS need directions. This was obvious from the map clutched tightly in both my hands and my head craning this way and that. Jameson tour was a delightful stimulation to all 5 senses – we tasted and felt and smelt our way through each stage of whiskey production. Our tour guide led us along at a perfect pace, delighting and interesting our little group with her perfect Irish accent. The whole factory felt rather small and intimate and I was quite fascinated by the whole process and history of the famous whisky production. I raised my hand fiercely in the air when she asked for tasting volunteers and was proud to be the only woman on the tasting panel. I sniffed and sipped and exclaimed with the best of them and was pleased that I could indeed taste the difference in the American, Scotch and Irish whiskeys. I even earned a diploma. Indeed, me mum an da should be proud of their wee lassie. Such education!
Jameson being such a success, I wasted no time in scouting out the Guinness factory. While still interesting, Jameson would win my vote. I did enjoy looking over the city at the famous Gravity Bar up on the 7th floor. I know it sounds almost sacrilegious to admit, but I’m still not a fan of the oh-so-highly-touted Guinness beer. I’ve been drinking other ones that I REALLY enjoy though! I try to sample the local beer in the places I’m going – really fun!
In the evening, I joined up with a “Musical Pub Tour” that I had signed up for online. It was just fantastic and so much fun. Two musicians and about 20 of us tourists just kinda hunkered down together in rooms above a few pubs, got to know each other, drank, listened to some music and got to learn some of the culture and history and style of Irish music. Was laid back and informal but well done and I highly recommend it as a great way to spend an evening in Dublin.
The next day I boarded a bus to go see a couple of my friends from San Diego. Kat worked with me at Palomar and married an Irish fellow, Glenn. Kat and I went to Haiti together last year and I was super delighted when I actually realized they were in Ireland for a couple weeks. What a fantastic coincidence! They are just finishing up a few month stint doing work in Africa – Lesotho and Kenya. Northern Ireland is stunning and I have been treated to exceptionally beautiful weather. Crystal clear blue skies, sun, warmth. Kat and Glenn and I started off in Berlin at the “Crown Liquor Saloon” which is self-described as “perhaps the greatest of Victorian gin palaces which once flourished in the industrial cities of Britain.” It was marvelous – very much left to its original feel and architecture. Instead of just finding a booth or a table, there are these little rooms (called “snugs”) with half size walls and beautiful little doors – stained glass and all. Each door has a letter on it and can be completely enclosed. There is a little ringer inside for you to summon your waiter. The snugs were to accommodate those people who “held certain opinions on public houses” but still wanted to drink, preferring though to drink “quietly and unseen.” I’ll refrain from the sarcasm that comes to mind reflecting on these type of individuals.
Glenn drove us through some parts of Belfast, all the while giving me a fantastic history lesson. We drove up and down Shankle street, one of the more violent streets during the whole Northern Ireland upheaval. He taught me how to recognize when we were in a Catholic or a Protestant neighborhood. There are still lots of murals up with pretty blatant messages and political viewpoints but the violence has all but disappeared. We hiked up to the top of Cave Hill (once a training ground for the IRA so no one would go up there) and clambered up into a cave and appreciated the view of the city and the bay.
I had a great time walking for miles along the coast, pub hopping, enjoying the live music (SUCH talented people!), playing my new favorite game “Bananagrams” and sleeping in 🙂
I am now in the little town of Kilkenny, having driven myself, via rental car here. Now that may initially look like a very boring sentence but it contains much hidden drama…consider….left side of the road….driving wheel right side of the car…foreign country…rental car…
Thank God I had the presence of mind to firmly decide the last factor of driving a manual would be the undoing of me (and Ireland)..so I shelled out the enormous extra amount of money renting an automatic cost me, spent a few more shekels to obtain this brilliant little wifi hook-up so I could have GPS and joila – life became a few thousand times easier.
Kilkenny will have to wait for another post…I am about to go hit the pub(s). Having gotten zero sleep last night we shall see how long this last. I am absolutely spoiled rotten tonight though. They gave me a whole hostel room to myself without the normally high accompanying prices – private bathroom, fluffy white comforters. Only those familiar with hostels will appreciate the significance of this event. I feel like a queen.
So..good night, everyone…and “Slainte!!!!” as the Irish say. (another favorite of mine – collecting toasts said ‘round the world.:)
Aaannnnd I can’t figure out to easily attach photos like some people smarter than I so I shall just post some in the normal fashion…

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