Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gaols and Guinness

This post should be starting with a picture of me in my Irish rugby jersey giving the thumbs up in front of the TV showing Ireland 26 – Italy 6. Upon reviewing the picture, however, I realised my uncle doesn’t just wear glasses because he’s a hipster... the moment passed and all I have now is the memories of getting up at 7:45am to make breakfast and tea, sitting down with my aunt and uncle, holding my breath a few times, and watching Ireland beat Italy. It was a great way to start the Sunday. As the ad said: this is rugby country.

Within a week, however, Ireland’s rugby dreams would be over. Damn you, Wales!

The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur. I cleaned my room, I wrote some more in my journal, and then I headed into town to meet Al. [Insert WOO-HOO! Here]

I’ve often told my friends that they’re welcome to join me when I go to Ireland (although the invite has been known to come after a few beers). I know that the experience I offer as a travel companion in Ireland is vastly different than that which they would get going on their own. Plus, it gets lonely having all these Ireland stories to tell and the only people who get them are still back in Ireland. Al finally took me up on the offer.

After a brief nap and a lovely BBQ dinner, Al and I headed out for our first drink together in Ireland. We wandered to the quiet pub not far from my uncle’s and sat down to wrap our heads around the fact that we were actually in Ireland together. No more tentative talk, no more travel suggestions, no more sight-seeing ideas, this was it!

And after only one pint, we called it a night. Hey! She was still jet-lagged and we had an early start the next day. Give us some credit! We had to pace ourselves for two weeks!

We started the next day by jumping on a hop-on-hop-off tour of Dublin. Truth was that it was easier to take one of those things than trying to figure out where to catch the bus to Kilmainham Gaol and the Guinness Storehouse. Of course, the tour bus only goes in one direction which meant a lot of wasted time after we did it the first time.

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed... thank you two cups of tea and a cup of coffee.

The Guinness Storehouse was actually the first stop but given the subject matter of Kilmainham Gaol (here’s a hint: it’s a former jail), we felt that showing up with a beer in us probably wasn’t the smartest idea. Besides, who doesn’t like a little jail talk first thing in the morning? ;)

Looking down the old wing

Kilmainham was a sobering and sombre experience. Originally opened in 1796, the jail suffered from overcrowded almost immediately. During the famine, entire families were sent there for not paying rent or for stealing to eat. Children were also sent alone to Kilmainham; the youngest inmate without parents was a five year old boy. Our guide, a lovely girl with a true Dub accent, told us some people viewed it as a better option than being on the street during that time because you were guaranteed one meal a day. Still, I find it hard to believe that one meal a day would be much comfort to a scared five year old.

There were often up to five people in one room. I'm guessing the idea of 'personal space'
was quickly tossed. Hmm, perhaps a bit of Feng Shui would help open the space up.

In the mid 1800’s, the ‘Victorian Wing’ was added to the jail to help alleviate the overcrowding. It was built on the ‘central eye’ system which was a new concept for the time. The idea was that you could police more inmates with fewer guards by making an open space in the centre. They also glassed in part of the roof as doctors were beginning to understand that there was a correlation between lack of sunlight and sickness.

Totally going to work on my tan

If this wing looks familiar that’s because it was used in the filming of In the Name of the Father, Michael Collins, The Tudors, and The Italian Job*.^ The jail remained in use until 1924 when it was shut down at the end of the Civil War by the Irish government. It fell into ruin and was condemned when a group of volunteers recognized the historical significance of the buildings and started cleaning them up. It was officially opened as a museum in 1971.

The white walls really spruce the place up. Maybe they should try that in the old wing!

For most people, Kilmainham is associated with the Easter Uprising of 1916. It was at this jail that the leaders were held after they surrendered, and it was in the courtyard that they were executed. The uprising itself was a failure with very little support amongst the population of Dublin but when word got out about the executions (especially that of James Connelly), public opinion changed. The British halted the executions but it was too late.

The cross marks the spot where the executions took place.

Obviously, the only way to follow up such a serious topic was by drinking and what better place to get our drink on in Dublin than the Guinness Storehouse?

For the record, I want this for Christmas. I think it would look fabulous in my living room.

Might have to get the floor reinforced... or move into a ground floor apartment.

I’m going to rant for a second: it costs €15 to get into the Guinness Storehouse and the tour is self-guided. SELF-GUIDED! You are paying for them to let you in the door and nothing else. Sure, you get a complimentary Guinness at the end but at €15 and no guide that needs to be paid, you should get two complimentary Guinness! [/rant]

Still, the tour is fun and informative (and once the crowd thins out, enjoyable).

This is where I tell you that I took this picture because my dad’s dad’s dad (got that? My great-granddad) was a cooper. (And our fathers' fathers' fathers!) Big up to the coopers of the world! W00t! W00t! (All five of you that are left.)

When we finally climbed all seven levels of the Storehouse, we found ourselves in the Gravity Bar where the free complimentary Guinness awaits.

And by ‘awaits’, I mean that you wait for it to be ready because Guinness really does taste better when it’s poured properly (and no, they do not pour it properly in North America. It's not just about the waiting. I pointed that out in a pub once and the bartender yelled at me because they’re too busy to do it how I suggested).

Damn, that tastes good!

As we were attending the Literary Pub Crawl that night, we finished our drinks and then wandered around Dublin until it was time to meet up at the Duke Pub. I have to say that for Allison's first full day in Ireland, the sunset didn't disappoint.

Of course, Al only cared about getting to food before the pub crawl.``

Sunset sunshmet! Put down the camera. It's food time!

The Literary Pub Crawl starts at the Duke Pub (on the corner of Duke St. and Duke Lane; for a country so renown for its literary creativity...) and if you have a free evening in Dublin, you should definitely go. Two actors take you through the history of some of Ireland's better known writers, performing scenes from plays, reciting poetry, and cracking jokes.

The fun begins here!
It also ends down the road so you don't have to drunkenly figure out which way is home.

After you leave the Duke, all this takes place on the streets near the pubs you stop at. I went in thinking this would happen at each pub. In all honestly, the pubs are just an excuse to make you walk around instead of sitting in the Duke all night. The only downside is that they only give you about 20 minutes to down your drink. Unless you're a champion chugger, I suggest sticking with half pints!

Some of the pubs also contain the answer to the trivia questions they ask throughout the night.
If they ask what year Arthur Guinness died, a picture in this pub has the answer.

The pubs are not just chosen for their location but also for their literary or historical connection. Before turning you lose for your beverage, they give you the reason for picking that pub. Remember this picture?

See? Half pints. We know how to make sure we can finish the crawl.

It was taken in The Old Stand which was once known as the Monico (no, I did not misspell it). Due to its proximity to his office, it was a favourite drinking haunt of Michael Collins. Literature, history, and drinks? Best. Night. EVER!

*The original film with Michael Caine which you should totally watch to learn exactly why we use the term ‘cliff hanger’ when an ending leaves us in suspense.

^It was also used in Primeval but I have an sneaking suspicion I'd be the only person who'd get that reference.

``This is in here because I specifically promised Al that I wouldn't talk any smack about her on my blog. Let's see if she's playing attention! (PS. NO TIPPING HER OFF, THR.)

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