Monday, August 31, 2009

Lovely Day for a Guinness...

For my first bank holiday weekend in the U.K., Keenan and I went to Dublin for a short city break trip in the Irish capital. The flight to Dublin on Ryan Air was a disaster. We, including another American lawyer and a Japanese banker, were refused travel because we didn’t have a “visa stamp” from the Ryan Air check-in desk. Instead of checking our passports and boarding passes at the gate, they demanded that we return to the check-in queue for a stupid “visa stamp,” which was nothing more than an office style RECEIVED stamp. Since we were in the departure hall, we had to wait and be escorted out to the arrivals hall by a security agent. So what happens? Well, we missed our flight and had to pay a fee to get on the next flight because we didn’t have our “visa stamp.” I’m sorry, the last time I checked U.S. citizens do not require a visa to enter the Republic of Ireland –- WTH? Long story short. This was basically a Ryan Air scam on non-EEA passport holders, making everything as difficult and inconvenient as possible for us. This whole experience was beyond infuriating! Lesson learned: I will never fly with Ryan Air again…
Despite the mishap with Ryan Air, we had a fantastic time exploring the eclectic streets of Dublin; retracing the footsteps of Dublin’s most notable literary figures including Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, and Bram Stoker to name a few; and tasting Guinness -- its infamous stout beer. I think Keenan would concur that Guinness taste so much better in Ireland than anywhere else in the world! We consumed far too many pints for our own good!

Dublin is a very walkable city with a majority of its main attractions located south of the River Liffey. After dropping our bags off at our hotel on O’Connell Street, we made a beeline to Temple Bar, an area promoted as “Dublin’s Cultural Quarter,” but I like to think of it as “Dublin’s Quarter for Stag and Hen Parties,” as we saw multiple drunken stag/hen debaucheries throughout the night, and puddles of vomit all along the cobble streets of Temple Bar. While it is still very touristy by day, the pubs are far more manageable, all playing traditional Celtic music.

After a pint at the Auld Dubliner, we spent the afternoon on a walking tour of Dublin’s architectural delights starting from Dame Street to Dublin Castle, then Christ Church Cathedral circa 1030 and St. Patrick’s Cathedral circa 1172, then walking east towards St. Stephen’s Green, then to Dublin’s main pedestrian shopping street – Grafton Street and ending the walking tour at Trinity College. As Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for over a century from 1801 to 1912, it is no surprise that the architecture resembles that of England, particularly the Georgian style architecture that dominated much of the 1800s. Overall, Dublin reminds me of the quintessential East Coast College.

After our 3-hour walking tour, we were ready for another Guinness (surprise, surprise!), so we headed over to a pub recommended by my new colleague called Hairy Lemon. We got lost trying to find this local pub that we practically walked up and down every parallel and perpendicular street west of Grafton Street. In our quest to find the pub, I spotted my GIS professor from the periphery of my eye – what are the odds of that? Instead of saying hi, I grabbed Keenan’s arm and started walking fast in the opposite direction! LOL! Later in the evening, we had a nice meal at Dunne & Crecenzi, an Italian restaurant run by a husband-wife team, and then headed back to Temple Bar for a nightcap at another bar/pub recommended by my colleague; this time it was a microbrewery called Porterhouse.

The next day we spent a leisurely morning over a cuppa of Irish coffee (that’s coffee with Bailey liquor), walked around Trinity College, and then had lunch of traditional Irish food (read: heavy!). We needed to walk off our lunch, and started making our way west of town to the Guinness Storehouse, which is now celebrating “250 remarkable years.” I’ll be honest, we were not interested in the tour; we just wanted our pint(s) of Guinness on the top floor overlooking Dublin. You get one complimentary pint of Guinness with your ticket, but luckily there was a cash bar at the 5th floor restaurant with equally good views of Dublin.
If you’re looking to get out of London for a few days, drink lots of Guinness, or looking for a place for a stag/hen party, look no further – go to Dublin. We made our way back to the airport to catch our evening flight back to London, and this time, we did not forget our Ryan Air Visa Stamp…
More photos here:
Dublin, Ireland

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