Today was a good day of seeing cool stuff…and I gotta tell you we iz tired tonight. Our day began with breakfast in the hotel about 0745 and by shortly after 0900 we were on our way. We walked about 3/4 of a mile up to the Hop On Hop Off Dublin bus stop, turned our vouchers in and got our 2 day tickets and hopped on the bus. Our first conclusion was that the drivers are really, really good…whipping large double decker tour buses in and out of narrow little streets and around corners at speeds far in excess of what Neil would do with BAT and the house which are about the same size in total.
Once we got done being amazed we got off at our first stop…Dublin Castle. Strangely enough…this turned out to not really be a castle at all but a used to be sort of castle that had been reconstructed on the same site as the original castle. It turns out that Dublin wasn’t built by the Irish at all…nope, it was built as a raiding base by the Vikings who named it Dyblinn and it didn’t come under control of England until well into the Middle Ages. Once they were kicked out by King John of England the original castle was built in 1204 to help pacify the natives and defend the territory. In the late 1800’s it became essentially the seat of government for the city and almost all of the rooms in the former castle (which by this point was more of a palace than a castle anyway) were converted to more modern use…arrow ports sealed up and modern furniture and conveniences added. We headed in through the main gate and made our way to the church that is attached to the castle.
This is the Royal Chapel of the Dublin Castle and was originally built in the late 1100s with the current stone edition being built on the same site in 1814. We took a gander inside and concluded that this would be a super place to hear the Saint Saëns Organ Symphony…check out the pipe organ in the loft in the last shot.
From there headed into the courtyard of the second castle to bear the name…the outer limits of the courtyard roughly correspond to the walls of the original castle. We skipped the castle interior tour as almost all of it has been converted to modern uses and so isn’t very castle-y inside.
Next door to this castle is the final castle built on the site…this was was built next door instead of the old one being torn down. it’s the only one that actually looks like a castle today but it’s pretty small and was mostly used as a palace and not a fortress anyway. Again though…it’s been converted to city offices and other than the outside isn’t very castle-y either.
From there we walked another half mile or so west to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral…this is an Anglican church. Saint Patrick came over in the 500s to baptize the heathen and performed many baptism ceremonies at a well on this site. The water source still exists and is roughly on the site of the fountain at the right side of the picture below.
We headed on into the cathedral which was built in 1191 and were pretty wowed by the interior.
The last two are the stone found covering the original well during an archeological excavation in 1901 and the attached Saint Patrick’s Choir School which was founded in 1492.
From there we hopped back on the bus and made our way to the Guinness Brewery and Storehouse located at Saint James Gate. After again exchanging our vouchers for tickers which entitled us to the walking tour and a “Free Pint of Guinness” (Neil kept wondering how it was free if you had to pay for the tour…it seemed to him that it was just paid for in the price of the tour; but I digress again. Sorry ‘bout that…it’s an inherited family trait that I share with Gunther). Anyways…our first stop was on the ground floor where they have the original 9,000 year lease for the property that Sir Arthur Guinness signed in 1759…this was the only stop with a tour guide. You can’t see it in the photo…but trust me his signature is on the lower right hand corner and it’s the same signature that you’ll see on each of their cans and bottles.
From there we gradually made our way up through the World’s Largest Pint Guinness Glass…the exhibit internal shape is that of a pint Guinness glass. As we headed upwards we passed various displays telling you how they make Guinness. It’s made up of a secret mixture of barley, roasted barley (which gives it the coffee flavor it has) and malted barley (which is barley that is dampened and allowed to sprout then roasted to stop the sprouting at the right stage of growth), yeast that is the same strain and version that Sir Arthur used, and water. Contrary to popular belief it doesn’t come from the river but is piped in from the Wicklow Mountains about 20 miles south of here. The brewery takes in about 2 million gallons of water a day and has a total beer output of about 750,000 gallons a day. That’s alotta beer. In case you’ve always wondered what barley actually looks like (or even in case you never wondered that at all)…here’s a shot of Connie holding up a handful of grains of what Neil called Beer on the Hoof. They use 15,000 tons a year of barley including about 70% of the barley grown in the entire country. They also made a big deal about how rare the hops they use is and how hops only grows in two regions of the world. The fine print on that particular sign did say that the two regions were between latitude 30 and 55 both north and south of the equator…this amounts to about 40 percent of all the land in the world Neil guesses from his old Navy chart reading days so it’s hard to call that “2 regions of the world”…but I digress again (gotta stop that…er, nah.)
We learned all about the special water, carefully followed brewing recipe, yada, yada, yada. What it comes down to is that all real beer…it has barley, hops, yeast, and water. None of that wheat, lemon peels, fruit or any of that other jazz that trendy brewers like to add. What make it Stout rather than an Ale, Red Ale, IPA or Pilsner is just in how you treat the barley before you ferment it, how much hops you add, and some of the timing elements during the brewing process. Along the way we passed a whole bunch of ship models…this one is of a barge that was used to ferry the barrels from the brewery down to the wharfs at Dublin (back then the brewery wasn’t located in the city as the city was smaller) for shipment overseas.
There was also they 12 foot tall hand carved replica of a pint Guinness glass…Neil thought they were going to go into a whole bunch of rigamarole about how the glass was specifically designed to bring out the flavor and beer esters in the final product…but they didn’t. He’s always thought that whole specially designed glass story was hogwash anyway…he thinks they mostly they designed a glass that looked cool and came up with a story about it to encourage sales of auxiliary merchandise to the publicans. The sculpture even has this white shroud on top and is lighter colored towards the top of the glass to simulate the colors of an actual pint once it’s pulled (the technical term for filling your glass from the draft tap).
Oh yeah there was this series of old Guinness advertising stuff too…Neil thinks he got the pose right.
We stopped on the 5th floor (which is actually the 6th including the ground floor…but then that’s how the Europeans label their floors as I discussed last night). The funny thing was that our entrance into the facility was on floor -1 or what we would call the basement…but it wasn’t below ground level so we wuz confuzzled a bit ‘bout that. Lunch was Beef and Guinness Stew with carrots in it and mashed ‘taters (real ones, not those powder things you see in the US a lot…Connie really loved them) on top along with some Guinness Brown Bread…this was actually more like cake in texture and had raisins in it and a crunchy sesame and sunflower seed mix on top…but it tasted pretty good especially with real butter on it. We split a Coke to go along with it then headed on up to the 7th floor (there wasn’t any 6th floor…no idea why not) where we could get our Complimentary Pint of Guinness in what they called the Gravity Pub. They didn’t ‘splain why it was named that…but Neil and Connie figured it was because once your pint is pulled about 3/4 of the way full and put on the bar top to rest it starts with about the top 2/3 looking a medium tan color due to the head. As the head bubbles disappear the little bits of beer associated with the former bubble walls turns coalesce back into beer droplets that they fall through the rest of the head into the beer portion. This looks a lot like falling snow and the head starts to disappear as the brown bottom rises…anyway they figure the Gravity thing goes back to the whole looks like snow falling thing…but who really knows.
You had a choice of a Pint, a Half Pint, or a soft drink. We could understand why one might order a soft drink…say you didn’t like beer (yes, there are actually people who don’t like beer…seems amazing but it’s true)…but who would order a Half Pint over a full one. Go figger that one out…we have no idea and we only saw 2 or 3 of the Half Pints being out of maybe 1,000 we saw distributed during our time there.
The other attraction of the Gravity Pub is the full 360 degree view of Dublin from the top. We didn’t take any pictures as they generally don’t turn out very well when you take them through glass…but guess we really shoulda done it anyway. We did get a friendly guy at the next table to take a photo of us quaffing an original Guinness Stout mere yards from where it was produced. The picture of just Connie with the small glasses isn’t of our Complimentary Pint…but was from our short time at the Guinness Academy where we learned the proper way to taste Guinness. We always thought you just drank it but…turns out we were incorrect. One first sniffs it to inhale the esters then takes a swallow then breathes out through your nose…or some such malarkey…Neil thinks that doesn’t make a lick of sense, no more than that whole specially designed glass line.
After that we headed down and jumped back on the bus to toe Old Jameson Distillery and Warehouse, passing the Irish White House on the way…only to find out that at 1430 the next available tour was at 1720. Deciding that waiting 2+ hours wasn’t happening today we got back on the bus and off at Trinity College where we went to see the Book of Kells.
What is the Book of Kells you say? Well, it’s this hand lettered on vellum book from about the year 900 that contains the four gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John). It’s one of those Medieval books that is termed “illuminated” with all the fancy calligraphy in the lettering and the ink drawings/paintings on the pages to help illustrate the text. Cost us 20 Euros to get in (about 36 bucks)…and they wouldn’t let you take pictures of the darn thing. I know that flash photography damages old books but they coulda allowed non flash…but then most of the tourist morons don’t know how to disable the flash on their phone cameras anyway. We went ahead and looked at it…and it’s just an old book. We also got into the main portion of the library where there are about 900,000 other old books…these they would (mostly) let you take pictures of except for the special ones in the exhibit cases in the middle of the library. These were from a Brian Bonu exhibition…he was basically the first King of a semi-united Ireland back in the late 1100s to early 1200s, right about the time that the Vikings were tossed out. In reality…his forces defeated the Vikings, not the British ones. Unfortunately he was killed not during the battle itself but sometime shortly afterwards in his tent…supposedly he was murdered according to contemporary accounts but they didn’t say for sure. Anyway; we got some nice photos of the library itself and the other old books that you were allowed to take pictures of. The old books that you can take pictures of are on shelves like you can take them down and read them…but they’re behind some of those celebrity velvet rope barricades that you see at trendy hipster clubs…Neil wondered what you would have to go through before they let you check one out. In his opinion…they were just old books.
Connie thought the Book of Kells was cool and spectacular and fantabulous…Neil thought that this was the worst possible way in the world to waste 20 Euros…but was glad to go since this was on her must do list and since she agreed to climb the 600 steps to the top of Skellig Michael and cross over the 90 foot long 68 foot high rope bridge to Carrick-a-Rede that are on his must do list.
While in the library after the Book of Kells exhibit…Connie had some rib cramps and we had to go outside. We sat on a bench and he rubbed her cramps vigorously as that helped them. They were on both sides just under her bra band…and the vigorous rubbing made her boobs bounce to and fro. Her cramps were almost cured…and then she thought of what the other people standing around saw as he vigorously shook her boobs to and fro…and this started another whole set of cramps…which resulted in more vigorous rubbing…which resulted in more boobs to and fro…and so on and so on for about 10 minutes. Finally they settled down and we headed outside and caught the bus back to stop 7 near the Kilronan Guest House. We had a Smithwicks for dinner along with a piece of hot Apple Tart with 2 Scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream…and a great dinner it was. Following that we walked home and were ready for rest when we got here.
Tomorrow we’re off to breakfast then to Mass at a church near Saint Patrick’s Cathedral then over to the Jameson distillery to try again. We’ll get registered for a tour and if we have to wait we’ll just have lunch while we are waiting. After that we’ll most likely take a walking trip through the Viking section of town and that will complete our Dublin Fun Stuff™. Monday we’ll be of to the Kilkenny area about 75 miles south with some stops on the way for sightseeing and lunch.