A Canadian gal living in Britain with 3 men and a dog. Wine helps.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

A little hoarse, but who's complaining?

Andy and I just got back from one of the best weekend trips to date. Surprisingly, I can still look back through the fog of a beer-ridden haze and recall every last minute of one of the most fantastic cities I have ever visited.

Within the first few hours of arriving in Dublin I realized that one of the reasons I was probably going to love it so much was due to the fact that it reminded me of Halifax. It wasn't the scenery, with the river LIffey cutting a path between the north and south, it wasn't the old-world type pubs, or the teaming crowds of people -it was the feel - that friendly, laid back, we're not in a hurry, and boy are you welcome here feel. Anyone who hails from Halifax and appreciates its constant, almost horizontal state of laid-backness will understand what I am talking about.

However for all the ways that it felt the same, it obviously looked different as it is a European city after all. But it was gorgeous and I couldn't wait to embrace it like an old friend. (I will however say at this point that it did remind of me of Halifax in one physical aspect: some of the locals were wearing Crocks - one even had them on with socks. Crocks with Socks! They are in the stores here, but I've not actually seen anyone wearing them.)

We couldn't wait to visit the pubs of Temple Bar and try out Irish Beer, so that was naturally where we headed first. My first drink was Kilkenny - a dark reddish beer on tap that I thought was absolutely delicious and certainly drank my fill of in two days. We moved on from Temple Bar up to Grafton Street for a look around and to get our bearings. We wandered down Stephen Street where Andy pointed out a pub called 'The Hairy Lemon'. I loved its name immediately and hoped it would be as cool as it sounded. It was, with all its little nooks and balconies. We spent a fair amount of time in this pub.

Later that night we made our way back to the North side of the Liffey and headed up O'Connell street to the area of town where we were staying. We wandered into a little hotel and bar that I insisted we must go in when I saw it was entitled 'O'Shea's', a name that didn't mean much to Andy, or would to anyone else, aside from Stacy and Dawn, aka and Fern and Sage, as my alias during their trip here was Poppy Rose O'Shea. How I ended up with the Irish surame can be accredited to Dawn. Of course by the time Andy and I were situated at an old booth, drinking and chuckling at a few of the locals, I was already in full Irish mode. Andy kept laughing at my 'accent'. There was an old local in the bar singing and playing Irish tunes and it was while I was trying to drink the Guinness Andy had sneakily put under my nose, that I heard the entertainer strum out the first few chords of Sunny's Dream. This song always makes me nostalgic, for it not only reminds me of home, but of being at my Nanny's house in Newfoundland - it was the first place I can ever remember hearing it.

The next day found us up early and out on the tour bus with our three day pass. It was an informative mode of transport where we could hop on and off at anytime. We mapped out the places we wanted to see: St. Stephen's Green, The Guinness Factory and St. Michan's Church. We managed St. Stephen's, a few cathedrals (viewed from the exterior) and the Guinness Factory that afternoon, before heading into 'The Brazen Head', Ireland's oldest pub, for yet another brew. We decided after that to walk alongside the Liffey back to O'Connell Street and up to our hotel for a shower and change before heading back out. The night before Andy and I had tried some Dublin grub and we were looking forward to some more. I highly recommend Irish Coddle and Irish Stew (chased down with Kilkenny naturally).

The Guinness Factory was an interesting experience and I was more than happy to drink my complimentary pint of Guinness after the tour. Its not every day that you get something thrown in for free and hey, I was in Ireland and thought it befitting I should drink at least one full pint of Guinness, especially after I failed to the previous evening. I was amazed and slightly disgusted at the amount of people who left full pints sitting on the tables. Some of them hadn't even been touched, proving that those who had received them knew beforehand that they didn't like it. Andy was one of these folk. I thought I might be able to manage his as well as mine, but its a strong tasting brew and I could only manage my own. It is definitely a beer to be slowly savoured. I'm told many pregnant women over here have the occasional half-pint as its very high in iron and supposedly very good for you when drunk in moderation.

Friday night we headed back out to Temple Bar, where we happily drank and danced the night away with another couple we met from Bristol, Anna and Steve. I ended up drinking yet another pint of Guinness (on top of all the Kilkenny) as Steve graciously bought me one during the evening. After the live Irish Music ended for the night, we decided to head over to the North side again, to The Arlington Hotel. The cool night air came as a blessed relief to my throat; although I had drank copious amounts of alcoholic beverage, I had sang myself raw to the Irish songs I so adore.

Saturday morning we woke up feeling tired and a little rough around the edges. We showered, checked out, and headed out for some breakfast to a lovely little Espresso Bar that we had visited and enjoyed the day before.

We had some time to kill before catching the bus and I was happy Andy suggested touring St. Michan's Crypts, something I wanted to do, but we didn't get to the day before.

At St. Michan's we were able to get face to face with four very impressive mummies. In a very real crypt. The walls in the church's vaults contain limestone, which has kept the air dry, creating ideal conditions for preservation. Among the mummies on display are a 400-year-old nun, an 8-foot-tall crusader and one very mysterious body with its hands and feet severed. Visitors to St. Michan's are invited to touch the leathery hand of the giant crusader, as it is said to bring good luck, which I was happy to partake in. One family made me laugh as they were so creeped out by the dark, dank-smelling crypt that they had to leave. I must say, after visiting the second crypt, full of a family whose coffins have all collapsed in on each other, and the other belonging to the Shears - two brothers, who had a very horrid death warrant on display (the original.) I too was a bit relieved to get back out into the fresh October air. There was definitely a smell of decay down there, and one I had a hard time dispelling from my clothes. Or at least that's how it felt. We weren't allowed to take photographs in the crypt, and I'm not sure I would have felt comfortable doing so. I had a feeling of unease over me as I took this photo of the entrance, which doesn't even begin to portray the real thing.

I have posted photos of our Dublin trip here

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