Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wed 21st- Dublin City

The only problem that I’ve found with staying at B&Bs are that breakfasts are served between a certain time usually lasting from one to two hours and usually fairly early in the morning. Most of the time this is OK as we’re keen to get on the road each day but just occasionally when you feel like a sleep in, the timing becomes an problem especially when you look out the window and it’s dark, cold and still raining! Of course we could go without breakfast but I always feel like I’ve paid for it so I’m going to eat it and anyway, it’s part of the holiday experience, every breakfast is a new experience. Today we feel like sleeping in, we’re coming to the end of our tour of Ireland and we’ve been on the go every day. One more full day and we fly to Manchester in the morning. In the end we make it to the breakfast room with 5 minutes to spare where we have our last cooked breakfast of the holiday while planning our day.

Top of the list is a tour of the Guinness Brewery even though neither of us likes Guinness! It would seem you can’t come to Dublin and not do a tour, its Ireland’s number one visitor attraction. We headed off in the general direction of the St James’s Gate Brewery and spent the next hour trying to find the entrance to Storehouse which is where the “visitor experience” happens. No matter where we drove we saw signs of the brewery; the iconic St Patrick’s Tower, a tall redbrick building with a green dome(it’ was actually an old windmill that has lost it’s blade sails), other brewery buildings, dozens of trucks, huge neon signs, etc but not the Storehouse. The brewery is located on 60 acres of land on Dublin’s south side and it would seem we drove right around the outside perimeter with a few one way roads throw in for good measure. We finally asked directions and found that we’d passed the entrance road at the very beginning of our tiki tour. It didn’t help that it was morning rush hour and it was raining.

The site has been the home of Guinness since 1759 and this year they are celebrating 250 years of brewing. Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease on the St James’s Gate property, which at that point was only 4 acres, costing him the princely sum £45 and that was for the whole 9000 years! Each day this brewery alone produces 3 million pints of the black stuff for the Irish, UK, European and US markets. The 7 storey high Storehouse was a former fermentation plant which has been turned into the visitors centre. The story of Arthur Guinness and how to brew Guinness are told as you wind yourself round and up the various floors until you finally reach the highest point of the building, The Gravity Bar where you can get your free pint of Guinness and admire the 360o view of Dublin city. We thought we should at least say we’d had a drink of Guinness and so I got a ½ pint and David got a Sprite :)  Unfortunately I still didn’t think it was any nicer after watching how it was brewed and we left a near full glass on the table, along with a few others that people obviously didn’t want it either. The views were great but it was still overcast and gloomy.

The view over Dublin city, St Patrick's Tower with it's green dome in the centre-

Some facts-
100,000 tonnes of Irish grown barley are used every year in making Guinness
Hops only grow in two regions of the world- between 35o & 55o north and south of the equator- Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, the US and New Zealand!
8 million litres of water flow into the brewery each day and contrary to popular belief is not- and has never been- drawn from the River Liffey. The water comes from the Wicklow Mountains above Dublin city.
Stout is a “stouter” version of porter. Porter a darker version of beer was invented in London in the 18th century.
Over 300 coopers(barrel makers & repairers) were employed before machinery took over the job.

David wanted to return to the B&B and catch up on some business at home so I had him drop me off downtown so I could have a wander around the city. I was happy, I had a city map and I’d catch a bus or a taxi home later in the afternoon. I got out of the car at the lights on the corner of the Grattan Bridge and Parliament Street. It wasn’t until David pulled away that I realised I’d dropped the map in the car in the hurry to get out before the lights changed. Lucky I had the umbrella and I was bound to find a map somewhere on my travels. Unfortunately I didn’t have my bearings and I was convinced I was on the other side of the river to the general direction of the B&B. I headed off in what I thought would be the direction of the main street, O’Connell Street. In fact it was in the total opposite direction. Along the way I watched some barrels of ale being off loaded and rolled across the footpath and then dropped down into the cellar of a pub.

I passed Christ Church Cathedral and walked a little further on before deciding this was the wrong way, there were too many "suits" walking by.

If I had walked another 6 or so blocks I’d have found myself right back at the Guinness Storehouse! I turned around and retraced by steps, I next found myself in the Temple Bar area of the city, a place I did want to visit even though I had no idea how I got there.

This area is well known as the Cultural Quarter and is a maze of cobbled streets with an array of restaurants, bars and shops, most with vibrant coloured shop fronts.

Still without a map I followed the general direction of the people around me and found myself crossing over the River Liffey via the pedestrian Ha’penny Bridge built in 1816.

I carried on through to Henry Street, a very wide pedestrian only shopping street and it was here that I could see the 120 meter tall Spire(aka the Spike) built for the Millennium and finished in 2003. I had seen it from the Gravity Bar where it looked like a tall thin needle, now it was huge and it stood right in the centre of O’Connell Street.

It was raining quite hard now so I thought I’d better locate a map and start to head home. I was also thinking that I was on the right side of the river and it wasn’t too far to get back to the B&B. I found a bus counter but unfortunately their maps didn’t have the information I was looking for and to make matters worse I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the street the B&B was in. Next I found a visitor’s information centre but their free maps only included the city centre and I wasn’t going to fork out money to buy a map I was only going to use for an hour or two. They were happy to give me directions but I still couldn’t remember the street name. I had a quick scan of the map books on display and finally found it, duhhhh!! Waterloo Road hence Waterloo B&B!

O'Connell Street-

Now I could see I was actually on the wrong side of the river and miles away from the B&B. I asked for directions to the right bus stop to catch a bus back, they directed me up O’Connell Street and into Parnell Square West. When I got there a helpful bus driver said no it’s Parnell Square East you’d be wanting. Bloody hell! The Square was quite big and even further away from the direction I wanted to head. By the time I got to the East side it was rush hour and there were hundreds and hundreds of people jostling and rushing for just as many buses. I though blow this I’ll start to walk back home and catch a taxi if I get tired.

Parnell Street West-

Off I headed back down O’Connell Street again and over the O’Connell Bridge where not only was the rain heavy but the traffic was too. By now I had a rough idea of where I needed to head, down College Street I passed Trinity College and then into Grafton Street, another pedestrian only shopping street, turned left at St Stephen’s Green, passed along Merrion Row and then into Baggot Street Lower and then Baggot Street Upper which was now just a short haul from Waterloo Road and home.

David had called me earlier in my wanderings wondering where on earth I’d got to as it was over 3 hours since he’d dropped me off. It was now well over 4 hours, I don’t think he believed me that I hadn’t set foot inside a shop but I can quite honestly say that I didn’t and that I sure did “walk” Dublin City. I think I would have walked at least 10 kms.

Hmmm......maybe I should have hired one of these to see the city-

In fact there are 40 of these bike stations around the city, you can get a 3 day ticket or a long term hire card and then it's just a matter of inserting your card at the station and removing a bike. Once you have finished you can return it at any of the other stations or the same one, then collect one again the next day or the next time you need a bike.

It was about 6pm by the time I got to our neighbourhood, it was dark and raining so David met me at the Baggot Street shops and we grabbed an early dinner from a great Italian restaurant on the banks of the Grand Canal then it was back to the B&B where I had to repack the bags in preparation for our flight to Manchester early the next morning. Needless to say I slept very soundly that night after my “great walk”.

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