A Travellerspoint blog

Cute Hoor

Resourceful person of dubious character.

semi-overcast 18 °C

(Title of the blog is also a beer)

Well we brought yesterday evening to a close with a fabulous Indian dinner (the food here has been great we have tried everything from Sushi to Pizza) and the continuation of our quest to visit all 20 of the pubs listed in “20 Things to do in Dublin before you grab a Feckin’ Pint” (fabulous guidebook). We started with Cobblestone’s, not on this list but on Bourdain’s and a recommendation from our cabbie on the way from the airport. Cobblestone’s is a small traditional Irish pub with free music (actually like a jam session) every night.

Random Musicians gather in the reserved area at the front of the bar and play traditional Celtic music (lots of fiddles, banjo’s, flute like instrument, guitars). Was a really fun place to catch some traditional tunes.
From Cobblestone’s we headed back to the south side of the river to McDaid’s, once home to Dublin’s morgue. McDaid’s was a frequent stop for the likes of Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O’Brian (well known Irish writers essentially who I think were basically drunks because they frequented a lot of watering holes). The bar had really high ceilings and the oddest toilets I have ever encountered. Anyone who knows me knows given my tiny bladder I am a self-proclaimed expert on toilets. McDaid’s actually has toilets that are designed to fit in a corner (I wish I had a taken a picture). The tiniest bathroom fitted with two stalls and two sinks seemed unconceivable but this place managed to make it fit and comfortable.

We crossed the street (literally) to Bruxelles, which has been a pub since 1886 but only in its present state since 1973 when Ireland joined the ECC. It had a much more lively (or drunk, take your pick) crowd listening to the loud rock music. It was said some of its patrons include Oasis, Iron Maiden, Snow Patron, 50 cent and so on. The bar is big with one large room upstairs and two other room/bar areas downstairs (bathrooms here were pretty typical and warrant no comment.)

A saunter down the lane brought us to the Bailey, which unfortunately (or fortunately for our livers) was in the process of closing for the evening. We did manage to pop in for a look and the original décor is all but gone and is a trendy and chic establishment now. Given the ambiance we decided the pop in warranted a check in the box as visited.


From Bailey’s we decided it was likely time to head home but stumbled across O’Donoghue’s, also on the list. One last drink. Turns out there are multiple O’Donoghue’s so we aren’t confident this is the one in the book even though there was a musician packing up his guitar, which is what O’Donoghue’s, is known for.
Thankfully for us today, our local merchant wine store was closed when we stumbled by (yes, we wanted just one more…) but the pizza joint wasn’t so we sourced a pizza headed home.

We were grateful this morning the wine store was closed last night when the alarm went off for our early morning tour of the Kilmainham Gaol (the historic Dublin prison). Kilmainham was one of the first “reform” prisons and has become one of the most powerful symbols of Irish nationalism as many of the leaders of the ‘1916 Uprising’ or ‘Civil War’ spent some time within its walls or worse were executed in its yards. It was a fascinating way to spend a couple hours this morning.


We spent the rest of the day wandering the parts of Dublin we had not walked yet (which isn’t much). We finally wandered through Dublin Castle (which isn’t really a castle as only one original part remains). The buildings itself look very British (which the Irish still hold a fairly significant grudge against it would seem, one guide commented that 2011 was the FIRST (emphasis here on how rude it was it took her this long) the Queen of England had visited since they handed over power to Michael Collins in 1922). The Irish/British relationship is even harder to understand when you think about the fact that 6 counties (Northern Ireland) remain under British rule. It’s complicated. Useless fact, there used to be a dark pool on the site of Dublin Castle gardens. In Irish Dark pool translates to ‘ Dubb Linn’ and thus, came Dublin.

From Dublin Castle we headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the place where Gulliver’s travels began (yes, Jonathan Swift & Oscar Wilde are Irish not English). Seemed wildly inappropriate to be in Dublin for a week and not spend some time in St. Paddy’s.


After obtaining some cultural it was time to check another pub off the list so we headed to Doheny & Nesbitt (and walked by O’Donoghue’s which tipped us off to we were likely in the wrong one last night) for a traditional Irish lunch, baked potato with a burger topping for me (Irish nachos?) and Sheppard’s Pie for Ger (also served with a side of fries, if you don’t like potatoes don’t come to Ireland!).


After a beer and a belly full of carbs we sauntered past the Oscar Wilde monument, consisting of a statue of Wilde lounging on a large rock and two other pillars with busts covered in his quotes, my favourite “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”


The rest of our afternoon consisted of a well-deserved nap and a stop at another local gym to burn off some of our pints. It was the coolest gym (and busiest) I have ever been in, with large windows overlooking Dublin Castle!


Tonight’s activity will be light on pub-crawling I think, we are headed to a play at a historic theater close to us. It is crazy busy in town (which says a lot because this town has been crazy all week) due to the concert tomorrow plus both Ger and I have think we have done a decent job of visiting a variety of pubs and may or may not have had enough beer for awhile.


Super excited for tomorrow, plan is to sleep in, due a couple other sites we haven’t explored thoroughly yet (maybe the Revenue Museum at Dublin Castle) and head out to the concert. We have received email notifications to expect security delays so we are prepping to walk to Croke Park again for door opening at 6 pm.

Until next time,

Posted by imalazyj 16:00 Archived in Ireland

Céad míle fáilte!

A hundred thousand welcomes!


Today is one of the reasons why I love to travel. Exposure to different people, different ways, getting close to moments in history you only read about in the news, it all sets you back on your heels sometimes and makes you think.

We started early and met our small group (6 of us) for our Northern Ireland Day Tour (with Elegant Irish Tours, highly recommend). We headed north out of Dublin and our guide/driver, Patrick, filled our heads with "stories" about the history of Ireland all the way back to the ancient times, the Vikings and of course the British era. He is from The Republic of Ireland aka Ireland and not Northern Ireland (do not misuse those names). We lucked out with great weather as we made our way north to the first stop, The Giant's Causeway. The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt (odd hexagonal (mostly) columns of rock sticking up from the ocean floor, some up to 12 feet high, the result of a volcanic eruption.


According to Irish legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant, Fionn MacCool. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn MacCool, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn's wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the 'baby', he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this. (Thank you Wikipedia for the Legend!)

We spent a couple hours walking the trails around the Causeway before a quick stop for lunch (more beef and Guinness pie for me) before heading back to Belfast for our afternoon activity.

Once in Belfast we toured by the Titanic Museum, built on the exact site the ship was built and on to the Black Taxi Tour. From the 1960s to 1998 Belfast was enthralled in a bloody civil war (Sunday Bloody Sunday, which I suspect we will hear Saturday night, is about one of the incidents). Fought between the mainly nationalist catholic community (wanted Northern Ireland to be independent of Britain the "IRA or the Irish Republican Party") and mainly loyalist protestant community (loyal to the Queen). Out of the chaos came some of Belfast’s most recognisable landmarks, its murals (similar to Bogota's mural where art takes a political form). The tour goes east to west, north to south taking in both sides of the community and how they depicted their war efforts through amazingly detailed murals. The driver explained "The Troubles" as this time was referred to up to the Good Friday Agreement (signed in 1998). As Patrick so eloquently put it the period and violence is puzzling and sad. For me it reminded me of my recent experience in Colombia who had suffered a similar history and feels similar to the world today is facing with ISIS. "One man's Freedom Fighter is another man's Terrorist." There is still a wall in the city dividing the east from the west (similar to Berlin) and there are still gates opened and closed daily. Our guide said while the worst violence has passed there are still small dissident groups trying to cause trouble and continue the fight. Brexit also poses a real and frightening resurrection of old feelings.


Again, I consider myself extremely lucky and am grateful that I was born and raised in a country where we haven't had to face these types of tragic series of events. Lucky to be Canadian.

As we head out of Belfast returning to Dublin Ger and I are left reflecting on what we heard and learned today. I write this as we zip down the relatively modern (recently built, in the last 10 years) motorway (our transport has wifi!). I suspect our evening will be a continuation of our on-going pub crawl (Ger has a list of 20 pubs to check out and we have hit 7 so far with only 3 nights left!).

Until next time,

Posted by imalazyj 09:25 Archived in Northern Ireland

One man's Freedom Fighter is another man's Terrorist

rain 18 °C

The title today was said by our guide today and it really resonated with me. It was said in relation to the Irish conflicts but I think it applies broadly to any conflict situation. Anyways...

Today we started early and headed out for our first organized tour. We had hired a driver/guide (Day Tour Unplugged and they were awesome!) to take us to Glendalough, a beautiful glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland, renowned for an Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin. We are finally experiencing more normal Irish weather and departed in a light drizzle. We drove out of Dublin south and into the beautiful countryside I remember from our last visit here. Lush rolling hills, with stone walls dividing fields and keeping sheep in their place.

The guide, Damien O'Reilly, was awesome, answering many questions we had squirrelled away over the past couple of days. I was asked if Dublin seems the same as last time we where here and I said yes, i think so except I don't remember it being so full of tourists. Turns out that from 2015 to now tourism has quadrupled (more people visit here than live here). Damien figured there are a number of contributing factors including; Ireland seems safe (no more bombings here), the Irish government has undertaken an impressive marketing program, Game of Thrones (I am not kidding) and Iceland Air (they are offering cheap flights with a stop-over in Iceland). Either way it seems to working although his comment is that the increase in pace is not sustainable as many sites can not handle the number of visitors and accommodations are getting difficult to find.

The guide also pointed out the change in demographic that has occurred in Ireland, over 40% of the population is under 30 years old. During the 2008 economic crisis, the feisty Irish recovered fairly well (relative to Italy, Spain etc) and thus, their unemployment quickly recovered from 15% to under 8%, attracting a large influx. Ireland has the youngest population of any EU member state and is expect to grow for many decades. Population of the southern island is 4.7 mm people with 1.5 mm in Dublin. The other major change the country recently has undergone is Brexit. The peace process in Ireland has been underway for 20 years but Brexit threatens to awaken old wounds again. The border between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland ("Ireland") will become the only land border between Britain and the EU, raising the possibility - technically - of passport checks, custom checks and tariffs (and maybe even a wall!).

Our guide said many British Companies are exiting the UK and the major landing points are Ireland, Germany and France. Throw another wrench into the system that Northern Ireland people were given the right in the Good Friday Agreement to "someday have the ability to possess a British passport, an Irish passport or both..." so the passport office in Ireland has been swapped with new requests given the exit from the EU. I suspect I will be armed with more tidbits on the Northern Ireland/Ireland conflict after tomorrow but talking to our guide today has certainly fuelled my curiosity.


We arrived early to the monastic site at Glendalough (ahead of the hordes to soon follow) and our guide walked us through the ancient city ruins including the Round Tower standing 30 m high. From the monastery Ger and I ventured off for a short hike to the two glacier fed lakes and up to a cute little waterfall in the countryside. It was really quite beautiful and refreshing. We returned to our car after a couple hours and made our way back to Dublin. Last stop was at Leo Borduck's for what we are told are Dublin's best fish and chips (serving since 1913). The best location happened to be across from condo, fortunate since it is only a take-out location. So we grabbed some grub and headed home for a late lunch (and yes they were amazing).


The early morning coupled with a belly full of carbs meant Ger and I each succumbed to a little nap before we head out for our next activity, the Guinness Storehouse Tour at 4 pm, tonight will be another early evening as tomorrow we start even earlier and head off to Belfast for the day.

Until next time,

Posted by imalazyj 06:42 Archived in Ireland

Póg mo thóin! "Kiss my Ass"

if you haven't guessed it the Blog Titles are Irish sayings.

sunny 20 °C

Another leisurely start to the day with coffee and breakie in our condo, we have settled right in and with the aid of some earplugs and some sleep substance inducing consumables, slept solidly through the night. We have decided to get a couple of our "must-do" activities organized and I now have a private tour booked for tomorrow to Glendalough, a glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland, renowned for an early medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin. AND it is the filming site for my favourite, ugly-cry, chic flick ever, P.S. I Love You (the scenes where Gerry meets Holly for the first time) oh and Braveheart for the boys out there. The tour is an early morning departure with an afternoon return so we are going to end the day with a stop and tour at the Guinness Storehouse.

Note very day you see a tanker truck full of beer, well at least not in Canada.

On Thursday we are headed north for a full day trip to Belfast and the Giant Causeway, two places we did not make it to the last time we were in Ireland. I am eager to learn about the political turmoil this country has faced.

The remainder of today included another out of Dublin adventure with a ride on the DART (while efficient these are not modern speed bullets and have no AC!) to Dun Laoghaire, a suburb 7 miles from Dublin on the Dublin Bay. After disembarking from the train we wandered the shore line until we hit Caviston's for lunch. Another Bourdain recommendation that we fluke into being able to get a table on the sidewalk. Amazing local, fresh seafood (and a glass of wine but just one). After lunch we headed back out, the Dublin Harbour at one time was strategic enough to warrant a line of martello towers (to defend against Napoleon) and one still stands in the Bay housing the James Joyce Museum which of course we had to go in (and up the tower). The museum itself was underwhelming (although I feel like I should read Ulysses now) but the view from the top of the tower was worth the free admission.


From Dun Laoghaire we walked to the next village Dalkey (home of Bono and other rich folks). Dalkey, a seaside town was founded as a Viking settlement and became an active port during the Middle Age. It has several ancient buildings (castle, church etc) and loads of character, we wandered around before hoping back on the DART to return to Dublin.


Once back in the core we headed off to try a different gym then Ger hit yesterday (he said it was one of the worst he has ever tried and he has been to gyms in Oklahoma City ...) we found the a gym in a very old building which meant it was a bit of a maze with several floors to navigate and relatively small but it was clean and had A/C so we will call it a win (and not stupid expensive at 10 Euros per person).

Tonight we are off to another Bourdain recommendation (sushi & noodles this time) and maybe try to knock of a couple more pubs from the list (but not too many tomorrow is a decently early morning).

Until next time,

Posted by imalazyj 10:48 Archived in Ireland

'Happy Out'

"I had a large bottle in front of me so I was happy out."

sunny 22 °C

Okay, disclaimer I am writing this after a mini pub crawl tonight.

So today, where does one start? Well the wine and the lack of sleep from our time travel Saturday kicked me in the arse which made for a latish start today. We managed to source some groceries yesterday (grocery shopping in a different country is always fascinating) so we enjoyed coffee and breakfast at our little home before venturing out. Today we ventured out to Howth, an Irish fishing village on the Howth Peninsula, east of central Dublin. We wandered down to the Connolly Station and caught the DART out. Have I mentioned before how civilized train travel is?

We arrived at Howth around noon and I got suckered into hopping into an old (smelly, diesel engine) boat for a 30 minute tour around the nearby island, Ireland's Eye. It was fun to get on the Irish Sea and look back at the coastline as we zipped around the seagull infested island. Once back on shore hanger set in and we stopped at the Octopussy Cafe for some local seafood samplings (and maybe a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc). It should be noted 2 days in Ireland and we have had nothing but sun (we realize that will change) but it has been hot and beautiful thus far.


After some substance we wandered the little town before hoping back on the DART and headed back to Dublin. I promptly fell asleep (something about moving transport is like a giant sleeping pill for me) if Ger hadn't woken me up before our stop who knows where I would have ended up. We wandered back to the condo and decided it was time to burn of some calories. Ger headed to the local gym and I was off for a run. I had read Phoenix Park was the place to do so off I went.


Phoenix Park is the oddest park I have ever had the pleasure of running in a large city in. First it is the largest walled park in Europe. It is larger than all of London's parks together and Central Park in NYC is a village green in comparison. The exterior wall is 11 km long and it is 1,750 acres of grassland (Africa like grassland) the Dublin Zoo, the residences of the President and US Ambassador, a 17th century castle, monuments and a herd of deer. Yup, I ran past a heard of "Elkalope" or technically Fallow Deer in the park, in the middle of Dublin. It was a fascinating albeit longer than I wanted run.

Our evening consisted of a mini-pub crawl. Ger has found a book in the condo, 20 Things to Do in Dublin Before you Go for a Feckin Pint, which not only has 20 great ideas for activities in Dublin but also the most iconic 20 pubs in Dublin. Tonight we knocked off 4...


First stop, The Stag's Head, and yes it has a big stag's head over the bar. Reportedly one of the best-preserved Victorian glass n the city. Deep mahogany walls with colourful windows, chandeliers, brass fittings. It felt truly Irish, a pint for each of us and we were on to the next stop. Oh it was here I learned pubs in Ireland typically only serve lunch, yup most stop serving in mid-afternoon.


Next, Davy Byrnes, famous due to its part in Ulysses, "He (Leopold Bloom) enters Davy Byrne's..." thanks to its reference in Ulysses for great good it has earned a reputation as a Gastropub and was still serving food! Beef and Guinness pie for me, Irish stew for Ger and a couple more pints.


At this point I have had enough beer that I can only make it a block or two before needing to use facilities again, thus the next stop is Neary's, a pub originally owned and run by the Honorary Consul to Gautemala. Another lovely pint before heading out.

Last stop tonight, the Long Hall, a Victorian Gin Palace that has changed much in a couple centuries (note all these pubs have been licensed since the late 1700s). One more drink (I switched to wine and Ger whiskey) before heading home (with a stop for Gelato on the way, this is NOT a calorie neutral vacation even with my 12 km run today!).


Sleep is calling my name as I write this and we are not sure what tomorrow holds for us, maybe another day trip to a different coastal village, or?

Until next time,

Posted by imalazyj 15:34 Archived in Ireland

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