Tuesday, 20 September 2011

5 Days in Dublin

A trip to Dublin should consist a bit of sleep, a bit of sight-seeing, a bit of eating and a really small amount of drinking. In truth, it'd not gone strictly according to plan....
So what's brought us to Dubs? Well, it's somewhere we've both wanted to come to for a while. But with a new reason mixed in too, a former work acquaintance, now turned friend who lives in Dublin, Blon! More on her later!
The flight over from Bristol was pretty good, but noisy. It's not often I have flown across South Wales going anywhere really, but when you do, you realise how small it is!
The air link bus brought us into Dublin via a really long tunnel, but out we came and were now heading to the Liffey.
We're staying in the Maldron Hotel on Cardiff Lane. Pretty good as hotels go, and the free wifi in the room is a bonus. But, we didn't come to Dublin to talk about the hotel, good though it is. So, what have we encountered in this trip?
Well, for the benefit of the uninformed, the Rugby World Cup is on..... in New Zealand. So that isn't it, but that's not to say it hasn't played its part. We've seen loads!
Bridges (Dublin has lots), a mad one way system (probably worse than the one in Ross Vegas), a man made island in the Liffey complete with artificial palm trees and an Orange tent with a bloke living on it to name but a few things.
Our first full day in Dubs, and we walked bloody miles! But we also drank beer as well. 11.30 Thursday morning and the first pint was on the bar in the Porterhouse pub. It's a must visit for anyone who wants to try beer. And incidentally, one of the few pubs in Dublin that DOESN'T server the black stuff! The Porterhouse brews a good selection of its own beers, so it was a pint of TSB to start swiftly followed by the Porterhouse Red.

After a shed load of walking around Dublin city, you realise how big it is, and how much there is to Dublin other than the Liffey! You definitely need a tourist map to get around. My sense of direction in a city is crap, but 'Sat Nav' Ali has once again programmed the city street atlas into her brain and off we go. Expect no high-rise buildings, but the big Spike. There are shops where you can buy everything from tourist tack to old family run hardware shops which look like they've been around for generations. You must understand though, that this will only lead you to one thing - more drink. This time we found ourselves in here. Another brew pub well worth a visit. And it is here where we met up with the second reason behind our visit. Now, I know Blon through work. I used to be one of her 'clients' as it were. But, such a character as she is, when the time came that she had to hand our account over to another, we agreed to stay in touch and a trip over to meet her was soon arranged. And, it was in the front window of a brew pub in Dublin that this meeting of our new friend and tourist guide/hostess took place.
So, what else has Dublin given us during our short stay? Well, courtesy of Blon, Saturday started with a trip to the O2/The Point in Dublin. Here. we joined 5000 mad Irish supporters. After breakfast we watched the Ireland v Australia RWC game on a massive screen. Must of been at least 60 feet! It beats watching it in a pub. The atmosphere was amazing and with Ireland pulling off the biggest upset of the RWC so far, Dublin was bouncing!

Coming out from the O2 centre, we headed into town and found a little desert island! Call it art, a prank, floating rubbish or a point of interest, how a tent, next to palm trees on a floating desert island on the Liffey comes to being is mad! Complete with a bloke in a suite playing records on a wind up gramophone!

I'm not one for taking much notice of buildings really, but even I couldn't be ignorant of the buildings which litter the streets of Dublin. As said already, not much in the way of high rise tower blocks, but plenty of big buildings to say the least. And bridges too. You can't forget the bridges. Perhaps the best building in Dublin is the convention centre below, but if anyone is 'in to' buildings and architecture of all sorts, Dublin has a lot to offer.

Saturday day soon gave to Saturday evening and Saturday night. We'd arranged with Blon to go out for beer and food. A power nap was in order after lunch before Ali and I once again found ourselves stomping across town heading for the Aviva stadium to Slatterys pub, Blons local where we would meet up with her, Ronan (the sailing legend he is) and Una - mad as a box of frogs and lovely with it! This was also the venue for a double first. I've managed to get through the blog this far with touching a drop, but we could hold off no further. The chosen drink of the first round, and every round after - the black stuff! Need I say more. Much toilet humour can be extracted from events from the next morning, but not to dwell, I shall leave it at but this - black as treacle.
Beer drunk, more new friends made and off in search of food. If you want to go to a really nice place and are willing to travel out of town, you won't go wrong with a visit to this place. The Chop House, not far from the Aviva is really popular and booking it is a must. The food was fantastic, the black stuff kept flowing with Hereford beef, Bass and Lobster on the table we ate until, well, stuffed really. Blon had managed to pull yet another blinder in turning up this gem for us!
And, on into town we went, minus one Una! With Ronan doing his best to poach us one of Dublins thousands of taxis and everyone wondering where the next people carrier taxi would come from, Una legged it into some unsuspecting taxi who had stopped at a red light before winding down the window and shouting her good byes before leaving us. Very funny, and solving half the issue of finding a cab big enough for five in one swoop. Una, we enjoyed your company, your friendliness and your hospitality. Thank you.
Now, the advantage of having some locals to show us around this great city means that you get to find out plenty of little hidden places in which more drinking can take place without stumbling into the more undesirable places. How many people, strangers to a city, would walk the back streets of Dublin, find an Asian restaurant, walk straight through the restaurant and follow the signs for the toilets, only to find yourself in a concealed basement with bar and dance floor? Sounds dodgy? Well, it wasn't in the slightest. Ronan had blazed the trail to find and introduce us to his cousin (? drink had been drunk by that point) Aoife who was house DJ. We sat in awe has records were located from a vast collection, mounted on the turntable, spun and then arranged neatly in a different pile before the next selection was made. The back wall was covered in very random Asian/Chinese animation that seemed to tell the tale of a young samurai running around a planet and cutting up alien robots. Any other day, it would have seemed random, but not then. So, that brought us to the end of Saturday night and we made our way home.
2 hours after getting to sleep, the alarm went for 4.30am. The immediate reaction of a sane person would be to throw it out the window, but not in this instance. The first grab was made for the TV remote and the telly was switched on in time for the end of the national anthems and the start of the Wales v Samoa world cup match. A matched littered with a few 'treacle' incidents and plenty of tutting with one 'get in there' shout (goodness knows what the people in the next room were thinking) as Shane Williams deftly took the ball in one hand and scored the try which gave Wales the 7 point lead to keep us within hope of making the knock out stages.
I'm not ashamed to say that the England match wasn't nearly as entertaining. Well, at least the first half wasn't. And I fell asleep for the second half. And the third game in its entirety. Bleary eyed, we stumbled down for our brekkie in the hotel and got ourselves sorted to meet up with Blon once again.
The newly MOT'd motor pulled up with Blon in the driver seat. In we jumped and off we went to see a bit more of what Dublin had to offer, we headed South-ish and to the coast. A very overcast and blustery day it was, but a good walk to blow away the cobwebs.

The highlight of the walk for me was tracking two dolphins from our high vantage point along the coast. Sometimes breaching the water fully, sometimes just coming up for air. Blon had brought us to a place where we could see another offering from the Emerald Isle.
With a brief stop and intro to Blons family home along with Mam, Dad and resident cat and a quick discussion on the basic rules of Gaelic football, the all-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry, it was time for one of Blons wackiest ideas. Now, I'm up for anything. Have done some dull things. Have done some stupid things. Have done some things which I really think I shouldn't have done. Have done lots of things which I would do again. Quite which one this falls into, I don't know. Time to go swimming. Outside. In the crap weather. In the Irish Sea. I don't know why it was so much of a surprise really. I've spent vast amounts of time in the Irish sea on the Welsh side, especially during my Uni days. But why did I allow myself to be persuaded that it would be a good idea to do it for fun? If anything, it woke me up. And that's about all that could be said for it. It's a tick in the box to say I've done it, but I found myself saying to Blon that I would do it again, albeit in a wetsuit next time. In truth, I got in the water up to just below my chest. And then got back out. Blon decided to 'commit' herself a bit more and she was off insisting it was a good idea!

We headed back to the hotel, and this had brought us to the end of our time with Blon. For this visit anyway. We saw the closing quarter of the all-Ireland final which Dublin won in front of about 85000 people in Croke Park. It's definitely a sport I could see myself being drawn to. A weird hybrid of sports such as football, basketball and rugby. One thing is for sure. You need to be incredibly fit to play!
And this brings me onto this present day. Our last full day in Dublin, for tomorrow we fly back home, but not before one last chance to eke out more of what Dublin has to offer. Our thanks must go to Una for Alis visit to Revive Express. Ali now has newly painted nails on her fingers and apparently some other stuff was done to them too. Whatever it was, she's chuffed to bits with them! I now own two books by Brian Moore, ex-England international rugby player. We've also found out that fresher’s week is perhaps not the best week to go exploring the university grounds, amazing though they are. We found today that eating in 'Kitchen' found on one of Dublins back streets is a good choice, and that a workman starting digging up the road opposite with a jack hammer is a good way to clear the outside tables of customers.
So, tomorrow we fly back home and pick up our doggy from his holiday. Our thanks must go to our ever suffering dog sitters on the 'Funny Farm' (their own admission) without whom we'd be a bit scuppered when it comes to traveling. We pack our bags with new books, a Guinness pint pot (bought not stolen), a scarf made from Irish wool and all the rest of the bumph which we brought with us.
We think about our trip and all the things we have happened since we have been away both here and at home. New friends, rugby, tragic news about 4 miners at home, aching legs from discovering the city and the feeling of warm blood pumping back into the 'vital' areas after an encounter with the Irish Sea.
Finally, we must say a huge thanks to Blon for organising everything, for introducing us to Ronan and Una and for generally being a complete legend spending her weekend off work keeping us entertained, fed, watered and looking after us. We can't thank you enough.

Next trip might be, just might be the States...... We have to wait and see.