A Travellerspoint blog

April 2011

Breathe, Breathe in the Eire, Episode 2

My mother didn't mention cannibals

semi-overcast 20 °C

Now where were we? Oh yes, at the abandoned car hire, with our spacious new Hyundai Santa Fe. The five of us stood there, breathing in the Eire, marveling at our trusty steed. (Giggle giggle), did you guys bring enough luggage, whispered Nikki? My Dearest, would you be kind enough to explain to the Giggler that we always travel this light whilst I pack the car? Besides, the iPod battery was dead and that should make things considerably lighter.

My keen organizational skills were more than a match for the tiny boot. It was a mere 14 hours later that we all managed to pile in and prepare for takeoff. Dearest, would you change places with me? The steering wheel has been placed on the wrong side of this vehicle. Of course Honey Bunch, I was wondering how long it would take you to notice. Nikki, Phil, and Greg quietly laughed their asses off in the back seat, trying their hardest not to mock the driver in whose hands they had placed their lives. Right, seatbelts on everybody, I’m going to make a break for it. I peeled out of the lot in fourth gear (damn left hand stick shift will take some getting used to…), and effortlessly drove over two meridians, one Volkswagon Beetle, three pedestrians, and made for the M1, or whatever the name of the damn highway was. Aren’t they all the M1 over here? You’re not in the US anymore Beerman, eh, exclaimed Greg. Phil had long since passed out from lack of oxygen in the back seat; hands clenched on the seatbelt, and was quietly drooling on his shirt. No, (giggle giggle), we have different numbering systems here, came the voice of reason. You’ll want to bear left and head north up R132 which is Dublin Road, and continue ahead trying to not hit anything whilst finding Nevinstown West, then turn right at Nevinstown Lane and there is your hotel, the lovely Tulip Inn. A short ride later, there it was, the lovely Tulip Inn. I pulled into the car park, narrowly missing several bicycles and some stray sheep, and ceremoniously parked in front of the reception door, with only one wheel fully placed on the curb. This was easy; I can’t wait for another 10 days of this. I popped open the boot just as the bellman came out of the front door. He could barely contain his enthusiasm at my excellent parking job, so much so that he and Nikki joined together in a harmonious chorus of giggles. With a typical sense of Irish humor, he asked if we were to stay for a lifetime. Say, you don’t have a sister in the States who works at the airport, do you? Very well Sir, I’ll just be off to find a lorry to mule your baggage up to your room. Please kind Sir, they are not baggage, they are our friends here to make merry with us in your fine country. Very good Sir, but I was actually referring to the 4 metric tonnes of expertly packed luggage haphazardly jammed into the back of this very sturdy Hyundai Santa Fe. Ha, yes of course, I knew that. Lead on MacDuff. Amusing Sir, but MacDuff was Danish, my name is Hector, please follow me. Greg was kind enough to fish the emergency oxygen bottle and mask out of the boot and revive Phil, and we made for the reception desk. Hardy adventurers we were. The baggage lorry deposited us at the counter, and the friendly clerk began with “Welcome Sir, here for a lifetime, are we?” This joke was getting old fast, but onward we proceeded. Arriving at the luxuriously laid-out room, I tipped the 14 bellmen and settled in to unpack. Unpack? No, we have to get downtown, chimed Phil. There are pubs awaiting us, and this adventure has only just begun. Right then, let’s be off…..but first, a tinkle. I’ve been holding it since Chicago, and I need to make room for the upcoming Guinness. And so we all tinkled.

Cramming back into the car, we set off for downtown, eager to consume mass quantities of black gold and see some sights. Now (giggle giggle), you’ll want to bear left and head down the R132 again, at the roundabout, get onto Swords Road which turns into the N1 E1, past Trinity College, then right onto Upper Merrion Street until you hit Baggot Street (and when I say “hit”, I don’t mean that literally), and there we are at Foley’s Bar!!!! My mind was reeling. I had been occupied breathing in the Eire, but these new directions were nigh more than I could handle, so I just punched it, lurching out into the unknown. It was surprisingly easy driving in Dublin, and the fact that the Hyundai could effortlessly drive over nearly any obstacle made it all the more enjoyable. I could scarcely hear the panicked screams coming from the back seat. “NO, BEAR LEFT, NOW RIGHT AND STRAIGHT AHEAD.” I could get used to this. It was a mere 36 hours and 485 km until we reached Foley’s Bar. Now the real challenge lay ahead….finding a parking spot. Again, the trusty Hyundai was up to the task, and I casually parked atop a small Fiat with a small red “L” pasted on the back window, just 3 miles from Foley’s. Damn Learners, learn how to park, out of my way if necessary. Right then, it’s cocktail time. A short stroll, a few smokes, and we were there. Foley’s Bar is one of those charming Dublin pubs that makes you feel at home almost from the moment you walk in the door. My compatriots found a nice table for 46, and Phil and I sauntered to the bar to purvey liquid refreshment for us all. Good day my good man, I’d like 40 pints of your finest Guinness, I proclaimed to the barman. “Oh, yer Americans then, exclaimed the kind Sir”. It was to be the mantra that followed us along our entire adventure on the Emerald Isle……oh, yer Americans then. Apparently, I had “American here” tattooed on my forehead. Perhaps it was my garb. Not a lot of Hawaiian shirts on the Emerald Isle.

Dublin had recently adopted a “no smoking in pubs” policy, which forced us to step outside every now and then for a quickie (so to speak). It was during one of these breaks, while Nikki was furiously texting Jason about where we were, that the man himself made an appearance. My Dearest and I were marveling at the sights and sounds around us, the bustle of urban life all around, when Jason came walking up to us, fag in one hand and mobile in the other. You Beerman and Isadora, he asked? Indeed we are my good man, but sorry, we’re fresh out of spare change. No you git, I’m Jase007, and I’m here for the meet-up. Phew, that’s a relief; I thought you were another beggar asking if we were Americans. Come inside, let’s drink!! And so we drank. And drank. And chatted. And drank some more. The barman had given up asking if we were Americans and simply brought pint after pint of Guinness. I believe we spent somewhere in the vicinity of the Gross National Product of Bolivia that night just on drink alone, with some pub grub on the side. Still, the evening was a success, as it only took us 4 hours to convince Nikki and Jason that it was indeed Foley’s and not Doyle’s where we were to meet. Perhaps the alcohol had dimmed our senses, though I had not seen any chickens of late, so I knew it wasn’t my travel deficit disorder. I blame Sir Arthur Guinness, and as I am a fellow brew master, I can do that. We brew people are an odd lot.

Late into the evening, we dropped Greg off at his hostel, Phil back at his apartment, and Nikki back at her home. Jason was on his own. Miraculously, we didn’t hit much of any substance on our way back to the hotel, as drink driving is considered a no-no in Ireland, especially if you’re American. My Love and I drifted off to sleep with little effort, quietly anticipating hiking throughout greater Dublin in search of the perfect pint. Oh, and meeting more wayward TPers. That would be good too.

Stay tunes for Episode Three, wherein we do indeed hike for many kilometers and search every pub on every block for that elusive perfect pint. You may now return your seats to an upright position and stow your tray tables. Thank you.

Posted by beerman 09:11 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Breathe, Breathe in the Eire, Episode 1

My mother didn't mention cannibals

rain 14 °C

As I sit at the trusty laptop today, it’s cold, snowy, rainy, and windy. It reminded me of our voyage to Ireland in 2006. Yes, Irish weather was very nearly the same as the weather here today, minus the snow. Well, and the cold. But it was windy and rainy.

I don’t really remember how it all started, but we had only joined TP 18 months earlier, and we had already attended 2 TP meet-ups, one in Montreal and one in Ft Lauderdale. This was to be our “longest distance” meet-up to date. I think my dearest started things, but it could have been Nikki or even Phil that really got the ball rolling. It was July 2006, and we had gotten to know a number of members quite well without ever having met them. Yes, we assumed they were lunatics, but OUR kind of lunatics, so we felt comfortable mingling amongst friends, albeit the faceless TP faithful. Well, not really faceless, as we did check everyone’ profiles to see what they looked like…..it would seem a bit silly wandering Ireland asking complete strangers if they were who we guessed they were. Not that it hadn’t happened before – at the Montreal meet-up, we really had no idea what anyone looked like except Tina, Sam, and Peter, who had all emailed naked photos of themselves months in advance. OK, not exactly “naked” photos, but you get the picture…

A trip such as this required literally months of planning. We reasoned that if everyone drank they way we did (and they mostly do [re: Jason], plus, this was Ireland – Land of Guinness), that it would be a long, laborious process to actually organize such an adventure. It was indeed a long and laborious process, taking week after week of drinking to excess and PM-ing and thread posting while trying to not drool on our keyboards. Trying to work together with 15 disparate personalities (sots all) was not unlike herding cats without a whip or catnip. Tough going, let me tell you. Good thing we drank to excess, else the whole adventure would have wound up taking place in Montreal again.

Our global sense of keen timing had kicked in quite nicely, and in a mere 8 weeks everyone managed to almost completely disagree on where to meet, how to meet, and where to drink. The only real agreement was with Phil, who we managed to bribe into accompanying us on “an interesting drive” around the Emerald Isle. It is entirely possible Phil was under the influence of pharmaceuticals, but he was happy enough to be our guide into parts unknown. Giggly even, which made us slightly uneasy. Our saving grace would be our extensive knowledge of Monty Python sketches and phrases.

We booked our flight, our hotel, and a car. All was well in the Universe. Or so we thought. The meet-up was to take place September 23 and 24 2006, somewhere in the middle of Dublin. We still had a few details to work out, such as, was it Doyle’s or Foley’s pub where we ought to meet. These were hard questions, made harder by the fact that we had no idea whatsoever where we were, and oh, the Ryder Cup was to be played at the K Club while we were there. Ryder Cup? Yes, that lovely golf tournament pitting the best of European golfers against America’s finest. Shit, no one told us that every hotel for 300 km was occupied. But I’m getting ahead of myself…..

Our departure date of 21 September was fast approaching. How does one pack for 10 days in Ireland? And how do we fit 2 metric tonnes of clothing into that small bag? My dearest was up to the task, and after a mere 3 weeks of washing, ironing, folding, and cramming, she once again outdid herself. 4 metric tonnes were to be the order of the day. How nice. But, I am the consummate mule, and I was up to the challenge. Feed me a little hay, rub my forehead, and I’ll haul your shit anywhere.

The day was nigh upon us. A fitful night of sleep, preceded by several pints of rum, and I awoke to a familiar refrain: “We’re going to Ireland, we’re going to Ireland….”. Shit, had I really done everything to prepare? Yes, work had been prepared, baggage had been packed, a ceremonial Guinness had been consumed. I was ready. The angelic voice in my head continued on….”we’re going to Ireland, we’re going to Ireland….”. Cooked meat products were in order, along with very strong coffee, but alas, we had done all the dishes the night before and were only willing to dirty 2 cups. Dammit, I could really go for a nice Panamanian breakfast, but this was not to be. A fighter pilots breakfast was all we would manage – ciggies and coffee. Close enough, we could eat on the plane.

As I hitched the cats to the sled, I could only imagine what lay ahead: endless days of walking and drinking. Hmmm, quite appealing, minus the walking part. A sharp snap of the whip, and the cats were off at a brisk pace down the stairs. It was just a short ride to the kitchen, and hopping off the sled, I grabbed the coffee. Back up the stairs, and that angelic voice came back to me – “we’re going to Ireland…” – alright, enough angel, here is a cup of life-giving java. Are you sure everything is packed? Yes dear, I checked it 38 times last night between pints of rum. Cool. Passports? Check. Cash? Check. Travelers checks? No, remember Panama? Yes, no travelers checks. Toothbrushes? Check. OK, we’re ready, just let me put the cats out and wash the cups. Sweet, let’s go.

Arriving at O’Hare airport, I muled the 4 metric tonnes of baggage to the ticket counter. “Going somewhere for a lifetime Sir?” asked the ticket agent. Funny you should ask….no, just for 10 days, but good observational skills. Could you possibly find us some horribly uncomfortable seats for our 10 hour flight, I asked the agent. Funny Sir, but yes, I can, right after you submit to the standard full cavity search by our friendly TSA Security personnel. Damn latex gloves, forgot about them. Still, the 6 meter tall TSA Agent was quite friendly with his insertions, and security was a breeze. And there we stood, at the gate, staring blankly at the airplane that was to carry us to the Emerald Isle. It had wings and engines, everything you would need for a good flight.

Halfway through the ride, we were served a lovely meal of microwave cow excrement, lightly basted in a rat intestine sauce, with a side of salted plastic beads. The stewardess relished in the serving, no doubt knowing full well that it was either that or chewing on the complimentary $5 pillows. More booze, that was the answer. One can consume even airline food given sufficient booze. Plus, the pillows were quite small, and I suspect, made of the remains of passengers that had died on route. Still, we made the best of it, playing 3000 or so hands of solitaire while killing the batteries in our iPod. I think there was some sort of airplane disaster movie playing, but it didn’t seem appropriate.

75 days later, we arrived in Dublin. Completely besotted, I asked my Dearest “who were we supposed to meet again?”. Well dear, after we retrieve the baggage, we should find Nikki and Phil, and maybe even Greg, who has just walked over from Toronto. Fine then, I’m ready. And having become re-acquainted with our possessions, we sauntered into the main airport. We craned our ears, and sure enough, we heard the giggling that could only come from Nikki. There Dearest, is that her? No, over there, standing next to that rather large chipmunk-looking person, who no doubt is Phil. And that Canadian-looking person, that must be Greg. And indeed, that was who we were greeted by. Many hours of hugs and kisses passed. Oh look, we can change money there; surely they have a good exchange rate for dollars here. Ha….airports always have the best exchange rates, especially if you don’t want to go searching for a bank. Right then, now we must find our transportation. Not unlike the Arctic expeditions of a hundred years ago, the five of us eventually found the car hire kiosk. Trudging through the snow and cold, stopping only to hunt for the odd walrus, we made it to the counter and I presented my identification. Oh Sir, you won’t be taking this car into Northern Ireland will you, asked the friendly person. Absolutely not, proclaimed I, hedging on the information Phil provided that there were savages up there. We’re here for adventure, and that doesn’t include savage races. Wonderful Sir, please sign these 300 pages of documents, submit to this retina scan, and give me 4 pints of blood as collateral.

The five of us boarded another plane to get to the car hire agency, located just off the airport property. Several hours later, we were deposited at the agency. Apparently no one was home, so we picked out a nice black Hyundai Santa Fe from the lot and drove off. With any luck, no one would notice.

“Now don’t forget, we drive on the left here”, exclaimed Nikki. Thank you Giggler, I gathered that from the steering wheel being on the right. “Just checking you know (giggle giggle)”

And we were off, but everyone says that about us…….

Posted by beerman 10:55 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

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