A Travellerspoint blog

May 2011

Breathe, Breathe in the Eire, Episode 4

My mother didn't mention cannibals

rain 20 °C

Episode 4 of our adventure began with a dream sequence (insert dream sequence here).

My mind was again reeling. I felt suffocated, as if laying face down on an extraordinarily comfy pillow. The world had closed in around me, darkly stifling all sense and reason. Image after image of driving around Dublin (and I do mean "around" Dublin) in a fog crept into my subconscious. I was at the wheel of the trusty Hyundai, trying to get out of a car park at 2am. My Dearest was sitting in the passenger seat briskly chatting away with our cargo. There were 3 pieces of luggage in the back seat, oddly distorted into semi-human-like shapes. Giggling permeated the chat. Jason had a "Samsonite" plaque on his forehead. Phil had little wheels for legs and a handle sticking up out of the back of his collar. I couldn't help glancing into the rear-view mirror at length just to make sure no one would unpack themselves. This was made more difficult by the fact that I was driving at high speed through the most complex maze of car park I had ever seen. Which way is out, dammit? Oh look, there's a chicken holding a large neon "exit" sign in its beak. It must be that way. I veered to the right, through the pay barrier (throwing 300 euros into the basket) and made for the street. Wait, these are cobblestones. Am I on the sidewalk? No, I see headlights pointed at us, this must be the way. Screams of terror permeated the chat, with two pieces of luggage excitedly proclaiming that this was a one way street and I was going the wrong way. NO, BEAR LEFT. STOP!!!! TURN AROUND!!!!! Hey, I was only going one way, what's the problem? At that point, I had an epiphany. I opened my eyes, belched out something from TGIFridays that I had consumed earlier that night, and realized that, good God, they have the streets all backwards here. Why on Earth are all these cars coming right at us? I'm going the right way, what's wrong with these Dubliners???? Breaking through Jason's ever louder laughter, Nikki managed to get me to understand that I needed to turn around. Yes, all well and good, but where? The car park was a maze of one way streets, as was Dublin. I saw an opening, and my reflexes snapped into action. I slammed on the brakes, threw the shifter into reverse, backing over a smallish curb and an even smaller vehicle oddly parked, and veered back into traffic, this time going WITH everyone else. Sweet, now I'm in control. I glanced in the mirror again and noticed the ghostly white and terrified visage of Phil between Nikki and Jason and considered that perhaps I should back things down into third gear. OK, now we have to find Jason's hotel. Is it here in Dublin, or did you book in Galway? No, you git, it's just a few hundred kilometers to the left and by the river, said Jason. I can do that, so on I drove, keeping my one remaining open eye peeled for the river. One would think that a fairly sizable river would be easy to find. Not so, and in traditional Dublin style, it started to rain. Good Lord, now I can't see anything. The only thing I could do was speed up so we'd get there faster. The screams died down quickly, and chat resumed. Right, there it is, on the other side of the river, said Jason. This could be an issue, but I figured the Santa Fe was a rental and they wouldn't mind so much dredging it out of the river. I was game for giving it a shot, but the luggage in the back seat protested. Fine then, we'll find a bridge. For a city that has a river running right through the heart of it, Dublin had surprisingly few bridges to drive over, at least at the moment. I kept the images of doing an Evel Knievel in a rocket powered Hyundai over the River Liffey, but thought better of it. I'd probably have to pay a cleaning deposit anyway, and algae is difficult to clean out of the carburetor.

My eyes scanned the dashboard for a rocket thruster button. Shit, cheap rental, none to be had. We have these things in the States you know. For some reason, the giggling got louder. And ever so suddenly, a drivable bridge appeared. I slipped the transmission into 5th gear and floored it, launching us over the bridge and to eventual safety, or at least to the front door of Jason's hotel. Say, nice place you booked here. And it was only 300 euros a night, good deal there mate. Ryder Cup chap, I had no choice, Jason reasoned. Right then, here we are, and slamming on the brakes just shy of the reception desk, I let Jason out. Say Bud, while you're out having a fag, could you brush the broken shards of front door glass off the bonnet? Thanks ever so much. And we bid the wayward Kiwi farewell for the night. Backing out of the lobby, I laid down two perfect lines of black rubber and headed back into town. Phil had long since gone into cardiac arrest, but Nikki was there with the emergency oxygen bottle and was in the process of reviving him. Some days passed before I could find the bridge across the river again, and soon we dropped off Phil at his apartment. Nikki was next, so north I headed towards Swords. Warp 8....engage. I managed to get in a quick nap on the way, and awoke refreshed at Nikki's doorstep. Right then (giggle giggle), you remember how to get back to the hotel Beerman? Of course, my keen sense of time travel is alive. Goodnight then, see you tomorrow. 2007 had rolled around by the time we made it back to the Tulip Inn. We got lost only once, in a maze of shopping mall parking spots. Damn, when did they build this, I don't remember it being here this morning?

Flash forward to Saturday morning (end dream sequence).

Episode 4 began with me finding a large wad of cotton well stuffed into my mouth. My Love was already awake and showering. I crawled into the bath and promptly dropped my head into the sink, flowing cooling water over my eyes. Say Love, did I hit anything with the chariot last night? No Dearest, you were mostly good, save for driving through the lobby of Jason's hotel, but they didn't seem to notice. Whew, good thing then. Yes Dearest, you were good at avoiding the local Constabulary. So then, what's on today's menu, after of course the traditional cooked meat products and many pots of hot coffee? Don't you remember Dear, we're to meet everyone at either Doyle's or Foley's and drink and watch the Ryder Cup. My God, tell me you're kidding. I thought I drank all of Ireland's beer last night. Hardly Poopsie, but you did put up a good effort.

The restaurant was a pleasant diversion from the pounding in my head. "Oh, yer Americans then. Can I get you some bacon and eggs and deep-fried blood products, exclaimed the waitress". Yes please, except substitute rashers for ham and skip the blood, thanks. And coffee. No wait, keep the blood, as I might be able to infuse some of it into my body and live again.

And we were off to pick up Nikki. The city was alive with Saturday shoppers driving along the sidewalks and through the stores. Sort of gave a new meaning to "drive-through". We parked just outside of Paris and began the long march to Foley's, or Doyle's. By the time we got there, my feet had been worn off to the ankles. That's ok, I didn't like those shoes anyway....

Today was the day. The final matches of the Ryder Cup were well underway and the American team had already packed up and gone home. It would be a tough go today, what with none of the American team actually playing golf. Jason was positively glowing, and in between pints and smokes, he kept rubbing in the fact that America would lose. Rich threw in his two cents, blabbering something in Welsh that roughly translated to "I'd urinate on Cleveland but I hate to fly". America was witnessing the depravity that Europeans are so well known for: rubbing in a victory. Bastards, didn't we save your butts in the big war? Where's the love now? It's not our fault Tiger Woods laid the entire Dublin School for Wayward Girls last night and he can't make a putt. Minutes turned to hours, and hours turned to months, or so it seemed. Finally, the Daily Mail made it official: America Loses: Ha Ha. My Love was ever so gracious in paying her lost wager to the Kiwi-who-can't-understand-real-football. And just to make it proper, we all signed the $5 bill before Jason could buy another pint with it. He probably still has it, sitting in a gold gilt frame adorning his living room wall. From this point on, everything became fuzzy again, save for an inflatable sheep that was to be Rich's new wife. I do recall autographing Rich's wife, as did the rest of the bar. Nikki kept giggling, Jason was floating on his ego, Phil was eagerly planning our route through the Emerald Isle, Greg was doing unspeakable things to the sheep, Rich was texting for a date that night, and my love was sodden with drink. I would have been sober as a church mouse save for the 489 empty pint glasses in front of me. The acrid bitterness of Sir Arthur's brew hung thickly in my mouth, sparing me the indignity of realizing that I couldn't lift my head off the table. We had adventure ahead of us, for tomorrow we would face the savage countryside. This was my only true memory of the evening, the joy of snuffing out the life of an overzealous Kiwi:

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Sleep came swiftly that night as I drove back to the hotel. I managed to park on the fifth floor just outside our room, thank God there wouldn't be another hike to the bed. As my head hit the pillow, dreams of wild pygmies in pubs wound through my subconscious. Lead on MacDuff, and let he who not drinketh first be damned!!!!!

Stay tuned for Episode 5, wherein Phil leads us to ruins. And more ruins. And yet more ruins. Thank you for your attention, please queue up and leave the theater.

Posted by beerman 11:45 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Breathe, Breathe in the Eire, Episode 3

My mother didn't mention cannibals

rain 21 °C

I might have missed a day in here, but my memory is not what it once was. I knew we were in Ireland....

It was a fitful night of sleep, as it tends to be when one is face down for 6 hours, nose crushed into an extraordinarily fluffy pillow, little bits of drool wetting the edges of the cotton comfort. Light streams of consciousness came to me all at once. Perhaps it was my Dearest hopping up and down on the bed on all fours. "We're in Ireland....we're in Ireland....". Or perhaps it was the fact I had to tinkle. 38 pints of Guinness can do that to a man. Between hops from my lovely, I rolled out of bed and hit the floor with a thud. Face down. This would have proven quite painful but for the extraordinarily cushy carpeting swathing our entire room, walls included. Plus, I seemed to have no pain receptors active in my brain. The wind was nigh howling through the window, bringing back memories of a certain giant squid in Panama flailing against our patio door. My senses snapped into action, and my body more or less followed them, crab-walking to the bath. Standing at the loo, I flashed back to an old Coca-Cola commercial.......they said Coke was "the pause that refreshes". I think not, for this indeed had always been the pause that refreshed me the most. Silly advertisers. My keen sense again snapped, alerting me to the fact that I was standing in the tub. Oh well, who hasn't peed in the tub at one point or another?

My Dearest hopped into the bath at that point, reminding me that we had adventure yet to come today. Of course my Shining Light, and I am again up to the task, right after many strong coffees and perhaps some cooked meat products. Ireland is well known for it's cooked meat products, most notably bacon, which in my limited world is really ham. I love ham. Give me all you've got, and more coffee please. In the hotel restaurant, we gorged ourselves, though my brain pan was notably absent, which might have explained the bits of well-cooked bacon now adorning my lap. Hey, when in Rome....

Adventure was nigh, so my Love and I hoisted ourselves into the trusty Hyundai and made for Nikki's house. Damn, I should have paid ever so slightly more attention where I was going last night, though in my drink addled state, and the fact that it was very dark last night, it wouldn't have mattered. I think it's that way Honey Love, pronounced the hopper. Right then, that's where we shall go. We drove to the outskirts of Galway before we realized that we might have missed the roundabout exit. Turning back, we made for Nikki's. A mere 4 hours later, we pulled into her drive. By God, this looks familiar. And sure enough, it was. We knocked on 16 different doors before we finally found the right house. They did all look somewhat similar, so after apologizing to half the neighborhood, Nikki finally answered the door. We should have honestly known this was the right place by the hundreds of empty wine and Bailey's bottles strewn about. I'm not saying Nikki and her Love Arjan drink excessively, just that they never threw out those bottles. This could easily have been a few nights drinking for us, and possibly them, or it could have been many months. One will never know, as we were too busy hugging and kissing to ask. We didn't get the chance to see Arjan then, as he was hiding in the shower. Well, maybe he was actually showering; again, we didn't ask. It was time to leave, as we had a meet-up to attend at Trinity Library.

Peeling out into traffic, Nikki immediately took charge. A litany of driving directions rang out, and soon we were headed downtown. We had a mission, one that would take us to the deepest, darkest depths of Dublin, amongst people we had never met. I felt like Sir Henry Stanley in search of Dr. David Livingstone, forging our way through the jungle that was Dublin traffic. The pedestrians didn't seem to mind so much as I swung my machete back and forth out the window, casting them aside as rag dolls to better get through. It was easier too, as with right-hand drive, my right arm was free to swing away. Imagination can have its benefits.

We found Trinity College, home to the famous library, with very little effort. Parking was again our greatest challenge. I spied another small car with the little red "L" in the back window and parked atop it. Ha, and they've already paid the meter. Darling Nikki and my Love heaved themselves out the doors, whilst I plucked the parking stub from the broken car beneath us and placed it on our dash. This is city life....get used to it. Oh look, it's only 36 km to the library. Not a problem, so we hitched up our pants and hiked onward.

Some days later, I can't remember how many through the cloud that is my memory, we arrived at Trinity College Library. Hmm, plenty of people about, but no one bearing the dark mark of a TPer. They must be here somewhere. The only logical thing to do was stop, stand there innocently, and have a smoke. We were half tempted to hoist a sign stating "Lost TP Party, Meet Here", but thought better of it. Someone would be along shortly. And so our wish was granted, as less than 14 hours later, the first Dark Marks began to appear. And there was rejoicing. Who are you again? Ah, yes, Phil, and Jason, and the ever elusive Rich, thought to have been lost years before to the wiles of the Amazon Womens Council of Central Wales. It turns out Rich had been saved by his trusty Swiss Army Condoms, and was so able to attend. There was rejoicing again, as somehow, we had all managed to be in the right place at the right time, in front of this bastion of knowledge that had existed since before Christ was a lad. Lots of history, that's what I'm saying. We laughed, we cried (mostly because we had been standing in a typical Irish mist for 3 hours), and we greeted each other as total strangers. Life was good. And we even managed to stand still long enough for a photo opportunity:

Trinity_College.jpg

Left to right, back row: Nikki, Ed, Jason, Chris, Heather, My Love, Me
Left to right, front row: Greg, Rich, Phil

We instantly knew that these were our kind of people. Well, maybe not instantly, that epiphany might have come many hours later at the pub(s), when people are at their most free and uninhibited. For Europeans, and one Canadian, they looked remarkably like us....two legs, two arms, one head, ten toes (though Jason later admitted to 12 toes....another story for another blog). They were funny, and so were we. But everyone says that.

Nikki suggested that we find the car park, the one that stays open past 10pm. Excellent idea, as we would prefer not to walk the 390 km back to the hotel later. My Darling, Nikki Dearest, and I piled into the Santa Fe and headed off, leaving the rest of our intrepid troupe to make their way to the Guinness Storehouse, that marvel of modern engineering and brewing. Besides, they were all used to hiking. My Love and I were not a "hiking crowd", as they say. We found the car park and realized that ever so suddenly, we were to become a hiking crowd. Look, there it is, 40 km past Trinity Church, over the River Liffey, past time and space itself, exclaimed Nikki. Um, we're supposed to meet the group in another galaxy, said I? No silly, it's just up ahead a pace, said Nikki. Right then, we're off again. We must have been off, as this was more than a simple hike across Antarctica. And of course, in typical Irish tradition, it started to rain.....

Weeks of strong hiking later, the three of us arrived at the Guinness Storehouse. And, to no real surprise, none of our group was there. Nikki was up to the challenge, and quickly texted Jason "where the hell are you guys?" Jason, with his astonishingly keen sense of timing, replied 6 days later stating that it was raining. No shit. The group had stopped at the Brazen Head, Dublin's oldest pub, for a bit of a wee drink. No shit again. Hiking back through the marshes along the River Liffey, past numerous couples shagging in back alleys (nice touch), we arrived at the Brazen Head. Yes, a bit of refreshment is in order my Dearest. Perhaps a snack as well, as we last consumed sustenance 3 years ago at the car park. Oh look, there they are, our group of intrepid TPers, casually consuming mass quantities of beer. We were greeted by our comrades as if we had been lost in the jungles of South East Asia during WWII. Fancy a pint then, asked Jason? Thank you Mr. Obvious, what gave it away? And so we drank. And we ate. And we were sated. Some months went by, and eventually we poured our whole group out the door and headed for the tour to come. A short 40 km ahead lay the museum that was Guinness. Rather modern it was. We queued up and paid our 34,000 Euros for the tour, and were suddenly face to face with history. It was very nearly on this very spot that 300,000 years ago, Sir Arthur Guinness first had his first hangover. Right over there, next to the souvenir shot glasses and stout t-shirts.

This picture was virtually the only thing I remember from the whole tour:

Saturday1a.jpg

OK, this one too:

Saturday1b.jpg

Being a brew master by trade, I attempted to explain to our group how beer is really made......some malted barley, some hops, water, yeast, and a little love. They would have none of it. I was dejected. My only solace came at the very top of the tour, whence we were allowed to imbibe in a pint of the black gold. Say, nice view of the city from up here. I was easily distracted. Not a bad tour for 34,000 Euros. "It's rubbish", proclaimed Jason, "why I've paid less for this in Botswana". Jason was not easily distracted.

The tour had come to an end, and, slightly weepy at having been witness to the history of a fellow brewer, I bade farewell to Sir Arthur, quietly wondering who came up with the idea of injecting nitrogen into a 4% alcohol beer. We brew masters do that.

The group was off, having struggled past the Guinness ashtrays and Guinness items of apparel, and were headed for, where else, another pub. Right then, back to Foley's Bar, as we now had a history with them.

As I have previously said, the Ryder Cup was in full swing at the K Club. Jason and my Love had made a small bet of USD$5 versus GBP3000 on who would be the victor. Back at Foley's, the bartender was in a ripe mood. "Oh, Americans are ye?" The match play at the golf outing was in full swing, and we Americans were quite well behind. No matter, there were pints in need of consumption. And we consumed.

It was time for dinner, and Heather, a non-Dubliner, had chosen a uniquely Irish place to meet: TGIFridays. In her defense, it was likely the only place that could have handled this rowdy group. American chain restaurants have the strictest training for their employees on how to handle groups like ours: stun guns, if necessary, and plenty of alcohol. We made merry, and Ed made the day with a specially prepared cake for just this occasion:

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And we ate, and made more merry:

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Weeks of feasting finally came to an end, and there was only one thing on the minds of this group: find a pub. Who'd have guessed, that this group would be looking for more alcohol? Temple Bar, that was where we should be. So off we hiked, past tourists and alley-way shaggers, past drunken hen parties complete with inebriated hens walking barefoot on cobblestones holding their high heels, to eventually find Temple Bar. Not unlike Rush Street in Chicago, and many other bar spots in major cities around the world, Temple Bar was a marvel of modern inebriation and wanton hope, hope that one might find a good shag for the night and still be able to sneak away the next morning with one's dignity intact. Crazy, hopeful world this is. Needless to say, we drank our way through the evening.

Many more days passed, and eventually we made it back to the car park located just east of Outer Mongolia. Peacefully seated behind the wheel with eyes fully closed, I steered out into the night traffic. Back to the hotel, and all was well.

Sleep came quickly that night. The days events slowly, yet fuzzily, unfolded before my eyes, then vanished as if made of smoke. All went black. The day was a success of adventure, melding the joy of meeting new people with the insanity of drinking to excess. Life was good.

Stay tuned for Episode 4, wherein at this point I cannot honestly remember what happened, but I promise to make it a good story. I remember strangling Jason, but that's about it......

Posted by beerman 13:39 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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